A Tale of Two Georges
If George Foreman can name all his kids George, I can name my two fictional characters George. Let me introduce “Slick” George and “Sensible” George.
Let’s start with Slick. Slick George owns a lovely four-bedroom home in Bedford worth in the neighborhood of $700,000. Slick decides that after his painful divorce he needs some consolation. Vegas provides the seductive antidote: beautiful babes, exotic entertainment and, of course, the roulette tables. Slick books the flight and you can predict the rest of the story. By week’s end Caesar’s Palace is the proud owner of a lovely four-bedroom home in Bedford.
On the flip side of the coin we have Sensible George. Sensible inherited the family homestead in Hollis more than 50 years ago. It has been in George’s family for three generations. According to the town assessor, the small house on five acres is worth about $800,000. Sensible has always managed his finances wisely and, with the death of his wife of 45 years, he wants to give the family homestead to his daughter and her three children. Sensible deeds the house to his daughter on the same day Slick George deeds his house over to the boys at Caesar’s Palace. A few weeks later Sensible moves into the same small, adult-only mobile home park as Slick George.
Fast forward three years and three months later. Sensible George is driving home from his granddaughter’s college graduation, hits a moose and ends up paralyzed from the neck down. He is forced to reside in a nursing home for the rest of his life. About the same time, as luck would have it, Slick George has a serious stroke that requires round-the-clock nursing care.
By this time you are thinking: Why do I care what happens to either Slick or Sensible? Because in the eyes of the state of New Hampshire Sensible George is the fraud, the bad actor that has intentionally screwed the state out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Slick George is the impoverished saint.
Let me bring you up to speed. In 2005, New Hampshire law on Medicaid and asset transfers was tightened. Under the new law, if you have the misfortune of requiring long-term care within five years of gifting to your children (i.e. the family homestead in Hollis) or your grandchildren (i.e. a college fund) and such care exhausts your remaining resources (not hard to do when nursing home costs can reach $90,000 per year), New Hampshire has the right to look back at the assets gifted to your family member. (Note: The definition of family does not include the croupier at Caesar’s Palace, proving the old adage that what you take to Vegas stays in Vegas.)
To add insult to injury, State Senator Bob Clegg wants to up the ante. Clegg’s “new” idea: The “Send Granny’s Lawyer to Jail” bill. Clegg wants to criminalize the action of any lawyer or accountant who counsels a person transferring assets to family members who, within the five-year look back, ends up incapacitated and on Medicaid/state assistance.
Got it? Squander the cash at the roulette tables or on the ponies, no questions asked. Provide for your children and your grandchildren, get labeled a swindler, slap your lawyer or accountant with a misdemeanor and provide the government with an excuse to take the family homestead.
Forecasting a debilitating illness or accident within a five-year window is absurd. New Hampshire lawmakers need to face the facts: A desperate government with no solutions does desperate things. NH
Arnie Arnesen, a former Democratic nominee for Congress and Governor, has been a fixture on the state political scene for two decades. Her Web site is www.arniearnesen.com.