When a couple has an established relationship, it’s not unusual to find that certain routines fall into place. One partner may walk the dog and the other may like to do the cooking. One partner may prefer grocery shopping while the other handles the laundry. The same type of rhythms can carry over to finances. Maybe one partner takes care of paying the bills and the other manages savings and investments. While there isn’t anything wrong with a division of responsibilities, slipping into these comfortable routines without periodic check-ins can provide a false sense of financial security. Additionally, couples may neglect speaking about the importance of estate planning and can get years into their relationship without taking a closer look at the financial structure on which they are building their lives. The good news is that it’s never too late to assess the current situation and create a plan for moving forward.


When to Have Different Conversations About Money and Estate Planning

When a couple first begins dating, there are many “getting to know you” questions that are discussed. Talking about dreams and goals for the future can be a big part of how two people start assessing compatibility and if they will be a good fit. Ideally, getting on the same page about matters involving finances and estate planning would also take place early in a relationship, but that’s not always the case. Many people have been raised in homes where talking about money is taboo, and unfortunately, as adults this can leave them feeling uneasy about how to bring up the subject.

It is also important to consider that there will be different conversations that should take place at various stages of the relationship. A young couple starting out in their first apartment will likely have different priorities than a married couple looking to start a family and establish an estate plan. However, once there is a level of commitment that involves financial responsibility, such as moving in together, it’s time to start having more specific discussions about money.

Moving in Together: It can feel decidedly unromantic to ask your partner about their credit score, but if you are taking the step to share a living space, facts will help you to make good decisions.

  • How much can we afford? Will both partners be working and contributing equally? How long has your partner been at their current job? Are they self-employed or planning a career change? If their freelance gig suddenly becomes less reliable, or if they are planning to leave their current job, it may impact their financial stability and, in turn, place the financial burden of paying the bills onto your plate. In a relationship, this has the potential to create even more stress than if the same scenario were to take place with a roommate. Clear communication about responsibilities and expectations can go a long way in preventing future tension.
  • Checking credit scores at this time will help verify that there will be no surprises when applying for a lease.
  • What bills will be shared and what bills will be handled individually? Rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, and convenience items are all living expenses that need to be factored in.
  • Will we set up a joint checking account? Couples may choose to create a household expenses account that bills can be paid from. Some opt to keep individual accounts as well.
  • How will bills be paid? Will one partner handle the bookkeeping? Will you set aside a time once a month to go over the finances together? Will routine expenses be set up on autopay?
  • Do we have an emergency fund? Do we each have individual emergency fund accounts? Will we create a joint savings account in which there’s enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses?

Getting Married: When you and your partner have decided to get married, your financial conversations may need to include the “moving in” topics, depending on your previous living arrangement, and also expand to include the long-term future.

  • Prenuptial Agreement. While statistics show that far more people get married than divorced each year, there is still a chance that things may not work out as you planned. Divorces can be expensive and complicated, but a thoughtfully structured prenuptial agreement can ensure that each partner is financially protected in the event the marriage ends.
  • How much money do we have? In checking? In savings? In investment accounts? Do we have debts? If you’ve been living together, you may already have joined some of your finances. Now is a good time for a check-in.
  • Where will we live? Will you continue to rent or live with family while saving money for a downpayment? Will you buy a house or condo together?

Married: Building a healthy financial future as a couple requires that you have plans in place to protect each other and the family you may build together.  This involves everything from “simple financial housekeeping” matters, such as knowing the logins and passwords for accounts, to taking care of will and estate planning. Some basics that each partner should know are:

  • Where are the important documents for accounts such as savings, investments, retirement, marital assets, and trusts? Vital records such as birth certificates and marriage certificates should be accessible.
  • Do we have a secure list of all our logins and passwords?
  • How are our assets titled?
  • Who is our financial advisor? Our accountant? Our insurance agent? How do I contact them?


When It’s Time to Focus the Conversation on Estate Planning

The responsibilities of daily life can steal our time.  A young married couple with a newborn may feel as if they are juggling so many tasks that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to talk about things that seem far off in the future, like college costs or retirement planning. This is when it’s especially easy to fall into routines and neglect planning. Yet, the earlier these big life events are addressed, the more prepared you will be when that time comes.

One of the best things you and your partner can do is to establish a financial plan which creates a structure that can help you achieve your goals and includes an estate plan that will protect your family and assets. At this point, if you’ve already been managing a household, paying bills, and looking at a long future together, you may have done some planning. How much?

  • What plans are in place if one partner gets sick?
  • Do we have signed living wills and health care proxies?
  • If one partner becomes incapacitated or passes away, how will the other partner manage financially?
  • Who will take care of our children if something happens to us?

Life is unpredictable and we can never be fully sure of what the future holds. Estate planning allows you to establish a specific set of legal documents that will dictate how your medical care will be handled if you become incapable of making decisions for yourself, how your loved ones will be taken care of in the event of your passing, and how your assets will be transferred.


Estate Planning Essentials to Discuss with your Partner

Continuing the conversation about money and estate planning with your partner requires looking at the life you have been building together and ensuring that you establish the necessary documents that can provide important protections for you and your family.

  • Healthcare Directives. A healthcare proxy and a living will allow you to make your wishes regarding your medical treatment known and to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a situation where you might not be legally capable of being informed about, or included in, potentially life-altering decisions.
  • Financial Power of Attorney. This document lets you designate someone to act on your behalf in financial matters. This includes paying bills, managing investments, filing taxes, and handling other financial transactions.
  • Guardianship for Minor Children. You can specify guardians who will care for your minor children in the event you become incapacitated or die. This allows you to make a decision about who you feel you can trust with your children, instead of leaving it in the hands of a court.
  • A trust or trusts. This is a tool that facilitates the transfer of assets according to your wishes, while potentially minimizing tax implications and avoiding probate. You can also carve out assets for a specific purpose. This may allow quicker access to funds that your family may need for living expenses.
  • Beneficiary designations. Those who you choose to inherit your assets are your beneficiaries. The designations you have listed on life insurance policies and retirement accounts should be kept up to date.
  • Last Will and Testament. This document gives you the control to specify how you’d like your assets to be distributed. It’s important to note that your will cannot override beneficiaries you name on retirement accounts and life insurance policies, so any changes you want to make as to who will receive those benefits must be made directly on the policies or accounts themselves.


It’s tempting to let the status quo remain if you’ve routinely done things in a certain way and feel comfortable with the results. Even more so, when thinking about estate planning it can be difficult to look around at your partner, your family, and the life you’ve worked so hard for, and think about scenarios where one of you is no longer there. No matter if you’re in the honeymoon stage of a relationship or you are enjoying your golden years together, one of the best ways to show your partner how much you care is by working with them in building a healthy financial life that includes open communication. If you’d like to know more about how a financial advisor can help you create a plan, please contact us.