Weddings are about more than Champagne, designer dresses and cheesy music -- they're about celebrating two people committing to build a life together. So an important consideration should be determining how your current insurance policies stack up to your needs as a couple. Whether you've formally said "I do" or you've opted to move in together, there are a lot of ways your needs may change once you're in a committed partnership. Here's a look at four potential insurance issues to take under consideration.
The just-married insurance checklist
1. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
If you've just moved in together, it's important to purchase a shared insurance policy to cover all of your possessions. If you've bought a house together, you'll need a homeowner’s insurance policy right away; if you're renting, you'll likely save on costs by sharing a policy that covers all of your collective possessions, rather than purchasing two separate renter’s policies.
According to Tom Potts, professor of finance at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, there are no special insurance discounts that apply only to legally wed couples but not to domestic partners. So there's no need to wait until you've said your vows to combine insurance policies if you're already cohabiting.
2. Health insurance.
Now that you're married or living together, it's a good time to compare health insurance plans. You may each have different options available through your employers. "If you both have coverage under your employers, you can drop one policy and go with the other's to get a better deal," Potts says.
If one of you doesn't have insurance currently, the other may be able to put the partner (and his or her children, if applicable) on the plan for an additional cost.
And, if you're thinking about having a baby within the next couple of years, it's important to obtain access to a plan with good maternity coverage. Currently, 62 percent of policyholders on the individual health insurance market lack maternity benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, although under the Affordable Health Care Act, all plans must include maternity coverage starting in 2014.
3. Auto insurance.
Chances are, now that you're married or living together, you're likely to drive each other's cars from time to time. Add your partner to your auto insurance policy as a permitted driver, and vice-versa. "Adding a second driver to your auto policy wouldn't raise rates on each car as long as the other driver has a good driving record," Potts says.
However, if your partner has a history of accidents or has a teenager who will also be driving, your rates may go up. If you're adding a teenager to your policy, Potts suggests limiting his driving privileges to whichever car has the least value to save money on insurance.
You and your partner may also be eligible to save money on auto insurance by "bundling" insurance policies. If you've previously purchased car insurance through separate providers, consider switching to your partner's provider in order to be eligible for a multicar discount. If you purchase home insurance and other products through the same provider, your discount may be even more substantial.
4. Life and disability insurance.
Life insurance is an important consideration for times when one partner would struggle financially without help from the other partner. If you've just purchased a home together or share other significant debts, it may be a good idea for both of you to purchase life insurance so your partner wouldn't be forced to pay off the debt alone in the event of your sudden death.
Potts says you should consider disability insurance even if you don't believe life insurance is a necessity after just getting married. Within the coverage term, "the chances of one of you becoming seriously disabled are three to five times higher than death," he says.
Just as importantly, the disabled partner would no longer be able to generate income, but could still have considerable living expenses. If neither of you has disability coverage under your employer's benefits package, it is an important type of insurance to consider.
Before -- or shortly after -- tying the knot, it's important to take a serious look at your combined assets and your future plans as a couple, and determine what types of insurance coverage you will need to make sure you are able to pursue your goals while protecting everything that's most important to you. Talk with your partner and insurance agent to ensure you and your new spouse have the protection to care for your newly created family in the many years to come.
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