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I'm a long-distance caregiver for a relative with fairly advanced dementia (not a parent). She has a lovely gentleman friend whose presence in her life has allowed her to live independently longer than she might otherwise. They announced yesterday that they are getting married. His children and I want them to be happy, but we all have deep concerns about this. He has no money and she has very little; we both worry that by marrying, she will become financially responsible for him and drain her own resources, which she'll need later for her own care. We also worry that because of her dementia (and she's fairly far into it -- she can no longer handle her own finances or daily activities and is having delusional episodes) she's not able to make an informed decision about this. I can explain the financial issues to her, but I don't think she'd understand them. Her gentleman friend says they plan to talk to an attorney and put a prenup in place so that their finances won't mingle, but I don't think Medicaid -- which is where they're both heading -- will care about a prenup; once they're married, I suspect her modest nest egg, which is enough for her, but not for two, will have to go to support them both. What can or should I do, if anything? Again, his children and I want them to be happy, but there are so many things about this that worry us. She's 76 and he's 84, and his doctor tells me he also has the beginnings of dementia, though he is not nearly as far along as she is. All input appreciated!

This has probably already been suggested: let them marry, have a big party, but no marriage certificate. Will they know the difference? IF they ask for a certificate, write one up on the computer. It won't be legal--it will just all be fun and make them happy. A hippy wedding, if you will.

Spare their finances, spare their families.
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Reply to Salisbury
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She is not competent to marry. She does not understand the consequences. You are working with a person who may have the mind of a child.

Does she get a pension from a former husband? That could stop if she marrys again. Is her SS based on a former husband, that could be reduced getting married again?
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Reply to JoAnn29
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gdaughter Feb 26, 2019
Yeah. That is why I suggested an elder law consult. They do this stuff day in and day out and the laws could vary state to state. It is a worthwhile investment, if they want to legally do it, and it could even be an advantage...could being the key word. At the seminar I was at (again, in OH) they mentioned very specific annuities that may not pay as well as others, but could be an income source and they are medicaid approved! Life shouldn't have to be so complicated or biased against single people!
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I also was thinking about offering them a ring ceremony that will make them feel married. It would be very sweet for both families to support these two old people wanting to be together. How would they feel if you and his family surprised them with a ring ceremony and luncheon afterward? Someone artistic could create a fancy-looking certificate on parchment paper that the happy couple could sign. Have it framed and hang it in their apartment. Now is the time to get creative.
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ImageIMP Feb 25, 2019
That's right along the lines I'm thinking! I thought a "Commitment ceremony" - rings, flowers, dressed up, guests, etc. - might in their minds be enough for them to feel (believe?) living together would be OK! The parchment certificate is a great idea!
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I’m definitely on the side of encouraging the relationship IF you can establish that neither of their financial circumstances would be negatively affected.
I’ve known situations In which a clergy person will waive the legalities and perform a ceremony without licensing.
The question of being competent to enter into a contract becomes moot if the ceremony is spiritual/moral rather than specifically according to the books.
She has been able to “live longer” because of this man’s love and support, and it sounds as though he has received comparable benefits from being with her.
Both families have a preliminary sense of what may happen if they’re together, and what may happen if they’re not.
97yroldmom and I totally agree.
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Reply to AnnReid
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jacobsonbob Feb 25, 2019
I think you've suggested a wonderful idea. This strikes me as essentially the opposite of a "civil union" whose intent is for the legalities to be covered even if not recognized as a marriage (if I'm understanding this correctly).
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You don't have to be officially married to live together and be happy together. I love the idea of the ring ceremony and family gathered around. Don't mingle the finances at this point.
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Reply to DMMFALLSCHURCH
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Medicaid isn’t likely to care if a prenup exists. Once married, both their individual as well as joint assets & both monthly income will be looked at if either applies for Medicaid. What will make a big difference is if they are applying for community based low income Medicaid program OR if it ends up that 1 needs to go into a skilled nursing care facility and applies for LTC Medicaid program to pay for it BUT the other heAlthier spouse remainsin the apt and then becomes considered to be a “community spouse” (CS) for under Medicaid rules.

CS rules are imo not at all simple or straightforward as Medicaid does not expect the CS to be impoverished but the now in the NH spouse must be impoverished. How to segregate $ and how to get income diverted from NH spouse to CS spouse is not imo a DIY. CS/NH couples need an elder law atty to review their $ beforehand ever applying for Medicaid in general and really need to do this if it’s a CS/NH situation.

Could they live together in a single apt in the building they are currently in IF they are an unmarried couple?
Could this be a requirement of the building so this requirement perhaps driving the “we’re getting wedded” plan? Try to check on this. Some building need residents to be family to occupy an apt as they don’t allow sub-leasing. Which 1 of them would be if not married or files as domestic partners.

If thetes dementia, do they truly understand the legality that being married places?
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Reply to igloo572
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You are right, Medicaid does not recognize prenuptial agreements. Mom would be financially responsible for his care when he has no assets. Of course, the reverse also applies.

The idea of a joining ceremony is a good one. The relationship should be supported. Similar happened with my mom and an old high school boyfriend. They married on my mom's 80th birthday. Mom at that time was in early to middle stages of Alzheimer's and probably not competent to understand the financial implications of getting married. And in the long run, it didn't matter. He passed on their 10th anniversary, coincidentally or not, the day that mom's SS would have increased based on his SS. But, mom's pension was too high to receive an increased SS amount

He still had cash because of a very good federal pension so cost of his care did not become mom's responsibility. They had a prenuptial to protect both their assets from the cost of care for either one of them. But, they did not realize that is would not have made one bit of difference in the whole scheme of things.
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Reply to gladimhere
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I think I’d try to imagine this through a bit further.
You say they both will end up on Medicaid and your worried about the bride running out of money if she married.
I would contact a certified elder care attorney who is well versed in Medicaid in the states they live in. Who knows a combined income might be better for both and if they enjoy their last years together, why not allow them that without interference? Spend at least as much time trying to make it a success as you spend trying to prevent it. All any of us have is today. To have a companion is priceless.
The “consenting adults” in this case yourself and the grooms children should both speak to this attorney to work out the details. Perhaps if they agree to move into an ALF that also offers MC for when the time comes would be a consideration? If my loved one was able to live more or less independently longer because she had a built in companion, I’d consider that worth a great deal of her savings.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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LauraJMT Feb 23, 2019
Thanks. I definitely don't want to stand in their way as long as what makes them happy now doesn't have financial consequences that make them unhappy by affecting their care later on. I'm actually very glad they found each other.
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I think it’s wonderful. They could just have a religious ceremony without taking the paperwork to the courthouse. Married in front of God, but not recognized in most states. Check to make sure that your state doesn’t recognize civil marriage.
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sashamarie Feb 26, 2019
I agree with Julia Rose. I have lived with a wonderful man for 5 years. We both have family that like our arrangement because if we marry it gets complicated financially even though we both have trusts. I would check with an elders attorney because of the Medicaid issue. In Florida when he went into a nursing home we had to sell everything in his name and put the money into a burial fund in order to qualify for Medicaid even though his SO had lived with him for 27 years. Keep in mind if she lives alone and needs Medicaid she no doubt would lose her home anyway.
Good Luck to you and them.
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They can be married in the eyes of God and their friends and family. Just don’t get a marriage license.

They can still experience the public affirmation and celebration of their love without entering into the legal contract that is only a part of what a marriage is about.
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