Just as your life was probably simpler the first time you married, your subsequent marriage, especially if it occurs late in life, can become problematic, if good planning doesn’t happen in advance. If you don’t know your legal rights or your responsibilities, reports New Hampshire Magazine in “Navigating Late-Life Remarriage,” you, your children and your new spouse may be in for some unpleasant surprises.
While death and the likelihood that one spouse will outlive the other is inevitable, another important fact is that the divorce rate among those who remarry later in life years is 60%. This is much higher than the rate of any other segment of the population. Some experts think that number may go even higher.
Important considerations in senior marriages are pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. These agreements stipulate rights and obligations in the event of separation or divorce. Although presumed to be valid, proper drafting is essential. Estate planning is critical for those who remarry and have additional issues of blending families and assets. If one or both partners have children and former spouses, a trip to the offices of a qualified estate planning attorney is paramount before the big day.
As you make the appointment with your attorney, here are some of the basics to digest:
- Estate planning documents should be updated to reflect your new marital status and your current wishes;
- You don’t need your spouse’s consent to name someone other than him or her as the beneficiary of your IRAs;
- Your spouse will have rights and benefits to some of your qualified retirement plans, like 401(k)s and pensions;
- Your spouse may waive any provision made for him or her in the deceased spouse’s will and instead take a fraction of the estate, typically one-third to half, depending the number of people in the family;
- If you’re widowed or divorced but then remarry before age 60, Social Security benefits that you collect from your former spouse will be impacted;
- You are responsible for the costs of medical care and long-term care for your new spouse; and
- If you have children in college receiving financial aid, adding your new spouse’s salary to your family income might decrease the amount of aid that your child receives.
Discussions and planning need to take place in advance, because these issues become complicated very quickly. The alternative is that your spouse may be left with a disaster after you pass. An estate planning attorney who has helped older couples work through the issues of blended families, will be able to help you navigate this potentially rocky road.
Reference: New Hampshire Magazine (December 2016) “Navigating Late-Life Remarriage”