If your parent gets “serious” about someone he is dating, you might have mixed feelings. While you do not want your parent to be lonely, new romantic relationships for older adults come with complications that younger couples do not face. When your parent, who has been single, divorced, or widowed, contemplates marriage, you might wonder, can your older parent’s new spouse swipe your inheritance?
The short answer is yes without proper legal planning. The new blushing bride or groom can claim part of the estate, if your parent dies first. The precise percentage of the estate going to the surviving spouse can vary between one-third and over one-half depending upon circumstances.
How Can an Older Adult Protect Her Child’s Inheritance If She Remarries?
There is no way to guarantee your children’s inheritance when you remarry, unless they are under the age of eighteen. Minor children usually have a claim to a portion of a deceased parent’s estate. Once your kids turn 18, however, they do not have an automatic right to inherit from you.
You can sign a prenuptial agreement before getting married and write new wills after you get married, but people have successfully busted prenups and contested wills. They are not written in stone. Once you are gone, your surviving spouse could go back on her word and challenge these documents. If a judge sets aside the will and prenup, the widow could demand her legal share of your estate.
Alabama is unique among states because it’s law allows a spouse to be completely disinherited if your parent’s assets are owned by a living trust that avoids probate. A trust can also be contested just like a Will but it is more difficult than a will and as long as the trust was created when your parent had mental capacity and was under no undue influence it will be upheld.
What Other Fall-Out Can Happen When Seniors Marry?
Older couples have discovered the hard way, that getting married later in life can throw a wrench into more than just inheritance. Remarriage can cause a senior to lose Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Tying the knot can make you ineligible for your former spouse’s pension, Social Security retirement or disability income, and alimony.
More couples over the age of 55 are skipping the altar than ever before. In just the last decade, the numbers have jumped 75 percent. Many are living together as unmarried couples. Some have a ceremony that does not create legal rights.
The financial consequences of remarriage later in life can be severe to the new spouses, their children, and grandchildren. To protect yourself and your family, talk with an elder law attorney in your area. State law will control most issues, and the laws vary from one state to the next. This article discusses the general law.
The New York Times: “When Your Parents Remarry, Everyone Is Happy, Right?” (accessed March 24, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/your-money/parents-remarry-inheritance-children.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FElderly&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection