One of my goals when visiting them was too help them take a hold of their finances and set up on-line accounts as well as on-line payments. My parents are working class heroes, first generation immigrants who worked hard all their life. I never expected that they would be able to save any significant amount of money. Imagine my surprise when I found, while helping them organize their financial records, that they had accumulated a significant amount in various savings accounts.
This wasn’t a “fortune” but it was a significant enough amount that it should have been sheltered and protected from lawsuits and government requirements when seeking long term care for the elderly. This is especially true in light of the situation they were facing. My parents were rapidly approaching a state where long term care of some type would be required. This led me on a path of research on how to get them the care they required and what it meant to them in terms of preserving their assets.
What I found was disheartening. Medicare, the medical insurance for retirees, does not cover long term care, although in certain circumstances they do cover at home medical assistance. For long term care in an assisted living or full care facility medicaid is the program that will cover those expenses. Unfortunately, Medicaid requires that a person essentially be a pauper before they will cover the neccesary costs. Worse, under current law they will look back for a period of five years to look for financial gifts that have been given out from a persons assets and apply the monetary value of those gifts to a penalty period that determines how long the applicant must pay out of pocket before Medicaid will kick in. To further complicate matters, the exact amount that is used to calculate the monthly penalty varies state by state, making estate planning infinitely more complex and very localized to the state you or your parents live in. The same state by state differences apply to protecting your assets should you be sued or reach a point where you have to file for bankruptcy protection.
This opened up the next avenue of research to find out exactly how to shelter my parents money and assets. This road led me down the path of learning about gifting, trusts, wills and various other methods used to protect assets. Although wills are important and should be the corenerstone of any estate planning strategy they are only the first step. Gifting of cash and other assets are one method we will discuss, the limits of now much can be gifted without tax ramifications as well as the intent of what the money is to be used for and what to do with that money are important considerations in your estate planning strategies. Trusts (irrevocable as well as living and revocable} can be an important part of a well established estate plan. Trusts are infinitely complex and carry ramifications beyond tax and Medicaid determinations. These are all complex and comprehensive topics which deserve well researched articles which will give you a good start in estate planning to fit you or your parents particular situation.