Living Together Unmarried: The New Normal?

By: Jody Smith

Seniors are just as capable of having stars in their eyes as the next person. But they've also been around a good long while and have learned some things (hopefully) from earlier relationships.

It seems that seniors have been shacking up together at an increasing rate. According to Bowling Green State University, numbers have increased from 2000 to 2006 by 50 percent. According the U.S Census Bureau, the number of seniors living together rather than getting married has almost doubled from 1989 - 2000.

Does this represent a change in older Americans' views about marriage? In many cases, it does not. Many of these seniors hold traditional beliefs. They've just found that marriage is not practical for them.

Marrying will cause a loss of a number of financial benefits, e.g., health insurance, pension and military benefits, and a loss in some cases of Social Security benefits. By remaining unmarried, a senior protects their credit rating and their assets, and possibly their children's inheritance.

About.com recommends some precautionary steps for seniors who choose to live together over getting married. Update your wills so that they reflect what you want to leave to your children, and what you want to leave to your new love.

You had separate bank accounts and other financial assets before and there is no reason to change that now. You may even choose to keep both households.

You may decide to sign a prenup or cohabitation agreement.This will lay out what your expectations are... and are not. It's best to get the help of a lawyer to create such an agreement.

Still, living together does not mean you are not involved in each other's lives. If you are smart about it and do your research, between the two of you, you can decide what involvements you do and do not want to have.

If you aren't married but want to be involved in each other's medical decisions and have certain rights that normally are only given to a spouse, look into what kinds of documents you should have in your arsenal. A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) medical release will give you access to your partner's medical details.

If your city or state has domestic partnership laws, think about registering as domestic partners. This would let you and your partner have access to each others' health insurance and be involved in each others' health matters. Consider a health care proxy and possibly power of attorney for health care. Power of attorney may be desirable for areas other than health care, in case of incapacitation from any cause.

If you want to leave some or all of your estate to your partner, this will require involving a tax expert or an estate planning attorney to make things work for you.

Bottom line, you are old enough to be able to know what you want, and do what you want. You and your partner have many options to choose from in order to build the type of life and relationship you want.

Jody Smith is a freelance writer for Empowher.com.

Sources:

Cohabiting Seniors

http://marriage.about.com/cs/cohabitation/a/cohabseniors.htm

Tips for Cohabiting Seniors

http://marriage.about.com/cs/cohabitation/a/cohabseniors_2.htm

Is It Better to Remarry or Just Live Together?

http://www.elderlawanswers.com/resources/article.asp?id=6736&Section=4&state=

Cohabiting Seniors: Protect Your Rights

http://elderlawanswers.com/resources/article.asp?id=5323&section=4

Related Links:

Advice on Relationships - Keeping the Divorce Rate Low--An Editorial

http://www.empowher.com/relationships-amp-family/content/advice-relationships-keeping-divorce-rate-low-editorial

The Emotional Aftermath of a Broken Marriage

http://www.empowher.com/emotional-health/content/emotional-aftermath-broken-marriage

Emotional Abuse: The Invisible Marriage Killer

http://www.empowher.com/mental-health/content/emotional-abuse-invisible-marriage-killer

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