When you decide it’s the right time to make a will or partake in estate planning with your significant other, you should take the time to consider your options. We advise you to sit down with your partner and discuss your answers to these questions below.
1. What Is Your Relationship Status?
Are you dating, married, in an open relationship, or unmarried but live together? Depending on your own personal circumstances, it may change the way you decide to prepare your documents. Before preparing a will or estate planning, you want to make sure you define the relationship before making any decisions.
2. Should You Consider Joint Representation?
Do you and your partner plan on using the same CPA or attorney? If you have the same CPA and attorney preparing your estate planning documents for both you and your partner, then it may be more difficult to keep your personal finances confidential. If there is a private request or information you do not want your spouse or partner to know, it may not be the best move to share the same CPA or attorney.
3. Are There Children From Previous Relationships?
Stepchildren and children from prior relationships can make it challenging when it comes to estate planning. For example, if partner #1 has a home that he or she shares with his or her children and partner #2 has children from a previous relationship that live with partner #1, partner #1 may want that home to go to his or her children prior to this new relationship rather than partner #2’s heirs when partner #1 passes away. Bringing children from previous relationships into the equation makes it more challenging, but it is important to discuss your plans with your partner, and based on what is discussed, you can tweak your will and estate plans.
4. What Documents Will Affect Your Estate Plan?
Documents such as prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, or even orders from a prior marriage may affect a person’s ability to plan the disposition of their estate assets. If you contracted to include someone in your will or fail to live up to a pledge, it could result in a lawsuit. It’s important to ensure these documents are considered and discussed with your CPA and attorney.
5. How Does Will or Estate Planning Together Affect Your Taxes?
If you and your spouse are married, you may get exemptions from estate and gift taxes. On the other hand, unmarried couples do not share this ability. You will want to discuss these issues with your estate planning attorney, accountant, and tax attorney.
6. What Is The Status Of Your Non-Probate Assets?
You are not able to overrule the disposition of your non-probate assets with a will. This means that the beneficiary designated in your retirement accounts, mutual funds, and life insurance policy will receive these assets upon your passing whether or not they are named in your will. This is important to be mindful of when assigning a beneficiary.
7. Do You Need a Trust?
Many people do not need a trust. Those who do need a trust may own real estate in two states, wish to protect an adult child from the influence of a parent from a prior relationship, or want to control the disposition of a business. With the help of your CPA and attorney, they can give you guidance on whether or not you need one.
8. Should You Get an Elective Share?
In certain estate plans, a spouse may elect to inherit outside of the will in order to avoid taxes and gain other benefits. This is something that should be discussed with your CPA and attorney.
9. Should You Both Get the Same Successor Appointments?
Many attorneys prepare “mirror wills” for couples. Mirror wills are virtually identical wills where one person in a couple leaves their estate to the other in the event of their passing away. This does not always make sense for every couple, but it is important to consider and discuss this with your partner if this is something you are interested in.
10. When Should You Review Your Documents?
If possible, you should review your documents annually. This allows you to refresh your memory on what you decided and make any necessary changes. When looking over the documents, make sure to look at your trustee and consider their health and your relationships with them.
Have more questions regarding wills and estate planning?
Marcia L. Campbell, CPA is committed to helping each client plan for the personal and financial decisions that need to be made for the future. Marcia’s team has a genuine interest in your well-being and a well-established list of services to help guide you through this process.
If you need help, please contact us by filling out our Contact Form or by giving our office a call at +1(951)686-3608.