Divorce and Estate Planning
The past few years have seen a trend in the percentage of divorces among baby boomers. The reasons are many, but there’s no denying the unique problems that are presented in divorces among older couples. It also means different dynamics are at play when it comes to retirement planning. Suddenly, what a couple believed when they were 40 may have shifted just ten years later as they set about living as a divorced or remarried person. Divorce and estate planning are rarely seamless transitional efforts. With that in mind, here are a few things you’ll want to strongly consider if it looks as though you may be starting a new chapter that includes divorce and certainly if you’ve remarried.
Not the Retirement You Pictured
If you began making plans in your mid-thirties about what retirement and old age would look like, odds are, your children were still young and perhaps the marriage was solid. It might have never occurred to you or your spouse that there could be stepchildren, new spouses and even step-grandchildren. It’s important to understand the various moving parts – and there are always moving parts in step-families.
Hopefully, any ill feelings as a result of a divorce have already been resolved. If you’ve come to see any stepchildren in the same light as your biological children, odds are, you want to ensure they receive something in your will. That means a heart to heart talk with your biological children. Frankly, we’ve seen clients glide through that important conversation and we’ve seen clients fall apart because of hurt feelings with those biological children. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that you want to be fair and you want to honor all of your children – whether they’re biological or not. The same goes with a new spouse – there could be hurt feelings if a new wife realizes you’re leaving more to your biological children. Add a child you’ve had with your new spouse and things can become even more complicated. The reality is these are tough decisions and they require an honest look at your motives and you may have to ask yourself what’s more important.
The Younger Spouse
This is one of the more complicated realities of second marriages: marrying someone much younger. Want to build resentment with adult kids who learn their stepmother is their age? Force them to wait until the stepparent dies before receiving their inheritance. You can make provisions in your will and estate plan so that your children receive their inheritance right away, versus having to wait and outlive your new spouse.
Frankly, we sometimes encourage clients in those specific situations to let their adult children know that those stipulations have been added into the will. The reason is simple: it can keep resentment down, which means your new spouse and your children have a chance of working past any frustrations.
Another common piece of advice: communicate with your family. It doesn’t have to be a huge family gathering; in fact, many clients prefer to speak to their spouses alone and then meet with their children, especially if they’re adults. This allows both sides the opportunity to speak freely, which is ultimately what you want.
Divorce and Estate Planning Reality
At the end of the day, though, it really does come down to doing what your heart tells you to do. You’ve worked hard and while your first marriage may not have worked out, you do have a lot of great years and hopefully, children who can share those memories with you – just as you’re sharing a new life with a new spouse. Who you leave what to comes down to what makes you happy and what benefits your family as a whole.
Want to learn more about putting together a solid will and estate plan? Our estate planning lawyers stand ready to discuss your situation and help you make the most of your assets and your legacy.