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As people live longer, multiple marriages are more common and proper elder law planning is important. Couples who marry should consider the legal implications of marriage at any age, but especially later in life marriages. Marriage creates certain rights and obligations and it is important to understand those rights and obligations. It is important to understand that married couples owe each other certain duties, such as the duty to support one another. If one spouse has medical issues and incurs high hospital expenses, the other spouse’s income and assets may be used to pay for them.

Senior couples may want to consider entering into a prenuptial agreement. Seniors may have assets to protect, children from prior marriages whom they’d like to provide for, and other concerns that can be addressed in a prenuptial agreement. The prenuptial agreement can address spousal support, division of debts and property, inheritance rights, and other issues. However, if one spouse needed to qualify for Medicaid to provide long-term institutionalized care, all assets of both spouses are considered available for the care of either and Medicaid will ignore the provisions of the prenuptial agreement.

Finally, after the wedding, the senior couple should ensure that their estate planning documents are updated, including any wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, and advance medical directives, to make sure the documents reflect his or her wishes and any new decisions he or she has made.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

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