ABA GP Solo ELDER LAW COMMITTEE Newsletter Winter, 2009 ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division Chairs - Kenneth Vercammen, Edison, NJ and Jay Foonberg, Beverly Hills, CA In this issue: 1. Spending Down Medicaid Planning By Thomas D. Begley, Jr., Esquire. 2. Social Networking websites for business and exposure 3. EXEMPT MEDICAID TRANSFERS
1. Spending Down Medicaid Planning By Thomas D. Begley, Jr., Esquire. The client who engages in Medicaid planning is usually a person of modest means who has been diagnosed with an illness and therefore the option of long-term care insurance is no longer available. A typical client may own a home and have countable assets of between $100,000 and $400,000. Most clients' goals are as follows: 1. To obtain the best quality of care for the institutionalized person2. To maintain the standard of living of the community spouse, including providing sufficient income and assets so that the community spouse can continue to reside in the family home3. Avoid Medicaid liens being placed on the home4. Preserving a modest legacy for the children 5. Addressing tax issues, including:· Federal and state income taxes· Federal and state gift taxes· Federal estate tax· State estate tax· State inheritance tax At the beginning of the initial client meeting, the attorney must begin the process of managing client expectations. There are many strategies available to obtain or accelerate Medicaid eligibility. Significant factors include whether the client is married; whether the client is in crisis; the nature and extent of the client's assets; and the size of the IRAs of the respective spouses. Spending Down Most states limit a Medicaid recipient to approximately $2,000 of countable resources. One way to achieve this limit is to "spend down" all but the permissible amount of countable resources. What clients typically want to avoid is spending all of their assets on nursing home care. There are several ways a client might spend down his assets. Pay Off Debts Repayment of a debt is not considered a transfer, because the individual is receiving fair market value, and transfers are penalized only if the transferor does not receive fair market value. Typical debts clients might have include mortgages,
home equity loans, car loans, and credit card bills. In order for the spend down to be accomplished, the check must actually be written and delivered. An outstanding debt is simply a liability that does not reduce assets for Medicaid eligibility purposes. Payment for Services Payment for services, including medical bills and legal fees, does not constitute a transfer. The services performed by the attorney are the value the client receives for the payment. Therefore, there is no uncompensated transfer of funds. Prepayment of Real Estate Taxes In situations where the home is occupied by a community spouse it makes sense to prepay real estate taxes. Since the home is occupied by the community spouse it is a non-countable resource. Expenditure of the funds for payment of the real estate taxes constitutes valid spend down. Buy Household Goods or Personal Effects Personal effects and household goods are excluded to the extent that the total equity value of such resources does not exceed $2,000. In practice, Medicaid does not appear to enforce the $2,000 limit. The personal effects actually should be used by the community spouse. An excellent example of a violation of the "pig principle" is a recent New Jersey case. In that case, a 92-year-old grandmother was penalized for transfer of assets. The grandmother lived in a nursing home and purchased a computer that was kept at her granddaughter's home. The court held that there was no evidence that the Medicaid applicant received anything of value for her $1,478.61 expenditure. Make Home Improvements Making home improvements is a way to convert countable assets (i.e., cash and securities) into a non-countable asset (i.e., a personal residence). A home and lot used as a principal residence are excludable resources. Purchase New Home Occasionally, when one spouse enters a nursing home, the community spouse decides that the current home is too big and decides to move to a smaller home or a condominium. Since the home is a non-countable resource, if the home is sold and the proceeds of sale from the original principal residence are reinvested into a more expensive home, the additional funds spent on the new home are converted from a countable asset to a non-countable asset. This strategy relies on the principal residence exemption. Purchase Life Estate from Children The Deficit Reduction Act-2005 exempts from the transfer of assets penalties the purchase of a life interest in another individual's home if the purchaser resides in the home for a period of at least one year after the date of the purchase. The Act is silent as to how the life estate is to be valued, but elsewhere there are references to the publication of the Office of Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration. In a New Jersey case, a parent purchased a life estate in a child's house for $126,665.10. The decision noted that a life estate entitles the person to use and occupy the home. There was no evidence that the daughter or her family vacated the home.
The daughter and her family had no legal right to remain in the home absent payment of rent. The CMS Guidance contains some troubling language: "Unless a state has a provision for excluding the value of life estates in its approved State Medicaid Plan, or the property in which the individual has purchased a life estate qualifies as the individual's exempt home, the value of the life estate should be counted as a resource in determining Medicaid eligibility." The child would not receive a Section 121 exclusion from the sale of a principal residence, because he did not sell his entire interest in the residence. Prepaid Funeral Most states do not count funds in an irrevocable funeral trust as countable assets. Also, most states do not have a dollar limit on the amount that can be expended for the funeral. The monies must be put in an irrevocable trust; the trust must be for the benefit of the Medicaid applicant; and the trust must be established by an individual who reasonably anticipates applying for or receiving Medicaid benefits. An alternative to an irrevocable funeral trust is an irrevocable assignment of a life insurance policy in exchange for funeral services of the same or greater value as the cash surrender value of the policy. Funeral directors require a paid-up policy. Irrevocable policies issued by companies, such as Choices or Forethought, are also acceptable to Medicaid and to most funeral homes. One of the nice features of these policies is that insurance companies having significant assets back them and they can be used in most funeral homes. Purchase of burial spaces for adult children and their spouses do not constitute transfers for Medicaid penalty purposes. The burial space resource exemption applies to burial spaces for the Medicaid Applicant and also any member of his or her immediate family. Immediate family means an individual's minor or adult children, including adopted children and stepchildren, an individual's brothers, sisters, parents, adoptive parents, and the spouses of those individuals. Neither dependency nor living in the same household will be a factor in determining whether a person is an immediate family member. Purchase New Car Frequently, when one spouse enters a nursing home, the other spouse is driving an old car with high mileage. A good strategy is to have the community spouse purchase a new car as part of the spend down. Under current law the best time to purchase the car would be after the institutionalized spouse enters a nursing home. Under federal law, the first $4,500 of the value of a car is excluded from the calculation of countable assets. However, if the car is used for medical transportation or transportation in connection with employment, the entire value of the car is non-countable. Many states simply permit one car to be non-countable regardless of value or use. Copyright 2008 by Begley & Bookbinder, P.C., an Elder & Disability Law Firm with offices in Moorestown, Stone Harbor and Lawrenceville, New Jersey and Oxford Valley, Pennsylvania and can be contacted at 800-533-7227. The firm services southern and
central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Tom Begley Jr. is one of the speakers with Kenneth Vercammen at the NJ State Bar Association's Annual Nuts & Bolts of Elder Law and co-author with Kenneth Vercammen, martin Spigner and Kathleen Sheridan of the 400 plus page book on Elder Law. The Firm provides services in connection with protecting assets from nursing home costs, Medicaid applications, Estate Planning and Estate Administration, Special Needs Planning and Guardianships. If you have a legal problem in one of these areas of law, contact Begley & Bookbinder at 800-533-722 A newer way to connect with friends and obtain business is become active in online social networking websites. Visit some of the below Social networking site for ideas: Facebook
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/kennethvercammen Twitter: http://twitter.com/vercammen Meet the Elite: http://www.MeetTheElite.net/vercammen Google: http://www.google.com/s2/profiles/105523288807097339409 Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenvercammen/ YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/kvercammen Justia Lawyer Directory http://lawyers.justia.com/lawyer/mr-kenneth-albert-vercammenesq-1171249/ JD Supra: http://www.jdsupra.com/profile/KennethVercammen/ Athlinks http://www.athlinks.com/racer.aspx?rid=23481836 Avvo Legal rating 571594.html?edit=true
3. . EXEMPT MEDICAID TRANSFERS By Thomas D. Begley, Jr., Esquire
As a general rule, when assets are transferred to third parties, the transfer results in a period of Medicaid ineligibility. Some transfers, however, are exempt and do not result in the imposition of a period of ineligibility for Medicaid. It is important to make transfers that are consistent with the estate planning goals of the client. If inconsistent transfers are made, they may result in litigation from beneficiaries of the estate who consider themselves to be treated unfairly.
The Family Home
There are four exceptions from the general transfer rules relating to a principal residence. These transfers are exempt.
The residence can be transferred to the community spouse without penalty. A married couple can simply deed the house to the community spouse. There is no transfer
penalty because the transfer is between spouses. In a typical situation, husband and wife own the home as tenants by the entirety. If one spouse enters a nursing home, and the community spouse predeceases that spouse, then by operation of law, title to the home will vest in the institutionalized spouse. The institutionalized spouse would then be required to sell the home and use the proceeds for nursing home care. In states that have a broad definition of estate for purposes of Medicaid estate recovery, the home should always be transferred to the community spouse to avoid Medicaid estate recovery.
If the property is deeded to the community spouse, and that spouse dies first, the property can be left by the will of the community spouse to a special needs trust for the benefit of the institutionalized spouse or to the children. The elder law attorney must also be aware of the state elective share statute, which prohibits a person from disinheriting a spouse. Medicaid could, conceivably, take the position that failure of the surviving spouse to exercise his rights under the elective share statute constitutes a transfer, subject to the transfer penalty provisions.
Child Under 21, Blind, or Disabled
The home can be transferred to a child of the institutionalized individual who is under the age of 21, or a child of any age who is blind or disabled. For example, a person about to enter a nursing home has a daughter who is blind. The potential Medicaid applicant can transfer the home to the blind daughter as an exempt transfer, and there will be no transfer penalty. In a second marriage situation, the question remains whether the institutionalized individual could transfer ownership of the home to a stepchild who met the criteria of caregiver.
The home can be transferred to a brother or sister of the institutionalized individual who already had an equity interest in the home prior to the transfer and who was residing in the home for a period of at least one year immediately before the individual becomes an institutionalized individual. It may not be necessary for the sibling to be named on the deed to the property for a year prior to the transfer. The sibling may have an equity interest if he or she has paid taxes or other expenses and has actually lived in the home for a period of time. For example, a potential Medicaid applicant is not married and lives in his home with his brother. Each owns a portion of the house as tenants in common and they have been living together for more than one year. The potential Medicaid
applicant would simply deed the property to the healthy sibling, and there would be no transfer penalty.
The home can be transferred to a caregiver child. A caregiver is defined as a son or daughter of the institutionalized individual who is residing in the individual's home for a period of at least two years immediately before the date the individual becomes an institutionalized individual, and who has provided care to such individual that permitted the individual to reside at home rather than in an institution or facility. The care provided by the son or daughter must have been essential to the safety of the individual and consisted of activities such as, but not limited to, supervision of medication, monitoring of nutritional status, and ensuring the safety of the individual. There may be an issue as to when the transfer of the home to the caregiver child must take place. In a New Jersey case, the Burlington County Board of Social Services contended that a deed transferred 90 days after institutionalization did not qualify, and that such transfers need be made within 30 days of institutionalization. The Administrative Law Judge held and the Director affirmed that there is no time set forth in the regulation as to when the deed must be given. The only reference to time is that the home must be the home in which the individual resided immediately prior to entering the nursing home. Based on this case, it would appear that a deed could be given at any time prior to, or subsequent to, entering a nursing home. For example, a potential Medicaid recipient is about to enter a nursing home. His daughter has lived with him for two years and provided a level of care sufficient to keep him out of a nursing home. The deed to the house can simply be deeded to the daughter. There would be no transfer penalty, because this is an exempt transfer.
Special California Ruling
The California Department of Health Services has ruled that transfer of a home may be an exempt transfer. The letter states that the home is an exempt resource so long as the individual files a written notice of intent to return home. Exempt property can be retained without affecting Medicaid eligibility. Since the transfer is not made for purposes of establishing Medicaid eligibility it is an exempt transfer. 2.
The Community Spouse
The transfer penalties do not apply to a transfer of assets to the community spouse. This is also an exempt transfer. The assets forming a part of the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) must be transferred to the community spouse within 90 days of Medicaid eligibility; otherwise, they are no longer exempt as part of the CSRA.
For example, a husband is ready to enter a nursing home. The husband transfers all of his assets to his wife. All assets in the names of the husband and wife are also transferred to the wife. This protects the assets as a part of the wife's CSRA. If the wife dies prematurely, her will leaves the assets to a special needs trust for the benefit of the husband, and on the death of the husband to their children.
Transfers from the institutionalized individual or the community spouse to the institutionalized individual's child, who is blind or permanently and totally disabled, are exempt. Therefore, there is no transfer penalty. For example, a potential Medicaid applicant is single and has $100,000 of assets. He could transfer the $100,000 to his blind daughter immediately prior to entering a nursing home. There would be no period of ineligibility due to the transfer.
In transferring a home to an exempt child, consideration must be given to the gift tax rules, carry over basis, and the capital gains tax exclusion from the sale of a principal residence. Copyright 2009 by Begley & Bookbinder, P.C., an Elder & Disability Law Firm with offices in Moorestown, Stone Harbor and Lawrenceville, New Jersey and Oxford Valley, Pennsylvania and can be contacted at 800-533-7227. The firm services southern and central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Tom Begley Jr. is one of the speakers with Kenneth Vercammen at the NJ State Bar Association's Annual Nuts & Bolts of Elder Law and co-author with Kenneth Vercammen, martin Spigner and Kathleen Sheridan of the 400 plus page book on Elder Law.
The Firm provides services in connection with protecting assets from nursing home costs, Medicaid applications, Estate Planning and Estate Administration, Special Needs Planning and Guardianships. If you have a legal problem in one of these areas of law, contact Begley & Bookbinder at 800-533-722 _______________________ WE PUBLISH YOUR FORMS AND ARTICLES To help your practice, we feature in this newsletter edition a few forms and articles PLUS tips on marketing and improving service to clients. But your Editor and chairs can't do it all. Please mail articles, suggestions or ideas you wish to share with others in our Tort and Insurance Committee. Let us know if you are finding any useful information or anything you can share with the other members. You will receive written credit as the source and thus you can advise your clients and friends you were published in an ABA publication. We will try to meet you needs. Send Us Your Marketing Tips We are increasing the frequency of our newsletter. Send us your short tips on your great or new successful marketing techniques. You can become a published ABA author. Enjoy your many ABA benefits. Send us your articles & ideas To help your practice, we feature in this newsletter edition a few articles and tips on marketing and improving service to clients. But your Editor and chairs can't do it all. Please send articles, suggestions or ideas you wish to share with others. General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division: Elder Law Committee and the ESTATE PLANNING, PROBATE & TRUST COMMITTEE Who We Are This committee focuses on improving estate planning skills, substantive law knowledge and office procedures for the attorney who practices estate planning, probate and trust law. This committee also serves as a network resource in educating attorneys regarding Elder Law situations. To help your practice, we feature in this newsletter edition a few articles and tips on marketing and improving service to clients. But your Editor and chairs can't do it all.
Please send articles, suggestions or ideas you wish to share with others. Let us know if you are finding any useful information or anything you can share with the other members. You will receive written credit as the source and thus you can advise your clients and friends you were published in an ABA publication. We will try to meet you needs. We also seek articles on Elder Law, Probate, Wills, Medicaid and Marketing. Please send your marketing ideas and articles to us. You can become a published ABA author. ________________________________________ The Elder Law Committee of the ABA General Practice Division is directed towards general practitioners and more experienced elder law attorneys. The committee consistently sponsors programs at the Annual Meeting, the focus of which is shifting to advanced topics for the more experienced elder lawyer. This committee also focuses on improving estate planning skills, substantive law knowledge and office procedures for the attorney who practices estate planning, probate and trust law. This committee also serves as a network resource in educating attorneys regarding Elder Law situations. Kenneth Vercammen, Esq. co-Chair Jay Foonberg, Beverly Hills Co-chair, Author of Best Sellers "How to Start and Build a Law Practice" and "How to get and keep good clients', Beverly Hills, CA JayFoonberg@aol.com> We will also provide tips on how to promote your law office, your practice and Personal Marketing Skills in general. It does not deal with government funded "legal services" for indigent, welfare cases. KENNETH VERCAMMEN & ASSOCIATES, PC ATTORNEY AT LAW 2053 Woodbridge Ave. Edison, NJ 08817 (Phone) 732-572-0500 (Fax) 732-572-0030 Kenv@njlaws.com Central Jersey Elder Law www.centraljerseyelderlaw.com NJ Elder Blog http://elder-law.blogspot.com/