With each marriage come new rights and new responsibilities. If you created an estate plan when you were single, then you should bring your estate plan up-to-code to reflect your wedding vows.
Unfortunately, many married couples mistakenly believe that they can make personal, health care, and financial decisions for one another should either spouse become legally incapacitated due to a serious injury or illness. Nothing could be further from reality!
Without proper estate planning in advance to appoint your spouse as the incapacity decision-maker, he or she will not have the legal authority to make even fundamental decisions for you (or affecting both of you). For example, medical privacy laws will bar access to your medical records, and the ability to consult with your attending physician, financial laws limit control over your finances, and IRS regulations will prohibit filing a “legal” joint income tax return.
Unless you legally appoint the decision-maker of your own selection in advance through proper estate planning, then a probate judge will select one for you. While the judge will likely appoint your spouse, the probate court process is expensive (it employs at least three attorneys), discloses your private personal and financial information to the public record, and is a real hassle for your loved ones.
Did you know that in the absence of proper estate planning, your assets may be distributed after death based on “one-size-fits-all” state laws written for people who do not have their own estate plan? Of course, this impersonal estate plan written by state lawmakers may not reflect your own unique circumstances and objectives for your spouse and assets.
Fortunately, we can help you avoid probate and replace that impersonal, state-written, one-size-fits-all estate plan with the one we design together for your unique circumstances and objectives. We even help you coordinate the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plans with your estate plan to avoid unpleasant, unintended consequences.