Two out of every three American adults do not have wills or trusts in place. Many of these folks are planning ahead for retirement, and in general, they manage their lives effectively. Strangely, they fail to take action to address one of the two certainties of life.
A lot of people would tell you that they do not have estate plans in place because they will have time to do it later on. Many of them do get the opportunity, but in other cases, families are left behind to deal with difficult situations.
The Consequences of Intestacy
Intestacy is the condition of dying without any estate planning documents at all. Under these circumstances, the probate court will supervise during the estate administration process. They will appoint an administrator to handle the business of the estate.
This will usually be the closest relative unless there are some extenuating circumstances. One of these circumstances would be a disagreement among family members. For example, a surviving spouse of a person that remarried may not be on the same page as the children of the decedent.
A situation like this unfolded when Steve McNair, the former NFL superstar, was killed some years ago. He took very good care of his mother, Lucille, and he bought her a house. However, he never put the property in her name. McNair died without a will, and his wife, Mechelle, was named as the personal representative or administrator.
Mechelle McNair started charging Lucille rent, knowing that she did not have the resources to pay it. When McNair’s mother moved out, Mechelle sued her, contending that she took items that did not belong to her.
Clearly, this is not the outcome that Steve McNair would have wanted. However, that’s the way things can turn out when you think that you have time to plan your estate at a later date.
There are steps you can take in advance to preserve your legacy for the benefit of your loved ones. If you do not act until the last minute, you may not have the time to implement the appropriate strategy.
For example, most seniors will need long-term care, and more than one third of elders will reside in nursing homes. You can expect to pay over $165,000 for a year in a nursing home in the Hartford area. A married couple may face two different sets of nursing home bills, and these costs have been rising.
Some people do not care about the subject because they assume that Medicare will pay for long-term care. In fact, this is not the case. It will cover custodial care after an injury or illness when recovery is anticipated, but it does not pay for nursing home care or in-home nursing assistance.
Medicaid will cover the cost if you can gain eligibility. This can be done through the utilization of an irrevocable, income only Medicaid trust. You can continue to receive income that is earned by the assets in the trust before you apply for Medicaid, so you can maintain your lifestyle.
Advance planning is key, because there is a five-year look back period. Your eligibility is delayed if you transfer assets out of your name within 60 months of your application date. For instance, if you divest yourself of enough to pay for two years of nursing home care, you would be ineligible for two years.
Estate taxes are another potential source of asset erosion. There is a federal estate tax with a $12.06 million exclusion this year, and we have a Connecticut estate tax with a $9.1 million exclusion. These exclusions are dollar amounts that can be transferred before the tax will be applied on the remainder. If you take the appropriate action when you are planning your estate, you can facilitate tax efficient transfers.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
If you are ready to work with a Glastonbury or Westport, CT estate planning lawyer to put a plan in place, we are here to help. You can send us a message to request a consultation or we can be reached by phone at 860-548-1000.
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