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Attorney Randy Ratliff

VA Eligibility Trusts

Estate Planning Lawyer Serving Nashville

The term “estate planning” can be somewhat of a misnomer. While estate planning can, and often does, include preparation of documents that do not become effective until the death of individual who is planning his or her estate, there are other tools that can help someone plan for certain situations that may occur during his or her lifetime. In addition to documents like living wills and healthcare directives, trusts can be a good option for many who are looking to maximize wealth, minimize taxes, and, sometimes, increase the chances of eligibility for certain needs-based government benefits. VA eligibility trusts fall in the latter category, potentially assisting a veteran in his or her quest to qualify for benefits unique to veterans, such a certain pensions (basic, aid & attendance, household, survivors, etc.). Nashville estate planning attorney Randy Ratliff can help you decide if a VA eligibility trust is right for your situation.

While some types of veterans’ benefits are not tied to income or wealth, there are some programs from which a veteran can be disqualified if he or she has assets worth more than a particular amount set by the government. In some situations, a veteran may be able to place the bulk of his or her assets into a trust; because the assets then legally belong to the trust (which is its own legal entity), the veteran may then qualify for benefits to which he or she would not have otherwise been entitled. Of course, there is a “catch.” VA eligibility trusts are usually considered to be irrevocable.

Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts

There are several different ways to classify trusts. An inter vivos trust goes into effect while the trustor is still living, while a testamentary trust is not effective until the trustor has passed away. Trusts may also be classified as either revocable or irrevocable. As the terms suggest, a revocable trust can be revoked or “undone” by the trustee, but an irrevocable trust cannot (at least under most circumstances). Thus an irrevocable trust should only be entered into if the trustor fully understands both the risks and potential benefits of such an arrangement and is willing to allow someone else (the trustee) to have exclusive, permanent control over assets placed in the trust.

It is important that a trustworthy person be named as trustee in a VA eligibility trust, as this person will potentially have the authority to control the trustor’s assets for the rest of his or her life. While there are rules that prohibit a trustee from stealing or deliberately squandering trust assets, even an honest trustee has a level of control that could be uncomfortable for many trustors. If you are considering entering into a VA eligibility trust, you should talk to a qualified lawyer about any questions or concerns that you have so that you can fully understand the legal arrangement that you are considering. There may be other, more attractive options that will accomplish your purpose.

Schedule an Appointment With an Estate Planning Attorney in Nashville

The laws, rules, and regulations that govern trusts can change over time. Issues such as whether a look-back period applies to certain trust situations may mean that a trust is advisable for one person while not a good option for another. If you have been thinking about setting up a VA elibiglity trust or have other questions about your estate planning options, the Randy Ratliff Law Offices, PLLC, can help. To set up an appointment, call us at 615-656-8282 or contact us online. We assist those in both Davidson and Williamson Counties with many types of estate planning tools, including wills, powers of attorney, and a wide array of trust documents. If you live in Cool Springs, Franklin, Nashville, Brentwood, or elsewhere in the greater Nashville area, we would be happy to discuss your situation with you and help you formulate the most effective estate plan for your situation. We also handle family law and elder law matters, including divorce and child custody cases, conservatorships, and elder financial abuse cases.