The number of Americans over 65 who are divorced has radically increased in the last 15 years and elder law attorneys believe that money is partly to blame. The amount of couples over 65 that are divorced has risen nearly 60% since 1990 whereas the overall amount of couples divorced has risen only 8%. The issue of fighting over money causing divorce isn’t news, but in the case of couples 65 and older divorce is in fact conducted to preserve the money.
One of the common factors between many of the older couples getting divorced is that one of the spouses needs long term care and nursing home stays. Medicare, the government insurance program for people over 65, does not cover such long term care options. Medicaid, the Government program for low-income individuals does cover such programs; however, it can’t be used until a person exhausts all his resources. When one of the spouses gets sick, many married couples have to decrease most of their assets to qualify for Medicaid, leaving little money for the healthy spouse. If the couple divorces, the healthy spouse may be able to preserve many of her assets. Elder Law attorneys suspect that this proposition is the main reason why the amount of older couples divorcing has sharply risen.
In addition to money leading to elder divorce, Barbara Waxman, an executive and life coach in San Francisco, states that “many people, especially women, emerge from busy child bearing years with time to re-evaluate their lives and their partners, and decide that they want a relationship that works.” Mediated divorces are usually the perfect choice for these older couples because there is usually no hostility in the split, and often the split is actually commenced to help the other spouse preserve their assets.
The desire to preserve assets for the healthy spouse is still the greatest cause of divorce in aging couples. There is another way to preserve assets, however, and that’s to carry out proper estate planning. An experienced estate planning attorney can help couples properly plan for the costs and decisions involved in a long term care situation and can reduce the need for divorce as the only means to preserve assets. Estate planning is essential in order to properly plan for illness and aging so that the best option is not divorce or reducing the couples assets so they can qualify for Medicaid.