Many people incorrectly assume estate planning is only for the elderly and the wealthy. An effective estate plan not only addresses financial matters such as asset protection and busines succession, but also encompasses advance directives for health and end-of-life issues, and addresses guardianship and emergency medical issues that can arise when clients have children.
What does an “estate” include?
Your estate is comprised of everything you own – your car, home, other real property, checking and savings accounts, savings bonds, investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, personal possessions. No matter how large or how modest, almost all adults have an estate.
What is estate planning?
A formal plan that contains your instructions as to who you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, when you want them to receive it, and how you want them to receive it. A good estate plan should:
- Include instructions for your care should you become mentally disabled;
- Name a guardian for your minor children;
- Name a trustee for assets left to minor children;
- Provide for loved ones with special needs without disrupting their governmental benefits;
- Protect assets left to loved ones who are irresponsible with money;
- Provide asset protection for loved ones against divorce or creditors’ claims;
- Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees;
- Be an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
What happens if I become mentally incapacitated and cannot make decisions for myself?
If your assets are titled solely in your name and you cannot conduct business for yourself, only a court appointee can conduct business on your behalf unless you have executed a valid general durable power of appointment that includes all of the powers necessary to handle your business. Similarly, if you need someone to make health care decisions for you, only a court appointee can make such decisions unless you have executed a valid health care power of attorney or designation of health care surrogate.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a valid last will and testament, you will have relinquished to the state of Florida control over how your assets will be distributed. Florida’s law on distribution of your assets may be be markedly different from your desires.
What are the benefits of a trust?
A well-written and “fully funded” trust will avoid probate of your estate at your death, even if you own real property in other states. It brings all of your assets together into one plan, provides maximum privacy, is valid in every state, and even provides for the management of your estate during your mental incapacity. At your death, your trust can provide creditor protection for your beneficiaries and can ensure that the assets you leave your loved ones are not subject to loss in a divorce proceeding. For these and many other reasons, a revocable living trust is preferred by many families and professionals.
Nursing Home Medicaid Eligibility
Issues relating to eligibility for the Medicaid Institutional Care Program (ICP) are complex and are governed by both federal and state law. Following are a few of our most frequently asked questions about eligibility for Florida’s Medicaid ICP.
Do I have to sell my house to become eligible for Medicaid?
No. Homes that have a value of less than $543,000 are not included when determining Medicaid eligibility.
What about my car?
One car of any age or value is not included when determining Medicaid eligibility. Additional cars that are more than 7 years old are not counted.
What assets are counted in determining Medicaid eligibility?
- Investment accounts
- Savings bonds
- Annuities (with some exceptions)
- Life insurance with cash value
- Real property other than homestead valued at less than $543,000
- Business assets
What type of income is counted in determining Medicaid eligibility?
All income, including:
- Retirement pension
- Social Security
- Annuity Income
- Qualified Retirement Account (e.g. IRA’s, 403(b)’s, etc.) income
- Income from Rental Properties
What are the asset and income limits?
Effective January 2015, the applicant’s “countable assets” are limited to $2,000 or less. If the applicant is married, the community spouse’s countable assets are limited to $119,220 or less. The applicant’s “income” must be less than $2,199 per month. A community spouse does not have an income cap.
Still have questions?
Give us a call at 386-755-1977