Things to do Before Saying “I Do”

Are you planning to get married? Before the wedding bells ring, it's important to discuss the practical aspects of merging your lives.
Storytelling image of a multiethnic senior couple in love - Elderly married couple dating outdoors, love emotions and feelings

If you are a mature single woman in the market for a husband, do not despair. Late-life marriages are on the rise. A recent study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research shows the number of marriages of people over fifty has actually doubled since the 1990s.

While getting married is an occasion for celebration, it can also force you to make tricky financial and legal decisions and tackle issues involving children, assets, housing, and retirement. So before you tie the knot, it’s important to tie up some less romantic details so you can avoid some problems down the road.

Discuss Finances

Serious caucasian old elderly senior couple grandparents family counting funds on calculator, doing paperwork, savings, paying domestic bills, mortgage loan, pension at home using laptop.

While marriage over fifty is a glorious thing, it can affect every area of your financial life. Having all the details worked out before you walk down the aisle will prevent the money train from derailing. When you are of a certain age, you may have more in the way of assets and income, but you could also have more financial baggage. Transparency about your financial situation is crucial to forming a trusting relationship. You each should disclose information about your assets and debts as well as credit reports and scores. Compare investing strategies and portfolios. Review any divorce agreements and discuss spousal support.

Then it’s time to discuss how you’d like your financial relationship to function moving forward. Will financial obligations and bank accounts be shared once you’re married? Determine household spending and make a realistic budget. Discuss contingency plans for unforeseen circumstances. What happens if one loses their job? What happens if one of you is no longer able to work?

Finally, make sure to update your tax information, determine your filing status, and update your name and benefit status with the Social Security Administration.

Consider a Prenup

Retirement planning at home. Cheerful senior couple smiling happily while looking at a laptop screen. Happy mature couple researching their retirement options together.

Some of you may have accumulated significant assets by this point in your life. And if you’ve been married before, there’s a chance there are children and grandchildren involved. Therefore, you may want to speak with your attorney to ask if he or she can draw up a prenuptial agreement in order to avoid problems down the road.

In a marriage, assets and income usually become communal property and are shared by both parties—even if they’re held in one person’s name. But debt, too, can be considered community property. A “prenup” is a document, signed by both parties, that spells out how assets (and debt) should be split if a marriage fails or a spouse dies. It can also help determine what will be left for each of your respective families. So, rather than thinking you’re preparing for divorce, think of a prenup as a way to ensure your money and property will pass to your offspring, making your children and other dependents feel more comfortable about your soon-to-be husband’s intentions.

Talk About Will and Estate Planning

One of the most uncomfortable discussions you need to have is the one about your death. If you haven’t made estate plans already, now is the time to do so. And if you already have those plans, now is the time to update them, factoring in your new partner.

Proper estate planning will make sure your family’s financial needs and wishes are taken care of after you die, and is especially important if there are children from previous relationships involved. Otherwise, your entire estate could pass to your new spouse and not to your own children. Grown kids are sometimes wary of their parents getting remarried because they are concerned about how it will impact their inheritance. Have a frank conversation with your soon-to-be spouse and your adult children, and hire an estate attorney. 

Plan an Advance Care Directive

Don’t assume your new husband can make your medical decisions should you become unable to do so. Without a legal directive that spells out your wishes (aka advance care directive) your children and husband could very well end up at odds at an already challenging time.

Establish Your Dealbreakers

What behaviors can you put up with in a relationship, and which are dealbreakers? Towels on the floor? Dishes in the sink? Determine, however loosely, who will take on which household responsibilities. 

Plan for Retirement

Senior couple for Christmas at home. They are standing in front of kitchen window and drinking tea or coffee.

You want golden years full of travel and romance. He wants to work until he drops. You want to stay in California for the grandkids. He wants to move to Florida for golf. He wants Leisure World. You’d rather die first. Having a candid conversation about retirement—when, where, and whether or not you can afford it—is a must.

In the end, none of these things should signal the end of your relationship. It is important to have these difficult conversations, and it’s best to have them when you are of sound mind and aflutter with compassion and commitment. Along with age comes wisdom. Let’s not be blinded by love and romance. Let’s put the wisdom to work now and save the good stuff for the honeymoon and beyond.

Read More:

7 Tips for a Successful Second Marriage

Second Act: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

For the Love of Younger Men


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