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Financially Speaking

Marriage and Money: Talk Before Taking the Leap

Good advice, especially if you're older

Live-in partners pay nothing but can lose the use of the ill partner's income and assets, including the home. Meet with an elder care attorney to know your options. To find one, try the National Academy of Elder Care Attorneys in Vienna, Va., or your local bar association.

To mitigate these expenses, some married couples even consider divorce, says planner Kathleen Rehl, author of Moving Forward on Your Own, a financial guidebook for widows.

Inheritance can be a tough discussion for people with children from previous marriages. The kids may have started thinking that your money is theirs. Wealthy couples can keep their assets separate and leave it to their respective heirs, but that doesn't work when one spouse needs support.

One solution is to leave your money to your kids in trust, reserving the income for your spouse for life (plus the right to dip into principal for medical or other needs). Part of an estate, however, might go to the new spouse outright. Prenups are essential, as is full disclosure to the kids.

I'm a widow who lived for a while with the man we all cheerily called my "boyfriend." My grandchildren thought that made me pretty cool. (They found it even cooler to say they were going to their grandmother's wedding.) I was fine with the live-in state, but my mate turned out to be the marrying kind, and I'm happy being married, too. I had one condition: He had to buy long-term care insurance. Luckily, he qualified!

Jane Bryant Quinn is a personal finance expert and author of Making the Most of Your Money NOW. She writes regularly for the Bulletin.

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