Longtime Partners but Never Married (Part 3)
In this 3rd post on longtime partners living together but never married, Bill needed long term care and Mary was concerned about how to pay for it and at the same time be able to afford her own living expenses. As I explained last week, the house they lived in and most of the assets are in Bill’s name. The problem is that if Bill lives long enough in a facility he could run out of liquid assets and then be forced to sell the house, potentially leaving Mary homeless.
I told Mary that a solution would be for Bill and Mary to marry, provided Bill has legal capacity, which would allow Mary to keep the home as an exempt asset and would allow her to take advantage of some other options as a community spouse. This all sounded great to Mary, who said she would discuss it with Bill. I told Mary we would need to act quickly since Bill would be obligated to pay the facility’s private pay rate until we could take the steps necessary to qualify him for Medicaid. Several weeks then passed and I did not hear from Mary.
Finally, I did receive a call from Mary’s friend and neighbor, Nancy. Nancy told me that after attempting to reach Mary for several days she entered Mary’s home and found her semiconscious on the kitchen floor. Unbelievably, Mary too had a stroke and was now in the hospital. Doctors said she could not go home and would also need nursing home care. Doctors told Nancy that Mary was unable to communicate and make decisions.
At this point my solution to Bill’s problem wasn’t going to be possible. It did not appear that Mary had the legal capacity to marry Bill. Additionally, we now had two people in need of long term care.
Before we could begin to solve this new problem I needed to know who would be able to act on Mary’s behalf and Bill’s as well. In my earlier conversation with Mary, she told me that she and Bill had powers of attorney designating each other as agent but neither had chosen an alternate agent. Obviously, neither Mary or Bill could now serve as agent for the other.
I asked about family members and Nancy told me that to her knowledge Mary’s closest relative was a cousin living on the West Coast and that Bill had a sibling but they weren’t close according to Bill. Nancy was willing to help but she didn’t know what she could do.
Next week I’ll tell you what I told Nancy.