Just Married – Don’t Forget an Estate Plan

Getting married is an exciting life change. If you’ve just married, it is important to think about your legal and financial future as a married couple. Although it may not be the first thing on your mind, creating or updating your estate plan is critical.

estate planning for newly married couple

Making an estate plan can seem daunting, but attorney Nicole Pavlik is here to guide you through the process. Below is a list of six estate planning tips for Phoenix newlyweds.

  1. Create or Update A Will

Especially if this is your first marriage, it is likely that you do not have a will. Without a will, you will die intestate, and any property you own will be distributed according to Arizona’s intestacy laws. With a will, you can specify how you would like your property distributed after your death. If you have any children, you can designate your choice of guardian in the will. Arizona does not recognize joint wills, so each spouse must create their own separate will.

  • Update Beneficiary Designations

Assets with beneficiary designations, such as retirement, investment, and life insurance accounts, transfer outside of probate and are not governed by your will. Now that you are married, you likely want your spouse added as the primary beneficiary. You should contact each financial institution to confirm that your spouse has been correctly added.

  • Review Insurance

You should review the insurance options available to you and your spouse. One thing you should consider getting is a life insurance policy. Life insurance guarantees payment of a death benefit to named beneficiaries upon the insured person’s death. You can have peace of mind that your spouse will be relatively stable if anything happens to you.  

In addition to life insurance, you should review your health insurance to determine who has the best coverage if you are both employed. Marriage is considered a “qualifying life event,” allowing you to make changes to your policy outside the normal enrollment window. You should also review any homeowner, auto, and personal property insurance policies to ensure that both you and your spouse are covered.   

  • Prepare Powers of Attorney

Estate plans help plan for incapacity as well as death. Every married couple should include a financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney in their estate plan. A financial power of attorney allows you to designate an agent to make and execute financial decisions on your behalf. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to choose an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. Typically, married individuals have their spouse serve as their agent. You should also pick a backup agent if your spouse is unable or unwilling to serve.

  • Draft a Living Will

Another important document to include in your estate plan is a living will. A living will is a legal document that states your healthcare preferences for end-of-life care. You can include preferences for things such as CPR, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, and palliative care. A living will ensure that your wishes for end-of-life care will be followed and reduces the stress placed on your spouse and other loved ones who would otherwise be forced to make these decisions on your behalf.

  • Retitle Real Estate

If you or your spouse owned real estate before getting married, you should decide whether or not you want to own the property jointly. If you want to change the ownership, you must update the deed. In Arizona, any property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property. 

  • Consider Postnuptial Agreement

A postnuptial agreement is a legal contract between two spouses that sets forth each party’s responsibilities during marriage and in the event of a divorce. It is the same as a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) except that it is created after, not before, the marriage. In Phoenix, a postnuptial agreement typically includes provisions related to the division of property at divorce, spousal support, and the distribution of property at death.

When Should You Create Your Estate Plan?

If you are recently married, you should not wait to create your estate plan. You never know what the future holds, and you want to ensure that your spouse and family are taken care of in case the unthinkable happens.

Your Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney

Nicole Pavlik is an experienced Phoenix estate planning attorney who will help you create a comprehensive estate plan. If you have questions about estate planning, call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at (602) 635-6176 for a free consultation.

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