Getting married after you’ve put a few miles on, is very different than when you are fresh out of the gate. Resolving legal issues before the wedding, can alleviate many common marital issues.
There are admittedly challenges when people decide to get married after fifty. There are also many myths, as reported by Forbes in “6 Money Myths About Marrying After 50.” If you or your intended has children from a prior marriage, there are added complications that need to be addressed.
1: Prenups Are Just for The Rich and Famous. This is not true. If you’ve been married before and have children from a previous relationship, a prenuptial agreement is important to ensure that your assets will pass to your children from the prior marriage. What about a first-time marriage? There still might be a need for a prenup, especially if you own significant assets. Don’t think of a prenup as preparing for divorce, but rather more like writing your will. If you don’t have your affairs in order, the state will decide for you—just like dying without a will. After age 50, the focus of a prenup should be on protecting your children and grandchildren. For instance, some states allow a surviving spouse to claim his or her “elective share”, instead of what’s in the decedent's will. A prenup allows your spouse to waive the elective share. That means the odds are that your estate plan won’t be challenged by your surviving spouse.
2: Don’t Talk Estate Planning with Your Stepfamily. Estate planning is critical when you have children from an earlier marriage. Otherwise, your entire estate could pass to your new spouse and not to your own children. Have a candid discussion about your estate planning and prenup with your adult children and your new spouse. This will alleviate some of the concerns adult kids may have about how it will affect their inheritance, when their parent gets remarried.
3: Holding Assets Jointly Is Always Preferable. Long before getting married, couples should decide on whether they want to have separate or joint accounts and if one will sell his or her current home. If one of you sells their home, will the deed to the house you live in be changed to reflect joint ownership? It is best to have these discussions before the wedding ceremony.
4: Your New Spouse’s Debt Won’t Impact You. This is a big one. Marrying a person with a large amount of debt, whether it’s college loans or credit card debt, can be a major issue in second marriages. Therefore, spouses should be upfront and candid about their debts before marrying. That way they can plan how to address the debt.
5: It Always Makes Financial Sense to Get Married. This is not always true. It depends on your personal and financial circumstances. Tying the knot may reduce your Social Security benefits, especially if you didn’t work while you were married the first time and can claim spousal benefits that are much higher than your own Social Security benefits. If you have an ill or disabled partner on Medicaid, then you might want to stay unmarried so he or she can to continue to qualify for benefits. The combined marital income might make your partner ineligible for Medicaid.
6: Being Married Means Your Spouse May Automatically Make Medical Decisions on Your Behalf. This is one of the things you really want to take care of before you need it. The only way to be sure that your new spouse can make medical decisions for you, is by having a Health Directive drafted and executed that details your wishes regarding end-of-life care. This is something to address when you don’t need it, and both of you should have this. It’s part of a number of documents that you should have prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney when you sit down to update your wills and other legal documents.
One final note: blended families do better when there is a lot of communication between parents, step-parents, kids and step-kids, whether the kids are in elementary school or grown adults with kids of their own.
Reference: Forbes (February 13, 2017) “6 Money Myths About Marrying After 50”