Older Adults’ Relationship Trajectories and Estate Planning

TitleOlder Adults’ Relationship Trajectories and Estate Planning
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsChoi, SL, Carr, D
JournalJournal of Family and Economic Issues
KeywordsCohabitation, Divorce, estate planning, Marital Status, Singlehood, Wealth Widowhood

This study investigated whether romantic relationship trajectories in later life are associated with estate planning (i.e., having a will or trust), and how these associations differ by gender among older U.S. adults. We considered 11 relationship trajectory categories which reflect stability and change in one’s partnership status (i.e., never married, cohabiting, married, divorced/separated, or widowed) over a six-year observation period. Analyses were based on longitudinal data from the 2010–2016 Health and Retirement Study (N = 14,032). Multivariable logistic regression models predicting estate planning were adjusted for wealth, health, and sociodemographic characteristics. In fully adjusted models, married persons at baseline who became widowed during the study period had significantly higher odds of estate planning relative to continuously married persons, whereas never married and continuously divorced persons had significantly lower odds. Moderation analyses revealed that the effects of becoming widowed and of being divorced were significantly larger for women than men. Never married men and women were about half as likely as their continuously married counterparts to do estate planning. Financial literacy and legal assistance programs should target older adults whose relationship trajectories diverge from the historical norm of one long-term marriage or widowhood following a long-term marriage. Divorce, cohabitation, and lifelong singlehood are increasingly common relationship statuses among older adults, yet these statuses may undermine access to or use of legal instruments that can be critical to the financial stability of their families in the longer term.

Citation Key12475