I Just Got Married, What's Next?
- June 20, 2023
- By: Flavio Landivar
Congratulations! For many people, getting married is a major life milestone. Did you know that there are some legal and financial changes that are required after marriage? While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, we have created a list of items for you and your spouse to discuss so you don’t have any unexpected surprises.
Property ownership: Do your documents need to be updated with both spouses’ information? Have you looked at all your bank or brokerage accounts to make sure beneficiaries’ designations are now in order? Don’t forget company retirement plans! You should also go over (and update, if relevant) existing estate planning documents such as wills, durable power of attorney (DPOA), and other legal documents. If you don’t have safeguard documents in place, this is a great time to establish those with each spouse's wishes. In the event there are existing trusts in place, do trustees need to be revisited and clauses updated to reflect the changes that have occurred in your life?
Name Change: In addition to the work above, if either spouse is making a legal name change, they must also update their bank and brokerage accounts, owned property, driver’s license, passports, and other legal documents with the correct name.
Health Insurance: If both spouses are working, they should each review their benefits and decide if it makes sense to use one insurance plan. That decision should be based on benefits received, premiums charged, and deductibles. If one of the options is a high-deductible plan, consider allocating funds on a monthly basis to a health savings account (HSA). In 2023, as a “family,” you can allocate up to $7,750. These dollars are pre-tax, can be invested, and can grow significantly over time. In addition, if used for qualified medical expenses, any growth is also tax-free.
Joint Decisions: Once you have moved on from legal paperwork, it’s time to have some important conversations. Because there can be significant financial changes after marriage, some people may feel uncomfortable broaching this important topic. So here are a few questions to get you started: Will both parties be combining finances? If so, has a budget been created to include both spouses’ income, expenses, liabilities, and monthly savings? How about your joint financial goals you’d like to achieve in the next 1-5 years? Is there a plan to pay off debt? Do you have a joint investment account you can contribute on a monthly basis? If so, how much, and how should your combined investments be allocated?
Once these kinds of questions are brought to surface, one or both spouses may be surprised with the information revealed. Things can also become more complex if the “new” household also includes children from past relationships. Are there any third parties to whom you have financial obligations, such as child support? Are any children going to be included as contingent beneficiaries in investment accounts and assets? Are there guardianship documents in place for any minor children? While it may be challenging, having these conversations at the beginning of your legal relationship establishes trust as you make decisions together and creates a better atmosphere for the long-term health of your marriage.
Tax Filing Status: Though most couples that get married file “Married Filing Jointly,” that does not necessarily have to be the case. There could be a reason that filing separately makes more sense for you. Be sure you also review any W-4s to make sure your employer is withholding the correct amounts given your marital status change. We recommend contacting your current CPA to review this information if you are not completely sure.
As you can see from the list above, many areas of your legal and financial life will be impacted by marriage. As you begin your new life together, you can review the information above, as well as reach out to your current CPA, estate lawyer, and financial advisor, to make sure everything is updated to reflect your and your spouse’s wishes. From Evensky & Katz, we wish you a long and prosperous marriage!