Posted by & filed under Asset Protection, Estate planning, Medi-Cal, Retirement Planning.

Top 3 Things to Know to Protect You From A Medi-Cal Estate ClaimMedi-Cal offers low-cost or free health insurance and nursing home coverage to eligible California residents with limited income. Before January 1, 2017, the federal law made it optional for states to recover for medical services like doctor visits and hospital stays. California is among 10 states that seeks repayment beyond the federal minimum and here your estate will be expected to pay back the value of all coverage you receive after you turn 55. Assets transferred to a surviving spouse could be sought for recovery from that spouse’s estate after his or her death. With new legislation, a Medi-Cal homeowner need only avoid probate to protect his or her estate from recovery, such as by having the home owned by a living trust.

Are You Asking Yourself “Can Medi-Cal Take My Home After I Die?”


  • Learning the New Law


Through the Estate Recovery Program, the Medi-Cal program sought repayment from the estates of deceased family members.  The program targeted only benefits received by the deceased on or after their 55th birthday as well as  their assets at the time of death. For those who passed away on or after January 1, 2017, Medi-Cal Estate Recovery may not apply if your estate is planned correctly. California passed SB 833 that included changes to the Medi-Cal estate recovery practices and more changes to the state health care laws. California no longer seeks recovery from the estate of a surviving spouse of a deceased Medi-Cal recipient.  The estate and assets which pass through a trust, or which avoid probate, are protected under SB 833. By placing assets into a living trust, and through proper estate planning, estate recovery can be avoided. Thinking you might need help? The Law Offices of Joel A Harris, located in Antioch, California are experts in Estate Planning and Probate Law.


  • Changing the Way You Gift Money


Under the new recovery rules, if a gift deed transfers the home outright to an individual and you retain a life estate, this would be considered irrevocable and immune from recovery. The state cannot recover from IRAs, work-related pension funds or life insurance policies. You should usually not name your living trust as the beneficiary on retirement accounts. Always directly name the person(s) you would like to be  the beneficiary. Repayment will be limited to only estate assets subject to probate that were owned by the deceased recipient at the time of death and repayments will be limited to services received by deceased.


Gifting assets can cost you if you don’t understand the rules. Changes to the Medi-Cal eligibility rules now uses a 30 month “look-back” rule when evaluating applicants. Transfers made for less than fair market value will cause a penalty period of disqualification determined by dividing the uncompensated transfer by the average monthly cost of LTC private pay in your area. By gifting, an individual can transfer property at the time of death with the gift tax effects considered.


  • Helping Your Children


Even though the state can no longer recover for basic health services like doctor visits and prescription drugs, it can recover for services related to nursing home care. Recovery is limited to services required to be recovered under federal laws. Probate is a legal process through which the corresponding county court sees that the deceased’s assets are distributed according to the decedent’s will. The probate process can be thought of as simply the last option for transferring titles to the beneficiary. Avoiding probate can save unnecessary expenses, time, and stress.

Are You Worried Your Assets May Not Be Protected From A Medi-Cal Estate Claim?

Planning for your future includes understanding that all that you have worked and saved for could be taken away after your passing if not properly protected.  Preparing for that time by protecting your assets is the best gift you can give your spouse and children. At The Law Offices of Joel A Harris, we offer the best guidance for preparing your estate plan catered to your individual needs. Throughout the process, we explain everything and patiently answer every question you may have. Since 1993, The Law Offices of Joel A Harris, located in Antioch, California, has worked tirelessly to assure individuals create the most beneficial estate plan for their spouse and heirs. Have questions, feel free to reach out to us at (925)757-4605.




Posted by & filed under Blended Families, Estate planning, Second Marriage, Secret Families.

Estate Planning for Second Marriages, Blended Families & Secret FamiliesSecond marriages and blended families present their own issues when it comes to estate planning. You would like to take care of your spouse and your children, but letting them work it out after you are gone is a recipe for disaster. Once you have been through a divorce, you understand that “happily ever after” isn’t always. Fortunately, estate planning that takes into account your unique family situation can alleviate most of your concerns, allowing you to freely pursue your second chance at happily ever after.


Are You Asking Yourself “How can I make sure my assets are distributed correctly?”


  • Clear the Air


When it comes to estate planning for a blended family, the concept of “yours, mine and ours” can complicate the process to the point that family dynamics become permanently strained. According to Forbes, Such situations require advance wealth planning with clear goals. “The biggest issue in blended families is, ‘where does my money go when I die?'” The first step is to have an honest conversation with your new spouse about your existing finances, goals for the future and how you expect your assets to be distributed. These conversations can be difficult and emotionally-charged, but they will reap innumerable rewards in the long run. If your children are adults, you may also want to include them in these discussions so that everyone knows what to expect. Huffington Post suggests consulting with an estate planning attorney prior to remarriage to assess your options. But, if you have said “I do” again, it is not too late! The most important thing is to do something. Don’t let the state determine how your assets will be distributed.


  • Update Beneficiary Designations


“One of the biggest mistakes people make when determining who will inherit their assets is in the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies,” said Ranzau. “The best-laid estate plan can be destroyed by an incorrect beneficiary designation.” That’s because beneficiary designations trump everything else, RBC Wealth Management noted. Regardless of what a will or trust says, the asset goes directly to the primary beneficiary or beneficiaries. Another error occurs when a spouse names the current spouse as primary beneficiary and the children as equal contingent beneficiaries, believing that everyone will get something. In truth, the primary beneficiary receives all the assets in this situation and will be free to act as he or she wishes. If your estate plan is written correctly, you’ll have no problem distributing your assets.


  • Secure your Assets


The biggest concern in second marriages is ensuring that each spouse’s share of the estate ultimately ends up with his or her desired beneficiary. That is, if each spouse has children from other relationships, those children’s inheritance is protected even if their parent is the first spouse to die. Traditional estate planning distributes an estate to the spouse and then the children. But, after the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse can easily amend the documents to disinherit whomever he or she chooses—including the deceased spouse’s children! If one of you brings significant assets to the marriage, it may make sense to prepare a separate property trust, before you get married to ensure that those assets ultimately end up with your chosen beneficiaries, suggests Huffington Post


Are You Ready to Have Peace of Mind About Who Receives Your Assets?

Every blended family is different and each presents its own set of challenges, both legal and personal, but a trusted attorney like The Law Offices of Joel A Harris can help guide you through the process catered to your individual needs. Throughout the process, we explain everything and patiently answer every question you may have. Since 1993, The Law Offices of Joel A Harris has worked tirelessly to assure individuals receive the most beneficial Estate Trust Plan for their loved ones. We love providing peace of mind! Feel free to reach out to us at (925)757-4605.