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Starting Over at 50: Don’t Let Gray Divorce Ruin Your Estate Plan

If you've gone through a divorce late in life, there are a number of steps you'll need to take to re-establish your estate plan. Read our guide here.

Going through a divorce can be a difficult and isolating experience, no matter your age. However, there is something to be said about going through divorce later in life. The longer you’ve spent adulthood in a partnership, the harder it may seem to “start over.” If you’re going through a divorce and feel like you’re starting over at 50, we’ve got your back! This guide shares helpful tips for anyone going through late life divorce. We have some mindset tips for you, but also some important strategies to make sure you can keep your finances and estate planning on track.

3 Tips for Starting Over After Divorce at 50 

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported some grey divorce statistics, which reveal that late life divorce is ‘prevalent’ amongst Americans. If you’re going through a divorce after 50, you’re certainly not alone. 

As of April 2021, the percentage of adults who get divorced over the age of 50 is 43 percent. The national divorce rate continues to rise, and is often attributed to marriage instability amongst those in the baby boomer generation. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The Census study also reported that most divorcees get remarried. 

Starting over at 50 might feel like a rough time, but know that there are some strategies you can implement to empower yourself. Here we share some of our top tips for starting over at 50, to help you better navigate this challenging time.

1. Reconnect With Who YOU Are

In marriage, it seems nearly impossible to avoid developing some sense of codependency. We’ve all heard the advice that strong, healthy relationships are the result of two individuals who feel in charge of their own happiness and have a strong sense of self. However, that can be much easier said than done. Especially after spending decades in a marriage with a partner, it’s only natural to create overlap within your interests and personalities. That’s why starting over at 50 can feel so hard because your partner, to a certain degree, was a part of you.

Although it may seem tough right now, going through divorce can serve as the impetus to reconnect with yourself and re-establish who you are as an individual. What were some things you always wanted to do, but haven’t yet? Do you have any interests or hobbies that were pushed to the side? Was there a career that you wanted to pursue but never took the risk? This is a great time to focus on yourself and what makes you happy. You have no one to answer to but yourself.

Although this can be a heartbreaking time, we wish you a period of healing and discovering alignment with your most authentic self. According to researchers, we reach peak happiness at the age of 69, and we are happiest and most content between the ages of 65 and 74. This information might provide some comfort in knowing that you’re likely heading into some very happy years ahead of you. 

2. Re-baseline Your Finances

When going through divorce, your personal finances likely aren’t the first thing on your mind. However, it should be, because going through a divorce can quickly derail you from your short and long-term goals. That’s why it’s important to gain clarity on what your post-divorce finances will look like so that you can make the necessary preparations and protect yourself.

Here are some questions that will help you take stock of your finances:

  • What are my savings and assets?

  • What are my debts? Am I responsible for any of my spouse’s debts?

  • Am I going to hold on to the house, and how much will it cost me?

  • What are the tax implications after divorce?

  • How much will insurance changes cost me?

  • How much do I need to contribute towards retirement?

  • What are my expenses, including any child support?

  • Do I have any settlements or divorce payments to account for?

Although the above set of questions is not exhaustive by any means, they are intended to help you start thinking about the financial impacts of going through a divorce. It’s common for one partner to be more financially informed than the other, so make sure you have a full understanding of your finances from the time that you were a married couple.

Although divorce laws vary from state to state, most courts will order a 50-50 split between each spouse. However, know that this also means splitting your debts equally, even the debts that weren’t in your name. The court may order for one of the spouses to pay alimony to the other spouse, especially when child support is involved. 

To get a full financial picture, take an inventory of all of your assets and debts. Then, develop an understanding of what your divorce-related expenses might look like, such as settlements, alimony, or child support. Last but not least, get a handle of your new financial picture after you get divorced.

You might find that certain lifestyle changes will be necessary to meet your new financial reality, post-divorce. For example, one spouse might fight to be able to keep the house. Even if they won, they might quickly realize that they can’t realistically afford the mortgage, insurance, taxes, and maintenance on their own. (Not to mention the emotional complexities of staying in the house you once shared with your partner.) As a result, you might find yourself renting out a stylish apartment in the city to fit your new lifestyle. Not all lifestyle changes will be negative! These new realities can help guide you in developing your new sense of self.

3. Revisit Your Estate Plan

Last but not least, don’t forget to revisit your estate plan, as it likely needs to change. Many married couples set up joint Trusts to help create and manage community property. When getting a divorce, you’ll need to separate your interests and develop estate plans that are independent of one another.

There are a number of documents held with your estate plan. Here are some common estate planning actions that you’ll likely need to take after going through late life divorce:

  • Revoke your Will and establish a new one

  • Update your Healthcare Proxy

  • Name new Powers of Attorney and beneficiaries

  • Update inventory of assets reflected in your Trust or Will

  • Consider setting up a Trust

  • Review guardianship for dependent children

  • Review any nuptial agreements (pre or post)

  • Update beneficiary designations

  • Review insurance policies, including life insurance

Even if your partner was largely in charge of your estate planning activities in the past, now is the time for you to take ownership over this process. Don’t worry - estate planning doesn’t have to be as hard as it’s often made out to be. Anyone can set up at least a basic estate plan with relative ease. After it’s all said and done, you’ll feel more empowered and have more peace of mind knowing that you have control over your own legacy. Visit step-by-step guide on estate planning and divorce to develop your action plan.

Get Some Help Revising Your Estate Plan After a Late Life Divorce 

In this guide, we’ve talked about how divorce should be treated as a trigger event to review your finances and your estate plan. After all, getting a divorce is a major life event, so it only makes sense that it will create significant shifts in many aspects of your life.

If you’re going through a late life divorce, you might be thinking to yourself, “I’m starting over at 50. What am I going to do? How am I going to get through this?” Having these thoughts and experiencing feelings of loss, distress, and heartbreak are completely valid. However, we hope you might find some comfort in knowing that grey divorce is prevalent, and many of your peers are experiencing the same. In addition, you’re all heading towards some of the happiest years of your life. 

Part of the process of divorce includes getting more in touch with yourself, and what makes you happy. After making decisions with a partner all these years, it may take some getting used to, but you finally get to be selfish and make choices that are completely and authentically your own. 

Some of this happiness will come from peace of mind knowing that you’ve laid a solid foundation for your financial security. This includes creating a new baseline for your finances, and establishing your independent estate plan. Need help setting up or revising your estate plan after a divorce? Trust & Will can help you with that! We strive to make estate planning easy, affordable, and accessible, no matter your stage in life. Click here to get started.

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Reach out to us today or Chat with a live member support representative!