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Tying the knot does not have to feel like assuming a noose, but it does mean more responsibility. So if you and your boo just said I do, it is time to think in terms of we, not I.
Marriage is a legal partnership and there are many administrative issues to address so that conjugal bliss is not threatened by a bureaucratic mess. Planning for problems in advance doesn't sound romantic but it can save your marriage later.
1. A Rose by Any Other Name
Name Change: If one of you is taking the name of the other, or if you are both creating a new hybrid, make sure that the new name appears on the marriage license and that all official documents are adjusted to reflect this change. For example, be sure to update your driver's license, passport, social security card, and any other state or federal IDs. Name change forms are often available online and can be filed easily with a court clerk for a small fee.
2. For Richer, for Poorer
Finances: Discuss money and how to handle issues such as income, asset, and debt discrepancies. Make a list of what each spouse owes, owns, and earns (including bills, bank accounts, and any other assets or liabilities) and decide whether the wedding changes anything. Clarify responsibilities and do not assume that your partner is going to take care of you. Also be sure to discuss long-term savings and spending and how you will handle these. Will you join all or some accounts, consolidate debts, or start saving for retirement now? All of these topics, plus taxes, need to be discussed.
3. In Sickness and in Health
Insurance: Just as you did with finances, sit down and sort out what coverage you currently have and compare plans. Also decide what policies you might need to protect each other in the future; consider life insurance and independent disability insurance. If you do make changes to existing insurance policies, make sure that they are reflected in the updated policy.
4. Till Death Do Us Part
Wills: Death is a topic we may prefer to avoid. However, it is critical to consider estate planning and handling before it is too late for you to have a say. A will can help your surviving spouse and other family members, ensuring there is minimal friction when you are no longer there to mediate.
Remember the complicated Terry Schiavo case? In that case, a spouse and family disagreed on how to handle medical treatment for a comatose wife. To avoid this situation, make a living will that expresses your wishes regarding your medical treatment in case there comes a time when you can no longer speak for yourself.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.