December is the most popular month for engagements. Young people getting engaged in Pennsylvania face many legal hurdles. Here are ten tips to help you navigate those legal hurdles.
1. Having Important Discussions Before Getting Engaged
Marriage comes with many changes to both you and your future spouse, both legal and financial. Therefore, when getting engaged, it is important to have an open discussion about things like children and handling finances. For Instance, if one individual has a child already, both parties should be clear on expectations. If one of the couple has existing debt (student loans, credit cards), how will the couple handle this? Discussing these prior to the marriage can avoid issues down the road.
2. Getting a Marriage License
You will need to obtain a marriage license in the county that you reside in. If you both live in different counties in Pennsylvania, it can be either county. You and your fiancé must appear in person to submit your application. There is a 3 day waiting period and the wedding must take place within 90 days of receiving the license. Therefore, it is important not to apply too late, or too early.
3. Marriage Requirements
Pennsylvania has strict rules on who may get married and who can officiate a wedding. For example, If you are under 18, you must have parental consent to get married. A growing concern in Pennsylvania is weddings with an officiant who is not a traditionally recognized pastor or priest. Many people have a friend or family member get ordained through the Universal Church of Life of a similar online service. Consequently, many counties are advising individuals that online ordained ministers are not acceptable and may invalidate the marriage.
4. Changing Your Name
If you are taking your spouse’s name, you will need to obtain new IDs and change your name on official documents. Also, you will need to change your name with your banks, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial accounts. Make sure to order extra copies of your marriage license. Start by changing your name with the Social Security Administration. Then, move on to your state driver’s license and other legal documents.
5. Preparing for the Honeymoon
Are you traveling out of the country and need a passport? For a newly engaged couple, this can be the most exciting part of wedding planning. You must submit your application no later than 90 days in advance. Inform your banks and credit card companies if you are planning on using cards abroad. Consider purchasing trip insurance to cover any last minute changes. This can be especially important if you are traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season.
6. Do You Own Property?
If one party in an engaged couple owns a home and want to add your new spouse to the deed, you will need to contact an attorney. Remember, there are many factors that can determine whether a property can be easily transferred so consult with an attorney early on to stay ahead of the curve!
7. Pre-Nup? What is it, do I need one?
A Prenuptial Agreement or “Pre-Nup” is an agreement between you and your spouse that limits or defines what each of you are entitled to in the event of a divorce. These agreements can be very beneficial but can have sever consequences. Consequently, these should not be signed without serious consideration and they may not be legally binding unless both parties had their own, independent attorneys. If you are a beneficiary of a trust, or named in a business succession plan, a prenuptial agreement may be a requirement so consult with the attorney handling the trust or business succession plan well in advance.
8. Create or Update Your Estate Plan After Getting Engaged
You will need to add your spouse to your Will, Powers of Attorney, Living Will, and Trust (if you have one). If you have never created a will, consider setting up a consultation with an attorney. Even if you do have a will, it will likely need updated and should be reviewed by an attorney before the wedding date. If you and your fiancé have been living together for a long time, a will may be even more important to protect the assets you have accumulated together.
9. Update Your Insurance and Beneficiary Designations
Sit down with your insurance agent before the wedding and discuss your joint and individual home, auto, and life policies and discuss combining policies or any modifications that may be advisable. Also, you should meet with your financial advisor and update your retirement plan and change any beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement accounts.
10. Have signed Contracts with Vendors
The average wedding today costs more than $25,000. Make sure that you have signed contracts with all of your vendors and you understand the terms of each contract. This can prevent headaches on the big day. Often Vendors have clauses that can tack on fees if they have to stay late or adjust their schedule to accommodate changes on the day of the wedding.
Designate a wedding attendee who is NOT in the bridal party or a close family member to assist with any Vendor crisis that come up last minute (this role is only necessary if you do not have a wedding planner/coordinator who will be there on your wedding day). Make sure this person has copies of all of the vendor contracts and contact information for each vendor, including the venue and the officiant.