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Late-in-Life Marriages and Combining Estate Plans

Finding happiness with someone else at any age is a wonderful thing that we all strive for. However, combining family and finances later in life can be more complicated than getting married in your 20s or 30s. In addition to separate finances a lot of people who marry later in life already have their own estate plan in place. Combining two estate plans into one cohesive set of final wishes can be complicated. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when combining estate plans after a late-in-life marriage.

Talking About Prior Obligations
Older couples can bring prior obligations and debts into the estate planning process. While most financial matters affect the present, some obligations can have a direct effect on the estate planning process. If your new spouse has a reverse mortgage on the home or owes half of his pension to a former spouse it will have a direct impact on what will be inherited from the estate.

Making Decisions about Adult and Minor Children
Late-in-life marriages face further complications when there are minor or adult children involved. In most cases each spouse’s individual estate plan provides for their children, but other questions arise when combining estate plans. Will the new spouse inherit money that would have otherwise gone to the kids? Do all of the children benefit equally from the new estate plan, and should it? Are there other resources in place from a prenuptial or divorce agreement that provide for some children but not for others? All of these questions, and others, need to be addressed when adult or minor children are involved.

Changing All Documents Related to the Estate Plan
Combining estate plans is more than just signing a new will. When going through the process it is also important to revisit all other tangential documents that affect the estate plan. Review beneficiaries for life insurance policies, retirement plans, and other important financial accounts. It is vitally important to review those documents because in estate law the legal titles of beneficiaries usually trump the wishes in a will.

Deciding How Much To Combine
Because late-in-life marriages often come with complicated financial and family matters some couples choose not to combine everything in their new estate plan. If one spouse is already taken care of because of a prior marriage then it may make more sense to leave her out of the will so that the children will inherit more. Similarly, if some children are provided for from a previous marriage, have money in a trust, or are adults that are independently wealthy it may make sense to leave them less in an estate plan in favor of more dependent or minor children.

The most important thing when combining estate plans after a late-in-life marriage is to make sure that everyone in your combined family is taken care of and your final wishes are fulfilled. If you or your new spouse is uncomfortable discussing issues of finances or estate planning, speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney can also help to facilitate this process.

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