For Married Couples
Planning for Married Couples
Serving Clients in New York City and the New York Metropolitan Area
Marriage comes with new rights and responsibilities. If you already had an estate plan created when you were single, then you must bring your estate plan up-to-date to reflect your spouse/partner. There are special inheritance plans for surviving spouses, such as revised tax planning to take advantage of spousal tax credits and providing for your surviving spouse.
Many married couples believe that they have the natural right to make decisions for each other, whether personal, health-related or financial, when either spouse become unable to do so due to a serious injury or illness. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Without proper documents to appoint your spouse as your decision-maker if you are unable to make your own decisions, your spouse will not have legal authority to make fundamental decisions for you – not even those affecting both of you. For example, medical privacy laws will deny your spouse/partner access to your medical records and the ability to consult with your physician(s), and there are financial laws which limit control over your spouse’s finances, just to name a few.
By appointing a decision-maker of your own selection, whether it be your spouse or another, you can avoid a future crisis through proper estate planning documents. If you don’t appoint a decision-maker and you require one a guardianship judge would need to select one for you. While the judge will likely appoint your spouse or an appropriate family member, the court process to accomplish this is long, expensive and can be a burden to your spouse/partner and family.
Additionally, without planning ahead, depending on how your premarital assets are titled and how your beneficiary designations are arranged, you may inadvertently disinherit your own spouse. If not corrected after marriage, you might force your spouse to sue your estate to receive their rightful share!
Fortunately, we can help you avoid any unwanted probate processes by replacing an impersonal state-written estate plan with one we design together for your unique circumstances and objectives. We can even assist you with coordinating the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policy(s) and retirement plans and other assets with your estate plan in order to avoid unpleasant and unintended consequences.
Other areas to consider when planning for married couples:
- Tax planning to take advantage of the beneficial tax rules for couples
- Unlimited tax-free transfers between spouses
- Special tax rules that favor planning for spouses and minor children