Whether you have a loved one who is aging or is concerned about their health and financial well-being in the future, an elder law attorney can help you make the most of life planning. Elder law is a highly specialized area of law focusing on the legal needs of older adults encompassing more significant issues like long-term health care needs, quality of life, and financial well-being. Specific planning may include estate planning and administration, asset protection planning, Medicaid planning and applications, wills and trusts, probate, advance directives, special needs planning, and guardianships.
How would you answer the following questions:
- Do you have a will, and has it been updated in the last five years?
- Are your assets protected in the event you require home care or nursing home care?
- Do you have a living will, including a health care proxy and durable power of attorney?
- Is your home protected, perhaps in a trust?
- Are you willing to spend half or even all of your assets on the cost of your elder care?
If your answers are no to any of these questions, it is time to consult with an elder law attorney.
The Importance of Medicaid Planning
As you age, early planning is the key to enjoy a successful, secure, and less stressful lifestyle. Currently, the look-back period for Medicaid nursing home benefit qualifications is five years, and it is 2.5 years for Medicaid home care benefits. Early planning can protect many of your assets and still secure eligibility for government benefits.
The truth is, regardless of your age or wealth, you should have an estate plan. Your will sets forth instructions regarding which heirs will receive your property upon your death, name a guardian(s) for minor children, and protect assets in a special needs trust benefiting any disabled loved ones. An estate plan will tackle tax planning, power of attorney, health care proxy, and a living will in the event of unforeseen incapacity.
Engaging in Medicaid planning and asset protection can ensure you or your loved one will receive the care they need and afford it. Medicaid planning can protect a healthy spouse who wishes to remain in your home with the financial resources to do so. Proper planning for Medicaid benefits can protect your assets from Medicaid’s estate recovery program, genuine estate liens.
How an Elder Care Attorney Can Help You
Hiring an experienced elder care attorney can be the most significant financial safeguard a person can make for their life or the life of a loved one. Specific services of an elder care attorney include but are not limited to:
- Planning and managing of long-term care services – Your elder law attorney will compile financial information, insurance, and assets, including medical and housing needs, in addition to evaluating and implementing estate planning. Geriatric care, veterans benefits, financial and tax planning, and preparation are part of the process.
- Planning and qualifying for Medicaid eligibility – Elder law attorneys understand the differences between Medicare and Medicaid. They can show how income levels and current asset holdings may affect your future benefits.
- Guardianships and conservatorships – In this process, a judge will appoint a person to manage another’s financial affairs known as a guardian, particularly for those who can no longer care for themselves or have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Elder law attorneys can guide a family through the process of obtaining guardianship for their loved one’s benefit.
- Administration of the estate, probate and trust(s) – This service benefits the estate holder and the designated trustees or executors. An elder law attorney can outline the rights and responsibilities of those with fiduciary appointments.
- Estate and disability planning and preparedness – Many seniors have questions regarding the impact of their will on their family and other tax and legal issues. Your elder law attorney can explain these impacts and help guide choices that ensure your legacy and benefit your heirs.
A well-crafted estate plan is invaluable to you and your beneficiaries. Your elder law attorney will help guide you through the estate plan process, customizing it to meet your needs, and prepare the legal documents reflecting the laws of your state. Early proactive planning will yield the best results to protect your assets and your well-being.