The conversation that you have with an estate planning attorney when you’re in your thirties – with a new house, young children, and many years ahead of you – is different than the one you’ll have when you are much older, maybe just before you retire. The estate planning attorney will know that you are about to enter a time in your life when the legal documents you prepare are more likely to be used, says the article “Learn about legal documents and Medicaid” from the Houston Chronicle.
It should be noted that everyone needs an estate plan at any time of life so they can state their wishes for how assets are distributed and also name a person who will speak on their behalf in the event of incapacity because of an illness or injury.
So an estate plan should include a Durable Power of Attorney, which names someone you chose to serve as your agent to transact business and handle your financial matters. There should also be a Declaration of Preneed Guardian, in the event of later incapacity, and a HIPAA medical authorization document. In some instances, a designation of remains is prepared in order to name an individual who will be the appointed agent to care for the body at the time of death.
However, there’s another reason why you’ll need to meet with an attorney later in life. As we get older, the need to address long term care becomes more important. Medicaid eligibility may be part of that plan. Making the right decisions now could have a big impact on the quality of your retirement and your medical care.
If you haven’t updated your Will or your Powers of Attorney, it would be wise to do so now. You’ll need a document to clearly authorize your agent to deal with assets. If your documents are out of date, or named agents have predeceased you, it may not be effective, which could lead to problems for you and your heirs.
The document may also need to include a broad gifting power for your named agent, so assets can be transferred out of the estate. If this detail is overlooked, your agent may not be able to protect your assets.
This is also the time when you may want to take steps to protect your children upon your death or upon the death of the second parent. If your goal is to arrange your assets to be eligible for Medicaid coverage, this planning should be done well in advance. Many states pursue recovery of assets when a person has received Medicaid benefits, so it needs to be done correctly.
Your attorney will be able to work with you and your family to address your specific situation. It may mean that your estate plan will include trusts, or that certain assets will need to be retitled. Meet with an estate planning attorney who is familiar with your state’s laws. And don’t procrastinate.
Reference: The Houston Chronicle (April 19, 2019) “Learn about legal documents and Medicaid”
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