Dear Mr. Miller:
Introduction: My Mom needs to apply for Medi-Cal. She is in a skilled nursing facility and it is costing $15,000 per month. That is about $12,000 more than she brings in each month so she is going to be out $144,000 by the end of the year. All she owns is her Los Angeles house and a bank account of $100,000. So she needs Medi-Cal help. But she can’t have more than $2000 to qualify. The lawyer prepared a special trust to which she could transfer everything and then she would qualify. But when we got to the lawyer’s office, we realized that she needs identification for the Notary Public. She doesn’t’ have any as her driver’s license expired about 10 years ago.
What can we do fast as everyday is costing more money?
QMap Trust: I assume the special trust is what we call a QMap Trust. The QMap Trust will own the house and the bank account and is irrevocable. Therefore, your Mom will not own these assets, will have less than $2000 to her name and, thereby, will qualify for Medi-Cal. There are some issues about look back periods and penalty periods, but with good advice, they should not be a significant problem. But the identification issue is.
Notary Public Acknowledgement: First, in order to transfer the title of the house to the QMap Trust, a deed is probably going to be used. And that deed will need to be recorded if the house is going to be sold or if you are going to want to take out a mortgage against it (either before or after your Mom dies). In order to record the deed, a notary will need to complete the acknowledgement section (i.e. it will need to be notarized). The notary cannot do that without “satisfactory evidence.” The California legislature has determined that there are only a few acceptable forms of identification. The ones most likely held by your Mom would be a driver’s license or a U.S. Passport. Both of those must either be current (i.e. not expired) or issued within the last 5 years.
Senior Citizen ID Card: You indicate that the former expired some time ago and assuming she does not have the latter the only other likely candidate is an identification card issued by the DMV. There are two types: the general one and the Senior Citizen ID Card for those over age 62. The latter is free. All that is needed is a birth certificate (several other documents will substitute for the birth certificate) and a few other documents that should be readily available. It usually takes 14 days after application to receive the ID card.
Application in Person: The application (DL 44) for the ID card needs to be made in person as a thumbprint is required along with a photo. You can complete the application beforehand if you call the DMV to have it mailed to you (the application is not available online).
If your Mom is not ambulatory the requirement to appear in person can present a problem. On occasion I have had clients hire a nurse to assist the senior in and out of the car and into a wheelchair to appear before the DMV. That procedure may be expensive but it pales in comparison to the savings of over $100,000 that you are after.
Credible Witness Alternative: Another approach is to have your Mom’s identity established by a credible witness personally known to the Notary or by two credible witnesses if they are not personally known to the Notary. The credible witnesses must personally know your Mom and not be financially interested in the QMap Trust transaction. (That latter requirement probably eliminates you as a credible witness.) There are certain identification requirements of the credible witnesses so if you are going to follow this route, speak to the Notary first, make sure he/she is aware of this procedure, and determine who will qualify as the credible witnesses. Rather than having you, your Mom, and the credible witnesses appear at the Notary’s place of business, hire a Mobile Notary (readily available by an internet search) to come to your house for a small additional fee.
Do It Now to Avoid Problems Later: My advice to all seniors who no longer have drivers licenses is to get the Senior Citizen ID card now when you don’t need it so that you have it when you do. The Senior ID Card is valid for 10 years. It is renewable one time by mail or online.