On January 23, 2015, in an attempt to “maintain the integrity of the program,” the VA proposed sweeping changes to its regulations regarding net worth and asset transfers. While some of the proposed changes may be favorable to a claimant by providing some clarity and consistency, many of them may significantly impact a veteran’s eligibility for benefits and the timeline in which they will be received.
The Good: Establishing a Bright Line Net Worth Limit
Currently, the VA does not have a clearly established net worth limit. While the VA takes into account such factors as liquidity of assets, number of dependents, and life expectancy of the claimant, there are no definitive criteria for determining whether a claimant’s resources are sufficient to meet their basic needs without the pension. However, it has been our experience that only those applicants with a net worth below $80,000 (the lower, the better!) are seriously considered.
With the increase in complexity of today's family structures and the dynamics that can result, the family members of a loved one who has passed away often find themselves in a position in which they question the validity of their loved one's purported estate plan. The family members may doubt that the decedent's disposition actually reflects his or her wishes, and as a result, the family may want to challenge the will's validity. In order to successfully do so, the family members typically must file a will contest action. In such actions, the court is asked to disregard the decedent's will and instead provide a distribution of the decedent's estate which more closely resembles what the decedent actually intended. The family members must allege that there are grounds for setting aside the decedent's will, including the following:
- Undue influence—A will contest on the basis of undue influence involves the issue of whether the decedent, of his or her own free will, made the distribution provided in his or her estate plan, free from coercion by another individual. In Pennsylvania, a person challenging a will on the basis of undue influence must demonstrate the following elements: 1) a confidential relationship between the proponent of the will's validity and the testator; 2) the proponent of the will's validity receives a substantial benefit under the will; and 3) the testator had a weakened intellect.
“My husband and I are both in our 70’s so it was time to get something done. We have four children so we wanted documents prepared that would make sure they were all well taken care of in the future. We also wanted to make sure we were prepared financially in case either of us had to receive care in a nursing home or assisted living. The people at Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak were so warm and personable. Just about my entire immediate family came with my husband and me to see them. We were welcomed in such a comfortable and friendly way! I’d had other family members who’d received assistance there in the past and spoke so highly of the staff, so the choice was easy as far as who to go to. I can see why they came so highly recommended. I can’t say enough about having the peace of mind that comes when you know things have been taken care of and are now completed. My one daughter was a little apprehensive as to how all of this was going to get done but they met all of our needs. We now feel like the staff at Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak are a part of our family.”
Mary Jean Ayres, Troy, PA