If you have just been married or finalized your divorce, it’s time to update your estate plan. While this is no doubt a busy and perhaps stressful time of your life, prioritize updating your plan so that your mind can rest easy about your estate.
There are several important parts of your estate plan documents that could change because you got married or divorced. These include:
- Your last name
- Your choice of beneficiary designations to your former spouse or new spouse
- Who you want to leave your estate to in your will
- Your emergency guardianship designations for your children
- Your state or country of residence
- The agent you designate in your power of attorney or healthcare directive
Often, these items need to change because you want to add or remove your former spouse or new spouse. Sometimes, you need to make changes not because of your personal wishes, but because of the possibility for adverse tax consequences. For example, your new spouse may be a non-U.S. citizen and not have a green card. Estate and gift tax laws are very different for non-citizen non-residents.
For newlyweds, you may want to talk to your spouse about setting up a qualified domestic trust and about any separate property that either of you owns. Both of these items can greatly affect estate taxes that the citizen spouse’s estate could owe, costing the surviving spouse part of her inheritance.
For newly divorced spouses, you may have questions about changing your estate plan to give money to different family members. You need a comprehensive review of all previously drafted documents in case they no longer reflect your wishes. Further, the law may have changed in the years since you made the plan. Your attorney could update the plan to account for legal changes and minimize potential taxes and probate costs.
If you are not familiar with the differences in tax laws for non-citizens, you need an experienced estate planning attorney to help you. You cannot use pre-printed forms off the internet and hope for the best. You could leave your spouse with a huge tax bill if you pass away unexpectedly. If you are a non-citizen celebrating a marriage or dealing with divorce for the first time in the U.S., now is a great time to find out how to protect yourself against expensive taxes and maximize the amount your family can inherit from you.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.