What do I NEED to do before getting married?

I’ll be getting married soon, and my fiancee and I plan to consult a lawyer/accountant about wills, insurance, merging our finances, etc. But here’s the catch: we may not have time to meet with him *before *the wedding.

Is this a big problem?

Are there any legal, financial, or other arrangements that MUST be completed before saying “I do,” or can we take care of all that after things have calmed down a bit?

A prenup?

We’re not considering a pre-nup, so that’s not an issue. I have a question about pre-nups, but I’m going to wait for a few additional answers before I hijack my own thread.

Apart from pre-nups, anything else?

If you’re not doing a prenuptual agreeement, what information/services are you hoping to get from a lawyer?

I don’t know of anyone who consulted a lawyer about these things before marriage, and there were no issues after the wedding - at least none that would have been avoided by a pre-wedding lawyer consult.

All you need for a marriage is a wedding license; anything else can be resolved before or after the wedding, whatever’s convenient for you.

My wife and I merged finances and insurance after we got married. I’m embarrassed to report that at age 40 we still haven’t made wills; that’s on my mental “to do” list. But I don’t expect the fact that we’re married will complicate that.

Can’t think of any reason you’d need a lawyer at all before a wedding, if you aren’t doing a pre-nup. Unless you need to change your will or change the deed on your house…but we never even had wills until the kids were born, so that was never an issue.

Most of what you’ll need to do are things that need doing after you’re officially married. But there are surprisingly few things that need doing… we wrote new wills, put both our names on the house title, and opened a joint checking account. I changed my name, too, which was the biggest and longest-lasting headache.

Thanks for the replies. Keep them coming.

This is pretty much what I expected, but since I’ve never been married before, I don’t know what I don’t know.

My fiancée has a will that will have to be changed, and I don’t have a will. As I mentioned, this particular lawyer is also an accountant, so I expect him to advise us on our finances, taxes, life insurance, etc.

Anything else I need to think about?

Socking money away in a secret account before you begin sharing finances, perhaps? :smiley:

Great idea! Can you lend me $10,000-$20,000? :smiley:

Unless you feel likely to die on your honeymoon, pretty much everything will keep till after things settle a bit. And it may actually be easier for her to make you her beneficiary on stuff after you’re married, especially if she’s changing her name. Not that people won’t do it, though you very occasionally run into someone who claims there are rules against such things, but there tends to be a certain amount of teeth-sucking and “Are you sure you want to do this?” from well-meaning but misguided people who think you’re throwing everything you have at the flavor of the week. Listening to that crap isn’t a huge hurdle or anything, but it may be one more goddamn headache she doesn’t need during the final push of wedding-planning.

A bachelor party thrown by Charlie Sheen?

Seriously you don’t need to see a lawyer or an accountant before you get married if you don’t want a prenup and don’t have immigration issues.

Do either of you have children? If so, you may want to have custody arrangements laid out just in case something were to happen on the honeymoon trip.

If you don’t have children, then all of that stuff could technically happen after the wedding.

In the absence of a will, I believe that your property would go to your spouse upon your death, all subject to probate. A will just expidites that process.

Congratulations on your nuptials. Where are you honeymooning? Hopefully someplace exotic. Because you only get married, once or twice. :wink:

You MUST get a marriage license – don’t forget! The town office is only open 9-5 on weekdays, so don’t plan on getting it on the Saturday before your Sunday wedding like my sister! She had to do the legal aspect of the marriage after the honeymoon.


We just got hitched, then opened up a joint bank account together. We kept our separate accounts as well for a while (I still have a separate account which at this point is used to fund Paypal purchases and not much else).

Most / all states (assuming you’re in the US) have rules that a spouse automatically inherits everything in the absence of a will. It’s best to have that explicitly spelled out just to avoid questions (e.g. if either of you has kids already, or annoying family members), or if you want some assets to go elsewhere. We were slackers and didn’t do anything about wills until after we had kids.

After you get married, you will need to go to the SSA and do a name change (if you take his name); that’ll facilitate processing of your tax returns. Otherwise, the IRS will look at “John Smith and Jane Smith” and say “wait - that SSN belongs to Jane Doe” and it will delay things.

You’ll also, presumably, want to change beneficiaries on any life insurance policies; that doesn’t require a lawyer and doesn’t need to happen until later.

Okay, thanks everyone. That’s reassuring.

Already got it!

It may not look it, but I’m the guy. :smiley:

Are either of you previously married? You might want to finalize those divorces first.

Done, thanks.

Thinking about whether this is the right decision or not?

To some people, not as obvious as one might think . While I was planning our wedding I lurked a bit on a wedding planning board and one woman was panicking hugely because her husband to be had been separated for some time but had not completed all the paperwork and his soon-to-be-ex-wife was proving surprisingly unco-operative in sorting it all out in very short space of time so they could get married on the date they’d booked.

For the OP, my husband and I already had a joint bank account before we got married and the only additional legal paperwork we did was to get my new passport in advance so I could travel on it with my married name for the honeymoon (in the UK you are allowed to do this up to 3 months before the wedding). But that wasn’t really necessary, just a sentimental bonus thing.