I understand that the title of this article implies that some experiences with mail order brides go “go right.” That may be a leap, given the inherit pitfalls of post-office-initiated love. However, I am sure some folks have success on the retail side of courtship. And just like any bad relationship, the ones that go bad, go really bad. To demonstrate just how bad, let’s look at the legal implications.
By the way, mail order relationships aren’t the kind of relationship we elder law attorneys really care about, but they are the quintessential example of a perfect storm that can destroy a relationship and an estate plan. I say perfect storm because the mail-ordered variety of matrimony is typically rushed into by both parties. Such a relationship predicated on desperation (for citizenship or companionship) lacks something very important: a plan. This is my argument for the consideration of a prenuptial agreement.
Should I have a Plan Before Marriage?
Love is blind. That’s something you’ve probably heard before. But it’s just not true. Let’s go ahead and relegate that sort of shortsighted thinking to the Lifetime movie it belongs to. Love can see and folks can lovingly plan for the future when love may not be a factor in the relationship any longer.
It’s crazy that people will spend time, money, and sleepless nights putting together an estate plan (it’s much easier if McIntyre Elder Law is doing it) but they just don’t plan for the possibility of divorce—which, by the way, should be a consideration in your estate plan. What makes it even crazier, is that the likelihood that any one couple will divorce is super high. Planning for the possibility of future separation is not a statement of lack of trust or an attack on the character of either party. Rather, it’s a prudent understanding of the fact that stuff happens, and people can change.
What If I Fail to Plan and Get Divorced?
Other than mail order bride situations, the arrangement that scares me the most (as an elder law attorney) is second, third, or fourth marriages. Many subsequent marriages take place between two people who already have their own children, their own assets, and their own estate plan. Because marriage—assuming there is no prenuptial agreement—gives either spouse inherit rights, a separation of the couple or death of one of the spouses can lead to straight up disaster.
Let’s look at an example: Bob and Shirley. Bob has 6 kids and Shirley has 2. Bob’s previous wife died and left Bob everything she owned. Shirley’s ex-husband gave her more than 50% of the marital assets in their divorce. Bob and Shirley, despite being in their twilight years, find each other and the connection is instant. They decide to marry without ever consulting an attorney. After a brief honeymoon, Bob and Shirley realize that they never really got to know each other and, now that they have, it’s awful. Bob snores and Shirley chews with her mouth open. Due to those irreconcilable character flaws, they decide to split up. However, for his trouble, Bob wants to get a piece of Shirley’s big ‘ol retirement account and after a messy divorce, Bob gets his wish. Both Shirley and her two kids are angry and lose faith in love forever.
Alternatively, let’s say Bob and Shirley get married and Bob dies on the honeymoon (don’t worry he’s not real). They’ve known each other all of 10 days so Susan is devastated but moves on quickly. She probates his estate and recovers her marital share. This time, it’s Bob’s kids that are mad because this lady they haven’t ever met just robbed them of their inheritance.
I could pretty much drop the mic at this point. However, let me just say once again that if you’re planning on getting married, especially a subsequent marriage, talk to an attorney first. I promise, it will be easier than getting a bride through the mail.
If you have questions about prenuptial agreements or generally want to be talked out of ordering a mail order bride, call McIntyre Elder Law at (704) 259-7040.
Brenton S. Begley
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
“We help seniors maintain their lifestyle and preserve their legacies.”