This article considers the not uncommon situation where a senior falls in love with another senior and decides to marry. Both spouses have accumulated assets and have children. One or both may have divorced a spouse and have children and stepchildren. Both have families with financial expectations in relation to the property accumulated during the lifetime of their parents, and one or both prospective spouses may have interests in a family business. To complicate matters, both prospective spouses know that they will be responsible for the expenses of caring for the other spouse as their physical needs increase: assisted living, nursing homes, medications and assistive devices and therapies. Both spouses know that these expenses will come sooner than later. How can the prospective spouses ensure that their financial affairs will be predictable and not disrupt the family?
A prenuptial agreement (marriage contract) can help alleviate many family concerns by having each of the parties waive all rights to inherit a spouse’s property. In addition, the parties can waive any obligation to split assets in the event of divorce, and they can waive the right to spousal support. The agreement can also detail who will be responsible for paying what costs — such as assisted living or nursing home fees.
The spouses would be prudent to review their wills and estate planning instruments to ensure that everything has been properly disclosed to the other spouse, and to ensure that the marriage contract, wills, estate planning instruments etc. are consistent with the parties’ wishes.
- Planning is necessary at any age when entering into a cohabitation or marriage agreement. It is even more important for older couples who have accumulated more assets, have more children with expectations, may have interests in family businesses, and who are facing significant increases in (health) care costs in the not so distant future.
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