By Darlynn Morgan, Wills Lawyer Orange County

As a wills lawyer Orange County, I hear it from desperate families every day; mom or dad can no longer take care of themselves and the family needs to bring in some form of additional care. Perhaps that’s care from a nursing home, or maybe just some help around the house a few days a week, but regardless of services, the family will often require some form of assistance to afford the costs.

Yet the big shocker always comes when mom or dad finds out they don’t qualify for Medi-Cal or any other assistance because they own too much.    And “too much” is usually an overstatement. Oftentimes mom or dad only has a house or maybe a tiny bit of money in the bank and still can’t qualify.

This situation is heartbreaking as the family is then forced to sell or use up the remaining assets to cover mom or dad’s care.  Not only does this mean there will be no inheritance left for the children, but the possibility still remains that mom or dad will outlive their funds and their children will be forced to pick up the tab.

Scrambling to put mom or dad’s assets into a joint account with one of the children doesn’t help the situation either.   There are “look back periods” where the government can see if you’ve attempted to hide funds.  Not to mention, money in a joint account still counts as a full “asset” to the person applying for government assistance and ultimately works against them in the end.

So how can mom or dad still qualify for Medi-Cal without sacrificing everything they own in the process?

Simply put, they need an irrevocable trust.  With an irrevocable trust, your parent’s assets will be “owned” by the trust and not them personally.  That way when they apply for assistance, they will most likely qualify as they don’t technically own anything in their name.

In my opinion as a wills lawyer Orange County, it’s the hands-down smartest (and probably the most cost-effective) way to protect your parent’s assets from the astronomical costs of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a look back period when attempting to qualify for any type of assistance, so it’s very important that you sit down with mom or dad as soon as possible to discuss how your family would handle the financial aspects of disability or incapacity before it happens. Then you can work with your parents, in addition to a qualified wills lawyer Orange County, to make sure to protect their assets.

Remember, you don’t have to sit back idly because there are ways to protect what your parents have worked so hard for through the years.  Instead, I encourage you to be proactive, plan ahead and educate your parents on the benefits of having an irrevocable trust.  It’s a great way to protect their assets (and your inheritance!) now, and for years to come.