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Rise in the number of divorces amongst middle aged and older couples

Rise in the number of divorces amongst middle aged and older couples

The Office for National Statistics recently reported a rise in the number of divorces amongst couples born in the post-war years between 1946 and 1964. There were a record 15,275 divorces among the “silver splitters”, as they have been dubbed in the media, in 2011, compared with 13,554 in 2012 and a comparatively small 8,700 in 1991.

The ONS says “This means that even with a small chance of divorce during each year of marriage, marriages are now more likely to end in divorce and less likely to end in the death of one spouse than they were in 1991”.

Pressures facing older couples

Various reasons have been put forward for the increase, from partners experiencing “delayed midlife crises” to differences in opinion on how to spend retirement, the division of an estate among family, and even on burial plans.

Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of Relate , said: “It is clear from today’s statistics that there are many pressures facing couples as they grow older. Relationships are often missing in the current debate on our ageing society but 83% of people we surveyed aged over 50 told us that strong personal relationships were the most important factor to a happy later life”. She added that people should 'invest early' to get the most out of old age.

Putting affairs in order

It is vitally important that both parties in a divorce ensure their affairs are in order on separating. Standard Life's Julie Hutchison has identified four important matters for consideration, including ensuring that each partner has enough income to retire on, and how a pension is divided, whether offset, shared or earmarked. Making a new will, reflecting the new circumstances, is also of great consequence.

An important thing to remember is that after a divorce, a person’s estate will not be eligible for the spouse exemption from inheritance tax (IHT), the threshold for which is currently £325,000 for single people. Increases in property values have helped push the number of estates affected by IHT from 15,584 in 2012-13 to its present level of 15,976 and is predicted to double by 2019, despite calls on the government to raise the threshold.

All of this needs to be taken into account by the silver splitters, especially for older couples who married in later life, including widows and widowers and those with children or property assets from earlier relationships.

Drawing up a will is the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you intended after you’ve gone.

Planning ahead during your lifetime means that you can ensure that your estate is distributed properly. Our trust solicitors can also advise you on the best way to preserve your family’s wealth by making cash gifts during your lifetime, for example, or protecting assets in trusts. For those who are not married, we can also help with advice to ensure that your partner receives your legacy and is not subject to challenges to probate after you’ve gone.

If you still haven’t finalised your last wishes or would like to write a new will, want to leave money in trust for a young relative, or are struggling with probate issues, call us on 01494 790002. Alternatively, email us at estatemanagement@ibblaw.co.uk..