Congratulations to all who are tying the knot this month! After the honeymoon, you need to put estate planning on the top of your “To Do” list. One of the best investments for cash wedding presents is a complete estate plan. Many newlyweds do not yet have wills, powers of attorney, or healthcare directives, so now is the time to get those in place. Otherwise, Alabama state law will decide who gets what if one of you were to die – and that’s not usually what you would prefer.
As you make decisions about joint bank accounts and credits cards, keep in mind that in many cases, keeping pre-marital assets in separate names makes sense. It’s especially common to keep accounts and assets in separate names when seniors remarry. Many people choose to keep family inheritances separate so the inheritances can be used for specific purposes.
Newlyweds should check the beneficiaries of investment accounts such as 401Ks, IRAs, life insurance policies both personal and any provided by your employers, pension plans, and the titles on any real estate. Most of the beneficiary designations on these accounts override a will, so it’s best for the two of you to sit down together to review the full scope of your newly merged estates. Be sure to talk through secondary beneficiaries, too. We certainly hope it never happens, but a couple could die at the same time in a car wreck or a tornado.
If your wedding has created a blended family, you also need to carefully review the specifics of divorce decrees as you update your estate documents. A blended family needs experienced legal help in making sure that their estate plans not only abide by any divorce decrees, but that the plans do not inadvertently disinherit one partner’s children.
For your own records, develop a joint net worth statement which specifies whose names are on each asset, who the beneficiaries are, all account names and numbers, all loans and mortgages, as well as your attorney, accountant, and financial advisor contacts. We hope that many years down the road, you and your spouse will have fun looking back on your original net worth and will appreciate the good lives you’ve shared. Hope your wedding is wonderful and your marriage is long and blessed!
Now, start organizing your “To Do” list and your asset list for after the honeymoon and reach out to an experienced and qualified estate lawyer.
-Melanie B. Holliman, JD
Partner, Bradford & Holliman
Estate Planning, Trusts, & Special Needs
No representation is made that the quality of the legal service to be performed is greater than the quality of service performed by other lawyers.