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Considerations for Remarrying Later in Life
remarried later in life can actually bring about a host of financial
and legal issues that are much different and more complicated than
they are for younger couples just starting out. Here are some common
problem areas you need to think about, and some tips and resources
that can help.
Estate planning: Getting remarried can have a big effect on your estate plan.
Even if your will leaves everything to your kids, in most states spouses are
automatically entitled to a share of your estate – usually one-third to
one-half. If you don’t want to leave a third or more of your assets to
your new partner, get a prenuptial agreement where you both agree not to take
anything from the other’s estate. If you do want to leave something to
your spouse and ensure your heirs receive their inheritance, a trust may be the
Long-term care: You may be surprised to know that in many states, spouses are
responsible for each other’s medical and long-term care bills. This is
one of the main reasons many older couples choose to live together instead of
marrying. Staying unmarried lets you and your partner qualify individually for
public benefits, such as Medicaid (which pays nursing home costs), without draining
the other one’s resources. But, if you do remarry and can afford it, consider
getting a long-term care insurance policy (see longtermcare.gov) to protect your
Real estate: If you’re planning on living in his house or vice versa, you
also need to think about what will happen to the house when the owner dies. If,
for example, you both decide to live in your home, but you want your kids to
inherit the place after you die, putting the house in both names is not an option.
But, you may also not want your heirs to evict him once you die. One solution
is for you to give your surviving husband a life estate which gives him the right
to live in your property during his lifetime. Then once he dies, the house will
pass to your heirs.
Social Security: Remarriage can also affect the benefits of many divorced or
widowed seniors (especially women) who receive Social Security from their former
spouses. For instance, getting remarried stops divorced spouse’s benefits.
And getting remarried before age 60 (50 if you’re disabled) will cause
widows and widowers to lose the right to survivors benefits from their former
spouse. Remarrying at 60 or older, however, does not affect survivors benefit.
For more information, see ssa.gov/women.
Pension benefits: Widows and widowers of public employees, such as police and
firemen, often receive a pension which they can lose if they remarry. In addition,
widows and widowers of military personnel killed in duty may lose their benefits
if they remarry before age 57, and survivors of federal civil servants that receive
a pension will forfeit it if they remarry before 55. If you’re receiving
one of these benefits, check your policy to see what the affect will be.
Alimony: If you are receiving alimony from an ex-spouse, it will almost certainly
end if you remarry and might even be cut off if you live together.
College aid: If you have any children in college receiving financial aid, getting
married and adding a new spouse’s income to the family could affect what
he or she gets.
To get help with these issues, consider hiring an estate planner who can draw
up a plan to protect both you and your partner’s interests. Also see elderlawanswers.com,
a contributor to this column and a great resource on many other legal topics.
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