How can I protect my home and income?
Asset protection is an important component of most estate planning. Traditional estate planning includes objectives such as: to avoid tax consequences; to protect the assets of minors and persons who are unable to manage money; to protect against those who might abuse one’s trust; to establish a plan to preserve one’s assets for retirement and for the support of loved ones. This generally is accomplished through wills, powers-of-attorney and trusts.
Asset protection planning in the context of Medicaid eligibility usually involves pre-crisis and in-crisis planning in the context of a medical emergency, or timely planning ahead to maximize opportunities to shelter income and assets for loved ones against the high cost of long-term nursing home care. Frequently, one can protect one’s home and savings, especially if one does not wait until it there is a crisis. To find out whether you can benefit from such planning, contact an elder law attorney to evaluate your case and explain your rights and options.
In the context of Medicaid eligibility, asset protection planning takes on a special urgency, and requires a different approach. This is because there are significant conflicts between the type of planning techniques one may use in the Medicaid planning context as opposed to traditional estate planning, arising from the rules and regulations pertaining to eligibility for Medicaid (medical assistance: long-term care). Given the high cost of nursing home care and the potentially devastating economic impact on the family, careful planning needs to be done and the plan must be implemented in a timely manner with care not to violate any of the myriad of medicaid rules and regulations that could result in ineligibility for Medicaid.
Although there are many complex rules and exceptions, basically, the applicant has to have spent down virtually all of his or her resources to be financially eligible for Medicaid. There are special rules and regulations that apply to such spend-down. Also, there are special provisions applying to spousal impoverishment, discussed below. One cannot necessarily avoid inclusion of ones assets by giving them away, transferring one’s home or establishing joint accounts. Special planning techniques are employed in appropriate cases to maximize asset protection opportunities. Because of the complicated technical rules, a thorough knowledge of the rules and regulations is essential. An experienced elder law attorney will be able to explain the process to you in simple terms, identify planning opportunities, help you protect your assets and income, and reduce the stress caused by fear of impoverishment.
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