News & Resources: Blog

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Published: February 16, 2023

The number of older Americans experiencing widowhood or divorce is on the rise, prompting them to form new partnerships. The US Census Bureau reports that more than half of all older adults have only married once, opting to stay legally single in their future relationships. Cohabitating can have unforeseen and unintended consequences without a legally recognized civil union, marriage, or domestic partnership certificate. 

For instance, your assets are not mutually inheritable without careful estate planning, including a “living together contract.” This contract type can be specific and cover one transaction, such as purchasing a new home. The contract can also encompass every aspect of your property and finances, including asset distribution in the event of incapacitation, death, or breakup.

Creating Comprehensive Legal Agreements

Many believe they can address domestic decision-making, such as permissions for owning pets, entertaining guests, and minor tasks like who will do the dishes in a casual contract, but it’s unlikely to be enforced by the courts. If you’re an unmarried couple, it’s safer to draw up a comprehensive agreement, enforceable by the courts, to see you through your lives together. However, you won’t want to co-mingle personal and financial clauses in a single contract as it may render the agreement unenforceable.

For estate planning purposes, a comprehensive living together agreement includes all assets and property owned before the relationship and another for any acquisitions during the relationship. The property and asset division is much like a prenuptial agreement. Remember, joint obligations to a mortgage company or a landlord do not create a contractual relationship or entitle you to a property settlement in the event of death or the parting of ways. With non-marital agreements, each partner should also have a valid will for the state in which they live.

A living together contract often includes rules regarding gifts received, living expenses, property purchases, inheritable rights, and a method for dispute resolution that may arise later, typically through mediation. Having a living together agreement in writing can avoid a host of future legal issues and can be developed in the spirit of two fair-minded individuals clarifying the understanding of a partnership.

Reasons Many Prefer to Stay Single

Many older Americans prefer not to remarry as it can have consequences to social security income, pension benefit awards, alimony (as part of a divorce settlement), tax consequences, and rights of survivorship. A new spouse’s income may disqualify a child for college financial aid or, in the case of a disabled child, impact the eligibility for government assistance programs.

Estate Planning Attorneys Solve Challenges for Co-Habitating Couples

Because many seniors and near seniors live together in non-legally recognized ways, estate planning can create challenges when partners want to provide for each other after death.

A legally binding living together contract must work with existing plans for already named heirs. A qualified estate planning attorney can draw up this contract and make necessary changes to current estate plans to avoid future legal conflicts. Like all estate planning documents, the regular review of its content to account for major life changes or preferences is crucial. If you plan to make substantive changes, it is best to be open with your partner and any adult children.

Avoid personal and family conflicts through open communication channels and mutual understanding. A newer, unmarried partner of a beloved parent may make adult children suspicious of their intent. Cohabitating is becoming more popular; however, as states adjudicate separations and inheritance, there is much to consider about planning property and asset control. To protect and provide for your partner and your adult children, consult an estate planning attorney about a living together contract in conjunction with your estate plan to ensure your documents reflect your wishes and are legally enforceable.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your legal matters, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 215-364-1111 to schedule a consultation.

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It can be quite confusing to determine which Medicare plan is best for you. There are several types of plans, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding some basic features will help you decide how to maximize your healthcare dollars and choices. You should review your choice periodically, especially as elements of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 change prescription medication and vaccine policies. Coverage can also change from year to year..

There are three basic types of plans:

  1. Original Medicare
  2. Medicare Advantage
  3. Medigap

Original Medicare

Medicare is a government health insurance plan for people 65 and older. Original Medicare, sometimes called traditional Medicare, comes in several parts. Each part covers different things and has various associated costs. 

Most people do not pay for Part A as it was deducted from their taxes paid while working. It is primarily for hospital visits and nursing care. However, there are many fees associated with being in a hospital that Medicare does not cover, which you still might have to pay out of pocket.

Part B requires monthly premiums, which can be deducted from your social security. You can elect to enroll in part B through Original Medicare. It covers a portion of doctors' visits, durable medical goods, and more. 

Part D covers the cost of many prescription medications. You can add it to Original Medicare or purchase it as part of a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage is offered through private insurance companies that Medicare approves. Most plans include Parts A, B, and D of Original Medicare with some variations from the original. There are a wide variety of Medicare Advantage plans, including Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) or Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO). PPOs tend to have higher premiums and offer more choices than HMOs. Medicare Advantage HMOs and PPOs often have higher premiums than traditional Medicare because they usually cover more expenses, including prescription drug costs, vision, hearing, and dental.

However, the overall costs, premiums, plus out-of-pocket expenses for Advantage plans can be lower than Original Medicare because the private insurers manage patient care and limit choices. They assemble networks of hospitals and physicians to control their costs and reduce their customer's premiums. They also restrict access to certain providers and increase the cost of care obtained out-of-network.

Traditional Medicare allows people to seek care from any provider participating in Medicare, which includes virtually all hospitals and physicians.

Medigap

Medigap is a co-insurance or supplement to Original Medicare. You can enroll when you first enroll in Part B. It is also available through Medicaid, a union, or a former employer when you qualify for both programs. You can’t have both Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans. Medigap helps cover expenses that Original Medicare does not cover, such as co-pays and deductibles. Due to the enrollment restrictions, you should strongly consider Medigap when you first become eligible.

The Right Choice for You

With all the different plans, parts, choices, and restrictions, it is crucial to consider your priorities for care. Limited access to doctors and hospitals may become important if you need specialized medical care, such as cancer treatment. Before enrolling, consider what specialty hospitals are included in Advantage plans. Likewise, Advantage plans can make it difficult to see a specialist for ongoing and chronic conditions due to limitations in long-term care services. An estate planning lawyer or elder law attorney can help address long-term care planning and the potential to qualify for Medicaid when necessary.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has put together a cost analysis to help you determine when Medicare Advantage would save you money. As you can see, the longer you stay in the hospital, the less advantageous an Advantage plan becomes.

Consumer Reports notes that the JAMA reported that seniors on Advantage plans often get more preventive care than those on traditional Medicare plans. JAMA published a comprehensive paper about how Medicare plan choice affects spending and discovered that Medicare Advantage enrollees usually spend less.

Consumer Reports notes that the JAMA reported that seniors on Advantage plans often get more preventive care than those on traditional Medicare plans. JAMA published a comprehensive paper about how Medicare plan choice affects spending and discovered that Medicare Advantage enrollees usually spend less.

A Guide in Choices after 65

Enrolling in the right Medicare coverage is one of many decisions that will affect your quality of life in your senior years. We are here to help you navigate a wide variety of choices.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your legal matters, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 215-364-1111 to schedule a consultation.

- Medigap, Medicare Advantage, and Traditional Medicare

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Scott Bloom is one of the most caring, responsive, elder law attorney you can find in central New Jersey. He has been a great support not only for my parents but also for me and my siblings. We are deeply grateful for everything he has done over the past 3 years. I am thankful ever day that he came into our lives. In the past year, we lost our father to the terrible disease of dementia, but we are relieved to know that our mother is still in good hands with Scott by her side. Our entire family highly recommends Scott Bloom and his team!
- Annette B., Allentown, New Jersey

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