First of all, congratulations on your marriage! You have probably spent a lot of time making plans for consolidating two homes into one. Now is the ideal time to consider working on an estate plan. You and your spouse have had to determine what types of new bank accounts you will open up together and decide who is going to be paying which bills. Perhaps you have created a new household budget and started working on tax planning. I imagine that all of these tasks have taken up a fair amount of time and energy but I have an excellent idea for re-purposing your hard work – estate planning. Your recently made plans can also be used for planning for your future so that you will be ready for the next stage of your new life together as a couple.
Why is Estate Planning Ideal at This Point?
While working on consolidating your two homes into one, you now have a very good idea about what assets you have. You may have also realized that you have a lot of assets. Still, even if your estate planning is fairly straight forward, it helps that you have a recent accounting of your collective assets.
A Very Brief Explanation of Intestacy Law
You may have heard that in California, all of your property goes to your spouse if you do not have a Will or Trust. Well, that is only accurate if you die without any other heirs such as your children, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews. According to California intestacy law, dying without a valid Will or Trust is called “dying intestate.” So, if your spouse dies intestate, then as the surviving spouse, you are entitled to one-half of your spouse's community property. Community property in California consists of all of the property that was acquired during your marriage (except for gifts, inheritance, and rents acquired during marriage). The other one-half of your spouse's community property, per the California Probate Code, will go to your spouse's children, or if none, to your spouse's parents, and so forth (for simplicity, I will stop listing heirs because the list is long). Also, it is important to note that one-half or one-third of the deceased spouse's separate property goes to the surviving spouse if he/she died intestate. Needless to say, an intestate distribution of property can have unintended consequences.
Estate Planning Gives You So Many Options
An estate plan can give you so many more options for the distribution of your property. For example, you can leave everything to your spouse if you wish, or you can make sure that all of your separate property goes to your children or to your parents or even to charity. Planning gives you control of who gets what property, how the property is divided and when the property is given to your beneficiaries. Even the most basic estate plan should give you some peace of mind because you will know that loved ones are taken care of, if anything should happen.