Don’t Let the Dust Settle on Your Marriage Certificate Before You Get an Estate Plan – Here’s Why

Weddings and Estate Plans go Hand in Hand Picture A. Betts Law 2017Congratulations if you are recently engaged, and getting ready to marry your sweetheart, your soulmate, your life partner. Weddings are in the air.

Maybe you have been married for a few months or a few years. Newlyweds to Silver and Gold Anniversary unions are all fair game when it comes to being acknowledged for staying together as a couple.

Weddings are beautiful events. Planning can be fun, exciting and tremendously stressful: guests, colors, themes, dresses, tuxedoes, cake, food, drinks, venue, and the honeymoon. That’s a lot, and let’s not forget the price tag.

As I celebrate another wedding anniversary, I am grateful for my beautiful nuptials that took lots of planning. Here are some things that I’ll never forget about my big day as a June bride:

First, I am grateful for the 70 guests that flew in from all over the United States to join us in Nassau, Bahamas, to hear us say “I do,” and to celebrate our union.

Second, I remember the requirements to get married in Nassau included that I swear on a Bible and sign an Affidavit that I was a Spinster. What is that you say? I had to confirm that I had never been married before. I’m not sure what that was about, but I obliged. My groom had no such demand.

Thirdly, there was also a 24 hour residency requirement – we had to be on the island a minimum amount of time before we could be married. Oh yes, I almost forgot, we had to be interviewed by a local government official before we could tie the knot on the beach.

There were a few other requirements, but you get the picture. Lots of planning and things to do before we could get married in the Bahamas.

 However, here’s something that remains the same: we got an estate plan soon after our wedding – before the dust could settle on our Marriage Certificate.

As we all enter marriages with our unique circumstances, each bride and groom should take their particular situation into account when it comes to estate planning.

For some brides and grooms this marriage maybe the second time around. Others maybe widowed, have minor children, possess significant financial assets, own a business or have other considerations.

Planning for a wedding is one thing, and now you need to plan for life:

  • Contact your Human Resources department and request forms in order to update beneficiary designations to include your spouse and/or other beneficiaries for benefits such as, life insurance, 401K accounts and other retirement savings and other benefits.
  • Visit your bank, credit union, and other financial services companies where you have checking and savings accounts, IRAs, CDs, stocks, bonds and other assets. Many banks offer  Payable on Death and Transfer on Death options (POD and TOD) , Joint Accounts, and other ways to set up the ownership of accounts according to your wishes during your lifetime and for distribution after death.
  • Update Update Update – beneficiary forms on life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other assets as things change in life: weddings, births, new assets, divorce, retirement, illness, death and changes in property ownership. Your estate plan should be a reflection of your life. As life happens, significant events occur and your wishes change, so should your estate plan.
  • Consult with an estate planning attorney to discuss the best options for your estate plan: how do you wish to be treated if you become ill or incapacitated; get information on what documents coordinate with your wishes on how your assets should be distributed in the event of your death; and, who should be guardian of your children – you can name a guardian in your documents.
  • Repeat the items above in this list and remember: This is one area where DIY kits and documents downloaded from the internet are not good ideas. The laws of each state vary and the nuisances of what is best for you and your family may not work for others. Estate plans are not one-size fits all.

Enjoy the honeymoon, and don’t let the dust settle on your marriage certificate before you get an estate plan.

This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to provide legal advice. Consult with an estate planning attorney about your particular situation.

Aquanetta J. Betts is an attorney licensed in Washington, DC and Maryland. She is a frequent speaker on wills, trusts, estates and planned giving. Connect with her on Twitter @AquanettaBetts.



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