Dear Attorney Tully: When is the best time for an individual to do his will and/or estate planning? I am a 63-year-old, divorced man with three adult children. I have a few minor health issues, but am otherwise in pretty good health. I have beneficiaries under my IRA and my insurance policies, and I have joint checking and saving accounts with my son, who is my Power of Attorney. However, I only have a modest estate. Do I need to do a will? I haven’t done any planning. Do I need to do some planning and, if so, when should I start?
Answer: You absolutely need to do planning. At different estate planning seminars I attend, I hear the expression: “I’m going to do my will tomorrow.” So many times in our elder law practice, we see individuals who truly could benefit if they only spent a bit of time planning their estate. Not only could their assets be protected, but also because it will ease the burden on their family if a health care crisis should hit. In fact, one of the greatest gifts you can give your family is having your financial and legal affairs in order.
When we talk about estate planning and asset protection planning, the saying, “He who hesitates is lost,” may be appropriate. In light of the recent budgetary crisis in our state, I am concerned that it will become more difficult for an individual to qualify for Medicaid benefits.
It is entirely possible that laws regarding asset protection will continue to get more and more difficult. By acting in advance, you may be “grandfathered” in under much more favorable laws. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “grandfather clause” as “an exception to a restriction that allows all those already doing something to continue doing it even if they would be stopped by the new restriction.”
Therefore, should the Medicaid laws become more restricted in terms of who may qualify, you may not have to abide by the more restricted laws, allowing you to legally act as if you were still under the old rules for qualifying for Medicaid.
Therefore, it is wise to get all of your ducks in a row as early as possible, with the hope that you will be is a position to take full advantage of Medicaid benefits, should the need arise. So it is imperative that you do planning now.