We are just over three months into same sex marriage being the law of the land. Individuals across the United States are finally able to put the legal seal of approval on their familial relationship. As couples walk down the aisle or celebrate at their city halls, it’s important to point out that receiving your marriage certificate is an important step, but that there are other legal documents you will need to research and decide on adopting for the protection of your spouse, children, and other family members.

A Kids Protection Plan

We all want to believe we will live a long life. At the very least, we certainly expect to live to an age where our children will have passed through adolescence into adulthood. A Kids Protection Plan (KPP) is a legal document that spells out who will act as guardian for your children should both you and your spouse die unexpectedly. In addition to providing for long-term guardianship, a KPP can also spell out who the immediate guardian will be (close local friends, neighbors, etc.) so that your children never have to be removed from the home and placed in the care of strangers or be held as wards of the state until the permanent guardian can take custody of your children. 

A Durable Power of Attorney

Not every unfortunate unforeseen situation revolves around the death of yourself or your spouse. There may be a situation where either you or your spouse are incapacitated and unable to make financial decisions. A durable power of attorney allows the person you have selected to act on your behalf. This document is important regardless of the sum of monies and assets you have.

A Living Will

A living will, or health care power of attorney, is similar to the previous document in this list. Instead of allowing a predetermined individual to act on your behalf financially, a living will assigns your health care decision making to someone you trust to act responsibly on your behalf. In addition to naming an individual, it is important that you share your thoughts and beliefs with that person so that they truly act on your behalf.

A Last Will & Testament

For too many people, a will is the only document they have planned ahead in drafting with an attorney. Unfortunately, on this list of 5 documents, your will is the least important to have, (not that you shouldn’t have one, though).

A will explicitly spells out how it is that you would like your assets divided. Even the simplest will has to be presented before a probate court and it only acts as a framework for the court to operate around. The court process can be lengthy, expensive, and open to the public record. This means any citizen in town will be able to check available records to determine your wealth at the time of death. There is a better way.

A Living Trust

A living trust is the preferred document when it comes to end-of-life planning. This document, unlike a will, is far more streamlined and is easiest for your surviving family members who will be dealing with grief in the event of your death. As the name implies, this is a document that should change as you and your life situation changes. Frequent updates will ensure that nothing is left to chance.

Family Is More Than Marriage

The most important part of this post is the fact that your ability to marry the person you love is just the first step in legally setting up your family. Many of these documents can be created and maintained on your own. However, it is always a good idea to consult with a reputable legal firm that has experience in family law. Your family will be relieved of the burden of having to attend to your end-of-life plans in their grief, and you’ll feel better knowing you have done everything you could to protect your family in the present and in the uncertain future.