For many seniors who have lost a spouse, the idea of a new relationship can be exciting. Finding a new love later in life can provide a wealth of benefits, physical and material. But, should you get married? Is living together a better choice?
The issues are much different for older couples. Young folks think about children and houses and such. Elders have children, they have assets, and they have expenses. Should the legal and financial lives of two older people be entwined?
Before deciding, you should look at your estate plan, your Pension and Social Security benefits, and your potential long-term care needs, among other things. As unromantic as it seems, you may want to consult with a lawyer to go over the issues. Here are some things to think about.
- Estate Planning. Getting married can have a big effect on your estate plan. Even if you don’t include a new spouse in your will, in most states spouses are automatically entitled to a share of your estate. One way to prevent this is to enter into a prenuptial agreement. You and your future spouse will need to consult with separate attorneys and have a good agreement drafted and signed prior to your marriage.
- Long-Term Care. Prenuptial agreements won’t keep a spouse from being responsible for your long-term care costs or vice versa. In addition, getting married can have an effect on your or your spouse’s Medicaid eligibility. If you can afford it, a long-term care insurance policy may be a good investment once you remarry. An experienced Elder Law Attorney can educate you about the Medicaid issues of getting married.
- The Family Home. Before combining households (whether your marry or not) you will need to think about what will happen to the house once the owner dies. If the owner wants to keep the house in his family, putting the house in both spouse’s names is not an option. On the other hand, the owner may not want his heirs to evict the surviving spouse. Your planning will need to consider this issue. Should you use a Trust or a Life Estate deed, or some other method?
- Social Security. Many divorced or widowed seniors receive Social Security from their former spouses, and remarriage can affect benefits. If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment). Contact the Social Security Administration with questions on these issues.
- Survivor’s Annuities. Widows and widowers of public employees, such as police officers and firefighters, often receive survivor’s annuities. Many of these annuities end if the surviving spouse remarries. In addition widows and widowers of military personnel may lose their annuities or pension if they remarry before age 57. Before getting married, check your annuity and benefits policies to see what the affect will be.