There are many other documents that are much more prevalent and can be more important than a matrimonial agreement. A properly drafted Last Will and Testament is important for everyone, married or not. Many couples believe that since they have little in assets at the start of the marriage, they will not need a Will. This is usually not the case. Consider the situation involving a young couple with small children. If both parties were to die, the surviving child or children would be best taken care of by Wills providing for a trust to hold the assets that the children inherit. Without a trust, a child inheriting assets from his or her parent has full power upon attaining the age of majority, 18 years of age, to exercise total control over those inherited assets. A trust can delay full control by a child over inherited assets until later years, such as age 25 or 30, or whatever age the parents select.
A properly drafted Will can also provide for the appointment of a tutor (the same as a guardian in other states) for minor children, if both parents are deceased. Unless one designates a tutor in a Will, a court will appoint a tutor for the babies, and may or may not appoint an individual that the parent would like to see in charge of his or her children.
Many people remember the Terry Schiavo case from Florida. Terry Schiavo lingered for many years in a coma; at the same time a battle ensued between her spouse and her family over what should be done with her and for her. If she had had a durable power of attorney with healthcare provisions and a Living Will, the person named in that power of attorney could have made all of her healthcare decisions and eliminated many of the issues that were seriously contested by her family and spouse.
Another document that is highly recommended for young couples and all persons is a “Living Will.” A Living Will is a one-page document that gives advance directives to one’s family and medical providers on just how a person is to be taken care of if he or she is unable to express himself or herself during a serious, terminal illness.
The bottom-line for everyone is that a small amount of planning can relieve your family and your spouse of a lot of heartache later on. See a qualified attorney early on to make the arrangements.
Conrad Meyer IV, an attorney for nearly 40 years, practices with the Adams and Reese law firm in New Orleans. He is certified by the Louisiana Supreme Court as a specialist in estate planning and administration law.
The information contained in this article covers several topics in a general overview. This document is not intended to, and does not, constitute legal advice. Questions involving particular situations of a legal nature should be directed to an attorney.