What to Ponder Before Remarrying Later in Life
Getting remarried later in life can actually bring about a host of financial and legal issues that are much 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 that can help you solve them.
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 is the best option.
Medical and Long-Term Care
As a married couple, you and your spouse will be 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 remarry and can afford it, consider getting a long-term care insurance policy to protect your assets. See AALTCI.org to help you find one.
If you’re planning on living in your 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.
Getting remarried can also affect your Social Security benefits if you’re divorced, widowed, or are receiving SSI. For instance, getting remarried makes you ineligible for a divorced spouse’s benefits. And getting remarried before age 60 (50 if you’re disabled) will cause widows and widowers to lose their right to survivor’s benefits from their former spouse. For more information, see SSA.gov.
Be aware that if you’re receiving a survivor’s annuity from a public employee’s pension, getting remarried may cause you to lose it. In addition, widows and widowers of military personnel killed in the line of 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 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.
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 your and your partner’s interests.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.
Jim MillerContributing Writer
Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 300 U.S. newspapers and magazines. Jim is also a contributor to NBC’s “Today” show and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens.
Jim is frequently quoted in articles about issues affecting senior citizens and has been featured in numerous national publications, including Time magazine, USA Today and The New York Times. In addition, he has made multiple appearances on CNBC, CNN, Retirement Living Television and national public television. Read more from Jim Miller.