Marrying Later in Life: Do I Need a Prenup?

Welcome to the new singles scene. With the average life expectancy in the United States about 78 years old, people are living longer and healthier lives than ever before and more and more seniors are falling in love. However, what can be a thrilling and romantic time for an older couple can also be an anxious time for family members that have expectations regarding inheritance. It is worth noting that once married, a spouse will automatically inherit, at the very least, a portion of deceased partner’s estate, unless measures are taken to avoid this.

After her husband of 49 years passed away, Louise never thought she would remarry. After six months she met Frank, a man fifteen years younger, who occasionally accompanied Louise to dinner and church. About a year and a half after her husband died, Louise called her daughter, Emily, saying she’d been scoping out wedding venues. Prior to the wedding, Emily pushed that the couple sign a prenuptial agreement. Her mother had considerable assets and she worried that Frank might be after her money. Louise brought the concerns to Frank, who balked at the idea, declaring that their marriage would endure forever. After some discussion, Louise became adamant, wanting to preserve some assets and family property for her children as a condition of the marriage. Ultimately, the prenup was a deal-breaker; Frank was either interested in little more than her wealth or was too hurt to come to turns with the reality of their relationship.

Without a prenup in place, your new spouse could invalidate your previously existing estate plan. For example, suppose Louise intended her home to pass to Emily. With improper estate planning and no prenup, Frank could inherit her house and pass it on to his heirs when he dies. Disinheriting her children would probably not have been Louse’s intention.

One common perception of a prenup is that the agreement entails fear that a marriage will fail. Why draft a prenup if two individuals love and trust one another? Frank may have had these concerns. While a premarital agreement might feel unsatisfying, over one-quarter of senior marriages do end in divorce. With accumulated resources and descendants, a prenup can ensure that a spouse’s separate assets will pass to his or her own loved ones upon marriage dissolution. Though it may not seem fitting with the romance of a wedding, think of a prenup as an open and honest disclosure of both parties’ assets and agreement as to their distribution.

A prenup is not an estate-planning tool and may not take precedence over a will or trust. The married later in life couple must also be sure to implement a solid estate plan to ensure their joint wishes are not undermined by the surviving spouse. To ensure that your prenuptial agreement is valid, it must be in writing, signed voluntarily, read and understood by both parties, disclosures must be open and honest, and the agreement must be fair and not contain illegal provisions. If you have already remarried and did not negotiate a prenuptial agreement, these issues may be resolved with a post-nuptial agreement and through proper estate planning.

Contact Vickstrom Law for more information concerning prenuptial or postnuptial agreements as well as proper estate planning for later in life marriages.

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