Legal Advice for Newlyweds


You Are Married…. Now What?

A Legal Checklist of Things You Should Do After You Say "I Do"

June marks the beginning of summer, and summer is the most popular time of year to march down the aisle. July is the most popular month overall for weddings, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. While weddings often involve months of preparation and attention to ceremony details, the legal decisions a couple makes after they tie the knot can also have a very big impact on their future together. Following is a legal checklist of things a couple should do after they say "I Do":

  • Change bank accounts, identification and credit cards if you have taken a new name. Notify Social Security, get your driver's license reissued, contact your bank and credit card companies and have the passport office issue a new passport with your new name.
  • Fill out new beneficiary forms. If you have life insurance, call your insurance company or agent to request a new beneficiary designation form, complete it promptly and send it to the insurance company. Also file new beneficiary designation forms if you participate in a life insurance or 401(k) program at work or have an IRA. You should do this even if you intend to maintain the same beneficiaries. You will need separate forms for each policy or plan. Then follow up to be sure the new beneficiary forms have all been recorded.
  • Adjust your health insurance. If one or both of you both have health insurance, decide now if you want to put all coverage under one plan. In many cases you may get better coverage and/or save money. Most employer sponsored health insurance plans allow only a short time to add a new spouse.
  • Write a Will. Make a decision now about who you would want to inherit your estate. In the event of a tragedy, your beneficiaries would be those your state’s legislature chose for you. (Your wishes would not be honored, and your survivors could be tied up for years in probate court.) You may want to protect your children from a prior marriage, or your parents or siblings as well as your spouse. And if you already have a Will, make sure you quickly prepare and execute a new one. In most states your old Will is no longer fully enforceable.
  • Designate "community property". If you already own a home or condo together you may want to file a new deed and hold it as "tenants by the entirety" or, if you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin, as "community property".
  • If you have a lot of assets, shared or otherwise, consider a post-nuptial agreement. It may be an unpleasant thought right now but it is practical, provides peace of mind and can protect you and your assets.