Marriage later in life can be a satisfying and romantic accomplishment, whether it is a first-time event or the rekindling of love after a divorce or death of a spouse.

However, unlike marriage in your 20s, making the commitment in your 50s, 60s or later suggests not so much a Late-in-life marriagewalk down the aisle as finding your way through a maze of decisions about money.

The union of two experienced people illustrates the quandaries of a modern mixed marriage: Whose investment philosophy will we follow and which financial advisor do we keep?

As the saying goes, it’s complicated

Also unlike couples in their 20s, your near or immediate future involves retirement, which complicates things. A Google search for “late-in-life marriage effect on retirement” returns 2.8 million results. Depending on your own circumstances, it might feel like you have discussed a million of those issues ahead of the ceremony.

Before you combine two mature households, which might include children and former spouses, look at all the sources of savings for each person, along with all the beneficiary options for spouses. If this is a second marriage, there could be entanglements with Social Security, pensions, previously purchased income annuities or even long-term care and life insurance.

It means that, while you are starting a new life, many of the arrangements you made in previous years – whether you were married or not — will weigh on your decisions today. You will have to do some re-planning based on your current ages, your individual and combined goals, and perhaps your health status.

Throw in additional questions that need answers:

  • What about survivor benefits for Social Security?
  • If you have two homes, which one will you live in, and will you sell or rent the other?
  • If one of you dies, will the surviving spouse be allowed to live in the house, even if his or her name isn’t on the deed?
  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave to each spouse’s children and grandchildren?

It’s no longer a question of love. You need a lawyer.

Profession guidance to clear up issues

Some advisors suggest that you each hire your own attorney, which might make an agreement easier for your children or grandchildren to accept. Of course, the two of you should try to figure out the broad outlines first and also make sure that marriage, instead of cohabitation, is the best choice for you.

Couples who live together without marrying might have an easier time keeping estates separate. But marriage also protects surviving spouses from state and federal estate taxes on inherited property and other assets.

When you are married, you are responsible for your spouse’s medical expenses. An unmarried partner, however, may not have the legal right to make healthcare decisions for a loved one.

Luckily, you’re not in your 20s anymore. You might have stars in your eyes, but you also have the experience to know that a clear head is an important companion to a full heart. You will persevere and find the answers to all your questions, make the decisions, and continue your new life through retirement.

Have questions about how to meet your retirement objectives? Write to me at Ask Jerry.