1. You both own everything.
You and your spouse are now the joint owners of all of the marital assets with a few exceptions and a few state specific variables. This means that if one spouse’s income has a lot more than the other, it doesn’t matter. Those savings accounts and even retirement accounts may be split evenly upon divorce.
2. Children of prior marriages are forgotten.
Of course the children aren’t forgotten, but they are forgotten in the estate planning world. Most state intestate (without a will) laws state that your assets go to your spouse in the event of an untimely death. That leaves your children from a prior marriage directly out of the line of descendants that will receive your assets. Unless your spouse gives them assets in their will, as a beneficiary of a trust, or outright, your children of a prior marriage will never see any of it without proper estate planning.
3. Children of the current marriage may be forgotten.
If you die and your spouse takes all of the estate, your spouse can do whatever they please with all of that money. They can take trips around the world, spend it on their new love interest or even give it to their family. In most states, there is no law saying it has to go to your children. That’s right, your children with your current spouse may never get any of your estate without the right planning.
4. There is twice the chance of long term care eating up your assets.
People don’t generally think of long term care when they are under retirement age, but the sooner one acts, the sooner the time clock starts running on Medicaid’s 5 year look-back clock. To qualify for Medicaid to pay for you or your spouse’s nursing home care, you have to own very little; like less than $2000. Now you have two people to worry about. To get to the point where Medicaid thinks you own very little, the nursing home will bill you either to death or until you own very little and ultimately qualify for medicaid. If you give your money away and not enough time has passed, you won’t qualify for Medicaid and have to pay out of pocket. This can really be a problem if the person who you gave it to won’t give it back or cannot because they already spent it!
5. Your spouse could end up with half of your business, with the right to make decisions.
What could be worse than a spouse to whom you are divorced from telling you what to do with your business? Well, how about a spouse who decides you are not being cooperative, so they get a court to order you to sell the business.
What can you do to protect your assets after you get married:
In addition to the run-of-the-mill estate planning documents, a will, power of attorney, health care proxy and living will, one document can help with all of these estate planning items: An Irrevocable Trust. When you are married, you and your spouse can choose to put money into an irrevocable trust. The assets will be safe in the trust from you or your spouse and the trustee who is in charge of the assets will have to distribute them in the manner prescribed by you – not the manner the State tells you. Thus, those particular assets are divided when, presumably, the couple is still in love and thinking rationally, rather than when you are at each others’ throats. With less to fight over at divorce, the process could be simpler, but the Irrevocable Trust can also help with the other matters listed above.
The instructions in the Irrevocable Trust can say whatever you and your spouse want them to say. When forming the trust, you can include your kids from a past marriage. You can also tell the trustee to hold the funds and only give them out for certain expenditures or landmarks, like college funding or on their wedding day. All the of kids can be provided for, but not just by giving them a bucket of money and letting them run free. The assets are protected by the trust and thoughtfully given out by the trustee.
Putting assets in an Irrevocable Trust may also help you qualify for Medicaid. When you put assets in an Irrevocable trust, you are effectively getting them out of your name and into the name of the trust. You don’t own them anymore, although you can benefit from them – think about it like leasing a car. When you apply for Medicaid, if the lookback period has gone by, those assets will not be counted towards your net worth. For example, if you were to put $1.3M in an Irrevocable Trust, 10 years ago and applied for Medicaid with $20 in your personal bank account, Medicaid would pick up the tab for long term care. If you kept the $1.3M in your name, then you, or your spouse would not qualify for Medicaid and the long term care facility would upwards of $12,000 or more a month for your care until nearly all the assets are gone.
If you have your own business or are starting one you should learn about LLCs and Irrevocable Trusts. You can put your new or existing LLC in a trust and specify how you want the profits distributed. In the event of a divorce, the business would continue to run exactly how it has run, the profits are distributed exactly how they have been and that pesky ex-spouse is written out of a controlling interest. After all, while a marriage is doing well, the spouse will say, “Oh honey, that’s your business. I never want to interfere,” but if the marriage goes sour, “I want to own your business, and if I can’t own it, I want it sold and half the profits, or if I can’t own it or sell it, I want to run it.” Better to decide when things are good with a well written Irrevocable Trust such as The UltraTrust.