Lessons from Braiterman

Well, here we go again. On July 12, a New Hampshire Trial Court ruled that an irrevocable trust was an available resource. Or did it? A careful examination of the Braiterman case really comes down to three issues. The first was an imaginary stretching of the "any circumstances" provision in Medicaid law. The second was an imaginary stretching of "trustee's powers," and the third, superfluous language added by the attorney that had no legal relevance to the trust document.

I believe, however, that the superfluous language had the greatest impact on this court to find a way to make the trust assets available.  The good news is that this case is neither precedent setting not universally applied. Let us take a look at the faulty (weak) holding. The crux of the court’s argument is that, under 42USC1396P(d)(3)(B), "if there are any circumstances under which proceeds from a trust could be made to or for the benefit of the applicant, then the irrevocable trust is deemed available for purposes of determining eligibility for Medicaid."  Interestingly, it was clear under the trust terms that there were not any circumstances under which the payment from the trust could be made available to the beneficiary applicant. In fact, the court highlighted that the language specifically said that the trustees cannot make any distributions of income or principal to the grantor.

Bigstock-Pupils-raising-hand-during-geo-83001707The court, however, focused on superfluous language in the trust stating that, if at any time during the lifetime of the grantor, the grantor could lose eligibility for benefit because of the existence of this trust, then it was the grantor's “request” that the trustee consider bringing action to terminate the trust and to distribute the trusts corpus to the beneficiaries (again, NOT the grantor). Continuing, the trust stated that the grantor “hoped” that the people who received the trust corpus would use it for her benefit. The superfluous language goes on explicitly to identify the grantor's disability, or need for income. The imaginary stretch by the court here is that, although the attorney added this language that the court hangs on, in fact, there's no legal authority to enforce it. Under most states’ laws, termination of an irrevocable trust requires the consent of not only the trustee, but also of the grantor and the residuary beneficiaries; state law determines whether an irrevocable trust can be terminated, not a trustee. The only authority granted to the trustee in this trust was to bring an action to terminate the trust and distribute it to the beneficiaries.

So there's a double faux pas here; first, there is a presumption that the trustee has the unilateral authority to terminate the trust. Second, there is an enormous leap by the court in deciding that, because the grantor added the language “hoping” for the beneficiaries to use the proceeds for her, that there in fact actually is a legal obligation or even a legal authority to consider it required, so as to make the assets declared available to the grantor. The mistake by the court here is that any access to the trust income or principal is NOT contained within the four corners of the trust, but rather is a stretch to what a beneficiary will choose to do with trust assets after receiving them (which, by the way, is no longer a trust asset!).

The court notes that in her capacity as trustee, the grantor had authority without limitation to "terminate the trust by distributing the principle and accumulating income of the trust fund if in her judgement she might lose eligibility to substantial cash benefits or medical or other services. Again, the court stretches and fills in this imaginary chasm with rationale that indicates that there's actually legal authority for the trustee to do this. In fact, the court alludes that the grantor not being named a trust beneficiary is not dispositive, and held that because there is "any circumstance" that would permit the grantor to get the proceeds, then it was countable. In this fact pattern, the court argued that, since it could be distributed to the children and there was no prohibition on the children to distribute it back to the grantor, the court could infer that there is a circumstance in which the grantor could benefit. This is troubling, as there is no basis, no background and legal support of language anywhere to support this other than the court's opinion.

So what does this case tell us? First and foremost, it affirms what we already know: that a lot of courts do not like Medicaid planning. And that's OK. Second, it tells us attorneys that adding superfluous language that does not relate to the legal provisions of the trust has absolutely no legal impact on the trust terms, but in every contrary case decided up to this point, including Braiterman, it is proven to be the words hung on by the court to disallow planning for people who engage in Medicaid planning. I have been a longtime advocate of Medicaid planning, but more importantly, proper Medicaid planning. When following the rules, individuals who give away their assets are subject to the lookback period and potential imposition of ineligibility based on any uncompensated transfers. The law anticipates this, provides for it, and has clearly stated it. The challenge here is when courts usurp the law and assume information that is not legal or based on legal principles. I fully expect this case to be overturned on appeal, but nonetheless in a state like New Hampshire, a more liberal state, anything is possible.

The good news is the Lawyers with Purpose Client Centered Software (LWP-CCS) system has specific language that would nullify the court's holding in this case. In addition, Lawyers with Purpose attorneys are trained never to add superfluous language that does not relate to the legal terms of the trust. It is when lawyers forget that trusts are legal documents and entities, much like an LLC, that we get cases such as Braiterman. For example, in an LLC operating agreement, would you allow the owners to have rights to pay their medical expenses if they went into a nursing home? Obviously it's silly, but a trust is no different; it's a separate legal entity and should be respected as such. Attorneys must ensure that all of the provisions and terms relate to authority of the trustee to administer the trust and make distributions to the intended beneficiaries, and should in no way ever suggest or provide that trust principal be available or used for the grantor if it is an irrevocable trust intending to exclude its assets from consideration for Medicaid eligibility.

Interestingly, on the same day this case was released, I was notified once again by an LWP member in Florida that the Florida Department of Medicaid upheld a Lawyers with Purpose trust that provided that the grantor was trustee and that all assets in the trust were deemed unavailable. So before we jump off any bridges based on the Braiterman case and give up our Medicaid practices, understand your jurisdictions, understand your job as the attorney and, as we focus on at Lawyers with Purpose, always be an advocate for your client using the law, and keep your superfluous language out of it.

Registration for THE estate and elder law event not to be missed is open!  Grab your seat today before early bird pricing ends on September 5th. Click here to register now.

David J. Zumpano, Esq, CPA, Co-founder Lawyers With Purpose, Founder and Senior Partner of Estate Planning Law Center


What Is A Successful Workshop? Here’s All You Need to Know…

I've been working with estate planning attorneys around the United States for almost 20 years, and I am always intrigued about how excited they get when they deliver a presentation, seminar or workshop. The interesting dynamic is how pumped they get in front of a room full of people. It might surprise you to learn that such a situation is not exciting to me or to any LWP attorney, for one simple reason. We have learned that it is not the number of people in the room or your ability to speak to them that matters, but rather your ability to communicate and create relationships with them so they trust you and understand how you can help them accomplish their goals. That’s when they hire you.

Bigstock-Workshop-Word-Cloud-With-Magni-130546559Under the Lawyers with Purpose workshop system, our members are provided three different workshops, depending upon which best matches their personal objectives. We offer members the “Estate Planning Essentials” workshop, the “Seven Threats to Every Estate Plan” workshop, and the “How to Protect Your Stuff in Three Easy Steps” workshop. All three teach the same concepts and utilize similar stories, but most importantly, all connect and relate to the Estate Plan Audit
™ utilized in the Vision Meeting™ with individuals who attend the workshop and opt for a meeting with you. They also delve into what estate planning is and the specific issues you want them to know (all contained in our trademarked and copyrighted workshops).

Why is this relevant? Because the excitement over the number of people in your workshop is baseless if none of them hire you. If your workshop can't show people how you can help them and explain how your solutions are relevant to them and will benefit them, then stay home with your family rather than waste the time.

So, to avoid that scenario, let’s consider the core elements of a successful workshop. First, ensure in advance that you are clear on who is registered to attend your workshop. You should also ask how each attendee heard about you; that is, what source of marketing got them to call your office (a professional relationship, a retail advertisement, or other). Second, your staff should welcome all attendees during enrollment, excite them about the workshop they're going to attend and touch on how it will offer new ideas to solve their concerns. Third, your team should follow up with attendees ahead of time and confirm attendance. Fourth, during the workshop it is essential to set the expectation up front that you will make commitments to the audience, and to make sure the audience understands that you expect them at the end of the workshop to complete the evaluation and request a meeting if they think it's appropriate. This is perhaps the most important part of the workshop – not all the education you provide, but rather the invitation for them to move forward with you at the conclusion. You must be enthusiastic and excited for them to come in and apply what they learned to their personal situation, in hopes of helping them accomplish their goals and objectives based upon what they’ve learned in the workshop. If you don't believe in yourself, why would they?

And finally, another very important element of every workshop, one in which I have found that most lawyers fail, is to follow up with the attendees to schedule the appointment. I cannot tell you how many times I've worked with attorneys who either neglected to get an evaluation at the end or got the evaluation and failed to follow up on it.

Life is busy. People don't have “free time” to just pop into a workshop, and oh, by the way, I can't wait to go see a lawyer tomorrow to talk about all this crazy stuff. For most people, their lives are busy and complicated, and they're confused. You must be the one who clarifies the confusion and shows them a simple approach for them to get their concerns solved.

That's what the Lawyers with Purpose workshop system does. In fact, we call it the Client Enrollment System™ because it's a complete process, from identifying the client's needs after their initial contact with you, to the point of their engagement with your firm. That's the significance of workshops and seminars: not the excitement of delivering them, but the excitement of actually being able to help people implement great planning solutions that protect them and their family. Contact Lawyers with Purpose today if you want to learn more about what we can bring to your estate and/or elder law practice.  Just click here and give us a little information then download our membership brochure.

David J. Zumpano, Esq, CPA, Co-founder Lawyers With Purpose, Founder and Senior Partner of Estate Planning Law Center


Latest Release of LWP-CCS Software

The latest version of the Lawyers with Purpose Client-Centered Software (LWP-CCS) was recently released and can be downloaded by using the link emailed to all qualifying members. Instructions on how to install the update are included. Please contact Member Services if you have not received an email. Updates were made to the Medicaid and VA modules and the LWP-CCS forms; the changes are summarized below.

Medicaid Qualification

Statutory wartime dates for VA eligibility have been added to the MedQual Worksheet as a reference aid. Further changes were made to the Asset Risk Analysis to show the rate of loss to a nursing home when in a "crisis" situation. You may also notice that the termination language in the Personal Services Agreement has been simplified per member feedback.

We also updated and simplified the language of the Termination section in the Personal Services Agreement.

Bigstock-Legal-Law-Rules-Community-Just-94090013LWP-CCS Forms

There have been some state-specific changes to the form documents at the request of our state bar members.

We also updated the Illinois Health Care Power of Attorney.

VA Qualification and Application

As another quarter is coming to a close for 2016 without us hearing a peep regarding the proposed VA look-back period, changes to the VA module were minimal with this release. As done for the MedQual worksheet, wartime dates for VA eligibility were added to the VA HotDocs Interviews for convenient reference.

The most important update was the new version of the main application form for filing for veterans improved pension; namely the VA form 21-527EZ Application For Pension is now the 21P-527EZ. Although this is an important update due to the significance of this form and the need to use VA-prescribed forms, the actual changes were negligible, consisting only of the addition of the letter P to the form number and a new revision date of April 2016. Another VA form that was updated is the 24-0296 Direct Deposit Enrollment, which you may use to enroll in direct deposit of VA payments into a bank account.

Another change was made at a member’s suggestion regarding the healthcare provider statement that is generated either through the VA Intent to File Interview or the VA Formal Claim Interview to document certain medical expenses. This document was generating by default with the veteran’s name in the field, “The following services are provided to: _________.” This latest release has removed this default so that this field now remains blank and this form can be used for the veteran and/or the spouse as needed.

This last change illustrates how Lawyers with Purpose benefits from you, our community of members, in improving and developing our software. We are always open to any ideas that allow us to provide you with the most current, useful, and efficient tools for your firm. Always let us know how we can be better!

If you're a Lawyers With Purpose member and use Actionstep, the corresponding software release and separate instruction file is available for download now in the Software section of the members’ Lawyers with Purpose website at The changes in the Actionstep release are identical to those listed above.

If you want to learn more about our drafting software click here to schedule a live demo.

By Sabrina A. Scott, Paralegal, The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC and Director of VA Services for Lawyers with Purpose.

Victoria L. Collier, Veteran of the United States Air Force, 1989-1995 and United States Army Reserves, 2001-2004. Victoria is a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation; Author of “47 Secret Veterans Benefits for Seniors”; Author of “Paying for Long Term Care: Financial Help for Wartime Veterans: The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit”; Founder of The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC; Co-Founder of Lawyers with Purpose; and Co-Founder of Veterans Advocate Group of America.


Stick to Your Guns Trusts: Impact of the Brady Act of 1993 on Incompetent VA Beneficiaries

“We have received information showing that because of your disabilities you may need help handling your Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.” That is how the letter usually begins. A claimant may receive this letter after benefit approval, when the VA proposes a rating of incompetency, which usually means a fiduciary will need to be appointed to manage the VA funds. Generally, the letter does not come as a surprise – one can anticipate such a proposal when the doctor completes the VA form 21-2680 citing dementia or other illnesses that may affect the mind as a diagnosis and/or indicating that the claimant does not have the ability to manage his/her own financial affairs. However, you may not be aware of how the determination of incompetency, or the appointment of a representative payee for any reason, will impact your client’s Second Amendment rights. The VA spells it out for you in the same letter that proposes a finding of incompetency in the section titled “How This Decision Could Affect You”:

Bigstock--129963380A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any prohibition, pursuant to section 924(a)(2) of title 18, United States Code, as implemented by Public Law 103-159 of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both. – VA Adjudication Manual M21-1, III.v.9.B.3.b.

In fact, once the finding of incompetency is finalized or a representative payee is appointed for any reason, including the applicant appointing one for convenience, the VA will forward to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) the name of the allegedly incompetent VA beneficiary to be placed in a database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Anyone attempting to legally purchase a firearm in the United States should have their name checked against the NCIS database by the gun dealer before the final sale.

Fortunately, the VA also informs you of how to seek relief from the prohibitions of the Brady Act:

If we decide that you are unable to handle your VA funds, you may apply to VA for the relief of prohibitions imposed by the Brady Act with regards to the possession, purchase, receipt, or transportation of a firearm. Submit your request on the enclosed VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim. VA will determine whether such relief is warranted. – VA Adjudication Manual M21-1, III.v.9.B.3.b.

The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (NIAA) amended the Brady Act so the VA is obligated to allow incompetent beneficiaries the opportunity to request relief from the latter act’s reporting requirements. The NIAA places the responsibility for administering the relief program on the VA. Note that relief from the reporting requirements of the Brady Act is not considered a “benefit” under Title 38. Therefore, principles common to the VA’s adjudication process that benefit the claimant, such as “benefit of the doubt” and “duty to assist,” do not apply. The burden of proof for these requests resides with the beneficiary, and the requests must be clear and explicit. The application for relief from these prohibitions is reviewed by a Veterans Service Representative (VSR) who must determine whether there is “clear and convincing evidence [showing] the circumstances regarding your disability and your record and reputation are such that you are not likely to act in a manner dangerous to yourself or others, and the granting of relief is not contrary to public safety and/or the public interest,” according to VA Adjudication Manual M21-1, III.v.9.B.4.e.

In order to be successful, the application for relief must include a statement from a primary mental-health physician assessing mental health status over the last five years, medical information addressing any mental health symptoms and whether or not the claimant is likely to act in a manner dangerous to himself/herself or to the public, and evidence of his/her reputation, through character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence. The VA will also seek your signature on a consent form that allows them to run a criminal background check. VA decisions that deny relief are not subject to review by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. They are, however, subject to review in Federal District Court, and for this reason, all such decisions must contain a detailed explanation of the basis for denial.

To date, there has been no case pushed to the Supreme Court to determine if the actions of the VA are constitutional. David Goldman, a nationally recognized gun trust attorney, suspects it will likely take the involvement of the NRA or the Second Amendment Coalition to get a case heard before the Supreme Court on this issue.

Until that time, it is up to us to protect our clients and their firearms. In Henderson v. US (575 US ____ Docket No. 13-1487 (2015)), the SCOTUS held that a person not entitled under the federal law to possess firearms has not also lost the property right to the same. This decision makes gun trusts a vital tool. By placing the guns of a client who has been deemed incompetent into a gun trust, we can allow the client to maintain ownership of the guns the client wishes to protect. However, it is important to understand that the client cannot, under current rules, have actual possession of the firearms. This means the client cannot be the trustee of the gun trust and the firearms must not be accessible to the client. So, the trustee must lock the guns in a cabinet or move them to some other location the VA applicant cannot access. Failure to follow these rules can and has resulted in guns being seized from veterans.

Hopefully, this issue will get to the Supreme Court in the near future. However, in the interim, we need to proceed with caution in appointing representative payees in cases where it is not necessary for our clients with guns. When representative payees are necessary due to incompetence, the veteran may not maintain possession, but only ownership, of his firearms. The establishment of a gun trust under the correct guidelines can afford our clients the ability to maintain their guns.

If you want to learn more about becoming a Lawyers With Purpose member, click here to download our Membership Brochure and review all the benefits and tools available to our members.  

By Sabrina A. Scott, Paralegal, The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC and Director of VA Services for Lawyers with Purpose.

Victoria L. Collier, Veteran of the United States Air Force, 1989-1995 and United States Army Reserves, 2001-2004. Victoria is a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation; Author of “47 Secret Veterans Benefits for Seniors”; Author of “Paying for Long Term Care: Financial Help for Wartime Veterans: The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit”; Founder of The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC; Co-Founder of Lawyers with Purpose; and Co-Founder of Veterans Advocate Group of America.


Patient Eviction – A Growing Problem Across the Country

Patient eviction is a growing problem in our country. Between 2000 and 2014, national Ombudsman programs report that eviction complaints are up 57 percent, despite the number of nursing home patients being slightly down. And the correlation between the growth of dementia and the eviction of patients seems clear. Knowing our state discharge procedures, appellate rights and care requirements is essential to us as elder care attorneys. Our understanding of patient rights and legal protections, along with a phone call to a facility, can often go further than anything a family can do.


Maximizing Your Legal Technical Training

Lawyers with Purpose is getting ready for some exciting changes in our legal technical training. Over the past several months, as my calendar has been freed up to provide one-on-one legal training and file reviews with members, case-specific questions for the Live Case Study review have slowly faded. As such, we are restructuring the Monday afternoon hour to continue to provide members with the most efficient use of your time and the time of your staff. Moving forward, while we will continue to address all questions that are submitted by 5 p.m. Friday on the following Monday, we will be using a large portion of the legal technical hour as an in-depth study of the Lawyers with Purpose system and the many uses of the LWP Client Centered Software.


Proper Remarriage Protection Planning

Many lawyers proclaim to have remarriage protection in their estate planning documents, but few are worthy of this claim. For most lawyers, having remarriage protection means removing a spouse’s right to benefit from a trust in the event the spouse remarries. Although this is a good start, it is wholly insufficient in determining the expansive abilities that one can have regarding remarriage protections.

So let’s look at the key points. Typically, clients use trusts to benefit their spouse. Outright conveyances to spouses are common, but they do not provide any asset protection or remarriage protection. To ensure that assets are protected in a remarriage, one must plan appropriately in four core areas.

  1. Beneficial interest of the spouse
  2. The definition of “remarriage”
  3. Powers of appointment to the spouse
  4. Removal powers to the spouse

Bigstock-Broken-Wedding-Rings-19863971When designating trusts for clients of long-term marriages, most want to ensure that the intentions of the couple are carried out after the death of the first spouse, and are not adversely influenced. Although this is a common goal, it could be derailed when a new relationship enters the picture after the death of the first spouse. The goals and intentions of the surviving spouse are often altered significantly due to the fear of having lost their spouse and/or the introduction of a new relationship that can influence them. To ensure that the deceased spouse’s intentions are carried out, the Lawyers with Purpose Client-Centered Software (LWP-CCS) ensures remarriage protection at all three levels. Let’s examine each and how they apply to remarriage protection.

First is the spouse’s right to a beneficial interest. The surviving spouse often has a right to principle and/or income from the deceased spouse’s trust. That interest can come in the form of a family-type trust that benefits the spouse’s kids/non-family, or a common trust with other beneficiaries. So often, we see lawyers name just the spouse as the beneficiary of the family trust. Although this protects the spouse, it also unduly restricts them. A spouse who wants to benefit a child and use assets from the deceased spouse’s trust often has to take the distribution and then give it to the child. Instead, it is more practical to include the children and other descendants as benefits of the principal and income to a surviving spouse. This allows the surviving spouse, as trustee, to distribute or “sprinkle” the income or principal as they determine to accomplish the goals of the family. In contrast, if the surviving spouse gets unduly influenced by a new relationship, then one must be able to restrict that spouse’s right to income and principal under the deceased spouse’s trust. Remember, the surviving spouse has assets that are still available as provided by the original planning.

Another critical issue in remarriage planning is the definition of remarriage. Most trusts define remarriage as however remarriage is legal in the jurisdiction. This is another mistake. In today’s day and age, no one gets married anymore, but not getting married does not mean that a new “significant other” does not have significant influence over the surviving spouse. That’s why Lawyers with Purpose’s Client-Centered Software includes default remarriage language that identifies remarriage as any marriage legal in the jurisdiction or any relationship that results in cohabitation for one night. The software also allows attorneys to custom-tailor the definition of remarriage any way they choose. What’s critically important is what remarriage protections are triggered when the remarriage definition is met, first, upon remarriage under the definition, the ability to access principal or income can be restricted in the LWP-CCS software.

In addition, a deceased spouse’s trust can allow a spouse certain powers of appointment to ensure that the couple’s goals are continued after the death of the first spouse. When there is an outside influence or a remarriage (as defined by you), then you may also begin to restrict the surviving spouse’s power of appointment to ensure that the children are not penalized for failing to agree with the surviving spouse, and the power to make distributions that would go against the deceased spouse’s intentions.

Perhaps the most significant power that can be removed in the LWP-CCS remarriage protection software is the ability to remove a surviving spouse’s removal powers. Removal powers include the surviving spouse’s ability to remove a trustee and/or trust protector of the deceased spouse’s trust. Allowing removal powers after the influence of a new third party can adversely affect children or other beneficiaries who are acting as co-trustees, or trust protectors who were independent and in place to ensure the preservation of the deceased grantor’s intentions. Interestingly, the Lawyers with Purpose software allows not only the appointment of all these powers to a spouse, it also allows you as the attorney to cherry pick which powers, or any combination of them, are altered upon the remarriage of a spouse as you wish to create them with the client.

Again, this is what we call trust drafting. Too many times we have lawyers get comfortable and lazy with the simple provisions most would call “remarriage protection.” That’s why at Lawyers with Purpose our software supports your ability to be purposeful to your client’s plan. 

If you want to learn more about what it means to be a Lawyers With Purpose member, consider joining us for THE estate and elder law event not to be missed this June in San Diego.  You can see the full agenda here:  If you aren't a member contact Molly Hall at to find out more information about how you can reserve your spot today.  Early bird pricing ends Friday, May 13th so register today!

Registration link:

Dave Zumpano, Co-founder – Lawyers With Purpose


The Medicaid Millionaire: Myth or Reality?

As the Lawyers with Purpose attorney trainer, I am often asked by transitioning attorneys or new members how I can justify helping people shelter money so that they could possibly one day receive Medicaid benefits, while still having funds available in trust. I often think as I respond, how could you not?

The Medicaid program was established in 1965. The original purpose of the program was to provide needed care for the indigent. In a 2011 House hearing on “Abuses of Medicaid Eligibility Rules,” Rep. Trey Gowdy argued that the extremely wealthy should not be on Medicaid. Medicaid is a program to alleviate impoverishment, so certainly this argument makes sense. One thing both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have in common is that neither should be in our offices asking how to get Medicaid benefits for long-term care.

Bigstock-calculator-on-the-background-o-117504416But Rep. Gowdy went a step further, stating that “Income and asset tests are easy to circumvent and abuse. In fact, a cottage industry has arisen seeking to educate the wealthy on how to transfer or hide assets so taxpayers can pay for their long-term care.” When I read Mr. Gowdy’s quote, certainly I was not shocked. We, as a “cottage industry” of elder care attorneys, have already been pinned “pension poachers” by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. So, it is not a stretch to hear that we are also being labeled in this way, even though we never break or abuse a law and certainly never ask our clients to do so.

I would like to ask Mr. Gowdy, and all of those who paint us with the broad brush stroke of system abusers, if they actually have any idea who our typical clients are. I suspect that they do not. Because the reality is that very few multi-millionaires come into our offices seeking Medicaid benefits. No, they come in for tax planning, they come in for asset protection and they come in for family trust planning. The people who come through our doors because a spouse has just entered the nursing home and they have been asked to deplete their $250,000 in savings to pay $8,000 a month for care are not these “millionaires.” They are the hard-working, tax-paying middle class. And they are frightened, they are nervous and they know that they are quickly becoming the indigent.

Currently, long-term care beneficiaries represent about 7 percent of the Medicaid recipient population. However, they absorb about 19 percent of the Medicaid funds. Why? Because long-term care is astronomically expensive and there is no other public program available to help with the expense. It is also believed that the average pre-plan for couples who plan over five years prior to institutionalization is saving the married client between $240,000 and $750,000. These numbers decrease by over half when we look at crisis cases. When asking why they pre-planned for Medicaid eligibility, below are the answers I received from former clients.

From a former school teacher married to a Vietnam veteran: “My husband has dementia. He could be sick for a long time and I am only 68 years old.”

From a widow with an adult disabled child in her home: “My daughter has special needs and is wheelchair-bound and I need to have the money left over to care for her for the rest of her life.”

From a retired doctor and his wife, a teacher: “I paid taxes all my life and I continue to pay all that is required of me. I also donate time and money to those in need. My children work hard and I do not want to be a burden on them.”

From an auto mechanic with Parkinson’s and his wife, a retired bus driver: “My neighbor lost everything they worked for. I don’t want to die having lost everything I worked for my wife to have when she is alone.”

It is also worth noting that the “Abuses of Medicaid Eligibility Rules” hearing never grew into any proposed law changes. This is most likely because the officials from the state Medicaid agencies and the nursing care industry who were brought in to speak before the committee painted a completely different portrait of the “system abusers.” They told the stories that they see every day. They spoke of the middle class – scared, desperate, and struggling to pay for care – and the attorneys who help them manage the legalities of a complex system. They spoke of the reality, not the myth.

If you haven't registered for the June Tri-Annual Practice Enhancement Retreat we're filling up fast and Early Bird pricing expires soon!  Don't miss THE estate and elder law event not to be missed! Click here to register now and reserve your spot!

Kimberly M. Brannon, Esq., Legal Technical & Software Trainer – Lawyers With Purpose


Dig, if you WILL … the truth about Prince’s estate

Doves do not cry.   Crying as an expression of pain or emotion is a mammalian trait. I know this to be true because on a 6th grade trip to the zoo, dressed in my finest purple, I asked the zoologist. So I am confident in stating that if you owned a raspberry beret and spent any portion of 1986 walking into the grocery store through the out door, you understand the depths of my mourning for the death of Prince.  

As a closet follower of all things pop culture, I have listened repeatedly to my Prince playlist and read every article I have run across about Prince since his death. And then, today, it happened. I read an article so blatantly ridiculous, it could not possibly be true. Who would write such an atrocious, fabricated tale, and who would believe it? Turns out the top celebrity magazine in the country wrote it, and based on the 396 comments I saw, everyone believed it. The article has since been edited. Experts in the area have been interviewed and the magazine has fixed its egregious errors. Most likely these errors were discovered when their own attorneys almost fell out of their chairs, as I did. So, I promise that I will not trouble you with the hideous nature of the original article or the depression that sank further into my soul as I browsed reader comments saying they were going to contact their police stations on the subject. I will simply tell you the title of the article, which will provide you with all of the outrage and confusion you need for the day.

Who Will Get Prince’s Millions? Cops Say They Have No Record of a Will for the Late Singer.

Ctyp_73ded5_prince-purpJust let that sink in. As promised I will not regale you with the quotes from the original article saying that if no will is filed soon, the property of the singer who died a few days ago may be divided equally between his siblings. I will not bore you with the notion that the word TRUST was in the original article zero times. I will not tell you how the original article relied on police officers for all quotes related to probate administration. (Of course, they did not use that phrase.)

I will simply say this: We have no idea what will happen with Prince's estate. However, this article and hundreds of others like it do send a clear message that people are being miseducated and misinformed about estate planning and administration by the media. 

As elder care attorneys, we need to take seriously this article and the hundreds of comments from readers believing everything they read. Our baby boomers are reaching the age of health issues, and every family is one accident away from a crisis situation. It is our duty to continue to educate our communities through workshops on the truths about wills, trusts and administration. Understanding the importance of protecting their assets for themselves and their children is a duty LWP attorneys have to our communities, and I am proud that we do not take that lightly.    

And, if you are an elder care attorney, I encourage you continue the workshops you provide to your community giving the tools and knowledge necessary to help make educated decisions about family affairs. And, providing options to attendees will potentially save thousands of dollars when crisis strikes or old age rears its ugly head.  

Let us, as the LWP community working together with our clients, not give up on our goal of educating and providing the best legal advice out there for families. Let us not give up – until the doves cry.

Early Bird registration and pricing is now open for the June 20th – 24th Tri-Annual Practice Enhancement Retreat in San Diego.  During the week you'll discover our most effective and PROVEN practice growth strategies, legal/technical best practices and marketing GOLD – so powerful and cutting edge we will ONLY share them face-to-face! Register today and reserve your seat at early bird pricing!

Kimberly M. Brannon, Esq., Legal-Technical and Software Trainer


The ILIT / TAP Distinction

Many people commonly use Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT) to ensure that life insurance owned by an individual is not included in their taxable estate at death. While an ILIT is a useful trust, you could accomplish far more with a TAP™ trust. So let's review an ILIT and distinguish how a TAP enhances the benefits often sought by ILITs. An ILIT is an irrevocable trust wherein the grantor retains no rights to modify the trust, benefit from the trust or control the trust. Retention of any of these rights will trigger estate tax inclusion under Internal Revenue Code Sections 2036 through 2042. An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust may be a non-grantor trust or grantor trust, depending upon the attorney's drafting choice.

Triggering a provision of Internal Revenue Code Sections 671 through 679 will cause the inclusion of all income from the ILIT to be included in the personal income tax return of the grantor. While the grantor retains no rights to modify, control, or benefit from the trust, the grantor may be taxed on its income if a grantor trust provision is triggered. The most common of these grantor trust provisions is to allow the grantor to substitute assets of equal value, or make loans to the grantor without adequate security. By choosing grantor trust status, it essentially serves as an additional gift without having to utilize the annual gift tax exclusion, because the income taxes are paid from the grantor, rather than the trust. As a result, those additional sums are retained in the trust, thus providing additional assets to the intended beneficiaries that otherwise would have been used to pay the taxes.

Bigstock-Red-Pencil-Standing-Out-From-C-104390930One of the core elements of an ILIT is ensuring the use of Crummey powers. Crummey powers are based on the landmark case Crummey v. the Commissioner wherein the U.S. Tax Court held that granting someone the right to withdraw money funded to a trust immediately but limited to a short period of time (i.e. 30 days) was sufficient timing to deem the contribution a "present interest" and thereby trigger the annual gift tax exclusion for the contribution. A Crummey power is essential to ensure that the annual gift tax exclusions are utilized so as not to reduce the grantor's overall lifetime estate and gift tax exemption. One critical restriction under the current power, however, is that Section of the Internal Revenue Code limits the annual exclusion made to trusts to the greater of 5 percent of trust assets or $5,000. Therefore, it is essential to have a "hanging power" to ensure any contributions in excess of $5,000 or 5 percent are not deemed to be taxable gifts.

These hanging powers allow the Crummey beneficiary to continue to have the right to withdraw this excess amount, even beyond the 30-day period. For example, if a grantor contributes $42,000 to a trust for three Crummey beneficiaries and the $42,000 is the only asset of the trust and it was utilized to pay the insurance premium, then 5 percent of the trust assets only equals $2,000. Obviously, $5,000 would be greater, so $5,000 of each $14,000 contribution would be deemed to be a present interest gift and $9,000 of the contribution would "hang" until no contributions are made in a given year. At that time, an additional allocation of the annual gift would occur based on the $5,000 or 5 percent trust value limitation. Obviously, this could be problematic if these powers hang and one of your Crummey beneficiaries becomes subject to lawsuits, divorce or long-term care costs.

Another consideration with the Crummey power is to have straw Crummey beneficiaries. This is typically done by adding beneficiaries to the lifetime trust, which operates during the grantor's lifetime and provides the names of people who are not residuary beneficiaries. For example, one straw Crummey beneficiary might include spouses or other remote relatives who are willing to be a Crummey beneficiary, understanding that they are not likely to be an ultimate beneficiary. This allows additional payments each year to be contributed within the annual exclusion limit. Both ILITs and TAP trusts have Crummey provisions with hanging powers.

Neither ILITs nor TAPs are user friendly to individuals with estates less than $5,450,000, or $10,900,000 if married. These excessive restrictions need not be applied in circumstances where the total estate of the grantor plus the life insurance benefits does not exceed the estate tax limit. Obviously, the only other consideration would be if your state had an estate tax at a lower limit. If estate tax is a concern, a primary benefit of the TAP trust over the ILIT is that a TAP trust stands for Tax All Purpose trust, which means its intended benefit is far beyond the holding of life insurance. The TAP trust will typically hold life insurance policies, stocks, bonds, and other assets and/or business interests that the grantor would like to get passed on to the trust beneficiaries after death. This is especially helpful, as it will ensure that there are other assets in the trust other than the life insurance policy to accumulate assets of more than $280,000 to ensure that the entire Crummey contribution can be utilized each year with no hanging powers. In addition, the TAP trust has extensive provisions for lifetime and residuary trusts to the individuals or classes of people.

For example, sometimes a grantor will create a family-type trust that takes effect after death for the benefit of the surviving spouse and children, and upon the death of the surviving spouse, it provides separate residuary trusts for each child. Other times, clients may want to create a benefit for a class of their children for their lifetime, and at the death of the last child the balance is allocated to their then-surviving children in separate share trusts. TAP trusts are extremely flexible and powerful in ensuring that whatever assets are passed through them (life insurance, stocks, bonds, business interests, etc.) are passed on to their loved ones fully asset-protected in separate asset protection trusts or common trusts, depending on the client's goal. One of the critical distinctions in asset protection trusts after death is to ensure that the trustee is an independent trustee under Internal Revenue Code Section 672(c). One distinction to resolve the concern of naming the child beneficiary as the trustee without violating Section 672(c) is to ensure that you name a co-trustee who is adverse, a strategy far too few lawyers utilize. For example, after the death of a grantor, the surviving spouse can be the trustee with a co-trustee of one of their children. While this would be considered under the family attribution rules to be a controlled trustee, the adverse party interest ensures that the Internal Revenue Code distinctions are met. For example, if a child was a co-trustee with the spouse and approved a payment to the spouse during a family trust administration, that would be adverse to the child's residuary interest and thus satisfy the restrictions within 672(c).

The other exciting element of a TAP trust is the allowance of the spouse or trust protector to have a power of appointment to modify the beneficiaries within a class of people identified by the grantor. This can ensure that the family is able to adjust for changing circumstances after the death of the grantor to cover his or her overall planning intentions. One of the key distinctions of a TAP trust is also specific language that authorizes the accumulation of income but specifically requires the trustee to account separately for income that is accumulated and converted to principal, so as to ensure no portion of that is utilized to pay insurance premiums on the grantor. While the trust ensures that all the proper legal language is included, to be legally proper it is incumbent upon the attorney to educate the client to understand how to properly administer a trust so as not to violate that provision.

So, as you look at the distinctions between an ILIT and a TAP, it's important to note that everything an ILIT is is included in the TAP trust, but not everything in a TAP trust is included in an ILIT, so a TAP is a far more expansive trust that allows much more flexibility and use by a client. If you want to learn more about becoming a Lawyers with Purpose member to discover how the TAP trust can benefit you in your practice and, more importantly, benefit your clients consider joining our FREE webinar "The Four Essentials For A Profitable Practice" on Thursday, April 21st at 8EST. Click here to register now.

This is a FREE training webinar designed for attorneys who wish to add Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Medicaid, or VA Planning to their practice, or significantly improve on their existing business using our PROVEN and paint-by-number strategies. Reserve your spot now!

 David J. Zumpano, Co-founder – Lawyers With Purpose, Founder and Senior Partner of Estate Planning Law Center