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Take advantage of our free offer to discuss your situation with David E. Walker. He offers one hour of fact filled answers to your questions concerning Medicaid, Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Asset Protection. For the business owner, ask David E. Walker about business continuation and asset protection.


Medicaid Planning
 
The Medicaid Trust
One currently-effective planning technique is to transfer assets into a 'Medicaid' trust. In a Medicaid trust, the trust maker retains the right to all of the trust income for life while irrevocably giving up the right to receive or benefit from any of the trust principal. The assets in the trust are not available to pay for the cost of the trust maker's LTC.
 
By using a Medicaid trust, a senior can preserve capital and still qualify for Medicaid, but only after expiration of the look-back period for the transfer to the trust (which can be as much as 60 months (5 years)).
 
The 'penalty period' starts from the date the applicant applies for Medicaid and would be eligible but for the disqualifying transfer. Its length is determined by dividing the state's average daily private pay nursing home cost into the total of the transfers made during the look-back period. For the Medicaid trust strategy to work, insurance, an income stream, or other assets must be sufficient to pay for LTC if needed during the waiting period before applying for Medicaid.
 
A Medicaid trust can allow the trustee to distribute principal during the trust maker's lifetime for the benefit of the trust maker's spouse, children, or other designated beneficiaries, just not to or for the benefit of the trust maker. Many trust makers choose to maintain the right (called a Special Power of Appointment) to change the current or ultimate beneficiaries of the Medicaid trust by 'reappointing' the assets to different family members at a later date.
 
Making Gifts
If a Medicaid trust is not desired, it is still possible to make 'outright' gifts of property, wait until the look-back period expires, and then apply for Medicaid or use other planning techniques to qualify for Medicaid at the earliest possible date.
 
Protecting the Home
If the home is the only asset to protect, a deed to children or others with a retained life estate for the client will protect both the property and the client's Medicaid eligibility upon expiration of either 60 months from the date of the conveyance or the applicable 'penalty period.' As with other advanced planning strategies, because the penalty period begins only after the applicant has applied for Medicaid and is otherwise eligible, other LTC funding should be available to get past the look-back period.
 
Even if the need for LTC is imminent or immediate, sophisticated Medicaid planning opportunities can be employed to protect a substantial portion of your assets. Carefully working within the Medicaid transfer rules can allow individuals to provide security for themselves and a legacy to their families, while ensuring that they will remain eligible to receive LTC under Medicaid when necessary.
 
Conclusion
Counseling individuals on their Long Term Care options, including the availability of Long Term Care insurance, is an integral part of comprehensive wealth planning.



Charitable Trusts Contributions to reduce Estate Taxes

The Charitable Lead Trust is a type of charitable trust that can reduce or virtually eliminate all estate tax on wealth passing to heirs. In order to accomplish this goal, you create a trust that grants to a charity or charities, for a set number of years, the first or 'lead' right to receive a payment from the trust.  At the end of the term of years, your children or grandchildren receive the balance of the trust property'which often is greater than the amount contributed'free of estate tax in most instances. Although the Charitable Lead Trust is a complex estate planning strategy, the steps to implement it are few and simple from your perspective.  Here is how one of the most frequently used Charitable Lead Trusts, the Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, operates:
 
You, as grantors, create a Charitable Lead Trust as part of your revocable living trust planning.  Upon the death of the survivor of the two of you, a substantial amount of property will pass to the Charitable Lead Trust. The income beneficiary of the Charitable Lead Trust will be a qualified charitable organization, chosen by the two of you or by the survivor of you, named in your revocable living trust. The charitable income beneficiary receives a fixed, guaranteed amount from the trust for a certain number of years (determined by you with the assistance of your legal and financial advisors).  Generally, any charity that has received tax-exempt status through an IRS determination qualifies, but this is not always the case. It is possible for you to name a private foundation established by you as the charitable beneficiary. If so, you must have very limited authority over which charity is to receive money from the foundation. Too much control while you are alive will result in adverse tax consequences. 
 
At the end of the Charitable Lead Trust's term, the remaining assets in the trust pass to non-charitable trust beneficiaries such as children and grandchildren, free of estate and gift tax. These assets can pass outright to the beneficiaries, or can continue to be held in trust, either in new trusts or in trusts previously established for the benefit and protection of beneficiaries.
 
The charity will receive the same dollar amount each year, no matter how its investments perform. The remainder interest ultimately passing to the heirs, however, will be affected by the performance of the trust's investments.
 
Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts are particularly suited for hard-to-value assets (such as real estate or family limited liability company interests) and assets which are expected to grow rapidly in value.


Asset Protection

A revocable trust provides no asset protection for the trust maker during his or her life. Upon the death of the trust maker, however, or upon the death of the first spouse to die if it is a joint trust, the trust becomes irrevocable as to the deceased trust maker's property and can provide asset protection for the beneficiaries, with two important caveats. First, the assets must remain in the trust to provide ongoing asset protection. In other words, once the trustee distributes the assets to a beneficiary, those assets are no longer protected and can be attached by that beneficiary's creditors.

If the beneficiary is married, the distributed assets may also be subject to the spouse's creditor(s), or they may be available to the former spouse upon divorce. Trusts for the lifetime of the beneficiaries provide prolonged asset protection for the trust assets. Lifetime trusts also permit your financial advisor to continue to invest the trust assets as you instruct, which can help ensure that trust returns are sufficient to meet your planning objectives.

The second caveat follows logically from the first: the more rights the beneficiary has with respect to compelling trust distributions, the less asset protection the trust provides. Generally, a creditor 'steps into the shoes' of the debtor and can exercise any rights of the debtor. Thus, if a beneficiary has the right to compel a distribution from a trust, so too can a creditor compel a distribution from that trust.


Can you leave an inheritance to your pet?

You may be surprised to find the answer is Yes!
For many pet owners,
pets are members of the family.  Given the feelings of many individuals towards their pets, and the costs of care and longevity of some types of pets, planning in this area can be of critical importance.  Today, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes pertaining to pet trusts, and others have legislation pending. These statutes allow virtually any third party designated by the terms of the trust to use the trust funds for the benefit of pets. 
 
Some state statutes specifically limit the terms of a pet trust. For example, some states limit the amount of money an individual can leave in trust for his or her pet to the amount required to care for the animal over the term of the trust. The trust must distribute any excess funds to the beneficiaries who would have taken them had the pet trust terminated.
 
The pet's current standard of care determines the endowment amount required to provide care for the pet. Factors include: the cost of daily care (food, treats, and daycare), veterinary care (yearly teeth cleaning, shots, nail trimming, and emergency care), grooming, boarding, travel expenses, and pet insurance. Additional factors may apply in particular cases. For example, horses are expensive to maintain and require exercise, training, and a large tract of land; some birds and reptiles have very long life expectancies; and care of some pets will require construction of a special habitat on the caregiver's property. 
 
Even if your state does not have a specific pet trust statute, a pet owner can name a human caregiver as the beneficiary of a trust, require that the distributions to the beneficiary are dependent on the beneficiary caring appropriately for the pet, and require the trustee to ensure that the beneficiary is properly caring for the pet using trust assets. This type of trust may be used without regard to whether the state has a specific pet trust statute.
 
By discussing these issues with your estate planning attorney, pet owners can ensure that all of their loved ones are cared for, even when the owner is unable to care for them directly.

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