What is probate and why does everyone try to avoid it?

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Probate, or estate administration, is a court managed process in which the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed.  If a properly drafted and funded revocable trust is in place, it is likely that no court-managed estate administration will be necessary.  The length of time needed to complete probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of …

What assets and income are considered when determining Medicaid eligibility?

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The following types of assets are considered when determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits: Cash Investment accounts Savings bonds Stocks Annuities (with some exceptions) Life insurance with cash value Real property other than one’s primary residence  More than one automobile Business assets The government will also consider ALL forms of income, including but not limited to the following: Retirement pension benefits …

How do I spot the signs of elder abuse?

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In order to protect your aging family member, you must remain vigilant even after carefully selecting a care facility or medical care provider.  Some common signs of elder abuse or neglect to be aware of include: Excessive and/or unexplained injuries Bruises or marks on wrists and/or ankles from restraints or rough handling Weight loss or lack of appetite/malnutrition  Mood swings …

What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

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Medicare is a health insurance program operated by the federal government that is funded from of Social Security payroll deductions and tax contributions.  Anyone 65 or older who has made Social Security contributions is entitled to Medicare benefits. In addition to providing a medical insurance program to senior citizens, Medicare also provides beneifts for individuals under the age of 65 …

What information should I gather before visiting my attorney to talk about estate planning?

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When you are ready to develop your estate plan, it is helpful to gather important papers and think about a some critical issues in preparation for meeting with your estate planning attorney.  A few things to consider and examples of documentation to have for your consultation include:  Your wishes for the distribution of your assets Names of an executor and …

Does the V.A. Cover Long-term Care Needs?

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Under certain circumstances a veteran (or his surviving spouse) may qualify for benefits for long term care under a program that is similar to Medicaid.  The program called VA Pension Benefits provides a monthly benefit payment to cover the costs of long term care if the veteran meets the following basic criteria for eligibility:  1) the veteran served at least …

WHAT IS A SUPPLEMENTAL NEEDS TRUST?

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Supplemental, or special needs, trusts are an estate planning tool that is most frequently used to receive an inheritance or personal injury litigation proceeds on behalf of an individual with a disability, in order to allow the person to continue to qualify for Medicaid benefits.   Supplemental trusts pay for extra comforts or luxuries that can not be paid for …

What are the duties of a trustee?

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The most important part of a trustee’s role is its fiduciary responsibility. A trustee is legally and morally obligated to act solely for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries and must manage the assets of the trust in a productive and responsible way.  Following are some of the general duties required of a trustee: Manage the assets of the trust, …

Will my gift be subject to the gift tax?

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Any property or assets given as a gift are subject to the federal gift tax. However, there are a number of exceptions or ways you can transfer assets, including money, without incurring gift taxes: Give any number of people up to $14,000 each per year ($28,000 if you’re married). These gifts are called annual exclusion gifts. Pay any amount toward …

What is a Look-Back Period?

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A look-back period is the period of time in which a government agency will review gifts or transfers of assets when a person applies for Medicaid (and some other government benefits). Transfers made during the look-back period are often subject to being undone, or can generate a penalty period or disqualification of benefits.   Medicaid is designed to pay for …