Finding love later in life may be unexpected and exciting, but should it lead to marriage?

The considerations are much different for an
older couple with adult children and retirement plans than for a young couple
just starting out. Before deciding whether to get married or just live
together, you need to look at your estate plan, your Social Security benefits,
and your potential long-term care needs, among other things. Whatever you
decide to do, you may want to consult a lawyer to make sure your wishes will be
carried out.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Estate
    Planning
    . Getting married can have a big effect on your
    estate plan. Even if you don't include a new spouse in your will, in most
    states spouses are automatically entitled to a share of your estate. One
    way to prevent a spouse from taking his or her share is to enter into a
    prenuptial agreement in which both spouses agree not to take anything from
    the other's estate. If you want to leave something to your spouse and
    ensure your heirs receive their inheritance, a trust may be the best
    option.
  • Long-Term
    Care
    .
    Trusts and prenuptial agreements, however, won't keep a spouse from being
    responsible for your long-term care costs or vice versa. In addition,
    getting married can have an effect on your or your spouse’s Medicaid
    eligibility If you can afford it, a long-term care insurance policy may be
    a good investment once you remarry.
  • The
    Family Home
    . Whether you are getting married or just
    living together, before combining households you will need to think about
    what will happen to the house once the owner of the house dies. If the
    owner wants to keep the house within his or her family, putting the house
    in both spouse's names is not an option. On the other hand, the owner may
    also not want his or her heirs to evict the surviving spouse once the
    owner dies. One solution is for the owner of the house to give the
    surviving spouse a life estate. Once the surviving spouse dies, the house
    will pass to the original owner's heirs.
  • Social
    Security
    . Many divorced or widowed seniors receive
    Social Security from their former spouses, and remarriage can affect
    benefits. If you are divorced after at least 10 years of marriage, you can
    collect retirement benefits on your former spouse's Social Security record
    if you are at least age 62 and if your former spouse is entitled to or
    receiving benefits. If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits
    on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends (whether by
    death, divorce, or annulment). However, if your are a widow, widower or
    surviving divorced spouse who remarries after age 60, you are entitled to
    benefits on your prior deceased spouse's Social Security earnings record.
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