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Protecting Your Parents' Assets

by Jeffrey Asher, Estate Planning Expert
December 08, 2011

Question: My parent was just diagnosed with a progressive disease. How do I help protect my parent’s assets?


Learning that your parent was just diagnosed with a progressive disease, whether it be Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, stroke, for example, is a devastating and life-changing event. Beside the unknown of what is going to happen, it means understanding levels of care that you never thought your parent would need.  It may also mean adjusting your own life to provide that care to your parent. Whatever the diagnosis means to you and your family, getting the legal and financial answers you need – such as in answer to the question you asked – will be the role of the qualified Elder Law attorney.
The first step in protecting your parent’s assets is to understand from what are you trying to protect your parent’s assets.  Estate planning is the ability to pass your parent’s assets to whomever your parent wishes while minimizing, as much as possible, expenses and estate taxes. Medicaid planning is the ability to exclude your parent’s assets, as much as possible, from being included as available resources for Medicaid purposes when seeking Medicaid paid-for home care services or nursing home care.
Assuming you mean protecting your parent’s assets for Medicaid purposes, the second step in protecting your parent’s assets is to know where those assets are, how much the assets are valued at, and whose name the assets are in.  Under the right circumstances, some assets are exempt for Medicaid purposes, such as retirement assets (i.e., IRA, 401(k), pension), certain business assets, and your parent’s home.  So, knowing what your parent owns, and how, will tell us the extent to which we need to protect your parent’s assets.
But, once we understand what your parent owns, and how, the third step in protecting your parent’s assets is to determine what type of help he or she needs. Is it help around the house? Or, does your parent need complete care in a nursing home?  There are two different types of Medicaid applications (i.e., home care or nursing home care), and processes for becoming eligible for both types of Medicaid. Working with the doctors we will determine the proper level of care your parent needs and how best to provide that care to him or her.
These are, generally, the first three steps in the process to getting your parent’s assets protected and getting your parent qualified for benefits to help take care of him or her.There are many steps in the whole process, but a qualified Elder Law attorney will help navigate these steps with you. Protecting your parent’s assets is not something that can be done with a quick fix, or with a phone call and a change of address form at the bank. And, there are severe ramifications if not done properly. Be sure to fully understand those first three steps discussed above and discuss these steps with your Elder Law attorney to make sure the whole process is done correctly.

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Jeffrey Asher is a prominent Trusts & Estates and Elder Law attorney in Westchester County and New York City. Mr. Asher concentrates primarily in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration, Elder Law, Medicaid Planning, and Special Needs Planning. Mr. Asher provides comprehensive legal services, tailored to meet your specific needs.

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