May
31
2012
0

Probates with Real Estate –

PROBATE is a court proceeding that is used to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries at the time of your death. Probates are complex, and require that numerous forms and regulations be followed, before the court will sign an order distributing your assets to your beneficiaries or heirs. 

A probate with regard to your home and other real estate assets can usually be avoided with the use of revocable living trusts. To do this, title to your home would be transfered on the County Record from yourself, to yourself as trustee under your revocable living trust. For instance, the deed would be from John Doe to John Doe as Trustee of the John Doe Revocable Living Trust dated January 15, 2012. The terms of the trust will state who the home will be distributed to after you die, and this transfer can be completed on the County Record without a probate. 

However, not everybody passes away with their home in a revocable living trust. There are many occasions where individuals will pass away with their home in their name alone, and they may or may not have a will. A probate will probably be required whether they have a will or not. The terms of the will determine who the beneficiaries of the home will be. If there is no will, the home will be distributed to the “heirs at law” of the decedent.

With regard to real estate, a probate is required to clear the title so that the property can be distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent, or so that the property can be sold and the proceeds of sale distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs. Clients will ask me why a probate would be required if the decedent has a will naming somebody as a beneficiary. To find the answer to this, we first need to first look at the County Record to see who the record owner is for the home. The last deed of record could be in the name of John Doe. John Doe is now deceased, so who can sign a deed from John Doe to his beneficiary? The answer is no one, which is why a court order would be required.

Written Michael J. Young, elder law attorney and probate attorney in Walnut Creek, CA and former in-house counsel for title insurance companies. www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com LawYoung1@Gmail.com 1931 San Miguel Dr., Suite 220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. 925-256-0298. Mr. Young serves Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Brentwood, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Clayton, etc. Mr. Young advises clients regarding Probates, Probates with Real Estate, Medi-Cal, nursing homes, asset protection, the VA Aid and attendance pension benefit, and long term care planning. Mr. Young is an Elder Law Attorney and Probate Attorney with offices in Walnut Creek, CA. Walnut Creek Elder Law Attorney, Walnut Creek Probate Attorney

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Apr
19
2012
0

The Importance of an “Elder Law” Durable Power of Attorney

     Does your Financial Durable Power of Attorney (financial DPA) contain asset protection and government benefits qualification language? It probably does not, unless it was prepared by an elder law attorney. If you lose mental capacity, your spouse or children may be prevented from gifting your assets to themselves, in order to help you qualify for Medi-Cal or for the VA Aid & Attendance Pension benefit.

If your financial DPA contains any gifting language at all, it is probably limited to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, which is $13,000 per person this year. This language is usually of little help for Medi-Cal qualification. In addition, the language will probably not allow for gifting to the ”attorney in fact”, who is the person acting for you.  Specialized language is required under the law in order to allow for any gifting to the person acting as the “attorney in fact.” This specialized language usually does not appear in a “regular” financial durable power of attorney.

For instance, the home can easily be established as an exempt asset for Medi-Cal qualification. If the home is in the name of the Medi-Cal applicant who has lost mental capacity, and we want to transfer the home to a child and reserve a life estate to the applicant in order to avoid a Medi-Cal lien, most financial durable powers of attorney will not allow for this. Most financial durable powers of attorney will allow a transfer only upon receipt of consideration from a sale for fair market value of the real property.

To give another example, the Medi-Cal applicant, under the regulations, is allowed to own a life insurance policy, with a pay on death figure in any amount. However, in order to qualify for Medi-Cal, the applicant’s life insurance policy cannot have more than $1500 cash value. If there is a $5,000 cash value, for instance, the Medi-Cal applicant cannot qualify. The remedy is to liquidate the cash from the policy and then gift it out. What do you do however if the Medi-Cal applicant has lost capacity? We need to then look at the powers in the financial durable power of attorney. However, although most financial DPAs may allow for a liquidation of the cash value, they will not allow you to gift the cash out. The Medi-Cal applicant can only retain $2,000 in non qualified accounts, and if the cash from the policy cannot be gifted, it would have to be spent before qualification for Medi-Cal can be obtained.

The financial DPA in an elder law context, is also coordinated with the revocable living trust of the applicant. There should be specialized asset protection language in the trust, which refers to the financial DPA. This specialized language will allow the attorney in fact to “stand in the shoes” of the maker of the trust, for all purposes, including for Medi-Cal qualification. This technique is allowed by law, and provides the greatest amount of flexibility for the family who is helping the older person who has lost capacity, when we are applying for Medi-Cal.

Remember that if existing estate planning documents are not updated before the older person loses capacity, we may have to resort to a court proceeding to modify the language in the documents. This process is expensive and is not always guaranteed. The best approach is to pre-planning, and to have your estate planning documents updated as early as possible by a qualified elder law attorney, who practices full time in this area of the law. 

Written Michael J. Young, elder law attorney in Walnut Creek, CA. www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com mike@WalnutCreekElderLaw.com. 1931 San Miguel Dr., Suite 220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. 925-256-0298. Mr. Young serves Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Brentwood, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Clayton, etc. Mr. Young advises clients regarding Medi-Cal, nursing homes, asset protection, the VA Aid and attendance pension benefit, and long term care planning. Mr. Young is a Concord Elder Law Attorney with offices in Walnut Creek, CA.

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Oct
17
2011
0

What Is The Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning?

I practice Elder Law and represent the older client and their families. When clients come to see me, their concerns are not so much about what happens when they die, but more about ’What happens if they don’t die.’

Of course, they want to make sure that their assets pass to their family with a minimum of expenses and taxes. But the bigger and more complicated question is, “What happens if I don’t die?” As we know, Americans are living longer all the time. The infirmities of old age may require that we have in home care assistance, or go to an assisted living facility, board and care home or eventually a to a nursing home.  We are of course concerned about how we pay for these costs. A regular estate plan does not address these needs. An elder law attorney can prepare a long term care plan for you, and address these needs. He will also address the concern of passing assets to their family.

To put it another way, a regular estate plan insures that if you die, your assets will be passed on to your family the way you want. The operative word is “if”. A  regular estate plan will not help preserve assets so that hopefully there will be something left when you die to pass on to your family. As we know, the assets of the older client could be depleted by a nursing home stay or lengthy illness, which could leave their spouse or heirs with nothing.  

If you have sufficient assets to pay for long-term care or nursing home costs without running out of funds, then a regualr estate planning attorney may be all you need. However, if you cannot afford the cost of a lenghty nursing home stay, of around $90,000 per year or $180,000 per year for a couple, or more, then an elder law attorney would be able to help you.

For a real life example, Mary and Jim have about $300,000 in assets and a home worth around $500,000. Jim needs assistance and uses a wheelchair. Mary has been providing for his care, but recently has shown signs of forgetfulness and confusion. She has been diagnosed by her doctor as having early signs of dementia.   

An estate plan is of course important to Jim and Mary, but this won’t help them deal with the problems they are presently dealing with. They want to tackle the issue of how they will be able to afford the cost of nursing home care should either one or both of them need it. They want to establish how they will be taken care of should Mary’s dementia become more advanced. They want to find out if if they can stay in their home with assistance.

This couple needs a life plan, specific to them, to meet their needs for the future. Jim and Mary need to seek the advice of an elder law attorney.

Written Michael J. Young, elder law attorney in Walnut Creek, CA. www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com mike@WalnutCreekElderLaw.com. 1931 San Miguel Dr., Suite 220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. 925-256-0298. Mr. Young serves Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Brentwood, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Clayton, etc. Mr. Young advises clients regarding Medi-Cal, nursing homes, asset protection, the VA Aid and attendance pension benefit, and long term care planning. Mr. Young is a Concord Elder Law Attorney with offices in Walnut Creek, CA.

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Oct
04
2011
0

Medi-Cal Qualification

This is a brief list of exempt assets for Medi-Cal qualification. Your home is generally exempt, and you can take steps to protect your home from a Medi-Cal lien after your death. Your household goods and personal belongs are exempt. You can have an exemption for one car. Term life insurance policies are excluded, but you cannot have more than a total of $1500 cash value in the policies.  You can keep your IRAs and other “qualified accounts.” You can only have $2,000 of non qualified assets. 

This is a brief synopsis of exempt assets, and of course planning and applying for  Medi-Cal is much more complicated than is presented here. In addition, if you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, you should consider planning and possibly applying for the VA Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit. Planning for the VA Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit should be coordinated with your planning for Medi-Cal benefits. Your elder law attorney, who is also certified by the VA, can help you with planning for both benefits. 

This blog is written by Michael J. Young, Elder Law Attorney, for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult an elder law, government benefits and asset protection attorney for your particular case, and before you proceed with any planning.

For additional information you can go to Mr. Young’s website at  www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com . You can send an e-mail to Mr. Young at mike@WalnutCreekElderLaw.com. His address is 1931 San Miguel Dr., Suite 220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. Phone: (925) 256-0298. Mr. Young has clients in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Antioch, Bay Point, Alamo, Danville, Clayton, etc. Mr. Young advises clients regarding Medi-Cal, nursing homes, asset protection, the VA Aid and attendance pension benefit, and long term care planning. Mr. Young is a member of NAELA.

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