This is the third in a series of estate planning articles from EZLaw™. EZLaw™ makes it easy to create a Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney, or Living Will document, with the guidance of an attorney at a very affordable cost.
After the wedding is over and the honeymoon is just a memory, many newlyweds find that it takes six or nine months to settle into their new lives. But there’s still a lot of work to be done after the wedding — everything from legally changing her last name or opening a joint checking account to making estate plans as a couple.
Today, let’s look at the five most common estate-planning mistakes that couples make after they get married.
5. Not considering whether to update healthcare power of attorney. Your healthcare power of attorney document allows you to name an attorney-in-fact (also known as a healthcare proxy or healthcare surrogate) to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. Although it’s not a requirement, many people will name their spouse as their attorney in fact.
You and your spouse should sit down to discuss whether you want to name one another as healthcare surrogates. But recognize that in some cases, there might be someone who’s better equipped for the job. Suppose, for example, that English isn’t your spouse’s first language. Would he or she feel comfortable communicating with doctors, health insurance companies and other medical providers, even if a translator were unavailable? Or suppose you have an adult sibling who works in the medical profession and might be more comfortable in the role. Choosing a healthcare proxy isn’t a popularity contest, and you and your spouse need to decide if you’re the right people for the job.
4. Forgetting to update beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, annuities and retirement accounts. One advantage of financial planning tools such as life insurance policies is that, after your death, the assets transfer outside of the probate process. If money is tight, then speed is of the essence. After you get married, check to see whom you’ve designated as the beneficiary for each IRA, 401(k), annuity and life insurance policy, and update those beneficiary designations if you’d like your new spouse to receive the assets.
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