Traditionally, June is the most popular month for weddings and is probably what perpetuates the term “June Bride.” If you are planning upcoming nuptials or have recently been married, you know how much planning goes into a wedding. Couples take great care in planning every detail from the flowers to researching the best song list for the DJ. Often overlooked by both the new “Mr. and Mrs.” is their estate planning. It is very important that a couple update their new status and just not on Facebook. It is important that any retirement accounts that are managed by their employers, are updated to reflect their new name (if it was changed) and properly designates their new spouse as beneficiary if they so choose. They need to update their beneficiary designations on these accounts should a spouse pass unexpectedly. Otherwise, they have no legal rights to these accounts/monies.
A common misconception is that marriage gives a spouse the power or right to make decisions for the other spouse in the event of illness or incapacitation. To ensure that a spouse is the can make legal, financial and medical decisions, each newlywed should execute a Durable Power of Attorney, a HIPAA Release, a Health Care Proxy and an Advanced Directive (also known as a living will) and a Last Will and Testament.
- A Durable Power of Attorney provides the power for a spouse to make legal and financial decisions should a spouse become incapacitated.
- A Health Care Proxy allows for a spouse to make medical decisions for the other in the event of incapacity.
- A HIPAA Release allows medical professionals to speak freely with the spouse about the other’s care and treatment.
- An Advance Directive allows spouses to be clear with one another about end-of-life treatment and final wishes.
- A Last Will and Testament is important even if the happy couple has very little in the way of assets. This is especially important if there are children from previous relationships involved.
- Some couples may even want to opt for a Trust, depending on their goals and assets
One very important thing is to name an alternative agent in addition to their spouse in the event of an accident where a couple may both be injured and/or incapacitated and cannot make decisions.
Again, we congratulate all the new brides and grooms and wish them very many years of happiness to come. Just remember to call our office to meet with one of our estate planning attorneys soon after you finish writing out those thank you cards!
©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375. This article is for illustration purposes only. This handout does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.