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Friday, May 30, 2014

Helen Mirren glad she waited to marry

I recently read a very brief article at in which British actress Helen Mirren was quoted as saying she was glad she didn't get married at a traditionally young age. Click here to read it. I'm a huge fan of Ms. Mirren, particularly of her work in National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

The article is about their feelings and their maturity, both of which may be considered the cornerstones of marriage. However, when I meet with clients who are marrying or re-marrying later in life, there is a heck of a lot more to talk about than feelings. In fact, a lot of what we talk about sometimes hurts people's feelings!

From the perspective of estate planning, it's important to note the difference between couples who marry at a young age, and couples who marry later in life. One of the big differences is that they may already have children from a previous relationship (which appears not to be the case with Ms. Mirren). The other big difference is that when individuals in their 40s, 50s, 60s, or older marry, they have already built up their own financial worth.

By way of contrast, a young couple starting out together may not have much to start, but they build it over the years with each contributing in one way or another. Many assets will be jointly owned and normally the husband and wife leave each other their estates in their wills. This is a relatively simple matter in many cases.

With older couples who may each have his or her own assets, there is not necessarily an expectation that the full estate will be left to the surviving spouse, particularly if one of them has children.  There has to be a balance struck that adheres to the law that gives a spouse a right to be supported, but that also reflects the fact that the individual may have other responsibilities and wishes beyond the spouse.

Also important is that in a later marriage, one individual may be substantially better off financially than the other.

All of these matters may be addressed in a pre-nuptial agreement, though unfortunately many people still find the idea so unromantic that they won't even consider it. Whether or not pre-nuptial agreements are in place, couples who marry later in life absolutely must sit down with an experienced wills lawyer to talk about their wishes, their responsibilities, and their expectations.

The attached photo of Ms. Mirren and her husband, Taylor Hackford, accompanied the article mentioned above, which is copyrighted by ZoomerMedia Limited.

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