From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My partner and I have been together for over 25 years. Marriage would be nice, but I have the most money and his family has a history of long life. I worry that if I die and I give him everything, he may outlive those funds.
“Veteran” lesbian and gay couples cannot be blamed for hesitating to tie the knot. After years of planning for retirement as two single people, getting married late in life can throw a curveball into the financial and estate planning game. Getting married changes your tax status and eligibility for various government benefits. So, like any other huge life decision, marriage should be examined with an eye for retirement and asset protection efficiencies.
In your case, if your partner lives long enough to use up his savings, he might be eligible for needs-based government programs. But if he is married to you, your assets might disqualify him. Further, if you were to die and leave assets to him, then those assets would have to be used prior to qualifying for the needs based programs.
One possible answer is that you remain partners, or have a commitment ceremony rather than legally tying the knot. This way we could draft an estate plan for you leaving your assets in a protective trust for your partner that would shelter the assets, but still allow your partner to qualify for government programs. He would have the best of both worlds: government benefits that he has earned by working his whole life and sheltered assets to provide him the extras that the programs do not provide.
The best option is to have us review your assets as well as getting input from a good Wealth Advisor and Accountant. By brainstorming the options you can then make decision based on a good understanding the financial ramifications of marriage on your given situation.