One simple way you can reduce estate taxes or shelter assets in order to achieve Medicaid eligibility is to give some or all of your estate to your children (or anyone else) during their lives in the form of gifts. Certain rules apply, however. There is no actual limit on how much you may give during your lifetime. But if you give any individual more than $13,000 (in 2009 and 2010) ($12,000 in 2008), you must file a gift tax return reporting the gift to the IRS. Also, the amount above $13,000 will be counted against a $1 million lifetime tax exclusion for gifts. Each dollar of gift above $1 million reduces the amount that can be transferred tax-free in your estate.
The $13,000 figure is an exclusion from the gift tax reporting requirement. You may give $13,000 to each of your children, their spouses, and your grandchildren (or to anyone else you choose) each year without reporting these gifts to the IRS. In addition, if you’re married, your spouse can duplicate these gifts. For example, a married couple with four children can give away up to $96,000 in 2008 and $104,000 in 2009 and 2010 with no gift tax implications. In addition, the gifts will not count as taxable income to your children (although the earnings on the gifts if they are invested will be taxed). For more on gifting, see our affiliated web site, Elder Law Answers, click Gifts to Grandchildren.
Warning: Annual gifting may impact your Medicaid planning. Consult your elder law attorney before gifting!
Charitable Gift Annuities
Another way to remove assets from an estate is to make a contribution to a charitable gift annuity, or CGA. A CGA enables you to transfer cash or marketable securities to a charitable organization or foundation in exchange for an income tax deduction and the organization’s promise to make fixed annual payments to you (and to a second beneficiary, if you choose) for life. A portion of the income will be tax-free. For more on CGAs, click here.