Most people wouldn’t think of losing their assets to pay for their new spouse’s serious illness when they get married for a second time (or more). But that could happen. Costs for long-term care have been rising significantly for years and continue to grow. Studies show that 70% of Americans will need some form of long-term care. Which can last for three years or longer. It is important to be aware of the costs associated with second marriages.
Paying for Long-Term Care While Protecting Assets
If one spouse becomes ill, the assets of both spouses are, by and large, required to be spent on the ill spouse’s care before Medicaid benefits become available. This could be a big problem. Especially if the money that the healthy spouse had saved for their children’s inheritances goes to pay for the ill spouse’s care instead.
With careful planning, this need not happen. Making financial arrangements in advance can protect the estates of both spouses to ensure they can retain the assets they brought with them to the marriage.
Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance
Medicaid rules allow the healthy spouse to keep an allowance of a certain amount for their benefit. This is known as the Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). But many find that the CSRA is too small to permit the healthy spouse to maintain their standard of living, pay for their retirement, and still have something for their children to inherit.
Any planning or shifting of assets must be done very carefully and only after consulting with an attorney experienced with Medicaid planning. Medicaid heavily penalizes transfers of assets made as gifts.
Assets can be protected, though, by using strategies that are permitted by the Medicaid rules. Some, or all, of the healthy spouse’s assets could buy a Medicaid-compliant annuity. This would provide an income stream for the healthy spouse that will not be deemed available to pay for the ill spouse’s care.
In turn, the assets of the ill spouse could be transferred to people they trust, such as a trustee, an agent for financial affairs, a family member, or a beneficiary. That kind of transfer may be subject to a penalty, depending on when the transfer is made and when long-term care benefits are received. Planning well in advance, at least five years, helps mitigate Medicaid penalties.
There are also long-term care insurance products available to cover the costs of long-term care services. Which everyone should consider when newly married and while they are still reasonably young and healthy.
The best strategy of all, though, is to consult an attorney experienced with Medicaid as soon as possible. The sooner you start planning, the more options you have and the more money you can save. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help you prepare for your future.
Our law firm is dedicated to informing you of issues affecting seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses. Also, the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.
This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.