I'm 56, divorced, retired military, in my second career, have a mortgage, and a fair amount of life insurance.
Some of the life-insurance, paid for through my military retirement, is encumbered by a Financial Settlement from divorcing after 31 years (18 of that in the Military).
I'm in a second career (federal government - 14.5 years) and have retirement (federal Employee Retirement System (FERS)) and life insurance (Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI). The ex-wife is currently the beneficiary.
I now have a partner who I would like to make the beneficiary, but I want to ensure what assets I have are protected and channeled in the direction I want.
Shielding assets from taxes and medicaid is also important.
Should I be looking at a will or a trust?
It depends. Both devices could work to accomplish your goals. With every estate plan, it needs to be personally drafted for you and so you would want to sit down and talk with an attorney at least by phone. Most of us who do estate planning do so for people across the estate and across the country. David Rich out of Boulder, CO on Avvo is excellent. I have been doing estate planning over the past 22 years. I could give you more names and credentials if you would like.
The information provided in this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are interested in his legal services, feel free to call Chris at (303) 409-7635 at his law office in the Denver Tech Center. All initial consultations are free of charge.
Estate Planning Attorney
Neither a Living Revocable Trust or a Will enables you to protect assets from your ex-wife or from a Medicaid lien.
If you are not under a court order to name your ex-wife as a beneficiary of your life insurance, Colorado law voids the beneficiary designation upon the dissolution of marriage. However, to be on the safe side, I'd still change the beneficiary.
Unless your estate is greater than $5,250,000 your estate will not be subject to the federal estate tax. However, you may want to establish an estate plan than would avoid probate and minimize your exposure to a Medicaid lien. There are also methods available to redistribute assets in order to meet the "spend down" of resources that Medicaid requires.
These are complicated issues and procedures. Your first step is to locate an experienced estate planning attorney who also is knowledgeable about Medicaid Planning.
Legal Disclaimer: James A. Littlepage is licensed to practice law in Colorado, and as such, his answers to Avvo inquiries are based on his understanding of Colorado law only. His answers are for general information about perceived legal issues within this question only and no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to extend any right of confidentiality between you and Mr. Littlepage, to constitute legal advice, or create an attorney/client or other contractual relationship. An attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement including an evaluation of the specific legal problem and review of all the facts and documents at issue. We try to insure the accuracy of this information, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. Laws change quickly, and the reader should always insure that legal information of any kind is up to date and accurate before relying on it. The reader should never assume that this information applies to his or her specific situation or constitutes legal advice. Therefore, please consult competent counsel that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction and who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances.
Elder Law Attorney
As Attorney Littlepage states, neither a Living Revocable Trust or a Will enables you to protect assets from a Medicaid lien. While an Irrevocable Trust might work for Medicaid protection, provided it is established more than five years before you make application, the terms and conditions that are required are so onerous and restrictive that most people don't want to give up that much control. One of the simplest and best tools for protecting your assets from Medicaid recovery is a durable general power of attornet with unresticted gifting powers. This isn't something you will find on line and I suggest you consult with an experienced elder law attorney to review your options. You are lucky that there are several good ones in Grand Junction.