For seniors enjoying the romance and vitality of an unexpected late-in-life engagement, congratulations! Love is a wonderful thing, at any age. However, anyone remarrying for the second, or even third time, needs to address their estate planning as well as financial plans for the future. Pre-wedding planning can make a huge difference later in life.
Seniors in particular think about remarrying with an understandable degree of concern. Maybe your last relationship ended in a divorce, or there’ve been too many dating disasters. However, according to a recent article from MSN, “Planning to remarry after a divorce? 6 tips to protect your financial future,” there are some steps to take to make relationships easier to navigate and protect your financial future.
Not all of them are easy, but all are worthwhile.
No marrying without a prenup. This document is especially important when there are significant assets owned by one or both partners. One function of a prenup is to prevent one partner from challenging the other person’s will and trusts. But who wants to think about divorce when they’re head-over-heels in love and planning a wedding? No one. However, think of a prenup as about the start, not the end. It clarifies many issues: full financial clarity, financial expectations and clear details on what would happen in the worst case scenario. Getting all this out in the open before you say “I do” makes it much easier to go forward.
Trust…but verify. Estate planning ensures that assets pass as you want. A revocable living trust set up during your lifetime can be used to ensure your assets pass to your offspring. Unlike a will, the provisions of a revocable trust are effective not just when you die but in the event of incapacity. A living trust can provide for the trust creator and their children during any period of incapacity prior to death. At death, the trust ensures that beneficiaries receive assets without going through probate.
Consider life insurance. Life insurance, possibly held in an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT), which allows proceeds to pass tax-free, can be used to provide funds for a surviving spouse or children from a prior marriage. Make sure to review all insurance policies, including life, property and casualty and umbrella insurance to be sure you have the correct coverage in place, insurance policies are titled correctly and premiums continue to be paid.
Estate planning. While you are planning to remarry is a good time to check on account titles, beneficiary designations and powers of attorney. Couples should review their estate plans to be sure planning reflects current wishes. Married couples have the benefit of the unlimited marital deduction, meaning they can gift during their lifetime or bequeath at death an unlimited amount of assets to their U.S. citizen surviving spouse without any gift or estate tax. For unmarried couples, different estate planning techniques need to be used to pass the maximum amount to partners tax free.
Check beneficiaries. After divorce and before a remarriage, check beneficiaries on 401(k)s, pensions, retirement accounts and life insurance policies, Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney documents. If you remarry, a prenup agreement or state law may require you to give some portion of your estate to your spouse, so have an estate planning attorney guide you through any changes. You should also check beneficiaries of life insurance and retirement plans.
Choose trustees wisely. Consider the advantages of a corporate trustee, who will be neutral and may prevent tensions with a newly blended family. If an outsider is named as an executor, or to act as a trustee, they may be able to minimize conflict. They’ll also have the professional knowledge and expertise with legal, tax and administrative complexities of administering estates and trusts.
Some additional considerations for seniors remarrying include open, clear communication with family members about your wishes and ensuring that all documentation created is easy to understand, clear and concise. Make sure to spell out the full names of beneficiaries for wills, trusts and life insurance, and include their birthdates, so it is easy to identify them and they cannot be confused with someone else. Couples entering a second or third marriage need to be transparent about their expectations of what each spouse and the biological children will receive upon their death or in the event of divorce. Furthermore, 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 members of the family. Failing to adjust your estate plan could easily result in disinheriting your own offspring.
Working early on with Las Cruces Elder Law Attorney Michele Ungvarsky can help you map out your wishes clearly and ensure you get the best start to your next marriage. Contact her office to request a consultation.