Mary and Paul had been married for over 50 years.
Lately, Paul’s health had begun to fail and he needed
Mary’s assistance more and more. Mary was happy to do it.
She loved her husband, but she also felt herself getting
more tired every day.
Like most married couples, Mary and Paul owned their
assets in joint ownership. Their financial advisor assured
them this would “avoid probate”, if one of them died.
Mary knew that someday Paul might need to go to a
long-term care facility and decided to see a lawyer to
determine if there were any options she needed to
consider. Upon reviewing Mary’s will and asset ownership,
the attorney shared with her that if anything happened to
her before her husband, he would automatically get
everything because of the joint ownership.
Mary was pleased with this confirmation since that was
their intention. The attorney, however, was not so
confident. He explained to her that she was more at risk
of dying than her husband because of the additional stress
being put on her to care for her husband.
He continued to explain that, in many situations, when
there is an ill spouse, the well spouse, who is often the
main caretaker, has a much higher level of stress, often
does not eat well or get enough sleep. Their health
eventually fails too.
The ailing spouse, on the other hand, is in a much
better position since they are getting all of their needs
fulfilled through the caretaker spouse. In this case, he
explained to Mary, that if something were to happen to
her, all the assets going to her husband would likely be
lost to pay for his care in a nursing home, which would be
likely without her support.
In addition, the same would occur if she left
everything to her husband in her will. Mary was shocked
and concerned. No one had explained that to her and she
had not once considered it, but realized it was quite
possible. Something could happen to her first, and all of
their assets would be lost to her husband’s care. So not
only does a caretaker spouse face potential health issues,
they also face financial issues.
He next explained several ways Mary could protect her
assets and ensure her husband gets the best care, should
something to happen to her.
Each solution, however, required her to change the
ownership of their accounts from joint ownership and this
was only the beginning
Joint ownership is rarely the proper way to own assets.
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