DEAR BRUCE: I have a question about the look-back period. When you talk about giving someone $14,000 tax-free a year, is this money they would look to recover if the look-back period has not been met? If I gave a granddaughter this money, let's say for a car or whatever, would they be able to come back to her for the money if I became ill within that five-year period? — Peg, via email
DEAR PEG: I am not sure why you are asking about a look-back. The look-back is only pertinent when you have collected money under Medicaid or some similar government-sponsored program and you have given away money that would otherwise be expected to be used as repayment.
In other words, say you are in a nursing home and you give your money away, whether it's $14,000 tax-free every year or some other method. Unless you do this at least three years before you collect welfare, the government can legitimately object, saying you can't give your money away because you're doing it to impoverish yourself so the government will pay your expenses. You would be seen as trying to avoid paying your own bills.
I don't know of any other circumstance where a look-back has an application. It could be that if you were giving money away like crazy, and then die leaving debts behind, the creditors will find out you disposed of money that way. They in turn might go to the recipients and demand the money be returned.
DEAR BRUCE: I am writing to get your thoughts relative to writing a newspaper column. I have written pieces for 2 1/2 years. Within the last year I offered the paper another column titled "Nonprofit Briefs." The former column appears on the first Sunday of the month and the latter on the third Sunday.
As I read my column each Sunday, I also read yours. I am making the assumption you are a professional writer. I am not, but I would like to expand my horizons.
I enjoy reading and writing, and it crossed my mind that I could continue to do this as I age. Writing keeps me in the game, staying relevant, current and contemporary. I enjoy doing the research. Is it feasible to earn some part-time income writing? — Fred, via email
DEAR FRED: Unfortunately, your timing couldn't be worse. The problem right now is that the newspaper industry is having serious income problems. I believe that these will work themselves out over a period of time, but in the meantime, being paid for writing a column is becoming more and more difficult.
You make an assumption that I am a professional writer. I have written a column for 30 years. I suspect that maybe I can be described as professional. I, too, write the column principally because I enjoy it, certainly not for the income that it generates.
You can keep slugging away and applying to various newspapers and other print sources. It's possible that you may make connections, but don't be disappointed by being turned down. It's not a question of not having a good product; it's a question of the numbers of columns being eliminated because of serious income constraints.