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Married? Why You Both Need an Estate Plan

by | May 16, 2018 | Firm News |

It is a common belief that you do not need an estate plan if your spouse has one; after all, if my spouse dies, I will just get everything.

Isn’t it that simple?

Not necessarily.

What if both you and your spouse die in the same tragic accident? While most of us would prefer not to think about these possibilities, it is much easier to plan for them than you realize.

Here are some reasons you want to make sure that both you and your spouse each have a complete estate plan:

1. Trusts avoid conservatorship; wills don’t.

Conservatorship is the process where a judge appoints someone, called a “conservator,” to take care of you. This person will be put in charge of your person (you) and your estate (your stuff) until you either get better or pass on. To avoid spending talent, time, and treasure on this court proceeding, consider creating an estate plan, to include a living trust, for you and your spouse so that you both can name the trustees you would like to be in charge of your estate if either or both of you are ever mentally incapacitated.

2. You may want to list different beneficiaries.

This is especially common in second marriages. To avoid conflict between you and your spouse over who will ultimately benefit from your estate, it is essential that both you and your spouse have a plan and clearly delineate your beneficiaries.

3. Advance Health Care Directive

A well-crafted estate plan is one that includes an Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD). An AHCD will allow you to make medical decisions for and honor the end of life and organ donation wishes of your significant other, and vice versa, in the case of mental disability. In the case that both of you are incapacitated, you will name other agents who can act on your behalf if the other of you cannot.

4. HIPAA Authorization

A HIPAA authorization will allow you to access your spouse’s medical records in case they are in the hospital or mentally incapacitated. Without this authorization, it is possible that you will not be able to view your spouse’s healthcare records and speak with medical personnel, despite the fact that you are legally married.

The above are some of the primary reasons why it is essential for both you and your spouse to have an estate plan in place. That way, you will both be protected from any potential challenges (conservatorship or probate) that may arise in your future.