Developing a comprehensive estate plan is essential for every married couple. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for couples to be in absolute agreement when formulating an estate plan. It’s also challenging for couples to navigate through the world of estate planning without proper legal guidance. For such reasons, our Madison estate planning lawyers have put together helpful estate planning strategies for married couples.
If you need legal guidance with your estate plan, contact our estate planning attorneys today at (608) 292-5185. We have offices throughout Madison, WI, and Rockford, IL.
Understand Marital & Community Property Laws
When you get married, your financial and legal status changes in several ways. To understand how you can distribute your property as a couple, you need to know how shared property works.
For example, Wisconsin is a marital property state. This means that you share property ownership with your spouse. Wisconsin is also a community property state, meaning that each spouse owns (50/50) portions of marital property. However, Illinois isn’t a community property state, but they are marital state property. This means that married couples share property ownership with their spouse, but the property isn’t divided evenly in half. Understanding marital and community property laws will help couples understand how you can divide your assets.
Determine Child Guardianship With Your Spouse
If you and your spouse have minor children, it is essential to name a guardian for your children or dependants when developing an estate plan. Without a will, the court would decide who will care for your children in the event that both of you pass away.
Discuss Your Ideal Beneficiaries With Your Spouse
Depending on which state you live in, you may need to discuss how you want to divide your marital property with your spouse. The property you accumulate as a married couple is referred to as “marital property.” This often includes joint bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, business assets, and more. In some states, if one of the spouses passes away, the surviving spouse is left with the remaining assets. However, you should speak to your spouse about what happens to marital assets if both of you pass away simultaneously. If you want to leave assets to your loved ones, you should develop a list of beneficiaries.
Develop a Health Care Plan
Another important element of your couple estate plan is to map out the health care preferences for you and your partner. Planning health care wishes is beneficial because it will ensure that your preferences are met in case you can’t consent to specific treatments after suffering an illness or injury. Typically, your spouse is legally authorized to make decisions for you, but if you want to choose someone other than your spouse, you can do so.
Update Your Estate Plan After Major Life Events
If you and your spouse already have an estate plan, you both must update your documents after major life events. You should also consider revisiting your estate plan every three years to ensure that it is up-to-date and in accordance with any new laws.
Below we have put together a list of significant life events that require you to update your estate plan:
- The birth or adoption of a child
- Death of a beneficiary or guardian
- Birth of a grandchild or great-grandchild
- You move to another state
- Your executor becomes ill or passes away
- You acquire a significant amount of assets or incur debt
Seek Legal Guidance From an Estate Planning Attorney
Regardless of whether you and your spouse still need to develop an estate plan or already have one, you should have an experienced estate planning attorney on your side. Our team at Estate Law Partners, LLC provides the highest quality, comprehensive legal services to our community. When you choose our firm to represent you, we will take the time to listen to your goals, answer your questions, and work with you to bring simplicity, order, and control to the legal process so you can make informed choices to protect your future and legacy.
Contact our Madison estate planning attorneys today at (608) 292-5185 to schedule a consultation! We serve clients throughout Madison, WI, and Rockford, IL.