When you get married, you become a part of a team. A team that lives together, grows with children, and works with the hope of one-day enjoying retirement together. Married couples also put their estate plan together. This is because estate planning is about securing the future for each other and for your children. If you are married and haven’t already done so, you should consider consulting with an attorney to discuss your estate plan.
Goals of Couples When Planning
The first step is to communicate about what your goals are, such as:
- Providing for the surviving spouse. As a married couple, you have built a life together. You want to make sure that when one of you passes away, the other will be taken care of. Executing wills at the same time, which leaves property to the other can create certainty for each spouse.
- Providing for children. When estate planning, couples will want to make sure that their children, and significantly, their children from prior marriages, get their share of property. Depending on the size of the estate and the ages of the children, couples may chose some combination of wills and trusts to ensure that all of the children get their intended inheritance.
- Arranging for long-term care. As life expectancies increase, it is wise to plan for the possibility of one or both spouses becoming incapacitated at some point in the future. This involves planning for the costs of in-home care, nursing homes, or rehabilitative care. These medical expenses can quickly deplete an estate. In addition, couples need to execute documents to give each other (or another trusted person) authority to make medical and financial decisions for one another if the other becomes incapacitated.
- Identifying tax advantages. You want to maximize the property that you leave to your heirs. The federal estate tax exemption for an individual is $5.49 million and for a married couple is $10.98 million. Most couples will not reach that threshold. However, for those who do, property above the exemption will be taxed up 40% by the IRS and will also subject to the Illinois estate tax. An experienced tax attorney can evaluate your estate and provide you with your best options to legally protect the estate from excessive taxes.
Of course, a marriage is built on trust, and estate planning with your attorney requires a full disclosure of your property to create an accurate, legally enforceable plan. So if you or your spouse has secret property or debts that the other is unaware of, like a secret lover or child that they are supporting, estate planning as a couple is not feasible. Beyond the serious underlying marital problems, this situation would likely create a conflict of interest for an attorney, who will not longer be able to assist either of you.
The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas
Estate planning is an essential method of protecting your spouse’s and your children’s futures. If you are interested in planning you estate or modifying your plan, call me for a consultation. I have practiced in the areas of tax law, estate planning, and probate for over two decades and have a Master of Law Degree (LLM) in Taxation. I stay apprised with all significant changes in the law and will provide you with smart, relevant legal counsel. Contact The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas at 847-392-5893 for a consultation or visit our website today.