2017 Marks New Changes to Medi-Cal Estate Recovery

As the saying goes, the only constant is change.

This adage certainly applies when it comes to strategies for protecting one's assets against Medi-Cal estate recovery.

Effective January 1, 2017, California's Medi-Cal recovery unit -- subject to certain limited exceptions -- will no longer seek reimbursement against assets held by the decedent in a revocable trust. Rather, Medi-Cal will henceforth collect only against assets subject to probate.

(Medi-Cal is California's version of Medicaid, which provides healthcare coverage to the disabled and to those of limited means. Probate is the court-directed settlement of estates governed by a will ("testate"), or by no will or other estate plan ("intestate").

Medi-Cal's new "hands-off" approach with respect to trust-held assets adds yet another incentive to placing property into a revocable trust. Trusts also avoid probate, allowing assets to pass upon death without court administration.

Note, however, that besides revocable trusts, other methods can be used to pass property without probate. Property held in joint-tenancy, for example, vest upon death of one joint-tenant in the name(s) of the surviving joint-tenant(s). But this approach carries its own unique risks.

The best plan of action is to sit down with an experienced attorney. It costs you nothing. Call Gale & Nielsen to arrange a complimentary half-hour consultation: (707) 269-0167.

Debating Whether to Revise Your Estate Plan? Fret Not: Even Geniuses Change Their Minds

One theory of estate planning postulates that once we’ve arranged our affairs “just so,” they should be held fast forever, within a fixed and unchanging framework.

Prudence, however, dictates that expanding stock portfolios -- like expanding families -- should prompt us to alter our perspectives. And our estate plans.

The next time you and your loved ones find yourselves in a changing world, fret not: History places you in some pretty esteemed company.

Take, for example, the individual widely regarded as the greatest intellect of the twentieth century. 

Would you believe that Albert Einstein himself was forced not only to rip-up his math books -- but to revise his very understanding of physics itself -- when he was proven catastrophically wrong about literally everything?

It’s true: The atom-smashing Nobel Laureate who first clocked the speed of light had long espoused a universal model in which the galactic realm was held forever fixed within a massive, static domain. The vast canvas of the stars, Einstein believed, was baked into the sky “just so.” Even the physics textbooks agreed.

Then along came a Belgian physicist who challenged this model -- positing instead that the heavens in fact were not set, but were ever hurtling outward through space in the manner of a violent explosion.

The mustachioed author of E=MC² blanched; never had the Austrian encountered such absurdity and, in 1927, Einstein dismissed as “an abomination” the Belgian interloper’s expansion model.

Four years later, science had confirmed the Belgian’s hypothesis. Pretty much everything, you could say, had changed. University physics books, though practically brand new, began “expanding” campus dumpsters. Meanwhile an expansion of greater magnitude was acknowledged far and wide as dogma: that all matter was derived from the mother of all firecrackers, latterly coined “the Big Bang.”

Einstein, humbled, went on to admit his foible. And his Static Universe joined the Flat Earth in the annals of scientific ignominy. 

The presence of so-called 'dark matter' may yet vindicate Einstein's theory of "everything" -- so all you e-textbook-writing physicists out there, take note.

Even still, change visits us all -- though thankfully on a somewhat smaller scale. The kids move back to Arcata… we inherit that Ferndale Victorian… the neighbors in McKinleyville finally relent on selling us the plot of seaside acreage. 

So, too may our estate plans appear perfectly dialed-in and set in stone… at first. But then the next moment -- Bang! -- our worlds expand.

If change is afoot in your domain, think about ‘pulling an Einstein’: Schedule an appointment with Gale & Nielsen to update your affairs. You’ll be in good company.

Attorney Found!

Our new associate attorney, Tiffany Lopez, joined us this week after a state-wide search that began in January and took longer than an entire season of American Idol. Tiffany relocated to Eureka from southern California, where she had been working in Los Angeles-area firms since graduating from The Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law in 2012. With her Bachelor's Degree from Humboldt State University, Tiffany has a strong background with our area and its people. We are thrilled to have Tiffany joining us, and look forward to introducing her to everyone we work with.