If you are here, you must be a newlywed or plan to be one soon. Congratulations! Planning your wedding was good preparation for creating your estate plan as a married couple. Now you have the experience of juggling moving parts, filling out paperwork, talking to a million people about your personal life, and making tough decisions with your spouse. Actually, this next part might be easier than planning your wedding.
Talk to Your Spouse
If you haven’t already done so, you and your spouse need to have a serious talk about how you want to handle your finances as a married couple. In Colorado, you and your spouse can keep separate property if you choose to, or you can choose to combine your assets. This decision is up to you two, but it is an important decision to make early on.
As a newlywed, you should look at all of your accounts that have a beneficiary designation or transfer on death designation. You want to make sure that the correct person is named on these accounts. If you want your assets to pass to your spouse, you need to update these accounts to reflect that. Double check the designations on your checking and savings accounts, life insurance, investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.), retirement accounts (401(k), IRA, Roth IRA, etc.), pensions, military benefits, trusts, and any other accounts or assets that have a beneficiary designation.
Now that you are married you might want to consolidate some accounts. You may not need or want separate checking accounts, health insurance plans, car insurance, cell phone plans, or Netflix accounts. Take a look at what you each have individually and see if you can save some money by combining accounts.
Do you have life insurance? A financial advisor? A CPA? If not, now is a great time to start looking.
This is also a great time to get organized! Gather your important documents and keep them in a safe place, like a fireproof filing cabinet. You should include your birth certificates, marriage licenses, social security cards (or numbers), passports, prenuptial agreements, divorce decrees, citizenship documents, your children’s documents, and any other important documents. In this day and age, you should also organize usernames and passwords for your devices and online accounts.
Your Estate Plan
Seeing as this is an estate planning blog, I can’t forget to mention that getting married is the perfect time to update or create your estate plan! You want to make sure your existing estate plan still reflects your wishes. If it doesn’t, you need to update it as soon as you get back from your honeymoon. You and your spouse should see an attorney to discuss how you want your assets distributed, who you want to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf, and what types of medical treatments are acceptable to you. Your estate plan will cover all of these issues plus guardianship of your children, trusts for the benefit of your kids, and anything else you feel strongly about including in your estate plan.