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Health Law: Connecticut Medicaid & Estate Planning
Critical Medicaid Mistake #2
By Richard Shea
This is the second post in my series on critical mistakes people make when facing a Connecticut Medicaid situation. Today I am going to look at a strategy that many people use for different reasons, disinheritance and non-binding oral ?trusts?.
There can be a lot of anxiety when a loved one is in a nursing home and your assets are dwindling at the rate of +$9,000 every month. Unfortunately this anxiety can also lead to poorly informed decisions. Some families I meet come to me with an estate plan that disinherits a loved one that is in a nursing home or on Connecticut Title 19 Medicaid. The ?logic? of this plan is to protect the family assets from being wiped out. This is a knee-jerk reaction that creates more problems than it solves in my opinion.
What can go wrong?
Many times I have family members contact me because a parent has disinherited the other parent (living in a nursing home or diagnosed with dementia) with the understanding that one child or all the children would actually use the funds to provide care for the surviving parent.
The first issue is that such an arrangement is almost non-existent on the scale of enforceability. At best there could be an oral trust but one side of the oral contract is deceased and if there is a conflict it is obvious that the other side of the contract (the child who received the funds) is saying there is no contract. Where is the evidence? At worst, the funds received by the child or children are treated as they look, outright bequests with no strings attached.
A second issue is liability concerns. The funds you intend to care for the surviving parent are now exposed to the liabilities of the person chosen to hold the funds. Common liability risks include divorce, bankruptcy, or even a car accident.
A family with a loved one in a nursing home or on a government benefits program has a choice. Disinheritance is not the only option. Disinheritance is not the preferred option and the government even recognizes this fact by providing specific protection to specific estate planning strategies.
A Special Needs Trust allows you to leave a legacy of care for a loved one in a nursing home without handing over everything to pay nursing home bills. It is absolutely critical that this unique planning is done by an experienced Connecticut special needs attorney because these trusts are reviewed by government benefits agencies and in Connecticut they are usually reviewed by the Attorney General?s office. One mistake in the document and the assets of the trust could be used to pay for bills you did not intend to pay.
I have seen too many families torn apart by using disinheritance as asset protection. There is no need for it. You have a choice. Put your plan on paper and leave your family with some security.
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