By Attorney Thom L. Cooper
Below is an article by a colleague of mine, Elder Law Attorney Michael Ettinger, in which he describes a new trend among seniors to live together without being married. While Mike is from New York with an upscale practice, I am also beginning to see an increase of “Friends with Benefits” in my practice in Ohio. I think we could all bemoan the positive and negative incentives of government policies, regulations and laws which I believe are responsible for the trend, but now we are forced with having to deal with the “legal unintended consequences” of more and more our seniors living in this arrangement in order to attempt to preserve and protect their assets and those of their families.
Let me give just one example of these “legal unintended consequences:”
One of the main reasons that seniors do not get married is that they are worried about losing their homes should their partner go into a nursing home. So what typically happens is that one of the senior partners keeps their home in their name and the other partner moves in and often sells their home. All is OK if the senior without the home goes into a nursing home… but what if the partner who owns the home goes in? At that point the home would have to be sold and the remaining at-home partner would be “on the street”… a situation which neither partner might want after a long relationship. Can this situation be avoided? Of course it can with proper planning. But this just underscores the point that it is even more important for Friends with Benefits to plan than a married couple. If you are in this situation please see an elder law attorney to help you develop your plan.
More Elderly Couples Choose Cohabitation without Marriage
Attorney Michael Ettinger
It’s a quiet fact of senior residences across the country: Grandpa is living with someone else’s Grandma. In their 70s, 80s, and beyond, older couples meet in seniors-only housing and live together unencumbered by marriage vows. Their relationships are committed and bonded, meant to last the rest of their lives, sometimes even informally blessed by clergy.
According to U.S. census figures, co-habitation numbers for people 65 and older have tripled in the past decade, jumping from 193,000 in 2000 to 575,000 in 2010. A generation or two ago, the idea of older adults living together might have been shameful, even scandalous. That’s changed, in part because societal attitudes toward marriage have changed. Only 52 percent of all American adults identified themselves as married in the 2010 census – and almost 60 percent of people age 50 and younger have lived with a partner without being married, the Pew Research Center says. As a result, as the baby boom generation edges into old age, researchers expect co-habitation among seniors to continue to soar.