Estate planning considerations for married couples

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2023 | Estate Planning

When an individual becomes married, they almost always consider their spouse and children, if any, when making decisions, minor or significant. These decisions include creating or updating estate plan tools.

How a marriage affects an estate’s property distribution

Many estate planning tools, such as wills and trusts, involve an individual’s properties and how the executor distributes them in the event of the owner’s death. Generally, administering the estate of an unmarried person is straightforward.

On the other hand, married individuals have to create or update their estate plans while factoring in the nature of their properties, whether separate or marital. While separate properties typically go through probate, properties jointly owned with a right of survivorship skip the process and transfer automatically to the other spouse as the joint owner.

Even without a will, a marriage affects how the state distributes the decedent’s assets. Under Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws, the surviving spouse inherits all of the deceased spouse’s properties, unless the decedent has surviving children or parents.

Making important decisions together

Estate planning allows spouses to make important decisions about their future together, anticipating the unpredictable, such as incapacity or death. This includes important decisions, such as the following:

  • Management of legal and financial affairs through a Power of Attorney
  • Medical choices through a health care directive or a living will
  • End-of-life wishes and instructions
  • Guardianship for minor children

While no spouse wants to think about their partner’s death, carefully discussing the possibility and creating strategies can help them prepare and protect each other and their children.

Evaluating the family’s unique circumstances and priorities can guide spouses in selecting the most suitable estate planning tools. If in doubt, consulting a legal professional for estate plan recommendations can help spouses achieve their estate planning goals.

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