Should You Remarry?

After the end of a long-term marriage, you should not rush into remarriage.  Certainly you should seek competent legal counsel before remarrying.

Fear of loneliness drives many people to remarry.

A woman I know found herself widowed but in sound financial circumstances.  She soon remarried.  Her new husband dissipated her estate, on himself, and to pay his debts.  If withdrawals were made from her first husband’s 401(k) account, and income taxes were not paid on the withdrawals, then the woman owes that income tax, and penalties and interest. I have heard of other such second marriages.  The woman’s second marriage ended in divorce.

Before remarrying you should consider the following:

  1. Second marriages are far more likely to end in divorce than first marriages.  67-80% of second marriages end in divorce, as compared to 41-50% of first marriages.
  2. If your second marriage ends in divorce, or you die while remarried, your spouse will have a claim to your estate, except as limited by an effective prenuptial agreement.
  3. If your spouse dies, and you remarry before reaching age 60, then you will not be entitled to Social Security benefits based upon your deceased spouse’s earnings record, unless your second marriage is annulled or terminates.
  4. Your right to receive Veterans Administration Dependency & Indemnity Compensation with respect to a person who died in military service or as a result of military disability terminates upon your remarriage before reaching age 57 (remarriage before age 55 in the case of  medical benefits), but is restored upon termination of the remarriage by death, divorce, or annulment.
  5. Your right to receive Veterans Administration survivor’s pension benefits with respect to a deceased spouse terminates upon your remarriage.

The woman mentioned above has a new male companion.  They have not married.    The woman retains control of her remaining financial assets, and her home.  It appears her new companion loves her, is not after her property, and is fine with this arrangement.  If the couple decide to go their separate ways, or the woman dies, her male companion will have not have a claim to her assets.  She does not have to allow her male companion’s children into her life if she does not want to.  Remaining single clearly is in the woman’s financial best interests. The woman needs her own estate plan, if she does not have one.

If the woman does remarry, she should do so only with after receiving legal counsel on it.  She needs to know the effect of remarriage upon her retirement benefits, including her Social Security retirement benefit.  She also needs an enforceable prenuptial agreement in effect with her new husband.    In entering into the prenuptial agreement, the parties should be represented by separate counsel experienced in prenuptial agreements in that jurisdiction.    The parties should fully disclose their assets and liabilities to each other.  A prenuptial agreement specifies the parties’ rights in their property in the event one of them dies, an action is filed to dissolve their marriage, or they are no longer living as husband and wife.   If the woman encounters resistance from the man on a prenuptial agreement or full disclosure of his assets and liabilities, she should not proceed with the marriage.  The spouses also need separate estate plans, drawn by separate counsel.

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Stephen J. Dunn

Tax and Estate Planning Attorney and Author