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Capacity To Sign Will Challenge Failed

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Probate Court Decision Upheld by Superior Court

The Cranston Probate Courts decision to grant a Petition To Probate A Will over the objection of Appellants, will remain undisturbed as the Petitioner presented evidence to support the testator had capacity to sign estate planning documents, including the Last Will and Testament that was presented to the Probate Court.

Nanci Parenti lived in Cranston, Rhode Island. For almost sixteen years she lived with Mr. Jagolinzer, who had a close friendship with her. In March 2019, Ms. Parenti learned that she had a cancerous brain tumor. Thereafter, treatment did not appear to be successful. In May 2019, she moved to a nursing home and later moved to another nursing home. In October 2011, Ms. Parenti
wrote a will (2011 Will), apparently without the assistance of an attorney.

Attorney Reis met with Ms. Parenti about the prior executed Will. Able to converse with Ms. Parenti in the nursing home, they agreed that Attorney Reis should prepare new estate planning documents. Attorney Reis and Ms. Parenti discussed how she wished to divide her estate, and she described her assets to him. On June 27, Attorney Reis, his office assistant Ms. Cannata, and Mr. Jagolinzer met at the nursing home for Ms. Parenti to sign a new will (June 2019 Will). Ms. Parenti was less communicative and physically drained but understood who Attorney Reis was and that she was signing a new will.

At the signing of the will, Attorney Reis found Ms. Parenti to be competent and understanding of what Attorney Reis was saying but less able to express herself. Ms. Parenti acknowledged that she was signing the will freely.

Ms. Parenti also executed a Health Care Power of Attorney on June 25, 2019, which Mr. Reis and Ms. Cannata witnessed.

On July 17, 2019, Ms. Parenti passed away.

Appellants contend that Ms. Parenti lacked the testamentary capacity required to execute her will in June 2019. “It is well-settled that in a will contest, the proponent of the will bears the burden of proof of testamentary capacity by a fair preponderance of the evidence.”

Testamentary Capacity: The 4 point Test

The proponent must establish that the testator:

(1) had sufficient mind and memory to understand the nature of the business she was engaged in when making her will;

(2) had a recollection of the property she wished to dispose of thereby;

(3) knew and recalled the natural objects of her bounty, their deserts with reference to their conduct and treatment of her and their necessities; and

(4) the manner in which she wishes to distribute her property among them.

Here, Appellee has established that Ms. Parenti possessed testamentary capacity when she signed her will in June 2019. Mr. Reis testified that, despite being less communicative and
physically drained, Ms. Parenti understood what she was doing when signing her will. Mr. Jagolinzer testified that it was clear Ms. Parenti wanted her will to be correct, and Ms. Cannata
stated Ms. Parenti “expressed understanding” what she was signing when executing the will. Mr. Westerman and Ms. Rodriguez, in contrast, testified that Ms. Parenti was in a deteriorating state;
however, they did not see her until after the will was signed and her illness had progressed.

Testimony of Witnesses

Considering the testimony of all five witnesses, the Court concludes that Ms. Parenti had sufficient mind and memory to understand the nature of what she was doing when executing the will. The
only testimony questioning Ms. Parenti’s sound mind was based on an interaction days after she signed the will, with a progressive illness.

The Court finds that Ms. Parenti recalled her property and how she wanted the property distributed, based on the fact that she was able to describe her assets to Mr. Reis and discuss her
intentions for her estate. Testimony from Mr. Reis describing his discussions with Ms. Parenti regarding how to distribute her property suggests that she understood how she wanted the property
distributed and to whom, she knew and recalled the objects of her bounty and she understood the manner in which the property would be distributed.

Each independent witness to the will testified consistently with their affidavits. It is clear that Attorney Reis spoke with Ms. Parenti before the will was executed. It is likely that this
meeting was just four days before the signing of the will, as the power of attorney is dated June 25, 2019. Ms. Cannata and Mr. Reis witnessed the execution of both the Health Care Power of
Attorney and the June 2019 Will.

No Evidence of Lack of Capacity

By contrast, Appellants have not provided any evidence of Ms. Parenti’s mental state when she signed the will or the days leading up to it, such as medical records or testimony that she lacked capacity on the day of signing. The Court cannot rely only on testimony that describes Ms. Parenti’s condition after she executed her will, even if the witness’s statement describes an interaction with Ms. Parenti only days after she signed the June 2019 Will. Rather, the Court was presented with credible testimony from multiple witnesses that support she was of sound mind on the day she signed her will.

Attorney Involvement Involvement

Ms. Parenti sought help from Attorney Reis when she realized her purported October 2011 Will, which she believed was properly executed, had defects that called into question its validity. In an attempt to correct this potential problem, she executed a will in June 2019 with the same general terms as the 2011 Will. She acted so that her wishes would be clear, as to how she desired her property distributed when she passed. There is no claim or evidence here to support that Ms. Parenti was subject to undue influence, and little evidence to suggest that she lacked capacity. Rather, the evidence here tells the story of a seriously ill client seeking help from an attorney to correct a nearly decade-old will that she previously had believed was properly executed, and an attorney who promptly responded to that need.

“For the foregoing reasons, Appellants’ appeal of the probate court’s decision is denied. Ms. Parenti possessed the testamentary capacity to sign the June 2019 Will, which was executed fully in accordance with statutory requirements.”

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL COURT DECISION

Choosing the Right Nursing Home

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What Nursing Home Is Right For My Loved One?

When families are advised that their loved one will need skilled nursing care, one of the first questions they will ask is are there any facilities that we recommend. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding if a particular facility is right for your family member. Some of those factors to consider are:

  • Proximity to where advocates and family members reside – having family visit regularly and being engaged in the care and services provided to their loved ones is critical to ensure they receive the best possible care
  • Understanding the level of care needed: certain facilities are geared toward particular conditions. Understanding a facilities specialty, if any, is important to determining if there is a fit.
  • Know how you are going to pay for the care. Once the family members Medicare benefits are exhausted, and you still require skilled nursing, understanding how to pay for the care needed and developing a path to Medicaid which will help subsidize the cost of nursing home care is critical.
  • Private Pay versus Medicaid – when visiting a facility, know what forms of payment they accept. The overwhelming majority accept Medicaid but a few do not. Follow the link in this article to find out if your facility accepts Medicaid.

Understanding The Different Levels of Care

A Nursing Home (NH) is a facility that provides 24 hour 7 day a week medical care and supervision.

A Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) provides skilled nursing (examples: wound care, pain management, or bowel/bladder training),  and physical, occupational or speech therapy services. A SNF may also be referred to as a sub-acute rehab. Medicare may cover up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility if you have met very specific Medicare eligibility guidelines.

Medicare does NOT cover ongoing long-term Nursing Home care. You may require additional care after your Medicare coverage ends. You may choose to pay the nursing home privately, use long-term care insurance or apply for state Medicaid.

A nursing home may also provide long-term care.

Ranking All Rhode Island Nursing Homes and What Payment Options They Accept

Since 2002, Healthcare Quality Reports has published information on the quality of care administered by nursing homes, including data on resident and family satisfaction and care outcomes. If you know in advance that you or a family member will need nursing home care, this information can help you compare nursing homes and choose among them. You can also visit nursing homes or ask friends and family for their thoughts and experiences.

The RI Department of Health’s Healthcare Quality Reporting Program has developed a Nursing Home Summary Report to help you compare Nursing Homes and choose among them. To find the most recent LIST OF NURSING HOMES and REPORT CARD click here. 

The PDF that the above link takes you to assembles many of the key pieces of information that any family will need when making an initial assessment of What Nursing Home is Right For My loved one!

Still have questions about how to proceed? Call me at 401-600-0143 for a no obligation consultation.

ELDER LAW - ASSET PROTECTION

Helping families help their loved ones.

What is the Caretaker Child Exception?

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Caretaker Child Exception

You can receive Medicaid coverage while still keeping an ownership interest in your home. However, at your death the state will have the right to recover from your probate estate—essentially your home—whatever it pays out for your care. Your home could escape this claim if it were transferred to one or more of your children. A problem with doing this is that under the general transfer penalty rule, you would be ineligible for Medicaid benefits for up to 60 months following the conveyance.

Children who care for their parents can take advantage of provisions in the Medicaid Regulations

The Caretaker Child Exception to the transfer penalty can be a valuable tool to preserve the home of parents.

However, an exception to the transfer penalty allows a Medicaid applicant to transfer his or her home to a qualified caregiver child. The law defines a caregiver-transferee as a child  of the Medicaid applicant “who was residing in the applicant’s…home for a period of at least two years immediately before the date of the applicant’s…admission to the institution, and who (as determined by the DHS) provided care to the applicant…that permitted him or her to reside at home rather than in an institution. “ In order to qualify under this exception, an applicant should be prepared to submit a certification by his or her attending physician which basically states that, but for the caregiver, the applicant would have had to move to a nursing home.

If you can get the necessary certification, and if you would feel comfortable with the property in your caretaker’s name solely, it is recommend that you transfer your interest in your home to your caretaker child. No transfer penalty would be triggered and, in addition, the unit would not be subject to any reimbursement claim by the state. Once the transfer is made, your caretaker child would be free to sell the house or simply rent it out. If you choose to transfer the house to your caretaker child, you should discuss the form of conveyance—trust, life estate, or outright ownership—and the tax consequences to each approach.

If you decide to make the transfer, you will have the option of doing so after you qualify for Medicaid, or before you submit the application. To make the transfer before you have qualified for Medicaid may prolong the application process. For that reason, it may be easier to make the transfer after you have been determined eligible for Medicaid. However, we have submitted applications where the home was transferred before and after and all were approved.

Want to discuss how to take advantage of the Caretaker Child Exception with your family? Call us to schedule a no obligation consultation.

Home Based Medicaid Serivices

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LTSS in Home and Community-Based Settings

Many older adults and people with disabilities who want to stay in their own homes cannot do so without help. The programs that can help you or someone you care for live comfortably and safely at home are called Home and Community Based Services.

Some programs can help you fill prescriptions or get meals or rides. Other programs will help you out at home with activities like personal grooming or getting in and out of bed. The programs you use will be based on your needs.

Medicaid LTSS provides medical care and covers most of the services and supports people need to stay in their homes or a community-setting. People who have the highest or high level of need may get Medicaid LTSS in the home or community setting.

Need to apply for LTSS Medicaid home waiver for a loved one? Contact us.

A Brief History on Estate Taxation

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The First Tax

Levies on the post-mortem transfer of property originated in Egypt around 700 BC, according to a IRS history They were later imposed, around the time of Christ, by the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, and then by feudal lords in Europe. America’s first death tax—that’s what it was officially called—was imposed as part of the Stamp Act of 1797 to cover the cost of US military skirmishes with France. The federal government charged 25 cents on postmortem bequests of $50 to $100, 50 cents on $100 to $500, and $1 on each additional $500.

Congress enacted a second round of death taxes in the Revenue Act of 1862 to raise funds for the Union to fight the Civil War. Lawmakers did so again in 1898 to bankroll the Spanish-American War. These taxes were not burdensome. In the latter case, if a wealthy man left behind $10 million—a staggering fortune—to a sibling, child, or grandchild, his estate owed the government just over 2 percent, about $219,000. All three taxes were repealed after the hostilities ceased.

By the late 1800s, however, America was transitioning rapidly from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. The old federal patchwork of tariffs and property taxes was leaving the fortunes of Gilded Age industrialists like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller largely untouched. Reformers began calling upon the government to tax these “robber barons,” while the businessmen, as today, countered that such a move would stifle growth and quash innovation. The Revenue Act of 1916, in anticipation of the coming war effort, levied a tax of up to 10 percent on inheritances of $50,000 or more (about $1.1 million today); the levy was increased to 25 percent the following year, although it was later repealed. But Rockefeller never paid a penny. He just signed his fortune over to his son before he died, because Congress hadn’t yet passed a gift tax.

Modern Day

It wasn’t until 1976, after another six decades of tweaks, that Congress finally put in place a comprehensive, integrated gift-and-estate tax similar to what we have today. But the endless squabbling over the estate tax, which was expected to bring in just $16 billion last year, continues to this day.

Do you or a loved one need to discuss the impact estate taxes may have on your Estate? Call us for a no-obligation consultation.

RMD Tables To Be Updated

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Required Minimum Distributions: RMD’s

Section 401(a)(9) requires most retirement plans and individual retirement accounts to make required minimum distributions (“RMDs”) over the lifetime of the individual (or the lifetime of the individual and certain designated beneficiaries) beginning no later than such individual’s required beginning date (generally, April 1 in the year following attainment of age 72). This minimum amount is determined by dividing the individual’s account balance by the applicable distribution period found in one of the life expectancy and distribution tables (the “Tables”).

On November 12, 2020 the Department of Treasury is scheduled to publish final regulations updating the Tables, which is in response to an Executive Order issued in August of 2018 directing the Secretary of the Treasury to review the Tables to determine if they should be updated to reflect current mortality data.

RMD’s Tables are being updated

Longer Life Expectancies Reflected

The updated Tables will generally reflect longer life expectancies than presently reflected in the current Tables last published based on 2003 mortality rates. For example, the current Tables use a life expectancy of 25.6 years for a 72-year-old for purposes of calculating the RMD while the updated Tables will use a life expectancy of 27.4 years. This will result in reduced RMDs, enabling individuals to retain larger balances in retirement accounts to account for the possibility of living longer.

The updated Tables will be effective for distributions beginning on or after January 1, 2022 and will include a transition to ‘re-set’ the life expectancy for certain individuals already receiving RMDs based on the prior Tables. For example, an individual who attains age 72 in 2021 will be required to take an RMD no later than April 1, 2022. The updated Tables will not apply to calculate the individual’s 2021 RMD (paid on or before April 1, 2022), but the updated Tables will apply to the 2022 RMD (paid on or before December 31, 2022). The regulations do not include periodic automatic updates to the Tables. Instead, the Treasury and IRS will review the Tables at the earlier of 10 years or whenever a new study of mortality experience is published. The final regulation and new Tables can be found here.

Impact on Medicaid and Estate Planning

RMD’s are a factor that every estate planner must consider into calculations of income and assets for Medicaid eligibility. Understanding the new tables and income that will be forced out to a individual or spouse is important to know as there are minimum and maximum income limits. A personal consult with an estate planning attorney can best illustrate the impact this will have on your plan.

COVID-19 Stimulus Checks and Medicaid

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Will my COVID-19 Stimulus Check impact Medicaid Eligibility?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act (passed on March 27, 2020) is a $2 trillion economic relief package intended to help offset the huge financial crisis caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As part of the CARES Act, the majority of Americans, including those who are elderly and on fixed income, will receive a one-time stimulus check from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Many Medicaid beneficiaries who live at home, assisted living, adult foster care, or nursing homes are concerned the money will put them over the Medicaid income or asset limit, and therefore, disqualify them from Medicaid benefits. In addition, Medicaid applicants express the same concern that the additional money will cause them to have income or assets over Medicaid’s limits, and as a result, prevent them from becoming eligible for Medicaid.

Stimulus checks will not be counted as income and therefore will not impact Medicaid beneficiaries or applicants. However, should the stimulus money not be spent within 12 months, it may be counted as an asset, and therefore could impact eligibility in the year ahead. Therefore, make sure you spend the funds as soon as possible on eligible purchases in accordance with Medicaid regulations (DO NOT GIFT IT).

Nursing Home Residents

he receipt of a stimulus check by Medicaid beneficiaries who reside in nursing homes will not impact these individuals’ Medicaid benefits. Stated differently, the receipt of the check will not disqualify them from Medicaid nursing home care. This is because Medicaid will not count the money as income, which means it cannot push one over Medicaid’s income limit, and hence, result in the loss of Medicaid benefits.

United States Treasury stimulus payment for Coronavirus CoViD-19 outbreak disease.

While Medicaid-funded nursing home residents are required to surrender all of their income except for a personal needs allowance and a monthly maintenance needs allowance for a non-applicant spouse (if applicable) to Medicaid, the money from the stimulus check will not have to be surrendered to Medicaid. This is because, as mentioned above, the stimulus check is not considered as income by Medicaid. Rather, it can be thought of as a tax refund.

Furthermore, the stimulus check will not count as assets, given the money is spent within 12-months of receiving it. So, within this time frame, a nursing home Medicaid recipient can have possession of the money and it will not impact one’s Medicaid eligibility. However, it is imperative that the money, in its entirety, be spent within one year. If not, the money will count towards Medicaid’s asset limit and can potentially push one over the limit, resulting in Medicaid disqualification.

The money can be spent by nursing home residents in a number of ways. For example, one might buy new clothing, purchase a television for his / her room, stock up on extra snacks, or purchase an irrevocable funeral trust. What one does not want to do is to buy assets that are counted towards Medicaid’s asset limit. For instance, collectors coins would most likely be considered an investment and the value of them would be counted towards the asset limit, potentially causing one to be over the limit and lose Medicaid benefits.

The stimulus check will either be directed deposited in the nursing home resident’s bank account or be mailed to the address on one’s 2018 or 2019 tax return. To further clarify, if a refund was issued via direct deposit for one’s tax return, the stimulus check will be directed deposited in the same bank account. If not, the check will go in the mail. Persons who do not have to file tax returns, such as Social Security recipients, will receive stimulus checks in the same manner in which they receive their Social Security benefits. Therefore, if one receives his / her Social Security payment by direct deposit, the stimulus check will automatically be received via direct deposit also.

Spouses of Nursing Home Residents

Spouses of nursing home residents on Medicaid (called Community Spouses), who are not on Medicaid themselves will receive a stimulus check. The receipt of this check will not impact their spouses’ Medicaid eligibility in any manner. First, and foremost, the money from the stimulus check is not considered income by Medicaid, and even if it were, the income of a non-applicant spouse is not considered in the continuing Medicaid eligibility of his / her nursing home spouse.

For Medicaid beneficiaries, the entire check needs to be spent within 12-months of receiving it or the remaining funds will count as assets towards Medicaid’s eligibility. However, the same rule does not hold true for community spouses. To be clear, there is no time limit in which a spouse of a nursing resident must spend his / her stimulus check. Furthermore, non-applicant spouses can spend the stimulus check in any manner they choose, such as paying rent or mortgage, utility bills, food, or even on a splurge, such as a pricey piece of jewelry.

No matter how long it takes for the community spouse to spend the funds, and regardless of how they are spent, it will not impact the institutionalized spouse’s Medicaid eligibility. In other words, a community spouse can be rest assured that it will not cause the nursing home resident to lose his / her nursing home Medicaid benefits. This is because the assets of the non-applicant spouse are not considered for the continuing Medicaid eligibility of his / her Medicaid beneficiary spouse. (The community spouse’s assets are only considered when determining initial eligibility).

The community spouse will receive the stimulus check either via direct deposit or in the mail. Exactly the manner in which it will be received will be based on one’s 2018 or 2019 tax return and how a refund was issued. For instance, if one received a refund via the mail, the address on file will be used and the stimulus check will be mailed to that address. For those who are not required to file tax returns, such as recipients of Social Security, the check will be received in the same way in which their monthly Social Security benefit is received. This means that if it is deposited directly in one’s bank account, the stimulus check will also be directly deposited.

Please note that the institutionalized spouse will also receive a stimulus check. However, at this time, it is not known if the check will be issued separately from his / her community spouse’s check. It is our assumption that if 2018 or 2019 tax returns were filed jointly, the couple will receive one check (couples who filed joint tax returns are eligible for double the amount of a single filer), while if tax returns were filed separately, each spouse will receive an individual check. Again, for persons on Social Security, there is no need to file tax returns. In this case, checks will automatically be received in the same manner in which Social Security benefits are received.

How Much Will the Stimulus Check Be?
The amount of the stimulus check, also called an economic impact payment or recovery rebate, may be for as much as $1,200 / person.

• Individuals who earn up to $75,000 / year will receive a $1,200 check.
• Married couples, filing jointly who earn up to $150,000 / year, will receive a $2,400 check.
• Individuals who earn up to than $99,000 / year will receive a check, but it will be for less than $1,200.
• Married couples, filing jointly who earn up to $198,000 / year, will receive a check, but it will be for less than $2,400.

Payments will be based on one’s tax returns from 2018 or 2019. Please note that for disabled persons and seniors who receive Social Security payments, it is not necessary for a tax return to be filed. (Persons who receive Social Security benefits generally do not have to file a tax return). Rather, the IRS will automatically send out economic impact payments to these individuals.

Checks will be received either via direct deposit or in the mail.

SOURCE: American Council On Aging 

Estate Planning and the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Estate Planning Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has impacted every corner of the world at this point. As medical experts, financial advisors, and our colleagues that specialize in healthcare law, employment law, and other related areas are busy advising clients on the best course of action for the weeks and months ahead, we – as estate planners – also want to remind our clients and friends of some important considerations during these uncertain times.

At this point, we would simply promote the following actions to ensure that your estate planning affairs are in order:

(1) Review your existing documents. Make sure that you have copies (either paper or electronic) of your existing estate planning documents, and review them to confirm that they still reflect your wishes. If you cannot locate your documents, consider calling or emailing your estate planning attorney to obtain copies.

(2) Pinpoint any items that require attention sooner rather than later. As you review, take note of any major changes that may have occurred in your family since you last updated your estate plan. These might include child births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc. And also consider whether the individuals that you previously appointed to serve as your agents are still appropriate.

(3) Follow up with your loved ones and advisors.

  • Make sure that your loved ones know to contact your estate planning attorney in the event anything should happen to you. This includes your named executor (i.e. personal representative under your will, or trustee of your trust), guardian for your minor children, attorney-in-fact under your financial durable power of attorney, and patient advocate under your health care power of attorney.
  • Consider reaching out to your financial advisor, insurance advisor, etc. to ensure that your beneficiary designations are up to date and discuss any new planning opportunities relative to your current financial status.
  • If you require any medical attention in the near future, confirm that your medical provider has a copy of your patient advocate designation and is informed as to who you wish to have access to your confidential health information.

NOTE – If you do not already have an estate plan, now is as good of a time as any to consider the opportunity before you. Having a will/trust, a durable general power of attorney, and a healthcare power of attorney can certainly contribute to a healthy state of mind.

Medicaid Eligibility Update

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Rhode Island has updated its rules to become Medicaid eligible.

If you are a Rhode Island resident and you are seeking Medicaid benefits, you should be aware of some recent changes approved by the Rhode Island Department of Human Services as to your eligibility under the program. Final rules are expected to be published and release shortly but here is a recap of the expected changes:

  1. Income cap of $9,581 meaning that if the applicant has more than $9,581 in income, then they can never become eligible for Medicaid, nor can they start the penalty period.  If they have income under $9,581 but greater than $6,700 and they want to start a penalty period, they can do so but cannot get community Medicaid benefits, like Rx copays and doctor bills.   If their income is under $6,700, then nothing changes.    This went into effect in September and is effective for applications for eligibility delivered after 10/1/18.   50-00-2.4

    Changes Are Coming

  2. Long term care insurance is not considered countable income for purposes of the above income cap.   However, once on Medicaid, it would need to be spent as part of the patient share.    50-00-6.5.2(B)
  3. Burial Funds & Irrevocable Funeral Contracts have new limits which are helpful and could affect clients.  The new cap on Irrevocable funeral contracts is $15,000 and anything over that would be considered a countable asset.   40-00-3.5.5 A(1)(f)
  4. Life insurance is now exempt up to $4,000 of cash surrender value, with anything over being countable.  40-00-3.5.5 A(1)(h)
  5. Retirement Funds now have a new definition, but as long as they are income producing and the client gets at least the RMD, then they should still be fine. 40-00-3.5.5 A(2)(g)
  6. Penalty Divisor is $9,581 since mid September.

Like any social program, the figures and rules for eligibility are constantly revisited and updated based on changes in federal law, budgets, and program changes and advances. Staying current on the latest rules is the challenge.

If you or a loved one is facing serous medical issues requiring skilled nursing care, the Medicaid program will help pay for those costs for applicants who have assets and income within program limits. Contact us to discuss your estate plan and if your estate plan should be revised so as to become eligible for these valuable benefits.