Saving Half on the Nursing Home Doorstep

What do you do when a client comes in to see you and says that his mother is going into a nursing home and she has $300,000 in assets. In fact, mom scrimped and saved all of her life to have this nest egg and now she desperately wants to see her children get an inheritance.

Although you may protect all of your assets by planning five years ahead of time with a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, all is not lost if nothing has been done and the client finds herself on the nursing home doorstep.

The advanced elder law technique, used to protect assets at the last minute, is called the "gift and loan" strategy. Here's how it works. Let's assume, for the purposes of our example, that the nursing home costs $15,000 a month. When mom goes into the nursing home, we gift one-half of the nest egg, in this case one-half of $300,000, or $150,000, to her children. Then we lend the other $150,000 to the children and they execute a promissory note agreeing to repay the $150,000 in ten monthly payments of $15,000 per month, together with a modest amount of interest. Now we apply for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid will impose a penalty period (i.e., they will refuse to pay) for 10 months on the grounds that the gift of $150,000 could have been used to pay for mom's care for 10 months. Medicaid ignores the loan since it was not a gift. It is going to be paid back, with interest, according to the terms of the promissory note. What happens is that the ten loan repayment installments will be used to pay for mom's nursing home care during the penalty period. Just when the loan repayments are finished, the penalty period expires and Medicaid begins to pick up the tab. Lo and behold, the children get to keep the $150,000 gift and mom has saved some of the inheritance for her children.

This technique also illustrates why you should have an elder law lawyer prepare your power of attorney. Let's say mom no longer has the legal capacity to make the needed gifts. The "elder law" power of attorney allows for gifts in any amount to be made on her behalf by her agent. If you find yourself with the basic power of attorney that general lawyers use, gifts are usually limited to no more than $5,000.00 per year. Under Medicaid, it's move it or lose it.ng Half on the Nursing Home Doorstep

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