Five Key Considerations for Couples Who Desire Estate Planning Success

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The Presser Law Firm, P.A. offers advice on key Estate Planning considerations for couples

A couple and their son. Photographer: Nathan Anderson /

Estate Planning is important for all couples: married, unmarried, and same-sex.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about Estate Planning -- especially for couples. Whether or not a relationship is recognized by law, you have many or a few assets, or if children are involved, Estate Planning helps couples control how things will unfold in the future.

When you die or get a divorce, your estate will be distributed. Your estate includes everything you own from a home, car, bank accounts, to your personal possessions. Estate Planning helps couples ensure those assets go to those who matter most, and are not lost in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

Estate Planning is important for all couples: married, unmarried, and same-sex. For those starting to think about their Estate Plans, here are five crucial things to consider.

1. Civil vs. Religious Marriage

There are different rules for married and unmarried couples. A marriage under state and federal law grants spouse’s marital rights that are not granted to unmarried couples, or those married in a purely religious arrangement.

Most marriages in the United States fall under both the civil and religious categories. A couple may choose to marry in a religious service, but also obtain a marriage license and sign a marriage certificate to be recognized as a married couple under civil law.

Although civil procedure is what the government concerns itself with, some people choose a purely religious marriage without the civil component. This can complicate Estate Planning. Such couples do not have the rights of a spouse with regard to estate tax exemptions or inheritance. Because they are not legally recognized as spouses, couples that are in a religious marriage require different Estate Planning documents.

2. Jurisdiction of Marriage and Jurisdiction of Domicile

Different states have different laws. Where a marriage occurs is a crucial piece of information for Estate Planning.

For instance, there are nine states that recognize community property. Here, spouses have a half-interest in any asset of the other spouse.

If one spouse were to enter into a marriage with an asset like a bank account, the minute the marriage happens, any increase in the account is considered community property. This also applies to any property acquired together by the couple.

3. Length of Relationship

In some states, the length of a marriage determines the distribution of assets in a death or divorce.

Florida, where The Presser Law Firm, P.A. is located, is an equitable distribution state. This means assets are distributed on the basis of length of the relationship, not necessarily a 50-50 split.

Equitable distribution is not equal distribution. What constitutes a long marriage? In Florida, this is 10 years, but it varies state-by-state.

4. Citizenship

Sometimes overlooked when Estate Planning for couples is the citizenship of the spouses. This is critical information as there are certain estate tax rules that apply depending if a spouse is a citizen or a non-citizen.

When you do your planning, it is essential to know whether both spouses are citizens. Sometimes we don’t think about it when we’ve been living in U.S. for a long time, but it could make a big difference -- so be sure to tell your Estate Planning Attorney.

5. Children

Couples with children from outside of the marriage have a lot to think about. Are you the biological parent? If so, then you don’t have much to worry about. But if not, though you may consider your step-children as your own, this could require extra work on your part.

Here’s why: by law, step-children are not entitled to an inheritance. You would have to prepare your documents to ensure your step-children receive anything in your estate. Should you pass without a will, your step-children would have absolutely no right to an inheritance.

What Comes Next

Once you have considered these five key areas, you are ready to move forward with your Estate Planning. If you wish to discover the various Estate Planning tools available for couples, or learn more about couples agreements, estate tax considerations, and variations between state laws, please visit our website

The Presser Law Firm, P.A. specializes in Asset Protection and Estate Planning. Our firm can integrate your Asset Protection Plan with your present Estate Plan or work with you or your attorney to create a new Estate Plan.

To help service your needs, The Presser Law Firm, P.A. offers couples a Complimentary Preliminary Consultation with one of our experienced Estate Planning Attorneys. Call 561-953-1050 or email today.

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Hillel L. Presser, Esq., MBA
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The Presser Law Firm, P.A. - Asset Protection Attorneys
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