Tying the knot in Massachusetts does not give each spouse an automatic “all assets default to the surviving spouse,” estate plan.

Under Massachusetts Probate laws, if a spouse dies without a Will (or trust) in place, assets, in the name of one spouse only, do not automatically go to the surviving spouse. The spouse may have to share with an in-law or children from a prior marriage.

Additionally, all assets should be discussed and reviewed between the spouses to make sure beneficiary designations are updated. Did you name a beneficiary when you started your 401K account many years ago, if not all assets may go to your estate (see above paragraph). Who is the beneficiary on that bank account you opened in your 20’s? Did you name a sibling, or no one, on a life insurance policy you got from your employer?

Even if all the above is buttoned up, if you have kept assets in your own, individual, names and not gone “joint” on everything…how will you access each other’s bank or financial accounts in case of emergency? The institutions won’t talk to you just because you are married. You need a Durable Power of Attorney.

If your spouse gets sick, the medical personnel may talk to you…they don’t have to. Did your spouse previously execute a Health Care Proxy naming a parent or sibling as their Health Care Agent? That should be revoked and the spouse should be added, in the usual course of events.

See Dallas Morning News

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