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Gray Divorce: Estate Plan!



Though separating from a partner is never easy, the rise of “gray divorce” feels particularly saddening. Whether driven by a lifetime of dissatisfaction or pain, or triggered by a recent disappointment, gray divorce is leaving more older people on their own. Estate law experts share advice about re-thinking estate plans. 

Understanding The Trend: Gray Divorce

The news that overall divorce rates in the United States have been dropping somehow makes the trend of increased divorces among those 65 and older extra heartbreaking.  It’s sobering to consider years–or a lifetime–spent unhappily. Trust & Will shares this summary of the trend:

Gray divorce is a term that was coined to describe the rising increase in divorce rates of older couples in long-term marriages. It is used to refer to divorces that occur at the age of 50 or older, and it is often referred to as the “silver splitter” or “diamond divorce” due to the effect that it has on finances.Although the rate of divorces in the United States is decreasing, gray divorces are continuing to increase. Since the 1990s, the number of divorces that occur among adults 50 years or older has doubled, and the number of divorces among adults 65 and older has tripled. It was discovered in 2015 alone that out of every 1,000 marriages among adults that are 50 years or older, 10 of them divorced, leading many to wonder what has caused such a rise.

According to Forbes, one reason for gray divorce is the rise in life expectancy: “As medicine has improved, so has our overall life span, allowing people more time than they originally planned on. This in turn can cause people to break out of unhappy marriages because they believe they have more time to find true happiness once again.” Finances, including debt, infidelity and debt are also contributing to gray divorce. All life changes make revisiting estate plans important, but divorce in later years is an especially critical time for attending to new arrangements. As attorneys point out, it’s likely best to start from scratch, solo, when it comes to wills and trusts:

Most likely you and your spouse created a joint Will over the course of your marriage that includes all your joint assets and finances. However, a gray divorce poses an issue for your joint Will, as you will be splitting assets between each other. It will be important to create an individual Will for yourself and whatever amount of assets you acquire in your separation.As with your Will, it is common that you…may have created a joint Trust, in which you have named a joint Trustee for various assets. In the event of your divorce, you will need to create a separate Trust and choose your own individual Trustee for your remaining assets.

While focusing on wills and trusts, it’s important not to lose sight of past decisions reflected in other official documents. Neglecting to update health and financial directives can lead to unforeseen challenges down the road. Estate planning experts remind us:

When you are married, it is likely that you named your spouse your Healthcare Power of Attorney within your Healthcare Directive, which means they are the sole person who is allowed to make decisions on your medical needs if you are not capable of doing so yourself. Once you are divorced, you will need to update your Healthcare Directive and choose a new Healthcare Power of Attorney.

A Financial Power of Attorney is responsible for all your finances and bank accounts in the event that you can no longer manage them yourself due to illness or incapacitation. As a married couple, it is probable that you have listed each other as your Financial Power of Attorney, as many of your finances may be the same. It is even possible that you only have joint banking accounts….You will need to name your own Financial Power of Attorney and create separate banking accounts. 

When revisiting an estate plan post-divorce, it’s also vital to attend to the designation of a loved one, friend or professional to serve as your fiduciary. This person may be specifically referred to as an executor, trustee, or personal representative, depending on your circumstances and region. Regardless of the specifics of your estate plan, the fiduciaries you appoint have a legal responsibility to carry out your affairs, in accordance with the intentions set forth in your estate planning documents and the law. When representatives are designated, fiduciary bonds, alternatively referred to as estate bonds, can be required as a safeguard for the interests of the estate and beneficiaries. Learn more about estate bonds right here. At Colonial, a leading national provider of all types of fiduciary bonds, the steps to obtaining estate bonds  and all other types of fiduciary bonds are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even the law office

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