Getting Married… Next Steps After the Big Day

Planning a wedding can be a lot of fun! There is the excitement of picking a venue, inviting all of your friends/family, and planning the honeymoon. But there is also a ton of work involved and the work doesn’t end once you are married.
Nicole Swanson, CFP®, ChFC® Friday, 12 April 2019

Getting Married… Next Steps After the Big Day

After the big day, there are many things to consider updating, such as beneficiaries on accounts, your legal name, identification, and estate planning documents. I am currently in the process of planning my wedding, which will take place later in 2019, and I wanted to share some of the items on my checklist that are relevant to our long-term financial plan. Below are some things to consider.

Combining Finances:

Many people have their own way of combining finances after marriage. The most common way is to open joint accounts, such as checking/savings, where all income and expenses come in and out of the same account. Depending on your bank, you can likely use one of your existing bank accounts and add your new spouse to it. I suggest using the bank account that has the most autopays set up on it already as those can be a pain to update. Getting on the same page for how you will pay bills and who is responsible for which bills will make things a lot smoother for both of you. This can be a difficult process as each of you likely have your own way you go about paying bills and budgeting. So, this step can take some time in getting used to each other’s styles and it’s an opportunity for a productive money conversation to explain why and how you handle finances.

Home and Auto Insurance:

If you haven’t combined home and auto insurance together yet, this is the time to do it as you will get a better rate once you are married and by bundling all of your insurance needs. An umbrella insurance policy may be worth considering too as this can provide additional liability protection on top of home and auto insurance limits. These policies are typically fairly cheap as you can purchase $1 million of coverage for ~$200/year.

Identification:

If you plan on changing your last name, you will need to update your Social Security Number (SSN) card, your Driver’s License, and your Passport.

Name Change:

If you plan on changing your last name, you will need to update your name with all institutions you have accounts with, including credit cards, bank accounts, investment accounts and retirement accounts once your new Driver’s License has arrived.

Account Beneficiaries:

You will likely want to update your beneficiaries listed on all investment accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies to be your new spouse as the primary. You can add a contingent beneficiary too, which is the beneficiary if the primary beneficiary is also deceased.

Estate Planning Documents:

These are documents/topics that many people don’t enjoy thinking about, but they are incredibly important to have.

a. Power of Attorney - This document puts someone in charge of your finances if you are ever incapacitated. You and your spouse will likely want each other to be your “attorney in fact” if you are ever incapacitated. You can also add successor attorneys that will be your “attorney in fact” if your spouse is also incapacitated. This document will need to be notarized and you should keep the original in a safe place as well as provide a copy to any agents that you have appointed. If you ever move states, you will need a new Power of Attorney as they are not valid in other states.
b. Health Care Directive - This document spells out your wishes on life sustaining treatments, organ donation and more. Again, you will likely appoint your spouse as your representative to execute your wishes if you are ever incapacitated. It is important to have successor representatives on this document, too. Depending on the state you live in, you will need to get this document notarized. You should keep the original and provide a copy to any appointed representatives and your doctor.
c. Will - You can create a will describing what you want done with your assets upon your death. It is very important to have a will in place if you don’t have beneficiaries listed on all investment accounts, or if you own a home, or especially if you have children. If you have children, a will is where you will appoint a guardian if anything ever happens to both of you.

Getting married is really exciting, but some of these items to complete once you are married can be boring and tough to talk about. They are also really important to do because completing these items will make things much easier down the line. Plus, once all of these are crossed off your checklist you can spend more time enjoying a new life together with your spouse.

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About the Author

Nicole Swanson, CFP®, ChFC®

Nicole Swanson, CFP®, ChFC®

Nicole Swanson is dedicated to working with clients and helping them achieve long-term goals. After starting her studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Accounting major, Nicole switched to Personal Finance so she would have more opportunities to directly interact with clients. She enjoys getting to know people, learning about their background, and then developing a customized financial plan that will hopefully exceed their expectations for what life can look like in retirement (or even when they can retire). 

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