In a May-December relationship, one partner is significantly younger, or older, then the other. While these types of relationships are common, they also come with some significant estate planning concerns that both partners need to be aware of. Today we are going to take some time to look at the kinds of issues that people in May-December relationships may need to consider when creating an estate plan of their own.
May-December Relationships and Blended Families
In relationships where one partner is significantly older than the other, the older partner will sometimes have children from previous relationships. At the same time, the younger partner may not have any children. This blending together of different kinds of families and relationships can complicate the estate planning process, which is one reason why it so important for May-December couples to discuss these issues as soon as possible.
For example, the older spouse who has children from a previous relationship may want to create an inheritance plan that leaves much of his or her property to the children. At the same time, the older spouse may also want to leave his or her spouse a significant inheritance as well. There are estate planning devices, such as a QTIP trust, that are ideally suited to this scenario, and which can be used effectively in these kinds of blended family situations, but which require planning and time to integrate into an estate plan.
May-December Relationships and Incapacity Planning
Another key issue in any estate plan is the creation of incapacity planning tools. Whether you are talking about springing powers of attorney, advance medical directives, or anything else, incapacity planning tools allow both partners in a relationship to be secure in the knowledge that, should something happen to one or both of them, someone else will be there to make important decisions on their behalf.
In most situations where married couples are creating capacity planning tools, both spouses typically choose one another for decision-making positions. For example, when spouses create financial powers of attorney they typically name one another as their chosen representatives. This way, should one of the spouses become incapacitated the other spouse will have the legal authority to make financial decisions on the incapacitated spouse’s behalf, and vice versa.
But this equation is not so easy in a May-December relationship. In such relationships the older spouse will often choose the younger spouse as his or her chosen representative, but the younger spouse may not wish to do the same. Because it is much more likely that the older spouse will not be able to represent the younger spouse as time goes on, the younger spouse may need to choose someone younger as a chosen representative, or at least choose the younger person as a capable backup if the older spouse is no longer able to represent the younger spouse’s interests.