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Hey gang,

Thought I'd start another topic of discussion that my new wife Tamela & I have been dealing with and that is whose place do you live in with your next chapter? Your place, theirs, or something new or different to both of you? Your thoughts and experiences?

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In general, do whatever it takes for both of you to feel it's your home.

We're living in the house I bought with my late wife. I used making the house solely my own as a tool for grieving, basically I went through it as if Sharon had moved out and abandoned all her stuff, and by the time that I got together with my wife the house looked as if a bloke had lived there on his own for a couple of years (yes, it was in that much of a mess).

The house is of a type and in a location that we both really like, and my wife was renting when we met so it made practical sense for her to move in here. We're in the process of renovating it so my wife has got plenty of scope to shape it so that it feels like home for her. In principle I'm prepared to sell up and move if we find the house's history is an issue.

If you do move into one or other of your places and you're not renovating or redecorating it as a joint home then you could go through it room by room moving in together. First empty the room completely, and then decide together what will go in it and where.

I was living in Virginia.  When I met my husband, I knew that I would be moving to California  where my husband has lived and where his business is based.  I do not have children or anything that tied me to Virginia.  I was fortunate to be able to keep my house so we do go back 5 or so times a year to spend time/relax/recharge and work!!!  We are in the process of selling our home in CA (the one he had with his late wife) to downsize and make life a bit simpler.  Although it really did not bother me to live here in the home that they shared, we are both looking forward to finding "our" home. I'm excited to meld our personalities into our home and see what we come up with!

Because we are in the process of selling it, we have gone through and basically emptied it for the staging and showing process.  We both like the house even more now even though it is sanitized and depersonalized for the open house!  Unfortunately, it is just too big for two people!!!

In the beginning, he had a new house, which his late wife designed and built but never got to live in, and I had a house in town (that my first husband and I had bought 30 years before) plus a lake house.  I sold my town residence and kept the lake house, while he kept his new house too.  They're a little over an hour apart so it's easy to run up there for a day or two as our schedule permits.  We've made adjustments to both houses, adding new furniture or swapping furniture from one house to the other if it fit better there. We've done some remodeling at both houses - more to the lake house than his house since his was newly built.  There's a future project or two to do at his house because accommodations need to be made so that we can use the house as we get old and our knees object to all the stairs. Selling the house to move to a condo sounded great, but I like having a house big enough that we can each carve out our own personal space, plus there's the issue of being able to recoup all the expense of building the house.  So we'll just add a chair lift to the stairs and replace the bathtub with a walk-in shower.

We make joint decisions, but defer the final say-so to the person who actually owns the house.  It actually has worked out very well.  

Just an additional issue, which you didn't bring up but might be of interest to some.  Before we got married (I was 60 and he was 62 at the time) we wrote a prenup agreement that everything that was ours before the marriage remained in our estate unless we chose to make the change, and anything that we bought jointly after the marriage would be the property of the surviving spouse. (If he sold his house and used the proceeds to buy a new house or condo, with no money contributed by me, that would still be his, and part of his estate.)  BUT we also wrote up life leases, giving each of us the option of continuing to use or live in the other's house after they died. If he predeceases me, I still have use of this house, which is closer to good medical care, shopping, our church, and my kids, as long as I continue to pay the taxes, utilities and upkeep.  I can chose to move out any time I like, but until I do, or until I die, the expenses are mine.  And in the event that I remarry, or chose to have a live-in boyfriend, I have to vacate the house.  He has the same right over the lake house, and it's up to each of us to decide if we want to exercise that option.

You might think about that when deciding your living arrangements.  In the event of the death of you or your spouse, what happens to the house you're living in. Some of that will depend on your state's default probate laws.  If we had no prenup and he died and my name was not on the deed to the property, his daughter could sell it out from under me.  Now, if that happens when I'm in good health, the lake house as a permanent home would be an option, but if I'm not in such good health and want to stay closer to my kids and good medical care, then I'm going to have to find a new place to live.

Some things to bear in mind is whether your kids will want/need the money right away, and what relationship the surviving spouse will likely have with their step family.  Things frequently turn nasty when it come to dividing an estate between first children and second spouse.  Make sure you have it figured out and in writing - and with an attorney, not a do-it-yourself.

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