What Legal and Financial Steps Should Newlywed Couples Talk About?

Spouses not only commit to each other romantically but also legally and financially

Graphic of man and woman in wedding attire

This article discusses the legal and financial steps a newlywed couple should prioritize for their future's sake.

Darlene Schacht once said, "Marriages, like a garden, take time to grow. But the harvest is rich unto those who patiently and tenderly care for the ground."

Read more to learn what legal steps a newlywed couple could take to cultivate a responsible marriage in this day and age.

1. Update identities

Once the honeymoon buzz wanes, a newlywed couple could obtain several copies of their marriage certificate from the local vital records office.

This document confirms the date, time, and legitimacy of a newlywed couple's marriage.

A marriage certificate may be helpful for multiple situations, such as claiming married status for tax and health insurance benefits.

Additionally, copies of marriage certificates may be necessary to change someone's legal name and marital status.

2. Legal names

Changing your name upon marriage is optional in America but remains a popular choice among spouses.

Approximately 70% of American brides in heterosexual marriages adopt their husbands' last names.

The time it takes to change one's name legally after getting married varies nationwide.

For instance, it takes three to five weeks in Connecticut but four to five months in Florida.

A newlywed could begin the name-changing process by bringing a certified copy of their marriage certificate to the nearest social security office.

Afterward, the newlyweds can use their new social security cards to update legal documents, accounts, and government-issued identification cards.

3. Marital statuses

A newlywed could simultaneously update their marital status and legal name to save time and energy.

Newlyweds may wish to update their marital status from "single" to "married" at any place where their relationship status impacts them. Examples include their employer's human resources department, insurance companies, and banks.

They should consult with a tax professional before doing so.

4. Should you consider merging finances?

Graphic of hand holding money bag and money spinning

A newly-married couple may combine their finances or maintain them separately, depending on their preferences.

For instance, younger generations are moving towards having only separate bank accounts.

About 45% of Millennials between the ages of 26 to 32 who are married, in a civil partnership, or cohabitating do not share accounts.

It matters more that newlyweds are on the same page than what they prefer to do with their money. They should also consult with an attorney in their State regarding the potential consequences of separate or joint accounts.

Joint bank accounts

A newlywed couple should decide whether they want their bank accounts to be joint, separate, or both.

Joint bank accounts may provide convenience and financial transparency. On the other hand, it could complicate asset division upon separation and/or divorce, depending on that State's laws.

A hybrid solution could involve separate accounts and at least one joint account to cover shared expenses and investments.

Once again, consulting with an attorney in that State should answer these questions.

Joint credit cards

Similarly, newlyweds could blend separate cards for individual purchases with a joint credit card for group expenses.

A joint credit card could cover shared payments and purchases, such as utilities and home furniture.

Additionally, a joint credit card allows account holders to improve their credit scores if that is a goal.

Planning for the financial future

Marriage often comes with financial perks, such as tax benefits and joint borrowing power.

Newlywed should discuss leveraging these benefits to maximize savings, investments, and budgeting.

Below we discuss areas couples may wish to review when financial planning.

Budgets and investments

A certified financial planner could help a bridal couple set precise goals, stick to a time frame, and decide how each person will contribute.

Each spouse should understand managing expenses, paying monthly bills, and following a budget.

Alternatively, spouses could rely on a budgeting app like You Need a Budget (YNAB).

YNAB allows couples to share financial goals, track all expenses, and establish a net worth regardless of joint or separate accounts.

A self-driven spouse could read David Bach's best-selling "Smart Couples Finish Rich, Revised and Updated: 9 Steps to Creating a Rich Future for You and Your Partner."

His best-selling book provides couples tools for everything from credit card management to investment advice.

Life insurance policies

Spouses should prepare in case death does them part. They could start by contacting a life insurance agent.

A life insurance policy could help a couple pay off mortgages, debts, and funeral expenses.

A life insurance agent could help a couple select the best policy to ensure each other, and their children are supported should one of them pass.

Preparing for significant life events

Many spouses want to legally record what they'd like to happen if a spouse passes or becomes incapacitated.

They could begin by designating one another as beneficiaries to their bank accounts, retirement accounts, trusts, and investments.

An experienced estate planning lawyer could offer legal advice regarding wills, trusts, and advance directives.


An estate planning attorney may also help specify asset division, guardianship, and inheritance in a will to protect surviving family members.

Applicable State law (which varies from State to State) usually dictates distributing a spouse's estate when there is no will. Consequently, dying without a will could create complications for a spouse's loved ones.

For instance, a will could have significantly reduced the legal chaos that followed Prince's passing. In the last six years, lawyers, consultants, and heirs have been involved in a complex legal battle costing tens of millions to administer Prince's $156 million estate.

5. Postnuptial agreements

A skilled family law attorney could prepare a postnuptial agreement for spouses in the event of a divorce if such documents are allowed in that State. Once again, State laws may control what can and cannot be done.

If allowed, postnuptial agreements could increase the likelihood of an amicable divorce and typically include asset division, spousal support, and debt payment stipulations.

Jeff Bezos exemplifies why couples should prepare for unanticipated divorce settlements through a postnuptial or prenuptial agreement.

Bezos said he thought Amazon had a "30% chance" of succeeding in a 2000 interview.

He did not expect Amazon's success or have a massive fortune to protect when he married in 1993.

Ultimately, his ex-wife allegedly walked away with the largest divorce settlement in history.

6. Prioritizing financial intimacy

Researchers found that spouses are the least likely to have conversations about money compared to cohabitating, dating, and separated couples.

Many spouses blame fear or embarrassment for not distinguishing community property from separate property, discussing potential divorce, or disclosing all purchases. And many States are not "community property states."

Not speaking about money invites financial infidelity into a marriage.

Financial infidelity could include a partner hiding debt from their loved one in a secret account or making a sizeable discretionary purchase behind their spouse's back.

According to U.S. News & World Report, financial infidelity occurs in approximately one in three couples.

Among couples with financial infidelity, 76% reported that it hurt their relationship.

You have to talk about money with your partner

Financial advisor Suze Orman stated, "If you cannot talk money to the person that you are about to marry, you are doomed for failure because money is going to run through your relationship more than anything else."

Financial and legal steps may not be the most romantic topics for a newly married couple to discuss. However, the outcomes of having these conversations make the discomfort worth it.

Few things are more romantic than doing everything to ensure your spouse is taken care of no matter the circumstances.

We hope you enjoyed this article. This article is not legal or financial advice.