Although many Florida residents understand the advantages of estate planning, not many actually spend the necessary amount of time and resources required to create a foolproof estate plan. Marriage often makes couples consider estate planning seriously enough to take some basic steps.

Retirement accounts and life insurance are important parts of an estate plan, and for most working couples these funds are managed by employers. Newlyweds should first update beneficiary details of these plans with human resources departments, so in the event of an untimely death the surviving spouse does not have a problem claiming the benefits.

The next step is to review existing life insurance policies and consider buying additional insurance. Couples should consider various factors when making changes, such as terms of the existing policy, planning with regard to any children of the marriage, how additional insurance may affect marital lifestyle and other similar factors.

Florida newlyweds should explore drafting a will to facilitate smooth passage of the estate to beneficiaries after their death. A will also helps solidify a surviving spouse’s rights if state laws do not guarantee that all assets of the deceased are automatically passed to the spouse. A will can also include clauses that were a part of a prenuptial agreement signed by the couple.

Newlyweds should also remember that marriage does not necessarily mean a spouse has the right to make all decisions if the other spouse is incapacitated. It is important to draw up durable powers of attorney and advance medical directives. Newlyweds may also consider making a third person part of these legal documents, who can take charge if spouses are incapacitated at the same time.

Finally, newlyweds should also ensure that their home is an integral part of their estate plan. Based on state probate and homestead laws, newlyweds should decide whether it would be advantageous to keep the home in one spouse’s name or have joint ownership, because a home is a valuable asset and in times of dire need it may provide invaluable financial help to the couple or the surviving spouse.

Luis E. Barreto