For most Americans, entering and staying in the Middle Class was made possible through a combination of tax and social policies that allowed poor and lower income people to gain an economic foothold through home ownership and savings. However, longevity, ill health and the need for publicly supported health insurance – Medicaid – have wiped out that opportunity, driving Americans deeper into poverty and depriving generations from acquiring the “American Dream” through gradual asset accumulation. This article describes the Rhodes family’s medical crisis which forced its ill, aging matriarch into applying for Medicaid insurance. With Medicaid’s onerous income and asset limitations, coupled by Medicaid’s reimbursement laws, millions of Americans and their families are being stripped of their meager finances and, over time, denied access to upward economic mobility.
In an eye opening article, the story of the Reels family highlights the dangers of not having an estate plan—namely, a will—to establish and protect property rights for securing wealth and stability for future generations. For over a 100 years, the Reels family struggled to hold onto their 65 acres of rich North Carolina marsh land where the remaining two brothers lived and worked. After being jailed for eight years for civil contempt for refusing a Court order to move off their property, the two brothers lose their fight. The Reels family saga exemplifies the plight of thousands of southern Black Americans who, distrustful of the law, incorrectly thought that having no will would result in protecting their family members’ land rights. Little did most families understand that the lack of an estate plan created unclear property titles, subjecting future heirs to systemic legal attacks by not only other heirs but land speculators, onerous tax takings, exclusion from capital and insurance markets, and blatant trickery that ultimately deprived generations of Black families of their property.