With thousands of couples heading down this aisle this month, it’s no wonder that February is National Wedding Month! If you and your sweetheart are planning to say “I do” soon, you may also want to consider updating your estate plan. While estate planning may not be the first thing you think of when you think about love, it is a real, tangible way to show your devotion to your new spouse. So, in today’s blog, Siedentopf Law takes a look at some of the items that should be updated with your new groom or bride in mind.
A will is a legal document that can help ensure your new spouse is financially protected and that any of your shared possessions or sentimental objects will go to your spouse (or whoever you wish to receive them). Now is the time to make thoughtful, loving choices about who your beneficiaries should be (hint: include your new spouse) and update your will to make sure your spouse receives any assets you would like them to have. Of course, there will be other people in your life that you want to show love to, so be sure to include your children and pets in your planning as appropriate.
Under Georgia law, a person is automatically entitled to a year’s support following the death of his or her spouse. But you want to make sure that your will reflects your specific wishes regarding your new family. The executor of the will, also known as a personal representative, will help make sure that the property goes to your named heirs and beneficiaries.
A marriage is a partnership. Spouses work together on day-to-day financial, real estate, or even legal issues. It makes sense that the person you trust enough to marry would be the person you trust to help with these matters if you are not able to do so because you’re sick, injured, or otherwise incapacitated. Unfortunately, in Georgia, you need a Power of Attorney to do that. This legal status is not automatic, not even for spouses. Having a Power of Attorney in place enables a person to act on their spouse’s behalf legally and keep matters running smoothly. It is common to name your spouse as your power of attorney, but you need to have an actual signed Power of Attorney documents to ensure that your spouse is legally able to act as your agent.
If you or your spouse have a medical emergency, you want to make sure that you can step in and communicate each other’s wishes for medical treatment. You know your spouse best – and they trust you to take care of them when they’re otherwise not able to. Being someone’s official medial decisionmaker allows you to do that.
Under Georgia law, if a person is unable to consent to medical treatment for themselves, his or her named medical decisionmaker, spouse, or adult child can consent to treatment on their behalf. So, in general, a spouse should be able to communicate their wife or husband’s medical preferences, but it also helps to have an Advance Directive for Health Care in place.
An Advance Directive is a form in which a person lists his or her health care preferences in detail. It communicates your decisions to family members, doctors, and hospitals, and is only used if you are unable to communicate your own wishes. When you list your spouse as your medical decisionmaker, he or she will be able to speak for you on important matters of your health and well-being and take the best possible care of you.
For anyone who has gone through the process of wedding planning, you know – there are so many moving parts and items on your To-Do list. The process of updating your beneficiary designations can often be overlooked or pushed to the backburner, but it’s an important part of estate planning to protect your new spouse. Beneficiary designations are typically found on things like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and even on some bank accounts. It’s the actual mechanism that allows the assets to be transferred to your loved ones.
If you have recently gotten married, you want to make sure that you’ve updated those beneficiary designations so that your spouse will receive the assets. This is not something that automatically happens after you get married; you have to change and update the forms yourself. Sometimes love means wading through extra paperwork. Making sure your designations are current means that your wishes will be honored as you intended, and that your spouse will be protected.
As a newlywed, the concept of estate planning may be uncomfortable but think of the peace of mind you can have in knowing your new wife or husband is protected. This is exactly what life insurance is for. It’s a means of knowing your new spouse will be financially provided for and can enjoy the home you’ve built together. When you purchase a life insurance plan, it is important to revisit your coverage periodically to make sure the coverage reflects your family’s current needs.
Contact the Experienced Estate Planning Team at Siedentopf Law
An estate plan is only effective if it is current – meaning that as changes happen within your family, your estate plan should change as well. It is a good idea to review your estate plan every few years, especially after significant life events such as marriage. You want to make sure your current plan meets your financial goals, protects your loved ones, and leaves your assets to your intended beneficiaries.
© Sarah Siedentopf and Siedentopf Law, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Siedentopf Law and EstateLawAtlanta.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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