What is Elder Law?
Elder law is an area of law that places an emphasis on the legal issues that affect the elderly and their families. Elder law encompasses long-term care planning, securing government benefits to finance the cost of long-term care, asset protection, estate planning, and planning for incapacity.
What makes your firm different?
Long-term care “crisis” planning is all we do. We have dedicated our practice exclusively to serving the legal and financial needs of the elderly in need of long-term care. We believe strongly in what we do and we love helping people protect what they’ve worked a lifetime to build. We know how to tackle complex legal matters in simple ways that our clients understand and appreciate. Our firm has the skill, training and experience to make a difference in our client’s lives.
My loved one is already in a nursing home, is it too late to plan?
No. It’s never too late to protect your assets even if your loved one is already in a nursing home. Someone may have told you that it’s too late to do anything because there is now a five-year look-back period. They “assume” that there is nothing that you can do. Often the people giving bad Medicaid advice include well-meaning lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and even nursing home staff. But the truth is it’s never too late to take planning steps to protect your assets. It’s only too late if you have no assets or money left, so the sooner you get started the more you can protect.
My assets are in a revocable living trust, are they protected?
No. Assets in a revocable living trust are considered “countable” assets under the Medicaid rules. As such, they are available to a nursing home and thus not protected.
Is the initial consultation free?
Yes. We will meet with you in our office to discuss your personal situation and how we might be able to help you. At that meeting, we will fully explain to you our planning process and our fees. If you choose not to hire us, then you will owe us nothing.
What do I bring to the first meeting?
Prior to the meeting we will send you a Client Questionnaire to complete and bring to the meeting with you. If you are attending on behalf of a loved one, then you will also need to bring a copy of his or her Power of Attorney.
Does Medicare pay for nursing home care?
Medicare does not pay for long-term custodial nursing home care. It may cover some of the costs of a short term skilled nursing stay (i.e. rehab/therapy) lasting 100 days or less.
What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a national health care insurance program for individuals who have income and resources at or below established levels. The Medicaid program pays for nursing home care if the applicant is eligible. There are strict eligibility requirements that must be met before Medicaid will pay. This includes a means test on the amount of income and assets that you have. The fact is, very few people will qualify for Medicaid without proper planning. The Medicaid rules are nearly impossible for the layperson to understand and qualifying for Medicaid has always been difficult. Unfortunately, the Deficit Reduction Act passed by Congress on February 8, 2006 has made this process even more complicated.
What is Medicaid Planning?
Most people simply cannot afford to pay $6,000 to $7,000 per month for nursing home care. Those who can pay for a while may find their life savings wiped out in a matter of months, rather than years. The goal of Medicaid planning is to qualify your loved one for Medicaid benefits as soon as possible and to protect their assets to the greatest extent possible. Many people think they have to be totally impoverished before Medicaid will begin to pay for their nursing home care. However, this is not the case and the guidance and advice from a qualified elder law attorney is critical. In many situations, with careful planning, property and assets can be protected while still qualifying for Medicaid benefits. You don’t have to go broke or lose your home to qualify for Medicaid.
Can I give away my assets to my children to become eligible for Medicaid?
A transfer of assets within five years of applying for Medicaid benefits will result in a penalty period of ineligibility if the transfer is not done properly. The penalty is a period of time you will not be eligible for nursing home Medicaid benefits. The length of the penalty depends on the amount of the gift. The penalty period will start when you would “otherwise” be eligible for Medicaid. You should never attempt to give assets away without first obtaining professional advice and guidance from a qualified elder law attorney. There are still legal strategies available that involve transfers or gifts done for asset protection purposes. However, it must be done right and any mistake could lead to a long penalty period and unintended consequences.
Why do I need professional help to apply for Medicaid, can’t I just submit an application?
Many people apply for coverage without professional help. But beware, this is a complicated field that most people deal with only once in their lives. Tens of thousands of dollars are at stake. The Medicaid rules are nearly impossible for the layperson to understand. The Medicaid office will not tell you how to protect your assets. Our firm offers specialized knowledge, skill, and experience to help you follow all the proper application rules and procedures, and handle all of the necessary legal correspondence with the Medicaid office. More importantly, we offer a range of options and strategies for protecting your assets. We will see your case through to its conclusion and work hard to produce a positive outcome for you and your family.
Can’t the nursing home social worker help me complete and file the Medicaid application?
This is a big mistake! The timing of the Medicaid application is critical. It may be hard to believe, but allowing a nursing home social worker to help you fill out a “simple” Medicaid application can cause you to lose thousands of dollars, and create a Medicaid penalty because you applied too early. The Medicaid rules are even more complicated and less understood than the tax rules. Only a qualified elder law attorney can determine when you should apply for Medicaid.
I’m a veteran of WWII, are there any veterans benefits available to pay the nursing home?
Yes. One of the VA’s best kept secrets is a benefit known as “Aid & Attendance” (A&A). This is a non-service connected disability pension benefit and is an excellent potential source of funds to help pay the nursing home. A&A is available to wartime veterans and their surviving spouses who need long-term care services. If qualified, an unmarried veteran can receive up to $1,703 per month; a married veteran up to $2,019 per month; and a surviving spouse up to $1,094 per month. The veteran must have served at least ninety consecutive days of active duty and at least one day during a “wartime” period (but not necessarily in combat). The veteran’s discharge must have been honorable. There are also financial eligibility requirements relating to income and resources which must be satisfied.
Does Medicaid pay for Assisted Living Care or Home Health Care?
Yes. The Medicaid “Waiver” Program administered by the Ohio Department of Aging provides services people need to remain at home or in an assisted living setting to delay or prevent nursing home placement. To be eligible, the applicant must be assessed as needing a nursing home level of care and also meet the financial criteria for Medicaid eligibility.
I hold joint accounts with my kids. Are they safe?
No. Medicaid treats any asset with your name on it as 100% yours unless you can prove that the joint owner actually contributed money to the joint account.