Just as your life was probably simpler the first time you married, your subsequent marriage, especially if it occurs later 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 factor is that the divorce rate among those who remarry later in life is 60%. This is much higher than the rate of any other segment of the population and 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. Estate planning is critical for those who remarry, especially when blending families and assets. If one or both partners have children and/or 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, but you may need to review or update your beneficiary designations;
- 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;
- If you’re widowed or divorced, but remarry before age 60, any Social Security benefits 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, so you start thinking through any Medicaid planning you may want to do, either now or down the road; 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 and children may be left with a disaster after you pass. An estate planning attorney, especially one familiar with planning for blended families, will be able to help you navigate this potentially rocky road.
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Reference: New Hampshire Magazine (December 2016) “Navigating Late-Life Remarriage”