Today, I thought I would take some time to give you the top ten mistakes I routinely see people make in Medicaid Planning and Estate Planning. These are for your information, and as always, I encourage you to seek legal advice for your specific situation if you think you may be about to make one of these missteps.
1. Failing to seek competent legal advice and to sign legal documents prepared to fit your family's particular needs. Generic plans can't anticipate your family's individual circumstances.
2. Gifting away your home or other assets to get them out of your name. Gifts can cause you to become ineligible for Medicaid for five years or more and create tax problem for your children.
3. Listening to coffee shop myths and "conventional wisdom" about Medicaid Planning. The conventional wisdom is often simply not true, and could cost your family its home and assets. The laws and regulations affecting Medicaid Planning and eligibility are constantly changing. Don't bet your life savings and well-being on outdated information.
4. Naming one child as a co-owner of real estate or bank accounts, and believing that the Will (that was set up to require equal distribution between all children) controls who gets the account. IF the account has a co-owner or "beneficiary designation," then that designation controls who gets it, not the will.
5. Selling your home in order to pay for nursing home care. A good Medicaid Planning attorney can usually protect your home from the government and the nursing home and allow you to pass it on to your loved ones when you are gone.
6. Failure to have properly detailed Powers of Attorney in place as part of your Estate Plan. The right kind of financial and medical Power of Attorney can help you in Medicaid Planning.
7. Using form wills bought online or at a store, without consulting an Elder Law attorney. So many unforeseen things can go wrong with these documents. They are penny-wise and pound-foolish.
8. Not making the changes needed to wills or trusts after one spouse enters a nursing home. A surviving spouse in a nursing home can be disqualified from Medicaid benefits if he or she inherits assets from a spouse who has passed away.
9. Not using Special Needs Trusts (SNT) to leave assets to disabled children or adults with special needs. This can cause your loved one to lose valuable benefits.
10. Failing to take advantage of Medicaid Planning strategies while you still have mental capacity. Texas courts will, generally, not permit you to do Medicaid Planning for your family once you become incapacitated and are in a court-supervised guardianship.
For more information on these or any other issues related to Elder Law and Estate Planning, I invite you visit Nathan Ziegler & Associates at www.westtexaslaw.com, or call us at 806-765-8801.