Legacy Planning for Couples

If you find money and death tough to talk about, you’re not alone.

Estate planning can be an obstacle for married couples and domestic partners. And yet, having a frank and thoughtful conversation about asset protection is essential to creating an estate plan that addresses the wishes of both partners.

After all, you can’t know for certain who will be the survivor. More importantly, you might each bring a very different perspective to the planning process.

How can you make that happen given the sensitivity of the subject matter? Here are six things to consider.

1. Share your plan

Gather the trusted family members you and your spouse or partner feel should be included in your legacy planning discussions and enlist the aid of a trusted investment professional.

2. Inventory assets

Discuss your personal plans, goals, and desires for the future, and draw up a detailed inventory list with your investment professional. Be sure this list includes account numbers, key contacts, account locations, and personal identification numbers (PINs). Your list should also include the location and contents of any safety deposit boxes. Make sure your children or loved ones have access to or know where these items are located. And don’t forget to review titles and beneficiary designations.

3. Understand and implement basic planning

Certain basic elements form the foundation of any good estate plan and will help carry out your family legacy. Make sure you have key legal documents like a will and health care directive in place. Explore a health care proxy/medical power of attorney and a durable power of attorney in case you can’t make decisions for yourself. Finally, consider a trust that allows you to pass assets to your beneficiaries without the delay or expense of probate, and to impose certain conditions.

4. Make plans for the surviving spouse or partner

There is a high degree of probability that one of you will outlive the other. So as you create your estate plan, consider the potential needs of either surviving spouse or partner—from investment management assistance to health care matters. Consider his or her investment and health care needs.

5. Look into trust planning

Explore whether or not you need professional trust planning services if you should eventually need support for a surviving spouse or partner who may not be capable of administering a trust and managing assets alone. You can select a professional trustee now, even if you won’t need the services until some time in the future. The trustee has a legal obligation to act in your best interest.

6. Consider charitable giving

Decide if it will be part of your legacy wishes.


Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change, which can materially impact investment results. Fidelity cannot guarantee that the information herein is accurate, complete, or timely. Fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use, and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

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