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Examining the estate planning steps a newlywed couple should take

For California newlyweds, estate planning may be the furthest thing from their minds. However, some simple steps may help to protect assets and ensure that a couple's estate is treated in the right way should unexpected circumstances arise.

One simple fix that newly married couples can take care of up front is adjusting their insurance policies and bank accounts to name their spouse as the beneficiary if desired. A third party can also be the secondary beneficiary on these accounts should both spouses pass away at the same time. In addition to this, some important documents should be drafted by an attorney. These include a health care power of attorney and advanced health care directive. These are used in situations where one spouse is incapacitated and cannot tell doctors about their desired medical care, from tube feeding to life support. A financial power of attorney will allow the person's spouse to control their finances when they are incapacitated as well.

Other documents could also use updating. An existing will should be checked to ensure that the person's estate is properly going to their spouse or any others who stand to inherit. The couple should have a serious discussion about this in order to avoid any future arguments over a will.

Some couples may find the various estate planning options difficult to grasp and might benefit from the guidance of a professional. An attorney may be helpful in explaining the options and drafting the necessary documents to create a comprehensive estate plan for the couple. The attorney may also be helpful in discussing strategies to minimize the tax implications and family disputes over the will.

Source: The Motley Fool, "Estate Planning for Newlyweds", Anna Wroblewska, December 30, 2014

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