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WARNING! Living Trust Scams Targeting our Seniors

Don't loose Medicaid Benefits because of a Living Trust!My ... recently ... to a post card ... piece received in the mail. The company that sent the post card eluded that they we

Don't loose Medicaid Benefits because of a Living Trust!

My grandmother recently responded to a post card advertising piece received in the mail. The company that sent the post card eluded that they were 'approved' by AARP and made the claim "The Choice is Yours: Sacrifice Your Assets to the State or Protect Your Loved Ones."

Grandma did not think to call me, or anyone else in the family. She thought this post card was expecting her response, and so she called and set an appointment for the company's representative to visit her at home.

This representative created 'common ground' almost immediately with my grandma. One quick look around her home and you see photographs and other evidence of a very family-oriented, religious woman. Grandma was immediately put at ease at the friendly, self described 'Christian' who claimed to share the same family values as grandma.

Once trust was created, he then began to educate my grandmother on the 'horrors' of probate and the, as he put it, 'untrue legal advice attorneys provide while attempting to create more revenue for themselves.'

This company is selling Living Trusts to older unsuspecting elders, charging $800 to guarantee that their estate will not go through probate, guarantee that the final wishes outlined in the Will are carried out properly and claimed this Living Trust will save 'thousands of dollars'.

Although an attorney owns this company, the local representatives are not attorneys. They are sales people, selling one product for a commission. They are not there to serve the elder's best interests. A Living Trust is not a 'one-size-fits-all'. In fact, there are varieties of Trusts available with logical and useful applications, however, not every senior is in need of such a legal document.

When grandma decided to call me to ask my opinion, I did what most consumers would do. I checked the Better Business Bureau and found no complaints. I then went to the AARP site, which this firm claimed had endorsed their company.

Sure enough, this company is listed on the AARP site for a fee. I found this company by going to Member Services and clicking on 'Financial Services' and then did a keyword search for the company. Members Financial Services

I had to really dig into this site to find the AARP disclaimer. Most consumers would not have thought to do this, in fact, at first glance; it appeared as though this company was 'endorsed' by AARP. I personally, found this to be a disappointment considering the fact that AARP wants to be considered an 'authority' on elder care issues.

I found the disclaimer in an article on Estate Planning/Articles
It says, in the middle of the article, AARP does not sell or endorse any living trust products. AARP does not work cooperatively with any company that sells or promotes living trust documents. AARP does not give such companies the names or addresses of its members.

Dispelling Myths

Deciding on whether or not a Trust is in your best interest is best left to an elder-law attorney or an eldercare financial planner. A Senior Approved service, available in Ohio, that can help personalize Medicaid planning is Raymond James Financial Services

I have learned a few pointers:

Medicare and Medicaid planning varies state by state. In Ohio, Medicaid does NOT consider your home a 'Countable Resource', if you meet the following rule:

The Ohio Medicaid rule is: "The home and contiguous land is exempt as long as it is occupied by the Medicaid recipient or by

  1. the CS (community spouse)

  2. by a child who is younger than age 21, blind or disabled

  3. by a child who is age 65 or older and who has a countable income not exceeding the need standard for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

  4. by a sibling who has a verified equity interest in the home and who was residing in the home for at lest one year immediately before the date the individual was admitted to the medical institution.

However, if you assign the deed of your home to a Living Trust, you loose this exemption and your home is now considered a 'Countable Resource'.

Many seniors will find themselves in need of Medicaid assistance to help pay for health care services. Medicaid, once an 'entitlement program' available to those that met the age and income criteria, is now a completely different program allowing the state to collect the Medicaid reimbursement from your estate. The federal guidelines and the individual state guidelines are not always the exact same guidelines. Each state has been provided a great deal of flexibility in how they interpret and govern Medicaid. Ohio happens to be one of the worst states.

In fact, in a recent article published in Forbes Magazine, entitled 'Best Places to Die'', Ohio ranked 49 out of fifty for this and other reasons. See
Best Places to Die

The Probate Myth:

If you are like my grandma, with less than a total of $200,000 in assets, chances are a Living Trust is not a reasonable vehicle to purchase simply to avoid probate. We have learned that as long as the deed, the bank accounts, the insurance policies and so forth are written with the proper legal wording of 'survivorship' these assets will seamlessly pass to the surviving spouse, without probate.

Just as the IRS has complicated tax returns to the point an average citizen needs to pay for assistance in order to file, the government has created the same quagmire with Medicare and Medicaid issues.

In conclusion:

  • Trusts have solid purposes, however, please speak with someone who is well versed and educated on Medicare and Medicaid issues before pursuing.

  • Not having a trust does not mean your estate will definitely go through Probate court.

  • Do not assume you know how Medicare and Medicaid works. Either speak with a professional that specializes in elder planningissues privately, or attend one of the many workshops to self-educate yourself.

  • Seniors, please do not invite a sales representative in to your home while you are alone. You want someone you trust (an adult child or friend) to be in the home during this sales presentation. This is not a 'dig'. You've been around the block and are more savvy than most of us and you have the right to do what you want. Just be aware that there are people out there that know how to manipulate your trust. In fact, their sales training teaches them 'how to' do just that.

  • Never feel pressured to 'do it right now'. All professional reputable services expect you to consider your options.

  • Never give your birth date, social security number, bank account numbers and so forth to anyone over the telephone or to a stranger that has come to your home.

  • Do not assume that a company with no complaints registered with the Better Business Bureau equates to an 'approved' service. Anyone with $500 can join the Better Business Bureau.

  • Get all the facts before you make a decision. Ask a lot of questions. Please, be careful.

Stop guessing! Select a Senior Approved Service! Phone toll free at 877-620-6448 for one-on-one assistanceArticle Search, or visit Seniors Approve Free Web Community

Article Tags: Living Trust, Post Card, Better Business, Aarp Does, Approved Service

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