Marriage is more than just a romantic partnership. You’re also becoming a legal partner with the person you love – and likely a financial partner as well. Your health and well-being affect your spouse’s life as well as your own, and when something goes wrong it can have tragic consequences for the whole family.

Planning ahead to protect your spouse in case of your incapacity, illness, or death isn’t very romantic, but it should be at the top of your to-do list when you get back from your honeymoon. After all, if you don’t have the right legal documents in place, your spouse could be left unprotected if something goes wrong – and you could both be left in a big legal mess.

To make sure that you and your new spouse have prepared for unexpected illnesses or an untimely death, working with an estate planning lawyer is a good idea after tying the knot. An attorney can help you to explore some of the key legal tools that give you the peace of mind of knowing your beloved is cared for if something happens to you.

Planning for Illness and Incapacity 

If either you or your spouse get sick or hurt, a few key issues need to be addressed: how healthcare decisions are made and what happens if home care or nursing care is needed.

When you’re incapacitated by illness or injury, you may be unable to make financial decisions on your own. But, you can act in advance of this occurring so you have control over what happens to you. Some of the estate planning documents you should create to prepare for incapacity or illness include:

Making your preferences for medical care known in advance spares your spouse the difficulty of trying to figure out what care you’d want to receive or wish to decline. You also need to plan for the financial and personal aspects of incapacity. You can do this by:

Estate Planning for Newlyweds

It’s also important to prepare in case either you or your spouse passes away. Some of the key steps you should take include:

If you leave all your assets to your spouse, you don’t have to worry about estate taxes. But, if you are leaving wealth to other family members, you could be taxed by the federal government or by your state on larger transfers of assets. Different tools such as inter vivos giving, irrevocable trusts, or the creation of a family LLC can help reduce your tax liability.

If you don’t make an estate plan, your state’s intestacy laws determine who inherits. While these laws aim to distribute property among close family, they may still divide your wealth differently than you’d have preferred.

Start Your Estate Plan After Marriage

Although it’s not fun to think about, it’s important to make an estate plan when you have a spouse depending on you – especially if you ever plan for children. Making a comprehensive plan can be complicated, so getting legal advice is often advisable.

More information: