New research shows that divorce rates among baby boomers are higher than ever. Couples over 50 were twice as likely to divorce in 2009, than 50+ couples back in 1990.

Stigma of Divorce

Divorce today does not carry the same stigma as it did twenty or thirty years ago. Today, social changes have caused older individuals to accept divorce more willingly than the generation before them. While the divorce rate of baby boomers is on the rise, these older divorcing couples need to be aware of the implications of divorcing at a later age, especially in a long term marriage.

For example, older divorcing couples in a long term marriage need to be aware that spousal maintenance may be awarded to the other spouse, especially if the spouse was a stay at home parent during the majority of the marriage. The spouse paying the maintenance will need to consider how they will pay this obligation under their current budget constraints. In addition, older divorcing couples need to be aware that an equitable property division in a divorce may require that the parties divide retirement accounts, which leaves the owners of these accounts with less than they may have expected at retirement.

Estate Planning

Upon divorce, older couples should also consider updating their estate plans (i.e. wills, powers of attorney, living wills) to reflect this divorce. Under Minnesota Law, upon a divorce, your will is applied as if your ex-spouse is predeceased, even if you have not updated your will to reflect the divorce. Essentially the property that is distributed by your will bypass your ex-spouse and go to your contingent beneficiaries. However, it is good practice to execute a new will to reflect the divorce, to limit future disputes of interpretation of your will.

On the other hand, health care directives (i.e. living wills) and powers of attorney are not automatically changed upon divorce, so that the ex-spouse will remain the designated agent. Divorcing couples should revoke their current powers of attorney and health care directives and execute new powers of attorney and health care directives. Otherwise if the documents remain unchanged, the individual’s ex -spouse has broad access to an individual’s finances and access to make end of life decisions, which is often not an individual’s intent after a divorce.

Why do you think baby boomer divorce rates are so high?

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