The coverage of Lauren Bacall's death last week has been like paging through a scrapbook of the Golden Age of Hollywood — she was discovered as a model, became an actress and a star and married Humphrey Bogart, who was 25 years her senior. When“Bogie”died of esophageal cancer in 1957, Bacall became a young single mother of two small children, still at the beginning of a very long and successful life. She lived almost a half a century more after his death.
Lauren Bacall said in interviews that she considered herself lucky to be married to Humphrey Bogart, having benefited greatly from his knowledge of Hollywood. However, losing her husband when her children were young emphasizes to us the issues that surviving spouses face when there is a significant age difference in the couple— whether in Hollywood or elsewhere.
In May/December marriages, there is a strong possibility one spouse will survive the other by many years. Typically it is an older man and a younger woman, although it can be vice versa. Since women generally live longer than men, when it is the husband who is the older spouse, the estate planning issues are even more critical. A young mother with children may be positioned tenuously if she has stopped working to raise the family and the husband passes away. In this situation, a financial plan that contemplates the surviving young mother.
A qualified estate planning attorney will create a comprehensive estate plan that incorporates contingencies for many such difficult issues that may affect the surviving spouse, as well those that may impact any surviving children (including children from different marriages who could be close in age to the new spouse).
MarketWatch's recent article, titled "Bogie and Bacall: Iconic May-December romance," suggests the QTIP Trust. This trust allows assets to be placed in trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse while she is alive. The assets then pass to the children of the older spouse at her later death. It could be a long wait if the surviving spouse is significantly younger; in that case, individuals will purchase life insurance to provide assets to children from a prior marriage. This allows them to leave other assets to the current, younger spouse and eliminates some (or all) of the hard feelings from the children of the first marriage. Another way to go is to set up trusts for the children while the older spouse is still alive. Talk to your estate planning attorney to see what will work best for you.
Bacall’s estate planning did seem to have a Hollywood ending: she planned it right and was able to divide the majority of her $26.6 million estate between her three children, with $250,000 going to each of her grandsons, $10,000 for the care of her dog, as well as gifts to two of her staffers.
Reference: MarketWatch (Aug 27, 2014) "Bogie and Bacall: Iconic May-December romance"
Image Credit: Bacall & Bogart in Dark Passage By Warner Bros. (DVD with the film and the trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons