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Mary and Bob – Almost Divorced But Then Tragedy Strikes

Mary and Bob were married 40 years and raised a son together.  Over the years, however, they grew apart and when their son entered the military and his career took him overseas they realized that there was no reason for them to stay together.  They agreed that a divorce and pursuing separate lives made sense.  Mary and Bob owned a home together, but not much more in the way of assets.  Bob agreed to give Mary the home.  In return Mary agreed not to seek alimony.  Problem solved – or so they thought – until Bob suffered severe head and neck injuries in a car accident.

             Probably 20 years ago Bob would not have survived but advances in medical science saved his life.  However, Bob remained in a coma for several weeks.  After regaining consciousness, he could not speak and had limited movement of his arms and legs.  Bob was transferred to a rehab facility where he began intensive therapy.  It is too soon to tell the extent of his recovery or if he will need to remain in a nursing facility for a lengthy period of time.

             Meanwhile, Mary now has a dilemma.  She is still married to Bob.  The nursing facility is pressing her about how she will pay for his care if he needs to remain there.  Emotionally, she is torn.  She and Bob have agreed to a divorce, although it’s not final yet.  But, she also knows that he has no family, other than their son, but, again, he is overseas.  She is also concerned about finances.  She doesn’t have the funds to pay for nursing care at $10,000 per month. 

             To make it even more complicated, Bob never signed a power of attorney.  As Bob’s spouse, Mary is being looked upon as Bob’s decision maker, but legally she has no right to make those decisions.  But, beyond that, some of the answers to the questions on the financial side of things, may benefit her but maybe not Bob.  Since their intent, before the accident was to part ways, is she even in a position to act in Bob’s best interest?  If Bob needs Medicaid, the home can be protected for Mary as the healthy spouse.  But what happens when the couple isn’t really still “together”?  How does that change things?

             We’ll discuss those issues and more in next week’s post.