• Shawna Murray, Attorney

Just Married? Then You Are Ready for Estate Planning.

As newlyweds, I bet you have already spent a lot of time planning a life together and consolidating homes, so this is an ideal time to plan for your future life together as a couple. Leaving things to chance eliminates so many options when it comes to estate planning and can result in unintended consequences if you or your spouse should die without a valid Will or Trust.

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. You 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 your spouse's share of the 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). But what if you have children from a previous relationship? They might become disinherited or get less than you wanted for them.

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. But what if you wanted everything to go to your spouse? The plan that that the state has for dividing your estate can only be changed if you have planned in advance.

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 peace of mind because you will know that loved ones are taken care of, if anything should happen. If you wish to discuss estate planning in further detail, please contact me via phone or text.

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