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Second Marriage – Happily Ever After? (Part 2)

                Last week I was telling you about George and Mary.  Mary has dementia and may soon need nursing home care.   George had gone to an elder law attorney who told him that once Mary spent down her assets she’d qualify for Medicaid.  That advice came at a time when George and Mary were living together, but not as husband and wife.

                That all changed when George and Mary recently were married.  It’s what Mary always wanted.  But, it also changed things dramatically as far as Medicaid is concerned.  Now George must spend down Mary’s and his own assets before achieving Medicaid eligibility.  He’ll be able to keep his home and approximately $120,000.

                I asked George about their finances.  He told me he has approximately $1,000,000 and Mary has $300,000.  If Mary lives long enough she could easily exhaust her assets and start spending down his.  So, what should he do?

                Luckily, he has some time.  I recommended to him that we do asset protection planning for him, placing his assets into a trust under what we call 5 year planning.  In 5 years, if Mary spends her assets completely, as long as George has a home and no more than $120,000 she’ll qualify for Medicaid.  In other words, he’ll be able to keep the assets in the trust for his care should he need it.

                It’s a good thing that George called us when he did.  He had no idea the impact that marriage could have on their finances but we still have time to adjust for it.   One final thought on the matter.  While marrying later in life clearly has an impact on long term care and personal finances, it isn’t always a negative one.  There are instances where marriage could actually be beneficial in helping to protect assets.

                Which isn’t to say that marriage should be looked at strictly from a financial perspective.  However, for seniors considering it, long term care ought to be part of the conversation.  The Medicaid rules are complex and each case is fact sensitive so it is best to consult with an experienced elder law attorney before coming to any conclusions.