Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Marrying after 60? Five steps to keep your kids happy and give you both peace of mind

"Embrace each other with love, smiles and warm hug." -- Lailah Gifty Akita, author, "Think Great: Be Great." 

Editor's note: First published at Earlier version at, click here. 

By Julia Anderson

The recent marriage of long-time public radio host, DianeRehm, was written up in the Washington Post with the attention to detail that big weddings in big cities receive.

Coverage focused on the flowers, her dress, the post-ceremony dinner party and their love story. Rehm, 81, married John Hagedorn, 78, in a ceremony described as “traditional, serious and formal” by the Post’s Style Section writer, Roxanne Roberts. After falling in love with all the passion of 20-year-olds, Roberts reported that the couple decided to marry even though some friends asked why.

Rehm’s response? Living together “wasn’t me.”

For many of us who fall in love after age 60 and wish to share a hopeful future, marriage is important. So, we stand before a judge or minister with our friends and say, “I do” with full knowledge of what “richer or poorer” or “in sickness and in health” might mean.

The Post story was all about the event, not the nuts and bolts of getting married after 60. We would call in a financial writer to tackle that report. But no doubt, estate planning was an important part of the Rehm-Hagedorn match-up. As it should be.

A bit of long-term estate planning, experts say, will make all the difference to your adult children who may wonder about the man you’re marrying and what happens to their inheritance, if you die before he does.

These FIVE STEPS will help avoid worry, now, and possible confusion down the road.

Step one: Put a prenuptial agreement in place that spells out what assets will be held separately by each of you. Do you have tax-deferred retirement funds that when you die should go to your kids rather than to your surviving spouse? How about stock investments? Do you own real estate that will be held separately for your heirs? Is there separate debt? Shared debt? How will that be handled?

If one of you sells a house does the house that you plan to live in together remain a separate asset? What will you jointly own? Your vehicles, a vacation home that would pass to the surviving spouse?

All these questions can be answered with a prenup.

Step two: Update your separate wills to align with the prenup. Also designate who you would want to hold your durable power of attorney, if you or your spouse becomes incapacitated. Name the executor of your estate. Update the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts.

Step three: Buy term life insurance on each other for at least for 10 years. This coverage provides a financial cushion for a surviving spouse while the bulk of each estate goes separately to your heirs. 

Step four: Put together a list of tangible assets. Jewelry, works of art, important furniture. Explain what items you would like your new spouse to continue to enjoy if you precede him in death.  Spell out how you would like the rest of separate tangible assets dispersed at your death and/or his death. This way everyone knows who gets what and when. The list and instructions bring clarity and peace of mind to your future together.

Step five: Some time after the dust settles hold a family money meeting. Tell your children about your financial plans. Explain the prenup and how it will work when one of you dies. Mention the tangible asset distribution list and how that would work. (DO NOT hold this family money meeting after a holiday dinner when everyone has had a few drinks. Instead make it a separate but important meeting where everyone has a chance to ask questions, digest the information.)

 During the meeting listen to feedback, answer questions but stay in charge. Spell out the plan. Explain that this is how the two of you want things to be settled when one of you dies.

Revisit these plans every three years to make sure your wills and other instructions are up-to-date. Is Susie still the one you want in charge of your finances when you are in the care facility?

As for Diane Rehm and John Hagedorn, the only hint we have of their advance planning is that they will keep their own names and maintain separate homes in Washington D.C. and in Florida. 

For more on prenuptial agreements and late-in-life marriages, visit these web sites:

“Why you’re more likely to have a prenup than your parents were” - Washington Post.

“Who Says Prenups Aren’t Romantic?” -  Wall Street Journal

"After the Loss of a Spouse, There is no Right Amount of Time Before Moving On," -  Wall Street Journal

More couples are saying “I do” to prenuptial agreements” -  Seattle Times

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