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An appropriate time for estate planning

California couples often make big plans for the future during the initial year of their marriage but do not think in terms of estate planning. Without realizing it, they may be costing themselves vital opportunities to secure a stable future for their incipient family and accumulating property should something happen to them individually or as a couple.

If a young spouse were to die in an accident without leaving a will, the assets belonging to that individual do not automatically transfer to the surviving spouse but will pass according to California's intestacy laws. Other kin may be jolted too if there were assets that the spouse had promised them personally but not legally, though a will.

Newlyweds may also put durable powers of attorney in place. In the event that a spouse is incapacitated, a durable power of attorney will provide clear guidance for the type of medical care the individual wishes to receive, stripping all doubts and arguments from the situation should it ever occur. This is also an effective tool for prescribing important financial decisions on behalf of an incapacitated spouse.

Furthermore, account beneficiaries may need to be updated immediately after marriage. This applies to insurance policies, existing wills and trusts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, bank accounts and health savings accounts.

Many older couples rue the fact that they did not get started on estate planning earlier, above all when unexpected events change the course of the family's life irreversibly and without preamble. Careful planning can go a long way toward alleviating the anxiety and devastation that often accompany these types of events. In this way, many married couples may benefit from seeking the counsel and tutelage of an estate planning lawyer.

Source: The Motley Fool, "Estate Planning for Newlyweds", Anna Wroblewska, December 27, 2014

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