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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.

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Tax Issues on the Family Home for Loved Ones

HouseNJ.com’s recent article, “Complex inheritance taxes on a home,” explains the valuation of a home based on its fair market value (FMV) on the date of death, when considering estate and inheritance taxes.

If you have a home valued at over $1 million, it may sell close to that amount. Let’s say that you’re single and are 80 years old. You live with your widowed sister. Your will instructs that your sister should have life ownership, when you pass and then it is left in trust for nieces and nephews. What would their tax bill be?

The home's value is generally determined through an appraisal that would establish the home's fair market value.

Fair market value, in these circumstances, is typically defined as "the amount at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, when the former is not under any compulsion to buy, and the latter is not under any compulsion to sell, both parties having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts."

The transfer of a life estate to the sister, followed by placing the home in a trust for the nieces and nephews, would mean they’d have an inheritance tax liability in New Jersey. The sister is a Class "C" beneficiary under the state’s inheritance tax laws, and the nieces and nephews are deemed to be Class "D" beneficiaries.

Generally, Class "C" beneficiaries have a $25,000 exemption and anything over that exemption is taxed at 11% on the next $1.075 million. The rates then go higher as the amount increases. Transfers to Class "D" beneficiaries are taxed at 15% on the first $700,000 and 16% on amounts exceeding $700,000.

This is unlike the situation where a beneficiary receives a readily determinable amount at death. In such cases, the tax can be calculated easily by reference to the beneficiary classes and applicable tax rates. But in this scenario, the value of the interests the beneficiaries will ultimately receive is uncertain.

However, state law provides a solution for this situation: the estate and the New Jersey Division of Taxation may use the "Compromise Tax" procedures to agree upon an inheritance tax liability. The calculation of the compromise tax is based upon actuarial factors according to the life expectancy of the current beneficiary, his or her beneficiary class and the relative probability of assets passing to the remainder beneficiaries and their respective beneficiary classes. In most cases, the taxpayer offers a proposed compromise on the inheritance tax return for consideration by the Division, based on the taxpayer's assessment of the most probable outcome.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you understand and plan accordingly.

Reference: NJ.com (June 19, 2017) “Complex inheritance taxes on a home”

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Simple Estate Planning Tools

Old couple with computerWhen we look at the steps taken in our investing lives, the basics are simple. As working investors in the initial stages, the priority is accumulation and growth. Therefore, we participate in retirement plans such as IRA’s, 401-k plans, etc.

As Marco Eagle’s article, “Money Talks: Estate planning tools” explains, the next phase is the retirement stage, when the focus shifts from accumulation to preservation and maintenance of the nest egg.

Growth is a component of any retirement plan, but protecting your purchasing power during retirement is critical. You also want to generate a predictable stream of income during retirement, in order to avoid compromising your lifestyle.

The final stage of successful retirement planning is often overlooked: that’s the estate planning phase or the strategy of a succession plan to pass assets to your family. There are many estate planning tools that can be used to execute an estate plan. You can create a personal trust. Under this arrangement, your assets are transferred into a trust during your lifetime and then transferred by the trust at death. It’s important from both a tax standpoint and an allocation standpoint, regarding who receives what and how much. This is what your estate plan does for you and your family.

Work with an experienced estate and trusts attorney to establish your estate plan, so you can achieve your final objectives when passing assets to the next generation. Some individuals like the ability to exercise control with an effective plan to pass assets to their beneficiaries, without the need of trusts or probate.

There are many types of insured annuity strategies that will pass assets immediately to the beneficiaries, without the need of probate. Avoiding probate is frequently part of a strategy to make the assets available, immediately after the death certificate is issued.

Some see the foundation of their estate planning as the incorporation of life insurance. This lets the beneficiaries inherit assets, generally tax free. Avoiding a taxable event upon death is also appealing, based on both taxes as well as overall portfolio values. Talk to a professional about your situation.

Reference: Marco Eagle (June 11, 2017) “Money Talks: Estate planning tools”

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What is fair for a Family with a Child with Special Needs

Teacher with preschoolerAs parents, it’s hard to treat all children fairly, despite their different personalities and capabilities. Most try to ensure that one child never feels less loved than another. Some will carry that over into their estate planning. However, there are times when inequity may be a better choice. A recent Tickertape article is appropriately titled “Estate Planning for Special Needs Children: Trying to Be Even-Steven?” The article says that one instance when fair is not always equal, is when you’re planning the future for a special needs child after you die.

Children with special needs are typically eligible for state and federal benefits to provide them with assistance for their long-term support. Among the most common are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. In many states, SSI may qualify children for Medicaid, or Medicaid comes automatically with SSI. These are need-based benefits that are means-tested. SSI recipients have a strict assets threshold of $2,000 for an individual. If a special needs child gets an inheritance, it might push him or her, above that ceiling.  This could result in ineligibility for the program benefits that might be used to cover medical, therapeutic, or housing needs.

When money is paid directly to the child as beneficiary, it can cut SSI benefits. The same is true, if the special-needs heir disclaims the inheritance.

Government benefits may be retained, if an inheritance is set up in a Special Needs Trust (SNT), which is designed to help a beneficiary with special needs and preserve government aid while protecting assets. The trust allocates inheritance assets to the child with special needs, but it’s via a third-party.

However, there might be tax implications. While the inheritance itself isn’t taxed, the income that it generates in a special trust is typically taxable at trust tax levels. Creating an SNT can be complicated, and the rules can vary from state to state. Speak to a qualified trust attorney to be sure that all income is reported properly and there are no deductions left on the table.

Treating children equally when one has special needs, may result in creating an inequality. Because of the government program eligibility requirements, you must consider the net tax implications when dividing your estate. Be straightforward with your children as to your intentions, especially if one child will be needing long-term care. Knowing the plans will help everyone prepare for the future.

Reference: Tickertape (June 14, 2017) “Estate Planning for Special Needs Children: Trying to Be Even-Steven?”

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Don’t Over-Think Your Estate Planning

Old couple having coffeeThe psychological issues in deciding how to leave your assets can be the hardest part of the process, says Wilmington Biz in the recent article, “Keep Mental Hang-Ups From Sabotaging Estate Planning.” The issues can range from an aversion to thinking about death to complicated feelings about children, in-laws and other relatives.

There are some people who have an issue with deciding how to allocate their assets after they pass away. A common issue is emotional or moral paralysis. After they worked with their attorney to draft the documents, they freeze when it’s time to sign on the dotted line.

Another issue arises when a person is estranged from his or her children.

And there are those who—believe it or not—fear that somehow if they make a will, they’d die. It is sort of like if they ignore the inevitable, it will never happen. Crazy, right? Do you think that if you don’t draft a will, then you could live indefinitely?

Another challenging issue is the decision of a parent that makes them feel like they’re favoring one child over others. And there may be good reason: perhaps one can manage money better than another, or a child is married to someone the parents don’t like or trust or maybe the child has an addiction issue.

Because the emotional challenges make it hard for some folks to think straight about much of this, the best approach is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can take some of the emotional baggage out of the equation.

These conversations may indeed have psychological ramifications, especially where there is substance abuse, fear of dying or a sense of entitlement.

An estate planning attorney can help to create an analytical and logical approach to estate planning and financial preparation that will help with discussions about heirs and allay fears of the unknown.

Reference: Wilmington Biz (June 6, 2017) “Keep Mental Hang-Ups From Sabotaging Estate Planning”

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