"I'm Young and Just Got Married. What Planning Do I Need?"

Cary, NC Estate Planning Lawyer

Cary, NC Estate Planning Lawyer

I get this question often. Surely planning for a married couple in their 20's and a married couple in their 60's will require different planning considerations, right? Of course. So, what does a plan for a young married couple generally look like? Should they even worry about getting a plan in place? Of course. Here's why:

There's No One-Size-Fits-All Estate Plan

First, estate planning should never be one-size-fits-all. It should always be very client-centered and should take into account the client's specific family and financial circumstances. But, there are a few factors that are generally true for young married couples which would be applicable to this question.

Intestacy Can Deprive the Spouse

Most people probably think that when they get married and die without a formal plan in place, that the state's default rules of intestacy would surely allow the surviving spouse to benefit from the deceased spouse's entire estate. Well, that's incorrect most of the time. If the deceased spouse was survived by his/her spouse and at least one living parent, the surviving spouse will get the first $60K of personal property and half the remainder, as well as half of the deceased spouse's real property. The parent(s) will get the other half of the personal property and real property. That's not what most people would want. So, the way your override the state's default rules is to create your own rules through the creation of a will. At the very least, young married couples who wish to pass everything on to their spouse need to have a will.

Healthcare Decisions

Remember Terri Schiavo? Hers was the first major right-to-die case in the US - or at least the one that got the most media coverage. Terri suffered a cardiac arrest and, although she was resuscitated, she suffered severe brain damage and was being kept alive in a vegetative state by a feeding tube. Her prognosis was bleak. She did not have a living will (advanced directive) but her husband believed that she would not want to have her life prolonged without any meaningful change of recovery. He asked for the feeding tube to be removed to allow her to pass. Her parents, who disagreed with that decision, filed a lawsuit preventing the same. After 7 years of litigation, her feeding tube was removed and she passed away. The litigation surrounded whether or not she would have wanted her life prolonged in that instance. Had she set out her wishes ahead of time, there would not have been a dispute. 

Another aspect of healthcare planning is the designation of a healthcare agent to make medical decisions for you in the event that you lose capacity to make those decisions yourself. It also involves setting out your wishes for the final disposition of your remains and whether you'd like your organs to be donated.  

Just because you're young doesn't mean that estate planning isn't a concern.