Estate planning: You need three basic documents: Will, Power of Attorney (POA) and Health Care Proxy (HCP).The POA is often more important than the Will. It gives power over your finances in the event you are disabled.
Same with HCP’s except they deal with health care decisions. These documents can sidestep burdensome and costly guardianships or Conservatorships.
Avoiding Probate of Wills: Can be achieved by setting up Revocable Trusts (aka Living Trusts) and Irrevocable Trusts. Also, transferring your house by deed to one or more of your children while reserving a life estate. Other probate avoidance options include adding a child’s name to your bank account, annuity beneficiary designations, life insurance and transfer on death provisions of stock/brokerage accounts. These are all methods by which your money gets to your heirs without probating your Will. Is probating a Will the worst thing in the world? Not necessarily. It is actually the one area of elder law that has gotten easier in recent years.
Asset Protection: If you are frail and concerned that at some point your savings may depleted by a long term nursing home stay then you need to do one or more of the following:
1)Transfer your assets now and get the 5 year ineligibility for Medicaid period started.
Transfer to whom? Directly to your child (ren) or to an Irrevocable Trust. Directly avoids legal costs and sophistication of Trusts but it exposes those transferred assets in the event one of the children divorces, becomes estranged (it happens), files for bankruptcy etc . 2) Buy long term care insurance. Expensive but often worthwhile. It is the wave of the future as Federal and State governments go broke and cut back on health care 3) move in with your children 4) pay your children pursuant to a well drafted Caregiver Agreement. I often use this strategy when the elder is quite elderly and frail would need care within the next five years.
2)Community ResourcesMedicare generally does not pay for care to come into your home other than rehab such as OT, PT and VNA. The Federal Aid and Attendants program for veterans is one avenue to bring care dollars into the home. However, there are huge backlogs and financial need criteria. Medicaid aka MassHealth does pay for some care attendants but is asset and income based. Eligibility criteria vary dramatically from program to program. A program that is mushrooming is the Frail Elder Waiver. Reverse mortgages are great for those who are house rich but cash poor. They are expensive but allow the elder to age in place.
Inheritance Taxes: You only have to concern yourself with these if you have a million dollars