You just returned from your honeymoon, and you and your new husband or wife are filling out paperwork to change your last name. You suddenly realize that the will you wrote five years ago does not even mention your new spouse. Then you think about the payments from your grandparents’ trust that you receive each month – will those continue now that you are married? You realize you probably have a lot more paperwork to do.
Marriage affects most people’s estate plans because the inheritance laws in California allow spouses to inherit more than other heirs. First, if you do not have a will, your new spouse would automatically inherit a share of your estate (as would any children). If you do have a will, you can dispose of your property however you would like in it. However, your husband or wife will automatically receive your share of any “community property” of the marriage under California law. Community property refers generally to property acquired during the marriage by either spouse.
If you have not yet made the marriage official, you may want to speak to an estate planning lawyer first. Your lawyer may be able to advise you on how to protect pre-marital assets, such as the payments from your grandparents’ trust, if you want them to remain your own separate property. You may want to retain the payments as separate property in case of divorce or death. Ask about preparing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement (pre-nup or post-nup).
In addition, you should take that outdated will into an estate planning lawyer’s office as soon as possible and have the lawyer draft an updated version. Having an outdated will around could cause confusion among your relatives if you suddenly pass away. Your spouse might not receive everything you want them to have.
If you and your new spouse are planning to have children (or if you have children from previous relationships), you should start thinking about estate planning to benefit them. For example, you could set up an educational trust or a 529 plan and start saving money for their future education. If you have new stepchildren as a result of the marriage, consider how you want to include them in your estate plan and whether you want to officially adopt them. If you have children at some point in the future, be sure to check in with your lawyer to include them in your estate plan too.
Marriage brings with it so much happiness and so many changes to you and your new spouse’s lives. Make changes to your estate plan a priority in your new married life so that your wishes will be carried out in the future.
Just married and need help with your estate? Angela Klenk, Esq. and the team at Beach Cities Estate Law couple personalized attention to your estate plan with big law firm experience for a winning combination to give you peace of mind. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Beach Cities Estate Law online or call Angela’s office at (424) 400-2125.