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Is legal separation better than divorce for older couples?

More older couples are getting divorced than ever before. Nonetheless, many couples in their 50s and above who no longer want to be together find that it's either too complicated to untangle decades of financial involvement or not beneficial to either of them to do so.

With the future of health insurance still in question, couples may also find that it's best to remain legally married in order for one spouse to get health insurance through the other's employer-sponsored plan.

Of course, there are often significant emotional ties that prevent older couples from filing for divorce after decades of marriage.

Some of these couples choose to live separately while not taking any legal action to formalize the split. However, this can expose one or both spouses to all sort of potential financial and legal problems.

For example, if you and your spouse are still legally married, you will likely inherit each other's estate if one of you should die. Further, your spouse can make financial and medical decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself, unless you've indicated otherwise in your estate plan.

The financial implications of not codifying a separation can be significant. You may still be responsible for debts incurred by your spouse after you've separated, even if you knew nothing about them.

If you and your spouse have chosen to go your separate ways, but aren't ready for divorce, it's essential to look at your legal options. Some couples draw up postnuptial agreements when they separate to codify how income, debts, assets and other matters will be handled. Nevada also recognizes legal separation.

A Nevada family law attorney can provide guidance on the issues you should consider when you and your spouse separate after many years of marriage and the various legal options you have to protect yourself financially.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce," Beth Pinsker, Reuters, May 14, 2017

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