Couples who choose to marry later in life have different concerns than those marrying earlier. A good estate planning lawyer can help you make the right decisions for your circumstances. Each situation is a little different, but there are some fairly common topics that should be considered:
- Do the husband and wife have grown children? If so, then the estate plans will likely need to include specific instructions regarding how inheritance will work. This is fairly important to ensure that each biological child and step-child receives what the parent wishes, rather than allowing North Carolina laws to supersede your desires.
- Does each intend to be the beneficiary of the other? Older couples who marry may already have their own plans for their estates, and sometimes these don’t involve one another at all. If spouses do not intend to inherit from one another, they will likely need a prenuptial agreement that clearly spells this out. Without it, spouses will almost always inherit at least a portion of the estate, despite plans that were made to the contrary.
- Who will pay medical expenses? If one spouse becomes ill, it may be the responsibility of the other (usually wealthier) spouse to pay for medical expenses. Again, a prenuptial agreement can help to limit this, although Medicaid rules may supersede a prenuptial agreement.
- Is one spouse widowed? Some older couples today have chosen not to marry because it can stop pension or social security benefits from a previous marriage. This is something that should be carefully explored with your estate planning lawyer.
- Should you have joint accounts? When older couples marry, it is sometimes recommended to keep assets separate. This extends to bank accounts and titles on property. Any assets that are in both spouse’s name can go to the survivor, even if a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise was in place.
When estate planning, older couples may do well by choosing an independent trustee. The passing of a loved one often brings out the worst in people, so naming either your spouse or your child as the trustee can have unexpected negative consequences. Your Cary estate planning lawyer can help you identify a good candidate or even recommend a trust company to keep your trust or will from being ignored or misused.
In addition, the estate planning lawyer can help you uncover other areas of concern that are not obvious at first glance, such as updating legal documents to reflect the new relationship and setting up powers of attorneys, living trusts, etc.