A number of our friends who’ve been divorced or widowed for a few years seem to be getting married all of a sudden. It’s like an epidemic. We’re both a bit puzzled as we feel there must be a heck of a lot more things to consider before tying the knot when you’re over the age of 60. (Not to say there isn’t if you’re under the age of 60, but that’s not what we want to talk about!)
So, You’re Deciding to Partner up at This Stage in Life?
It’s tricky enough for younger people to consider getting married, and they haven’t usually got a whole lot of ‘baggage’ attached to them – yet. But most of us over 60 do! And we’re not just referring to the emotional or physical. We mean capital assets, children and grandchildren, and possibly a complex financial profile as well. Now double all that by joining hands with another full family and everything that comes with them and, well it can get complicated. It’s hard enough doing it in your 30s and 40s for a first or perhaps a second time, but to do it in your 60s, 70s or even in some cases (like my own mother, for the 3rd time) in your 80s? Yeesh!
Lots to think about, is our guess.
The saying goes that love is blind, so make sure you’re being clear-eyed about your new relationship and all the complications it might include. Usually, a late in life marriage includes a whole bunch of other people for starters, and a whole bunch of other complications (both good and not-so-good). Where to start?
Your Money & Theirs
You probably have some financial assets: a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or a RRIF, maybe a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), some non-registered savings and investments. Or the opposite: debts. Most likely your intended does, too. How will you both manage these items? You still need to plan properly to protect your assets.
You may wish to consider a prenuptial agreement, which spells out your wishes and stipulations when it comes to your personal assets. Usually both parties come to a marriage or common law living arrangement with each bringing their respective financial resources. You’ll want to be very transparent with one another when it comes to sharing those resources—and you should do this well before you tie the knot. For example:
- How will you share income, savings, and bills?
- How many of your financial decisions will be made jointly?
- If there’s a disparity in resources, how much will each partner contribute to living expenses?
- Consider a joint bank account for joint expenses.
- Before you wed or move in together, discuss any debts with your partner. You both need to be upfront and honest – lay out all your assets, savings, and liabilities.
- Review credit reports and scores, as well. Carrying debt can become a bone of contention when it comes to a healthy, happy marriage or partnership.
Your Home & Theirs
Perhaps you both own your own homes. Maybe one or both of you rent. Maybe there’s a vacation property or two involved. Perhaps a cottage that’s been in the family for generations. How do you see these issues panning out? Will you be willing to sell or rent out yours to move into theirs or vice versa?
What about all the stuff? Can you both accommodate years of each others’ stuff in one or the others’ existing home or in a new home together?
Discuss what legal steps need to be taken (revising your legal Will, POA documentation and estate plans) to ensure your property and personal assets are protected/distributed (according to your wishes) in case of divorce or death.
Your Health & Theirs
Are you prepared to support your new partner in life for the rest of their life when it comes to their health? As we age, all sorts of medical conditions can arise. Marriage, as we are all aware, is supposed to encompass, among other vows, “In sickness and in health.” Are you prepared to do that? Would you be prepared and willing to finance extra medical care, or perhaps a nursing home in the event your partner becomes gravely ill or incapacitated?
Your Children/Grandchildren & Theirs
Be prepared for your grown-up children to voice their opinions on the viability of your decision to marry or find fault with your choice of partner. Kids can be very protective, maybe even feel threatened as well, if you decide to replace their parent (alive or deceased) with another. You need to consider how they feel about you making a match as well as other responsibilities that come with an instant new family.
- They may feel their inheritance could be at risk or in jeopardy. An estate planning lawyer can help you both create estate plans that protect either party’s children, and which also provides for either spouse.
- What role will you and your partner play in the lives of one another’s children, or grandchildren?
- Do you want to take on grandchildren if you’ve never had any, or more, if you do?
- How about financing to provide for things like education or other expenses to do with their upbringing?
(Not) All You Need is Love
The Beatles may have had it right when we were young and we believed love was truly all you needed. But, as you can see, there’s lots to consider when it comes to pairing up later in life. The best advice is to deal with as many issues as you can before you take the plunge. Try to be as upfront as possible and you’ll find it will go a long way in helping you both have an enjoyable, loving and long-lasting life.