Which age group would you expect to see the cohabitation lifestyle to grow the fastest in — the under-30 set or the over-50 one? Surprisingly, cohabitation is the fastest growing in the latter group. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, while only 1.2 million couples over 50 cohabited 15 years ago, the number today is 2.8 million.
Have people over 50 suddenly adopted modern values?
Among young people, cohabitation is preferred because it allows them to test drive everyday life with a partner before committing. They aren’t held back by traditional values that hold living in sin to be distasteful. With older people, it’s completely different.
The popularity of cohabitation among those over 50 isn’t to be interpreted as a value shift. Rather, it merely comes down to financial compulsion. Millions over 50 are divorced and receive Social Security benefit checks, the pension of a spouse now passed away or even alimony. If they choose to marry again, they lose all of these benefits. Marrying, then, isn’t as clear an option for them as it would be for young people.
Other financial problems come into play when you get married over 50
Medicaid: When you marry, your assets legally pool together with those of your spouse. This can be a problem when you need Medicaid to pay for your medical care. Medicaid only kicks in once you exhaust all your assets. If you are married, you have to sell everything that both you and your spouse own before you claim Medicaid. If you don’t marry, only your assets need to be liquidated.
Your will: Keeping your assets intact to leave to your children can be a problem. If your assets go into the joint pool, the children of your new spouse will be entitled to your assets just the same as your own children. While it is certainly possible to write up a will that specifies who exactly has claims on the estate, such wills can cost thousands to draw up. They aren’t all that airtight, either. In many states, the law forces you to leave at least one-third of your estate to your spouse. Nothing you write in your will can change that.
Student aid: Many kinds of student aid are awarded based on the income of the student applicant’s family. Marrying, then, can make a child’s student aid situation uncertain. For instance, if you make $50,000 a year and your child gets $18,000 in aid, he could lose much of it if you marry someone who also makes $50,000 a year.
A few legal problems need dealing with
Cohabiting couples have no legal status. For this reason, lawyers often recommend to couples in such arrangements that they draw up legal agreements to cover various possibilities.
- Specifying who is responsible for which expenses around the house can make sense for some.
- Clearly defining inheritance is important. In many cases, when a couple lives in the home of one partner, the death of the partner who owns the house can be a huge problem. The owner’s children tend to come around, claim the property and tell the surviving partner to leave.
- When one partner is in hospital, the other partner needs legal rights to participate in decisions to do with their health. Cohabiting partners, though, are often barred even from making visits, leave alone making decisions for their partner. Lawyers, then, ask such couples to create health proxies. Such a proxy gives you all the needed medical rights concerning your partner.
With the kind of serious consequences involved, even orthodox Catholics choose cohabitation
The disadvantages to remarrying after 50 are endless. You can pay a very high married-couples tax rate, for instance. Military widows have it especially hard. A military widow who remarries loses not only her pension but also her health insurance. Discount shopping privileges at the base commissary will go, as well. Thousands of military widows choose to cohabit, then — even if their religion requires orthodox views on cohabitation.
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