With the Supreme Court pronouncement that an individual has an absolute right to marry any other individual, estate planning has become more complex in some instances, and much easier in others. The Supreme Court ruling has no effect on people who are legally married. The states historically have laws that allow spouses and children to inherit from a deceased spouse or parent in the absence of a Will. This is because traditionally, most people leave their Estates to their spouse and/or their children. Therefore, if you died without a Will, or intestate, state laws govern who inherits your property and generally speaking, it is your spouse, your children, or a combination of the two. People who lived in life partnerships prior to the Supreme Court announcement could not enjoy the same inheritance rights, as the inheritance laws do not recognize life partners, and subsequently, it was mandatory for anyone with a life partner to prepare a Will if they wanted their life partner to inherit their property at their death.
Now that all people can marry the person of his/her choice, it lessens the necessity for having a Will. If you review your state laws and it leaves your property as you want it left, then preparing a Will becomes less important. However, the only way to choose who will be your Executor and choose who will be the guardian of your children at your death, is to prepare a Will. Certainly, there are default provisions in the law that provide for an Executor, if you fail to name one. Further, the law sets forth who will be the guardian of your children if you fail to name one.
With the new Supreme Court decision, you should consider revising your estate plans in light of the fact that once you elect to become married, that person will inherit your assets absent you creating a Will that leaves your property differently. For instance, if you wish your parents or siblings to inherit you assets rather than your spouse, you will need to create a Will to make that happen. Likewise, in Georgia, your children and your spouse share your estate in proportions based upon the number of children you have. If you wish your entire estate to go to your spouse, you must create a Will that brings that about. Further, if your children are under the age of 18, you should create a Will so that your children’s property can be placed into a trust until they reach some age which you designate to be appropriate before they will actually possess your property. Absent a trust and your Will, your children’s property will pass into a conservatorship controlled by a probate court and your children will inherit and gain possession of the entirety of their assets upon reaching the age of 18. This rarely is a desired outcome.
At Hughes and Associates, we are ready to assist you in the preparation of your estate plan and any modifications which need to be made to your estate plan in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling. Please give us a call and see how we can help you