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Planning for Married Couples

Serving Clients in the Five Boroughs and New Jersey

Marriage comes with new rights and responsibilities. If you already had an estate plan created when you were single, then you must bring your estate plan up-to-date to reflect your spouse/partner. There are special inheritance plans provided to surviving spouses, which you would want to include, such as revised tax planning to take advantage of spousal tax credits and providing for your surviving spouse.

Many married couples believe that they have the natural right to make decisions (whether personal, health-related or financial) for each other when either spouse become unable to do so due to a serious injury or illness. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Without proper documents to appoint your spouse as your decision-maker, if you are unable to do so, 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 deny your spouse/partner access to your medical records and the ability to consult with your physician(s), financial laws limit control over your finances, and IRS regulations will prohibit filing a “legal” joint income tax return, just to name a few.

Appointing a decision-maker of your own selection, whether it be your spouse or another, in advance through proper estate planning documents, then a guardianship judge will select one for you. While the judge will likely appoint your spouse or an appropriate family member, the court process to accomplish this is long, expensive and can be a burden to your spouse/partner and family.

Did you know that without having a plan in place, your assets may be distributed after death based on state laws written for people who do not have their own estate plan? Of course, this very impersonal estate plan written by state lawmakers will likely not reflect your own unique circumstances and objectives for your spouse and assets. In fact, depending on how your premarital assets are titled and how your beneficiary designations are arranged, you may disinherit your own spouse and force your spouse to sue your estate by no fault of your own!

Fortunately, we can help you avoid this probate process and replace that impersonal state-written estate plan with one we design together for your unique circumstances and objectives. We can even assist you with coordinating the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policy(s) and retirement plans and other assets with your estate plan in order to avoid unpleasant and unintended consequences.

Other areas to consider when planning for married couples:

  • Tax planning to take advantage of the
  • Limited marital deductions from estate tax
  • Special tax rules that favor planning for spouses and minor children
  • Legal obligation to support your spouse and minor

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