The wine dwindles down
To a precious brew
And these few vintage years
I’d share with you
These vintage years I’d share with you.
September Song, Kurt Weill (composer) and Maxwell Anderson (lyrics)
“Daniel was 82 and I was 80 when we married. He was the love of my life and I was his. We chose this song and this version to be played at our wedding. We had 559 beautiful, glorious and golden days together, the happiest of my life and, I hope, his.” Edwinna.
This article is about senior love, marriage, and the romance of your legal estate documents. Right up there with candle-light dinners and diamond rings, right? You were going to get flowers for your valentine, and here are lawyers suggesting marital agreements and other estate documents. Typical. But hear us out.
Harold and Marsha (a composite of the many couples that walk into an elder law attorney’s office) met on an Alaska cruise, fell in love, and decided to spend the rest of their lives together.
Marriage for those over 50 is surprisingly common, and most often these are second or third marriages. Harold and Marsha are proof that affairs of the heart are just as powerful at 50 or 80 as they are when we are in junior high school. What sets Harold and Marsha apart from their younger counterparts is that they enter the institution of marriage with a lot of proverbial “baggage,” for lack of a better term. They each have grown children, retirement accounts, real estate, and previous spouses. Sometimes the previous spouses have passed away, other times they are still alive and receiving spousal maintenance or assets that were awarded to them in a divorce.
This time around, Harold and Marsha are hoping to be wiser and to make sure that they can simply just focus on each other. They anticipated the one part of their wedding vows that most of us like to think about only for a fleeting moment – “til death do us part.”
Harold and Marsha understand that Washington State is one of nine community property states in the country. This means that all assets acquired after the date of marriage, as well as all income brought into the marital community are deemed to be community property. Separate accounts and property mean nothing in a community property state, unless such property was acquired before marriage, or after marriage by gift or inheritance. In the event of death, without appropriate estate planning documents, all community property passes to the surviving spouse and all separate property is divided equally between the spouse and children. This is the division of assets pursuant to intestate succession, which is not always what couples want.
Ideally, Harold and Marsha come to see us before they tie the knot, at which point we would recommend a prenuptial agreement and estate planning documents. You may think to yourself that only a lawyer would find a prenuptial agreement romantic. But a prenup simply helps to cement the foundation of every good marriage: trust, respect, and love. During the course of establishing a prenuptial agreement, both spouses must disclose all financial assets, along with any foreseeable issues that may come up in estate planning. These documents help to establish their own personal goals of taking care of their children and as well as new spouse.
Popular culture has us thinking that prenuptial agreements are simply about anticipating a divorce. To our Harold and Marsha, they are not. They are about long term care planning, inheritance, security, and ultimately about love. These agreements, along with other estate planning tools are a gift couples can give to each other, and to their families.
The legal details now behind them, what did Harold and Marsha do next? They went on another cruise of course, this time to Greece. “Look out world, here we come!”
And the days dwindle down
To a precious few
And these few precious days
I’d spend with you…
— By Ralph Sanders and Roxana Florea, Esq. Sanders Law Group