What is Hospice & Palliative Care and Who is Eligible?   no comments

Posted at 6:39 pm in Articles,Elder Law FAQ

Hospice vs Palliative Care

Hospice care essentially means “comfort care” and is intended for patients with a terminal prognosis, typically diagnosed with a life expectancy of six months or less, regardless of age. The goal is to make such a patient, whose condition cannot be cured or improved,  as comfortable as possible  in a warm, supportive environment.  All appropriate medication, medical supplies and equipment are included, as well counseling and spiritual support.

Palliative care may be available to anyone of any age suffering from physical and emotional pain and suffering, including that person’s family, and is not tied to a limited life expectancy. Palliative care focuses on the symptoms that cause physical and emotional pain following diagnosis of an illness, and includes medication to alleviate suffering and enhance the quality of life.

Hospice care may be provided in one’s own home, or in a dedicated hospice facility, or in a long-term care facility. Some counties provide free non-medical hospice care services, typically provided by trained volunteers. Perhaps the largest source of hospice care coverage is provided by the Medicare Hospice Benefit, which is available to individuals over 65 years of age. Since this benefit covers virtually everything relating to hospice care, one does not have to be concerned about out-of-pocket costs.

How does one get the Medicare Hospice Benefit?  The patient must satisfy four key requirements:

  • must be eligible for Medicare Part A
  • must have a terminal illness of six months or less
  • must choose hospice care instead of routine Medicare benefits and sign a form certifying that they are making this choice; and
  • must be in a Medicare-approved hospice program

Medicaid, private insurance or pre-paid health plans typically cover hospice most services. One should check their eligibility requirements and scope of coverage.  To be eligible for such coverage, one must have a prognosis of six months or less.

Written by RobG on April 20th, 2018

Beware Medicare’s Penalties for Late Enrollment   no comments

Posted at 5:00 pm in Articles

This blog is for anyone who wants to understand how to avoid late enrollment penalties for Medicare Part A, Medicaid Part B and Medicare Penalties.

Eligibility.  People generally become eligible for Medicare at age 65, when they can receive benefits under Part A (hospital coverage)Part B (medical coverage) and Part D (prescription drug coverage).

Reason for late enrollment penalty. The cost of insurance is based on risk and figuring out how much money is needed to cover anticipated needs and benefits. If only those who needed insurance signed up on time and healthier people waited, the healthy beneficiaries’ premiums would not be available to help underwrite the costs of the less healthy ones.

For this reason, Medicare imposes fairly significant penalties for those who postpone enrolling.  To encourage everyone to sign up when they first become eligible, the program increases premiums based on how long a beneficiary waits to enroll; – the later you enroll, the higher the premium.  The same applies to late enrollment for Medicare supplemental coverage, called Medigap.

The penalties differ for the different “parts” of Medicare, and it’s important to be aware of them and how they can be avoided.  Here’s a rundown:

Part A

Those receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when they first become eligible for Medicare will automatically be enrolled in Part A starting the first day of the month they turn 65.  If you aren’t already receiving these benefits as you approach age 65, you’ll need to sign up for Part A on your own.

You generally won’t pay a monthly premium for Part A coverage if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working.  If you aren’t eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don’t buy it when you’re first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10 percent for every 12 months you didn’t have the coverage. You’ll have to pay this higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A but didn’t sign up. For example, if you were eligible for Part A for two years but didn’t sign up, you’ll have to pay a 20 percent higher premium for four years.

If you are still working and have an employer or union group health insurance plan, you may not need to sign up for Medicare right away. You will need to find out from your employer whether the employer’s plan is the primary insurer.  Also, be aware of Part A’s impact on Health Savings Accounts.  For more information on Part A, click here.

Part B

You can sign up for Part B at the same time that you become eligible for Part A. You can sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period, which is the seven-month period that includes the three months before the month you become eligible (usually age 65), the month you are eligible and three months after the month you become eligible.

If you do not sign up for Part B during this period, your Medicare Part B premium may go up 10 percent for each 12-month period that you could have had Medicare Part B, but did not take it. In addition, you will have to wait for the general enrollment period to enroll. The general enrollment period usually runs between January 1 and March 31 of each year. Coverage doesn’t start until July of that year, which may create a gap in your coverage.

However, If you are still working and have an employer or union group health insurance plan (your own, a spouse’s, or if you’re disabled, a family member’s), it is possible you do not need to sign up for Medicare Part B right away. You will need to find out from your employer whether the employer’s plan is the primary insurer. If Medicare, rather than the employer’s plan, is the primary insurer, then you will still need to sign up for Part B. If the employer’s plan is primary, you can sign up for Part B anytime you’re still covered by the group health plan or during the eight-month period that begins the month after the employment ends or the coverage ends, whichever happens first.  Note that COBRA coverage does not count as employer coverage.  For more information on Part B, click here.

Part D

As with Part B, you can sign up for Part D during your Initial Enrollment Period.  If you postpone signing up past this seven-month period, the Medicare Part D premium will increase at least 1 percent for every month you wait. For example, if the premium is $40 a month, and you delay enrollment for 15 months, your premium penalty would be $6 (1 percent x 15 x $40 = $6), meaning that you would pay $46 a month, not $40, for coverage that year and an extra $6 a month each succeeding year.

Beneficiaries are exempt from these penalties if they did not enroll because they had drug coverage from a private insurer, such as through a retirement plan, at least as good as Medicare’s. This is called “creditable coverage.” Your insurer should let you know if their coverage will be considered creditable. You may owe a late enrollment penalty if at any time after your Initial Enrollment Period is over there’s a period of 63 or more days in a row when you don’t have Part D or other creditable prescription drug coverage. You’ll generally have to pay the penalty for as long as you have Part D coverage.  For more about Part D, click here.

Medigap Coverage

With all the deductibles, copayments and coverage exclusions, Medicare pays for only about half of the medical costs of America’s senior citizens. Much of the balance not covered by Medicare can be covered by purchasing a “Medigap” insurance policy.  The best time to buy a Medigap policy is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, which is a six-month period that begins on the first day of the month in which you’re 65 or older and are enrolled in Part B. (Some states have additional Open Enrollment Periods.)  After this enrollment period, you may not be able to buy a Medigap policy, and if you’re able to buy one, it may cost you more.

Also, your eligibility for a Medigap plan could be jeopardized if you join a Medicare Advantage planwhen you first become eligible for Medicare or you decide to return to original Medicare from a Medicare Advantage plan.  Those in Medicare Advantage plans generally don’t need Medigap policies, which can’t be used to pay Medicare Advantage plan copayments, deductibles, and premiums.  If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan when you were first eligible for Medicare and decide you want to return to original Medicare, you can choose from any Medigap policy within the first year of joining the Advantage plan.

If you had a Medigap plan but switched to Medicare Advantage, you have the right to go back to the same Medigap policy you had before you joined the Medicare Advantage plan, if the same insurance company you had before still sells it.  If the policy is no longer available, you have a guaranteed right to buy a Medigap policy designated A, B, C, F, K or L that is sold in your state by any insurance company as long as you had Medicare Advantage for less than a year. In these cases the insurers cannot refuse you coverage as long as you apply for the Medigap policy no later than 63 days after coverage from your Medicare Advantage plan terminates. The insurance company is required by law to sell or offer you a Medigap policy even if you have health problems (called “pre-existing conditions”).  If you had Medicaid Advantage for a year or more or wait longer than 63 days, you can apply but you aren’t guaranteed acceptance.

The 2016 Medicare & You handbook explains Medicare’s rules in greater detail. The handbook can be downloaded online at: www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf

For AARP’s Medicare article, “Enrolling at the Right Time,” click here.

Written by RobG on April 20th, 2018

Medicare: Understanding “Observation Status” Effect on Medicare Coverage   no comments

Posted at 4:48 pm in Articles

The rule was that one needed at least a three day hospital stay to qualify for Medicare coverage. Medicare benefits continue to be eroded by hospitals now using “observation status”  to prevent patients from meeting the “three day hospital stay” requirement to qualify for Medicare coverage.  Technically, patients are not “admitted” for care but rather to be observed to ensure there isn’t a problem that requires treatment. The concern is that this distinction is being overused and even abused to the detriment of Seniors who really need better medical oversight.

This is a separate issue from early termination of Medicare coverage.  In short, if  rehabilitation would be beneficial to the patient, which includes enabling the patient to maintain rather than regress, Medicare coverage may not be terminated merely because no further progress is expected.  An Elder Law attorney can help you resolve problems in this regard.

 

Written by RobG on January 19th, 2018

How Relationship Problems Affect Estate Planning   no comments

Posted at 6:35 am in Articles

The connection between estate planning and how people behave. The law is intended to regulate how people behave to maintain public order and well-being and prevent people from taking the law into their own hands. But people disrespect other people and their rights and property all the time. Some children steal from, neglect and physically abuse their elderly parents. Estate planning is about protecting your loved ones, your property and your Peace of Mind.

Estate planning is about managing risk. Unresolved relationship problems are a major risk that can sink your estate plan and lead to financial disaster. Focusing on your concern and ignoring other factors and laws that may apply creates risk. Managing risk effectively requires identifying and understanding all the risk factors in your case that may impact the effectiveness of your estate planning.

When you feel insecure about your relationship with your spouse, significant other, or children, do you really think about taking care of them and getting your legal affairs in order? For most, the answer is “No.”

Relationship tension creates stress and distracts you from focusing on the important things. This distraction can affect you in many ways, including your performance at work and your personal life. Lack of planning can cause mistakes and oversights that could wipe out everything you have and leave you in debt.

Risks to Consider. Unresolved relationship tension is a major cause of stress that leads to break-ups, which in turn leads to separation, divorce and serious legal problems. Family fighting creates a negative environment. Emotional distress can create serious health problems, cause you to lose your job, your partner, your family, and you could lose half, or more, of what you own!

Festering tension is unhealthy and makes matters worse. People need stability in their lives, to be able to focus, to plan, and for Peace of Mind. Making an effort to clear up any misunderstanding and resolve disputes is a wise investment in one’s Peace of Mind. Even if unsuccessful, at least you know you tried.

Work-Life Balance. When you fail to establish priorities and boundaries to protect your core values, you often don’t have a personal life. You get used and abused. Your relationship with your family suffers, as does your health. You don’t take care of yourself and don’t take steps to protect your loved ones and your assets against financial disaster. This causes your family to feel insecure and anxious, and to question your commitment to their well-being. Smart estate planning provides a process that promotes consideration of ways to achieve better work-life balance.

Ironically, physicians have the least work-life balance, often feel trapped in a toxic workplace and are overwhelmed. Physician burn-out is a major problem and a growing risk factor for personal healthcare and for effective estate planning. Physicians are so busy taking care of others that they neglect themselves and their families. Not having one’s legal affairs in order can be a significant stress factor for physicians and other professionals, who often are very concerned about whether they can sustain their current lifestyle.

Estate planning is a crucial process that yields many benefits beyond getting one’s legal affairs in order. Estate planning is building a foundation for financial security, a brighter future and a happy life.

Awareness. Although the hustle and bustle of a hectic life can make it difficult to see beyond the immediate demands, being “aware” of the bigger picture is important to protect yourself against the many things and people who might cause you harm.

The legal system is not particularly friendly to people who are vulnerable and need help. Some lawyers see family conflict, anger, depression and insecurity as an opportunity to earn a large fee. The courts are overwhelmed and not equipped to deal with non-legal aspects of a conflict. If you take charge of your life and take care of what’s important without delay, you won’t put yourself in the position where you have to deal with the fall-out.

Seeking Help Really Helps. Don’t expect others to read your mind. Ask for help. Set aside an hour or two to think about what you would like to achieve and to find out who you should turn to for help. You may be smart in your field, but you cannot become an expert in estate planning overnight. Smart people know when to seek professional help.

Estate Planning typically includes your important relationships. When you discuss estate planning needs and goals together you build trust and intimacy. You create positive energy which stimulates creative thinking. When you don’t, distrust, anxiety and resentment builds.

Understanding reduces risk. Estate planning involves far more than meets the eye. Most people who experience a thorough estate planning consultation with an experienced, caring estate planning lawyer, are surprised when they realize what needs to be considered, and appreciate the guidance they receive. This knowledge enables you to make smart decisions with confidence.

Conclusion. Relationship management is a cornerstone of the foundation upon which an effective, durable estate plan is built. Responsible people take care of their important relationships, are aware of risks of a relationship ending badly, and nip problems in the bud. Effective estate planning requires ongoing awareness, resilience when faced with adversity, and handling challenging situations with emotionally intelligence.

Written by RobG on November 15th, 2017

10 Reasons For A Deed Change   no comments

Posted at 10:01 pm in Articles

Considering a deed change? Consider a life estate deed. Thinking about adding or removing a spouse or child’s name to your deed? Adding a name is often not as simple a matter as you may think. Did you know that the kind of deed you sign can determine whether the real property is protected or not in bankruptcy, whether the house is protected against a Medicaid lien if you should need to reside in a nursing home and rely on Medicaid to pay for nursing home costs, or will keep your property out of probate? There may be other significant estate planning, including tax consequences based on the kind of deed you choose.  Do you even get to choose?

What are you trying to accomplish?  Why?  Are you aware of the potential legal effect of such a transaction? Would you prefer to have the advice of an experienced real estate and estate planning lawyer before making a final decision?

Consider the following reasons for a Deed change:

  1. Death of Spouse or Co-Owner
  2. Inheritance
  3. Divorce
  4. Marital Planning
  5. Financial Management Problems
  6. To Avoid Probate
  7. To Correct Errors
  8. To Redeem Ground-Rent
  9. Estate Planning
  10. Asset Protection Planning

Should I use a real estate lawyer or an estate planning lawyer?  Well, … virtually all real estate transactions impact one’s estate planning.

Estate planning lawyers focus on ensuring that your property, including real estate, is titled properly and in a way that best achieves your estate planning goals, whether to add someone to the title without creating unexpected problems, avoid probate and the claims of creditors, for tax reasons, to protect the property for loved ones, including persons who have a disability or lack the experience or ability to take care of their assets, among other reasons.  If the real estate issue relates to the boundaries of your property, surveys, sub-division, permits, disputes, and so forth, a real estate lawyer may be more knowledgeable in these matters.

A deed is not simply a piece of paper showing title. A good deed is the product of good counseling, and should be crafted to address your needs, so don’t cut corners! Important as a well-drafted legal document such as a deed is, what is said in the deed depends on what the person drafting the deed understands is desired and needed by the client. The only effective way for this to occur is to first have a thorough consultation in which your goals and circumstances are explored. Therefore, always obtain a “Rights & Options” consultation before making a deed change.  

[For Additional Information, visit our Real Estate Law practice page]

Contact us now for help with your Deed Change.

Contact Baltimore Deed Attorney

Parent Abuse & Sacrifices Parents Make for their Children   no comments

Posted at 12:57 pm in Articles,Resources For Seniors

By Rob Goldman, J.D. and Amy Ding, M.D.

Many parents frequently make sacrifices for their children. The focus of this article is not
the typical sacrifices parents make for their children but rather on the situations where adult
children look to their parents, in particular older parents, for financial assistance or try to
dump their emotional baggage on their parents.

Do parents have an obligation to provide financial and emotional support to their adult
children who are experiencing tough times? The short answer is that they do not. Parents
who have raised their children have performed their duty and it is up to the children to take
responsibility for their own lives and the choices and mistakes they make. Of course, there
could be a compelling situation which, based on the specific facts and circumstances, the
answer may be different.

Many parents have a natural feeling of responsibility to help their children in times of need,
and tend to feel guilty if they do not. Decisions to help, or not to help, should not be based
primarily on emotion or pressure.

Your first obligation as a parent, as a person, is to take care of yourself. If you are
financially and/or mentally unable to take care of yourself, you are not in a position to take
care of others. Under no circumstances should you jeopardize your financial security for
anyone else, or your spouse or significant other.

Financial abuse of parents, especially elderly parents, is an increasing problem. Elderly
parents are particularly vulnerable because of the confidential relationship they have with
their children, their “blood.” Parents sometimes will not believe that their children would
take advantage of them. Many of the elderly suffer from some form of dementia and are easily manipulated and deceived. Other parents feel trapped because they are dependent on an adult child and are afraid that standing up to them or denying them will result in physical or mental abuse,loss of needed care services, loss of a place to live, or that they will be completely on their own and isolated from their family and grand-children.

Some seniors have lost their spouse who used to take care of all the family finances and
feel lost. Many a time, an adult child will step in and provide caring, diligent assistance.
Unfortunately, there are many instances where a family member sees this as an
opportunity to enrich himself or herself at the expense of the parent and to deprive siblings
from sharing in any inheritance. Yes, this happens, more frequently than one would think!
If you see red flags, don’t ignore them. Do something right away. Seek professional help
to review your situation and figure out how best to resolve the problem.

The first step to determine whether you are able to help an adult child, assuming you really
do want to help, by performing your own due diligence. Can you really afford to take on
the responsibility of helping your child or anyone else? Review the financial resources you
have now, the resources you will need in the future, factors that may increase and
decrease those resources, whether you rely on others to make ends meet, your health and
how your health needs and the related expenses that will impact your resources. Consider
your own home, work, mental health, physical health, relationship and other needs and stresses.

Second, verify that the child really does need the assistance requested, – that it is a
necessity not just an item on their wish-list. Make sure you get straight answers and the
substantiation you request. Do not allow yourself to be pressured. It is not your problem. –
You are being asked to lend or give your money. You are the boss of yourself!

Third, consider the emotional impact of becoming involved. Stress is arguably the greatest
cause of physical and mental health problems, including heart, digestive, nervous system,
thyroid function, sleep cycles, cancer, poor nutrition, emotional behavior, poor decision making, relationship tension, and so forth. If by taking on the responsibility of helping your adult children, you are going to take on their emotional and financial baggage, create stress in your life and in your relationship with your spouse or significant other, you have to ask yourself whether that makes sense, whether that is the right thing to do by you and by your life partner.

If you really are not in a position to help, do right by yourself and admit that you cannot
help, no matter how much you would like to, and learn how to say “No.” You have no legal
or moral or parental duty to help your child to your own detriment. If you are unable to help,
you are unable to help and that is that.

There is no reason to feel guilt. You can feel sad, you can feel empathetic, you can feel
concerned for your child, but you should not feel guilt. If you allow yourself to feel guilt you
are misleading yourself and doing yourself an injustice. You raised your child and did you
duty as best you could under the circumstances. Even if you feel you could and should
have done better, the past is the past. Yes, that could be a reason for helping when
otherwise you might not, but the first threshold test is whether you are able to help. If
you are not able to help, you have to accept the reality and move on.

If you are unable or unwilling to help, make a firm commitment to stick to your decision no
matter how strongly your children pluck at your heartstrings. Anticipate their
disappointment or anger, and consider a diplomatic way to say “NO.” Explain that you wish
you could help, but after reviewing your personal situation, you cannot. You do not need
to prove to your children that you are unable to help and make it clear this is not a topic for
debate or discussion. Just say, “I’m really sorry, but no, I cannot help you.”

If your child decides to reduce contact with you or ignore you because you did not do what
they asked, sad that you may feel, the decision is their choice, and it tells you how little
concern they have for your needs, your security and your feelings. Let that be a wake-up
call, not a reason to feel guilty. Recognize that such children will not be there for you when
you need them. More likely than not, they will appear primarily to see what’s in it for them.
You should update your estate planning to protect your interests.

Written by RobG on December 13th, 2016

Tagged with ,

What is the Spousal Elective Share?   no comments

Posted at 1:30 pm in Articles,Elder Law FAQ,Probate FAQ

The purpose of the spousal elective share  law is to provide some protection to a spouse against being disinherited by granting the surviving spouse a right to elect to receive a percentage of the decedent’s estate instead of what, if anything, is provided in the Will. See Estate & Trusts Article 3-208.  The statute also provides how the elective share may be waived (3-205).

Spousal election used to apply only to assets in the probate estate. Non-probate assets were exempt. Many states, including Maryland, now provides that spousal election extends to the augmented estate, i.e. which includes non-probate assets. The rationale for augmenting the scope of the assets that can be reached is to protect a spouse against estate planning designed to move assets out of the probate estate to reduce or eliminate a spouse’ elective share. There are exceptions, and in some instances matters are not always clear-cut.  For instance, a pre-nuptial agreement or a marital separation agreement may negate the spousal election. The distinction here, is that these are consensual agreements.

In the context of Medicaid paying for long term nursing home care, if the Medicaid recipient’s spouse predeceases, the Medicaid recipient is still entitled to his or her elective share.  His representative must claim the elective share timely and report this claim to the Dept. of Social Services managing the case. Failure to do so will result in the non-claimed assets being treated as a gratuitous transfer, which will trigger a penalty period and make the Medicaid recipient ineligible for continued Medicaid benefits. The Medicaid recipient’s representative may also become personally liable.  In the context of Medicaid eligibility, the State’s Medicaid Recovery Lien does not extend to the augmented estate. 

One must following the procedure and file the election timely or the right to elect against the Will will lapse. These are matters that should be discussed with an attorney exeprienced in Elder Law and probate matters as soon as possible.

 

Maryland Marriage Law Attorney

Written by RobG on November 6th, 2015

DO I REALLY NEED A PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENT?   no comments

Posted at 11:35 am in Articles,Elder Law FAQ

The key purpose of a pre-nuptial agreement is financial protection of assets owned by each spouse prior to the marriage, including income protection and liability for alimony, and can include assets acquired during the marriage. Should your new spouse become entitled to half of everything you own immediately upon your becoming married simply by virtue of being married to you?  Doesn’t it make sense to give the relationship time to prove whether and to what extent you have a true partnership in a future together?  If you were mistaken or misled and either party wants out of the marriage, are you really okay with giving up half your stuff?

A second key purpose of going through the pre-nuptial agreement process is that the process itself is an incredibly effective learning and bonding experience. Your learn a lot about how each other thinks, what they want and how they respond to and resolve differences.  This process can give you a terrific sense of validation in your choice of a partner and the confidence you need to move forward with peace of mind!

Marriage is more than milk and honey; marriage is an economic partnership that can have substantial financial impacts over time. The point is that if you want to provide for your spouse, be generous and so forth, you can provide for this in a sensible, graduated manner that protects you against unexpected revelations about your spouse and against people referred to as ‘gold-diggers.”  The latter type of people look for and prey on well off, often lonely, people, who they subtly manipulate, and when they feel the time is right, provoke a failure of the marriage and claim half, or more, of the assets.

Insisting on a pre-nuptial agreement does not imply that you don’t trust the person you love. It means you are intelligent enough to recognize that being in love doesn’t mean you should impulsively give away the farm without first allowing the relationship to stand the test of time. You want to be sure the person you are marrying is marrying you for the right reasons, that you are marrying that person for the right reasons, and that your goals and approach to reaching those goals are compatible. Do you really want to be with someone who is reluctant, or refuses, to consider and validate your concerns?

Over 60% of marriages end in divorce!  A relationship should be satisfying, with good communication, exchanges of ideas, learning how to compromise, a healthy sex life, fun times and working together. You should feel you are a team. Of course, there are some exceptions where people have disabilities and other life-changing issues. If this isn’t true of your relationship, have you really thought through what you want for the long haul?  Diving into a lottery pool where the odds are not in your favor is, simply put, not smart. Make sure you know what you are looking for in a spouse and whether the person you have chosen meets those criteria. Although managing a relationship can be challenging at times, and takes some effort and consideration to make smart choices, a good, healthy, sustainable relationship should not be hard work.  Do not ignore red flags! – This is the time to get some help to figure out how to handle the problem, how to re-evaluate and decide what is best for you.

The reality is that sometimes people are not who you think they are.  For some people, marriage is a passport and the culmination of an effective courtship. The sense of “mission accomplished” can mean there is no reason to try any longer and one can revert to one’s true self.  Surprise, surprise!    And people change. Goals change. Looks and outlooks change. Trust and loyalty can turn into mistrust and betrayal.  You can be doing everything right and it’s just not good enough.  In some cases, nothing is ever good enough.  The reasons unexpected or unforeseen changes occur are infinite. The reality is that change happens, often when you least expect it. Protect yourself! Protecting yourself does not mean you need to do so at the other’s expense. There is no place for a sense of entitlement.

If you are a young couple wanting to start a family, neither owns much, and you wish to build a life together, in most cases, a pre-nuptial agreement is not necessary. However, making sure you have good reasons to believe your are right for each other to make this journey together is still very important. Consulting together with an estate planning attorney/counsellor to review your thoughts as to careers, investments, retirement planning, decision-making, basic legal planning, and so forth, – before you get married may be very helpful in learning more about how each other thinks and how well you can discuss and resolve issues. This process may incease your sense of confidence or it may raise red flags that will give you reason for pause.

When one party is substantially wealthier, or if one has been married before, one person is considerably older, or there are other important considerations and interests that warrant protection against marital property claims if the marriage doesn’t work out, it makes sense to explore, with a professional, whether a pre-nuptial agreement is appropriate for you.  If you find yourself hesitating to invest the time or money to do so, ask yourself whether securing your financial security and happiness is important to you. If you care so little about protecting your own interests, do you really expect others to care about your wishes and needs?  Sensible planning is a smart investment in your financial security and peace of mind!

Again, … why should someone become entitled to a windfall solely by reason of having married someone of substance? Why should “half” or more be fair just because one got married? There is a huge difference in sharing equally the fruits of what a couple contributed during their marital partnership, and being forced to share with a taker and user. – There are many different ways to contribute to a marriage partnership and talking through that early on is important too.

Don’t you want to have a better understanding of the challenges, the risks, the pitfalls and the techniques to better equip you going forward?   The right adviser can be a cross between a mentor, a coach, a guidance counselor, a strategic planner, a marriage counselor, an investment counselor, an insurance counselor, and more!    If your intended spouse is not right for you, wouldn’t you rather find out now than after you’re married, have children, buy a house together and who knows what else you have committed yourself to?  For all these reasons, you owe it to yourself to invest in a thorough marriage partnership consultation?

A pre-nuptial agreement can provide for greater sharing as the marriage partnership proves its stability over time and ensure that the value of other spouse’s contribution to the marriage (in all ways), is fairly addressed. However, it makes no sense that a marriage partner who brings little into the marriage should be able to benefit at the expense of the other spouse or have an economic incentive to have the marriage fail. Bear in mind that a pre-nuptial agreement can be highly customized and creative to provide solutions for a variety of needs and concerns.  The bottom line is that it doesn’t hurt to get some good professional guidance early and enable yourself to decide how best to move forward with confidence, … and it may hurt you very badly if you don’t!– You are the master of you own destiny!

Contact Baltimore Pre-nuptial Attorney

Written by RobG on November 6th, 2015

Real Estate Planning: Before & During Probate   no comments

Posted at 2:01 am in Articles,Probate FAQ

Basic real estate succession planning  typically is planning to ensure that your children (or whomever you want), will inherit your home when you die.  For most folk, real estate means their personal residence and is their most valuable asset. For the purpose of this article, real estate includes  virtually all kinds of real estate.  Concerned about the potential claims of creditors and other family members, the IRS, and for various other reasons, many go about trying to protect their property the wrong way, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.  In most cases, the right way to achieve this goal is to keep your real property out of probate. Simply adding a family member to your deed usually is a bad idea!

While ignorance may be bliss, there many important considerations to be considered in determining whether and how to protect one’s property. Decisions made without the right information can have unintended consequences and cause great hardship to those you love and were trying to help. So, yes, legal services involve far more than “just” preparing a “simple” document. The real value, that you should gladly pay for, is the knowledge and experience that underlies the questions the lawyer asks to get to understand your needs, concerns and true objectives, consider which laws and potential issues need to be taken into account in order to determine the best approach for you and explain this in a way that enables you to make an informed decision with confidence and Peace of Mind.

Perhaps the most effective and commonly used approach to keep a home or other real estate out of probate is the life estate deed.  There are different types of life estate deeds and the choices may seem similar on one level, but can have substantially different consequences in certain circumstances, such as bankruptcy protection, divorce, maintaining control of the property and access to equity, Medicaid eligibility and asset protection planning, among others.

The key benefit of making a life estate deed is that the property becomes a non-probate asset and, since it is not part of one’s probate estate, it cannot become subject to the claims of one’s ordinary creditors. On your death, the property will bypass probate and go directly to the persons named in the deed. Another major benefit is that acquistion of a property by life estate deed is treated as inherited property.  The advantage of inheriting real estate rather than receiving it as a gift, is that the recipient receives a stepped up tax basis to the fair market value as of the date of death of the decedent rather than receiving the carry over basis of the decedent, thereby avoiding capital gains tax liability.

In addition, one can save money through using the deed to make multi-generational transfers without the concern that someone may overlook or neglect to plan effectively for the next generation.  Once again, there are other considerations that come into play, so one should be careful to avoid having the tail wag the dog. Sound legal advice is invaluable in all deed planning decision-making.

After the death of the decedent, if none of the above planning was implemented,  the real estate will be included in the probate estate. Assuming there are sufficient liquid assets to pay all the administration expenses, estate debts and distributive shares without having to sell the real estate, there exists an opportunity to do some smart estate planning, save money and eliminate the risk of a failure to plan in the future.

An experienced estate planning lawyer may be able to identify intelligent estate planning opportunities for you, save you money in the long run, and reduce risk. Instead of having the Personal Representative (also known as the Executor) simply transfer the property from the estate to the beneficiary, depending on the planning objective, one may be able to create several levels of planning in one deed. A trust may also be worthy of consideration.   This is another advantage to having the mindset that consulting with a professional is a smart investment, rather than trying to save money by making decisions solely based on price. 

Written by RobG on November 6th, 2015

When Does a Medicaid Penalty Period Begin?   no comments

Posted at 6:39 pm in Articles,Elder Law FAQ
Q:

I understand Medicaid’s five-year look back period and its transfer penalty. Most advice I see says that if money has been gifted, you should not apply for Medicaid until the five-year period has passed. What if the amount of money is only around $25,000? If the penalty period starts once you are approved to receive Medicaid, wouldn’t it be better to apply ASAP so the penalty period starts? Or do you have to already be in a nursing home to be approved? The person in question owns nothing and his income is close to poverty level. This person could live at home for several more months with some in-home care, but he won’t be able to wait five years. Should his family get his Medicaid application in ASAP?


A:

The Medicaid penalty period does not work that way. A Medicaid penalty period will not begin until the person making the transfer has (1) moved to a nursing home, (2) spent down to the asset limit for Medicaid eligibility, (3) applied for Medicaid coverage, and (4) been approved for coverage but for the transfer. In other words, the penalty period does not begin until the nursing home resident is in the nursing home and out of funds. For example, if an individual in a state where the average  cost of care is $5,000 a month transfers $100,000 on April 1, 2013, moves to a nursing home on April 1, 2014, and spends down to Medicaid eligibility on April 1, 2015, that is when the 20-month penalty period will begin, and it will not end until December 1, 2016. For more information about Medicaid’s asset transfer rules,click here. If you are considering applying for Medicaid, we recommend you consult with an elder law attorney.

Written by RobG on October 29th, 2015