To Do, Before I Do

When planning a marriage there are more romantic thoughts than those of estate planning.

An even less romantic thought it that of the pre-nuptial. However, as more marriages occur later in life or after a first divorce – there are considerations of Yours, Mine, Ours, and blended families.

I have written previously about pre-nuptial agreements (go to my website and click on the sidebar – ‘prenuptial agreements’) and emphasize that such an agreement should not be entered into lightly. A prenuptial agreement is binding in courts of law and one would be wise to have an attorney review the pre-nuptial document before signing.

In addition to the presence or absence of a pre-nuptial agreement, there are other considerations for couples, whether it is a first marriage or not.

Five important elements to consider – before that walk down the aisle:

1) Talk about finances with your spouse- to- be. Do you both agree on how to handle the day -to-day expenses of a life together? What are your lifetime financial goals? Will there be budgets in place? Is one of the couple bringing large outstanding debt to the relationship? Have all taxes been filed? Are there substantial assets that one partner might choose to retain e.g. a vacation property, a boat, an antique car collection? Are there business obligations- e.g. being a ‘silent’ partner in a failing business venture? Are there outstanding family loans or obligations?

An open and frank discussion before marriage is better than ‘surprises’ at the beginning of your life together.

2) Set up wills and Powers of Attorney. If you have an old will, review it as well as all former power of attorney documents. Upon marriage you will probably want changes to some of the information.

3) Review all beneficiary forms and pensions and IRA’s. Also review documents of all your financial institutions – including the access to safe deposit boxes.

4) Now might be a good time to decide who will be responsible for the day- to- day payment of bills. Take stock of all credit cards and see if there is ‘overlap’ ; for example do both partners require the same credit card account or should it be a joint account? Remember to discuss outstanding credit card debt and how that will be handled going forward. Are there auto lease agreements? College tuition for children? Are there financial obligations for aging parents? Have you made a loan to a family member that is outstanding?

5) Take stock of all valuable collections, for example art. Will it ‘fit’ your life together? Should the collection be sold off prior to marriage?

You will probably agree that all of the above is not very ‘romantic’ conversation.

But in planning your “To Do” list together, the opportunity to reach agreement is better than difficult discussions or disclosures after you say “I do”.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

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About Attorney Barbara Ann Dalvano

Attorney in Denver, Colorado with extensive practice experience in the areas of Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Business Succession Planning, Probate, Contract Law.

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