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Remarrying in midlife or old age? 6 tips

You need to discuss finances, adult kids and estate planning before remarrying later in life.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 21, 2013 1:07PM

This post comes from Susan Ladika at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIf you're getting married in your 20s or 30s, your main concerns may be buying a house and starting a family. But if you remarry in your 50s and 60s, you need to pay attention to protecting your house and family financially.

 Senior couple holding champagne flutes, smiling at each other© PhotoAlto/Eric Audras/PhotoAlto Agency RF/Getty ImagesIn 2011, the remarriage rate for those between the ages of 55 and 64 was almost 17%, and for those 65 and older, it was 4.6%, a study by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University found.

As unromantic as it sounds, if you're part of those age groups, you probably have assets, children and grandchildren to think about before you head to the altar.

What are some of the things you should keep in mind before your big day?

1. Talk about yourself -- and your kids

In any good marriage, you need open communication.

Not only should you be prepared to talk about your credit score, credit history, assets and debts, you also should be prepared to bring your kids and grandkids into the conversation. That way you can try to avoid misunderstandings and anger over the financial decisions you make.

2. Not just for the rich and famous

You don't have to be wealthy and powerful to need a prenuptial agreement.

You should each hire your own attorney to represent your interests when negotiating a prenup. By putting all your decisions down on paper, you can avoid legal disputes down the road.

3. Whose home, sweet home?

If you both own homes, you'll have to decide where you want to live.

You might want to move into one person's house and sell the other, or sell both and purchase a home together.

If you move into a home one of you already owns, you’ll have to determine what to do if the person who owns the house dies first. Will the surviving spouse continue to live there? Will it pass on to the owner's children? Will it be sold?

4. Yours, mine and ours

Then you'll need to figure out how to pay the bills.

Will your bank accounts and credit cards remain separate? Will you establish a joint checking account to pay the bills?

You'll also have to decide who will pay what. Will everything be split 50-50? If you're still working, will the spouse with the larger income pay the lion’s share of expenses?

5. Who gets power of attorney?

If you have a power of attorney or health care surrogate, you should discuss who will carry on that role.

Your first instinct might be to change the designated decision maker from an adult child to your new spouse. But you should also consider your spouse’s age and health. Of course, anyone could become ill at any age, but you should give it extra thought before shifting those powers to an older person.

6. Who inherits what?

One spouse probably will die first, so you'll need to discuss who should inherit that person’s money, possessions and property. Typically you'll want to leave assets for your children or grandchildren, while also leaving something for your surviving spouse.

How much your spouse is entitled to inherit will vary from state to state.

  • In many states, it doesn't matter what your will says. A surviving spouse can't be cut out of the will, either intentionally or accidentally, according to
  • Most states allow a surviving spouse to claim one-third to one-half of the estate of the spouse who died. In some states the amount you can claim depends on how long you've been married.
  • In the 10 community property states -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin -- each spouse generally owns half of what either earned during the marriage (unless that's overridden in writing) and can do what they want with their half of the estate.
Rules for how retirement accounts are handled after someone dies can be extremely complex, The Wall Street Journal says. But generally speaking:
  • If you have a 401k, your spouse is generally considered your beneficiary, regardless of who is named as beneficiary for the account.
  • If you want your children to inherit something, moving your money to an IRA might be a better choice.

Take the time to decide how to distribute heirlooms and personal items. There can be plenty of hurt feelings because Grandma's tea set went to your second wife, rather than to your grandchild.

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