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Lost Assets and Medicaid

What happens if you need to apply for Medicaid and you know there are assets but you can’t locate them?  We were working with George to prepare his mother for Medicaid.  He was spending down her remaining assets when he discovered some papers that suggested she might own some stock he had previously been unaware of.

“What should we do”, he asked.  “Mom cannot tell me whether she or my dad sold the stock or whether she still owns it.  And it looks like there should be physical stock certificates somewhere but I can’t find them and she doesn’t know where they are.”

Today, when an investor purchases shares of stock, they are usually held in book entry form.  These are commonly known as non-certificate share.  The owner does not actually have a physical stock certificate.  If you own stock in a brokerage account, such as Charles Schwab or Merrill Lynch, the shares are typically book entry form.  Certificates are rarely issued anymore.  This is preferable because if there is no certificate to hold , then there is no chance that it can be misplaced or lost.

However, in the early and mid 20th century, most investors held certificate shares.  In our office, we see many of our aging clients who still hold these types of investments.  And, as in George’s case, sometimes the certificates are nowhere to be found.  George’s mother has dementia and his dad has passed away so if George has searched everywhere we are at a  dead end.

So, what happens in that case?  The certificates must be replaced.  And in George’s case we needed to work quickly because Mom was rapidly spending down and we would need to file her Medicaid application in a few months.

Next week I’ll tell you the steps we took to help George.