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Saying ‘I Do’ to Estate Planning: Why Engaged Couples Should Think About the Future

Did you know that the holiday season is the most popular time of the year for marriage proposals? According to WeddingWire’s 2019 Newlywed Report, nearly 40% of all engagements occur between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, making the end of the year truly the season of love. For the many couples who get engaged during this period, the focus is often on planning the wedding, dreaming about the honeymoon, and looking forward to a lifetime of happiness together. However, amid all the excitement, it’s also the perfect time to start planning for your future together. Estate planning isn’t just for the elderly or the wealthy; it’s for anyone who wants to ensure their wishes are respected and their loved ones are taken care of. Here are a few reasons why you should start estate planning now.

Protecting Each Other

One of the most compelling reasons for engaged couples to consider estate planning is the financial protection it offers each partner. In the event that something happens to one of you, having an estate plan in place can play a critical role in safeguarding the financial future of the surviving partner.

Without an estate plan, the surviving partner may face financial hardship or legal complications. They may not have immediate access to shared bank accounts, may struggle with mortgage payments on a shared home, or may even face disputes from other family members over the deceased partner’s assets. Estate planning ensures that assets can be transferred quickly and smoothly to the surviving partner, rather than requiring a costly and time-consuming probate administration.

In addition, having a comprehensive estate plan can also help alleviate financial stress during a difficult time. The surviving partner will have a clear understanding of their financial situation and can make decisions accordingly, without the added burden of trying to guess what their partner would have wanted.

Identifying Financial & Medical Powers of Attorney

While most people associate estate planning with preparing for death, it’s equally important to make a plan for how things would be handled during your or your partner’s incapacity. Incapacitation could occur as a result of a serious illness or accident, and it’s crucial to have a plan in place that allows the other partner to manage affairs during such a difficult time.

A crucial aspect of this planning involves establishing financial and health care powers of attorney. A health care power of attorney outlines your wishes for medical treatment if you become unable to communicate your decisions. It also allows you to appoint a healthcare proxy – the person who will make medical decisions on your behalf.

A financial power of attorney allows you to designate your partner (or another trusted individual) as the person who will manage your financial affairs if you’re unable to do so. This can include paying bills, managing investments, and making important financial decisions. While the primary purpose of a financial power of attorney is to ensure someone can manage your affairs if you become incapacitated, it can also be extremely useful when you’re simply unavailable to sign important legal or financial documents due to travel or other commitments. In these situations, having a financial power of attorney allows the person you’ve designated to act on your behalf, signing documents and making decisions even when you’re not physically present. This could be particularly useful for couples who frequently travel for work or leisure, ensuring that important financial matters can still be handled promptly and efficiently.

Planning for Property Ownership

As a married couple, you’ll likely acquire property together, whether it’s a home, a car, or other assets. An estate plan can outline the ownership of these assets and detail how these assets should be handled in the event of death or incapacitation. For example, if you jointly own a home, you may want to specify what happens to the property should one of you pass away. This could include stipulating that the surviving partner retains ownership of the home, or outlining how the property should be sold and the proceeds distributed.

Your estate plan can also cover what should happen to personal property, such as vehicles, jewelry, or artwork. You might decide to leave certain items to each other, or you may have specific heirlooms you want to pass on to children, other family members, or even charitable organizations.

Ensuring Your Wishes Are Followed

A well-crafted estate plan is more than just a legal document; it’s a tangible expression of your wishes regarding how your assets should be distributed after your death. Without an estate plan, the division of your assets will be determined by state laws, which may not align with your personal preferences and could potentially lead to disputes among heirs.

By creating an estate plan, you can dictate specific terms for the distribution of your assets, ensuring that your wealth benefits the people or causes you care about most. Whether you want to leave everything to your partner, divide assets among children from a previous relationship, or donate a portion of your estate to charity, an estate plan offers the control and flexibility to make those decisions.

Additionally, an estate plan can also help minimize estate taxes, further maximizing what you can leave to your loved ones. It can also specify your desired executors or trustees – the individuals who will carry out your wishes as outlined in your estate plan. In the absence of an estate plan, these important decisions are left up to the courts and can create unnecessary stress and conflict among surviving family members. Therefore, an estate plan not only ensures your wishes are followed, but it also provides peace of mind and clarity during a difficult time, reducing potential conflicts and ensuring a smoother transition of assets.

Planning for the Blending of Families

If this is not your first marriage, or if you or your future spouse have children from previous relationships, an estate plan is essential to ensure that all family members are treated according to your wishes. Blended families can add complexity to estate planning, but with careful thought and legal guidance, you can craft a plan that respects everyone’s interests.

With an estate plan, you can specify how you want your assets divided among your spouse and children from both current and previous relationships. For example, you might decide to leave certain assets directly to your children while providing for your spouse through a trust. Alternatively, you might want to ensure that certain family heirlooms or properties stay within their original family line. Without an estate plan, your assets could end up being distributed according to default state laws, which may not reflect your desires or the needs of your blended family. This could lead to conflict and potential legal disputes among your loved ones.

In addition to providing for the distribution of your assets, an estate plan can also address guardianship issues if you have minor children. You can specify who you want to assume guardianship of your children should something happen to both parents, ensuring your children are cared for by the person you trust the most.

In essence, an estate plan provides a clear roadmap for the future, offering peace of mind that all family members will be treated fairly and according to your wishes. It’s an essential tool for any blended family to ensure a smooth and harmonious transition of assets and responsibilities.

Creating Peace of Mind

An integral part of the estate planning process is the peace of mind that comes with it. Once you have your estate plan in place, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve taken significant steps to protect each other and safeguard your future together. Having a comprehensive estate plan means you’ve made clear, legally binding decisions about how your assets should be distributed, who should care for any minor children, and who can make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. This foresight eliminates the guesswork and potential disputes among loved ones during an already difficult time.

Estate planning goes beyond just distributing your assets. It’s about ensuring your wishes are honored, protecting the financial security of your partner, and providing for the loved ones you leave behind. No matter what the future holds, you’ll have the reassurance that you’ve done everything you can to prepare and protect your loved ones. This peace of mind is invaluable – it allows you to focus on living in the present, secure in the knowledge that you’ve done everything possible to plan for the future. As you embark on this exciting new chapter of your life together, an estate plan allows you to do so with confidence and serenity.

Danielle Pierce

As you plan for your future together, remember that estate planning is a vital part of that process. It’s never too early to start, and every step you take now can provide invaluable peace of mind and security for the years to come. At Pierce Legal, we understand the nuances and complexities of estate planning and are here to guide you through each step of the process. Together, we can create a tailored estate plan that protects your interests, respects your wishes, and provides for your loved ones in the way that you envision. Don’t leave your future to chance – contact Pierce Legal today to secure your tomorrow.

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