By Denise M. Topolnicki

(MONEY Magazine) – When widower Irl Scott, 70, led widow Carol D'Amico, 63, down the aisle last year in Lombard, Ill., the union was all the more carefree because it was calculated. The couple first consulted an accountant, an attorney and a financial planner; then they engaged the services of a caterer, a minister and an organist. The reason for interposing financial experts 'twixt engagement and nuptials: both bride and groom had assets that they wanted children from their first marriages to inherit. Though the Scotts decided against a prenuptial pact because they felt it implied a lack of trust, they did work out an agreement to protect their children's interests. The couple now jointly own Irl's mortgage-free $125,000 house. Irl and Carol's wills provide that after their deaths, proceeds from its sale be divided among his three children. Carol named Irl the beneficiary of an annuity as well as the joint tenant of her money-market account. They represent half her assets of more than $100,000. Her three children remain the beneficiaries of the rest -- another annuity and her Individual Retirement Accounts. Says Carol: ''Irl and I feel that we've managed to take care of each other after our deaths as well as provide for our children.'' By having honestly discussed such concerns before tying the knot, the Scotts are emotionally -- and their children are financially -- more secure than many couples who marry late in life. Yet the Scotts' plan isn't foolproof. There is nothing to prevent Carol, for example, from rewriting her will to bequeath the house to her children or other heirs. Warns Theodore E. Hughes, a Michigan assistant attorney general and co-author of The Parents' Financial Survival Guide (HP Books, $9.95): ''People change as a result of advanced age, illness or the formation of new relationships, and oral promises can easily be forgotten.'' With that sobering and unromantic thought in mind, mature mates- to-be should discuss the following topics before setting the date: Full disclosure. It sounds like something only royal families do, but all engaged couples should lay bare their strengths and weaknesses to head off misunderstandings. First, exchange lists of your assets and liabilities. Then take stock of your medical, property and life insurance and make necessary adjustments. If you both have health insurance, for example, you might save money by having one policy cover the two of you and canceling the other. Any costly promises you've made -- say, to support aged relatives or help your children buy houses -- should also be revealed. Taking care of the kids. You can use trusts to keep your property out of your spouse's hands should you divorce or to ensure that it ultimately passes to your kids from a previous marriage. Hughes suggests placing your assets in a revocable living trust before you remarry. You may retain any or all income the trust produces, serve as trustee, change the trust's provisions or even terminate it. For example, you could establish a living trust that gives your spouse a so-called life estate in your house, allowing him or her to live there after your death. The trust could provide that proceeds from the sale of your house go to your children after your spouse dies. While revocable living trusts avoid probate, they lack estate-tax advantages. Trust income is taxed at your marginal rate, and trust assets are included in your taxable estate. You could also establish a QTIP (short for qualified terminable interest property) trust in your will. Your mate gets lifetime income from assets in the trust; afterward, the principal goes to your chosen beneficiaries. Property placed in a QTIP qualifies for the marital deduction, which allows you to leave an estate of any size to your spouse tax-free. If the estate plan you draft -- always with the help of an experienced estate lawyer -- necessitates the transfer of some assets to joint ownership, wait until you're lawfully wed before signing any papers. That way you'll avoid any possible federal gift-tax liability, because the marital gift deduction is unlimited. In case divorce do you part. A prenuptial agreement can soothe any worries you may have about keeping assets out of your spouse's clutches if your marriage fails. Though many couples associate written agreements with discord, they can actually promote family harmony. Explains Manhattan attorney Lester Wallman: ''If your kids aren't in favor of your marriage because they think your intended is after your money, a prenuptial agreement is the best way to shut them up.'' Courts have generally ruled that prenuptial pacts are binding except in cases of fraud or force. Play it safe by hiring different lawyers to represent each partner's interests in drafting the agreement. Social Security snafus. If you're a widow or widower who is collecting benefits based on your late spouse's Social Security account, consider the consequences of remarriage before taking the plunge. If you remarry before age 60, your benefits will generally halt. But if you wait until age 60 or later, you will be eligible to draw on the account of your late spouse or your new mate, whichever is greater. The $125,000 question. If you're 55 or older, you're entitled to a one-time capital-gains exclusion of as much as $125,000 on the sale of your house, provided you've used it as your principal residence for at least three of the past five years. Married couples, however, can take advantage of this tax break only once, even if they both own homes. As a result, you and your future mate may be able to slash your tax bill significantly by selling both of your abodes before you marry. Bear in mind that if you've already used your exclusion but your new spouse hasn't, he or she won't qualify for the tax break after you marry. Whatever your situation, though, don't make housing decisions solely because of tax advantages. Says David S. Rhine, a New York City tax partner with BDO Seidman: ''The tax exclusion is not such a big deal that people should run personal ads for potential mates who haven't used theirs up.''