It is heartwarming to see seniors engage in late-in-life romance. That being said, getting married for second or third time have significant financial and estate planning considerations. Planning before the wedding can make a significant difference later in life.
At a minimum, a careful review of the key documents any senior should have included a will, powers of attorney, healthcare proxy, living will and any other advance directives that might be in place.
To inadvertently avoid disinheriting your own offspring, a careful estate plan must be in place. If your marriage includes new family members from an earlier generation, an estate planning attorney will help you assure that all parties are protected.
Finances are another matter. If one partner has more debts than the other or more assets there will be issues to resolve. Will the partner with more assets be willing to absorb the debts of the other partner? Or can the debts be settled before the wedding? Do the to-be-weds both own real estate assets? In whose home will they live?
Then there is the issue of a prenuptial agreement. This is critical when one or both partners own significant assets. One key purpose of a pre-nup is to prevent one partner from challenging the other person’s will and trusts. This is a key document to be discussed with your estate attorney.
It is generally recommended that the parties to the marriage have separate wills. It makes the distribution of assets easier.
Another key consideration is to have the beneficiary designation updated on all accounts that have designated beneficiaries. This might include life insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s, investment accounts and any other property with a beneficiary designation.
Sooner or later, one or both spouses may need long-term care. Does either party have long-term care insurance? If one of the parties needed to go into a nursing home or have skilled at-home care, how would be paid for? An estate planning attorney can help create a plan for the future, which is necessary regardless of how healthy you may be right now.
After the wedding, Social Security needs to be updated with the 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 will 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 a good idea for all concerned. It provides an opportunity to review important legal and financial matters, while giving both spouses time to focus on the “business side” of love.