Slideshow Tax Alpha: The Marriage Checklist

  • July 16 2015, 6:40pm EDT

When people are about to get married, the financial implications may not be at the top of their priority list — or even on the list at all. But they will benefit from thinking through a set of basic decisions that they should address.

Here are eight topics every soon-to-be-married or newlywed couple should consider – preferably with the help of their financial advisor -- from the professionals at HD Vest Financial Services.

(You can see a text-only list of these here.)

Account titling and beneficiary designations

The couple should review all financial accounts for proper titling, and decide whether accounts should be jointly registered.

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Full disclosure

The couple may need a reminder that their future spouse will need to know where all the investment accounts are, and how to access them -- particularly if they are paperless, which makes them less visible.

Estate plans and documents

The couple should establish or update the beneficiary on their last will and testament, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, living will, and revocable living trust. Another thing to consider: whether to establish a prenuptial agreement or a trust to hold assets intended to go to any children from a prior relationship.

Insurance coverage

Soon-to-be-marrieds should assess whether their current life insurance protection is adequate, and that beneficiary designations are appropriate. Also up for review: health benefits, disability coverage and the full suite of property casualty policies.

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Balance sheet review

It’s tempting for couples to “spare no expense” on weddings and honeymoons. But there is no time like the beginning of a marriage to take stock of current debt burdens and make tough decisions about what “affordable” means.

Creating a budget

After the balance sheet review comes the prospective combined income statement and the dreaded “B” word: budget. Starting out on the right foot with spending, saving and investing goals (with a mutually agreeable exposure to investment volatility) can establish a pattern that will lead to achieving financial goals throughout the marriage.

Tax withholding

Making any needed adjustments ensures that the new couple doesn’t wind up with a huge bill on April 15 or having made a large interest-free loan to Uncle Sam is critical.

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Retirement savings

If one spouse makes more than the phase-out limits for IRA contributions, it may affect both spouses’ ability to make IRA contributions. More broadly, are they taking full advantage of 401(k) matching contributions?

As life goes on ….

For more life-stage tips – including advice setting up college savings plans, navigating the financial implications of divorce, managing retirement, and handling the financial affairs of a loved one who has died – check out the Tax Alpha Tips of the Week on Tax Alpha..

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