A Married Couples Guide to Beginning to Plan Your Estate

June 9, 2022
 By Erin H.

As a married couple, it’s important to plan your estate effectively so you secure your common future. Relationships generally take work to do right, but they’re easier when you don’t have to stress about finances in the future. Have a look at this guide so you can have a good idea of how to plan your estate well.

Identify a Guardian

The very first thing to think about when planning your estate is a legal guardian who will have the power to exercise control over your estate in case anything happens. In case either you or your spouse passes away, custody of your children and estate automatically falls on the one who survives. But in the event that you both pass on, it’s important to have a party who can run your affairs as you would have liked them run. Remember that estates worth more than $10,860,000 for married couples and $5,430,000 for single, unmarried individuals have any amount in excess subjected to estate taxes. Plan for this so that there will be no surprises awaiting your beneficiaries when they inherit your estate.

Name Your Children as Beneficiaries

If you have children, it’s important to name them as the beneficiaries of your estate and outline how you want their inheritance to be managed. You could set up a trust for them and set it under the management of the estate executor you choose. The executor will hand over the inheritance once they become adults. Just make sure that the person you choose is level-headed and will have your children’s best interests at heart, no matter what happens. With this in mind, you may want to pick two different people to act as a guardian and an executor respectively, and this may have the best outcome.

Think About Distributing Shared Property

Any property that you share as a couple should also have its distribution outlined clearly. Such property includes real estate and property purchased with money that you earned during your marriage. Wedding gifts you receive from friends and family and any property you hold as joint tenants are also part of shared property. Any active appreciation of assets such as separate property whose value increases as a result of marital contributions is also shared property. For the best outcome, you should ensure to outline details of how this property will be distributed are clearly outlined in your Will. As a reminder, if you’re under the age of 40 years and don’t have a Will, this is the time to get one written down.

Think About Medical and General Care

For people in relationships, their spouses are the ones to whom doctors defer for medical care when their partner cannot make decisions themselves. In this case, it’s important to give them the legal power to do so by appointing them as a proxy or health care agent. Don’t forget to document your preferences for specific health care treatments. This is best done by writing a Living Will in which you can combine a Medical Power of Attorney with a Health Care Directive.

Keep Your Estate Plan Updated

Don’t forget to keep your estate plan up to date and relevant to your current status in life. Whenever a significant event happens, such as the loss or gain of a major asset like a timeshare, which around 20 million households own one of, or the birth of a child, review your Will and have it brought up to speed. This will be easy and fast to do, so there’s no reason not to get it out of the way and enjoy the benefits that it will give.

Use this guide to plan your estate and secure your future for yourselves and any children that you may have. It may be the best financial decision you make in your adult life.

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