coryBy Cory Howes

As we head into colder weather, many of us have wrapped up a special year attending the weddings of loved ones. If you were one of the lucky people to tie that knot with that special someone in your life, it’s time for you and your spouse to plan for your future and all it holds. As your vows probably made clear, your life together can be richer or poorer, and you will experience both sickness and health.

Why should you now, as a newlywed, care about estate planning? Well, everyone, whether they’re young or old, married or single, needs to effectively plan to protect themselves and those whom they love. It’s ironic—often bitterly so—that many couples spend more time planning their honeymoon than they do planning the best way to protect each other in the event of sickness, incapacity, or worse yet, death.

There are many consequences that can adversely shape your life together—or apart—without an estate plan. The fallout of becoming incapacitated or dying without a plan in place can be serious, expensive, and quite painful for all involved, even causing financial ruin for generations.

Your wishes will be unknown, leaving your spouse and family in the dark as to how to cope with unexpected circumstances. They won’t know what you would want to happen in the event of your incapacity or death. This can lead to family fights, even among well-intentioned people who have honestly different ideas as to the nature of your wishes, based on how they know you on an individual level.

Your family will endure a tremendous mental, emotional, and spiritual burden in the event they have to make end-of-life decisions. Courts, rather than your loved ones, may be empowered to make your health care decisions when you are unable to make them yourself. On that same tip, a judge, not you, will decide who raises your children. Courts may place your assets on lockdown, with your spouse having to petition a judge to make even the smallest financial move.

Most people are shocked to learn that in North Carolina, if you die without a will, your surviving spouse may not receive all of your property. If you die without children, your spouse and your parents may split your assets. If you die with children, your spouse and children could end up sharing your assets. In the latter case, if your children are minors, your surviving spouse may be forced to obtain court approval in order to sell or use property co-owned with your children.

Moreover, assets you leave to loved ones will be vulnerable to their divorcing spouses, bankruptcy, creditors, medical crises, predators, and frivolous lawsuits. You may also accidentally disinherit your spouse and children, depending on the circumstances of your estate, and, in another heartbreaking turn, your beloved pets could end up being sent to a shelter or even worse, euthanized.

Estate planning can provide a simple, evolving set of remedies for all of these situations. The legal costs associated with estate planning are scaled to the size and complexity of your finances, making estate planning more economical in your younger years. We invite you and your spouse to contact us, and we can walk you through the ways you can protect each other and those whom you love, even those beloved animal companions. We’ll design a plan that makes things easier for you and your family in the event of your incapacity or death. We look forward to hearing from you.