‘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.
One of the most costly mistakes people can make, especially as they get older, is not having a comprehensive estate plan. For those who do have one, failing to regularly update it can be just as costly. Without a legally sound plan, there is no guarantee that your wishes will be honored and your property will go to the people you love or the organizations you support.
There is no better time to address this issue than at the start of a new year. Significant life changes or new tax laws, for example, may have occurred in the preceding calendar year or since your last update. Addressing your estate plan at the beginning of a new year offers the chance to get a jump start on the year to come.
One of the most common reasons to update an existing plan is marriage. Did you, your children or another family member named in your estate planning documents get married since your plan was created or last updated? An estate planning attorney could help you determine how that might affect your will, trust, beneficiary designations, insurance policies or other important estate documents.
Marriage changes family structure, and estate documents need to reflect those changes. For instance, if you were recently married, designating your spouse as a beneficiary to your property, or perhaps naming him or her as a personal representative to your will, would be something to handle right away. In the case of a living will, your new spouse should be made aware in writing of your health care wishes in the event you become terminally ill. A power of attorney document also could be crafted to give your spouse the ability to make decisions on your behalf relating to financial, legal and health care matters.
Estate planning is just the first part of the equation. You and your new spouse need to discuss your long-term care future. What you may not know is that when it comes to being able to afford the high cost of long-term care, you need to give your new spouse the ability to plan and work with an elder care attorney in the event of a crisis.
If the marriage is not your first, an additional set of considerations may apply. A review of previous estate documents would be required to understand how any prior arrangements would impact your plans moving forward. For instance, if you were contractually obligated through a previous divorce to keep your ex-spouse as beneficiary to a retirement account, you may not be able to update the beneficiary designation to your current spouse. Doing so could inadvertently cause a series of avoidable problems.
In any case, consulting with your estate planning attorney can provide the most efficient path to creating an overall estate plan that confidently meets your needs. We encourage you to ask us your questions. Do not wait to schedule a meeting to create the right estate plan for you now and in the new year.