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When I explain how Medicaid works, I cover the income and asset limits in the case of a single applicant as well as a married one.  I also talk about the 5 year Medicaid look back and the Medicaid penalty.  People typically ask me about the qualified income trust and Medicaid estate recovery. Meeting all these requirements makes the Medicaid application process seem overwhelming to most - and I wouldn’t disagree.  Once we get clients approved there is a sigh of relief - literally and figuratively.  Mission accomplished.    My final task as part of the application process is to explain how not to lose Medicaid.  That’s because there is an annual redetermination process.  Medicaid eligibility must be recertified each year.  Years ago when I first started filing Medicaid applications, getting a redetermination notice was rare, however, now just about every county sends out annual redetermination applications each and every year. Even so, I would tell clients that the redetermination application process is much easier than the original application process and that most clients can handle these “redets” themselves rather than hiring us.  Recently, however, I have noticed more scrutiny by a number of counties who are asking for more documents than they once did. I suspect that this is because the

As I have written about frequently in this blog, many of the Medicaid numbers are updated annually.  Most but not all are adjusted in lock step with Social Security’s cost of living adjustment (COLA).  One Medicaid number that doesn’t adjust with Social Security is the Medicaid penalty divisor.  That is the number by which any transfers for less than fair value are divided to calculate the penalty - or waiting period - for Medicaid benefits.  This time period begins when a Medicaid application is filed and the applicant has proven that he/she has met all the other Medicaid requirements.  In other words, Medicaid would be approved but for the transfer of assets.  The more money transferred, the longer the penalty. The divisor is supposed to represent the average cost of nursing home level care in the state.  Over time that number has increased as the cost of care continues to rise.  This year’s increase is substantial at 14.4% New Jersey announced that effective April 1, 2024 its Medicaid divisor has increased from $384.57 to $440.10.  Although the State does not explain its method of calculating the average cost of care, last year’s  2.7% bump was small compared to the 8.7% rate of inflation so perhaps this year’s increase is intended to make

The last 2 weeks I have written about the increasing number of estate administration matters in our office in which there was no will and it is not clear who the heirs are.  These are cases where the decedent had no spouse or children.  We may know of the heirs on one side of the family, for example, on the paternal side but nothing about the maternal side.  In other cases we don’t know any of the heirs on either side. We must determine all the rightful heirs - and not just some of those heirs - to be sure that the estate assets are distributed correctly. Hiring a company such as a genealogy search firm or a detective, may be necessary.  This is part of the “due diligence” that the administrator must exercise in locating missing heirs.  What specific steps need to be taken is determined in part by the size of the estate.   Since there is no central data base that can be consulted, public records, newspaper archives and personal interviews typically form parts of the search. Once heirs are identified they must be located and if they are deceased the search then continues to the next level down on the family tree.  Once an administrator is

In last week’s blog post I talked about how many people are alone without apparent family and that dying alone - from an estate administration perspective - raises issues such as identifying the rightful heirs. For people that don’t have close relationships, they probably have less reason to think about executing a will.  As I explained last week, state intestacy laws step in when there is no will.  Often, although not always, some people who had some contact with the decedent step forward or are easily identified.  This does not, however, tell us about any other heirs we may not know about. When we work on an estate administration matter, the heirs typically get impatient about the process.  “Why does it take so long”, they ask.  There are actually a number of reasons why. Let’s start with the fact that any administrator must be appointed, either by the County Surrogate, the elected official charged with overseeing the estate administration process, or a judge in cases where there is no spouse or child with first right to serve as administrator under the law.  When a judge is needed, the process takes a bit longer - 6 week or longer depending on the court’s scheduling. Once an administrator is appointed, he or

There have been a number of stories in the media about an epidemic of loneliness among the elderly. This is in part because families are smaller and more spread out.  From an estate administration perspective, this means that many of these same people are dying alone and without apparent or at least known heirs. When someone dies without a will, state intestacy laws establish the line of heirs who are entitled to receive estate assets and in what order.  Spouses, children and other direct descendants take first.  When there are no such heirs, more remote family members such as siblings, nieces and nephews and cousins are next in line. The more remote the family, however, the more difficult it becomes to identify these heirs.     Some of them may have lost touch with the decedent (person who died) and are not even aware of the death.  In some cases, family members may step forward, claiming to be heirs.  But, how can we be sure and even if true, how can we be sure that there aren’t other heirs we don’t know about who haven’t reached out?  Aren’t they entitled to a share the estate? What happens if it turns out that there are no heirs? Next week I’ll

In my last 2 weeks’ blog posts I have been discussing the issues related to leaving your assets to beneficiaries who are not U.S. citizens.  This week I want to cover a couple of recent scenarios in our office.  One involved a decedent who was a U.S. citizen, died without a will and left a husband and minor son in Africa and a daughter in the U.S.  To further complicate the matter, the husband also had children not of his relationship with his wife. Under New Jersey intestacy laws, because the husband had other children, he is to receive only a part of the estate, not all of it.  The balance goes to the decedent’s children.  Adding to this complication is the fact that the son is a minor so cannot legally receive his share.  The share of a minor typically is held in trust or possibly deposited with the Surrogate until he reaches age 18.  Being a foreign national further complicates and delays the process. In another case, the decedent had a will which left part of her estate to her sibling, a resident of Hungary.  The sibling survived the decedent but then died before receiving his distribution.  The sibling had no will.  Not knowing how the estate administration process there