Last week we blogged about the estate planning needs of recently-married couples. The more we thought about it, however, the more we realized that the article really focused on younger people getting married. But what about seniors, or those who get married later in life? Are there specific estate planning concerns then they need to consider?
Absolutely. Today we are going to take a look at what seniors who get married need to do when it comes to estate planning. Many of these issues also apply if, for example, you are not exactly a senior, but you already have children, significant assets, or are otherwise getting married later in life.
Seniors, Families, and Spousal Inheritances
When seniors get married they most often do so after they have already raised or begun the family. Many seniors, for example, get married after they have become divorced, after their spouse has died, or after they have already raised children to adulthood.
Getting married automatically means that you and your new spouse will earn inheritance rights in one another’s property. But what if you don’t want to inherit property from your spouse, or want your spouse to inherit from you? What if you want to make sure that you leave your property to your children, grandchildren, or other family members from a previous relationship?
While you cannot voluntarily disinherit a spouse, spouses can voluntarily choose to refuse the inheritance rights they earn upon marriage. In order to do this successfully, you need to talk to her lawyer about drafting a prenuptial agreement that states your voluntary surrender of your spousal inheritance rights.
Incapacity for Seniors who are Recently Married
In a lot of situations, seniors who get married have health concerns that they need to address when they craft an estate plan. As soon as you get married, your health concerns will automatically become the concern of your spouse. In fact, should one of you become incapacitated, the other might be called upon to make medical decisions on that person’s behalf. But is this what you want? Do you want your new spouse to have the ability to make decisions for you? If not, do you want someone else to be able to make those choices?
You have to answer these questions on your own, but you need to craft advance medical directives that explicitly state what your choices are. In some situations, for example, seniors choose their adult children, close advisors, or others as their medical representatives. At the very least, naming younger people who will be able to make decisions as alternative representative sin the event both you and your spouse become incapacitated or die at the same time is absolutely essential.
Parman & Easterday