Whether having recently married or you’re about to take the plunge, you more than likely have a lot on your mind. Wedding plans, family plans, and an entire lifetime together to think about.
However, one thing you may not be thinking about is how your new marriage can and most certainly will affect your current and future estate planning efforts.
Updating your Estate Plan After Marriage
Among the most common reasons a person will amend their estate plan is a change to their marital status. When you get married, you will want to create a new version of your will and trust to include, or not, your spouse.
Estate Plan updates include creating or amending the following:
Trust: A trust is intended to bypass the probate process and settles how your assets will be distributed upon your death.
Will: In the event that you have assets that are not in a trust, your last will and testament is intended to specify how you would like those assets to be dispersed upon your death after the probate is done -and to identify an executor to handle your estate administration.
Living Will: A living will provides your family with a health care directive. This guidance is used in the event of your incapacitation providing your family and health care professionals your wishes when you cannot communicate for yourself. It also appoints a representative to make health care decisions for you.
Power of Attorney: The appointment of an individual to handle any of your financial, property, and business matters if you are unable to do so. Essentially granting another individual the ability to make act on your behalf and best interests.
End of Life Plans: Intended to formally confirm your end of life wishes. This often includes end of life care, funerary planning, and final resting place wishes.
California is a Community Property State
The state of California is one of the few states that apply community property requirements to a marriage. Essentially meaning all income earned throughout the duration of a marriage, by either party, belongs to each married spouse mutually as community property. Often referred to in the event of a divorce nonetheless community property also applies to an estate distribution after a spouse’s death.
Still, if property is held separately in California and you pass away, your spouse must still go through probate to retrieve those assets.
If You Pass Without a Will
Your assets will still go to probate! If you are married and were to die without a valid will in place, under California law, the state would have the power to distribute your estate assets during the probate process under the laws of intestacy. Meaning your surviving spouse would receive all community property within the marriage. A surviving spouse may also receive all or some of the deceased spouse’s separate property if any. Surviving parents, siblings, or children may also receive some of the separate property.
It is always better for you and your spouse to determine beneficiary designations and how estate assets will be dispersed and not the state. The creation of a trust is an essential part of all estate plans.
If You Pass With a Will
There’s still a probate! Theoretically, the creation of a will can determine how your assets and property should be allocated after your death, with some conditions. One of those conditions is that it must first pass through a probate process. If you created a will before marriage, your spouse could be considered an omitted spouse under California law, meaning they would receive the same assets they would have if you created no will at all. If this is the case, the rules of intestacy would apply and your spouse would receive all community property and even a portion of any separate property.
Creating a new will after marriage would avoid this and allow you and your spouse to establish intent for the distribution of assets after death.
Leading Estate Planning Attorneys
The above is only a small portion of the estate planning process following your marriage. You will want to consider future children, aging parents, and all manner of estate planning channels available to help you plan for you and your loved ones.
The estate planning lawyers at Bridge Law LLP are leaders in their field and can assist you with expert estate planning documents, strategies, and legal counsel. There is no better time to plan for your future, contact our firm and learn how we can help. Today is the day.