Estate planning is meant to provide direction and security for loved ones when we pass away, but complications can arise in the estate planning process when structuring a plan as a married couple. Each person in the marriage has individual estate planning goals, tax-related objectives, and ideas for the future. However, upon probing deeper through the individual wants and needs of the spouses common goals run through the estate planning process of almost all married couples:
· Providing for family and loved ones
This is typically the top priority for all married couples. They want to know that their surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, extended family and friends are all provided for after they are gone. Even pets can be provided for if an estate plan is structured correctly.
· Minimizing taxes
Couples also want the taxes on their assets to be as minimal as possible so that their beneficiaries can fully inherit after they are gone. This includes federal estate and income taxes as well as state estate and income taxes.
· Protecting property/assets going to family and loved ones
Similar to providing for loved ones, married couples also want to know that specific property and assets will be protected from creditors or from future family issues such as a future spouse.
· Cost effective planning
The cost of estate planning is one of the main reasons why couples put off the process for so long. They want to have a plan in place that meets the individual and couple’s goals, but at the same time want a plan that isn’t too costly to create. In most cases a compromise must be made. In order to achieve all of the estate planning goals a basic level of complexity must go into the planning process. At the same time, structuring an incredibly intricate plan can be costly. Therefore, finding an attorney that can cover all of the basic goals while also keeping the plan under a certain budget is vital.
· Privacy in estate planning matters
Keeping the decisions of estate planning private from others is also a common goal of most married couples. Not only does it keep their business out of public knowledge, it can help protect the surviving spouse or other beneficiaries from being the victims of fraudulent schemes after the estate plan goes into effect.
· Control over assets
One of the biggest concerns that married couples have when estate planning is ensuring that the surviving spouse has control of the assets of their marriage after one passes away. The same is true in most cases when it comes to ensuring that the children will also have control over the assets of the marriage when both spouses pass.
· Planning for incapacity
Although it is tough to think about, most couples also want provisions in an estate plan that provide for the incapacitation of themselves or their spouse. An estate plan can provide for more than just death, and in the case of incapacitation a plan can dictate power of attorney as well as medical wishes.
· Asset management
Typically, one spouse in a marriage is more adept at asset management, and an estate plan can structure a new management system for the surviving spouse if the other is incapacitated or passes away. This ensures that someone capable is always managing the family’s assets.
Discussing these common goals before meeting with an estate planning attorney can help a married couple facilitate the process of creating an estate plan. Not only does the process become much easier, it also provides peace of mind that both individual and common goals are being met when planning for the future.