0

Estate planning and the Dysfunctional Family

Over my career as an estate planning and elder law attorney, I swear I have seen just about everything.  I cannot remember a fact pattern that surprised me or took me aback.  I am honestly at the point now where I think that dysfunctional is the norm for the common family that we assist.  I’m not sure if it’s because we specialize in estate planning and elder law and we get referrals and cases that are more complex and more advanced than others, or if that is just the norm these days.  My gut says it is probably the latter. 

I did some research to define the word dysfunctional, and there is no clear-cut definition.  But my gut would say that dysfunctional would include families such as second marriages with kids to different relationships, as well as addictions or spendthrift issues, or just family dynamics in in-tact families where people do not care for each other.  Again, I think this is probably the norm more than any exception.  

It is imperative that families are open and honest with their attorney so that the attorney can put a plan in place that addresses what they need for their specific situation.  Dysfunction does not present as the same fact pattern in any two cases, and therefore an experienced estate planning attorney is needed to be able to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.  Be very wary of the do-it-yourself sites or general practice attorneys who don’t specialize in this area if there is a complex fact pattern for you and your family. 

We love assisting any and all families and certainly love putting the fun in dysfunctional. We look forward to providing an estate plan that is unique for you and your family, whether you are dysfunctional or as functional as anyone else. 

Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions or comments at 717-845-5390.

0

Why You Should look at LTC Insurance

The bottom line is that LTC (long term care) insurance has come a long way.  There are new types of LTC insurance and even a PA Partnership Care Plan.  We encourage our clients to talk to an agent to determine if it is right for them.  Specifically, we like the riders that keep our clients in their home and in an assisting living facility as long as possible.

I am not a financial advisor, nor am I licensed to sell insurance, nor can I receive any commission from anyone who does. Thus, I have no incentive to say that I think long-term care policies are important; the reasons may be different than what you might expect.  

I always hear the push-back that long-term care insurance is very expensive, and that, in many cases, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Since approximately 2009 Pennsylvania has become a part of something called a partnership care plan.

Essentially, for example, if you have $200,000 of long-term care insurance that pays out, the state will allow you to exempt an additional $200,000 of assets at the time that you enter a nursing home, and still qualify for Medicaid. When the plan first came out, the concern was that the state would take over long-term care insurance, but so far that has not occurred.

I believe the reason is because these are still traditional long-term care policies that, if you don’t use it during your lifetime, you lose its value at your death.

However, more recently long-term care insurance companies have come out with what is called a hybrid policy, which is a life insurance policy that has a rider for long-term care insurance. The main reason that I like long-term care policies, specifically the ones that have riders to provide for care in the home or in the personal care home, is because more and more, people want to live at home as they age and until they die.  

In all of my years of practice, no one has ever told me that they want to go into a nursing home. I often hear that they want to stay home, or they want to stay in a personal care home, but unfortunately, it is too expensive, or the assets will become completely depleted.

Although I understand that long-term care insurance or a long-term care hybrid policy may seem expensive now, trust me, the peace of mind that it will provide later when you or a loved one wants, and is able, to stay home or go to a personal care home, the money spent on the policy which allows you to do so is small compared to the out-of-pocket cost of that care, and, at least as importantly, your peace of mind.  

Although we are fortunate in the state of Pennsylvania to be able to assist people in crisis, we are not as easily able to help people to stay in their homes or in a personal care home.  Do yourself and your family a favor, and if at all possible secure your long-term care insurance now for peace of mind later; the earlier the better.  

If you want to talk about this or any other estate planning matter your wanting more information about, contact us!  

0

Considerations For Trust Type

Trusts are a major tool in estate planning.  Trusts can be used for disability planning, probate avoidance, asset protection, and/or tax planning.  Given the high thresholds for federal estate tax planning few individuals are concerned about tax planning.  In this article we want to focus primarily on grantor vs. non-grantor trusts.

When we are educating on trusts and the use of trusts in estate planning, people often get a concept confused. There is a difference between a grantor trust and a non-grantor trust. Simply stated, the assets in a grantor trust remain in the grantor’s Social Security number and are reported on the grantor’s personal income tax return.  For a non-grantor trust a separate tax ID number will be obtained to hold the assets and you will file separate trust tax returns, this return is separate and apart from your personal income tax return. 

We will typically use grantor trusts for asset protection trusts and revocable living trusts.  

However, we often use a non-grantor trusts for VA purposes as well as for estates that have a federal estate tax concern. Currently, a person has a federal estate tax issue if their estate is greater than $12.06 million and for a married couple $24.12 million. It is very rare in our practice to use non-grantor trusts, which require separate tax ID numbers and pay at higher trust tax rates, because not a lot of veterans are doing planning where they have to or want to give up complete control of their assets, and not a lot of estates are big enough to need federal estate tax planning. 

In those situations where we use grantor trusts, we intentionally put language in the trust so that is included in the person’s estate, as well as subject to income tax. We include this language because we want to get a step-up in basis at the death of the decedent, and we also want the parent or client to pay the income taxes, because generally retired clients have a lower income tax burden than their children who are still working. 

There are a lot of other factors that go into what type of trust should be used and under what circumstances, but this provides a basic understanding of the difference between grantor and non-grantor trusts. If you would like to learn more about these and other trust concepts, I invite you to come to one of our free in-house workshops to learn more. We would be more than happy to assist. Just call our office or go to our website to enroll in a workshop at a date and time which is convenient for you.

0

Comparing Life Care Planning to Traditional Elder Law

This year, we are getting the word out there about the Life Care Planning we offer that involves a licensed social worker to act as the Client Care Advocate. A question that we keep getting is what is “What is the difference between Life Care Planning and Elder Law and why did you make the change?” The way that I explain it is that a traditional elder law firm prepares documents for an individual and then either waits until the client passes or until they need to go to a nursing home and will qualify them for public benefits.

A life care planning firm is a more holistic approach to providing care. Our licensed social worker, Meg Motter, works with families to assist in figuring out ways to keep their loved ones home and how to receive care in a home or in a less restrictive environment than a nursing home. A licensed social worker will be able to provide different cognitive assessments and evaluate safety and necessity of levels of care, unlike an attorney. The elder care coordinator allows the firm to provide a more comprehensive approach, separate from just estate planning documents or qualification for Medicaid. The care coordinator allows the firm to provide information and advice that was not otherwise available to the firm prior to becoming a life care planning model firm.

We are ecstatic to have Meg Motter onboard as our elder care coordinator and we look forward to assisting you and your family in the future.

Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions or comments at 717-845-5390.

0

Caregiver Agreements and Considerations.

Caregiver agreements are often used in the Medicaid context so that a family member can be paid for their services to a loved one and the payment would not be considered a gift.

In the Medicaid context, payments to family members are considered to be a gift for love and affection, unless there is a clear agreement written prior to services being rendered, preferably signed by the parent receiving the care as well as the child giving the care.

The caregiver agreement will set forth all of the terms of the transaction, including what services will be provided, where will they be provided, how will they be provided, and other typical contract languages.

The significance of this agreement is that the Department of Human Services (DHS) will look at the transaction as an arms-length transaction between third parties and not among family members.

This means that the payments to the child will not be considered a gift, and, therefore payments will be allowed to be counted as a “for value” transfer as part of a legitimate spend-down and not a gift that will trigger a penalty period for Medicaid purposes.

The biggest question that arises in regards to caregiver agreements is what the parent should pay for services. This is often a very difficult question because there are certainly competing interests at stake. For the parent receiving the care, they genuinely would like to pay full market value and as much as they can without there being a penalty created. This will legitimately reduce the value of their estate, but benefit the child who is providing services for their care on a daily basis.

On the other hand, if there are other children who are not providing the care they often feel slighted or that the other sibling is receiving more than their fair share.

This is very difficult because the children who are not providing the care want the amount to be paid to be the least amount possible to potentially raise the amount that will be left for them and their siblings to share.

However, if the parent does not spend down their assets legitimately, the money can be lost to long-term care costs, and there may not be anything left for anybody.

This inheritance rub is one of the most difficult things involved with a family caregiver because of the potential conflict that it may create among the family members.

At the end of the day, fair market value is generally set in, in this context, by what other professionals and people are charging for similar services. As long as you can stay within the realm of what others are charging for similar services, the Department of Human Services will not raise a red flag. However, that does not mean that other children or other family members may not question the motives of their family member providing the services and the amount of the payment.

We believe it is important to have all parties abreast of the information and informed so that we can potentially avoid unwanted conflict in the future. We always advise the advice of a professional to assist with these potential implications, and ensuring that the agreements are written properly to comply with DHS and Medicaid standards.

If you are looking for advice in regards to estate planning, please call our office at 717-845-5390 or click the link here and we will contact you.

1 2 3 89

  • Fill in the form below to download your e-book


    Download your free Avoid These Five Common Estate Planning Myths e-book
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.