By Ben A. Neiburger, Attorney, Generation Law

Some of our widowed clients find a girlfriend or a boyfriend late in life.

Generally in situations when love sparks again we advise against marriage since under the laws of many states both partners are responsible for the other’s medical expenses. And if the new spouse goes into a nursing home several years after you meet and it’s $120,000 a year for the nursing home, you are responsible for that.

So we advise against getting married late in life unless there’s adequate assets or adequate long term care insurance.

Another issue that falls out of this is deciding on who should be in control of things if you should take ill. Frequently the new girlfriend/boyfriend lives with the parent and if that parent takes ill, the adult children might interfere and try to kick their parent’s partner out of the premises. Although its understandable that the adult children wouldn’t have the same affection as they did for a parent, it’s still an unfortunate turn of events for all concerned. On the other hand, the children might smell a rat with the new girlfriend/boyfriend. They might fear that, as time  goes on, the new person will isolate their parent from them and take more than their affection away from the adult children. These competing issues can be very tough to navigate and many times involving an outside professional can help with decisions.

Many people prepare for this with advance planning. Issues to consider include: who is living in whose home (and who has rights to stay in that home if the owner gets sick or dies), who should have the powers of attorney (the partner, the adult children, a third party bank or trust company), and whose money is used for what.

If things could be contentious, the process might be best handled by an independent bank or trust company to ensure a balance preventing the adult children or new partner too much access to too much money and the interests of both are considered.

Without this, situations can become very messy indeed.

Updated 2-9-2024
Originally published 9-16-2014