Contrary to what some may think, if you pass away without a will, the state will not keep all your belongings. Instead, the state provides your estate plan for you. Is it what you would have picked? Many times it is not. If you care where your belongings will go at your death, it is important to make your own decisions with a comprehensive estate plan. It is never too early to plan to avoid unintended consequences.
Are you caring for someone with special needs? If you pass away before that person, what will happen to them? Who will provide for their care? How will they be taken care of? Is your loved one on Medicaid? Are you leaving them an inheritance? If a person receiving Medicaid benefits is left assets that push them over the Medicaid threshold, they will be "kicked off" Medicaid. This can cause serious issues for someone who needs the benefits provided by Medicaid. These unintended consequences can be avoided by setting up a Supplemental Needs Trust, also commonly referred to as a Special Needs Trust, for your loved one. By leaving an inheritance to someone in this statutory trust, your loved one can still qualify for important government benefits. Medicaid planning is a complicated subject. Be sure to visit an attorney who is experienced in this particular type of planning when you update your estate planning documents.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling allowing same-sex marriages. The result is that Virginia same-sex couples may now legally marry. South Carolina is also in the Fourth Circuit. While this ruling does not negate the current state constitutional ban on marriages in South Carolina, it leaves room for the South Carolina case Bradacs v. Wilson to be decided in favor of marriage. Charleston County and Richland County Probate Courts accepted their first marriage license applications from same-sex couples this week. This move is undoubtedly foreshadowing events to come.
State and federal recognition of same-sex marriages provides rights and benefits to those couples. And like other couples, it is important to have your estate plan and health care directives carefully reviewed by your estate planning attorney.