Elder law is a subspecialty of estate planning. Elder law attorneys help individuals and their families to prepare for the needs they will face in their later years of life. This includes helping you plan for healthcare and long-term care, Medicaid and Medicare coverage, at home care or nursing home care, and retiree benefits. We also help you create the necessary decision-making documents for seniors and people with disabilities to make sure your wishes are known and addressed.
At Littleton Legal, we spend time with you to fully understand your elder law needs. Our elder law planning is not transactional, but customized and ongoing to design and implement the best comprehensive plan for each client.
The thing you don’t want to do is take your chances and do nothing. That’s because if you ever do find yourself in need of asset protection from elder care expenses, there are waiting periods that must be met in order to protect your assets. If you plan ahead, there are many options available when looking to protect your assets from the high costs of nursing home care or medical expenses that typically occur later in life. For one, you can gift your assets away. You can also put your assets in an irrevocable trust or buy long-term care insurance.
It’s true that a Last Will and Testament helps direct who is going to be in charge of distributing your assets, but a Will alone does not protect them from being applied toward long-term care costs. Nor does a basic will designate more sentimental property like your grandmother’s antique wedding ring, or the family heirloom bedroom set, all of which can be considered applicable assets for payment of long-term care.
We help you address your concerns and create solutions that will reduce the impact to your estate and family later. Common questions we ask are: Do you receive any Veterans benefits? Do you have a supplemental insurance policy? How long do you plan to work? When do you plan to take your Social Security? Who will have access to your online accounts if you become disabled or pass? Who will help you manage your health care or financial decisions if you cannot act on your own behalf? Who’s going to take care of your pets and how?
We also talk with you about who you want to serve as your representatives. Are your preferred representatives responsible and trustworthy? Do they have a spouse that is going to get involved and act against your wishes? If you appoint two people, will they work well together? We help you determine if you should appoint different people to deal with your healthcare decisions versus your financial decisions, as different skillsets and personalities better suit different needs.
You by no means need to wait this long, but by retirement you should start the elder care planning process. The longer you wait to do so, the more you run the risk of your money not being protected. You could also wait too long and lose your capacity to plan due to unforeseen health issues.
Medicaid is a federal program that helps you to pay for nursing home care. Do not confuse Medicaid with Medicare, which in most cases will cover extended nursing home care. Medicare is a program that you pay into during your working years and then have access to that money later in life. Conversely, Medicaid is a needs-based program that you have to apply for that is intended to help Americans with lower income to cover medical expenses.
Yes, proactive Medicaid planning is perfectly legal, just like wealthy people complete estate tax planning. Elder law attorneys work to protect clients’ assets within the bounds of the law. Congress allows you to reallocate your assets in order to qualify for Medicaid. If Congress felt those requirements were being abused, they could change them at any time. You shouldn’t feel guilty about taking advantage of available channels to protect your assets from long-term care costs and protecting your children’s inheritance.
There’s no simple answer to this question. Every situation has its own unique set of variables that will impact your eligibility and how long qualifying for Medicaid will take. This includes when you apply, how many assets you have and what type, your income and expenses, any previous asset transfers you’ve made to trusts or individuals, and other variables. As an elder law attorney, we can help you understand both your eligibility, the application process and how long it might take you to qualify.
Definitely not. The longer you wait, the greater the risk of spending your own assets while you wait to qualify in the event of a health care emergency. If you anticipate needing Medicaid at any point in the foreseeable future, you should meet with elder law attorney and begin the process. There are steps you can take to protect your assets which can protect your assets when you actually need Medicaid. Some of those steps include possibly transferring your assets into a trust trusts or gifting assets to people in your life. We help with evaluating your situation to advise you on the most sensible steps to take in order to preserve your rights, protect the most assets, and maximize your Medicaid benefits.
This is a common misconception. But in truth, Medicare does not provide coverage for long-term care, such as needing to move into a nursing home. Medicare only covers the first 100 days of skilled nursing care per illness. You must have been hospitalized for the illness and must be deemed requiring a high level of care that only a nursing home can provide. Also, there is a copayment required by you after the first 20 days of care – which will come from your personal assets, as would any care beyond the first 100 days.
Medicare also helps pay for home health benefits if you are housebound and if a doctor has ordered home health services. But Medicare will only pay for up to 35 hours of services per week, and you will have to pay for 20 percent of the cost of medical supplies and equipment.
Long-term care insurance can be a very helpful in avoiding the depletion of your estate in order to pay for nursing home care. Nursing homes greatly vary in cost depending on the quality of the home and the type of room you are in, but nursing homes typically cost between $4,500 and $7,500 per month in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Long-term care insurance will help cover the risk that you may at some point in your life be placed into a nursing home by paying for some or all the expenses associated with nursing home care. It also frequently covers assisted living care or care in your home. But you will have to pay into the insurance policy for many years. There may be other options to reallocate your assets that help avoid that expense.
Currently Medicaid has a “look back” period on transfers of assets within the past 60 months, and that includes any transfers your child makes out of a joint account. This “look back” period assesses any gifts or transfers made in the 60 months before you applied for Medicaid that will help determine your eligibility. Any transfers in the five-year period before applying for Medicaid could be subjected to a penalty and impact your eligibility. But there are still options available if you or a child has made a transfer of assets in the past five years. We can help you determine any penalties you might face and the options available to you for your Medicaid application.
First, you will want to look at how is the nursing home ranks with accreditation agencies or state regulators. If there have been violations or complaints against the nursing home, you will want to consider those.
Secondly, you should compare nursing home rankings against other homes in the area. Consider the location. Is the nursing home located in an area that is convenient for family and friends to visit? Would family members be more likely to visit a nursing home located in another area?
And finally, you should also visit the facility in person and request a tour to get a feel for fit and ask for references from the family members of current residents. If possible, try to take the tour at an unscheduled time, so that you know that what you are seeing isn’t staged for your benefit. During the tour, carefully observe the interactions between staff and residents. Do the staff seem to genuinely care for the residents? How happy do the residents seem? And don’t forget to try the food!
Choosing a nursing home can feel overwhelming and cause anxiety. But visiting a few and evaluating their quality of care can make the decision a lot easier.
It’s important to consider your end-of-life care with an elder law attorney. We help our clients set up advance directives and medical power of attorney that will make end-of-life care much easier. We ask you a number of questions about things like life support, whether you want to be an organ donor and the people you’re considering to put in control to make sure you’re making the best choices possible.
Yes, it is. That’s because you need to make sure they are cared for in your later years of life while still alive and that their care is not impacted by any costs you may face. For example, if your child is receiving government benefits, we might want to set up a special needs trust so they won’t lose the benefits and the money will still be available for them. It is also important to consider who might be the appropriate trustee for the child with disabilities in the event that you can no longer make choices on their behalf.
Many elder law solutions involve setting up a trust in order to protect assets, which in turn helps you to also avoid probate. If you want to avoid probate, we can make sure to consider that in your overall elder law planning.