Estate Planning for Married Couples

Guiding couples in Laurel, Maryland and the Surrounding Area


With each marriage come new rights and new responsibilities. If you already had an estate plan created when you were single, then you must adapt your estate planning as a married couple bringing it up-to-code to reflect your wedding vows. Now that you are married, it is an important time to start thinking about issues such as joint tenancy, incapacity planning and beneficiary designations. Read more about When Names Change, You Should Update Estate Planning Documents

Unfortunately, many married couples mistakenly believe that they can make personal, health care and financial decisions for one another should either spouse become legally incapacitated due to a serious injury or illness. Nothing could be further from reality!

Without proper estate planning for married couples in advance to appoint your spouse as the incapacity decision-maker, he or she will not have legal authority to make even fundamental decisions for you (or affecting both of you). For example, medical privacy laws will bar access to your medical records and the ability to consult with your attending physician, financial laws limit control over your finances, and IRS regulations will prohibit filing a “legal” joint income tax return … for starters.

Unless you legally appoint the decision-maker of your own selection in advance of an incapacity, through a property power of attorney (and possibly a living trust), then a judge may be required to select a guardian for you. The guardianship process to accomplish this is expensive (it employs at least two attorneys), discloses your private personal and financial information to the public record and is a real hassle for your loved ones. Without a last will and testament (and possibly living trust), you give up the right to decide who will stand in your shoes to handle your affairs when you die.

Did you know that in the absence of proper estate planning for married couples, your assets may be distributed after death based on “one-size-fits-all” state laws written for people who do not have their own estate plan? Of course, this impersonal estate plan written by state lawmakers may not reflect your own unique circumstances and objectives for your spouse and assets. In fact, depending on how you titled your premarital assets and how your beneficiary designations are arranged, you may disinherit your own spouse and force your spouse to sue your estate!

Fortunately, the lawyers at Downs Law Firm can help you avoid probate and replace that impersonal, state-written, one-size-fits-all estate plan with one we design together for your unique circumstances and objectives. Our legal team even helps you coordinate the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plans with your estate plan to avoid unpleasant, unintended consequences. 

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