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Make sure you plan before you leap

by Kathy Brown van Zutphen//

Whenever a bride, groom and their family plan a wedding, they consider every detail. Sometimes, it can take over a year to get the plan just right: the best date, who to invite, the perfect dress, jewelry, flowers, the venue for the wedding, pre-wedding parties, the greatest reception, and…the list goes on. It is a big day and deserves proper consideration.

So, it amazes me that many of these same people often leave the rest of their life to chance. Either no plan is in place at all, or very little consideration is given to whether they need a pre-nuptial agreement, a trust, or at least a Last Will and Testament, before or after the big day.

More couples these days also are committing to longterm relationships without marriage. Sometimes, the couple will even buy automobiles, houses, and have children together — again, all without entering into a legal agreement, trust, or Last Will and Testament. If you jointly buy furniture, appliances, or automobiles and later decide to split apart or can no longer pay for it, then it helps if you have at least discussed how you want to title and handle the assets. People may believe that bringing up such possibilities could jinx the relationship, but in healthy relationships it can only improve the bond.

What if you are in a long-term relationship and one of you becomes sick? Do you want the other person to be able to access your medical information or make medical decisions, if necessary? What if you have bought assets together and one of you passes away? Do you want that asset to go to your partner, or your next of kin?

I recommend that all couples, before a marriage or even prior to moving in together — and certainly if you have children together — discuss what you want if one of you gets sick or becomes disabled. What do you want to happen to your assets or children? Making a plan for your life is just as important as planning for that big day. Your life deserves discussion and consideration, not just leaving it to chance. I am happy to talk to couples about your situation, and what you may need. Frankly, my dear…you need a plan.

Kathy Brown van Zutphen is an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama and Mississippi. She focuses on the “elder law” areas of trusts, estates, and conservatorships. Additionally, she litigates lawsuits and represents small business owners as part of her legal practice. Visit Kathy’s website to learn more: You can also reach her at her office at (228) 357-5227.

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