Many older adults in America find that life after 65 is a time when they’re more financially secure than at any other point in their lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate this demographic generally has the lowest poverty rate—due in part because their children are raised, mortgages have been paid off, and they’re able to utilize Medicare and Social Security. 

But while financially secure, many older Americans face other challenges as their family moves away and friends begin to die. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, more than one-third of adults over age 45 feel lonely, and one-quarter of adults over 65 may feel socially isolated. These issues make them vulnerable to scams, fraud, and cons—especially the romance scam, or what’s known as a predatory marriage. Here’s what the New York elder law attorneys at Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group, P.C., think you and your family should know. New York Estate Planning Attorneys | Predatory Marriages

What’s a Predatory Marriage?

Also called a “secret marriage,” a predatory marriage is a scheme where a man or woman begins a relationship with a senior adult to gain access to that individual's money, estate, and assets.

The senior believes the relationship is of a romantic nature. However, the predator—who’s usually much younger than the senior—is driven by greed and a desire to benefit from the senior’s financial stability. The predator might be someone who looks after the senior or even someone with whom the senior has a well-established relationship. 

When and Where the Marriage Takes Place

  • When the senior becomes mentally incapacitated or impaired.
  • When the senior’s family, friends, and support people are less available. 
  • Often in a quick and hasty courthouse ceremony.

Usually, the older adult believes they’ve found love again and a partner for the rest of their life. If they’re cognitively impaired, they may not realize the marriage has taken place at all. 

What Happens After the Marriage

Once the predator has married the senior, they often act swiftly. They’ll add their name to all bank accounts and begin to empty them of money. The predator may have the senior rewrite their will, changing beneficiaries and altering who receives valuable assets and/or inherits properties. The FBI’s 2021 Elder Fraud Report states that scammers who posed as love interests to seniors “led to losses of more than $432 million in 2021 for people over 60.”

If You’re a Senior Considering Marriage: Consult With an NY Elder Law Attorney

If you’ve lost a spouse or have been alone for a long time, a new relationship is appealing for many reasons. It may feel exciting and intoxicating to find love later in life. It may give you renewed vigor and enthusiasm. And it may provide you with a sense of security that someone will be with you if you suffer health problems. 

But it’s important to consider how the marriage will affect your estate plan, and talking with an elder law attorney can help. It’s possible that you have an estate plan already written that provides for your children and grandchildren, naming them as beneficiaries of your assets. If you’re considering marriage, especially with a much younger person, it’s beneficial to speak with an estate planning attorney about how you want to change your estate plan to accommodate your new partner. 

Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group, P.C. knows about predatory marriages, and while the topic might be difficult to discuss, our attorneys can help you understand the risks involved in a later-life union and what to consider. Here are some examples. 

Your Current Home

It’s important to decide what you want to happen with your home. Before combining your household with someone else’s, consider what happens to the house you and your new partner both share should you die first. If you intended for a family member to have the house after you pass away, how will your marriage and any changes you’ll make to your estate plan affect that decision?

Social Security Benefits

If you receive Social Security from a former spouse—either because you divorced or your spouse died—remarrying can affect those benefits. It’s important to understand how your financial situation will be impacted once you legally take a new partner. 

Our New York elder law attorneys can help explain this and other aspects to you. We’ll cover all the issues and discuss the options you have for securing your financial situation before you head down the aisle.