Even in COVID-19 times, couples are finding ways to celebrate love and get married. They can't have the weddings of their dreams, but there's still a lot to love about a wedding: you receive outpourings of support, gifts show up right at your door, and, of course, you get to spend the rest of your life with someone you love!
It's truly an important life moment that should give you pause to consider what's most important to you. A wedding is often a reflection of those values. It helps you prioritize the people in your life and define what you care about most.
Every couple will make the decisions that suit them best as they move into a new life together. One of the areas that will be reevaluated is personal finance. Some couples choose to combine finances, and other's choose to keep things separate.
Estate plans also fall into this category--if you have a will, getting married means it's time for an update. If you've never made an estate plan, choosing to combine your life with someone else's means you are responsible for them, and that means making a plan to care for them in an emergency.
Doesn't my new spouse become my healthcare/financial proxy by default?
The laws in many states favor your spouse for the roles of power of attorney: both financial and for healthcare decisions. Colorado, however, is not one of those states. Residents of Colorado must make emergency documents that explicitly name the spouse as the chosen proxy (decision-maker). Otherwise, if you're in an accident, the hospital will convene a "committee of interested persons" to make your medical decisions for you.
So, one of the most important pieces of your estate plan are your emergency documents: living will, HIPAA authorization, and especially your healthcare power of attorney.
It also means that if you don't want your spouse to be in the position to make your medical decisions for you--let's say you have a sister-in-law who's a nurse and who you'd trust, or you simply know your spouse well enough to know they don't want to make these tough decisions--then you need to get that in writing as well.
Any big life change should include checking your beneficiary designations. This is important because even if you make an estate plan, beneficiary designations can override your plan and cause your new spouse stress and energy to sort out these difficulties.
I cannot stress enough the importance of double-checking your beneficiary designations on bank accounts, insurance policies, and investments. It can really make or break your estate plan.
Peace of mind and marital harmony
Another important reason to make an estate plan with your new spouse is that, like meeting with a minister in preparation for your wedding vows, it helps you to sort through priorities and make sure you're on the same page.
A good estate plan takes your whole life into account. It looks not just at your finances but who you are as a person. This can be telling for new spouses. It's time to dive deep into long-term financial goals, fears about the future, and what you value most.
Plus, it shows your new spouse that you're not just there for them in life, but even if the worst happens, you're making plans for their safety and security.
If you've gotten married lately, take the real plunge and make an estate plan together--the true test of your compatibility.
Contact Brie Neppl, Client Services Coordinator, at 970-879-1572.