If you have decided to transfer your assets, where to put them is a very important question. If you are married, in most cases the best choice will be to transfer your assets to your spouse. Of course, many seniors are not married, widowed or divorced. For them, they have no spouse, so their initial thought is likely to be to transfer assets to a child, a partner, or maybe a best friend.
However, any transfer to an individual should be considered carefully. In most cases the integrity of that person is probably not in question. There are however other risks that exist and that cannot be calculated. What if the person who is holding your money incurs an unanticipated liability, or gets divorced, or dies? In any of these situations, your money would be at risk.
That doesn’t mean that transferring to another individual, or individuals, is the wrong decision, but there are alternative choices that should be considered. One of these is to create a trust, and then transfer your assets to that trust.
Trusts are excellent vehicles for multiple purposes:
- They can be designed to facilitate your Medicaid eligibility,
- They can protect your assets held in the trust against future creditors including Medicaid,
- The trust would incorporate your estate plan and avoid probate,
- In many cases the trust would preserve significant tax benefits for your beneficiaries.
In addition trusts, can incorporate the following:
- If you transfer your home to your trust, you can reserve the right to lifetime use and occupancy of your property.
- You can also require that the trust distribute all of its income to you at least once per year.
- You get to name the trustee who will manage your trust, and
- You can reserve the right to change the beneficiaries of the trust, who will inherit the remaining assets upon your death.
Trusts are the workhorses of Elder Law and Estate Planning.