Summary: Everyone who makes the decision to enter the institution of marriage should be aware of how that decision will impact his or her estate plan. Marriage can offer certain new estate planning opportunities to couples, but can also introduce possible new complications that your estate plan can address. This important life event should be viewed as a welcome opportunity to get your estate plan established, or to get your existing plan reviewed.
Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples across the country have the right to get married. With this decision, the pool of people contemplating marriage in the near future has almost certainly increased significantly. Regardless of your sexual orientation, the decision to marry can have substantial impacts on your estate plan, especially for older couples. It is important to consider these effects as you go forward with your plans to marry.
Becoming married opens up additional options for you. You and your spouse can choose to own property as a tenancy by the entireties. In this arrangement, the surviving spouse automatically takes full ownership of the property upon the death of the first spouse. This type of ownership is only available to married couples.
While tenancy by the entireties offers several significant advantages, such as barring creditors from taking the property unless both spouses are named parties to the debt in question, your individual situation may indicate that a better option exists for carrying out your estate planning goals, such as a revocable living trust.
Marriage also carries with it additional obligations. If you or your new spouse die intestate (in other words, with no valid estate plan,) then the law says that your spouse gets a statutorily-dictated portion of your assets. Depending on your circumstances, this could dramatically unravel many of your estate planning goals. For example, perhaps your are an older couple and one or both of you entered the marriage with substantial wealth. You and your spouse may decide that your prefer to leave your assets to other loved ones instead of each other. An estate plan is very important for you, because the law’s intestate plan would result in a very different distribution.
In some states, the intestate laws split your wealth between your spouse and close blood relatives. Perhaps you are estranged from your children and desire to leave everything to your spouse. Again, getting an estate plan is vital to ensure that this distribution is carried out, rather than what the intestate laws would do.
Your estate plan can provide other assistance, regardless of whether you and your partner are married. Just because you and your partner become married does not mean that your new spouse would be able to make financial or healthcare decisions for you in the event that you lost the ability to make them yourself. Your estate plan’s inclusion of financial and healthcare powers of attorney can accomplish this objective for you. Similarly, an advance directive can make certain that the person you desire to make your end-of-life decisions will have the authority to do so. These can be very beneficial in families where tension exists between your spouse and your other relatives.
This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com.
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Legacy Assurance Plan
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201