By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
July 17, 2018
6 Things the Royal Newlyweds Should Update in Their Estate Plans
Well, it finally happened! Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, and the ceremony has been getting rave reviews.
Over the past several months, anyone who’s watched the news, perused a news site, or – let’s be honest – visited their Facebook page has been inundated with stories about the couple and how the world felt about the pairing.
Harry’s transformation from “bad boy” to respected royal. Markle’s career as an actress. His friendship with Obama. Her social activism. His letter to the press about their treatment of Markle. Her complicated family life.
It seems like no stone was unturned in the lead-up to the ceremony. But here’s one thing that no one really talked about: how complicated their estate plans probably are and how much they should change due to their marriage.
Obviously, without having access to the actual plans, it’s difficult to say for sure. But it is easy to imagine a number of things they should update to reflect their new realities.
Last Will and Testament
Did you know that getting married nullifies all wills you might have created up to that point?
Now, chances are good that both Harry and Meghan have other tools in their estate planning kits, such as trusts. However, it is always wise to update your will after getting married to ensure it reflects your current wishes for any assets not accounted for in other ways.
Beneficiary designations apply to life insurance and retirement accounts. After a typical marriage, people usually change their designation to their new spouse, so they will benefit in the event of their passing.
Perhaps the new royal couple will do this, or perhaps they have other ideas.
For example, knowing that her husband is already set financially, Ms. Markle may decide to designate her parents as beneficiaries. Or perhaps there is a charitable cause that she wants to help.
Whatever she chooses, she needs to update those beneficiary designations to ensure her wishes are carried out.
Both spouses are well-documented philanthropists. So, rather than leaving all of their estate to each other, they may wish to create a charitable trust (or several) and designate a portion of their assets for it.
As a nice side bonus for those setting up charitable trusts in general, they come with significant tax benefits.
Powers of Attorney and Health Advance Directives
In the event that either of them becomes incapacitated, the royal couple will likely want to alter these documents – and the corresponding documents used in the UK – so their new spouse is given the legal ability to make health and financial decisions for them.
While property such as vehicles and real estate typically passes to the spouse, sometimes there can be complications. If either spouse wants to absolutely make sure that the other gets their property, the best way to do this is to get their name on the title.
This is bound to be complicated with two prominent, public figures – who do they want handling their digital accounts after they’re gone? This includes both private accounts, like email or digital music libraries, as well as those in the public sphere.
Before she became a royal, Meghan deleted her personal social media accounts. (Technically, she has now an official Instagram account run by the Palace staff.) But there is a chance she could be allowed to restart those social media accounts or create secret social media accounts. After all, Prince Harry has had several secret social media accounts, including a Facebook account under the name “Spike Wells” that he eventually deleted.
Would the royal couple want these secret social media account deleted after they pass? Would they feel comfortable finally making them visible to the public? Who would they trust to make the judgement call? These are all questions that can be answered in their estate planning.
All Set… for Now
Once the newlyweds have done all of these things, they can rest easy… at least until there’s a royal child on the way.