John Bullis: Divorces by older folks

Divorce rates for folks over age 50 are increasing. That leaves less time to adjust and recover both financially and emotionally.

Older folks might have decided they don’t want to live the next 20 or more years with someone they don’t love. Sometimes they have just “grown apart” and want to do life differently.

It is estimated about 80 percent of divorces for folks older than 50 are started by women. With everyone living longer and women more often working and earning a living, that is understandable.

But if a woman is tied to her husband’s finances and she does not have a lot of resources of her own, it might be more difficult to consider a divorce.

If a divorce is considered, it is best to talk with the kids and the financial advisors and, of course, an attorney. Even if the children are adults, with no child support involved, the children might be shocked or upset. Talking with the children might help them adjust better.

If there is any hope of reconciliation, trying counseling is a good idea. All of the financial information should be listed out and shared with each other and their advisors. That includes copies of the tax returns, financial statements, insurance policies and some estimates of the income and expenses for the past year.

Special future expenses such as home repairs, need for new cars, family health issues and even education costs for children or grandchildren should be listed and discussed.

Meeting with a CPA and an attorney can be helpful. They have seen many instances of divorces that were done effectively and with good results. If a business is involved, a qualified appraisal is needed to be sure both sides are looking at the same financial information.

A review should be done of the estate planning documents (wills, trusts, power of attorney forms) and beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, insurance, annuities, etc.

Divorcing couples of older folks present challenges and problems that are different because their priorities are different. They will view the future differently than young folks do. One of the goals is to prepare for the consequences of divorce and be sure both spouses are provided for appropriately.

Did you hear, “We hear only half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that and remember only half of that?” — Mignon McLaughlin, writer.

John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser who has served Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment