Getting Married? Here’s Your Pre-Wedding Legal Checklist
By Timothy Matthews | January 23, 2023
Getting married? Congratulations! As you plan for your wedding day, it’s also important to plan for the rest of your married life… and that means taking some legal aspects into account. Here’s our pre-wedding legal checklist to consider.
1. Your Will
Having an up-to-date Will allows you to decide who would be in charge of administering your estate after your death, who would receive any net assets of your estate, and who would be appointed as the temporary guardian of any minor children you may have.
It is important to note that, as of January 1, 2022, marriage no longer revokes an existing Will. In other words, if you have an existing Will, your new spouse is not automatically a beneficiary or executor; the person listed in the existing Will remains in those roles unless the Will is changed. Since many people name their spouses as a beneficiary or executor of their estate, an upcoming marriage is an ideal time to either have a Will prepared, or review whether changes should be made to an existing Will.
2. Your Powers of Attorney
Powers of Attorney are documents that allow a person to name one or more people (called “Attorneys”) who can make decisions on their behalf with respect to their property or personal care.
A Power of Attorney for Property allows you to decide who can make decisions about your property in the event that you become incapable of making those decisions due to illness, injury or a medical condition. These decisions can include paying your bills and managing or selling your assets.
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care allows you to decide who can make decisions about your personal care in the event that you become incapable of making those decisions. These decisions can include medical treatment, housing, nutrition, and hygiene.
It is important to be aware that a marriage or a divorce will not revoke or affect any existing Powers of Attorney. Again, since many people name their spouses as their Attorneys, an upcoming marriage is an ideal time to either have Powers of Attorney prepared, or review whether changes should be made to existing Powers of Attorney.
3. A Marriage Contract (“Pre-Nup”)
Before you walk down the aisle, it is worth considering whether it would be appropriate to enter into a special type of agreement involving parties that are married, or who plan to be married, called a ‘Marriage Contract’. Such a contract can address how certain issues would be addressed in the event of a separation or the death of one of the spouses, including how property would be equalized or divided, and how spousal support would be addressed.
Marriage contracts can be appropriate in many different circumstances. Common situations include when one or both parties have children or support obligations from prior relationships, or when one party owned a home prior to marriage that the parties intend to live in together during the marriage. Special considerations apply in these instances, as well as many others (family-owned businesses and gifts of money you have received from a parent or relative are a couple of common ones that we see), and it is recommended that that you obtain legal advice regarding these – and others – before marrying. Significant risks can exist to one or both of the parties in the absence of such an agreement.
4. Other Considerations
There is the possibility that a marriage (or living in a relationship resembling marriage, often referred to as “living common law”) may affect existing agreements or Court Orders involving prior spouses. For example, marriage may affect your entitlement to spousal support from a former spouse.
This is also a good time to review any beneficiaries you may have named under any policies of life insurance, registered investment accounts, or pensions.
Contact Henderson Family Law today if you’re getting married and you are interested in learning more about a Will, Powers of Attorney, a Marriage Contract and other ways that marriage affects family law, such as entitlement to spousal support.
This content is provided as a general informational source by Henderson Family Law, and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, or establish a lawyer-client relationship. Every situation is complex and fact-specific, and appropriate advice will vary accordingly. Do not rely on this information for legal decision-making under any circumstances. Please consult with us and obtain proper advice and strategy concerning the specifics of your particular situation.