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Protecting Assets as Parents Age: How a Skilled Attorney can help

As an adult child with parents getting older, you may find the roles reversing. Your mom or dad may be looking to you for guidance on all sorts of things, including choices about protecting assets, wills, estates, using caregivers and deciding what to do about a house or apartment.

In this post, we will use an FAQ format to discuss some of the key decisions you may face and how a skilled attorney can help you and your family make them effectively.

Is it preferable to "age in place" at home?

For many senior citizens, the house or condominium they own and occupy is often their largest asset. In the New York City area, with its high housing costs, this may mean having a residence that's worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Does your aging parent want to stay in their house or condo, perhaps seeking caregiving services to make that possible? Or would it be preferable to sell the house and move to some other living arrangement, perhaps with a son or daughter or in assisted living?

Obviously these are very personal decisions with significant financial consequences. What's important to realize, however, is that a skilled attorney such as Olga Berdé Mahl can help you frame your options clearly and take action to accomplish your goals.

For example, if your parent wants to age in place in their home, one option would be to protect their assets by various types of Trusts. The home and other assets could be transferred to the trust, ensuring that the house remains available to live in and avoiding high probate costs when passing it to the next generation. Preparing for the future also includes Wills, Health Care Proxies and Powers of Attorney documents.

Of course, a trust is not a one-size-fits-all structure. Your parent will have to decide, for one thing, whether to make it revocable or irrevocable. But with help from a knowledgeable attorney, you can craft a plan customized to your family's unique circumstances.

What if caregiving services are needed?

In his book Being Mortal, the surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande writes of the difficult decisions families face as age and illness undercut the ability of elderly people to take care of themselves.

At some point, it may become necessary to consider what funding and services for caregiving are available from Medicaid. This can be complicated, however, because of Medicaid eligibility guidelines. Medicaid generally requires applicants to "spend down" their assets up to a certain point before becoming eligible for benefits.

Here, too, a skilled attorney such as Olga Berdé Mahl can provide the guidance you need to protect family assets while seeking out the caregiving services that your parent may need, paid for by government funds. There are ways to do this in a way that shields assets, provides appropriate care of your own choice and make full use of government services that are available.

Are there different considerations for owners of coops?

For the many New Yorkers who live in co-ops, it's important to be aware that the factors involved in transferring their units can involve more procedural steps than a single-family home or condo.

There are successful techniques to keep the parents/elders in occupancy/possession and still qualify for Medicaid benefits. Some co-op boards may treat the heir to a co-op unit as a new purchaser, requiring a full financial review, an interview and occupancy. Indeed, the board may even try to get the beneficiary to sell, rather than readily approving the transfer of the unit.

This is another area where a skilled and experienced attorney such as Olga Berdé Mahl can protect your interests and guide your family to a favorable resolution in light of your goals.

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Olga Berdé Mahl & Associates

New Rochelle Office
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New Rochelle, New York 10801

Phone: 914-336-2080
Phone: 917-723-6097
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