George called me because his wife, Mary wasn’t doing well. She has dementia and he is facing the prospect of needing long term care for her, possibly in a nursing home, although he would like to do everything possible to keep her at home.
As the conversation always does, it quickly focused on the cost and how to pay for it. George told me that he and Mary only recently married after having been together for 30 years. She had always wanted to be married. Her declining health had made him realize that life is short and if this is what makes her happy then, “why not”?
However, he told me that they had always kept their finances separate. He felt pretty confident that she could pay for her own care for at least a few years. That was good but I explained to George that should she run out of money he would need to start paying for her care from his bank account.
He didn’t seem to mind but asked me about Medicaid. “Wouldn’t Medicaid kick in after Mary runs out of money,” he asked. “We went to an elder law attorney a few years back and that’s what we were told.”
I told George that the attorney gave them correct advice based on their situation at the time, living together but not married. But that all changed when they said “I do”. Medicaid treats a married couple as “one unit” for purposes of eligibility for benefits.
So, does George have a problem? Or is he better off financially for having married Mary? I’ll share that with you next week.