After the wedding, one of the most important things for a newlywed couple to do is to update their estate plans. Some updates are simple, such as changing the beneficiary designations on bank accounts, insurance policies and retirement savings accounts but others are more complex and may require the help of an experienced attorney.

Married couples often list each other on power of attorney documents. As power of attorney, a spouse can handle the financial matters of their incapacitated husband or wife. Some financial institutions require their customers to use specific forms to assign a power of attorney, so it is important to find out each bank’s policy.

Newlyweds who already have wills should update them, and those without a will should write one when they get married. Guardianship for minor children is assigned through a last will and testament. A will is also important for older couples who have children from previous marriages and those who want to leave assets to someone other than their spouse.

Couples who own real estate prior to their marriage should carefully consider how they will title their property. Choosing between joint tenancy with rights to survivorship and tenancy in common should not be done before understanding the implications of the decision. Another important document to draft or update after a wedding is an advance medical directive. This form allows a person to nominate someone to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to do so themselves. Many spouses nominate each other on this form.

Newlyweds with complicated financial or familial situations may benefit from the assistance of an attorney who focuses on estate planning. A lawyer may also help a client set up a trust to avoid probate and make passing assets to their heirs easier.

Source: NASDAQ, “Estate Planning for Newlyweds“, July 13, 2014