Protect Your Estate

Medicaid Eligibility: What If You Transfer Assets, And Then Transfer Additional Assets Later?

We get asked the following question often: "What if I make a transfer out of my name to other individuals, or to a trust, and then I transfer additional assets out of my name at a later date? Which of these assets will be protected? How will this affect my long term care Medicaid application or eligibility?

One of the biggest threats to a person's estate is that they will be forced to deplete their estate while they are alive due to long term care expenses, and then the state will exercise it's estate recovery rights when they die so that the children or other heirs will not be able to inherit the family home.

Many people transfer assets to individuals or certain kinds of trusts while they are alive in an attempt to "protect" those assets from nursing home expenses. However, the complicated Medicaid eligibility rules make it difficult for people to take the actions they want or need to take to protect their estate.

One area that causes a great deal of confusion is when an individual makes multiple transfers at different times. Let's take an example: Let's say Joan transfers assets having a value of $400,000 on January 1, 2016. Then, on January 1, 2020, Joan transfers an additional $50,000. Then, on March 1, 2021, Joan moves into the nursing home and applies for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid. The following is the analysis that takes place.

An inquiry will be made to determine whether Joan had transferred any resources in the previous five years. The only resource transferred in the previous 5 years was the $50,000 transfer on 1/1/20. Since a transfer had taken place in the previous 5 years, a transfer of resources penalty period must be determined. In order to determine the penalty period, one must divide the value of the resource transferred ($50,000) by the average monthly private pay rate (determined to be $5,000), rendering Joan ineligible for Medicaid for 10 months beginning with 3/1/21 (the date of Medicaid application and otherwise eligible except for the transfer).

Many people, once they realize the application of the rules to the multiple transfers will conclude that the $400,000 is protected but the $50,000 is not.

So, what should Joan do? One option is to have the $50,000 returned to her and spend that prior to Medicaid application. The Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid Manual provides that the uncompensated value of a transferred resource is not counted if the original resource is returned.

Or, Joan could apply for Medicaid, get denied originally, and then be eligible for Medicaid 10 months later. Or, she could go through the complicated and often mis-understood process of applying, getting denied, and then returning part of the resources to reduce the penalty period, pursuant to the rule which states that if only part of the asset or its equivalent value is returned, the penalty period is modified but not eliminated.

None of these legal strategies should be attempted by the lay person who does not have an excellent working knowledge of the Medicaid Eligibility Manual. The key in protecting your estate is to start early, work with the right people, and get it right the first time. One mistake could make things really difficult for your spouse, children, and grandchildren.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Protect IRA From Nursing Home: Medicaid Planning

Often, when an individual enters a nursing home, a determination is made regarding whether they will be a private pay patient or a Medicaid recipient while in the nursing home. One part of the Medicaid application process revolves around the Medicaid applicants assets.

An individual often owns exempt assets and countable resources. Common exempt assets include a home and one vehicle. Countable resources include most other assets, including bank accounts, stocks and bonds, non-home real estate, and LLC interests.

The question often comes up as to whether an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a countable resource.

The Louisiana Medicaid Eligibility Manual provides, in pertinent part, "Count funds in an IRA as a countable resource."

When people pre-plan for a future Long Term Care Medicaid eligibility, they often transfer title to their assets to either other individuals or to certain types of trusts. While it is fairly simple to transfer title of real estate, investment accounts, and most other assets, it is not possible to transfer ownership of an IRA to others or to a trust.

Some people consider taking a large distribution from their IRA, paying the taxes, and then protecting the after tax proceeds, but this often requires the IRA owner to pay a huge income tax bill and most people don't want to do that  - I don't blame them.

We often tell people that while you are fortunate to have an IRA, you are kind of "stuck" with it for nursing home purposes.

But know that strategies exist to protect the funds in your traditional or Roth IRA, but most of those strategies require that you plan years in advance of entering a nursing home - so it's critical that you get armed with the possibilities and take sufficient action to protect those funds.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

How To Keep Your Sons-In-Law and Daughters-In-Law Out of Your Estate

It's common for parents to want to keep their sons-in-law and daughters-in law out of their estate, for a variety of reasons. Common reasons include the fact that the in-law spends too much money; the in-law has their own kids; the in-law will inherit from their own parents and grandparents; some parents want to keep everything in the "bloodlines" because they inherited from parents and grandparents; others just don't like their in-laws; and others fear that their children will get divorced in the future and lose their inheritance.

Parents have several options when establishing an estate legal program. One option is simply leave the inheritance to the child - outright. Some parents reason that an inheritance is the separate property of the child so that should take care of it. However, inheritances that children receive are often, either intentionally or unintentionally, commingled with community property causing the inheritance to lose its separate property status.

A second option parents have is to leave their child's inheritance to a trust for the benefit of the child. If the parents name the child as the trustee, the child's spouse could exert influence over the child and force the child to take excessive distributions from the trust. But some parents tell me, "Let's leave it to a trust for our child and name our child as the trustee. If our child screws it up, so be it. We did what we could do to try to protect him without taking away his access to his inheritance."

A third option is to leave your child's inheritance to a trust, but name a 3rd party as the trustee of the trust - in essence restricting your child's access to his or her inheritance. By restricting your child's access to the trust, your are restricting your child's spouse from influencing your child to access the trust. You may even wish to name your child's children as the principal beneficiaries of the trust so that when your child later passes away, remaining trust assets would stay in the bloodlines benefiting your grandchildren. Your child's withdrawal or distribution rights become key components to this program.

There are many factors that play into how you leave an inheritance to your children. You must factor in the Louisiana community property law, the Louisiana Trust Code, laws which state that fruits of separate property are community property, family law, marriage contract law, and laws allowing spouses to sign a Declaration reserving the fruits of separate property as separate property.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Four Key Medicaid Rules Regarding Bank Accounts as Countable Resources

Many indviduals, couples, and families are concerned that a nursing home stay will cause them to deplete their life savnigs, and force them to lose their home to the State of Louisiana when they die due to the State's Estate Recovery Rights.

While it is important to take advantage of legal strategies to protect your estate from nursing home poverty at least five years before you wind up in a nursing home, it's also important to understand what you can and cannot own at the time one goes into a nursing home and applies for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid.

A single person can have no more than $2,000 of Countable Resources when they apply for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid. Bank accounts are a Countable Resource. This post takes a closer look at four key Medicaid rules regarding bank accounts as a Countable Resource for purposes of Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid.

(1) 1st Day of Month. Medicaid counts the balance shown by your bank for the first moment of the first day of the month. Be prepared to furnish banking records.

(2) Encumbrances Deducted From Bank Balance. If you have written a check for a legal obligation, and that check has not cleared by the first moment of the first day of the month, the encumbrance may be deducted from the actual bank balance.

(3) Unrestricted Access ("or") Accounts. The Medicaid applicant is presumed to be the owner of all funds held in an "or" account.

(4) Rebutting the Presumption for an "or" Account. If the Medicaid applicant is not the owner of funds in an "or" account, the applicant can rebut the presumption of ownership by providing written and corroborating statements regarding ownership, withdrawals, and deposits, along with a change in account title or the establishment of a new account with only the Medicaid applicant's funds.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Rules on an Irrevocable Trust and Nursing Home Medicaid

This post describes the regulations that exist regarding when assets in a trust are considered resources of someone who is applying for Long Term Care Medicaid.

Many Seniors are concerned about the cost of long term care, especially if it is necessary that they spend months or years in a skilled nursing facility.

Some Seniors explore getting assets out of their name timely to make themselves eligible for Medicaid. These same Seniors, however, are uncomfortable putting assets in their children's names for fear of losing control of the assets, and for fear of giving their children unwanted tax consequences.

Some people explore putting assets in trust for purposes of gaining future Long Term Care Medicaid eligibility. The Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid Eligibility Manual (the "Manual") has specific rules regarding whether trust assets are considered a resource of the Medicaid applicant, rendering them ineligible for Medicaid benefits.

Regarding when the Medicaid applicant is a trustee of a trust, the Manual provides:

"Count the trust as a resource, regardless of whose funds were
originally deposited into the trust, if the applicant/enrollee:
 is the trustee, and
 has the legal right to:
- revoke the trust, and
- use the money for his own benefit."

Regarding when the Medicaid applicant is a Settlor of a trust, the Manual provides:

"Count the trust as a resource if the applicant/enrollee is the settlor
(created the trust) and:
 has the right to revoke it, and
 can use the funds for his own benefit"

Regarding when assets are not considered a resource and penalty periods apply to the transfer of the assets to a trust, the Manual provides:

Consider penalties under the transfer of resource policy (refer to
I-1670 Transfer of Resources For Less Than Fair Market Value) if
the applicant/enrollee:
 created the trust,
 does not have the right to revoke it, and
 cannot use the principal for his own benefit.

The traditional "avoid probate" revocable living trust clearly is a resource for a Medicaid applicant. Many people, however, create other trusts, and transfer assets to those trusts, which can enable a Senior to avoid the risks inherent in transferring assets during into children's names, while starting the five year penalty period and protecting assets from the nursing home spend down.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Medicaid 2018 Asset and Income Limits (with Analysis)

Every year the State of Louisiana's Department of Health adjusts certain Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid asset and income limitations for Long Term Care applicants and recipients. The following is a summary of the changes made for 2018.

The Long Term Care Resource Limit for Single Individuals ($2,000)  and Married Couples ($3,000) has not changed.

The Spousal Resource Standard has increased from the 2017 amount of $120,900, to the 2018 new limit of $123,600. What this means is that if one spouse is in a nursing home (the "institutionalized spouse") and one spouse still lives in the community (the "community spouse"), the the community spouse can retain up to $123,600 of Countable Resources. The rationale is that the spouse who is not in the nursing home needs assets to live off of.

Note that the Louisiana Home Equity Limit has increased from $560,000 in 2017, to $572,000 for 2018. Most people realize that the home is not a countable resource - it is an exempt asset. But what some don't realize is that when a Medicaid recipient dies, the State of Louisiana has Estate Recovery Rights which allows the State of Louisiana to force the sale of the home to reimburse Medicaid for what Medicaid spent on the deceased Medicaid recipient's care.

However, if the home, at the time of Medicaid application, is worth more than $572,000, then the applicant will not qualify for Medicaid due to Louisiana's Home Equity Limit of $572,000. 

Regarding monthly income, the new Spouse's Maintenance Needs is $3,090 of monthly income. Generally, the Community Spouse will be permitted to keep the first $3,090 of the couple's monthly income. Exceptions to this rule apply, however, so work with the right estate planning attorney to protect as much of your assets and income as possible.

Finally, the Average Monthly Cost for Private Patients of Nursing Facility Services remains at $4,000, as it has since November 1, 2007. This means that if you make an uncompensated transfer within five years prior to applying for Medicaid, you will be assessed a penalty period of the value of the transfer divided by $4,000. The fact that the actual cost of nursing home care increases each year makes it very difficult to transfer assets prior to a nursing home stay to protect assets. This $4,000 number really should be increased since the lower the number - the longer the penalty period.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Own Rental Property in an LLC?

Many people own rental property. Some own residential property and some own commercial property. But the risk of a tenant or other third party injuring themselves and suing may be high.

There is a risk in owning rental property in your name. If someone gets injured in rental property owned in your name, they will likely sue you because you are the owner. You are responsible for paying the judgment. To the extent your liability insurance does not cover the judgment, or to the extent someone successfully sues you for something that is excluded from your insurance coverage, then you are personally responsible for that debt. A creditor can take your rental property, other property you may have, your home, your bank accounts and investments, any inheritance you may have received, your business, and other assets you own.

However, you'll likely have more liability protection if you own your rental property inside of a limited liability company (LLC). When you own your rental property inside of an LLC, then, when someone gets injured, they will sue the owner of the property (the LLC). The worst thing that could happen is that you lose the assets of that LLC, but all of your other personal assets would be protected.

Here are five things to consider before forming your LLC and transferring your rental property into it:

(1) Taxes. An LLC can be a pass-through entity. You will continue to report LLC income on your personal return.

(2) Insurance. Check with your liability insurance provider before transferring rental property to your LLC to determine whether you will need a commercial policy.

(3) Gifting. If you want to give interests in your rental property to children, heirs, or donees, it's easier to do it by giving membership interests in your LLC, instead of giving them undivided interests in real estate.

(4) Put LLC in Living Trust. If you want the transfer of your membership interest in your LLC to pass to your heirs outside of probate when you die, you can transfer your LLC membership interest to your Living Trust during your lifetime. When you die, your Successor Trustee can immediately transfer your LLC interest to your trust beneciaries.

(5) One or Multiple LLCs. If you own multiple rental properties, you must decide whether you want all of your rental properties in one LLC, or whether you want the increased liability protection that comes from owning different properties in different LLCs.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Who Should Be the Administrator of a Louisiana Succession?

When someone dies in Louisiana owning assets in their name, a Louisiana Succession is required to administer those assets and transfer them to the heirs. When someone in those circumstances dies leaving a last will and testament, the Will likely appointed an executor. But if no last will exists, then often a judge must appoint an Administrator of the Succession. So, who should be the Administrator of a Succession?

Once appointed, the Administrator often opens an Estate bank account, deposits funds from previously frozen accounts into the estate account, pays estate expenses from the estate account, sells estate assets, such as vehicles, investments, or real estate, and handles other necessary Succession administrative matters.

But someone must petition the court and ask a judge to be appointed the Administrator. Who should that be? Well, it's best if that person has the support of all of the other heirs. If all of the heirs agree, then an Administrator can be appointed as an "Independent Administrator," which lessens some of the bureaucratic red tape that must be handled.

When a surviving parent dies, and an Administrator must be appointed, things work well when those heirs all get together and agree that one of them should be appointed the Administrator. 

Sometimes, but rarely, a co-owner of property requests to be appointed an Administrator because real estate needs to be sold, the deceased was a co-owner, and another co-owner petitions the court to be appointed the Administrator so that the property can be sold.

Note that an Administrator will be entitled to compensation from the estate. Sometimes, an Administrator will waive their compensation because the Administrator wants to sell of the heirs treated equally. In addition, an Administrator's fee would be taxable income to the Administrator, while an inheritance is generally income tax free.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Leaving Assets To A Louisiana Special Needs Trust

Special Needs Trusts enable people, typically parents, to provide for another (typically, their child), without jeopardizing the government benefits that the special needs child is receiving.

There is typically a problem when parents bequeath assets to their special needs children. When the child inherits in his or her own name, the child could lose valuable government benefits that the child is receiving. In order to originally qualify for these benefits, the child had to be "means-tested." Often, the child must have and maintain no more than $2,000 in their name to receive these benefits. If the child receives an inheritance, the child may lose these valuable benefits.

So many parents leave assets for the special needs child in a third-party Special Needs Trust. When done properly, the trust can enhance and enrich the child's life while preserving the government benefits that are means-tested.

In general, there are certain provisions that should not be included in a trust that you leave behind for your special needs child.  The trust should not authorize the trustee to make broad distributions to or for the health, education, maintenance, or support of the child (known as the "HEMS" standard). 

In addition, the trust must not allow the child/beneficiary to compel distributions to himself or herself.

However, there are a number of permissible distributions to or for the benefit of the special needs child, including distributions for medical needs, travel, recreation, home improvements, auto expenses, and cleaning, to name a few.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Child Dies Before Parent: What Happens To Estate?

Typically toward the end of the estate planning conversation, a client asks the question, "What would happen to my estate if my child dies before me?"

There are a few different components to this question. First, if a Louisiana resident dies with no legal planning in place (no last will means they died "intestate"), then state law determines who gets what. For example, let's say Dad dies. Two years earlier, Daughter died. Daughter left three children. If Dad died intestate, Daughter's three children would inherit the portion that would have gone to Daughter. Daughter's three children "represent" their mother in Dad's Succession.

Now, let's say, Dad left a Will or a Trust when Dad died. Now, the estate planning legal documents Dad signed control what happens to Dad's estate. Most estate planning documents have, as a default provision, a statement that says that if a child predeceases a parent, then the child's share will go the child's children. However, when a person is putting an estate legal program in place, they can direct their estate as they wish. Many parents express that if their child predeceases, they do not want the child's share to go to the child's spouse or the child's step-children. Or some grandparents have grandchildren that have substance abuse problems and the grandparents do not want to dump an inheritance into a grandchild's lap. So, it's important to address these contingencies as you create your estate legal program.

What you can't do, however, is leave an inheritance to a child and then direct what happens to that inheritance when the child later dies. Once you leave an inheritance to someone (such as, a child), the inheritance belongs to the person who you left it to. You cannot control what they do with it. However, by leaving an inheritance in trust you may be able to exercise more control over what happens to the inherited assets after you pass away.

How Traditional, Simple Louisiana Estate Planning Can Wipe Out The Savings

This is my attempt to educate a few Louisiana folks on the front end about estate planning so they don't get bit on the back end.

Traditional estate just doesn't always work like it used to. It's typical and traditional for married couples, at some point, to go see a lawyer about getting a Will done. Then, the attorney prepares a Will that, typically, either leaves OWNERSHIP or USUFRUCT to the surviving spouse. In fact, most couples don't know what they did - they just know they wrote a Will.

Well, one of the biggest drains of an estate while you are alive can be long term care expenses. I hope that this enables you to realize that how you arrange your estate planning legal documentation can have a profound impact on what you leave your family and what you leave what some people call the Evil Empire of the State of Louisiana.

Let's take an example. Let's say that Dad died. Dad had saved over the years enough to accumulate some CDs. His CDs, when he died, totaled $500,000 in value. And let's say Dad's traditional Will either left Mom ownership or usufruct of the $500,000.

Now that Dad died, Mom cannot live alone. She needs around the clock care. So Mom goes into the nursing home. The children think that the $500,000 is PROTECTED, because Dad left it to the kids but left Mom only the usufruct. But of course they are all quickly informed that Mom must spend the entire $500,000 on her nursing home care before Mom would qualify for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid. 

Of course this is when Mom and all the kids say, "Well we did not know!" Or they say, "Nobody told us....". Or they say, ""This doesn't seem fair when 3 out of 4 people in the nursing home are on Medicaid..." Or, "Surely there is something we can do at the last minute here..." Or, "Can't we just hide the money in a hole in the back yard?" Or, "Daddy just wanted to take care of Momma..."

Here's the key: Plan for these situations in advance. What Dad and Mom are getting legal affairs in order, it makes perfect sense to have an intelligent discussion about how they should leave things to each other and the family in a way that the family does not lose it to long term care expenses, taxes, or other government intrusions.

Hopefully this little piece of education can help some unknowing families get ahead of the game and protect what they've worked for. In the past, only the wealthy could afford to pay lawyers and other professionals to get the best estate protection advice. Now, with the advent of youtube and other free social media networks, anyone who wants to education themselves can find out just about anything on the internet and then seek out the right help to protect themselves and their family.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Info to Gather When Starting "Avoid Probate" Living Trust Based Estate Plan

I'm often asked, "Paul, what information do we need to gather and bring in to get started on our estate planning?" Well, this advice is based on a "typical" (even though there is no such thing as typical because every family's situation is unique and requires customization) person or couple who wants to set up an estate legal program and prevent their family and loved ones from having to go through the court-supervised judicial probate or Succession estate administration process. This typically involves establishing a Living Trust and transferring title to some of your assets into your trust while you are alive in order to make it easy for your Successor Trustee to access and disburse those assets when you die.

In general, there are three groups of information that must be provided: (1) family information; (2) asset information; and (3) substantive legal decisions.

(1) Family Information. This is typically simple. We are going to need the names of all who will participate in your estate planning program either while you are alive or after you die. This typically involves the full names (as you would have them listed in legal documents) of yourself and spouse, children, and sometimes grandchildren or others if they are included. We typically do not need the social security numbers of all of these people. although you may have to provide these numbers to financial institutions on items like IRA and annuity beneficiaries.

(2) Asset Information. When you get started, you should have a good working knowledge of what you own. It is particularly helpful if you gather, up front, all of your real estate legal descriptions. In Louisiana, these real estate legal descriptions can be found on the "Act of Sale" from when you purchased the property, or the "Judgment of Possession" if you inherited the property. We need these up front so that we can prepare the necessary transfer documents that will be signed at the same time that you sign your trust. Documents regarding investments and brokerage accounts don't have to be provided up front (but great if you have them), because you cannot transfer those assets to your trust until after your trust is signed.

(3) Substantive Decisions. All of the "who gets what, how they get it, who will be in charge" decisions are gathered through the dialogue you'll have with your estate planning attorney. These are important decisions and you need an experienced attorney to guide you through this. But it doesn't hurt give some good thought to these things in advance.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

What To Expect - The 1st Conversation With Estate Attorney

The planning and strategy conversation that you have with your estate planning attorney may be the most important conversation you ever have. Too many lawyers like to hear themselves talk. But if the lawyer is doing most of the talking, then it is impossible for the lawyer to customize an estate legal program that covers, in necessary depth, all of the needs of the client. I like to say that God gave us attorneys two ears and one mouth, so we should be listening to clients twice as much as we should be speaking.

Initially, the conversation should start out with an attorney finding out what you most want to accomplish about the transition of what you've worked for from one generation to the next. No two people or couples are alike. But it's the attorney's role to find out what is REALLY most important to you and then dig a little deeper with the right questions so that all of your emotional needs regarding you and your family can be met.

Note that all of this should be done in layman's terms. The best attorneys are the ones who ask the right questions and LISTEN, and then respond with another appropriate question. 

Finally, after some time, the attorney should be able to repeat what your biggest concerns are and how those might be addressed with a customized estate legal program. If the attorney did their job, you will think that what he or she concluded was dead-on (no pun intended) with what you want for yourself and your loved ones. Even though nothing's been prepared or executed, you should have peace of mind that you are underway in having the perfect estate planning program designed.

Then, it's just a matter of implementation.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

A Last Will and Testament Ain't Asset Protection

Was working with a Louisiana couple that came in to discuss getting their estate legal affairs in order. While different people have different priorities when it comes to estate planning (taxes, nursing home expenses, probate, blended families, children who spend, disabled children, in-laws you don't like, protect grandchildren, who will be in charge, health care decisions, to name a few), this couple perceived their biggest threat the potential to lose their savings and home to nursing home expenses. One of the spouses had an illness that didn't pose an immediate threat to independent living, but there is certainly the likelihood down the road that long term care will be needed.

One of the spouses, who was not real educated, mentioned on one or more occasions something like, "While I kinda heard that when it comes to estate planning, all you need is a Will." 

I get that in coffee shops and in barber shops people give advice to their friends and colleagues. But when it comes to the intricacies and varied issues involved these days, one-size-fits-all advice just doesn't work.

Obviously, if you write a Last Will and Testament, you are going to leave all of your assets in your name. If you have assets in your name and you go into a nursing home, you must spend your assets first before Medicaid pays for the care. They let you keep your home but Medicaid will have Estate Recovery rights so that when you die, your home must be sold to reimburse Medicaid for what they spent on your care - after you spent all of your own money.

Because there is uncertainty in life, I don't know how this family's story will end. They've worked hard to accumulate what they have. It sounds like their children and grandchildren could really benefit from an inheritance. But only time will tell what will happen in the future.

Paul Rabalais
Estate Planning Attorney
paul@RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: 866-491-3884

Difference Between Pre-Nup and Will or Trust

I was working with a couple recently. Each spouse had children from a previous marriage, and they wanted to make sure their estates were set up the right way to protect themselves, their spouse, and their children - the right way. They knew there was the potential for conflict when they die because the sets of children did not know each other very well, and we all know what happens when people who do not know each other well have to share an inheritance!

The couple had a pre-nup from before they got married about 20 years earlier. Note that pre-nup can also be referred to as "Marriage Contract," or "Separate Property Agreement." They also had old Wills. Some of the provisions of the Wills were in conflict with what the pre-nup stated.

This led me to want to educate you about the difference between the two. In general, the purpose of the pre-nup is to determine who owns what. In the typical pre-nup when spouses get married later in life, and they each have their own children, the spouses will want to deviate from the presumed community property regime, and they will want to keep everything as separate property - what the husband has and what the husband earns during the marriage is HIS, and what the wife has and what the wife earns during the marriage is HERS. So it is real clear who owns what when one of them dies (or, if they get divorced) - no community property. The pre-nup is not the place to say who gets what when you die. In Louisiana, each party is represented by a separate attorney, each party signs the pre-nup, and it is typically recorded at the courthouse. It's a contract.

The Last Will, or the Revocable Trust, dictates who gets what when you die, and who is in charge of the administration and distribution. The WIll or Trust is not the place to try to control what is separate and what is community. Sure, your assets may retain their community or separate property status when placed in a trust, but the WIll or Trust should merely be used as a vehicle to dispose what you own, not declare what you own with your spouse.

Too many times we see conflict between the provisions of the Marriage Contract and the Last Will or Trust. You are asking for trouble if that is the case. Make sure you understand the role of each so that there will be a simple and quick estate administration when you die, with everyone (and the lawyers) being clear on everyone's rights.