Monthly Archives

November 2020

FRAUD: The “F” Word of Estate Planning

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Fraud is a label to run from – not walk from

As an attorney that practices in areas of law that have both local and national scope – reading and reviewing scholarly writings and recent case decisions is critical to staying current. From these readings, we come to learn and respect the work done by other attorneys and how they are best representing their clients and their interest.

One such article came across my desk entitled “Medicaid Planning Technique Didn’t Work Exactly as Intended” a link to the full article can be found HERE.

The article examines what could be best described as a case study of one attorneys recommendations to a client who was retained to assist the family with Medicaid planning and qualification. As the title infers, the plan did not work out as explained and the clients goals and objectives were not carried out with the suggested plan proposed and enacted by the attorney. Fraud ruins any thought of a clever estate plan – and once that genie is let out of the bottle – it is hard to get it back in.

If it seems too good to be true – it probably is

The case is a lesson for both client and attorney. Just because you can do something – does not always mean you should. Deciding on an estate plan with the goal of qualifying for Medicaid benefits is something that must weigh all of the factors and rules. Knowledge of family dynamic, conflicts, tensions, and history are as important as understanding the rules of Medicaid eligibility, assets and income.

Fraud is a badge that does not wash off easily. Having to defend yourself or others from being accused of absconding with the assets of an elderly loved one is not something anyone wants to envision. There are legal consequences – which translate into strained relationships and possibly property and certainly financial penalties with the ultimate loss of liberty.

The author of the article makes the following suggestions when selecting an elder law attorney to work with:

  1. Be careful about selecting your lawyer. Do you want someone who really knows estate planning and/or Medicaid planning? Check out their reputation, their online information, and recommendations from friends and colleagues. Did you meet the lawyer at a promotional seminar at the public library or a local restaurant? Make sure you’re not being sold something you don’t really want or need.
  2. Does a particular Medicaid planning technique sound almost too good to be true? Be suspicious and ask for input from others.
  3. When a lawyer agrees to meet with you and your family member together, that suggests something troublesome. We are supposed to represent just one person, not a whole family. Recognize that your interests and those of your family member might differ, and respect the lawyer’s efforts to maintain that separation.
  4. Recognize that even though an idea — and particularly a Medicaid planning technique — might work, it might also have unintended secondary effects.

 

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.