An important wedding gift to give yourselves, as newlyweds, is peace of mind that you’ve left your new spouse in the best situation possible should tragedy occur to one of you.
What steps foster that peace of mind?
First and foremost, set up an estate plan that includes for each of you — at a minimum — a Will, Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney. The Will addresses the transfer of certain assets at death. The Health Care Directive enables you to name agents to speak on your behalf regarding your physical health when you cannot communicate for yourself. The Durable Power of Attorney enables you to name an agent — known as the attorney-in-fact — to take certain actions regarding your financial affairs.
If either of you owned real estate prior to the marriage, work with your estate planning lawyer to now add your new spouse’s name to the title. In Minnesota, spouses have certain spousal rights to real estate regardless, but having both of your names on the title will keep your real estate out of Minnesota probate court when one of you dies.
Also, add your spouse’s name to bank accounts and investment accounts. Name your spouse as the primary beneficiary to your retirement accounts and health savings accounts. Similarly, name your spouse as the primary beneficiary to any life insurance policies that you may have. If you don’t have life insurance, consider whether you need it or not at this time.
If there are name changes, report the changes to the Social Security Administration.
With all of the activity around a wedding, it’s easy to overlook important steps that you should be taking to best protect your new spouse if an unexpected and untimely death occurs. An estate planning lawyer can help you with an estate plan, including discussion on asset ownership and beneficiary designations.
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