Elder law is a broad practice area centered around long-term care planning, asset protection, and many related issues. There are endless stories of folks needing long-term care, yet their families wait until it’s too late to hire an attorney or just simply don’t hire an attorney at all. This leaves families with depleted wealth, heavier burdens and likely a mess on their hands. That is reason enough to hire an elder law attorney for long-term care planning, but below, you will find 10 more reasons.
Need elder law help? My office regularly handles matters related to elder law, so please contact me today if you are interested in advanced planning or if you or your loved ones are facing a situation where long-term care may be necessary.
1. Navigate Benefits Programs: Medicare and Medicaid sound similar, but the programs couldn’t be more different. Medicaid is the program that pays for long-term care. Medicaid contains several sub-programs, including covering skilled nursing home costs and some home care options that are not as widely known. There are other programs outside of Medicaid, such as Veterans Pension Benefits.
2. Medicaid Applications Are Complicated: A Medicaid application may appear at first blush to be a simple form, but the form is just the beginning. Application supplements are key, and when to apply is also key. Familiarity with the County Assistance Office (where the application is filed) is critical. If a Medicaid application is denied, which does happen, you want an attorney by your side to respond strategically. The Medicaid application is just part of the overall process, particularly if you are looking to protect part of your assets.
3. “Spend Down” Rules Are Complicated / But There Are Hidden Opportunities: An elder law attorney can help preserve part of your estate, both in advance and at a critical time of needing long-term care. Yes, even though Medicaid has a five-year look back for gifts and transfers, there may last minute planning opportunities.
4. A Last Will & Testament Is Not Sufficient: Yes, you need a will, but don’t forget about a well-written Durable Power of Attorney. Without a good POA, your family and attorney may be limited in planning opportunities if you are incapacitated (See #3 above).
5. Is The Nursing Home Looking Out For You, Or For Them?: A nursing home social worker can certainly help a family with a Medicaid application, but they are unlikely to assist with asset protection. Hiring an attorney after the assets are depleted is too late.
6. Our Affairs Aren’t Simple: Have a small business? Several rental properties? Second marriage? Disabled spouse or beneficiary? Taking care of grandkids? Multiple family members living in your house? Both spouses disabled? I could go on, but these are just a sampling of the situations and issues that make planning more complex, and without an experienced elder law attorney helping you navigate the system, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
7. Not Just Crisis Planning: An elder law attorney can help you plan for long-term care in advance, analyzing your options and putting your wishes into force. For instance, an elder law attorney can create a “Medicaid Asset Protection Trust” that allows you to protect portions of your estate, such as a second home or “never money” that you want to pass onto your heirs.
8. Medicaid Rules Are Complex: Medicaid is one of the most complex areas of law. The federal government sets laws, rules and regulations, and then each individual state also has their own Medicaid rules and regulations. Furthermore, Medicaid programs can change at any time, either by virtue of Congress or federal courts ruling on issues that change (for better or worse) Medicaid eligibility, benefits and use of various planning strategies.
9. Mistakes Can Be Costly: Hiring an attorney mid-way through the elder planning or Medicaid application process, or after problems arise will cost more than if you hired the attorney in the first place to help plan and execute the strategy from the get-go. Sure, legal fees can be costly, but with nursing home fees approximately $150,000 per year and quickly rising, the stakes are high, and elder law attorneys earn every penny by helping your family have peace of mind and preserving the maximum amount of the estate possible.
10. Get Your Legacy Plan In Order: An elder law attorney that also is experienced in estate planning can help blend all of your legacy planning—that is, making sure your assets are protected for the next generation(s), limiting taxes as much as possible, and planning for elder law matters. All of these goals tend to be interrelated, and in the end, by planning, you’ll be leaving a positive legacy that your family will remember.