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Start Here For Elder Divorce
Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins

Question: My husband and I have been married for nearly two years. This is the second marriage for both of us. I am 77 years old and he is 82. We each have children from our previous marriages. When we got married, he sold his home, which was paid for, and moved into my home, which was also paid for. The value of my home is about $175,000, much more than the one he sold. He put his money into his personal accounts. Then he gave me $30,000 to buy into my home and insisted that I put his name on the deed. I procrastinated. Then he insisted that I sell my car, which was paid for, and put his name on the new car that I bought. I refused. To make a long story short, he has taken over everything. My income was combined with his in one bank account, and now he insists that I ask him for every dollar I need. He is a cheapskate. He will not turn on the heat unless he is taking a shower. We can have just one light on at a time.

Recently I had major surgery which necessitated pins and steel bars in my back. While I was in the hospital recovering, he called and said he never should have married me. During my hospital stay, he also changed his will. Now he tells me that if he dies before me, I can live in my own house until I die, and then it will go to his children.

He has threatened to move out and even put a deposit on another house, but then changed his mind and lost $1,000 of his deposit money. Since he lost his deposit (which he was sick about), he has been unusually nice and is trying to smooth things over, but I am so upset that I can’t sleep. Now he won’t leave, but I don’t want him here any more, and I have no other place to go. Even if we decide to remain in the same house, what kind of attorney should I see to straighten out this mess? I don't think he has a right to share in my property or give my property away to his kids when I die.

Answer: Since it is obvious that this relationship is not going to work out, you should do several things: 1) Make an appointment with a matrimonial lawyer to see what it takes to get a divorce in your state. And while you are at the attorney’s office, find out the effect of your husband giving you that $30,000 to buy an interest in your home. If your home is worth $175,000, the $30,000 gift does not buy much of an interest. If you decide to move ahead, make sure that you are healthy enough to see a proceeding through from start to finish. 2) Make sure that you appoint one or more of your children as agents under durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney. If you don’t, your husband will have priority to make your financial and health care decisions if you become incapacitated – and that could be dangerous. 3) Find out how to leave your husband only the minimum allowed by law should you die before him, and sign a new will to implement this plan.

Remarriage between seniors is difficult and should not be undertaken without planning, especially when, as here, you and your husband did not know each other as well as you thought when you decided to say, “I do.”

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