When someone finds a partner when they’re both in their senior years, the choice between marriage and cohabitation is a more complex one. Individual and religious preferences aside, these two options carry serious financial and tax implications that should be considered. Here’s some insight from a leading elder law attorney in New Jersey.
The reality is that there are benefits and drawbacks to either choice – many seniors refuse to get married because they don’t want to affect the cost of their healthcare, compromise their Medicaid planning, reduce their retirement benefits, raise their taxes or have to redo their entire estate plans. Similarly, some seniors still choose marriage to take advantage of the tax breaks it offers as well as the benefits and protections. It really comes down to the importance of knowing how these choices affect your individual position to see what works best for both people in the relationship.
What to Consider When Weighing Up Cohabitation and Marriage as a Senior:
When you are cohabiting, living together means developing an agreement about housing, the associated costs, and each person’s rights. One person may agree to sell their home or rent it and move into the other’s property, which will have tax implications. When only one person’s name is on the deed, cohabiting partners have fewer rights, including legal rights if the property is sold after the partner passes or if the relationship dissolves. Here, married couples have more protection but will still need to sort out the implications of selling a property or purchasing a new asset.
Senior couples tend to have far more complex estate plans than newlyweds in their 20s, which may include adult children and grandkids, wills and trusts, properties, investment portfolios, insurance, and 401ks. If you choose to cohabit, then your estate plan may only need minor changes depending on whether or not you want to sell an asset or you want to name your partner as a beneficiary in your Will. If you choose to marry, your estate plan will need to be extensively redone to determine your spouse’s rights and benefits from your estate, and to determine the impact of their debt if they have any. This should be done by an experienced elder law attorney who can talk you through the different tax and financial implications of your options to ensure that the estate plan is properly developed to protect the assets and people involved.
It’s a good idea for seniors to commit to Medicaid planning in their retirement – this is a customized strategy based on your assets to ensure that Medicaid care can be accessed and penalties avoided. This strategy will remain largely unchanged if you choose to cohabit (although you should talk to your elder law attorney about it when they work on your estate plan), but may need extensive revision if you choose to marry. This is because your new spouse and the assets you gain in the marriage will be evaluated when you or your spouse applies for Medicaid.
Whether you decide on marriage or cohabitation is a personal choice, but it is important to know exactly how these choices will impact your estate plan and financial situation, which is where your elder law attorney can help. They can rework your documents and even introduce useful cohabitation contracts that will ensure that both parties are properly protected, giving you peace of mind with either choice.
Find Out How Marriage or Cohabitation Affects Your Finances and Rights – Speak to an Elder Law Attorney in New Jersey
Frank R. Campisano is a highly experienced and compassionate elder law attorney with considerable knowledge of Medicaid issues. In addition to planning ahead financially for Medicaid eligibility, he is also able to assist with applications, appeals, and other Medicaid issues. If you or a family member needs assistance with their Medicaid planning or protecting their assets effectively, don’t hesitate to get help today.
In addition, he can also help you to prepare additional estate planning documents, such as your Last Will and Testament, Healthcare Proxy, Power of Attorney documents, and trusts.