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March 14, 2013

Presentation features planning for the future

(Continued)

The downside to at-home care is there are lower asset and income allowances, according to Coutlee. He said a couple can have about $21,000 worth of assets and an income of about $1,100 to be eligible. Those numbers get adjusted every year in January, he added. 

Will someone lose his house if receiving Medicaid and that person or his spouse needs to go into a nursing home? Coutlee said if the person is married the home would be exempt to Medicaid’s calculation of what one’s contribution to the cost of care should be. If unmarried or widowed, Coutlee said a house may be exempt if following certain procedures. However, he added that even though a house is safe while one is residing at a nursing home, it will likely be lost to Medicaid after death. 

“Gifting” may not be the best option, according to Coutlee. He said since major changes to laws in 2006, “gifting” away assets creates unforeseen circumstances and can make a person ineligible for Medicaid benefits for five years or more. He also said once someone “gifts” something, it is gone forever.

Do people need to avoid probate?

It is unpredictable, according to Coutlee, and that is why many people chose to avoid it. However, he said if all of someone’s heirs agree and assets are centralized, it can go smoothly.

Probate is the process of presenting one’s will to the court after death to authenticate it and appoint an executor. The executor must be appointed by the court to collect and distribute one’s assets as stated in the will. However, because it is a legal process, there are many steps that must be followed before an executor can be appointed.   

For example, the attorneys must obtain signatures from heirs signifying they agree the will is yours, and they will not contest it. Your heirs are your spouse and children and all must agree not to contest the will before your executor can be appointed. If you do not have a spouse or child, probate becomes more complicated. Even if your heir is not a beneficiary, his waiver is still required. This can be very different in second-marriage situations, if you have minor children or if you have a child you lost contact with. If a child dies before you, then, all of your deceased child’s children will have to agree not to contest your will. But if they are younger than 18, the court will need to appoint a separate attorney to represent them. The same is true if any of your heirs are legally incapacitated.

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