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  • Wendi Gundersen

First comes love, then comes marriage...then comes an estate plan (Part 1)



Congratulations! You just got married (or you are about to in the near future). You likely planned a beautiful ceremony and a fantastic reception. Every detail was thought through and well planned. Perhaps you even had contingency plans in place in case of inclement weather.

Now that the big day is over, it is time to thoughtfully plan your life with your new spouse.

You Have a New Emergency Contact

Now that you are married, you have a new emergency contact. It is time to update your emergency contact information with work so that the love of your life gets contacted first in case of any emergency.

As part of this process, you may want to prepare an Advance Healthcare Directive. This document enables you to appoint an agent for healthcare, such as your new spouse, and express your healthcare wishes. Most importantly, talk to your spouse about what kind of care you would like, if you cannot advocate for yourself.

Communicating your wishes with an Advance Healthcare Directive also promotes family peace by minimizing the risk of a legal dispute about your care between your spouse and your parents.

You Have a New Beneficiary

While you are updating things, make sure to update your beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies and retirement accounts. You new spouse should be the primary beneficiary on all of your policies, in most cases.

Merging Your Financial Lives

There are many aspects to consider as you merge your financial lives. First, you should share your financial account information with your spouse. As part of this process, you may want to consider naming your spouse as your agent in a Durable Power of Attorney. As your agent, your spouse will have the ability to pay your bills, access accounts, and manage property.

Then, you should eliminate duplicate accounts or insurance where necessary. For example, you do not need two Netflix accounts, and you may get a better car insurance rate if you bundle your policies with one insurer. Also, consider your bank accounts. Do you each need separate checking accounts or will it be more convenient to open a joint account?

Finally, you should create a list of accounts and services with important passwords so that both spouses can access and update information if necessary. This way your spouse can schedule a payment for you when you are down with the flu or out of town on business. Keep this list in a secure place.

These are just a few things you should do now that you're married. In Part 2, I will discuss how to complete your estate plan.


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