Don, age 82, and his wife were married for 45 years before she died. Don had no children but was very close with his extended family. After his wife died, Don revised his estate planning to name his sisters, Rita, age 72, and Catherine, age 78, as the sole beneficiaries of his estate. Rita was never married had no children and Catherine and her husband had 3 children. Don was especially concerned about how Rita might be cared for in her later years as she had no family of her own. He was relieved knowing that she would receive one-half of his approximately $200,000 estate when he died. It gave him peace knowing that she would be able to live a more comfortable life using this inheritance, perhaps going on several nice trips or enjoying a few luxuries.
While this sounded like a wonderful plan, Don didn’t anticipate that Rita’s health would decline rapidly and she would need full-time nursing home care a short time later. Rita qualified to receive Medicaid benefits after only a few short months and she was well cared for in the local nursing home. Don died two (2) years later and his estate was divided between his sisters just as he had instructed. Unfortunately, what Don didn’t understand was that Rita’s share of the inheritance automatically disqualified her from receiving her Medicaid benefits and she was forced to use her inherited money to pay for her nursing home care, instead of using it to make her life more comfortable. Within less than two (2) years, Rita’s inheritance was gone and she had nothing to show for it. Her level of care at the nursing home did not change and she was unable to use the money for any of the things that her brother wanted.
No one can predict the future but if Don had understood that Rita’s inheritance would only be used to pay her nursing home expenses previously being paid by Medicaid, he most likely would have made a different estate planning decision. If Don had revised his estate plan once Rita entered the nursing home to include a Special Needs Trust (SNT) a/k/a Supplemental Needs Trust, for Rita’s benefit, her share of the inheritance could have been held in trust to provide her with the extras that her brother had intended. The Trustee of the SNT would have been able to provide Rita with the things that she wanted or needed to make her life more comfortable, without the trust share disqualifying Rita from receiving Medicaid benefits.
This scenario illustrates why it is so important to review your estate planning regularly with your attorney, at least every 3-5 years. Be sure to inform your attorney if one of your intended beneficiaries is receiving government benefits or may be a recipient in the foreseeable future. By adding language to your estate plan that creates a SNT upon your death, your loved one can be guaranteed to receive their inheritance without disqualification from government benefits.
If you have questions about of special needs planning or any type of estate plan, contact Davis & McCann, P.A., Dodge City, Kansas at 620-225-1674. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). We focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on Estate Planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Special Needs Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate, 1031 Exchanges, and related matters.
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