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contesting a will

If You’re Left out of a Will, You Can Contest It

Contesting a Will

When a loved one dies with a will, their will lays out who shall receive their property, and which person (called the executor) will be in charge of settling the estate. For many reasons, beneficiaries can feel slighted by what they did or didn’t receive, and some individuals are entirely excluded from inheriting anything at all. The legal process of challenging the validity of a will is called a will contest (or “contesting the will”).

Once probate is underway, the named executor will take the necessary steps to complete probate and notify beneficiaries named in the will. This legal notice typically limits the time when a beneficiary can contest the validity of the will. Generally, a beneficiary (and even a person not named in the will) has thirty to ninety days to bring legal action against the decedent’s will.

Know that the vast majority of wills pass through probate without issue. The courts rightly view the will like the author’s (testator), last voice. Because the testator can no longer speak to their wishes, the courts try to adhere to the legally filed will stringently. Because of the narrow timeline for filing a will contest and the odds stacked against winning the legal challenge, most challengers will find it a fruitless and costly endeavor.

Under what circumstances then would you want to contest a will? Legally, only a person or entity with “standing” can contest a will. Standing is when the party involved in the will contest will be personally affected by the case’s outcome. Most often, this means an heir or beneficiary already named in the decedent’s last will or any preceding will. It may also include any person (usually a spouse or child) not named in the will, but because of state intestacy laws would be eligible to inherit in the absence of a will. Typically, four grounds are viable for contesting a will:

  • The will’s signing lacked the proper legal formalities
  • The mental capacity of the decedent to make a will is in question
  • Someone leveraging undue influence over the decedent into making or changing a will
  • The will’s procurement is fraudulent

Certain fact patterns may lead to a successful will contest. As an example, if a testator writes their own will, some legal formalities may be overlooked, rendering the will invalid. In particular, the “do it yourself” method for creating a will may not include all of the “what if” scenarios making the will incomplete. In another example, if the testator is experiencing isolation from family and friends, the primary beneficiary’s influence and motives regarding the estate may come into question. If the executor is trying to enforce an outdated will, the newer one should supersede the older one as long as no coercion was involved in writing the most recent version. Finally, some medical evidence may suggest the testator lacked the requisite mental ability to make a will. Occasionally the challenger to an existing will can negotiate a settlement with the estate instead of enduring a court proceeding.

Some wills include a no-contest clause, also called an “in terrorem” clause. This provision states that if anyone files a lawsuit challenging the will’s validity, they will receive nothing from the estate. While this may a powerful deterrent, it may not be allowed in the state where the will is probated.

To protect your will from being contested, even if you have limited assets, your best strategy is to have your will professionally drafted by an attorney well versed in estate planning. Using an attorney can help protect you and your estate from future legal challenges while helping you think through who you want to inherit your money and property, and how each person should receive what they inherit.

If you would like to discuss whether a will is appropriate for you or whether you should update an existing will, we would be happy to speak to you at your convenience.

Read more related articles at:

 

https://www.policygenius.com/wills/contesting-a-will/

 

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/12/left-out-of-the-will.asp

 

Also read one of our previous Blogs at:

What Happens If You Die Without a Last Will and Testament?

Jack Hanna

Jack Hanna is Battling Dementia and Millions of Everyday People

Dementia Affects Famous and Everyday People

Jack Hanna, wildlife expert, author, guest TV personality, and TV producer known for starring in shows like Animal Adventures, Voices for Wildlife, and Into the Wild, is retiring from work and public life because he has dementia. Known as “Jungle” Jack, he left the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where he served as director, then director emeritus, for 42 years in December 2020.

His family most recently posted on his verified Twitter account explaining his condition to his many fans. “Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease,” further stating, “His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated.”

Jack Hanna lives a healthy, active lifestyle and is currently age 74. Let that sink in.

Worldwide the statistics are not good, and they are not in favor of the average aging American. The Alzheimer’s Association website states that one in three seniors currently dies with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia. In the absence of a medical breakthrough to prevent, slow, or cure Alzheimer’s disease, the predictive numbers will only increase.

By 2050 more than 15 percent, or 12.7 million Americans age 65 or more, will be diagnosed with dementia. There will be still more elderly Americans living with the disease undiagnosed by a medical professional, often due to poverty associated with lack of proper medical care. Living with dementia is not only a challenge to an individual’s daily life, but it is also expensive. When it comes to footing the costly care bill, where does that leave our country, our health care system, our caregivers, our families, and you?

Alzheimer’s and other dementias’ problems are overwhelming in the larger sense, so control what you can. As an individual, create a plan responsive to the changing needs of Alzheimer’s care should you receive the diagnosis. Women, more than men and certain ethnic groups, tend to be hit hardest with the disease. If you fall into these categories, pay special attention to the onset of early symptoms because, as in all diseases, early diagnosis is key to more successful intervention. All individuals should speak with their doctors honestly about any cognitive challenges they experience as they age. The Alzheimer’s Association has a checklist of symptoms that you can use as a starting point.

The early, middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s disease all require different degrees of caregiving as behaviors change in each stage. The one truism is that your caregiving situation will require a team providing support on many levels. Look for community and online community resources. The Alzheimer’s Association also has a Cognitive Impairment Care Planning Toolkit to help define and deliver person-centered care planning.

One of the earliest challenges you will face after a dementia diagnosis is developing or adapting your existing estate plan and advance directives that speak to financial and medical issues. You may have to move to be nearer family members, which can upend your will and other legal documents as they are executed by state authority. Adapting your legal plans early on can protect any challenges by heirs regarding your mental fitness and any estate plan changes. In truth, funding care for a dementia diagnosis can drain your assets to the point where generational wealth no longer exists for your inheritors. You cannot afford to have family challenges to your estate, particularly when you are no longer capable of understanding the scope of the issues due to your dementia.

There is a lot to take in, and much to get done should you receive an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. Even if you do not fall into a high-risk category for dementia, you ignore the possibility of the disease at your peril. Even the seemingly healthiest and most advantaged persons like Jack Hanna can experience the diagnosis and have the disease attack swiftly.

We help families create plans that address long-term care concerns, financial issues such as how to pay for care, and tax issues. Many clients of ours have a dementia diagnosis and we understand the challenges that come with such a diagnosis. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your concerns and your wishes so that they can be properly documented for you and your loved ones.

Read more related articles at:

https://www.beingpatient.com/jack-hanna-alzheimers-dementia/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/07/entertainment/jack-hanna-dementia/index.html

Also read one of our previous Blogs at:

Do Farmers Have a Higher Chance of Getting Dementia?

Care giver

Caregiving in a Time of Crisis

Caregiving in a Time of Crisis

A caregiver tending to a loved one, a care partner, during a crisis is challenging, and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic deems that being prepared is more important than ever before. Caregivers must balance the need for their care partner’s health and balance it with that person’s safety. As the US heads into seasonally extreme weather months, it is prudent to create or revisit existing plans for evacuating a patient or loved one displaced or challenged by tornadoes, blackouts, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, cyber ransomware attacks, even a resurgence of COVID-19.

Suppose your loved one resides in an in-patient facility. In that case, it is important to know what plans and procedures are in place to address whatever crisis, including current COVID-19 protocols and restrictions the hospice, nursing home, retirement community, assisted living operators, and residence may face. You can share that information with your care partner in a general way to assure them there are protocols in place to protect them and what they can anticipate. An open conversation allows you to allay any fears they may have, and there could be many due to the isolating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you do not have a caregiver disaster plan, it is a good time to create one. The plan can address specific seasons as summer plans can differ drastically from winter ones. Write a list of your loved one’s current needs, impairments, and routines, including important identifying information such as a current photo, date of birth, and Social Security number. Include all known allergies, medications, and diagnoses. A short biography that can inform providers of their interests, personality, and background can go a long way, especially if you as the caregiver typically provide their “voice.”

Emergency relocation requires addressing the need to move all assistive medical devices and durable medical equipment. Don’t forget batteries and rechargers! Remember that a proactive early departure during a crisis when cooler heads prevail can reduce stress levels and help you avoid potential difficulties like gas shortages and traffic jams. Does your chosen relocation site have adequate availability of food, water, toiletries, and medication? You can check with the pharmacy before leaving as many will provide early refills in times of emergency, and a host of major retailers offer prescription delivery. If you are remote to your care partner, check with charitable organizations or neighbors to supply donations or meals and provide daily checks.

Suppose you must leave your loved one in the care of an assisted living or nursing home where you will experience limited contact. Below are some recommendations:

  • Make sure the facility has your primary and alternative contact information.
  • Specifically request updates regarding any changes in your loved ones emotional or physical state.
  • Ask for medical records that document all care they are administering.
  • Communicate with your loved one in any way possible and often, whether by phone, video chat, or any other means to ensure they are as safe as possible.
  • Take detailed notes because it is easy to overlook or forget important details during times of crisis.

Planning for unexpected crises is not easy because how do you create responses for what has not yet happened? However, there are basic strategies to implement that can be amended to fit specific situations as they arise. If the plan includes relocation, be sure to check with local authorities regarding current COVID-19 restrictions. The planning steps you take may seem very small in light of the larger impact of a crisis event, but these steps can provide organization, protection, and comfort in times of great uncertainty.

 

Read more related articles at:

https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2020/crisis-planning.html

https://www.caregiver.org/resource/caregiver-depression-silent-health-crisis/

 

Also read one of our previous Blogs at:

The Most Common Myths about COVID Vaccine

How Do I Manage a Will and Trust

How Do I Manage a Will and Trust

A last will and testament is used to point out the beneficiaries and trustees and the legal professionals you want to be involved with your estate when you have passed, explains this recent article What You Need To Know About Handling a Will and Trust from Your Dearly Departed Loved One” from North Forty News. If there are minor children in the picture, the last will is used to direct who will be their guardians.

A trust is different than the last will. A trust is a legal entity where one person places assets in the trust and names a trustee to be in charge of the assets in the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. The assets are legally protected and must be distributed as per the instructions in the trust document. Trusts are a good way to reduce paperwork, save time and reduce estate taxes.

Don’t go it alone. If your loved one had a last will and trust, chances are they were prepared by an estate planning lawyer. The estate planning attorney can help you go through the legal process. The attorney also knows how to prepare for any possible disputes from relatives.

It may be more complicated than you expect. There are times when honoring the wishes of the deceased about how their property is distributed becomes difficult. Sometimes, there are issues between the beneficiaries and the last will and trust custodians. If you locate the attorney who was present at the time the last will was signed and the trusts created, she may be able to make the process easier.

Be prepared to get organized. There’s usually a lot of paperwork. First, gather all of the documents—an original last will, the death certificate, life insurance policies, marriage certificates, real estate titles, military discharge papers, divorce papers (if any) and any trust documents. Review the last will and trust with an estate planning attorney to understand what you will need to do.

Protect personal property and assets. Homes, boats, vehicles and other large assets will need to be secured to protect them from theft. Once the funeral has taken place, you’ll need to identify all of the property owned by the deceased and make sure they are property insured and valued. If a home is going to be empty, changing the locks is a reasonable precaution. You don’t know who has keys or feels entitled to its contents.

Distribution of assets. If there is a last will, it must be filed with the probate court and all beneficiaries—everyone mentioned in the last will has to be notified of the decedent’s passing. As the executor, you are responsible for ensuring that every person gets what they have been assigned. You will need to prepare a document that accounts for the distribution of all properties, which the court has to certify before the estate can be closed.

Taking on the responsibility of finalizing a person’s estate is not without challenges. An estate planning attorney can help you through the process, making sure you are managing all the details according to the last will and the state’s laws. There may be personal liability attached to serving as the executor, so you’ll want to make sure to have good guidance on your side.

Reference: North Forty News (Feb. 3, 2021) What You Need To Know About Handling a Will and Trust from Your Dearly Departed Loved One”

Read more related articles at:

Guidelines for Individual Executors & Trustees

Also read one of our previous Blogs at:

Things to Know About Being an Executor.

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.
Trust Administration

Is There a Difference between Probate and Trust Administration

There is a Difference between Probate and Trust Administration

Many people get these two things confused. A recent article, “Appreciating the differences between probate and trust administration,” from Lake County News clarifies the distinctions.

Let’s start with probate, which is a court-supervised process. To begin the probate process, a legal notice must be published in a newspaper and court appearances are needed. However, to start trust administration, a letter of notice is mailed to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries. Trust administration is far more private, which is why many people chose this path.

In the probate process, the last will and testament and any documents in the court file are available to the public. While the general public may not have any specific interest in your will, estranged relatives, relatives you never knew you had, creditors and scammers have easy and completely legal access to this information.

If there is no will, the court documents that are created in intestacy (the heirs inherit according to state law), are also available to anyone who wants to see them.

In trust administration, the only people who can see trust documents are the heirs and beneficiaries.

There are cost differences. In probate, a court filing fee must be paid for each petition. There are also at least two petitions from start to finish in probate, plus the newspaper publication fee. The fees vary, depending upon the jurisdiction. Add to that the attorney’s and personal representative’s fees, which also vary by jurisdiction. Some are on an hourly basis, while others are computed as a sliding scale percentage of the value of the estate under management. For example, each may be paid 4% of the first $100,000, 3% of the next $100,000 and 2% of any excess value of the estate under management. The court also has the discretion to add fees, if the estate is more time consuming and complex than the average estate.

For trust administration, the trustee and the estate planning attorney are typically paid on an hourly basis, or however the attorney sets their fee structure. Expenses are likely to be far lower, since there is no court involvement.

There are similarities between probate and trust administration. Both require that the decedent’s assets be collected, safeguarded, inventoried and appraised for tax and/or distribution purposes. Both also require that the decedent’s creditors be notified, and debts be paid. Tax obligations must be fulfilled, and the debts and administration expenses must be paid. Finally, the decedent’s beneficiaries must be informed about the estate and its administration.

The use of trusts in estate planning can be a means of minimizing taxes and planning for family assets to be passed to future generations in a private and controlled fashion. This is the reason for the popularity of trusts in estate planning.

It should be noted that a higher level of competency—mental comprehension—must be possessed by an individual to execute a trust than to execute a will. A person whose capacity may be questionable because of Alzheimer’s or another illness may not be legally competent enough to execute a trust. Their heirs may face challenges to the estate plan in that case.

Reference: Lake County News (July 4, 2020) “Appreciating the differences between probate and trust administration”

Probate vs Trust Administration

Understanding the Differences Between a Will and a Trust

 

Review your Estate Plan

If You Haven’t Been Regularly Reviewing Your Estate Plan, Start When You Hit 60

If You Haven’t Been Regularly Reviewing Your Estate Plan, Start When You Hit 60

 March 19th, 2019

How frequently you should review your estate plan depends on how old you are and whether there has been a significant change in your circumstances. If you are over age 60 and you haven’t updated your estate plan in many decades, it’s almost certain that you need to update your documents. After that, you should review your plan every five years or so. But if you’re younger, you don’t need to do so nearly as often.

Age

Here are a few age ranges and what they mean in terms of estate planning:

18-30   Everyone needs a durable power of attorney, health care proxy and HIPAA release so that they have people they choose to step in and make decisions for them in the event of incapacity.

30-40   Once you begin accumulating assets, get married, and have children, it’s important to create an estate plan to care for your loved ones in the event of your death. It also can’t hurt to update your durable power of attorney, health care proxy and HIPAA release, since the people you may have appointed at 18 (your parents?) may not be the people you want in these roles at 35.

40-60   Unless there’s been a change in your circumstances, and assuming you’ve set a good plan in place during your 30s, you probably don’t need to review your estate plan during your 40s and 50s.

60-70   Once you’ve hit your 60s, it’s time to take a look. Your children are probably grown. You may have grandchildren. And, hopefully, you’ve accumulated some wealth. The people you appointed to step in in the event of incapacity when you were 35 may not be in a position to assist when you’re 65. You may have retired or are contemplating doing so. And, unfortunately, the chances of disability or death increase with every year.

70+   Now it’s time to review your plan every five years or so. Changes happen — to your health and that of your loved ones, to the tax laws, to the programs supporting long-term care or disability care. It’s important to have a plan in place and to adjust it as circumstances change.

Change in Circumstances

While the timeline above outlines when you should review and perhaps update your estate plan, it needs to be supplemented by the following potential changes in circumstances that would warrant a review of your plan to see if it still meets your goals and needs:

  • Marriage. You’re likely to want your assets to go to your spouse and to name him or her to be your agent in the event of incapacity.
  • Divorce. Likewise, if you get divorced, you probably won’t want your assets to go to your ex-spouse or to rely upon him or her to step in if you were to become incapacitated.
  • Children. Once you have children, you’ll want to provide for them and to name someone to step in as guardian in the event of your death or incapacity and that of their other parent, if any. Generally, once you have a plan in place you do not have to update it if you have more children.
  • Disability. If you or someone who would inherit from you becomes disabled, you will need to plan to protect and manage your assets, whether for yourself or for your beneficiaries.
  • Wealth. If you accumulate sufficient assets to exceed the thresholds for state and federal estate taxes — $11.4 million federally — you may want to plan to reduce or eliminate such taxes.
  • Moving. If you move to a new state or country, it will be important to have your estate plan reviewed to make sure it works in the new jurisdiction.

In short, until you reach age 60 or 70, reviewing your estate plan every five years probably is overkill. But do so whenever you have a change in circumstances such as those listed above. If you’re over 60 and haven’t updated your estate plan in many years, now’s the time. Then, having a review every five years is definitely a good rule of thumb. This is why If You Haven’t Been Regularly Reviewing Your Estate Plan, Start When You Hit 60

Read more related articles at:

4 Reasons to Review Your Will

7 Reasons It’s Time To Update Your Estate Plan

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

Do You Think Everything Is All Set with Your Estate Plan?

Donor Advised Fund

What are the Benefits of a Donor Advised Fund?

What are the Benefits of a Donor Advised Fund?

Many Americans are feeling charitable these days, and with good reasons. It’s a hard time for many, and if you are financially able, making donations may help you feel you are making a difference for others during uncertain times. There are many options when making donations, and the recent article “Choosing Charity: How Donor-Advised Funds Benefit Your Contributions” from Fort Worth Magazine explains your choices.

Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) can be opened for varying amounts, that are set by the sponsoring organizations. Smaller community foundations would welcome a DAF for $5,000, for instance. DAFs can be funded with cash or other assets, but once the donation is made, the asset no longer belongs to you. However, you may be able to decide when donations are distributed, and which charities receive funding. There are no required distribution dates, so the funds could go unused for a long time, while you receive the tax write-off right away.

You may also determine the investments within the fund, level of risk and overall investment strategy.

Another good reason to use DAFs: the sponsoring organization becomes the donor of record. Therefore, DAFs are an excellent way to make anonymous contributions.

There are also DAFs that involve active involvement from an advisor, if that is of value to you.

Why is now a great time to use a Donor-Advised Fund?

Some investors have highly appreciated assets that could lead to a significant tax liability, if they were sold right now. DAF offers an alternative—rather than sell the assets and pay taxes, putting them into a DAF can achieve the following:

  • You receive a tax deduction,
  • There are no capital gains taxes, and
  • Your chosen the charity that fully benefits from the funds.

The pandemic has left many people facing uncertainty. Therefore, now isn’t the right time for everyone to open their wallets and a DAF. However, if you are charitably-minded and in a financial position to benefit from a DAF, it is a win-win situation for all concerned.

Reference: Fort Worth Magazine (Feb. 3, 2021) “Choosing Charity: How Donor-Advised Funds Benefit Your Contributions”

Read more related articles at:

What is a donor-advised fund?

The Bodacious Benefits of a Donor Advised Fund

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Does a Charitable Trust Work?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

 

Inherited IRAs

Inherited IRAs Require Careful Handling

Inherited IRAs Require Careful Handling

For those who inherit IRAs, the intersection of taxes, estate law and financial planning can be a tricky place. There are many choices, maybe too many, and making the wrong choice can be costly, according to the recent article “6 inherited IRA rules all beneficiaries must know” from Bankrate.

There are two categories of beneficiaries. Surviving spouses, minor children, chronically ill or disabled individuals, or someone who is not less than 10 years younger than the original owner are subject to one set of rules. Everyone else has another set of rules.

You’ll need to know if the original owner had taken any RMDs—required minimum distributions—before they passed.

Did you want to minimize taxes, or is it more important for you to maximize cash distribution?

These are just a few of the issues to be addressed. Already complicated, inherited IRAs got even more complicated because of the SECURE Act, which changed some longstanding practices. Some experts tell beneficiaries not to do anything, until they meet with an estate planning attorney. The worst thing someone could do is make a wrong step and lose half of the IRA to taxes.

Here are the six rules for inherited IRAs:

1–Spouses have the most flexibility. The surviving spouse may treat the IRA as her own, naming herself as the owner. She can also roll it over into another account, such as another IRA or a qualified employer plan (including 403(b) plans). She could also treat herself as the beneficiary of the plan. However, each choice leads to further choices and decisions. She might let the IRA grow in the account until she reaches age 72, the new age for RMDs. Or she can roll the IRA into an IRA of her own, which lets her then name her own beneficiary.

2—When do you want to take the money? If you fall into the category of surviving spouses, minor children, chronically ill or disabled individuals, or someone who is not less than ten years younger than the original owner, then you can take the distributions over your own life expectancy. That’s the “stretch” option. Otherwise, you need to take distributions from the account over ten years, according to the SECURE Act. Depending on the size of the IRA, that could be a nasty tax bill. You can take as little or as much as you want, but by year ten after the owner’s death, the account must be empty.

3—Know about year of death required distributions. If the owner of the IRA did not take his RMD in the year of his death, beneficiaries are required to do so. If a parent dies in early January, for example, it’s not likely he took his RMD. The IRS doesn’t care if you didn’t know—you’ll be liable for a penalty of 50% of the amount that wasn’t taken out. If someone dies close to the end of the year, it’s possible that heirs might not know about the accounts until after the deadline has passed. If the deceased was not yet 70½, there is no-year-of-death distribution.

4—Get all the breaks you can—tax breaks. For estates subject to the estate tax, IRA beneficiaries will get an income-tax deduction for estate taxes paid on the account. The taxable income earned but not received by the deceased is called “income in respect of a decedent.” When someone takes a distribution from an IRA, it’s treated as taxable income. However, the decedent’s estate is paying a federal estate tax, so beneficiaries get an income-tax deduction for estate taxes paid on the IRA. For a $1 million income in an inherited IRA, there could be a $350,000 deduction offset against that.

5—Beneficiary forms matter. An entire estate plan can be undone by a missing beneficiary form, or one that is not filled out correctly or is ambiguous. If there is no designated beneficiary form and the account goes to the estate, the beneficiary will need to take the distribution from the IRA in five years. Forms that aren’t updated, are missing, or don’t clearly identify the individuals create all kinds of expensive headaches.

6—Improperly drafted trusts are trouble. If they are done wrong, a trust can limit beneficiary options in a big way. If the provisions in the trust are not properly drafted, some custodians won’t be able to see through the trust to determine the qualified beneficiaries. Any ability to maximize the time to take money out of an IRA could be lost. An experienced estate planning attorney who knows the rules about IRAs and trusts is a must.

Reference: Bankrate (July 17, 2020) “6 inherited IRA rules all beneficiaries must know”

Read more related articles at:

Avoiding Mistakes When You Inherit an IRA

Understanding The RMD Rules For Inherited IRAs

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Tapping an Inherited IRA?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Medicaid Estate Recovery

Should I Worry about Medicaid Estate Recovery?

Should I Worry about Medicaid Estate Recovery?

What is It? The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) may be used to recoup costs paid toward long-term care. It’s designed to help make the program affordable for the government, but it can financially affect the beneficiaries of Medicaid recipients.

AOL’s article entitled “What Is Medicaid Estate Recovery?” explains that’s where Medicaid can help fill the void. Medicaid can assist with paying the costs of long-term care for aging seniors. It can be used when someone doesn’t have long-term care insurance coverage, or they don’t have the assets to pay for long-term care out of pocket. It can also be used to pay for nursing home care, if you’ve taken steps to protect assets using a trust or other estate planning tools.

However, the benefits you (or an aging parent) receive from Medicaid are not necessarily free. The Medicaid Recovery Program lets Medicaid recoup or get back the money spent on behalf of an aging senior to cover long-term care costs. Federal law requires states to attempt to seek reimbursement from a Medicaid beneficiary’s estate when they die.

How It Works. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program lets Medicaid seek recompense for a variety of costs, including:

  • Nursing home-related expenses or other long-term care facility stays
  • Home- and community-based services
  • Medical services from a hospital (when the recipient is a long-term care patient); and
  • Prescription drug services for long-term care recipients.

If you (or an aging parent) die after receiving long-term care or other benefits through Medicaid, the recovery program allows Medicaid to pursue any eligible assets held by your estate. Exactly what that includes depends on your state, but generally any assets that would be subject to the probate process after you pass away are fair game.

That may include bank accounts you own, your home or other real estate and vehicles or other real property. Each state makes its own rules. Medicaid can’t take someone’s home or assets before they pass away, but it’s possible for a lien to be placed upon the property.

What Medicaid Estate Recovery Means for Heirs. The biggest thing about the Medicaid estate recovery for heirs of Medicaid recipients is that they might inherit a reduced estate. Medicaid estate recovery rules also exclude you personally from paying for your parents’ long-term care costs. However, filial responsibility laws don’t. It is rare, but the laws of some states let healthcare providers sue the children of long-term care recipients to recover nursing care costs.

How to Avoid Medicaid Estate Recovery. Strategic planning with the help of an elder law attorney can help you or your family avoid financial impacts from Medicaid estate recovery. You should think about buying long-term care insurance for yourself. A long-term care insurance policy can pay for the costs of nursing home care, so you can avoid the need for Medicaid altogether.

Another way to avoid Medicaid estate recovery is to remove assets from the probate process. For example, married couples can do this by making certain that assets are jointly owned with right of survivorship or using assets to purchase an annuity to transfer benefits to the surviving spouse when the other spouse passes away. You should know which assets are and are not subject to probate in your state and whether your state allows for an expanded definition of recoverable assets for Medicaid. Speak with an experienced elder law lawyer for assistance.

Medicaid estate recovery may not be something you have to concern yourself with, if your aging parents leave little or no assets in their estate. However, you should still be aware of it, if you expect to inherit assets from your parents when they die.

Reference: AOL (Feb. 5, 2021) “What Is Medicaid Estate Recovery?”

Read more related articles at:

Medicaid’s Power to Recoup Benefits Paid: Estate Recovery and Liens

Medicaid Estate Recovery: Long-Term Care Benefits Aren’t Necessarily ‘Free’

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Dark Side of Medicaid Means You Need Estate Planning

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

charitable Remainder Trust

How Do I Use a Charitable Remainder Trust with a Large IRA?

How Do I Use a Charitable Remainder Trust with a Large IRA?

Since the mid-1970s, saving in a tax-deferred employer-sponsored retirement plan has been a great way to save for retirement, while also deferring current income tax. Many workers put some of their paychecks into 401(k)s, which can later be transferred to a traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Others save directly in IRAs.

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Worried about Passing Down a Big IRA? Consider a CRT” says that taking lifetime IRA distributions can give a retiree a comfortable standard of living long after he or she gets their last paycheck. Another benefit of saving in an IRA is that the investor’s children can continue to take distributions taxed as ordinary income after his or her death, until the IRA is depleted.

Saving in a tax-deferred plan and letting a non-spouse beneficiary take an extended stretch payout using a beneficiary IRA has been a significant component of leaving a legacy for families. However, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the SECURE Act), which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, eliminated this.

Under the new law (with a few exceptions for minors, disabled beneficiaries, or the chronically ill), a beneficiary who isn’t the IRA owner’s spouse is required to withdraw all funds from a beneficiary IRA within 10 years. Therefore, the “stretch IRA” has been eliminated.

However, there is an option for extending IRA distributions to a child beyond the 10-year limit imposed by the SECURE Act: it’s a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT). This trust provides for distributions of a fixed percentage or fixed amount to one or more beneficiaries for life or a term of less than 20 years. The remainder of the assets will then be paid to one or more charities at the end of the trust term.

Charitable Remainder Trusts can provide that a fixed percentage of the trust assets at the time of creation will be given to the current individual beneficiaries, with the remainder being given to charity, in the case of a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT). There is also a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT), where the amount distributed to the individual beneficiaries will vary from year to year, based on the changing value of the trust. With both trusts, the amount of the charity’s remainder interest must be at least 10% of the value of the trust at its inception.

Implementing a CRT to extend distributions from a traditional IRA can have tax advantages and can complement the rest of a comprehensive estate plan. It can be very effective when your current beneficiary has taxable income from other sources and resources, in addition to the beneficiary IRA.  It can also be effective in protecting the IRA assets from a beneficiary’s creditors or for planning with potential marital property, while providing the beneficiary a lengthy predictable income stream.

Ask an experienced estate planning attorney, if one of these trusts might fit into your comprehensive estate plan.

Reference: Kiplinger (Feb. 8, 2021) “Worried about Passing Down a Big IRA? Consider a CRT”

Read more related articles at:

How A Charitable Trust Could Save Your IRA

The Charitable Remainder Trust: How to Protect & Stretch Your IRA

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Stretch Out IRA Distributions, Even Without ‘Stretch’ IRA

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