Late Life Divorce and Asset Protection

by Jerrold Bartholomew

Many Elder law attorneys advise loving couples to pursue divorce as a method of asset protection. I have never found the technique necessary and, frankly, find the approach ethically questionable. Alternatives exist for both pre-planning and crisis planning that avoid the murky waters of a consensual divorce between an otherwise happily-wed pair. It is my view that you should not have to pretend to be something that you are not in order to protect assets. I always counsel my clients to disclose everything on the Medicaid application. Failure to do so can be considered fraud and even carry federal penalties. It is my job as an estate planning to arrange my client’s estate in a manner that allows qualification. But that is not a matter of hiding assets–nor is it a manner of simply spending down. I have helped countless couples protect their estates from the cost of long-term care and there has never been a reason to resort to divorce.

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