Transfer of Resources

Disclaimer or Renunciation an Effective Post-Death Estate Planning Tool

Sometimes, believe it or not, it makes good tax or legal sense to formally refuse (also known as "disclaim" or "renounce") an inheritance.

Example: Dad dies and leaves assets to Mom. Mom doesn't need the assets and she wants to see the children enjoy their inheritance from their father. Mom might disclaim the inheritance.

Example: Mom dies leaving her estate to her two children. One child decides that he does not need the inheritance and decides to renounce and allow (due to Mom's governing documents) child's children to receive the inheritance. Disclaiming prevents the child from having to accept the inheritance and then give it away pursuant to federal gift tax annual exclusion limits.

Example: A Traditional IRA owner dies. The primary beneficiary decides that it makes more tax sense to disclaim her portion of the IRA and allow the IRA to pass along to the contingent beneficiaries because the taxable required distributions will be smaller to the contingent beneficiaries.

A "Disclaimer" is generally a federal tax term which allows people to formally refuse an inheritance. It prevents someone from having to accept an inheritance, and then donate it away. Particular disclaimer tax rules must be followed, including the requirement that the disclaimer be in writing, within nine months of death, and the disclaimant cannot accept any of the benefits of the disclaimed assets.

Renunciation is the Louisiana term for this. If a renunciation is to take place, it must do so in that window of opportunity after the date of death but before the disclaimant receives any assets or other benefit from an inheritance.

Disclaimer/Renunciation planning should be considered in many estate planning programs, both the post-death opportunities should be explored, and the incorporation of written disclaimer provisions in your governing will or trust legal documents as you put your estate planning legal program into effect.

One area where some get confused is that you cannot renounce an inheritance to get out of paying your debts or to get out of paying for the nursing home. Your creditor may accept your succession rights if you renounce them to the prejudice of your creditor's rights. And the Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid Manual treats a renunciation as if you accepted the inheritance and then gave it away - triggering penalties for uncompensated transfers of resources.

Again, really important that you work with the right people to set things up the right way, the first time.

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

Protecting the Home Property When You Enter a Nursing Home

When someone enters a nursing home, it is likely that they own both exempt assets and countable resources. The countable resources must be consumed down to a certain limit ($2,000 for a single person) prior to Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid eligibility. Exempt assets are not counted for purposes of initial Medicaid eligibility. The home is an exempt asset. So, it's important to understand the Medicaid definition of the home, under what circumstances you can transfer the home out of your name, and whether Medicaid will have Estate Recovery rights when you die.

In general, the home is described as property in which someone has an ownership interest and that serves as his or her principal
place of residence. Home property includes: the house or lot which is the usual residence, all contiguous property, and any other buildings on the home property. Property is contiguous to the residence if it is touching the residential property (even corner to corner) and is not separated by property owned by others. Property separated by a public right of way, such as a road, is considered contiguous.

If a person, in 2018, has more than $572,000 of equity in their home, then the excess in not exempt. If they own a home out of state, then, generally, it is not exempt. And if you list your home for sale, then it is no longer an exempt asset.

In certain circumstances, one can transfer their home to another person prior to applying for Medicaid, without incurring penalties. This is important because if you take the home out of your estate, then Medicaid will not have estate recovery rights when you die. 

You can transfer your home to a child who is blind or permanently and totally disabled as defined by SSI at the time of the transfer. You can also transfer your home to a child, without penalty, if the child is age 21 or over, is not blind or permanently and totally disabled, was residing in the home for at least two years
immediately before the date the individual became institutionalized, and provided care to the individual allowing the individual to reside at home, rather than in an institution.

A note exists to the above exception that provides:
The exception must be documented by written statement
from physician indicating his/her knowledge that during the
preceding two years, the individual’s child was present in the
home as the primary care giver and if not for the care
provided by the child the individual would have required care in an institution (nursing home).

Finally, if the home is in your name when you die, it will be part of your Louisiana Succession and thus, subject to Louisiana Estate Recovery rights. People often thing the home is "home-free" because it is an exempt asset. However, after a Medicaid recipient dies, if the home is in the recipient's Louisiana Succession, then Medicaid can seek reimbursement from the Succession, forcing the Succession to sell the home to pay the Succession debt.

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

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

Louisiana Man Protects House Proceeds FOR Grandchildren and FROM Nursing Home Costs

Hoping you can benefit from my vlog by hearing stories about what others have done and then realizing you can do the same to protect what you have for yourself and your loved ones.

I'm working with a gentleman who just sold his house and will likely be renting for the rest of his life. He's handicapped and he has no family nearby that can help take care of him - he's convinced that if his condition worsens one day in the future, he'll need to reside in a nursing home.

He has three grandchildren that he adores. He wants to make sure that his money stays protected for his grandchildren to benefit from one day. When I inquired whether he was concerned about losing the money to the nursing home, he said that was his #1 concern.

So we are in the process of setting up a trust for him - a very particular kind of trust - so that if he does go to the nursing home, that his money is protected. Note that the typical "avoid probate revocable living trust" does NOT protect the money from nursing home expenses.

I told him he was being smart by planning ahead. Because of some of our federal and state regulations, it's paramount that you take advantage of legal strategies well before you get sick.

For more updates, Subscribe to the youtube channel of Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC. Also, you'll be doing me a big favor if you share this info with your contacts and friends.

Paul Rabalais
866-491-3884
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Offices all over south Louisiana

Is Cash in a Safety Deposit Box Protected From Louisiana Nursing Home Medicaid?

More than once someone, in my office, has said something like the following to me: "Mr. Rabalais, I'm not worried about losing my money if I go into a nursing home. I'm going to cash in all my accounts and put all my money in a safety deposit box and hide it from the government that way."

Oh brother!

I don't like working with people like that who think they can beat the  system no matter what the rules say. But in case you are wondering, here is what the Louisiana Medicaid Eligibility Manual says about assets in a safe deposit box, it says, in pertinent part:

"Count the value of any countable resource in a safety deposit box. Advise the applicant/enrollee not to open the box until the contents can be verified. Contents of a safety deposit box may be verifited by: a written verification from the financial institution, or sworn statements from third parties who view the contents. Note: The applicant/enorollee's statement of the contents is not acceptable verification/documentation."

Plan ahead to avoid a nursing home spending spree fiasco. For more relevant info on protecting your estate, go to our facebook page and Like it - Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC

What Are Options That People Consider When Attempting To Protect Their Estate From Nursing Home Poverty?

I've talked to many Louisiana families about things that they had done in an effort to protect their money from all being sucked up by the nursing home costs which can exceed $100,000 annually. Lots of mistakes being made here by people who don't truly understand the intricacies of the Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid law and regulations. While you won't get all the answers in this post, you'll learn what some of the common mistakes are. So...here are options that just don't work.

Do Nothing

Probably the worst thing that you can do if you want to protect your estate from being eaten up to nursing home costs is to ignore the problem.

Example. Nelda had her home worth $150,000 (no mortgage). She also owned accounts totaling $450,000 in value. Nelda procrastinated taking action to protect her estate from skilled care cost. A stroke caused Nelda to have to reside in a nursing facility. Nelda was forced to spend all of her $450,000 (until there was less than $2,000 remaining) before qualifying for Medicaid. When Nelda died, Medicaid pursued its Estate Recovery rights, forcing Nelda’s home to be paid to reimburse Medicaid for what it had spent on her nursing home care.

The people who protect their estate from nursing home costs typically are those who are proactively seek out the right information, at the right time, and work with the right people, and get it right the first time. Others risk losing everything they own.

Give It Away

Some people choose to give their assets away so that the assets will not be in their name when they get sick and apply for Medicaid.

People generally utilize one of two different gifting strategies when they attempt to help their financial situation by giving their assets away:

1.      Give $14,000 Away. Gift and estate tax laws provide that you can donate $14,000 to as many people as you want to without gift and estate tax consequences. Many people mistakenly interpret this as an income tax rule. Many mistakenly believe that either the donor or the recipient must pay income tax on gifts that exceed $14,000. Example: Dad gives Daughter $114,000. No one owes any income tax, but since the gift exceeded $14,000 (by $100,000) Dad has used up $100,000 of his $5.450,000 estate tax exemption. No one owes tax, but when Dad dies, he can “only” leave $5,350,000 free of the 40% estate tax. The problem, however, with making $14,000 annual gifts, from a Medicaid Planning standpoint, is that assets are not protected until five years after they are given away. So, giving it away in $14,000 increments does little good.

2.      Give Everything Away. Some people think that they will beat the government by putting all of their assets in their kids’ names. But his could be really dumb move for tax purposes. Example: Mom and Dad own a home that they bought 35 years ago for $30,000. Today, the home is worth $240,000. If Mom and Dad donate the home to the kids during Mom and Dad’s lifetime, then the kids will get Mom and Dad’s $30,000 “carry-over” capital gains tax basis. When the kids later sell the home, there could be an extra $60,000 or so of capital gains tax due. Plus, when Mom and Dad donate their home to their kids, Mom and Dad will lose their property tax homestead exemption. In addition, many parents that I talk to don’t like to give up the control over their assets that they give up when they put everything in their children’s names. Serious problems could result if the children die, go bankrupt, have IRS issues, get divorced, have spouses with bad spending habits, or if they can’t pay their debts. Don’t turn over everything you own to your kids.

Rely on Medicare To Pay Nursing Home Costs

While Medicare will pay for some of the nursing home costs for the first 100 days of rehabilitation if you had a prior hospital stay of at least three days, you must pay 100% of the remaining costs of the skilled nursing facility (unless you qualify for Medicaid).

Have a Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney

If you think that somehow your last will and testament will help you avoid losing your home and life savings to nursing home poverty, then think again. A last will and testament (“Last Will”) names your executor who will administer the court proceeding when you die, and your Last Will tells a judge who to make sure remaining assets get disbursed to at the end of the court proceeding (“Probate”). But a Last Will does nothing to protect your estate from long term care costs.

Example. Mom had a Last Will prepared naming her daughter, Sue, as the executor. In her Last Will, Mom left her estate to her two children, Sue and Richard. Mom felt like she did all she needed to do to “protect her estate for her children.” Eight years after writing her Will, Mom went into a nursing home. Mom was forced to spend her entire life savings on her nursing home care. When Mom died, Sue, as the executor of Mom’s probate, was forced to sell Mom’s home on behalf of the estate and give all of the proceeds of the sale to Medicaid – leaving the children with nothing.

A common Last Will technique can get you in bigger trouble. Many married couples write Last Wills. Often, the Wills are structured so that the first spouse to die leaves all of his or her assets to the surviving spouse. Then, because all of the assets were lumped into the surviving spouse’s estate, the surviving spouse must deplete the entire family estate before getting any help from Medicaid. So, the “I Love You” Will leaving everything to your spouse can be a disaster.

Put Your Money In a Safe Deposit Box – Or In A Hole You Dig In The Back Yard

One of the questions on a Medicaid application asks where you have a safe deposit box and what is in the box. Documents of Proof that Medicaid says it may need from you includes, “A list of what is inside any safe-deposit box.  This must be a written statement by a bank employee or a sworn statement from someone who looked inside.”

Failing to disclose the necessary information on a Medicaid application is Medicaid Fraud. It’s easier to plan ahead, get the right information to enable you to protect your estate, and then take that action.

Some people mistakenly believe that if they “put their child’s name on their bank account,” then the bank account somehow is no longer a Countable Resource for Medicaid eligibility purposes. Wrong.

Protecting Your Assets From Nursing Home Expenses: How To Qualify For Louisiana Medicaid

I was recently asked by the Louisiana State Bar Association to present at its 2016 Solo and Small Firm Conference. I taught about 200 Louisiana attorneys who were interested in learning the ins and outs of helping Louisiana families protect their estate from nursing home expenses. The following is an audio recording of my presentation.

While this presentation was designed for, and presented to, attorneys, it will give you a good understanding of some of the rules that apply to families that want to protect their estates from losing it all to the nursing home, and it will prepare you to have a meaningful discussion with me or one of our estate planning attorneys.

Protecting Assets When Parent Already in the Nursing Home

I met today with the children of a woman who is presently residing in a Baton Rouge nursing home due to her dementia diagnosis. The children had no idea how long term care and Medicaid financing for long term worked.

They told me that Mom owned a home, three annuities, some cash in the bank, and expensive jewelry and antiques. Their financial advisor referred them to my office. I asked them what they knew about long term care Medicaid. They said they were starting to "hear things" but they wanted to get the truth.

I told them that if all of the assets stayed in their mother's name, then their mother would be forced to spend her $475,000 of financial assets until she had less than $2,000 remaining. They told me that their mother was spending about $8,000 per month currently on her care. I also told them that - if Mom keeps everything in her name - then after Mom spends all of her finances, she will qualify for Medicaid, but then Medicaid will have the right to enforce its Medicaid Estate Recovery rights after Mom dies, forcing the house to sold after Mom dies to reimburse Medicaid for what they spent on Mom's care after Mom spent all of her own money.

Since the timing of your legal planning to avoid losing assets to nursing home expenses is so critical, we are not going to be able to save as much for them as we would for those who are more pro-active and engage the right legal help when they are still healthy.

The children will be back in the office next week to sign a slew of legal documents to ensure that they will save and protect about $300,000 of Mom's assets from losing it to the nursing home. While we weren't able to save everything because this planning started while Mom was already in the nursing home, we are going to be able to save hundreds of thousands for this family - even if Mom resides in the nursing home for many, many years.