Today, we’re going to look at Lady Bird Deeds, including what they are, what they do, and how they differ from traditional deeds, like regular general warranty deeds or life estates deeds. We’ll also look at how they fit into your estate planning, especially when considering the option of possible Medicaid or protecting against that.
I love these deeds because they can accomplish lots quickly. Why are they called Lady Bird Deeds? They get their name from Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the commander-in-chief originally responsible for implementing Medicaid.
I’ll be speaking on these deeds as they exist in the legal system of North Carolina because that’s the state where I practice law. However, many other states in the US also use and accept Lady Bird Deeds in much the same way. Let’s start by talking about why they are important to you and your estate plan.
Medicaid can put a lien on your house and take it when you pass if you have to draw on the system at any point to pay for long-term care. We’ve discussed before how 70% of seniors over 65 years of age are going to require some kind of long-term care, whether it’s in-home or at a nursing facility, before we pass. In order to qualify for Medicaid, we have to spend out of our own assets or have in place long-term care insurance and some type of plan to protect our assets. Lady Bird Deeds can help with that and be used to avoid having to give up your home at your passing to pay the lien that Medicaid may place on that house.
Let us compare Lady Bird Deeds to other deeds. There are general warranty deeds or regular fee simple deeds, which is when you pass everything to a grantee or whomever you may appoint. You may have chosen a life estate deed. These have been around for a long time and work a bit differently than a general warranty deed. Life estate deeds allow you to give away a future interest in property. You retain what’s called a life estate or a life interest in that property which allows you to sell or mortgage said life interest.
However, it is a very limited interest. At your passing, whomever you sold that life estate, that deed would automatically be jerked from that person’s possession and passed to whomever the future interest holder may perhaps be a son or daughter. This means life estate deeds are very limited. Also, life estate deeds do count as a transfer of assets and that would stick you with a penalty or prevent you from drawing Medicaid.
You would later have to void that transfer or re-transfer the property back to yourself to be able to qualify for Medicaid. A Lady Bird Deed is really the best of both worlds. This deed allows you to reserve a life interest in a property but it qualifies or defines that life interest as one that is like a fee simple full-ownership interest. You are still allowed to mortgage, sell, or gift the property and extinguish the future interest holder. You can control it fully, but you’ve already named a future interest holder in that Lady Bird Deed, which may be the son or daughter that you want to receive it once you pass.
A Medicaid lien will not attach to the property but because you’ve retained control of it, and it is not a countable asset transfer that will give you a penalty for time to qualify for Medicaid or otherwise deny you eligibility for Medicaid. You can literally give away the home and any surrounding contiguous property, which means property that is not separated by boundaries then go and apply for Medicaid the next day.
This works very well in North Carolina right now.
States such as Georgia and South Carolina, however, do not allow Lady Bird Deeds. At this point in time, they are allowable in North Carolina and this is a very good way, especially in an emergency situation, to transfer assets. There is a possibility in the future that the policy will change but that is always a possibility.
There are other ways to shield property, such as Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts, that are more advanced. However, Lady Bird Deeds are a simple way to transfer property and still qualify for Medicaid, while not allowing a Medicaid lien to be placed against your property. So, what should you do? By doing nothing, you risk losing your home that you have worked for. Some people have worked to pay off their home for 30+ years, meaning you have put a lot of time and energy into this property.
You would be losing, essentially, the American dream. Your home is part of that dream. Protect it by getting your property deeds in order. You can do this by using Lady Bird Deeds and other strategies, which can help save your property, but only if you take action.
Remember that a Medicaid look-back period is important in a lot of pre-planning and emergency situations involving a home. The clock is ticking, so contact an elder law attorney. You can visit our website at www.mcelderlaw.com or feel free to contact my office directly at (704) 259-7040. We would be glad to consult with you regarding the best approach to use to keep your hard earned properties, savings, and assets.
Call me if you have any questions:
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street, Shelby