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How to Avoid Disputes During Estate Planning

How to Avoid Disputes During Estate Planning

In some families, every gathering is another opportunity for disputes, whether you’re meeting up after a death in the family or a holiday. Maybe you just have a uncle who thinks he’s entitled to everything after your mom passes.

No matter what the issue is, let’s see if we can keep the peace among family (and non-family) during the estate planning process! Put the boxing gloves down and keep reading.

Begin with the End in Mind

Start with the goal of clear skies and peaceful resolutions. Visualizing a successful meeting where everyone leaves with a handshake can set a positive tone. 

Remember, it’s not just about dividing assets; it’s about honoring relationships and the legacy of the will maker.

Timing is Everything

Just like planting your tomatoes after the last frost, timing in estate discussions is key. 

Choose a moment when stress levels are lower, perhaps after a family dinner. (Maybe skip the moonshine to keep heads clear – but good luck keeping the uncle away from it!) 

By allowing everyone to digest both the meal and the information, you’ll be setting the stage for a fruitful conversation.

Bring in a Neutral Party

Sometimes, it helps to have someone who isn’t Uncle Bob facilitating the discussion. An attorney experienced with family dynamics can guide the conversation without the risk of playing favorites.

Listen Like You Mean It

Active listening is like making biscuits from scratch — it takes patience and practice. Nodding along and providing a safe space for each family member to share their thoughts allows for open communication and reduces misunderstandings.

(This doesn’t mean not to speak up – just follow the golden rule and listen before you state your feelings on the matter.)

Embrace the Emotional

Acknowledge that emotions will be as present as fireflies on a humid Tennessee night. It’s natural for folks to feel a whirlwind of sentiments when it comes to inheritance. The key is to address these feelings with empathy and respect. “No apologies” is not a great way to live your life!

Document, Document, Document

Such important conversations deserve more than a handshake and a “y’all remember this now.” 

Having the decisions made in these talks put down on paper by an attorney ensures that everyone’s memory stays as sharp as the details in a log cabin quilt.

Education is Your Best Friend

Familiarize yourself with estate planning essentials by visiting reputable sources like this one on estate planning. Understanding the basics can help you steer the conversation and clarify common misconceptions.

Keep It Light

While discussing the future can be as daunting as facing a bluff on the Cumberland Plateau, a touch of humor can ease the tension. 

After all, we’re aiming for a family gathering, not a courtroom battle.

Remember, estate discussions don’t have to be as much fun as a thunderstorm at a picnic. With these strategies, you can transform family estate planning into a process as peaceful as a Tennessee sunrise. 

Consider us as your companions on this journey, offering a range of services to ensure that your family discussions avoid trouble as much as possible. 

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Understanding Probate in Tennessee

Understanding Probate in Tennessee

Probate laws in Tennessee play an important role in the orderly distribution of a person’s assets after they die and help to settle their affairs. The probate process typically begins when you hire an attorney who will file a petition on your behalf in the appropriate probate court, initiating the legal proceedings. 

The court then appoints a Personal Representative (aka the executor) to oversee the estate, and their primary responsibility is to manage the assets and debts of the deceased loved one. Notification of heirs and beneficiaries is a critical step to ensure all interested parties are aware of the probate proceedings. 

If you are nominated or appointed as a Personal Representative, there are several things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure a seamless probate process.

Probate Court Jurisdiction and Venue

In Tennessee, your attorney will file for probate in the county where your loved one lived at the time of their death. This is wherever they consider to be their permanent home. 

Across Tennessee, your probate case may be heard in a different type of court than a friend’s in another county. For example, in Davidson County the Circuit Court hears probate cases while in Rutherford County they are handled in General Sessions Court. Many counties process probate petitions through their Chancery Court. An experienced probate attorney will be able to tell you the procedure in the county where you live. 

Tennessee Intestacy Laws

Intestacy laws in Tennessee come into play when there is no valid will. These laws dictate the distribution of assets when a person passes away without explicit instructions, outlining the order of inheritance among surviving family members. 

Myth-busting: Many people are concerned that if they do not have a will, the government will take their belongings instead of their family. While there are certain exceptions where the government can claim funds that are owed to them, your closest family members will inherit if you do not have a will. 

Validity and Execution of Wills

Tennessee recognizes several types of wills, from handwritten wills to the ones you think of that are typed up and signed in a lawyer’s office in front of a notary. Each type of will has different requirements in order to be “admitted to probate.” This just means that the court needs to make sure that the will is authentic before it is acted on. 

The law is specific about how that authentication can happen. Probate laws delineate the requirements for a valid will and the various types of wills recognized in the state. Ensuring compliance with these stipulations is imperative for a seamless probate process. 

Probate Inventory and Appraisal

Part of the probate process involves creating an inventory of the deceased’s assets and how much those assets are worth. This allows the heirs and beneficiaries to know what to expect in terms of inheritance and for the court to require insurance to protect those funds if needed. 

Many people are concerned about their privacy if the inventory is made a part of the public record, but informal inventories are often used instead of filing as part of the public record. This can be written into your will or agreed to by your family after your death. 

Creditor Claims and Debts

To handle creditor claims and debts, personal representatives must notify creditors and prioritize the settlement of outstanding debts so ensure that the distribution of assets is fair and equitable. 

One primary responsibility of the personal representative is to pay any valid claims of the estate. Your attorney will assist you in notifying creditors, both by mail and in the newspaper, so that they can come forward and file claims if there is money owed. Your attorney will guide you through the process of evaluating whether those claims are valid and paying them (if appropriate). 

Estate Administration and Accounting

Once all assets have been gathered and all creditors have been paid,  it’s time to distribute the funds. An accounting, whether formal or informal, will assist the personal representative in getting the numbers right. Depending on family dynamics and the requirements of the will, the accounting may or may not need to be filed with the Court’s Clerk.

While the term “accounting” sounds scary, all it means is that you are keeping track of what funds come into and out of the estate. Your attorney will assist you in preparing the accounting if one is required by the court.

Will Contests and Disputes

Probate laws in Tennessee address the possibility of will contests and disputes, outlining the grounds for contesting a will and the specific procedures involved in resolving such disputes. 

(Want to disinherit someone? As our team says, “No one is entitled to an inheritance.”)

Probate Taxation in Tennessee

Probate taxation is an overview of estate taxes, potential tax liabilities, and exemptions are governed by Tennessee probate laws. Understanding and following the laws around taxation ensures proper estate planning and compliance. 

Although Tennessee no longer has an inheritance or estate tax, taxes are still an important process of probate and estate planning. As part of the probate process, the personal representative will be responsible for filing the deceased person’s final income tax return, as well as any federal estate taxes. There may also be state tax returns due based on what types of assets the decedent had. 

Your attorney and accountant will assist you with maintaining the deadlines and knowing what these requirements are. 

Closing the Probate Estate

In the final phase of the probate process, assets are distributed to heirs and beneficiaries, and the personal representative or administrator is officially dismissed of their duties. Take some time to celebrate – you’ve made it! 

Common Issues and Pitfalls

The probate process takes a lot of time and effort (and maybe three hundred takeout coffees). The costs include court filing fees, attorney fees and possibly personal representative fees, which adds up.  It’s important to have an attorney who knows the laws and the best way to complete the process efficiently so as much money goes to the people that your loved one wanted to have it.

Most people want to know how long the process will take or have heard horror stories out of other states (looking at you, Florida!).  

In Tennessee, it can take as little as six months, depending on when your person died, how fast the court moves, the assets involved, family dynamics, and other variables.  In most cases, it takes at least a year, and often more. If everyone gets along, it’s not such a bad process, and the attorney will handle much of it for you. 

We also encourage the use of an after-loss professional like Sunny Care Services who can take some of the most frustrating tasks off your plate. 

If you’ve become the Personal Representative for your loved one’s estate and want to prevent a lengthy probate process, it’s a good idea to start planning now. Talk with an attorney who has experience with probate and estate planning. (Psst – that’s us!)

Recent Developments in Tennessee Probate Laws

Probate laws are subject to change, and recent developments, including legislative updates and notable court decisions, can impact the probate landscape. Staying informed about these changes will help you navigate the probate process instead of asking, “Is it over now?” when you’re only halfway through. 

Fortunately, Graceful Aging Legal Services can help you stay informed on such topics with our newsletter. Sign up today!

Becoming the Primary Caregiver for Your Loved One

Becoming the Primary Caregiver for Your Loved One

When the chorus of life changes its tune and the caregiving role falls to your feet, you may be tempted to take a page from a pop anthem and think you can take care of your loved one on your own. 

Before you tell your loved one, “You belong with me,” you need to put your oxygen mask. Long-term care isn’t just about playing hero; it’s about strategic moves, open conversations, and sometimes tough choices to keep the rhythm going strong.

Organization: A Beautiful Arrangement

Without the arrangement, the symphony is just noise. Without organization as a caregiver, you run the risk of much more than musical chaos: you risk harming your loved one. 

Here are some ways to keep the composition arranged perfectly:

  • Make a calendar of appointments, etc. to add a lilt to your daily activities. 
  • Know who else is playing – create a contact list of those instrumental in care. 
  • Keep a list of medications in order to keep the mood right. 
  • Make a list of caregiving tasks and service providers in case you need backup.
  • Consider centralized communications so you don’t have to sing on repeat.

Strumming the Strings of Self-Care

The spotlight’s charm fades when your spirits are lower than the lowest note you can sing. Being the primary caregiver is a test of endurance, a commitment that needs more than just a peppy melody. 

Self-care is the unsung verse in this song, and nothing to scoff at:

  • Regular health check-ups will keep you humming at your best.
  • Little breaks (or respite time) are instrumental in keeping your pace steady.
  • Support groups hit the right chord and provide backup to your solo performance.

Remember, if you’re out of tune, the duet with the person you’re caring for suffers. For a symphony of support for caregivers, a visit to The Administration for Community Living would be helpful.

Chorus of Conversations in the Family Band

The band won’t play together well unless each member knows the score. Discussing care strategies for your loved one can induce discord, but it’s a necessity. Here’s how to keep from going off-key:

  1. Hold a family meeting to riff on everyone’s thoughts and responsibilities.
  2. Encourage open dialogue—you all belong in this family ensemble.
  3. Chart everyone’s care duties to avert a chorus of complaints later.

Is it time to orchestrate a family meeting? These AgeWell resources may help!

The Bridge to Assisted Living

You may be singing a sweet serenade, believing whole-heartedly that home is the only concert hall for your loved one. But sometimes, an encore in another venue—like an assisted living facility—might be the most logical option. 

Here’s what to consider:

  • Assess your loved one’s needs—can you help them meet their everyday needs?
  • What are you willing to give up to become a caregiver? Will you retire or quit?
  • Take time for personal reflection—are you feeling overwhelmed?
  • How will caregiving impact your own savings/retirement plan?
  • Are you married, and is your spouse/family supportive of your choice?
  • Explore alternatives that can offer better care than you might solo.

Another note: are there ways you can still provide care while maintaining your current lifestyle (paid caregivers, nonprofit or faith community volunteers, adult day services, etc.)?

When the melody gets complex, check out our article on the pros and cons of assisted living facilities or ask those you trust about the experiences they’ve had with assisted living facilities.

Finale: Legally Tuning Your Care Strategies

There’s an encore element that demands attention: legal preparedness. 

Having a plan in advance is like sheet music for the future, keeping everyone on the same page. Work with a legal service like Graceful Aging Legal Services, PLLC, that conducts these arrangements with expertise, so you can ensure the final movements of your caregiving symphony are in harmony with smart decisions for your future.

Securing the long-term care and future of a loved one is no solo act. It’s an orchestra of thoughtful planning, tied with legal strings that resonate within the court of life. So, tune your instruments, take a deep breath, and let the music play in confidence knowing you’re not in this alone. Contact us for help when you’re ready!

Why You Should Move Before You Are Unable to: A Guide to Aging in Place

Why You Should Move Before You Are Unable to: A Guide to Aging in Place

Aging in place is the ability to live in your own home and community independently, regardless of age or ability. It allows you to remain in familiar surroundings while maintaining a sense of autonomy. Planning ahead for aging in place is crucial to ensure a smooth transition and a comfortable future. 

By getting informed about aging in place, you can make good decisions that will positively impact your quality of life as you grow older.

Benefits of Moving Early

One of the main benefits of moving early is increased housing options. By planning ahead, you can explore different housing choices that cater to your needs and preferences. 

Enhanced quality of life is another advantage. If you start early, you can create a supportive and comfortable living environment that promotes your overall well-being while reducing stress. When you plan and prepare, you can avoid the rush and uncertainty of emergency moves. 

Improved safety is important, too. Adapting the living space to accommodate changing needs can prevent accidents and injuries, meaning you’ll be healthier and happier.

Assessing Your Needs

When planning to age in place, it is important to assess and address specific needs. Here are some things you can do:

  • Make simple home modifications like grab bars and clear plenty of space to walk or move with mobility aids.
  • Invest in medical equipment or technology like stairlifts, home monitoring systems, etc., for added peace of mind.
  • Check into community support services, like meal delivery programs and in-home care providers, to stay socially engaged. 
  • Secure accessible transportation so you can get where you need to go, even if your situation changes. 

Our area has awesome resources for those who want to stay independent without personal vehicles. Check out WeGo, Senior Ride Nashville, or Wilson County Rides in addition to rideshare programs. If you need transportation to a medical appointment and have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have transportation benefits!

Exploring Housing Options

Independent living communities provide a range of housing options that cater to those who want an active and social lifestyle. These communities usually offer amenities and services designed to enhance well-being and promote socialization. 

Assisted living facilities are suitable for individuals who require some assistance with daily activities. Trained professionals are available to provide support while still allowing residents to maintain their independence. 

Nursing homes provide comprehensive 24/7 care for individuals with complex medical needs. These facilities offer skilled nursing services and rehabilitation programs. 

Our personal favorites, though, are continuing-care retirement communities. They provide a continuum of care, helping people transition seamlessly between independent living, assisted living, and nursing care as their needs change. While you may never need anything more than independent living, it’s comforting to know that you won’t have to plan another big move or relocate further from friends and family. 

Financial Planning

Most people ages 65 and up are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Additional government assistance programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, may be available to eligible older adults. Exploring these options can provide extra financial support.

Consistently saving for retirement ensures you’ll have the necessary funds to support your desired lifestyle. Retirement savings, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, can help you live comfortably in retirement. If you are fortunate enough to have a pension, it will be a great resource to help your quality of life in your golden years.

For these types of accounts, you’ll want to make sure that you name a beneficiary with your financial institution. If you have a pension, you will need to designate whether you want your spouse to continue receiving income in the event that you predecease them. 

Medicare and Medicaid are government programs that provide healthcare coverage for seniors. Understanding the eligibility criteria, available benefits, and how (or whether) they can be combined with other plans is essential for effective financial planning.

Your Medicare coverage may assist with certain improvements to your home and home health care under limited conditions. Medicaid (also called TennCare) is frequently used by individuals in nursing homes to supplement their income to pay for care.  

Long-term care insurance can help cover the costs of assisted living, nursing homes, and in-home care. It provides financial security and peace of mind for individuals planning their futures and provides more robust and flexible solutions than relying on Medicare or Medicaid alone.

Long-term care insurance can be expensive, but there are newer options to make it a better value overall, such as hybrid policies that provide a death benefit and deduct the amount spent on long-term care needs. Your insurance agent is a great resource to talk through these options. 

Building a Support Network

Family and friends play a vital role in supporting those who wish to age in place. Reliable support systems can provide emotional support and practical assistance, ensuring that loneliness is never an issue. 

Community organizations like FiftyForward and other local non-profits offer various activities and services to help seniors stay connected. Support groups for older adults can offer a space to share experiences, find understanding, and receive advice from others facing similar challenges. These groups foster a sense of community and provide emotional support. 

Professional caregivers can provide specialized assistance and care for individuals who require additional support. Hiring trained professionals can ensure individuals receive the help they need while remaining in their own homes.

Maintaining Independence

Physical exercise and wellness are essential for maintaining independence and overall well-being. Engaging in regular exercise like walking or fitness classes can improve strength, balance, and flexibility. 

Mental stimulation and cognitive health are also important. Doing puzzles, reading, and socializing can help keep your mind sharp and promote cognitive function. A little daily Wordle competition is a favorite in April’s house. 

Nutrition will help you maintain good health. A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can support overall well-being and energy levels. 

Keep appointments with doctors and specialists to manage existing health conditions and address new concerns. Regular check-ups, screenings, and preventive care can help individuals stay healthy and catch any potential issues early.

Want More Info on Aging Gracefully?

Taking these steps will help increase your chances of having a comfortable and fulfilling future. 

Remember, it’s never too early to start thinking and planning for your golden years. 

By the way, there’s a FiftyForward event coming up on 1/16 to discuss housing. We’ll be there – will you?

Navigating TennCare/Medicaid: What You Need to Know

Navigating TennCare/Medicaid: What You Need to Know

Navigating TennCare/Medicaid: What You Need to Know

What is TennCare? What’s the difference between that and Medicaid? How do you know if you’re eligible for it, and what can you do about it if you aren’t?

Fear not, dear reader, we’ll answer all of those questions and more as we dive into what you need to know about TennCare/Medicaid!

What is TennCare/Medicaid?

Simply put, each state has a name for its own Medicaid program. TennCare is the state of Tennessee’s Medicaid program. It’s a way of saying “Tennessee Medicaid” in fewer syllables. 

In terms of what TennCare actually does, it’s a healthcare program that provides medical assistance to low-income individuals, pregnant women, children, and individuals with disabilities. It is funded by both the Tennessee and federal governments, and the primary goal is  to ensure that everyone has access to essential healthcare services. 

Who is eligible for TennCare?

To be eligible for TennCare, you have to meet specific income requirements and fall into a certain category. If you’re a low-income adult, a child, a pregnant woman, an elderly individual, or an individual with a disability, you’re in an eligible category. However, you still need to qualify based on your specific circumstances and resources available within the program. 

Why is it important to understand TennCare?

Understanding TennCare (Medicaid) is crucial because it can provide you and your family with affordable access to healthcare services. 

Most seniors are on a fixed income. The median retirement income for Tennesseans is just under $2,000.00-but the cost of a nursing home averages around $7,500 a month. Even if your loved one has savings that can be allocated toward their care, those savings can be depleted quickly. Knowing the eligibility criteria, application process, and coverage options can help ensure that those in need can receive the necessary medical care.

At Graceful Aging Legal Services, we have experience with TennCare applications. We’d be happy to discuss how you can protect your savings and your spouse while still qualifying for TennCare. 

Another good resource is Tennesse Justice Center, if you’ve got any questions.

What’s Covered?

The purpose of TennCare is to make sure that you have access to essential healthcare services that help you to maintain your well-being. With that in mind, there are a wide range of medical services covered under TennCare. However, some services, like nursing home care, require further application.

Services include:

  • Doctor visits, hospital stays, preventative care, and emergency services
  • Prescription drugs for managing health conditions
  • Counseling, therapy, and other treatments for mental health conditions
  • Dental and vision care

Applying for TennCare/Medicaid

Find out about the application process and what documents and identification information you’ll need to apply – and what not to do, so you can avoid delays. 

Application Process

Applications are no one’s idea of a good time, but they are unfortunately necessary for TennCare. Luckily, the process isn’t as grueling as it used to be. You can do it online, by mail, over the phone, or in person, so pick whatever is easiest for you. If you have questions about the process or want someone to help you through it, that’s what we do for some of our clients! 

To make the process easier, prepare all of the documents and information that will be needed for your application ahead of time. That will make filling out the actual paperwork go by much faster!

Required documents and information

Documents to prepare:

  • Identification documents
  • Medical history
  • Proof of income 
  • Health insurance information

Information to have on hand:

  • Social security numbers of everyone applying
  • Dates of birth for everyone applying
  • Current income
  • Current address
  • Contact information
  • Citizenship and immigration status
  • Car and property value
  • Bank and financial statements (3 months)
  • Vehicle title (Kelley Blue book value)
  • Life insurance policy information

Common mistakes to avoid

Mistakes mean delays or denials of coverage, so here are major mistakes to avoid:

  • Providing incorrect or incomplete information
  • Failing to include required documents
  • Not reporting changes in income or household size
  • Transferring property or making large gifts
  • Sharing bank accounts and funds with someone other than a spouse

Renewing and Managing TennCare/Medicaid

Here are the key steps to renew and manage your TennCare plan.

Renewal process

TennCare coverage is not permanent and needs to be renewed periodically. TennCare will try to renew your coverage using the information they already have on file, but they may need further information. Keep an eye out for a renewal packet, and fill out the required information as soon as possible.

Reporting changes in income or household

It is essential to report any changes in income or household size to TennCare. These changes can impact eligibility and may require you to update your information or submit additional documents. Failing to report changes promptly can lead to complications in coverage.

Appealing decisions

If your TennCare application or renewal is denied, there is an appeals process in place. This allows you to challenge the decision and provide further information or evidence to support your eligibility. If you get to this point we recommend working with an advocate, such as a lawyer or non-profit agency like the Tennessee Justice Center. 

Want to Know How We Can Help You Qualify for TennCare?

Graceful Aging Legal Services is here to help! Contact us today to set up an appointment to talk about TennCare and estate planning, or caring for someone who needs advanced care without the resources to pay for it.

Understanding the Benefits and Process of Miller Trusts in Tennessee

Understanding the Benefits and Process of Miller Trusts in Tennessee

Aging often comes with increased healthcare costs and healthcare costs impact everyone—regardless of income level. Miller Trusts are a legal tool that helps individuals with high income qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits. With a Miller Trust in Tennesee, you can become eligible for TennCare even if you are over the “income cap” set by the state. 

What is a Miller Trust?

The Medicaid program (called TennCare here in Tennessee) typically requires limited income to qualify. A Miller Trust is a legal arrangement designed to help those with high income qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits. By establishing a Miller Trust, also known as a Qualified Income Trust, you can redirect your income into the trust, your income then becomes exempt from Medicaid income calculations.

Why are Miller Trusts Used in Tennessee?

Tennessee is an “income cap” state for Medicaid. That means that those who have income above the cap will not qualify for TennCare. Miller Trusts are used primarily as a tool to create eligibility for Medicaid/TennCare even when you might have too much income. There are times when assets may fall within Medicaid eligibility requirements while income exceeds eligibility limits. In this case, a Miller Trust can help. 

Without a Miller Trust even when assets meet eligibility requirements, income may exceed the limits for Medicaid eligibility. By redirecting income into a Miller Trust, you can effectively reduce your income for Medicaid eligibility purposes, ensuring you can receive necessary long-term care benefits.

The Benefits of Miller Trusts

There are several key benefits associated with establishing a Miller Trust.

Qualifying for Medicaid

The primary benefit of a Miller Trust is that it allows individuals with middle to high income to qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits. A Miller Trust provides a way to legally redirect income into the trust effectively lowering income for Medicaid eligibility purposes.

Preserving Income

Miller Trusts also provide a means to preserve income. Instead of having to find a way to reduce your income to meet Medicaid’s income requirements, you can redirect your income into the trust. This ensures you can continue to receive your income while still qualifying for Medicaid long-term care benefits. It provides a way to maintain some financial flexibility while accessing the necessary healthcare coverage.

The Process of Setting Up a Miller Trust

The process of setting up a Miller Trust involves several key steps.

Gathering Financial Information

The first step in setting up a Miller Trust is gathering all relevant financial information. Financial information must be thorough including all income sources and other financial details to create a comprehensive financial report. An effective Miller Trust helps you meet income qualifications for Medicaid. In order for a Miller Trust to work for you it is critical to have an accurate understanding of your current financial situation.

Selecting a Trustee

The next step, in setting up a Miller Trust is to select a trustee. It is important to choose someone who possesses good organizational skills, excellent financial management,  and will always prioritize your best interests. Opting for a trustee (typically a family member) who works with a lawyer who has a focus on Medicaid planning to set up the trust ensures they can adeptly navigate the intricacies involved in establishing a Miller Trust. Once the trust is established, it’s usually not too difficult to care for the account.

Creating the Trust Agreement

Once a trustee has been selected the next step is to create the trust agreement outlining the terms and conditions of the trust, including how income will be deposited into the trust and how it will be used for qualified expenses. Consulting an attorney experienced in Medicaid planning is crucial to ensure that the trust agreement is drafted correctly and in compliance with all applicable regulations.

Funding the Trust

After the trust agreement has been created and signed, the next step is to fund the trust. This involves transferring income into the trust, which will then become exempt from Medicaid’s income calculations. This typically involves setting up your Social Security to be direct-deposited to the trust account. You can likely do this online if you have an online account with the Social Security Administration. 

It is essential to follow all necessary procedures and guidelines when funding the trust to ensure that it is done correctly and in compliance with Medicaid regulations. Make sure you work with a banker who is familiar with Miller Trusts to be sure that all regulations are followed and ensure that all necessary documentation is provided. Your attorney should be able to provide recommendations for banks they have successfully worked with in the past. 

Meeting Medicaid Requirements

Finally, meeting all Medicaid requirements is essential. Income limits, reporting, documentation and any other Medicaid requirements must be met for a Miller trust to be effective. Consulting with an attorney with experience in Medicaid planning can help ensure all requirements are met.

Managing a Miller Trust

Once a Miller Trust has been established, proper management is essential. Here are a few key considerations.

Using Trust Funds for Qualified Expenses

The funds in a Miller Trust should be used exclusively for qualified expenses. This includes medical and long-term care costs that are not covered by Medicaid/TennCare. For example, if Medicaid covers one set of dentures every two years but you lose yours before it’s time to get a new set, you can use it to cover another set of dentures. It is important to keep accurate records of all expenses paid from the trust to ensure compliance with Medicaid regulations.

A trust can also be used for professional expenses. For example, a Miller Trust can be used to pay for legal fees.

Keeping Accurate Records

Record keeping is a vital aspect of managing a Miller Trust. Accurate records of all income deposits, expenses paid and other trust related financial transactions are necessary for proper trust management. The records are required for ongoing compliance as well as the TennCare redetermination period when you will need to submit proof that you still financially qualify for TennCare/Medicaid.

Reporting to TennCare/Medicaid

As a Miller Trust beneficiary it is important to report any changes in income or financial circumstances to TennCare/Medicaid if there is a significant increase. This includes significant increases in income sources, the amount of income deposited into the trust, and any other relevant financial changes. By keeping Medicaid informed – and by getting in touch with an experienced Medicaid attorney – beneficiaries can maintain their eligibility and continue to receive the necessary healthcare coverage.

For example, if you get a Miller Trust and then get an inheritance, you may no longer be eligible for TennCare/Medicaid. However, at that point, it would be wise to talk to an experienced Medicaid attorney, because they may be able to help you if you notify them quickly and before the inheritance is received. 

Potential Challenges and Considerations

While Miller Trusts can be a valuable tool for Medicaid planning, there are some challenges and considerations to keep in mind.

Legal and Financial Implications

When establishing a Miller Trust there are serious legal and financial considerations making it vital to consult with an attorney who has Medicaid planning experience. An experienced attorney will help ensure all legal requirements are met and help you fully understand the implications of a Miller Trust.

Estate Recovery

In all cases, Medicaid will seek to recover expenses paid on behalf of a Miller Trust beneficiary from the beneficiary’s estate after their passing. In other words, anything in the Miller Trust at the end of life will go to the TennCare/Medicaid office This is known as estate recovery. It is important to understand the potential implications of estate recovery and to plan accordingly when establishing a Miller Trust.

Monitoring Eligibility Requirements

Medicaid eligibility requirements can change over time and it is important to monitor these changes to ensure ongoing eligibility. It’s in your best interest to stay informed about updates and changes to Medicaid requirements.

Consult Graceful Aging Legal Services for Your Miller Trust

Miller Trusts provide an option for individuals who have significant income and want to qualify for Medicaid long term care benefits. If you or someone you love falls into this category, a Miller Trust is an option to divert your income. 

In addition to the often difficult conversations surrounding estate planning, establishing and managing a Miller Trust can be quite complex and challenging. It is advisable to seek assistance from a lawyer who focuses on Medicaid planning to navigate the process of establishing and managing a Miller Trust.

If you have more questions about Miller Trusts and would like to know if it’s a good option for you or your family, click here to schedule an initial call with our office. We’d love to work with you!