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Case Study: Two Brothers Fighting Over Long-Term Care

A recent New Jersey appeals court case shows how important it is for families to come up with a long-term care plan before an emergency strikes. The case involves two brothers who got into a fight over whether to place their mother in a nursing home – a dispute that resulted in one brother filing a restraining order against the other.

Brother vs. Brother

R.G. was the primary caregiver for his parents and their agent under powers of attorney. After R.G.’s mother fell ill, R.G. wanted to place his mother in a nursing home. R.G.’s brother objected to this plan, but R.G. went ahead and had his mother admitted to a nursing home without his brother’s consent. R.G.’s brother sent angry and threatening texts and emails to R.G. as well as emails expressing his desire to find a way to care for their parents in their home. Eventually the men got into a physical altercation in which R.G.’s brother shoved R.G.

R.G. went to court to get a restraining order against his brother under the state’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The trial judge ruled that R.G. had been harassed and assaulted and issued the restraining order. R.G.’s brother appealed, arguing that R.G. did not meet the definition of a victim of domestic violence.

What is Domestic Violence?

In R.G. v. R.G. (N.J. Super. Ct., App. Div., No. A-0945-15T3, March 14, 2017), a New Jersey appeals court reversed the trial court, ruling that R.G.’s brother’s actions did not amount to domestic violence. According to the court, there was insufficient evidence that R.G.’s brother purposely acted to harass R.G., ruling that “a mere expression of anger between persons in a requisite relationship is not an act of harassment.”

Keep This From Happening in Your Family

If the brothers had sat down with their parents before they needed care to explore options and determine their parents’ wishes, this drawn-out and costly dispute might have been totally avoided. Putting a long-term care plan into place can help avoid family conflicts like this one.

To start planning for long-term care, talk to us to help you design the best plan for you.

 

Using Your IRA to Buy Long Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance (LTCi) is an important element of good retirement planning. That is because it offers financial protection against unexpected illness or disability that would otherwise eat into savings. But many LTCi plans are too expensive for most retirees or people nearing retirement age, and the costs just seem to be going up.

At the same time, the cost of medical care and assistance over a long period is even higher, and an unexpected illness could wipe out everything you’ve saved. You may not have enough after-tax dollars to pay for LTCi, but you can protect your retirement income by using money from your IRA to fund coverage.

Is It Possible to Avoid Taxes and Early Withdrawal Penalties?

Typically, withdrawals or non-qualified investments (including insurance purchases) made with IRA funds before the age of 59½ are subject to taxes and penalties. Certain allowances are made if you use IRA savings to pay for medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, or if you’re unemployed and using these funds to buy medical insurance.

Although these exemptions don’t apply if you’re buying LTCi directly with your IRA savings, there are some indirect options available that allow you to avoid taxes and penalties. Here are two: fund a 20-pay life insurance plan or a qualified Health Savings Account (HSA) with part of the money saved in a traditional IRA.  Both options can be done penalty-free before age 59 ½

Option 1: Convert Your IRA into LTC Insurance with a Tax-Qualified Annuity

If you invest in a tax-qualified annuity that makes internal distributions to an insurance carrier, you can indirectly pay for long-term care coverage using IRA money without additional tax penalties. Here’s how the process works:

  • Step 1: Apply for 20-pay life insurance with LTC features

Apply for a 20-pay life insurance plan with an LTC rider, which can accelerate the death benefit to pay for long-term care.  This policy will be funded with tax-qualified annuities that make annual distributions to the insurance policy over a 20-year period. After you apply, complete the underwriting process, and receive approval, you will be given a quote for the annual premiums required for this plan. The premiums may be higher than those for term insurance, but limited-pay plans offer lifetime security.

  • Step 2: Apply for IRA-based annuity plans to fund the policy

The second step is to determine the up-front cost of an IRA-based annuity where the annual dollar amount of income is the same as the insurance premiums, over a period of 20 years. Apply for this annuity type and include instructions for the company to directly credit your 20-pay life insurance plan with the annual gains from the annuity.

  • Step 3: Use a direct transfer of IRA funds for annuity premiums

Directly transfer funds from your IRA to purchase your 20-year annuity. By paying an equal dollar amount directly into your life insurance policy, this annuity will fund your insurance coverage and keep it active for 20 years, after which the LTCi policy is paid in full.

You will receive IRS tax form 1099-R from the annuity company every year on the amount of taxable IRA money moved into the life insurance policy. While you still pay income tax on this amount, the payout and benefits from the policy will be tax-free for you and your beneficiaries. After you’ve made premium payments over a 20-year period, the death benefits will apply for your entire lifetime.

Option 2: Move IRA Funds into an HSA with LTC Benefits

You’re allowed to make a one-time tax-free transfer of IRA funds into a qualified HSA, which provides tax-advantaged savings for health care expenses in the future. Check if your HSA includes an option for long-term care, and consider this method only if you meet the eligibility rules.

The maximum transfer allowed is the same as the HSA contribution limit, which in 2017 is $3,400 for single people and $6,750 for families, with an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions for those aged 55 and up. Remember, this limit will decrease based on how much you move from your IRA. You may also be liable for taxes and penalties if you’re no longer eligible for the HSA within 13 months from December 1st of the transfer year.

The amount saved by these strategies will vary depending on the individual’s or family’s needs, the amount transferred and the expense of the annuity applied for. But they are worth the trouble, in most cases; anytime you can use tax deferred dollars, it is a good thing.

If you want to be financially comfortable, safe and happy after you retire, it may be time to take another look at your IRA savings and investment portfolio. A self directed IRA might be your best option, since you retain full control over investments. Consult a professional advisor if you want to learn more about how it works.

 

Important Changes in Veterans’ Long-Term Care Benefits

It’s now harder than ever for veterans to qualify for long-term care benefits.

Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) finalized new rules that make it more difficult to qualify for long-term care benefits. The rules establish an asset limit, a look-back period, and asset transfer penalties for claimants applying for VA pension benefits that require a showing of financial need. The main benefit for those needing long-term care is Aid and Attendance.

The VA offers Aid and Attendance to low-income veterans (or their spouses) who are in nursing homes or who need help at home with everyday tasks like dressing or bathing. Aid and Attendance provides money to those who need assistance.

Currently, to be eligible for Aid and Attendance a veteran (or the veteran’s surviving spouse) must meet certain income and asset limits. The asset limits aren’t specified, but $80,000 is the amount usually used. However, unlike with the Medicaid program, there historically have been no penalties if an applicant divests him- or herself of assets before applying. That is, before now you could transfer assets over the VA’s limit before applying for benefits and the transfers would not affect eligibility.

New Regulations in Effect October 18, 2018

Not so anymore. The new regulations set a net worth limit of $123,600, which is the current maximum amount of assets (in 2018) that a Medicaid applicant’s spouse is allowed to retain. But in the case of the VA, this number will include both the applicant’s assets and income. It will be indexed to inflation in the same way that Social Security increases. An applicant’s house (up to a two-acre lot) will not count as an asset even if the applicant is currently living in a nursing home. Applicants will also be able to deduct medical expenses — now including payments to assisted living facilities, as a result of the new rules — from their income.

Three-Year Look-Back Provisions

The regulations also establish a three-year look-back provision. Applicants will have to disclose all financial transactions they were involved in for three years before the application. Applicants who transferred assets to put themselves below the net worth limit within three years of applying for benefits will be subject to a penalty period that can last as long as five years. This penalty is a period of time during which the person who transferred assets is not eligible for VA benefits. There are exceptions to the penalty period for fraudulent transfers and for transfers to a trust for a child who is unable to “self-support.”

Under the new rules, the VA will determine a penalty period in months by dividing the amount transferred that would have put the applicant over the net worth limit by the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) for a veteran with one dependent in need of aid and attendance. For example, assume the net worth limit is $123,600 and an applicant has a net worth of $115,000. The applicant transferred $30,000 to a friend during the look-back period. If the applicant had not transferred the $30,000, his net worth would have been $145,000, which exceeds the net worth limit by $21,400. The penalty period will be calculated based on $21,400, the amount the applicant transferred that put his assets over the net worth limit (145,000-123,600).

The new rules went into effect on October 18, 2018. The VA will disregard asset transfers made before that date. Applicants may still have time to get through the process before the rules are in place.

Veterans or their spouses who think they may be affected by the new rules should contact their attorney immediately.

This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we guide our clients to make the best choices for themselves and their loved ones.