Gray Divorce continues to be on the rise in America. A so-called “Gray Divorce” occurs when couples over the age of fifty, including many senior couples, agree to end their marriages later in life. Sadly, Gray Divorce numbers have been steadily increasing for the past several decades, and they come with their own specific challenges.

According to the Pew Research Center, many such divorces involve second marriages and short marriages, but a significant amount occur among couples who have been married for thirty years or more. Beyond the unfortunate nature of these separations, and the tremendous emotional costs involved, a number of practical considerations arise. These may include, but are not limited to, how to address and protect a formerly shared estate and the plan for retirement accounts.

Managing your estate, especially in light of divorce, should never be undertaken lightly. You should consider meeting with your estate planning attorney before your divorce is finalized. Seeking guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney can be key, as he or she can help determine your options and help you proceed accordingly.

Make sure to obtain copies of all relevant legal, financial, and insurance documents once the divorce is imminent. These documents should identify named beneficiaries, whether an account or property has a single owner or shared status, and the details of any existing estate planning items, if applicable.    

If your soon to be ex-spouse is the designated beneficiary on your retirement account or life insurance policy, for example, you may want to change this immediately. If there is a shared status on other estate assets, then these items may need to be negotiated.

Failure to take these initial steps may result in benefits being paid to your aggrieved spouse leading up to your divorce, and even after a divorce is finalized, regardless of who is named in your last will and testament or revocable trust. Remember, a couple is still considered married until a divorce is legally finalized.

A divorce requires all kinds of decisions that separating partners, particularly those married a long time, may not have previously thought about. Especially for seniors, there needs to be a discussion about planning for your future as it relates to long-term care as well. An experienced attorney, who understands both estate planning and elder law, can help you think these things through.

Do not wait to contact us to schedule a meeting. There is no time to waste, especially when it comes to long-term financial stability and leaving behind your hard-earned assets to your loved ones.