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Rhode Island Elder Law - Frequently Asked Questions for Senior Citizens by a Rhode Island lawyer


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1) What documents should I have in my estate plan?

Every person over the age of 65 should have the following documents: a will, a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.

2) What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is also referred to as a Healthcare Power of Attorney. It allows you to designate another person to make healthcare decisions in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. For example, if you are unconscious or incompetent, your healthcare agent will make all necessary decisions regarding your care. You can specify your wishes in the document so your agent knows how to treat you on your behalf.

3) Will the State take my house if I go into a nursing home?

No. The State of Rhode Island will not take your primary residence at any time while you are alive or your spouse is alive. The State may hold a lien against your estate after your death, at which time the house may need to be sold to satisfy the lien. However, the lien is never placed while you are alive, and if you are survived by a spouse living in the residence, the lien is extinguished at your death.

4) What steps should I take to protect the house in case of nursing home costs?

One of the best ways to add protection in your estate plan is to transfer the title of your primary residence to your children while retaining a life estate. The life estate allows you to live in the house for the remainder of your natural life, while transferring the title of the house to the children. This method provides complete protection for the house after any applicable penalty period has expired and does not have any adverse tax consequences.

5) Are there any means for me to retain control of my assets while simultaneously protecting them from the reach of nursing homes?

The short answer is no. The basic principle is that if you can reach or control your assets, then the nursing home can reach and gain control of those assets. There are various means of asset protection that can be employed and you should seek our counsel.

6) What law will govern the strategies and state determinations?

The regulations of your state of principal residence will govern all medical assistance decisions. The system is federally legislated, but locally regulated. Each state has its own enforcement procedures which must be adhered to strictly.

David Slepkow is a Rhode Island lawyer. He practices at Slepkow Slepkow & Associates, East Providence Rhode Island. Please go to for more information or to contact David Slepkow.


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