Question: Dear Luise: I have a question for my mother-in-law. She has $40,000 to her name. Her husband is very sick in the hospital. We don’t know what the bills will come to and we want to advise her in some way to help. They currently rent a condo. They had to sell their home due to finances. What would you recommend them doing? In August she is going to be collecting her social security. Who would we go to for advice to protect her? Her husband has already filed bankruptcy in the past 6 months. We don’t want her to lose her nest egg of $40,000. Could she possibly gift us the money and we could purchase a place for them to live that would really be theirs, but in our names to protect them? Thanks for helping me, Christine
Answer: Dear Christine: Your in-laws are very lucky to have an advocate. It sounds like they are about to be boxed in by their circumstances and need to take action. People often don’t see this kind of thing coming a get broad-sided. The wiser path is to prepare for it in advance…a lesson that may come in handy for you later on in your own life.
I have no idea where you live, therefore I can’t research what kind of services are available. You did mention Social Security, so it is probably the US. The IRS has a limit regarding how much money can be gifted, tax-free in a year. The last time I checked it was $7,000., but that may have changed.
In Snohomish County, Washington State, (where I live), the place to go with your very valid questions would be to the the Snohomish County Senior Services office. They have counselors who are trained to address financial and medical issues and can refer people to lawyers who practice Elder Law. Their number is in all of the phone books and is toll-free. Beside consultants, they have a very elaborate system of home care, adult day care, meals delivered to those who need them and subsidized housing…to name a few. All kinds of help is available if you know where to go and who to ask.
It is easy to make a costly mistake due to lack of information, so you need to get on this right away. Blessings, Luise