The question raised in the article “Fact or Fiction: I Can Protect My Assets from a Nursing Home with a Revocable Trust” from New Hampshire Business Review is frequently asked, and the reason for it is understandable. Any form of long-term care is costly and can quickly consume a lifetime of savings. There are ways to protect assets, but a revocable trust is not one of them.
There are some reasons why a person might find a revocable trust attractive. For one thing, if the grantor (the person who creates the trust) is also the trustee (i.e., the person in charge of the trust)), there is no loss of control. It is as if you still own the assets that are in the trust. However, when you die, the assets in the trust don’t go through the probate process. Instead, they go directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust documents. A revocable trust also lets you make specific provisions for beneficiaries and beneficiaries with special needs.
There is a trust that can be used to protect assets from the cost of long-term care. It is the irrevocable trust, which must be carefully prepared by an estate planning attorney and done in a timely fashion: five years before the person needs to go to a nursing home. This is the most common way people go about planning for nursing home expenses.
The difference is in the name: the irrevocable trust is irrevocable. Once it is created, you (the grantor) may not change it. Once an asset is placed in the trust, you don’t own it. The trust is the owner. You can’t change your mind. The grantor may also not serve as the trustee of the trust.
You have to be prepared to give up complete control of the assets that go into the trust.
Some people think simply by handing over their assets directly to their children, they’ve solved everything. However, there are problems with an outright gift like this. If your children are sued or run into debt problems, that lifetime of saving which is now in their control is also subject to creditors or claims. If you need to enter a nursing home within five years of your handing over the assets, you also won’t be eligible for Medicaid.
The best course of action is to meet with an estate planning attorney and discuss your overall estate plan. You should have a frank conversation about your wishes, what kind of a legacy you want to leave behind, and your bigger picture for the world after you’ve passed. The attorney will help work out a plan that will protect you, your spouse, your assets and your family.
Remember that an estate plan is not a one-and-done document. Every three or four years, or as “life happens” and changes occur in your life, you should touch base with your attorney. A new family member by marriage, birth or adoption, may call for some changes to your estate plan. It might also be affected by the sadder events of life; death, divorce, or a significant health change. All require a phone call and a discussion to ensure that your estate plan still achieves your goals and protects those you love.
Reference: New Hampshire Business Review (July 30, 2020) “Fact or Fiction: I Can Protect My Assets from a Nursing Home with a Revocable Trust”