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Nearly wed, need advice


Last updated 7/19/2019 at Noon

Dear SharonAnn,

Getting married is certainly complicated. We are in our 60’s. We’ve talked about many important issues during our dating time—family, hobbies, health, money, beliefs about God, lifestyle, even politics. Did we miss any? My question has to do with what documents we need to complete aside from our wills. We want to make it easy on each other and our families.

Signed: Want To Be Prepared

Dear Prepared,

You are wise to work these details out in advance. Even when you agree on every single thing, it is a colossal mess when you don’t put it in writing. Here are several important documents that can avert a family war.

1. A Marriage Contract or Prenuptial Agreement primarily clarifies financial matters dealing with property owned before marriage.

2. A Will deals with property distribution after death (remember your pets)

3. An Advance Directive determines what your wishes are in medical circumstances

4. A Power of Attorney for Financial Matters allows your named person to be the steward of your money and act on your behalf

5. A Trust is used when the estate could incur estate tax liability (changes with cost-of-living)

6. Written instructions concerning details of your final wishes

Situations that must be planned for are: death of both of you, death of either of you, incapacity of either of you. Messes are easily created by the do-it-yourselfers, so an attorney is advisable. Email for a referral.

WWIII will happen when family members are not clear on your wishes. Adult children will fight over granny’s wedding ring, a collection of crystal, even an easy chair. Of course, they fight about money, burial details [cremation vs earth], and family photos. Many times, an old pet ends up in the pound on death row because who wants to take care of an old cat or dog.

Speaking of your pets, let your family know your wishes in writing, but carefully. Recently the State of New York passed a law that a pet could be buried with the owner in a human cemetery. A lady died, stated this was her wish, and the poor dog was euthanized to be buried with her. This, likely, was not her intent, but it was the result of ill-chosen words.

When your documents are completed and signed, usually witnessed or notarized, it makes sense to give a copy to your executor. Sitting in a bank lockbox causes many problems because the authorizing papers are in a box only the deceased or incapacitated owner can open until there is a court order, unless there is a joint signature on file.

Tell your family what you intend right now. Although there are ancestral and cultural taboos against discussing money and death with family members, you end up creating a burden for your children by keeping quiet. If you feel awkward talking about this, your attorney, financial advisor, or one of the Council for Women can assist during a family meeting.

Not long ago I met with Rosemary, a troubled and sick, 85-year-old widow. Her mind is sharp but body is failing. We wrote out her final wishes, type of burial (cremation), where to be buried (next to her husband), what type of service (graveside only).

We then talked about her Celebration of Life. She had a huge smile when she picked out her music (she sang in the San Diego Symphony Choral for 50 years), who would sing which song, what food would be served, where the celebration was to be held (church hall). She even wrote the story highlights of her life to be read by her son.

I’m always encouraging my readers and clients to make a plan and put it in writing. When I forget or lag, I often remember what Rosemary said to me after a huge sigh of relief. She said, “I always knew I was going to die, and I’m going to heaven, and still the final details were worrisome because I didn’t want to burden my children. Now I am at peace.”

We all seek peace of mind. We get it by making peace with our Creator first.

Then as you step into your new marriage with your details worked out, the documents signed, you can go on life’s adventures with a light-hearted freedom.


SharonAnn Hamilton, MBA, CFP®, MSFS is a Live-A-Beautiful-Life-Coach. She Blogs aboutFamilies, Business, Money, Retirement, God, Observations in Nature and the most recent BLOG, Pet Sitting at Home and Abroad at She facilitates The Council for Women, a faith-based group of women professionals whose mission is education for empowering women who want to be in charge of their inheritance, estate, and retirement. Want more info? Writeto:


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