Getting Married? Now What?
Getting married is an exciting time as two people begin to dream about their lives together. However, it is important to remember that as you join your lives and assets together, you are becoming legally intertwined as well. There is a common misconception that only the elderly and the wealthy need to be concerned about protecting their family members and possessions as well as having to worry about their health. In fact, the best time to plan is during the beginning stages of your marriage to start protecting the interests of your spouse and future children by having several extremely important custom-tailored instruments that give you the control to manage your assets and health care decisions throughout the course of your lives.
Having the following legal instruments prepared may be the key to protecting your health, family, and joint property:
A Last Will and Testament allows you to pass your property on to your partner and/or children after your death, especially if it is untimely. This instrument is a legal declaration by which you may name one or more persons to manage your personal and real property. If you do not have a Last Will and Testament, it is possible that your children may not receive their fair share of your estate. Your surviving family members will then have to go through probate court to prove your wishes, which can be an extremely lengthy, exhausting, and expensive process. The court may also appoint a personal representative unknown to you to manage your estate. Generally, the costs of not having a Last Will and Testament are far greater than having setting up one from the beginning.
Joint Living Trusts may be used in addition to a Last Will and Testament. Any property of a person that is placed in the Joint Living Trust may stay in your control throughout your lifetime and protect the interests of your spouse and children after your death. In some circumstances, it may act as a shelter from creditors and third parties of your beneficiaries so that your family members can continue to be taken care of. Joint Living Trusts can also be helpful to speed administration and save taxes if they are drafted properly and funded during your lifetime.
A Living Will is a written declaration specifying directions as to the use of life-prolonging procedures when you are incapacitated. Without this instrument, the crucial decisions regarding yours or your spouse’s health may be decided contrary to your wishes.
A Health Care Surrogate Designation allows your spouse or someone you specifically designate to make the important decisions on your life if you are hospitalized and have to go through medical procedures due to an accident or unexpected event. The person you designate may also be able to make the very important decision as to when to withdraw medical procedures. In the absence of a proper Health Care Surrogate Designation, your health care decisions may be delayed or may be left in the hands of an unknown or unrelated person.
A Durable Power of Attorney is especially valuable for paying the bills and protecting your assets during your time of incapacitation. There is a new Durable Power of Attorney law in the State of Florida and is in effect as of October 1st, 2011. The new law requires a greater amount of specificity than in the previous Durable Power of Attorney instruments as it pertains to granting powers to agents. It is crucial that these adjustments be made so all of your documents remain up-to-date according to the new law.
Make sure that you and your spouse (or soon-to-be spouse) sit down and talk about your asset plan and unforeseen health issues in the early stages of family planning. To prepare your customized Last Will and Testament, Joint Living Trust, Living Will, Health Care Surrogate, and Durable Power of Attorney, it is critical to retain the right attorney who has experience in such matters. These very important legal instruments need to be ready and available in case of an emergency. Don’t let destiny catch you napping. The price is too high to pay.
Radhika Arora, Esq. is the Principal Attorney at Arora Law Firm practicing in the areas of asset protection, complex business transactions, and tax law. Please send your questions to RArora@AroraLawFirm.com or for more information call (305) 403-8737.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. Legal advice depends on each and every person’s particular circumstance. If you have a related issue, you should consult with your lawyer who practices law in your state regarding your particular circumstance. This article is for informational purposes only. Arora Law Firm and Radhika Arora, Esq. specifically disclaim any responsibility for positions taken by readers in their individual cases or for any misunderstanding on the part of readers of this article or of this magazine.