Tuesday, April 29, 2014
After losing his wife to multiple sclerosis, 68-year-old Stephen Ward began dating 70-year-old Phyllis Kellerman. The couple soon fell in love and moved into Ward’s Florida Beach home. Although they contemplated marriage, Ward and Kellerman decided against it out of concern for potential legal and financial problems. “We decided to act as a married people—but not to get a marriage certificate,” explained Kellerman.
Like Ward and Kellerman, many Americans are straying away from traditional notions of marriage. For many, the decision to remain single centers on money. A partner who remarries may lose alimony, Social Security, or a survivor’s pension. “Young people may be eager to marry for love, but older couples are more practical and worry about paying the bills.”
Lawyers urge unmarried clients to draft agreements specifying which partner is responsible for expenses and who will inherit assets. Some couples sign health proxies, giving each the right to make medical decisions for the other. The proxies may help to prevent problems and prepare in case families are not around.
See Stanley Luxenberg, Welcoming Love At An Older Age, But Not Necessarily Marriage, The New York Times, Apr. 25, 2014.
Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.