Older adults are meeting, dating, and marrying new love interests at rates never seen before. Perhaps because of longer life expediencies and changing social norms, about 67% of previously married adults ages 55 to 64 are remarried (to a second, third, or subsequent spouse) according to Pew Research. Being partnered can increase life satisfaction and decrease isolation, but it is not without its risks.
The pros and cons of marriage later in life, though, should be considered very carefully.
Marriage changes your estate plan. In Georgia, the new spouse has rights as an heir and as a healthcare agent automatically. So, you may want your children to still be the sole heirs of your estate, but your new spouse could have rights to claiming some of your assets after your death. Likewise, you may not want your new spouse making your healthcare decisions for you. But a marriage makes any previous appointments of healthcare agents through the advance directive null and void. Your new spouse will have rights to being your healthcare agent until you make a new advance directive. It is important to review your estate plan after getting married to ensure that wishes will still be in effect.
Marriage widens your financial assets and liabilities. When older adults marry, they combine all that they have, all that they will have, and all that they will need into one pot. For couples with disparate assets, resources, and expenses (either current or future), this can cause major problems. A woman with a high networth marries a loving man with limited resources. He brings her happiness and joy for 3 years, and then he develops Alzheimer’s disease. She is then faced with the dilemma of spending her life’s savings on his needs, a man she has been committed to for a very short time.
Marriage could open you up to fraud. Although painfully sad to imagine, there are a growing number of “Sweetheart Scammers.” According to the FTC, “in 2018, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams — a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC. The median reported loss was $2,600, and, for people over 70, it was $10,000.” Recent widows or isolated older adults are more vulnerable to these romance scams, and little can be done to recover the lost monies if the individuals are married.
Not all late-life marriages are a bad idea. Some offer true love, companionship, and symbiotic partnerships. Marriage at this life phase should be carefully considered. It’s not always a bad idea to cohabitate and to keep your financial life separate.
When making these big decisions, it may be wise to have a consultation with your estate planning or elder law attorney and your financial advisor. These professionals can help you weigh the risks and benefits before jumping into a new marriage. And a Daily Money Manager, like those at Senior Partners, can help you get organized and get your paperwork together for these meetings. Having an organized, thorough picture of your situation to show your advisors can help them give you the best advice.
To learn more about Senior Partners, please give us a call at (678) 278-8410 or schedule an appointment here.