If you're married, your spouse is probably the most important person in your life. You and your spouse depend on each other for many things, from sharing chores to making your joint finances work. From being there to support you when you need it to helping you raise your family, your spouse selflessly gives you his or her love and care.

Too many people, however, fail to consider fully all of the financial risks that most couples face. With families increasingly having to rely on paychecks from both spouses to make ends meet, an unexpected tragedy can put you in a world of hurt. Yet by taking just a few steps to protect your spouse, you can make sure that no matter what happens, your spouse will be able to carry on even if you can't keep giving your full support.

1. Get some insurance.
To your family, you're irreplaceable. Whether or not you earn money for the work you do, your family will have a difficult time getting by without your contribution toward its well-being. Although insurance benefits can't take away the grief your loved ones will feel, the money they receive can help them avoid the financial difficulties that often follow tragic events. But don't let the myriad options confuse you. A combination of term life, disability, and long-term-care insurance may help your spouse keep everything under control during trying circumstances.

2. Write a will.
The last thing your spouse needs to worry about if something unexpected happens to you is arguing over your assets. Yet while most states take steps to protect your spouse even if you fail to do so yourself in a will, not all states give your spouse the flexibility to take full control of the family finances after your death. By explicitly giving your spouse power over your assets, you can help ensure that your spouse will do everything necessary to guide your family through any tough times.

3. Talk about investing.
With many couples, only one spouse actively invests the family money. This works fine unless something happens to the family's financial manager. If you're the one managing your family's investments, make sure your spouse has at least a working knowledge of everything you're doing. Whether your investment strategy primarily uses ETFs like SPDR Trust (AMEX:SPY) and iShares Russell 2000 (NYSE:IWM) or you own individual stocks, your spouse should know enough about what you're doing to be able to keep things going for a few months without constant attention. Without your help, your spouse may make crucial mistakes that you could easily have avoided.

When you married your spouse, you promised to do everything you could for him or her. When it comes to financial planning, protecting your spouse requires just a little effort -- but that effort can make all the difference for your family's future.

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Protecting your family is part of any successful financial plan. For some help in building your own plan, take a look at the Fool's personal-finance newsletter, Motley Fool Green Light. We'll help you put together your finances in a way that's both useful and easy to understand. Get started today with our 30-day free trial and see how Motley Fool Green Light can get you on the path to financial security.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger does his best to explain his investments to his wife, even if they're a bit overly complicated. He doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy protects you.