As is our custom, this semiannual correspondence is intended to keep you abreast of developments in estate and elder law. The following is a brief summary of noteworthy developments since our last communication Although we’re still working on the finishing touches, we have fully moved our former Farmington Hills location to our new Farmington headquarters. In this issue: Major Changes in VA Rules Is your Estate Plan or Will in Place?
It has been widely reported that Aretha Franklin had no estate plan, not even a Will. While the majority of Americans fail to plan, Aretha’s case cried out for special care. Her eldest child is special needs, and she left substantial assets including a tail of music royalties that will continue for generations. Despite the repeated efforts of her attorney, Aretha refused to act. Why? There are many reasons that people fail to plan their estate, but the principal reason is fear of the unknown.
Take the unfortunate case of Kathleen Dehmlow Studies have shown that relationships with family and friends directly impact the length and quality of our life. The loving relationships we nurture during life are a gift for your family that is our true legacy. Having a life plan and an up-to-date estate plan make life’s transitions easier and is a statement to your family that you care. Conversely, toxic ways of being and failure to plan send a much different message to those we leave behind.
Aid and Attendance is an extremely valuable veterans benefit that is available to veterans and their spouses who are at least sixty-five years of age to assist them with the cost of in-home care, assisted living, and nursing home care. Aid and Attendance is perhaps most beneficial for veterans and their spouses in need of home care and assisted living since no other government program covers such care. The 2018 monthly aid and attendance benefit is now $2,169 for a veteran and spouse, $1,830 for a single veteran, and $1,176 for the surviving spouse of a veteran We have written for several years regarding the possibility of the VA imposing a 36-month look-back for VA Aid and Attendance.
Technically, your Michigan estate plan is valid across the country. However, whether your move is temporary or permanent, you should do new powers of attorney since the rules affecting them can be different from state-to-state. New powers are advisable even if you maintain your Michigan residency but spend half the year in another state since financial and medical institutions are more likely to honor documents which are familiar to them.
How can you be sure you found all of your late loved one’s life insurance and annuities? This problem has long vexed Michigan families. Many life insurance policies are hard to find since they are paid-up, or relate to former employment for which there may be no “paper trail.” Happily, effective in late 2016, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) implemented the Life Insurance Annuity Search Service (LIAS) program.
Under the common-law rule against self-settled trusts, an individual traditionally could not create a self-settled trust (that is, an irrevocable trust from which he or she could benefit) and protect trust assets from claims of creditors. With the passage of the Qualified Dispositions in Trust Act, Michigan now authorizes the creation of DAPTs to do exactly that. The Act allows a person to create an irrevocable trust, retain an interest in that trust, and keep his her future creditors from getting to the assets of the trust.
Since 1787 dower has provided wives (but not husbands) with a one-third life interest in their husband’s real property. Even after women were allowed to own property in Michigan in the mid-1800s, the state legislature felt that women were still not on equal economic footing with men. Dower remained to prevent a husband from disinheriting his wife by transferring property without his wife’s consent; giving rise to the requirement that a wife must sign all real estate deeds made by her husband even if her name was not on the property.
The VA (Veterans Administration) and Medicaid landscape is ever changing, and always in favor of government. We wrote you last year to advise you of the pending 36-month look-back for VA Aid and Attendance. The new rules would impose a 36-month look back and penalty period for transfers made by individuals applying for Aid and Attendance benefits. The simple solution is to divest excess assets prior to the effective date of the proposed bill.
That is the million dollar question! Proposals have already been floated that would dramatically change the estate and elder law landscape. New laws would eliminate the federal estate tax (currently the exemption is $5.4 Million), turn Medicaid (the program that covers indigent health care and long term nursing home care) over to the states in a capped block-grant arrangement administered by each state. We are also likely to see cost-cutting changes to health care, Medicare and Social Security.