Category Archives: Asset Protection

Seniors and Asset Protection Trusts for Long-Term Care

Do you have the right kind of trust?

Many of our clients come into our office with trusts. Most of the time these trusts are what are called revocable living trusts (RLTs). These types of trusts offer no asset protection even though seniors are often ready to conclude that they have protected their assets with such a trust.

Only certain types of irrevocable living trusts (IRTs) provide asset protection for long-term care. Irrevocable trusts, if drafted properly, may be considered a complete gift by the senior to the beneficiaries of the IRT, and thus out of the senior’s estate permanently. If, however, the senior has any access to principal in the IRT, then the IRT will not provide any asset protection from the costs of long-term care.

It is possible to allow seniors to maintain an income interest in the IRT, as opposed to an interest in the principal of the IRT, but this creates a more complicated audit process if and when the senior ever needs to look to the Medicaid program to pay for the costs of long-term care. About 66% of all US citizens will be looking to the Medicaid program if long-term care is needed.

Therefore, it is increasingly important to properly draft an IRT and also understand the time of the creation and funding of the IRT so that the creation of the trust will not interfere with a possible application for Medicaid to cover the costs of long-term care.

Seniors also have to keep in mind that there are significant issues in the drafting of an asset protection trust that deal with the following:

  • Income tax issues
  • Gift tax issues
  • Estate tax issues
  • Medicaid eligibility issues
  • Issues about the right beneficiaries, receiving the right assets, at the right time
  • Trustee issues
  • Using the IRT in a period of health for the senior versus a health crisis for the senior
  • Issues regarding selecting the right assets to place in the IRT

So you see, asset protection trusts are essential for many seniors, because they may be the only way assets can be protected, not only from the cost of long-term care but also the predators and creditors of their beneficiaries.

But the drafting of an IRT is much more complex than the drafting of an RLT and seniors need to make sure that they retain an elder law attorney to maximize the chances that their trust is the right trust for them at that point in their life.

The Risks of Using Non-Professional Home Caregivers

Many of our clients seek to stay home for as long as possible, without entering an assisted living facility. This is perfectly understandable, and we use our firm’s skills to allow them to accomplish this objective as long as they can remain safe in their home.

However, sometimes in order to remain at home seniors will look for in-home assistance. We see 3 circumstances in which this can be dangerous for the senior.

First, not enough care is being delivered. Occasionally, a senior may believe they only need someone to do a little shopping, cooking, and cleaning for them. However, this is not always accurate, and the senior may need a lot more care. The test we use to determine what level of care the senior really needs is to ask a question: “If the house is on fire at three in the morning, is the senior going to be able to get out?” An honest answer this question will determine whether or not the senior has enough help. Shopping and cleaning are one thing, but sometimes a senior needs 24/7 care but may be reluctant to pay for such a large amount of care.

The second problem we see is that oftentimes care is provided by third party caregiver but the caregiver is a fly-by-night – the caregiver does not come through an agency, is not insured for workers’ compensation or liability insurance, there is no training of the caregiver, there is no regulation of the caregiver, there is no written care agreement, and nobody withholds the caregivers taxes as is most often required by the IRS. For instance, if the caregiver injures themselves in your home while helping you, they can sue you, and quite often the caregiver is not trained to handle the appropriate lifting and moving that the senior requires. Moreover, Medicaid will doubt the authenticity of the expenditures to the fly-by-night caregiver because there is no written contract or agency, and without a withholding of taxes the tax liability for the un-withheld taxes can be shifted back by the IRS to the employer, who is the senior. It is for this reason we recommend all seniors hire their help through a qualified private duty care agency.

Finally, seniors will rely on their children to give them assistance. Sometimes, they will go so far as to have the child move in with them to deliver more care. Often the child will quit their job or reduce the amount of hours they work just to help the senior. Because of this negative financial impact on the child, the parent wants to pay the child for their time. There is nothing wrong with this but the problem that we see is that payments made to a child are viewed by Medicaid as gifts rather than compensation because there is no written contract between the parent and child. If Medicaid assumes these payments are a gift it creates an eligibility problem, or a penalty period. Another problem is that the child and the parent will co-mingle their expenses, so there are no clear records as to what expenditures by the parent were for the parent and what expenditures for the child were for the child. Again, the co-mingling of funds can make it look to Medicaid as if the parent was making gifts to the child rather than reimbursing the child for advances and costs the child has made on behalf of the parent.

In conclusion, you may stay home as long as you can, but you need to have the appropriate private duty home care agency with a written care contract in place. If you are relying on your children for this help you must keep meticulous records and withhold taxes when you retain someone to assist you, even if it is your child. Again the reason is that there is a fair assumption that the senior who is receiving care at home may ultimately need care in a facility somewhere down the road. Medicaid eligibility for long-term care in a nursing home is essential. Don’t disqualify yourself for Medicaid eligibility by being sloppy with home care giving. Remember Medicaid eligibility for long-term care nursing home can be worth the equivalent of $8,000.00 to $10,000.00 a month Chicagoland area. Preserve your qualification for these benefits.

Picking a Strategy – In Order to Protect Against the Costs of Long-Term Care

Installment 8 of 10

In Our Series:

“Long Term Care Costs for the Middle Class: 10 Steps to Asset Protection through Medicaid in Illinois, for Middle Class Seniors and Boomers”

Picking a strategy is not something one can easily do on their own. Selecting strategies in order to minimize the cost of long-term care requires an understanding of both the requirements of sophisticated estate planning and access to governmental benefits.

However in order to provide an overview of how strategies are selected, you must understand that strategies will vary depending on whether or not the senior is in one of the following phases:

  1. Preplanning Mode
  2. Wait-and-See Mode
  3. Crisis Mode

Preplanning can be done when there is no threat of a long-term care stay that is imminent.  Wait-and-see mode exists when there is a diagnosis but the senior will not be leaving home in the near term, and crisis mode is when the senior is in a nursing home or soon to be in a nursing home.

In preplanning, because time is on our side, we can engage in such strategies as looking for long-term care insurance to cover all, or part of, the cost of long-term care. Perhaps a long-term irrevocable trust that will put assets outside of the estate may be useful. Sometimes purchasing certain types of assets that are exempt non-countable is advisable.

In wait-and-see mode, because there is often a diagnosis, good powers of attorney for health and property and the preparation of wills and trusts that bypass the ill senior are essential. Also, changing the beneficiary designations on various assets so that they do not pass automatically on the death of the healthy spouse to the ill spouse is another consideration. It may be even possible, at this point, for the healthy spouse to obtain long-term care insurance.

In a crisis mode, it is essential that the ill senior be made eligible for Medicaid in order to cut the costs of long-term care. The only way a senior can be eligible is to be an asset level of no more than $2000, exempting non-countable assets like prepaid burial arrangements, personal effects, very small life insurance policies, and limited other resources. All other assets must be converted to a non-countable status. This is not always possible, so quite often it is necessary in crisis mode to transfer assets from the senior. You must understand that this will result in a period of ineligibility for the senior. However, with the assistance of competent elder law counsel who specializes in Medicaid asset protection planning, it is possible to transfer assets while at the same time retaining enough assets in a form that will allow the penalty period to be paid down and the transferred assets to be protected.

Selecting a strategy for asset protection planning in long-term care is not an easy matter, but with the proper planning our office does it all the time. It is essential that Medicaid rules be followed strictly. This sounds like a heavy task, and it is, but the alternative of not selecting a strategy to protect assets from long-term care costs results in the impoverishment of seniors at a time in their life when they should not be destitute for such simple quality of life items, like hearing aids, eyeglasses, podiatry care, medications and certain therapies not covered by Medicaid.

Plan ahead, it’s your quality of life that is at stake in your senior years.

Why an Inventory of Your Assets is Important for Long-Term Care Planning Purposes

Installment 6 of 10

In Our Series:

“Long Term Care Costs for the Middle Class: 10 Steps to Asset Protection through Medicaid in Illinois, for Middle Class Seniors and Boomers”

Why create an inventory of your assets for long-term care planning?

Often we go to the doctor thinking I feel fine. However as you are aware the doctor doesn’t take your word for it, rather the doctor will do a blood workup to see if he agrees with your assessment that you are fine.

Likewise, the equivalent of a blood workup for legal and financial advisors professionals is a thorough inventory.

You see, some think that by listing assets on a piece of paper that they have created an adequate inventory of what their assets are. This list certainly is a starting point for the creation of an inventory, but at this point is far from complete. And, like a doctor, your legal and financial professionals will not take your word for it when you say that you have an inventory, rather they are going to establish expectations for what that inventory should look like and what sort of information it must contain, so that they can agree with your assessment of exactly what your assets are and what can be done with them for various legal and financial reasons.

A mere list of assets will not reflect all of the information that’s is needed for various professionals to make the judgments on how to best advise you. The more detail you can give a professional the more likely they will be able to interpret the positioning and nature of you assets, in order to give you guidance on planning strategies.

How to create a proper inventory:

 In order to create a proper inventory of assets the following parameters should be kept in mind:

  1. Ownership of assets: Husband, Wife, Joint, or Other
  2. Types of assets: cash on hand, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, money market funds, brokerage accounts, stocks, government bonds, tax-free bonds, mutual funds, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, keel plans, other tax qualified plans, immediate annuities, tax-deferred annuities, life insurance policies, real estate (primary residence, other real estate), passive real estate investments (such as limited partnerships, timeshares), automobiles, interests in closely held businesses, sole proprietorships, personal and miscellaneous assets of any value, miscellaneous intangible assets, etc.
  3. Debts: mortgages on real estate, credit cards, credit lines, etc.
  4. Beneficiary designation for each applicable asset: primary beneficiary, secondary or contingent beneficiary

There are many inventory forms that are readily available by commercial producers. Our office has its own type of form that we prefer to use.

Conclusion

While the steps we describe above may seem rudimentary and basic to a lot of our readers, I can assure you that most of the people that come into our office with an inventory of their assets really have no idea what they own, what the nature of the asset is, and what the flow of the asset may be in the event of either disability resulting in long-term care or death.

It is for this reason that we have taken the time to suggest what an inventory can look like and for what purposes it can be used.

A good idea would be to start with some sort of inventory, place this in a three ring binder and document every asset that you list on this inventory with a copy of a statement or evidence of the ownership of the asset so that in the future, your heirs or professional advisors can use this compilation or inventory of assets for your benefit and the benefit of your loved ones.

Creating a Blueprint – For Asset Protection from Long Term Care

Installment 5 of 10

In Our Series:

“Long Term Care Costs for the Middle Class: 10 Steps to Asset Protection through Medicaid in Illinois, for Middle Class Seniors and Boomers”

 Why create a Blueprint (Medicaid asset protection letter) for your asset protection planning?

Just like in building a home, you don’t hire a contractor to start slapping bricks together until you have decided on the number of rooms, type of rooms, location of the rooms, etc.

Likewise, many are quick to suggest creating a will, trust, powers of attorney, perhaps an irrevocable trust, or an annuity, etc.

This can be very costly and foolish. How can you create a plan consisting of various documents that are supposed to protect you without a design in mind? Mindlessly putting together layers of documents accomplishes nothing except large bills.

Before our clients create any legal documents we suggest to them that they do a blueprint, which is in effect a Medicaid asset protection letter. In that letter we outline the following:

  1. Planning strategies that can be done in preplanning mode, or crisis mode, depending on where you are in the long term care journey.
  2. Planning strategies available for single individuals, or the community spouse when an ill spouse is going into a nursing home.
  3. An outline of the current status of the law as it relates to Medicaid eligibility.
  4. Finally, planning recommendations that are broken down into things that you must do immediately and things that you may be able to defer until later.

Below are some examples of our final recommendations in our Blueprint:

Immediate Action

  • Creation of powers of attorney for healthcare and powers of attorney for property. However, our powers of attorney have many more powers and are more substantial than the average power of attorney that most people have.
  • Creating wills and trusts that have special needs trusts built into them for a surviving spouse or a minor or adult disabled child. This takes advantage of certain relief that Congress intentionally placed into the Medicaid laws.

Deferred Actions

  • The purchase of a Medicaid compliant annuity or a Medicaid compliant promissory note.
  • Our office files a Medicaid application.

Conclusion

As you can see from the above, there are strategies that we rely on that result in the savings of a lot of assets for middle class seniors and boomers who are going into long-term care. However, because these measures are complicated, it makes sense to have a blueprint laid out describing them in detail using your asset and income numbers before actually engaging in these actions.

We want our clients to go into strategies and solutions with eyes wide open. The only way that can be accomplished in most cases is to create blueprint that lays out all of the Medicaid asset protection planning strategies in the form of a letter that the client can study, and ask questions about. We usually resolve all of the questions the client may have at our subsequent “Design Meeting.”

Make sure you look before you leap.