The rate of divorce doubled for Americans aged 50 years and older between 1990 and 2009. That was a significant number of baby boomers whose lives had to change drastically from a double income family to a single income or no income unit. Divorce is disruptive at any age, but may be earth shattering after age 50. It points out the need to look post-divorce at estate planning, beneficiary designations, Medicaid planning, and long-term care planning.
A recent study on this rapidly growing trend was written by I-Fen Lin and Susan Brown, of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green University. They found that the increasingly complex composition of marriages, re-marriages, and partnerships was rapidly changing the demographic landscape of the nation. The diversity of today’s family unit sheds a new light on what the graying of America truly means.
It is no longer widowhood that dominates the landscape, as it once did. These days, it is more likely than not that a single senior is a product of divorce. These are the same baby boomers that may have chosen to marry, divorce, and re-marry in their younger years; a factor that will increase the likelihood of a gray divorce later in life. Overall, the conclusions of the researchers indicate that marriage will be less common in the near future for baby boomers, which raises some serious issues with regard to estate planning.
Seniors facing divorce need to be well prepared for the challenges they are about to face: living on their own, with a reduced income. But, there are other issues that a newly-divorced senior would need to address. Those issues include revising their estate plan, examining beneficiary designations, and revisiting health care directives. It goes without saying that these issues are best addressed at the time of a divorce, but that may not always be possible, depending on the circumstances.
There is no doubt newly-divorced seniors face a tremendous uphill battle with significant changes for the future. As estate planning attorneys, we assist clients with putting their financial and legal houses in order, whether they are large or small.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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