Feb 06, 2024
Common Law Relationships in Alberta
Understand Alberta's common law partnerships: Navigate rights, responsibilities, and benefits under Adult Interdependent Partnership laws.
Have you just gotten married? Congratulations! To commit to another person is to boldly step into the future together, to imagine a shared life where you and your partner will be by each other’s side through thick and thin. And while newlyweds would surely rather begin thinking of the new home they’re going to buy together, or the baby that’s planned for the coming years, or that life-changing honeymoon hike up Kilimanjaro, estate planning should definitely not be overlooked when mapping out your life with your life partner.
We regularly share relevant information about wills and estates.
We get it: Estate planning isn’t exactly a sexy topic, especially when you’ve just gotten married. You want to celebrate life; you don’t want to be considering different scenarios for what happens after you die. However, getting married is precisely that sort of life-altering event that warrants a fresh look on things like your will, your financial accounts, and any retirement accounts you may be paying into.
After all, what’s more romantic than wanting to ensure that your partner is taken care of in case of an emergency, and vice versa? By ensuring that your spouse is covered in your estate plan, you’ll save them a world of stress and frustration by ensuring that they won’t have to endure a lengthy probate process before they can access the money they’re entitled to when you’re gone.
Here’s what you and your partner should consider once you’re freshly married:
Getting married is the perfect time to update your will, as your family has now grown and you and your spouse are now a team. As such, you’ll want to make sure your will reflects that and ensures that your spouse is properly covered if you’re gone.
Don’t have a will yet? Now is the perfect time to make one. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to hire a lawyer to create a legally binding will. You can do it yourself, as long as you create a physical copy of your will, you’ve signed it yourself, and have it signed by two witnesses.
Now is the time to name your new spouse as a beneficiary to all of your accounts, including retirement accounts like RRSPs in Canada or 401(k)s in the US. You’ll also want to ensure you name your spouse as a beneficiary or “transfer-upon-death” recipient for things like life insurance, property titles, investment accounts, and any government pensions you may be entitled to.
As you probably know, ensuring that many financial accounts, such as checking and savings accounts, are jointly held will ensure that the account goes directly to the surviving spouse, without having to go through probate. That will allow your spouse to have immediate access to the funds they may need, and will also significantly reduce the need for probate. Find out more about the benefits of joint accounts here.
There are more than just financial accounts that can be held jointly: Phone plans, property deeds, health insurance, and many other assets and benefits can be jointly held, thereby consolidating and simplifying your estate.
It may be unpleasant to talk about what will happen if one of you becomes too incapacitated to make rational decisions, but it’s an important topic and you want to be prepared if the worst were to happen. As such, it’s worth discussing whether you’d like to give your spouse Power of Attorney, and vice versa.
For reference, Power of Attorney is a legal arrangement that allows a designated person to make financial, legal, and medical decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so. By discussing those possibilities with your spouse and putting them down in writing, you can ensure that your wishes will be respected even if you may no longer be in a position to enforce them yourself.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you and your new spouse are transparent and honest with each other. You’ve married a person who most likely comes with some debt, assets, and expectations for how they want their life to turn out. You most likely also have debt, assets, and wishes you’d like to see fulfilled. All these things are now part of your marriage, and discussing these topics with your spouse will ensure that the two of you are building a strong foundation for the future.
Curious to learn more about estate planning? Get in touch for a free consultation today.
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