LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR RELATIONSHIPS LATER IN LIFE
Commencing a new relationship later in life is now a very common reality for lots of couples and with that, quite often come blended families with adult children. Whilst having the companionship as you live out your retirement years can offer security and happiness for you and your family, there are some important legal considerations and discussions worth having with your partner.
It’s more than likely that both you and your partner have accumulated your own wealth during years prior to your relationship, and you might want to keep it that way. The Property (Relationships Act) 1976 doesn’t discriminate against age and it’s still important that if you want to preserve your wealth for you and your family in the event of separation or death, you and your partner consider entering into a Contracting Out Agreement (Pre-nuptial agreement) under the Act.
An Occupation Right Agreement (ORA) is the contractual document which gives you a right to occupy your home in a retirement village. If you and your partner are entering into an ORA together, on death, the survivor receives the benefit of the ORA including the exit payment paid out by the Village on termination. If the exit payment is intended to be split equally between you and your partner (or your respective estates) you’ll need to take steps with your lawyer to ensure this arrangement is carefully documented.
Residential Care Subsidy
If you are in a relationship and require residential care, the Ministry of Social Development typically assesses you for eligibility for the Residential Care Subsidy based on you and your partner as a unit, regardless of whether you have a Contracting Out Agreement which defines your assets as completely separate from one another. This means that if either of you requires residential care, the other person’s assets will be asset tested as part of that application. It’s important to consider the possibility that you might have to help your partner cover their care costs if they don’t have the capital to do that themselves, or if their capital is tied up in the home you want to continue occupying.
Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney
Lastly, it’s important to ensure your estate planning affairs are up to date and reflect your current wishes. Perhaps you want to ensure your partner can continue to live in the home you may own separately or together in the event of your death , but you want to make sure at the end of the day your children receive your wealth. You may want to consider that in the event of your death (or mental incapacity) the persons appointed in the roles as executors or attorneys have both you and your partner’s best interests at heart.
If you’d like advice about your relationship property, estate planning or elder living arrangements, our friendly team of experienced local life planning lawyers are happy to help.
Our thanks to Julia Ingham for writing this article, which was first published in the Mahurangi Matters in August 2023.