General Points

General miscellaneous legal points that may be helpful to you before you talk with one of the attorneys at Little and Lattimore, P.A. :

* Don’t ever pay a traffic ticket in North Carolina without first talking with an attorney who knows and understands the very technical and complicated system of points that cause your auto liability insurance premiums to sky-rocket. Your attorney could literally save you hundreds of dollars in premiums… far more than your legal fees and court costs.

* Don’t sign a contract to purchase land or a house with the mistaken belief that you can back out of it later and merely forfeit your deposit. You could be sued for specific performance (i.e., force you to buy it!) if the seller objects. Sellers can also be sued for specific performance (force them to sell it) if they back out.

* If you own your own business, your personal assets (home, auto, etc.) could be at risk if you have not insulated yourself from liability with a proper business structure such as a business corporation (C type or S type) or a limited liability company (LLC).

* Knowing and trusting the seller in a real estate transaction is not a good reason not to have a title examination. Sometimes title defects are discovered in a title examination that the seller had no idea about. It’s much easier to correct these problems before the sale takes place.

* Don’t ever name minor children as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy. If your death occurs while they are still minors, the proceeds must be paid into the Court and must be invested in very low-yield FDIC-insured bank certificates of deposit. Your Will should include a trust for minor children (or grandchildren) and there is a special way to designate this minor’s trust as the beneficiary on your insurance policy.

* A verbal agreement to buy or sell land (the “handshake deal”) is not valid in North Carolina.

* Any property you inherit or that is given just to you as a gift remains your separately-owned property in the event you later divorce… provided you do not add your spouse’s name to it. (There are some exceptions to this).

* IRAs are great for allowing you to build up a good retirement fund, so plan to use it up during your retirement. How your spouse handles the balance in your IRA at your death can make a big difference in the amount of money available. An IRA is sometimes a terrible way to transfer money to your children, but it can be an excellent way to make a gift to your church, college or favorite charity.

Brief Summary of the law regarding Medicaid and Nursing Home Payments:

1) A major upheaval in the public policy of the United States in the area of Medicaid and its coverage of senior adults’ nursing home and other medical care has been thrust upon us by the action of Congress in adopting the “2005 Deficit Reduction Act.” We must now realize that nobody but the poorest of the poor are entitled to have the government pay for long-term nursing home care. Each person/family must provide for their own long-term nursing home care. Ideally, individuals and families should start planning for this years before it is needed.

2) Where possible, long term care insurance is probably the best plan to have a source of money to pay for nursing home care. Regular health insurance does NOT cover nursing home care and PROBABLY does not cover any of the costs of assisted living expenses to allow senior adults to stay at home with moderate assistance or supervision.

3) During the 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, the discussion was “How much financial responsibility should the federal government have in assuring long-term nursing home care for senior adults?” After the 2005 DRA, the issue has apparently been decided by Congress: Most individuals and families must use their own resources to pay for the long-term nursing home care of their beloved senior adult family members.

4) In North Carolina, the 2005 federal law was not adopted until November 2007, but it came in slinging a hammer! The concept of “Medicaid planning” is essentially no longer possible. The worst thing a family can do is to go to a lawyer and have the deed for the homeplace signed over to the children when a parent is in poor health and likely headed to a nursing home. Medicaid will assess a penalty of some number of months that causes the parent not to be eligible for Medicaid to pay any nursing home costs if this happens. The number of months is calculated based on the tax value of the property, but the count-down of penalty months doesn’t even start until the parent actually applies for Medicaid, not when the gift is made!