Estate Planning in the New Year Using Trusts

Estate Planning in the New Year Using Trusts

With the start of a new year, are you thinking about your financial health for 2021 and beyond, including estate planning? In addition to a last will and testament, there are other tools you can use, such as trusts, to protect and transfer assets to loved ones. 

 

A trust can allow one person, often called the “trustor” or “grantor,” to store or transfer assets to someone else, usually called the “beneficiary.” The “trustee” is the person or entity managing the trust assets according to the trustor’s instructions. The trust can contain different assets, such as real property, investment accounts, cash, business interests, and more. 

 

Generally, there are two broad categories of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust can be changed or revoked by the grantor at any time. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, cannot be altered, amended, or revoked, except under limited circumstances.

 

Within the broader categories of irrevocable and revocable trust, there are a variety of other types of trusts. There are charitable trusts which allow the grantor to transfer assets to specific charities. There are generation-skipping trusts which allow for the transfer of assets to grandchildren instead of children. Special needs trusts allow for the providing of financial support to beneficiaries with special needs without impacting eligibility for government benefits.

 

Choosing the right trust for you can depend on the assets you have, how you want to oversee those assets, tax considerations, and other issues. For help finding which type of trust may be beneficial to have in your estate plan, our office is here to assist. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.

5 Tips to Use When Talking to Your Parents About Long-Term Care Over the Holidays

5 Tips to Use When Talking to Your Parents About Long-Term Care Over the Holidays

Have you considered that one of the most common side effects of aging parents seems to be an inevitable change in family dynamics? After being taken care of by your parents your entire childhood, followed by enjoying a beautiful co-existence with them as adults, it may now be time to take care of your parents. This can be a daunting task, but one thing may be certain in all of this. Planning for long-term care will likely make everything go smoother. With the holidays and family time approaching, it may be a good time to begin the conversation of long-term care planning. When talking to your parents about long-term care over the holidays, try to use these 5 tips: 

  1. Remember this is likely as challenging for them, as it is for you. As people age, there can often be a lot of fear surrounding the loss of control and independence. There may also be feelings of embarrassment with their children they always cared for now caring for them. Since you will likely have spent time thinking and preparing for the conversation, extend your parents the same courtesy by not ambushing them. Consider calling or sending an e-mail a few days before your visit, letting them know you would like to talk about their long-term care plan. 
  2. This is about their wishes too. While you may have your own ideas about what is best for your parents, allowing them to participate in the decision making process also allows them to retain their dignity. 
  3. Provide information. Your parents may want to do long-term care planning, but have found the entire process overwhelming. If you have done some research on wills, long-term care insurance, life insurance, and Medicaid planning, you may be in a good position to help them understand some of the basics.  
  4. Offer to assist. Instead of just providing information and leaving your parents to do the rest, offer to see the long-term care process through with them. For example, you can assist them in locating an elder law attorney and attend the appointments with them. 
  5. Consider another messenger. You know the old saying about lashing out at the ones you love the most. If the talk does not go as planned, consider having a more neutral party, such as their physician, broach the topic, and then, you can step in to assist. 

While discussing long-term care planning with your parents can feel uncomfortable, you can take comfort in knowing they can relax in their golden years, once they have a secure plan for long-term care. For assistance establishing a long-term care plan, please reach out to our office to schedule an appointment.

 

The Danger Of Making Holiday Gifts When It Comes To Long-Term Care Planning

The Danger Of Making Holiday Gifts When It Comes To Long-Term Care Planning

‘Tis the season to give and receive, but did you know that this can have significant consequences if you need to apply for Medicaid in the next three to five years? Can gifts impact Medicaid eligibility? Yes, this can have impacts for both the giver and receiver.

 Regarding the gift giver, it should be noted that the IRS allows a tax-free annual gift of fifteen thousand dollars per person with an unlimited amount of donees. In other words, a wealthy donor could gift away over a million tax free dollars per year by gifting a hundred different people the maximum fifteen thousand dollars.

 It can be vital, however, to understand these are tax laws and Medicaid takes a different stance on gifting in terms of Medicaid eligibility. When a person’s assets are reviewed for Medicaid eligibility, this includes a “Look-Back” period of thirty to sixty months, depending upon the state. If it is discovered that the Medicaid applicant has gifted money in order to be eligible for Medicaid, the penalty is Medicaid ineligibility. The length of time of ineligibility is determined by the amount of the gift and the average cost of a private pay nursing home in the area.

 A person deemed ineligible for Medicaid due to gift giving has some options. It is possible for the gifter to collect the gift back, or reimbursement, in order to “un-do” the penalty. Even if possession of the money makes them ineligible for Medicaid, they can spend it down by temporarily paying for long-term care or making a home modification related to their disability until they reach eligibility status. There may also be a possibility of an undue hardship waiver, if Medicaid ineligibility will cause the person to go without medical care, food or shelter.

There may also be important impacts on the gift receiver. All states have an asset limit to be Medicaid eligible and it is not very high. In fact, many states have limits falling in the range of fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars. Even a small gift can push a Medicaid recipient over the eligibility limit. Any gift received must be spent within a month in order to avoid affecting Medicaid eligibility. A Medicaid recipient has options if they receive a gift. They can pay off debt, purchase a funeral trust or a Medicaid eligible annuity. If money is received before applying for Medicaid, the money can also be spent down in a similar fashion. 

If you will be giving or receiving money or other assets this holiday season and anticipate this may impact your Medicaid eligibility or someone else’s, contact our office to discuss your options.

 

How Do I Choose an Estate Planning Attorney Near Me?

How Do I Choose an Estate Planning Attorney Near Me?

Have you considered the fact that choosing the right estate planning attorney can be important to ensuring that your estate is properly taken care of and your wishes are carried out after your death? When you are asking yourself the question of how to choose an estate planning attorney, keep three key elements in mind. First, choose an attorney who specializes in estate planning. Second, make sure your attorney is familiar with the estate administration process in your local area. Third, take the time to connect with your attorney so you can be sure you trust them to handle this important matter.

When you are ready to choose an estate planning attorney, it can be crucial to choose someone whose practice is heavily focused, if not entirely exclusive to, estate planning matters. Many attorneys who practice other types of law in addition to estate planning are good lawyers, but they do not have the specialized knowledge that can be critical to careful estate planning. Drafting your will, ensuring that all of the provisions line up exactly with what you want, creating a trust if that would be beneficial for your situation, and advising you on tax planning matters are all essential tasks for your estate planning attorney. It helps tremendously to have someone for whom these issues are his or her primary focus, and who keeps abreast of developments in this legal area.

If working with an experienced and specialized attorney is the most important thing in estate planning, finding an estate planning attorney who works in your local area may be the next priority. Every state has different laws governing how estates are administered and how the probate process works, if that is applicable to you. An estate planning attorney in your local area may be best equipped to guide you in creating estate planning documents that give your heirs the smoothest path forward after your death.

It may not be necessary to be friends with your attorney. Finding an estate planning attorney who you personally feel comfortable with and trust, however, can help to make what can be an emotional process much easier for you. In addition, if your heirs need to consult this lawyer after your death, knowing it is someone who can handle their issues gracefully may give you peace of mind.

For guidance on estate planning and related legal matters, our office remains dedicated to providing the highest quality in legal services. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.

When Family Caregivers Are Not Enough

When Family Caregivers Are Not Enough

Are an elderly loved one’s needs beyond what a family caregiver can provide? In every family, the answer to this question will be different. Family caregivers for elderly relatives are considered essential for many families and deciding to make the transition to seeking professional help when you can no longer do everything necessary is often difficult.

There are several questions to ask yourself before making this decision. One of the most important questions may concern your loved one’s living situation. Does your loved one want to continue to live in his or her home, and if so, are you able to provide the necessary support? If the answer is no, then remaining reliant on you as a family caregiver may not be enough. It could be time to seek professional caregiving assistance if you cannot move into your loved one’s home or be there enough to care for him or her, even though he or she desperately wants to stay in his or her home.

If your elderly loved one has minor ailments to do with age, the help of a family caregiver may be sufficient. Minor ailments, however, can multiply or turn into major ones. If your loved one begins to need daily medical treatment, or the help of a skilled medical professional, like a nurse or home health aide, then continuing to rely solely on a family caregiver may be insufficient. In particular, if your loved one develops a chronic condition and needs assistance with daily living activities, like cooking and bathing, a professional caregiver whose job is to help him or her could be the best thing for both you and your loved one.

It may be understandable for an adult child, niece or nephew to want to provide care for an elderly family member for as long as possible. Sometimes, however, the stress of taking on the sole burden of providing this care can become overwhelming. If you work outside the home, it can be impossible to juggle caregiving for your family member and your paid job. Even if you do not work outside the home, if you have small children to care for yourself, balancing the two can be incredibly tough. This, in and of itself, may be a valid reason to seek professional caregiving assistance for your loved one.

To further discuss the long-term care needs of an elderly loved one and how they can best be met, our office is here for you and your family. Please get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment.

Medicaid and Medicare Open Enrollment: Remember Medicare is Not Medicaid

Medicaid and Medicare Open Enrollment: Remember Medicare is Not Medicaid

Do you get mixed up between Medicaid and Medicare? During Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, it is important to remember that Medicare is not Medicaid.  Let us highlight four differences to keep in mind.

1. Qualifications. Medicare covers adults aged 65 and older and individuals younger than 65 with a qualifying disability. Medicaid, on the other hand, is generally available to individuals of all ages based upon qualifying low-income. Another important difference in coverage is that Medicare only provides coverage for individuals, it does not offer family plans. Medicaid, however, can provide coverage for qualifying families.

2. State v. Federal. Medicare coverage plans are more uniform because it is run through the federal government. Medicaid benefits can vary state to state because it is a state run program governed by federal guidelines.

3. Cost. Medicare recipients pay premiums, deductibles, and some out of pocket costs depending on their plan. Medicaid recipients do not pay for coverage, although they may have small co-pays in some states for certain services.

4. Coverage. Medicare is meant for acute health issues and does not cover long-term inpatient care or nursing home care. Medicaid can assist qualifying individuals with long-term care while also providing coverage for routine medical care. Unfortunately, there are many times when families are forced to navigate the muddy waters between where Medicare stops and Medicaid begins when dealing with an elderly relative’s acute health issue that has turned into a long-term care problem. For example, consider the scenario of an elderly relative suffering a fall and breaking her hip. Now this relative needs surgery to repair the hip and then requires long-term care because she will not recover from the surgery successfully enough to be able to ever live independently again.  If this elderly relative is on Medicare, her Medicare plan will cover the surgery and perhaps some of her rehabilitation, but she will need Medicaid coverage to cover her long-term care. Oftentimes, obtaining this coverage can be difficult and confusing. This is just one of the many examples of why it is beneficial to have a comprehensive plan in place to address the possibility of requiring long-term care. 

For help understanding Medicaid and Medicare benefits as well as planning for long term care coverage, please feel free to reach out to our office with any questions or concerns you may have.