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10 Financial and Legal Moves For Couples

If you are moving toward a wedding or civil union, take the time to review your workplace benefits. Find out whether your partner is (or isn't) included for such things as health, dental and life insurance, then determine which of you has the better plan for each of these needs. Take the steps needed to transition accordingly so you maximize the benefits without duplicating coverage and sending more than you have to.

Make sure to update beneficiary information on life insurance policies as well as for your IRAs, 401(k) and other stock, bond or mutual fund portfolios. Create or update an estate plan.

"If you decide to name someone other than your spouse as beneficiary on your qualified retirement plan at work, the law requires your spouse to acknowledge your decision in writing," advises Rande Spiegelman, vice president of financial planning for the Schwab (SCHW - Get Report) Center for Financial Research. "Nonretirement bank accounts, brokerage accounts and real or personal property titled in both your names as joint tenants with right of survivorship will pass to the surviving spouse outside of the probate -- review community-property laws, if they apply in your state, and be sure to incorporate all titling decisions into your overall estate plan. If you keep separately titled accounts and want to avoid probate, consider a POD [payable on death -- typically available for bank accounts] or TOD [transfer on death -- available for brokerage accounts] designation naming your spouse as the beneficiary."

Spiegelman advises talking to an attorney or CPA about the best way to title accounts and "recorded property," such as motor vehicles and real estate, based on your preferences as well as your state's laws (for example, common law vs. community property).

"Also consider durable powers of attorney and health care so each of you can make financial and medical decisions for the other in the case of an incapacitating injury or illness," he says.

-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joe Mont.

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