Your spouse has been there with you through thick and thin. They have been your rock, the foundation upon which you’ve built your life. Your spouse has probably been your friend, confidant, and true partner.
If your spouse is ailing now, there are ways that you can protect them, even after you are gone. Let’s say your spouse has a slowly degenerative disease, like Alzheimer’s disease. Hopefully, their illness may be kept at bay. As long as you are there, you may intend to care for your spouse at home. But, what if you die first? At least one study has shown that caregivers themselves often get sick or die early because of the stresses on them.
If you die first, your assets would pass to your spouse. Then, without your support, your spouse may need nursing care and would need to spend the resources you’ve built over a lifetime together to pay for that care. Eventually, they would have “spent down” those resources and would qualify for financial assistance. But, then they would have little money left for incidentals and luxuries, like birthday gifts for the grandchildren.
There is a better way. You could leave your assets to your spouse in a “Testamentary Special Needs Trust,” which is a unique kind of Special Needs Trust. The assets in the Special Needs Trust may not be used for items covered by government assistance, such as medical care. However, the assets may be used for whatever costs government assistance does not cover, such as a special medical procedure, extra therapy, a private room in the hospital or nursing home, travel, an art class, birthday gifts for the grandchildren, and in some cases, even everyday living expenses.
A Special Needs Trust is a good strategy for any loved one needing substantial care. However, a Special Needs Trust for your spouse can only take effect upon your death. Further, it must be set up in a precise manner to qualify, so that the assets you leave to your spouse will not be deemed “available resources” when seeking government assistance and have to be “spent down” before the government will help with the bills.
You would do anything for your spouse. But, statistics show that you may go before your spouse. Plan now to protect and provide for your spouse, even after you are gone. A qualified estate planning and elder law attorney, one who focuses his or her practice in that area, can help you set up a plan that meets your concerns and your spouse’s needs.
Mr. Ronald “Chip” Morrison, Jr. is a Board-Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Administration by Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization and a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. He has been engaged in Louisiana trusts and estate law for the last 16 years. Our firm serves clients throughout southern Louisiana. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, please call our office at (504) 831-2348 or contact us through our website.
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