A May-December relationship is one in which there is a significant age difference between the partners. In such relationships, planning for future contingencies may be different than it is for couples closer in age. May-December estate plans are not necessarily more complicated than others, but they require looking at certain estate planning situations differently.
May-December Relationships and Inheritances
A key part of any estate plan is inheritance planning. May-December relationships often involve one partner who has children from a previous relationship, and another who does not, or may involve children of significantly different ages. When it comes to planning for inheritances, how do you ensure that children from the previous relationship and the younger spouse both inherit? Or that both sets of children are treated appropriately for their ages? There is no simple answer to this question, but there are common solutions. For example, you might use a qualified terminable interest trust, or QTIP, to ensure inheritances for both parties.
May-December Relationships and Incapacity Planning
Another essential part of estate planning is looking ahead to the possibility of incapacitation. The older spouse in a May-December relationship is more likely to become incapacitated than the younger spouse, but both possibilities must be addressed.
If the older spouse creates an incapacity plan naming the younger spouse as his or her representative, usually there is not a problem. The younger spouse, on the other hand, may want to consider naming someone else who is closer in age since the older spouse may not be capable of representing the younger spouse’s interests if and when age-related declines in ability occur.
May-December Relationships and Estate Settlement
It is common for couples in May-December relationships to experience family discord. When an older man marries a younger woman, the man’s prior children may not get along well with the new wife. This discord is something the couple should consider when making an estate plan.
The presence of pre-existing family conflict can make estate planning much more complicated, but there are practical ways to reduce the problems. A comprehensive plan that addresses all estate planning issues is necessary, but it isn’t always enough. Even if you make choices that are not particularly objectionable or unexpected, it’s usually a good idea to discuss these choices in depth with all family members before you implement your plan.
If you name your spouse as your health care representative under a durable power of attorney, let your children know your decision. Also, discussing any specific wishes about health care choices and end-of-life care is a wise step to take.