Have you noticed the ads for senior dating sites? People are living longer and, in addition to the inevitable fact of becoming a widow/widower, the incidence of divorce over the age of 60 has increased, resulting in an increased pool of single, mature adults. Re-marrying at any point in life has its complications, and re-marrying later in life is no exception, even if the kids are now adults and living independently.
Aside from the problem of gaining acceptance for a stepparent, there are concerns over estates and genuine worries about protecting the lifetime assets that are meant to insure the later years of an aging parent. Seniors who are marrying are often retired and on fixed incomes, relying on their savings to last and see them through any future disability.
We hear from parents whose children are no longer speaking to them, either because they do not like the new spouse, or they are angry over sharing their expected inheritance. We hear from children who are, indeed, upset about the inheritance they expected from their parents or, are now caring for a parent who has been financially crippled by a divorce and has now lost the financial protection they had amassed over a lifetime of work. Amid all of this anger and hurt, there are legitimate concerns and ways to avoid pitfalls and family discord.
Seniors, or those re-marrying at any age, can take steps to protect the assets they have accumulated during their prior marriage. Couples sometimes make assumptions based on their previous experience when they first married and before they had a family. Now they are marrying with their own families in place. This is when the advice of an experienced financial planner and trusts and estates lawyer can help safeguard against future problems for the couple and their heirs. Assets do not have to be combined and maybe should not be; financial arrangements can be put in place that protect them and their assets. Then, consider sharing these plans with the children. Let them know your wishes. It may result in some initial resentment or anger, but can save a lot of trouble down the road for the surviving spouse and families. Think about mediation if you cannot have this conversation alone.
No, parents do not have to live out their retirement years skimping in order to leave inheritances. They should be able to enjoy what they have worked for. Sharing your philosophy and plans, and listening to your children’s concerns and advice, might be the best way to start off a new life together.