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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Sep
26
2011
0

Antioch Elder Law Attorney

Elder Law Attorney Michael J. Young practices in the areas of long term care planning, asset protection, government benefits planning and estate planning for the older client in Antioch and the surrounding areas. Mr. Young holds workshops regarding these topics on a regular basis. He is the author of the The Alzheimer’s Legal Survival Kit and The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Veteran’s Benefits. These and other publications and information regarding upcoming workshops are available through Mr. Young’s website at http://www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com.

Many of Mr. Young’s clients live in Antioch and wish to engage an elder law attorney to help them do their long term care planning for asset protection and government benefits planning such as for the VA Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit and Medi-Cal.

Medi-Cal pays for skilled nursing facility costs. The VA Aid & Attendance Improved Pension Benefit can help pay for in home care, assisted living facilities and the costs of board and care. If you are a wartime veteran, or the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, over the age of 65 and may be in need of help with activities of daily living, you may want to plan for this little known benefit.

Planning for asset protection, Medi-Cal and the VA Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit usually begins with updating the estate planning documents, such as the revocable living trust and financial durable powers of attorney to include specialized planning language. The focus for this type of planning changes for the older client, to help make our assets last longer, and to create more options. An elder law attorney can help you with this important perspective. We don’t want to run out of money or options as we grow older. The focus on long term care planning changes from “What happens when we die” to “What happens if we don’t die.”

Mr. Young offers a free telephone consultation, and you may contact his office at 925-256-0298, and visit his website at www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com.

This information is not to be taken as legal advice, and you are encouraged to see an elder law attorney or senior law attorney for your particular situation. 

Written Michael J. Young, lawyoung1@gmail.com, elder law attorney with offices in Walnut Creek, CA. www.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.

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