In the first two parts of our series, you discovered how to ease dating fears or risks and find your Great Love later in life, even after the heartbreak of lost love or other tough challenges that life throws at you. Once you find your Great Love, you might enter a committed, passionate relationship and blend families and friends. What about blending marriage and money? Before an older couple decides to marry, it is smart to explore the cost of tying the knot. Let’s examine some financial issues of later-life marriage.
In a recent Bulletin article by Jane Bryant Quinn, a personal finance expert and author of Making The Most Of Your Money Now, she explained why many older couples can’t afford to marry. Widows and widowers who remarry may lose pension, health care, social security, retirement plan or veteran benefits from their deceased spouse.
In many states, spouses are responsible for each others’ medical bills, including bills for long-term care. So how is your beloved’s health? Does he or she have long term care insurance? Smart couples don’t walk down the aisle without it.
When couples discover the financial implications of later-life marriage, many decide that cohabitation without clergy blessing makes sense. Financial planner Lauren Klein of Klein Financial Advisers in Newport Beach, California now sees older couples holding “weddings” for appearances only–saying vows without signing the documents.
“They don’t tell their children or grandchildren they aren’t married,” Ms. Klein said. “They don’t want to be a bad influence.”
How do you discover the cost of later-life marriage and decide if you can afford to marry?
Jane Bryant Quinn advises you to have a sober business discussion before taking a step toward the aisle or even cohabitation. Bring proof of your income, assets, credit history, debts and other obligations. You’ll need to disclose this info with legal proof when you write a prenup or cohabitation agreement anyway.
While you aren’t responsible for debts your spouse brings to the marriage, these debts can burden a partnership and alert you to careless spending that is a red-flag against marriage.
Check your state’s rules on qualifying for Medicaid, the government program that pays long-term care bills for people whose incomes and assets are small. Live-in partners pay nothing toward their mate’s long-term care. However they may lose the use of the ill partner’s income and assets, including the home. Ms. Quinn recommends that you meet with an elder care attorney to know your options. To find one, try the National Academy of Elder Care Attorneys in Vienna, VA or your local Bar Association.
Inheritance can be another tough discussion for people with children from previous marriages. “The kids may have started thinking that your money is theirs,” writes Ms. Quinn. “Wealthy couples can keep their assets separate and leave them to their respective heirs, but that doesn’t work when one spouse needs support.”
Ms Quinn suggests one solution. “Leave your money to your kids in trust, reserving the income for your spouse for life (plus the right to dip into principal for medical or other needs). Part of the estate might go to the new spouse outright. Prenups are essential, as is full disclosure to the kids.”
Should Grammy and Grandpa live together? Or is marriage more aligned with their core values, despite the cost?
Each late-life couple should discuss these questions and weigh possible answers, ideally with expert financial advisers. And find out if you each qualify to buy long-term care insurance. This isn’t a romantic discussion, it’s a reality of later-life love. Be sure to come to terms with it, before you make the legal commitment, “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”
Create happy, sexy love, health, wealth, happiness that lasts,