The number of second or later-life “grey marriages” – where both spouses are baby boomers or older – is growing each year. These unions are typically entered into with great optimism, hoping for a new opportunity to “walk off into the sunset together”.
Senior longevity is also dramatically increasing. A recent AARP article reported that during the 20th century, life expectancy grew by nearly three decades. “We are approaching a time when older adults will outnumber children for the first time in history.” Our longer life span is creating new concerns as long-standing social norms become outdated.
This means more seniors are considering tying the knot again – and again – in an attempt to ensure companionship as long as possible. On the Jan. 16, 2011 episode of Desperate Housewives, Lynette’s elderly mother (played by Polly Bergen) married a grouchy, obnoxious octogenarian (played by Larry Hagman) because “he needs me and you don’t anymore,” as she told her busy career-mom daughter.
Encore-wedding couples face many of the same mundane wedding-related dilemmas as first-timers: money-saving elopement vs. formal ceremony, reception seating challenges, band vs. DJ, and whether a non-virginal bride dares to wear white.
But beyond the “fluff”, seniors face unique challenges not experienced by wedding newbies:
- Developing relationships with children and grandchildren from one or more previous marriages
- Responsibility for paying lifestyle expenses
- Separating vs. co-mingling assets accumulated before this marriage
- Inheritance and estate planning issues between established families
- Wills that acknowledge the new spouse without angering other heirs
- Retirement planning, including lifestyle choices, income sources, residency, travel, and more
- Long-term health care planning for future chronic illness
- Asset disposition in case of a separation or divorce
- Advance directives including durable powers of attorney, living wills, healthcare proxies.
How can an older couple handle this landmine of issues without derailing their wedding march?
The smart solution is fondly known as a “grey pre-nup” – a prenuptial agreement that jointly addresses specifically “grey” (pun intended) issues in addition to those common to all marriages.
Will the attorney listen to the client’s needs in preparing the pre-nup?
The traditional legal model for the preparation of a prenuptial involves one attorney for each party, drafting and redrafting a standard agreement from the attorney’s point of view, not the client’s. The spouses-to-be are not given the opportunity to discuss their individual issues in an open and genuine sharing of ideas. This unpleasant process – for attorneys and clients – often causes misunderstandings, arguments, and in some cases, cancellation of the impending marriage.
Is it possible to write a pre-nup without destroying the couple?
Yes. The new Collaborative approach to prenuptials offers couples a superior option for planning for their upcoming union. A team comprised of a trained Collaborative attorney for each party, plus one neutral family specialist is assembled. In an open, non-litigious manner, the team helps the couple explore each topic on their pre-nup agenda and create mutually acceptable solutions. By engaging in this process, honest and transparent communication becomes the foundation of the couple’s future. Nothing could be better.