We are in the beginning of the wedding season and while most couples may be more focused on dresses, tuxedos, venues, cakes, music and where to honeymoon, there is one important factor that may be overlooked: Estate Planning.
There are several Estate Planning tools that can benefit both engaged couples and newly married couples:
A Prenuptial Agreement is executed prior to marriage, and a Postnuptial Agreement is executed after a marriage takes place. Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements can provide asset protection and address the issue of alimony if the marriage ends in divorce or death. It can also be an effective tool to ensure that children from a previous marriage or relationship will be treated in the manner that you wish. It allows you to determine what goes to your spouse and what goes to your children. Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements can also provide a framework for how debts are divided upon a divorce or death of one party. Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements can be utilized to provide life estates in a home so that the surviving spouse does not find themselves without a place to live in the event of death of the other spouse. Likewise, income from investments can be directed to a surviving spouse with the principal going to children from a prior relationship or marriage. Another feature of Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements is that it can provide how disputes upon divorce or death of one party are settled (i.e. mediation or arbitration which does not involve intervention of a court).
In addition to making a long term commitment to your spouse or future spouse, you should make the commitment of creating a proper Estate Plan to provide for your spouse in the event of your death by way of a Last Will and Testament. If you do not have a Last Will and Testament, your heirs at law will receive your estate under the Kentucky intestate succession law, wherein your spouse is 4th on the list after your children, parents and siblings. It is also important for couples in a domestic partnership to have a Last Will and Testament, as they are currently not considered an heir to your estate in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Thus, they will receive nothing from your estate in the event of your death.
A Trust is a useful and flexible tool for Estate Planning. If properly drawn and executed and funded, it can avoid probate and the costs associated with same, while allowing you to keep your estate matters private. A Trust can also have specific provisions for your children, whether from a prior relationship or with your current spouse such as the share of your estate they will receive and when and how they will receive same (i.e. specific age, education requirements, etc.). In some cases, it can offer long term protection of assets from being squandered, seized by creditors, or controlled by former spouses (if you have children together) or unwanted family members.