Thinking of getting engaged this Valentine’s Day? You are not alone! Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular days to pop the question. Love often makes us see the world through rose-colored glasses with romantic notions and dreaming of riding off into the sunset into your “happily ever after.” While all these things are to be celebrated, there are also legal benefits to tying the knot as well as things to consider before you do so.
So, what really changes when you get married?
Marriage is a legal union between two people in which you make commitments to one another. That means that the two of you are legally bound to each other, which affects your legal rights and financial responsibilities. From making health care decisions to shared assets, joint benefits, and planning your financial future, here are some things to think about and discuss with your future spouse.
Marriage provides healthcare benefits such as intensive care unit visiting privileges and family leave eligibility when your spouse is sick or injured. If you are injured or otherwise incapacitated, your spouse will typically be granted the right to make health care decisions. However, this may not always be the case. To be sure your spouse has the authority to advocate for you and make decisions on your behalf, you should appoint them as your health care agent with a medical power of attorney. You and your spouse should discuss thoughts on medical procedures and complete a Living Will to document your treatment preferences.
Inheritance Benefits – Estate Planning is Your Friend
An excellent advantage to marriage is being able to list your spouse as a beneficiary on various health, retirement, life, and financial insurance plans. Being married can also preserve your assets—they can generally be transferred directly to the surviving spouse without generating gift or estate tax. Mechanisms such as joint ownership or creating a trust to hold your assets can be good ways to facilitate a smoother transition of assets. The process of estate planning will help you identify the best options for you and your spouse. The term “estate planning” can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Putting some sort of Estate Plan together can be as simple as a will and can help safeguard your spouse should you pass away.
Do I Really Need a Will?
A will is not something that is easy to talk about, but it is actually an act of love – you are paving the way to take care of your loved ones. It is an important document that outlines your wishes for how you want things to happen should you die, from who gets what of your possessions and other assets to who gets guardianship of your children (or future children). It also names an individual, called the personal representative, who makes sure your wishes get carried out. In some cases, a trust may be needed in addition to your will. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best solution for your unique situation.
Congratulations on finding the one! Show them how much you love them by making it a priority to update (or create!) your estate planning documents to protect and accommodate this special person in your life.