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Before Thanksgiving a girlfriend’s significant other (SO) had a devastating stroke. He’s been in ICU for much of that time but was moved to a regular hospital room less than a week ago. Yesterday a woman from the hospital called and told her he wouldn’t get any better than he is now, and the hospital wants him gone by Monday. The woman from the hospital suggested my girlfriend’s options were to put him in an assisted living facility, or take him home with 24-hour care and diapers for the rest of his life. He’s in his 50’s.

This is the same hospital that wouldn’t let her into ICU or confer with her about his medical condition because they weren’t married.

This is an unthinkable situation, but one the gay community has been dealing with forever. If you’re living with someone, do you know your legal rights if you or your SO becomes seriously injured, ill or dies? Don’t wait until you’re walking in my girlfriend’s shoes to educate yourself.

This post does not constitute legal advice. I am passing along things I’ve researched and gleaned from talking to another girlfriend about the legal steps she and her SO have already taken.

According to the Pew Research Center, since 2007, the number of cohabiting adults—choosing to live together instead of getting married—over age 50 has risen 75 percent, up from 7.2 million to 8.9 million. Divorced women are in 55% of these relationships.

Since women over 50 are the wealthiest demographic in history, if you have no plans to marry, then it’s imperative for you and your significant other to seek legal counsel and get your unmarried house in order… Now!

  • Consult an attorney, together.
  • Take steps to protect your individual and shared assets. Some attorneys and financial planners call it a “Living Together Agreement.”
  • Assign one another your medical power of attorney (if you’re not comfortable with that, spell out exactly who you want to have your power of attorney) as well as the right for each of you to discuss your SO’s healthcare issues with his/her doctors.
  • Include your wishes about end of life care and organ donation.
  • If one or both of you don’t have insurance, know what your financial alternatives are such as Medicaid and social services.
  • Know one another’s social security number and computer and mobile device passwords.
  • Designate your SO as your I.C.E. (in case of emergency) contact with all of your doctors, and add the word “ICE” to their name on your cellphone. EMS and police know to look there. Regardless of whether we’re married or single, we should all add an ICE contact on our cellphone.
  • If your cellphone has a “Health” section, fill it out. List all of your medications, allergies, doctor contacts, ICE info, etc.

Take a lesson from both of my girlfriends. Don’t leave your significant other literally holding the financial bag—with their hands tied behind their back—for your medical, longterm care, burial and any debts or lawsuits that may arise.

As one of my girlfriends said, “We are all going to die, so plan for it while you’re well and happy and feeling immortal.”

Love, Brenda


  • Charlesñjoycee Silverman December 9, 2017 at 4:05 am

    Very serious and sad. Good advice. Big dilemma in today’s messy world.

    • Brenda Coffee December 9, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      I’m devastated for my friend and her SO. Thanks Joycee.

  • Anonymous December 9, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Thanks for sharing this Good information.

    • Brenda Coffee December 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      You’re welcome. It’s great when I find something we might have overlooked.

  • Maura Gahan December 9, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Great and very necessary post Brenda. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    • Brenda Coffee December 9, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you, Maura. Even if we don’t need it, someone we know may.

  • Elaine Ambrose December 9, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Excellent advice.

    • Brenda Coffee December 9, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks so much, Elaine!

  • Susan Y. December 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you for this reminder. I don’t have an SO at this time but I do utilize the ICE app on my phone and this was a reminder to update. Lo and behold the app was not functioning due to all the Apple updates and I had to download a completely different version. Thank you again for this important information.

    • Brenda Coffee December 10, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Hi Susan, Thanks for telling me. I’m delighted you updated your ICE information. It doesn’t occur to many of us that info could be a lifesaver… our own! Brenda

  • Sue Burpee December 10, 2017 at 8:50 am

    What a sobering tale, Brenda. Devastating enough to have a partner is such a state, but terribly sad to add to that the lack of compassion and support of the medical system just because they’re not married. I always thought that after living together for a year couples were legally in a “common-law” marriage. But maybe that’s just up here in Canada. And maybe I’m woefully out of date.

    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      I believed the same thing, Sue, but whether it’s legal liability or what, the medical profession doesn’t see it that way. This brings up another blog entirely… Is it considered “common-law” marriage,” after a year, and are you legally protected? Sound like married or unmarried, we need to have legal documents in place… then there’s sexual harassment… I’ve read where some men are hesitant to ask women out on a date for fear it will be construed as sexual harassment. “Ay yi yi! Thanks for your great point.

  • LA CONTESSA December 11, 2017 at 11:04 am


    • Brenda Coffee December 11, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      I think common sense was replaced by LEGAL LIABILITY!! xoxox, Brenda

  • Michele Morin December 14, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Sobering and devastating.

    • Brenda Coffee December 14, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      You’re right Michele. It’s a horrendous, unthinkable situation for everyone! I appreciate that you read my post and commented.

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