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Responsibilities of spouse upon death of natural parent

Questions's picture

I am a senior citizen contemplating marriage to a 72 year old man with middle aged severly autistic son.  We are engaged and planning on living sepraely after marriage until  he si able to place his son in a group home.  He has been on a waiting list for a group home for over four years, with no end in sight. I am not willing to assume the care of his son upon his father's death,The question is would I be legally responsible, and what will happen to his son upon his father's death?

ESMOD's picture

I'm curious why you feel a need to actually formally marry your SO?  I would look carefully to understand all the legal and financial issues surrounding a legal union vs a more informal one.

As far as his son is concerned... you don't inherit such obligations.. but assets that you might inherit could be conditioned with obligations towards his son... like his son inherits the home and can live there.. but you can too.

I imagine that upon the death of your SO... and if you were not willing to continue offering him aid.. the state would ultimately step in... unless your SO had made other arrangements.

Survivingstephell's picture

A conversation with a lawyer and or financial advisor is in order in this situation.  His son needs to have a plan and you need to be secure in your future.  Sometimes marriage can complicate situations like this but you have no responsibility to SS unless you sign papers putting you in that role for him.  You won't truly know until you get the facts.  

notarelative's picture

We think of marriage as a love/ emotional connection, but legally it also entwines us financially. My advice to you would be to consult a lawyer versed in elderly law about the specifics of law where you are. The autistic son is a consideration, but also is your prospective spouse. He's 72 and healthy, but if you marry and he needs long term care, what are the long term Medicaid rules where you live. Would your pre marriage funds be impacted to pay for his care? To what extent would your post marriage funds be impacted?

There are reasons many older people live together and don't legally marry. 

Questions's picture

Thanks so much to all for your valued comments, you bring up some good points incuding he issue of LTC for my perspective spouse.  It's complicated, for sure!  Thanks again for taking the time to reply, sounds like I need to contact an elder care lawyer to get the straight scoop. Very impoirtant to look beore you leap!

Harry's picture

If your SO is in his 70's. His DS has to be in his 30's to 40's.   Why isn't he in a group home now?  Don't think SO is working on getting DS in?   Be careful.  If something happens to SO/DH. You may be stuck with SS.  You just can't throw him out.  

notarelative's picture

I'd want more information about the waiting list. The only experience I have with such lists is my mom's wait for elderly housing. That list was available for view and you could see her move up the list. Fiancé should be able to tell you his son's place on the list.

Questions's picture

Thank you for your additional comments, your words of wisdom are well taken.  I am giving your thoughts serious consideration and will be making some decisions for managing this situation very soon. Thank you so much for your kindness, caring and thoughtfulness!

 

 

tog redux's picture

I think you are wise to wait until he is in a group home to get married. Also do consult an attorney about how to do wills, etc.  His son is an adult and you have no obligation to take over care for him, the state will provide for his care if he is unable to care for himself.  

Questions's picture

Thanks, Harry!  Yes, that is my concern and Iwant to be fully informed.  The DS is in his early 40's, and they kept him at home all these years.  Finally got him a caregiver 4 years ago according to my suggestion, but he is no socialized and very disruptive. His father has made informal arrangements with former sister-in-law to care for his DS upon SO's death, but she in her 60's and I doubt that she will make this huge committment.  Next question is how long does it take the state to intervene when the sole parent dies?  I would imagine it could take a long time and there are no guarantees, correct?

tog redux's picture

If he has no one to care for him if your SO dies, you can call Adult Protective Services. I imagine they have emergency protocols for vulnerable Intellectually Disabled Adults with no one to care for them. 

Questions's picture

Why marry into this is the biggest question!  Living together is against my values, and his DS is so disruptive it would ruin our relationship if the three of us lived together.

justmakingthebest's picture

I have an autistic 21 yr old stepson. We haven't begun the waiting list process but I have been told that unless we have $6-7K per month, the group homes that are available to him (he is on Medicaid) are very limited, very poor and have a VERY long waiting list. 

Have you considered alternatives to group homes? An in-law suite with private kitchen and bath. Getting an aide to help him through his daily living to keep disruptions down. Also some respite care could be available if you take a trip. 

tog redux's picture

She's rightly concerned about being stuck with his care if her SO dies.  Since both of them are seniors, time for a more permanent plan to be made for him.

ESMOD's picture

If you could not handle living with his son... I would not be making any plans to get married before he gets the placement he is waiting on.  No, I don't believe you would have any legal obligation towards him (unless your SO made you executor and there were some stipulations on the estate doing things or giving his son support).  Moral obligation? that's ifffy.. I mean, if he were his son and you had known him for 30 years would you morally feel "ok" turning your back on him when you had the ability to help soften the blow of losing his father and the changes it would bring to his life?  But the adult son who you have only known via a fairly brief relationship?  a few years?  I don't know.. how much you would morally feel obligated.  I don't think it would be legal.. you could technically probably just walk away.

But there are a lot of other financial and legal issues that could be at play here and  you shouldn't make this decision lightly.

The other option would be to consider "dating" in the same way you have been which wouldn't put you in a morality bind.. and wouldn't put you in a place where you are living with his son.

And.. as someone suggested.. you could also decide as a couple to seek out housing which would give you more privacy and separation from his son.. and perhaps cargiver respite would make it more palatable.

But, there can be some compelling financial reasons why people do not want to get married late in life.  Issues with inheritances/estates.. benefit impacts.. etc..

Questions's picture

Thank you for your additional comments, they are very beneficial and I hold all of you in high esteem for dealing with your many difficult situations.  I am becoming more reluctant to enter into a marriage relationship due to all the concerns listed in these conversations that are confirming my fears.  I am taking your comments seriously since you have experience and insight that I am lacking.  You are all true heroes!

 

 

 

 

tog redux's picture

Your SO should have made a real plan for his son years ago, one that's legally done. 

notarelative's picture

His father has made informal arrangements with former sister-in-law to care for his DS upon SO's death.

Unless you have talked to the former sister-in-law, I would not put any credence in this. Fiance's belief in this may be based on a casual convetsation that SIL does not even remember. Fiance could have been stressed after the death of his wife and SIL tried comforting him by saying she'd watch over him. Fiance takes this to mean care for. SIL means it to be visit him in group home and maybe be his care plan attendee. Unless fiance has formally structured his estate so that SIL has financial authority over the son's special needs trust, SIL would probably have to apply for guardianship of the son.

ESMOD's picture

Yeah.. my dad made arrangements with a friend of his to take his dog if he were to fall ill or pass away. Over the years he helped this woman from time to time financially even.... but when he almost died a few years ago and I approached her about taking the dog if he passed.. "well.... now isn't a good time.. I have taken in this dog that doesn't like other dogs.. blah blah blah".  I quickly just said.. "thank you, that's fine, we wil handle it ourself"... and I was prepared to take the dog at that point.

Fortunately he did not die.. but people make all sorts of promises and then have 202 excuses why they can't come through when the rubber meets the road.

NOTHING is set in stone unless there are actual agreements written up and legalities taken care of.  Certainly, he should be leaving his estate to care for his son as well.  That is another issue OP needs to realize that her assets could end up part of an estate and distributed in ways she is not inclined to want to do.  

If she were to die first.. he could inherit and then leave it all to HIS son excluding any of her kids.. it can get complicated.

Questions's picture

Yes, I totally agree and am quite sure this is the situation.  I cannot imagine why and how my fiance's former sister-in-law would ever care for his DS upon his death, since she lives 45 minutes away and only sees him about 6-8 tiimes a year.  If she is only involved this much now while the SO is living, how much less involvement will there be when he is gone. She really has no obligation to care for her nephew/DS, and this is asking a lot. He needs to be watched 24/7, and that is a huge committment at any age.

 

ESMOD's picture

Unfortunately, it is long past the time that your SO should have been dealing with this issue.  I mean, certainly he understands that he will not live forever and if his son is wholly incapable of managing independently it is so unfair to him to put him in a position where he could be suddenly left without any help.  The time to transition to a group home or theraputic environment is best when their family is still around to ease that transition and provide support as their child navigates a life more independent from their parental home.

My father had a friend who was widowed and they had a son who while never formally diagnosed had never been able to move out of the home.. hold a job.. or have meaningful social connections.  It's probably pretty clear he had some autism spectrum/aspergers or something like that.  He just could not manage socially and that kept him from being able to work.  Now, who knows if his parent's protecting and coddling him made it worse than it could have been but when my dad knew them.. the guy was in his late 30's early 40's.  The problem is that the woman had some breast cancer history.. and it came back.. and not in the good way.  She decided that she needed to move across the country to be closer to one of her daughters (the local daughter was semi -estranged. partially due to the son situation)... so she sold her house and delayed treatment to go out west with her son.  

Unfortunately, her prognosis by the time she got back into the medical system was bleak.. so at the last minute of her life while she was ravaged by cancer.. she was trying to figure out how to help her son.. get him disability.. or assistance.  Of course, he was denied because he really had no documented history with issues.. and they deny everything at first.  We aren't 100% certain how it all ended up.  She didn't have many means... and when she passed we aren't sure whether her daughter and husband did step in to help the guy or whether they just left him alone to deal.

But the bottom line is that by not getting his son situated while he is capable of getting it done.. he risks the guy falling into a crack because that aunt may not be even equipped to step in as well meaning as her promise may be.

I would push hard on this issue with him.   Ask him to let you see exactly what he has applied for.. and what options have been researched.. and perhaps even do some research of your own to see what options may be out there.. there may be some that he has dismissed.. that should be revisited.

Questions's picture

I tiotally agreen that sticking your head in the sand and preteding it will just all magically be taken care of is not a good plan. The SD's mother died about five years ago, after caring for him at home for over 20 years after her son completed state mandated education.  As a result, he has poor social skills and people are actually afraid of him because of his inappropriate actions and size.  You can't really take him anywhere, and he only obtained a caregiver part time about three years ago at my urging. Sadly, he seems to have some latent artistic and other abilities that have not been developed, and he has no real life skills.  Thanks for your comments, you are absolutely on target and I really appreciate your sharing and advice.

Tried out's picture

can do something right now for his son's future. He can create a trust that will kick in when he dies that will create a monthly income for his support. If he doesn't have enough money to do this and have enough left to adequately supplement his retirement then he has no business getting married.  In this case, his son's future needs clearly outweigh his.

Questions's picture

Totally agree! My fiance assures me that when the he dies, the state witll take his son and provide for him.  I can't imagine that happening since they don't seem to have resources now.  Does anyone have any experience with this?

 

Harry's picture

The State may have to do something.  But they really don't want to pay for him.  They the state May go after you go pay part of his care.  What assets his BF has, he is in line for some of the father's estate.  That will go to his care,

As if you have a house with his father. Father died s. You are out on the street.  You must talk with a lawer yo find out where you actually stand.  1. Just living together. 2. Married maybe a 3 ?

Questions's picture

Wow, Harry, That is pretty frightning, so glad you took the time to reply. You brought up some excellent points I was not aware of or considering.  Thank you for your caring, your information provides great insight for helping assess this complicated situation.

Rags's picture

You in all likelihood will not have any legal duty to support your DH's adult child.  Upon your DH's demise he would become a ward of the State if there are no family members willing and able to assume guardianship.

The Gov't can go after resources of his father's estate if they are not distributed to heirs far enough in advance of the father's demise.   
 

After my granddad passed we liquidated my GP's estate and divided it between my patents, my brother, and I in order to protect those assets from Gov't seizure in the event my GM had to go into a Medicare funded retirement home.  
 

She had dementia and we wanted  to ensure that we would maintain control of her assets for her care and quality  of life rather than the Gov't taking it for her "care".

 

As it turned out, she did not have to go into a Gov't facility so it ended up being a moot point.  This was all done on the advice of an attorney who said "we never had this conversation".

Questions's picture

Sounds like you got great advice from your attorney, and money well spent in consulting fees.  I am a much more informed consumer after your comments and insights, and thank you for taking the time to provide this valuable education.  Wishing you all the best!  Thanks again!