Dec 2015

How a “Gray Divorce” Can Affect Your Estate Plan

Estate Planning & “Gray Divorces”

Although the New York Times reported overall divorce rates have declined in recent years, the divorce rate for people over age 50 has increased significantly. Termed “gray divorce” by social scientists at Bowling Green State University, the trend can seriously impact a person’s estate plan.

Since 1990, the divorce rate among people age 50 and above has doubled. When asked why older couples are divorcing at such a higher rate, researchers point to several factors, including longer lifespans, healthier retirement years, and evolving societal attitudes toward divorce.
Whereas divorce was frequently seen as a stigma even two decades ago, people today are much less likely to view divorce as a failure or a moral issue. Instead, it is generally seen as a reasonable decision for two adults who are no longer compatible.

Revising Your Estate Plan

On the other hand, divorce later in life can put tension on your finances. According to one New York Times article, “… divorce can contribute to economic strain and poor health, placing a larger burden on children and, given shrinking family size, on institutional support from government and other sources.”

Divorce is usually disruptive for a couple at any age. When you are over 50 and nearing retirement, however, it can be financially devastating, severely affecting personal estate planning. Splitting up the marital home, dividing retirement plans, and cutting your assets in half will wreak havoc on anyone’s retirement goals. Divorce in your golden years is even more complicated if you and your spouse have a blended family.

Estate planning issues in a gray divorce can include:

  • Revising your retirement investment strategies. You may need to adjust your lifestyle goals or access retirement funds sooner than you thought.
  • Making adjustments for changes in Social Security benefits.
  • Updating beneficiary designation forms.
  • Modifying a will and other estate planning documents to provide for children and other loved ones.
  • Designating new individuals to serve as executor, trustee, agent, and in other important roles.
  • Planning for health care coverage and long-term care.

Estate planning requires careful and thorough planning. If you are ending a marriage in your 50s, 60s, or beyond, it is crucial to update and revise your estate plan to reflect the changes brought about by your divorce.

Springfield, Missouri Estate Planning Law Firm

At the Law Office of Randy L. Smith, LLC, we help people create estate planning documents that provide peace of mind. Call today at (417) 841-2775 to speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer about your case.