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Federal Assistance Programs are Running Out of Money

Social Security and Medicare, are the two most expensive federal social programs, and it has been recently announced that they will run out of money three years earlier than original estimates indicated. Trustees estimated that Social Security will run out of funds in the year 2033, and Medicare will be insolvent in 2024. More and more pressure is being put on lawmakers to reform these programs for millions of Americans, so that future retirees have a security net for their retirement years.

It is extremely important to get your portfolio and documents reviewed by a financial adviser and an attorney, to make sure you will not be ready if these programs go away. Please call Skillern Law Firm today to set up an appointment.

See Reuters, US Retirement Fund to Run Dry Earlier: Trustees, CNBC, Apr. 23, 2012.

Medicaid Planning – Planning for Your Future Health Costs

Skillern Law is excited to be adding Medicaid/Nursing Home Estate Planning to our practice areas. It’s a new type of estate planning in the law, and it’s becoming more and more important as the baby boomers are growing older. A lot of people do not know what it is or what it entails exactly. Let’s answer all those questions today on Tulsa Estate Planning Blog.

First of all, there are a lot of misconceptions about Medicaid and what it provides for. Medicaid is not a welfare program. It was before 1989, however Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act in 1988 after Congress saw that Americans were getting older, and nursing homes were rising in costs. This act changed Medicaid to make it a Federal insurance program that helps middle-class America pay for long-term care costs.

Medicaid Estate Planning, or “nursing home planning” as it is commonly called, helps qualify a client for Medicaid benefits for future assistance. The planning helps qualify the future Medicaid applicant, which will help pay for nursing home costs, prescription drug costs, and medical expenses. Medicaid planning can help families save money from having to be spent on nursing homes and prescription drugs. This is especially true in the case of family held farms or businesses. Most people spend their lives paying into the Medicaid system, and Medicaid planning will help middle-class families from having to spend their retirement fund solely on health costs.

The essential thing to remember about Medicaid or nursing home planning is to get it done early. While there are planning methods to be used in “emergency 911” situations, that planning is expensive, can be time-consuming, and will not be able to get as much Medicaid help as early planning can. Preventative Estate Planning should happen years before the client is expected to be in need of Medicaid money. Typically, it is good to get done when you get your other estate planning documents drafted. At least five (5) years before an expected need, but the earlier the better in the case of Medicaid planning.

The exciting news is that Skillern Law Firm offers Medicaid, VA & Social Security Benefit planning in conjunction with Senior Resources & Benefits, LLC. Please feel free to look at SRB’s website here.   Set up an appointment today to discuss your options!

Till Debt Do Us Part

I was researching for a client recently who asked about debt and what exactly happens after a significant other or a child passes away. The client had signed as a co-signer on some of the deceased loans and was wondering if she was responsible for that debt. Also, the client was wondering whether her new husband would be responsible for her pre-marital debt if she got remarried. Let’s go through those questions here today on Tulsa Estate Planning Blog.

First off, if you co-sign on or guaranty a loan, you are legally responsible for the debt, even if the other co-signer dies.  You have taken responsibility when you co-signed the loan, and having one of the parties of the loan die does not take away your responsibility.  It can be a hassle and can make a tough time that much harder, so don’t co-sign a loan if you are not ready to take on the responsibility of the loan should the other party unexpectedly die.

When it comes to marital debt, in the United States, there are two approaches the states take. There are communal property states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin) and there are common law states (everyone else). The one exception is Alaska, which allows spouses to choose to sign an agreement making their assets communal property. Few take this option.

Oklahoma is a common law state.  In common law states, spouses’ property or debt is kept separate unless the spouse shows clear an intent to integrate the property, making them communal, marital property. For instance, a spouse’s previous debt of student loans will not be forced upon the new spouse unless the new spouse shows a clear intent to be obligated to pay it off, like signing a guaranty for the loans. This goes for real and personal property, too. A spouse’s pre-existing savings will not belong to the other spouse unless there was a clear intent for the spouse to share it – like putting the other spouse on the joint account.

It’s good news in Oklahoma when it comes to pre-marital debt. Your debt does not have to belong to your spouse, and your property doesn’t either!

If you would like to know how to put your marital or separate property into a trust or keep it safe from probate by making a will, contact Skillern Law today.

Have a question about estate planning law? Send us an email at skillernlaw@gmail.com and ask it. Maybe we’ll post the answer on the next blog post!

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