At Bellomo & Associates we practice only estate planning and elder law. Many of our clients are older. Often, two people get together later in life either because of a death or divorce, and they have been together for years but never married.
At some point they start to discuss whether or not they should legally get married or simply stay dating and not formalize the relationship. In such cases, they will often ask us for legal advice on this. There are so many factors that go into a decision like this, starting with do they actually want to be married or are they asking the question for another reason.
For example, often people come into my office asking if it makes sense financially. Rarely am I asked or told about how much they want to get married for the sake of love.
When making this decision, a few of the factors that they should consider would be the fact that if one of them entered a nursing home, if they are married the assets of both spouses would be counted for Medicaid qualification; even if they have a prenuptial agreement, the assets of both spouses will count.
Furthermore, if one spouse dies and they are not married and they want the assets to go to the other person, since they were not legally married the Pennsylvania inheritance tax rate would be 15%, as opposed to zero if they were married, the inheritance tax would be zero under Pennsylvania law.
There are also other factors to consider, such as children to previous marriages and how do you want the assets to be distributed – either to your spouse or to your children, or in a trust for your spouse with the remainder to your children, or some combination of these options.
There are certainly other considerations such as Social Security and financial planning. The main thing that I always tell our potential clients is to certainly do what your heart tells you to do, but make an informed decision, understanding full well that there can be inheritance tax and other long-term care implications that you may not have thought about, but which you will need to consider.
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