Newly married couples starting their lives together should make estate planning one of their top priorities. No young person wants to think about their own mortality, but the joining of two lives in marriage creates a responsibility to plan for potential unforeseen events.

I sometimes hear, “We don’t have any children yet. Won’t everything just go to my spouse if I die anyway.” The answer is no, not really. Under Indiana’s law of intestacy, if a childless married person passes away without a Will, leaving a surviving spouse and one or more surviving parent(s), then the surviving spouse is entitled to 75% of the decedent’s estate, while the surviving parent is entitled to 25%. This is obviously an invitation to conflict between the surviving spouse and the in-laws. Even a simple Will can relieve this potential problem.

In addition to the Last Will and Testament, it’s important for newly married couples to clearly set forth their wishes in documents like powers of attorney and health care directives, in order to minimize potential family conflict between spouse and in-laws in the event of injury or incapacity.

These are common issues that face young families and newly married couples, but most serious pitfalls can be avoided through careful planning . I strongly recommend that all newly married couples sit down with an attorney and discuss their plans for passing control of their assets and responsibilty for providing care for their themselves, their spouses and future children in the event of an incapacitating injury, illness or death.