So, you and your significant other want to get married? Congratulations! Because a marriage is a legally binding contract, you need to be aware of your legal rights and obligations before saying “I do”. Most couples, in addition to the actual marriage contract, will enter into multiple other contracts while planning the wedding event of their dreams. To help your wedding day and marriage run more smoothly, we’ve assembled a few ideas for you to consider:
• Get written contracts with vendors. Early in the planning process, you will likely arrange for vendors to supply your venue and reception needs. Vendors can include bridal or tuxedo stores, photographers, bakers, reception halls, musicians, caterers, florists, security, clergy, wedding coordinators, printers, travel agencies, etc. Make sure you obtain written contracts from each vendor specifically stating what they will supply for you and the price, including details of when and where everything will transpire. The written contract should be obtained at the time you make a payment. Failure to have a written contract can lead to unimaginable stress and disappointment at your wedding.
• You will need a marriage license. Contact the Clerk of the District Court at your county courthouse to fill out the required paperwork at least a week prior to your wedding date to ensure all the proper documents are completed in time for your ceremony. In Kansas, once you make an application for the marriage license, there is a 3-day waiting period before you can pick up the actual license required for your marriage ceremony. You also will need to provide identification and pay a fee. After the ceremony, both spouses, the officiant and two witnesses must sign the marriage certificate. Either you or your officiant must record the signed marriage certificate with the state to make the marriage legally official. If you plan to change your name, you should inquire about this procedure at this time.
• Do you want a prenuptial agreement? It’s not particularly romantic to discuss how your assets would be divided up if you and your spouse later divorced, but having a prenuptial agreement can save you thousands of dollars in litigation fees should this become a reality in the future. Individuals who enter the marriage with substantial assets, are entering into a second marriage with children from a prior marriage or who may inherit property in the future that they would like to protect are encouraged to enter into a prenuptial agreement. This agreement should contain a section detailing each parties’ financial information at the time of the marriage. This gives you a chance to talk about your expectations on handling money as a couple and allows each party to understand the financial situation they are about to enter. If you failed to sign a prenuptial agreement before your marriage, you may still enter into a post-nuptial agreement after the wedding, if both spouses consent.
• Check your policies. Don’t forget to update your life insurance policies, financial accounts, automobile insurance and health insurance plans to reflect the new owners and beneficiaries, if you desire to include your new spouse. If you have legally changed your name, you will need to provide that information to the institutions with which you do business.
• Update your estate planning. This is probably one of the last things you think of when getting married, but perhaps the most important. Most newly married individuals want their spouse to be their decision maker for finances and health care should they be rendered incompetent. Without legally binding Powers of Attorney, your spouse may not be allowed to make decisions on your behalf. Similarly, most people intend to give all or most of their assets to their new spouse upon death, but if your Last Will and Testament or Trust does not reflect those intentions, State law restricts how much of your estate will be given to your spouse if your original Will or Trust left assets to others or if you have children from a prior relationship.
If you have questions about prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements or updating estate planning documents, please contact Davis & McCann, P. A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). We focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on estate planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions, 1031 Exchanges, and related matters.
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