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Love and paperwork: a checklist for newlyweds and other couples

Couple financial planningUse this checklist to guide you through the process of updating your financial records when your life changes to include a spouse or life partner.

 1.    Update your beneficiaries.

Your beneficiary is the person who will own your assets after your death. Consider making your new spouse or life partner your beneficiary for all your key assets. This includes:

Checkboxbank accounts

Checkboxinvestment accounts

CheckboxTax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA)

CheckboxRegistered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)

Checkboxyour pension plan(s) at work

Checkboxyour home and other real estate (for example, a cottage)

Checkboxall insurance policies (life, health, auto, homeowners).

Learn more now about who gets what after your death.

2. Write a will or update your prior will.

Don't delay this important step. Many people think that if something happens to them, their savings and other assets will simply pass on to their spouse. But if you die without a will this won’t happen as smoothly as it could. . Without a will, the government will step in and likely  take a lot longer to sort out who gets what.

Do you want to leave your loved one in a position where they have to wait for weeks or even months to receive money from your estate? What will they live on while the government settles your estate? Learn more now about updating your will when you marry or choose a life partner.

If you don’t have a will, take care of this as soon as possible. Most people will meet with a lawyer to draw up their wills. When you prepare a will, make sure you:

Include basic information about yourself and the will. This includes your name, where you live, and the date you signed the will.

Appoint an executor. This is the person who will carry out your wishes. To avoid delays in settling your estate, you must give him or her the right to manage your estate.

Ask your executor to pay off all your debts and final costs. This includes costs like your mortgage, loans, funeral expenses, and final income taxes

State your wishes for your assets. This is where you state who gets what from your savings and property, including your home, investments, and cash. It also covers all the things you own, such as cars, furniture, pictures, and jewelry.

Take care of any children. People with children who depend on them should name a guardian in case both parents die. Guardians are the people you want to care for your children if something happens to you. Most people name a close family member, or friend, that they know will give their children a good home.

Show that you have read and understand your will. Record when and where you signed it. Two people who are not named in your will should sign it as your witnesses.

3. Review your insurance policies.

Here you need to sit down with your spouse or life partner and look at all your insurance coverage together. Do you now have too much? Too little? Or do you and your new spouse have duplicate coverage? For example:

Life insurance. If you and your spouse both work and have no children, you may not need much. If you have an insurance plan through work, it may be enough.  But if you have large credit card debts or big mortgage payments, you will need more. 

Experts suggest that you buy enough insurance to pay off your debts and funeral expenses. They also say that there should be enough for your loved ones to set up an emergency fund, or save for the future. You may also choose extra insurance to pay off your mortgage if you die, or to provide for your children’s education.

Homeowners or renters insurance. If you've moved from two places into a shared home, you'll only need one policy. Just make sure that the new policy will protect your combined household goods.

Tip: Your policy may limit the amount covered for items such as jewellery, computer equipment and collectibles. Make sure you get enough to cover all of your joint property.

Health insurance. If both of you have health insurance coverage, review the plans closely to see if it makes more sense financially and from a benefits standpoint to cancel one of the plans or keep both. In most cases you have 30 days after your marriage to add your spouse as a dependent without having to provide evidence of insurability. This means your spouse does not need to take a medical exam to show that he or she is in good health and “insurable” under your policy.

Learn more now about how your insurance needs may change.

Update your personal identification if you plan to change your name after you marry. You don’t have to make a legal name change. You also do not change your name on your birth certificate.

You can simply start to use or “assume” your spouse’s last name. You may also want to update:

your driver’s licence

your Social Insurance Number (SIN). You will need this the next time you change jobs. It will also ensure that you receive all the credits you earn for your Canada Pension.

your passport

your bank account information and your personal cheques (talk to someone at your bank)

your health card.

You will need to include a copy of your marriage certificate when you apply.