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Planning for the Unexpected

In this topic, we cover:

  • The types of unexpected events that can cause financial trouble.
  • How to keep important documents safe.
  • Prenuptial agreements and why some couples use them.


Dentist giving young man novocaine in his mouth.

Unexpected events can happen in any marriage, so it's important to have a plan. Death, disability, the loss of a job, and the possibility of divorce are never topics newly married couples are excited about exploring, but not planning for the unexpected can lead to financial consequences you may have never considered or be prepared to handle.

Here are some topics you will want to explore together:

  • Insurance - Life, auto, home owner's, disability and other types of insurance should all be considered depending on your assets and lifestyle. Don't forget that you may be able to realize significant savings from combining multiple types of coverage with one company.
  • Beneficiary Review - Beneficiaries are those people who you designate to receive assets should anything happen to you. Any insurance policies, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and employer-sponsored retirement plans that may have been set up prior to getting married should be reviewed. If you want your spouse to receive the funds in the event of your death, the beneficiary will need to be changed. Keep in mind that just because you are married, that does not mean that the beneficiary should automatically be your spouse - many people have policies that may protect parents, kids from a previous marriage, or others.
  • Safeguarding Important Documents - When the unexpected happens, particularly to the partner who routinely managed family finances, the other partner may not know how to access accounts or who to contact for an insurance claim. Be sure to keep important documents, from wills to insurance policies to financial account information, in a secure location known to both partners.

Prenuptial Agreements

Not just for the superrich, prenuptial agreements are common - particularly with those entering a marriage with substantial assets or the likelihood of earning substantial assets over time. Prenuptial agreements are contracts between partners that typically include provisions for division of property and spousal support in the event of divorce.

If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, you will need to seek the advice of an attorney experienced in creating these agreements. And remember, for the agreement to be valid, each partner needs to be represented by separate attorney for the negotiation of the agreement.

Estate Planning

In the worst-case scenario, there's a chance that your loved ones will not receive the assets you feel they deserve. One of the first things many couples do after getting married, and particularly after having kids, is create a will. A will is a legal document that can determine who will receive your assets, who will care for your children, and who will be responsible for managing your financial affairs after your death. Other common estate-related topics include Powers of Attorney, which set out who can make decisions on your behalf, and a Living Will, which covers what should be done if you are placed on artificial life support. A trust may also be used to protect certain assets and to determine how the assets are managed or disbursed over time. Please review the estate planning module for more detailed information.

While some of these options seem complex (and many are), the good news is that most newly married couples can perform some very simple tasks early on to help make decisions easier in the future.