Many families reach out to our firm for asset protection services when they become aware of a loved one at-risk for a long-term care crisis. It may be the individual, their spouse, or another family member who sees their loved one becoming more fragile. Maybe they are experiencing falls in their home, or maybe they have received the diagnosis of a chronic condition that requires daily assistance.
Any need for long-term care creates a fear of the unknown.
How is this going to affect my parent’s ability to stay at home?
How much is this going to cost?
Will we outlive our money?
All of these questions and more can burden a family facing a long-term care crisis. Fortunately, our attorneys have the tools and expertise to help families prepare for the future and ease their worry. The earlier a family consults an elder law attorney, the more options they are likely to have.
What Is Asset Protection?
Asset Protection is a common strategy employed by elder law attorneys to preserve a portion, if not all, of the assets an individual or couple may have. This strategy can help stretch the funds needed for long-term care, or cover other needs that may present themselves later in life. This strategy can also facilitate the transfer of assets, in order to allow an individual access to public benefits.
The attorneys at Beck Estate Planning & Elder Law have been helping families successfully protect their assets for future needs since 1974. Our mission is to help our clients make sure their assets will be distributed to the people they care about, and to make sure that any beneficiary who needs help in managing assets will get the assistance they need.
What Assets Can Be Protected?
Often, when an elder law attorney discusses Asset Protection with a client, it is for the purpose of qualifying the client for government assistance with Medicaid and/or with the Veterans Administration (VA) for long-term care needs. In both cases, certain assets are automatically protected or exempted from qualification requirements. Those include:
- Primary Residence: From $585,000 – $878,000 in home equity value for Medicaid. In the state of California, there is no limit. There is no home equity limit for VA benefits, but the house cannot be on more than two acres in most
- Family Vehicle: One or two vehicles, depending upon circumstances.
- Unlimited Income and Unlimited Assets: Protected only in VA service-connected compensation cases.
- Personal Items: Such as furnishings, appliances, clothing and jewelry.
- Irrevocable Prepaid Burial Plan
If the client’s goal is to protect other assets in order to save them for their beneficiaries, a variety of trusts may be used for that purpose.
First Steps to Protect Your Assets
Upon meeting with a client, an elder law attorney will conduct a review of important legal documents. The two most important documents a lawyer can draft as part of estate or asset protection planning are:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a document that lets you name someone else to make decisions about your health care, in case you are not able to make those decisions yourself. It gives that person, referred to as your “agent,” instructions about the kinds of medical treatment you do and do not want. If you have specific wishes about your health care, a Durable Power of Attorney (POA) for Health Care will ensure that those wishes are honored – even if you are physically or mentally unable to tell your doctors what you want.Without the POA for Healthcare, a family member cannot make decisions about a loved one’s care, even if that loved one is no longer able to make decisions for him or herself.
- Financial Durable Power of Attorney
The Financial Durable Power of Attorney (POA) grants someone legal authority to act on your behalf for financial issues, in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions yourself.Without a POA for Financial Matters, a family member may not be able to access funds to pay for care, or employ Asset Protection strategies on behalf of their loved one.
It is also important for POAs that are three or more years old to be reviewed, to make sure they are still accurate and include all the authority now permitted by Missouri law. The attorneys at Beck Estate Planning & Elder Law can assist you in writing or reviewing these documents before moving forward with Asset Protection strategies.
Asset Protection Strategies
There are a variety of strategies that can be utilized to protect someone’s assets, depending on their circumstances. Here are a few strategies the attorneys at Beck Estate Planning and Elder Law can help you navigate:
- Writing a Will
Having a will and making use of Payment on Death (POD) and Transfer on Death (TOD) designations are basic strategies to protect someone’s assets. Without those basic measures, upon death, the estate will need to be probated. That will cost the family time and money.
- Establishing a Trust
A trust may be a better option for someone who wants to make sure the assets will be used just as he or she dictates. A trust also avoids probate. This may include transferring assets into an irrevocable trust so that the individual at-risk for skilled care can access public funds when needed to pay for care.
- Medicaid Planning
Medicaid planning is a common strategy for those concerned about needing skilled care and outliving their money.
How to Get Started
Upon scheduling a free asset protection consultation with one of our attorneys, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire that provides basic legal and financial information. Next, an in-person meeting will be scheduled with one of our attorneys to learn more about your situation and concerns. We will use that information to help you decide what Asset Protection strategies could best achieve your goals. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.