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Once you say “I do,” you will become legally tied to your partner in a variety of ways. It is important to understand the new legal realities that will affect you once you officially become your romantic partner’s spouse. Preparing for the legal side of marriage will better help to ensure that you do not encounter any consequential surprises as you settle into your new phase of life.
Before the Big Day
It is generally a good idea to think about some of your expectations for marriage before your union becomes official. This is particularly true when it comes to financial matters. Couples can head off potentially marriage-ending disputes by setting expectations early and making sure that they are “on the same page.” For example, if you have any concerns about how you and your spouse will handle certain assets, debts or income, it may be in your best interest to discuss drafting a prenuptial agreement. Gone are the days during which prenuptial agreements were signed as a form of “insurance” against divorce. Nowadays, many couples create these documents in order to help ensure that their union remains strong and lasting. Ironing out financial expectations before saying “I do” may help you to avoid the kind of in-fighting that erodes marriages later.
After You Say “I Do”
Once you are legally wed, your tax obligations, probate-related relationships and capacity to make legal decisions on behalf of your spouse will change. It may benefit you to speak with an attorney about the ways in which your taxes, property ownership and capacity to make legal decisions will evolve so that you can be prepared.
For example, if you have yet to create an estate plan, you should learn about how the law will treat your property if you perish before creating a will. You may or may not desire for your spouse to retain ownership of all of your assets and income. But you cannot know if these wishes will be respected unless you speak to your attorney about how probate operates in your state and in accordance with your family’s unique circumstances. Similarly, you may wish for your spouse to make all medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you are ever in a position in which you cannot make them for yourself. But you cannot know if your state will respect these wishes unless you check with an attorney first.
Legal Assistance Is Available
If you have questions about how to best prepare for the legal ramifications of your impending marriage, please consider connecting with an experienced family lawyer. From tax implications to estate planning needs, your attorney will be able to advise you of your legal options and advise you about any legal obligations you may now be subject to. Popular culture would often have engaged couples believe that the only consequences of marriage are emotional and practical. But there are legal consequences associated with the institution of marriage and an attorney is best placed to discuss them with you.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at the Scroggins Law Group for their insight into marriage and family law.