Senior Second Marriages and Estate Planning

Senior Second Marriages and Estate Planning
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More Americans are now getting married over 65 than ever before. Even though this may be a second or third marriage for many, caregivers should nevertheless be aware of certain aspects that shouldn’t be ignored amidst all the wedding plans and celebrations.

Congratulations to seniors enjoying the romance and vitality of an unexpected late-in-life engagement! Love is a beautiful thing at any age. However, anyone remarrying for the second, or even third time, needs to address their estate planning and financial plans for the future. Pre-wedding planning can make a huge difference later in life, advises a recent article from Seniors Matter titled “Your senior parent is getting remarried—just don’t ignore key areas.”

You should carefully review your will, powers of attorney, healthcare proxy, living will, and any other advance directives. If you have new dependents, your estate planning attorney will help you figure out how your children from a prior marriage can be protected while caring for new family members. Failing to adjust your estate plan could easily result in disinheriting your offspring.

Deciding how to address finances is best done before saying, “I do.” If one partner has more assets than the other, or if one has more debts, there will be many issues to resolve. Will the partner with more assets want to help resolve the debts, or should the debts be cleared up before the wedding? How will bills be paid? If both partners own homes, where will the newlyweds live?

Do you need a prenuptial agreement? This document is critical when significant assets are owned by one or both partners. One function of a prenup is to prevent one partner from challenging the other person’s will and trust. Several trusts are designed to protect loved ones, including the new spouse, the Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust, known as a QTIP. This trust provides support for the new spouse. When the spouse dies, the entire trust is transferred to the persons named in the trust, usually children from a first marriage.

Most estate planning attorneys recommend two separate wills for people who wed later in life. Individual wills make the distribution of assets easier. Don’t neglect to update your Powers of Attorney and any health care documents.

Before walking down the aisle, make an inventory of all accounts with designated beneficiaries if you don’t already have one. This list should include life insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s, investment accounts, and any other property with a beneficiary designation. Make sure that the accounts reflect your current circumstances.

Sooner or later, one or both spouses may need long-term care. Does either of you have long-term care insurance? How would you pay for it if one of you needed to go into a nursing home or have skilled care at home? An estate planning attorney can help you create a plan for the future, which is necessary regardless of how healthy you may be right now.

Once you are married, Social Security needs to be updated with your new marital status and any name change. If a parent marries after full retirement age and their new spouse’s benefit is higher than their own, they may be able to increase their benefits to 50% of the new spouse’s benefits. If they were receiving divorced spousal benefits, those would end. The same goes for survivor benefits if the person marries before age 60. If they’re disabled, they may still receive those benefits after age 60.

Setting up an appointment with an estate planning attorney a few months before a senior wedding is good for all concerned. It provides an opportunity to review important legal and financial matters while giving both spouses time to focus on love’s “business” side.

Reference: Seniors Matter (April 29, 2022) “Your senior parent is getting remarried—just don’t ignore key areas.”