Estate Planning for Married Couples -- Together or Separate?

June 15, 2012

When it comes time to sit down and create or update an estate plan, married couples are faced with the decision whether to create a joint plan or create two separate plans. Ultimately, only you and your spouse can decide whether you want to combine your plans, but there are a few important points to consider.
Is this the first marriage for both? If either, or both, of you has been married before, you may have obligations from the prior marriage that make creating separate estate plans the better choice.
Do you have children from a previous relationship? Whether you were previously married or not, if either of you has children from a pervious relationship, combining your estate plans can be more complicated.
How do you handle your finances? Married couples usually decide among themselves how they will handle the day to day finances. Does everything go into one big pot or do you and your spouse maintain entirely separate accounts? If your accounts are combined, then combining your estate plans may be a natural progression.
Do you have joint assets? Whenever a married couple own joint assets, such as a home, combining estate plans often makes more sense. The transfer of ownership of those assets may be accomplished in a more efficient fashion after the death of one spouse in a joint estate plan.  A competent estate planning attorney should address these and other important considerations when preparing your separate or joint estate plans.

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