Brief information about legal matters in Indiana, provided as a public service, not legal advice. This information should not be used without speaking to a qualified attorney.
Q: My wife and I have some money in the bank and a little farm ground we rent out. If my wife goes into a nursing home, will we have to give it all up?
A: Possibly, but not necessarily. Medicare may pay some of the cost for up to 100 days. After that, you might need nearly all your resources to pay for a long-term stay. But your wife may qualify for Medicaid assistance if you meet the eligibility requirements. As a couple, you can keep more assets than an individual. And income-producing property like your farm ground is not counted in determining your eligibility. Speak with an attorney trained in Medicaid rules before assuming you can’t qualify.
Q: If I have a valid will when I die, does it ensure that all my assets go to the people I’ve chosen in the will?
A: No. Wills govern only assets that you own individually. Assets owned jointly, or with some type of beneficiary designation, are governed by different rules, not your will. Joint owner(s), or beneficiaries may well be different people than the ones named in your will. This is just one instance where your will might not govern distribution of your assets. Speak with an attorney, and review your joint holdings and beneficiary designations, when you prepare or update your will.
Q: If my husband opens a joint checking account in his name and mine and he dies, does the entire balance go to me?
A: Probably, but not necessarily. Normally, jointly owned assets go to the surviving owner when one party dies. But if someone else, such as another family member, can show by "clear and convincing evidence" that the person who died did not intend for the joint owner to receive the money in the account, the funds may be awarded to someone else based on the deceased owner’s will, or according to state law (based on Indiana Code 32-17-11-8).
Q: Can I transfer real estate to my adult children or other heirs at my death, without having to create or change my will?
A: Yes. Having a will, or reviewing the will you already have, is still a good idea. There are other ways to transfer real estate at your death, however. One is to use a "Transfer On Death" or "TOD" deed. An attorney can prepare this type of deed and help ensure that all requirements are met for it to be valid. If you choose, you can revoke the TOD deed or change the beneficiary before you die. (Based on Indiana Code 32-17-14-1 and following.)
Q: As long as I have a durable power of attorney, can I take care of my mother’s financial and legal affairs when she dies?
A: Not necessarily. A power of attorney gives one person the power to act on another’s behalf during the lifetime of the person who granted it (the grantor). When the grantor dies, the power of attorney expires, too. A durable power of attorney is called "durable" because it remains in effect after the grantor becomes incompetent – if the grantor later suffers from dementia, for example. (Based on Indiana Code 29-3-1-5)
Q: If I go into a nursing home, will I have to give up my house in order to be eligible for Medicaid benefits?
A: Not necessarily. If you are single and intend to return home after a nursing home stay, the home is not "counted" in determining your Medicaid eligibility. If you’re married and your spouse lives at home, the home does not "count," either. Under certain circumstances, you may be required to offer your home for sale or rent, however. After you die, the State of Indiana may also try to recover the money paid for your care. This might include taking funds from the sale of your house.
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