1. I own everything jointly with my spouse, so we don’t need wills. FALSE. Especially on the death the second spouse to pass away, when there’s no surviving spouse to inherit, a Will would be helpful or even necessary to direct your estate to those who should inherit.
2. I own everything jointly with my spouse, so we don’t need Powers of Attorney. FALSE. For many transactions such as involving your home or real estate, your retirement plans or investments, you may still need a Power of Attorney to make decisions for them or sign their name. Otherwise, a Guardianship may be needed.
3. Adding my kids’ names onto the deed to my house is sometimes a good idea. TRUE. Not if your kids are in trouble or have financial problems, or if there are twelve kids to add on to the deed, but in the right circumstance people often use this strategy successfully.
4. Probate is a horror and a nightmare. FALSE. The vast majority of the time, probate is just paperwork, and no one ever even sees a Judge.
5. To disinherit someone, leave them only a dollar. FALSE. Leaving someone a dollar gives them standing as a beneficiary to more easily contest the Will. Instead, leave them out altogether, and say you are deliberately omitting them.
6. To provide for my disabled child, I can just leave money to my other children for them. FALSE – OR NOT THE BEST IDEA… I call this an informal trust: informally, without it being written down in black-and-white in a legally binding way, you trust someone to do the right thing and use the money for the benefit of a disabled family member. What if that person is no longer around to rely on? A formal trust is more secure and enduring.
7. If I need to go to a nursing home, “they” will take my house and all my money. FALSE. No one takes away your house or all your money just because you enter in a nursing home, or apply for Medicaid. At other later times – such as if the nursing does not get paid, or after a Medicaid nursing home patient has died – your house and your money may be more at risk, but with good planning you can secure and protect your wealth as much as possible at every point along the way.
8. Putting marital assets in the name of just one spouse may NOT adequately protect them against the cost of long-term care or Medicaid spend down. TRUE. For both Medicaid and VA eligibility purposes, assets in the name of both spouses OR one spouse only are all ordinarily counted as “available resources,” with some exceptions (such as the IRA or retirement account of the spouse not going into the nursing home).
9. VA disability benefits are available only if I was hurt while in the service. FALSE. VA “Aid and Attendance” benefits can be based on disability due to illness or injury from any cause and at any time, not just service-connected disability – though other requirements also apply for eligibility.
10. The average cost of nursing home care in PA is about $10,000 a month. TRUE. And a reliable survey says the cost of assisted living care in the Pittsburgh area averages about $3265 per month (though this seems a little low to me).
11. If I need to go to a nursing home my Medicare will cover me. FALSE. Medicare only pays for short-term, temporary care in a nursing home, after a qualifying hospital stay. Medicare does NOT pay for long-term care in a nursing home (or in an assisted-living or personal care home at all). Medicaid is the main public benefit that pays for long-term care in a nursing home.
12. It’s never too late to plan to limit the cost of long term care. ABSOLUTELY TRUE! Even if someone’s already a patient in a nursing home, we can often still help plan to make sure they get the care they need, but save more of their money for them.