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“Nice” Lawyer Costs Family $300,000.00

by Michael Ettinger, Esq.

A couple came in to see me today for the husband’s 88 year old father who is a nursing home in Florida. They now wish to bring him up to New York to be nearer to the family. He has about $600,000 in assets, including his home.

They told me about the very nice lawyer he has down on the west coast of Florida, who set up a revocable living trust for Dad and for Mom who died last year, in February of 2006, and amended it in March of 2010.

They had a great deal of confidence in the lawyer, especially since he had won an award as one of the top lawyers in the locality.

Regrettably, while the attorney prepared a fine estate plan, he was not an elder law attorney and took no steps to protect the couples’ assets back in 2006, when they were well into their eighties.

Had the lawyer been knowledgeable in elder law, which unfortunately so many estate planning attorneys are not, he would have set up a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) and started the five year “look back” period running. It is now February, 2011, five years later. Had the MAPT been set up when it should have, in February 2006, instead of the revocable living trust, all of Dad’s assets would now be protected and he would be eligible for Medicaid benefits to pay for the cost of his nursing home care.

Instead, the couple will only save half the assets by using the “gift and loan” strategy developed by elder law attorneys to save half the assets on the nursing home doorstep when the client has failed to set up the MAPT. The technique is also call “half a loaf” planning after the old expression.

Nevertheless, the “nice” lawyer ended up costing the family $300,000.00 and it is not the first time we have seen it happen. Indeed, it is the reason your writer published “Ettinger on Elder Law Estate Planning”, available on Amazon.com. We believe that clients need a new york “elder law estate planning” attorney and not just an “estate planning” attorney so mistakes like this no longer happen to good people.

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