By Linda M. Toga, Esq.
The Facts: My husband died over five years ago. I met another man, Joe, and he has asked me to marry him. I love Joe and do not have any objections to getting married, but I have heard that remarrying may create financial problems for both me and Joe.
The Questions: What issues do you recommend I consider before making my final decision about getting married again?
The Answer: You are wise to be thinking about the impact being married may have on your financial well-being. While marriage may afford you benefits such as access to state and federal spousal survivor benefits, having a right to a share of Joe’s estate, having more favorable treatment as the surviving spouse on Joe’s retirement plans, access to Medicare if you do not qualify on your own and being covered under his medical insurance plan, there could be some serious disadvantages to you as well.
For example, if you remarry, you won’t be able to continue collecting Social Security benefits based upon your first husband’s record. Although you may be eligible for benefits based upon Joe’s record, that amount might be less than what you had been receiving.
In addition to impacting Social Security benefits, remarriage often impacts other types of pension and benefit programs. For example, some widows of public employees lose their deceased spouse’s pension if they remarry, and the widows of veterans may lose veterans’ benefits based upon their deceased spouse’s service. If you are collecting Social Security, a pension or veterans’ benefits based upon your deceased spouse’s record, you should inquire as to how remarrying may impact those benefits.
Even if benefits you are receiving are not adversely impacted by marrying Joe, there is one disadvantage to remarriage in New York. That is the fact that in New York, as Joe’s spouse, you will be financially responsible for Joe’s medical expenses, including expenses associated with long-term care. If Joe does not have long-term care insurance and his health deteriorates to the point that he needs extensive medical treatment or has to be institutionalized, your assets could quickly be depleted paying for his care.
Even if you and Joe maintain separate accounts and enter into a prenuptial agreement in which you both agree that your assets are not to be used for each other’s care, the law imposes upon spouses an obligation of support. While a trust may be used to protect your assets, the fact remains that, if you have available assets, you are expected to use them before Joe will be eligible for needs-based programs such as Medicaid.
In light of what may be at risk, you should talk to an attorney about the pros and cons of entering into a prenuptial agreement and/or creating an irrevocable trust to protect your assets in the event you decide to go with your heart and marry Joe.
Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.