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Do you have the right kind of 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.
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:
- Preplanning Mode
- Wait-and-See Mode
- Crisis Mode
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:
- Planning strategies that can be done in preplanning mode, or crisis mode, depending on where you are in the long term care journey.
- Planning strategies available for single individuals, or the community spouse when an ill spouse is going into a nursing home.
- An outline of the current status of the law as it relates to Medicaid eligibility.
- 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.
- 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.
- The purchase of a Medicaid compliant annuity or a Medicaid compliant promissory note.
- Our office files a Medicaid application.
Installment 4 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”In this part of our ongoing series of how to deal with the looming crisis associated with long-term care costs for the middle class, I would like to talk about when it may be necessary to revise wills and trusts. Also, what should newly restated revised wills and trusts look like? First of all, we should remember that during our maturing years, most people, especially those with children, will prepare wills and trusts that deal with what happens to their assets upon death. This is a very understandable and laudable goal, especially for those people that are afraid of leaving small children behind. However, as we go beyond our maturing years and start focusing on our senior years, the focus is no longer “what happens when we die,” the focus now changes to “what happens if I don’t die and I need long-term care for a long period of time.” When that becomes the concern of someone going into their senior years, wills and trusts must be modified in few different ways.
- For single persons, there needs to be the ability to withdraw assets from a revocable living trust, or various types of asset management accounts, like pay on death accounts at a bank, transfer on death accounts at a brokerage firm, and IRA accounts. The reason for this additional withdrawal power is so assets can be withdrawn from these repositories and used elsewhere in accordance with planning techniques designed to preserve assets so that eligibility for Medicaid long-term care benefits, such as nursing home cost coverage, can be achieved. This would be a satisfactory result.
- In the case of married individuals, it becomes very important to be able to not only withdraw assets from various places, but also redirect assets in the event of the death of one spouse. Specifically, if we have two spouses, but one is in a nursing home, and the other spouse, who is otherwise healthy, should die unexpectedly, the assets of the deceased spouse will be transferred to the surviving spouse and those assets could be subject to a complete Medicaid required spend down for nursing home costs. This unfortunate circumstance can be avoided if the couple restates their wills and trusts. Rather than transfer assets to the surviving spouse directly, assets can be transferred to certain special needs trusts that are created for the surviving spouse who is residing in a nursing home. This type of special transfer will allow the surviving spouse to continue to receive benefits from Medicaid for their long-term care, and at the same time enjoy the inheritance left behind by the predeceasing spouse. This would also be a satisfactory result.
- Revise Powers of Attorney
- Contact a Physician
- Seek Guardianship
- Revise Old Wills and Trusts
- Create a Blueprint
- Inventory Assets
- Seek Placement in a Facility
- Select a Strategy
- Prepare and File the Medicaid Application
- Prepare for the Post Application Audit
- Creditor Protection:
- Selection of Fiduciaries:
- Income Tax Impact is Now Front and Center:
- Second Marriage Planning:
- Business Succession Planning:
- Long-Term Care Planning:
- Where will you receive care after discharge?
- Who will be helping you in the transition from the hospital to long-term care?
- What is the current status of your health? What can you do to improve it?
- What potential problems should you be aware of with regards to your health? Is there someone you could call if these problems do arise?
- Do you need medical equipment (like a walker)?
- Create “My Drug List” to write down any prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements that you need to take, along with the dosage and other pertinent information.
- Ask for written discharge instructions and a summary of your current health status. Bring this information, along with your complete “My Drug List” to follow up appointments.
- Talk to a social worker or a representative from your health plan to determine what your insurance will cover and how much you will have to pay.
- Talk to an elder law attorney if you do not know how your long term care will be covered: