A touching article in the New York Times is circulating on social media sites describing the marriage of two people well into their nineties in Middletown, New York. Putting romantic issues aside, from the stand point of protecting assets from the nursing home, marriage can be beneficial or risky depending on the assets each spouse brings to the table. In general, an unmarried individual is allowed to have only $2,000 in assets to qualify for MassHealth nursing home benefits. For a married couple, the institutionalized spouse is again limited to $2,000, but the non-institutionalized spouse is allowed to have at present $120,900, called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance, with no “look back” period applicable to transfers between spouses.
It follows that couples with relatively small estates may be able to shelter more assets by getting married, whereas couples with larger estates may be putting more assets at risk.