Everything you need to know about elder law, and why you should hire an elder law attorney
What is Elder Law?
Elder law is an area of law aimed at protecting the senior population. It focuses on issues regarding the elderly and their rights. It includes various legal issues, such as:
Elder Law and Estate Planning
Many people confuse elder law for estate planning. Some people even use the terms interchangeably. Although elder law may include some aspects of estate planning, it is different from estate planning.
Estate planning focuses on making plans for the distribution of your assets after your death or in the event that you are incapacitated and cannot make these decisions. Elder law tends to focus more on protecting the assets and income of seniors while they are still alive.
Why should you seek an elder law attorney in NH?
If you are a senior or are a caregiver to a senior, it is important that you seek the guidance and advice of an elder law attorney. Elder law attorneys can help in the planning and coordination of various legal, health, and financial decisions that seniors are faced with or will be faced with. An elder law attorney can help you:
Plan for Long-Term Care
Data shows that about 60 percent of seniors end up in nursing homes. Others may opt for other types of long-term care, such as in-home care assistants. There are few that are able to remain in their homes under the care of family.
The cost of nursing home or in-home care can easily reach $10,000 per month, or more. Many seniors lose their hard-earned assets on long-term care simply because they failed to plan ahead. An elder law attorney can help you protect your assets and ensure that you can still get the care you need when the time comes. Instead of spending down your life’s savings on a nursing home, an elder law attorney can help you preserve your assets as an inheritance for children and grandchildren.
Plan the Management and Distribution of Your Estate
Elder law attorneys can help you plan for the distribution of your assets after your death. They can help you develop a customized estate plan that will guide the distribution of your assets and help protect your loved ones through the use of wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools.
You will have the peace of mind of knowing that the assets you have worked hard for will be enjoyed by those that you hold dear to your heart.
Qualifying for Medicaid and Other Benefits
The majority of seniors don’t have millions of dollars stashed away to cater for long-term care when it is needed. If you’re struggling to meet the expenses associated with long-term care, an elder law attorney can help you apply for Medicaid or other benefits that may help pay for your long-term care.
These lawyers are well versed with the programs available and the rules for qualifying for the benefits. They will ensure your application is timed and filed properly. They can also represent you in an appeal if you are denied benefits for which you are eligible.
Facilitate the Establishment of a Power of Attorney
When a senior’s condition deteriorates to the level that they can no longer make decisions about their assets or medical care, the person they have designated to have power of attorney makes these decisions on their behalf.
Planning for and establishing a power of attorney before you actually need it will help ensure that the person of your choice will be given the legal authority to make important decisions when the time comes. It also helps to protect your assets and reduce the costs and time associated with appointing a legal guardian when you need one, keeping you and your family out of probate court.
Why is Medicaid planning important for the elderly?
More than 60 percent of people over the age of 65 will end up requiring skilled nursing or long-term care. They may end up in a nursing home or choosing in-home care. No matter what type of care you opt for, it can prove to be very costly. Consider these numbers: the average private nursing home costs about $10,000 a month, and the average senior stays in a nursing home for two-and-a-half years (32 months). This puts the average cost of long-term care well above $300,000!
Seniors have three options to pay for nursing care:
1. Long-term care insurance – this is insurance designed to cover the costs of long-term care. It typically must be purchased when the individual is young and healthy, well before they need long-term care assistance. It also tends to be expensive, and not many people invest in this type of insurance coverage.
2. Medicaid – Medicaid benefits are provided by the state and federal government for seniors who are financially needy. It can cover the cost of long-term care, but the applicant must have very little assets and income to qualify. The eligibility criteria is quite strict, and involves a thorough investigation into your previous 5 years of finances.
3. Savings – for many seniors that don’t qualify for Medicaid or have long-term care insurance, the only option to pay for long-term care is out of their pocket. This often means draining their savings and retirement accounts, and selling any assets they may own, such as a house.
For many seniors, Medicaid is the best option for paying for long-term care. Medicaid is designed to help low-income individuals access healthcare services, but it is a needs-based program.
Medicaid benefits include:
- Inpatient hospital services
- Outpatient hospital services
- Nursing home care
- Transportation for medical care
- X-ray and laboratory services
- Home health services
If you qualify for Medicaid benefits, the benefits will cover the gap between the cost of long-term care and what you have saved for your retirement. However, you must meet the strict eligibility requirements to qualify for these benefits, which include income and asset limits (usually no more than $2,000 in assets and $2,000 in monthly income). This means that people who have modest assets in their bank accounts or retirement savings but own a home may not qualify for Medicaid. In some instances, you could be forced to sell your home and deplete your assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.
Medicaid planning with the help of an elder law attorney is designed to help you qualify for Medicaid benefits while protecting your assets. Your layer can help you plan ahead for long-term care and the associated costs, so you can afford it while keeping your assets safe for your loved ones.
What is a Medicaid asset protection trust?
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t simply transfer your assets to someone else in order to reduce the assets you own and qualify for Medicaid. The government employs what is known as a 5-year look-back. This look-back ensures that you haven’t given your assets to someone else in order to qualify for Medicaid. The look-back prevents fraud and ensures that seniors who have the financial resources to pay for their long-term care use their own funds before shifting the burden to government and taxpayer sources.
A Medicaid asset protection trust is designed to protect your assets well before the 5-year look-back begins. The trust helps you keep your assets safe for your beneficiaries while retaining limited income from the trust. Most importantly, a properly designed trust allows you to be eligible for long-term care benefits from Medicaid. The trust works by allowing you to transfer your assets to the trust. The trust, therefore, owns your assets. However, you may be able to design the trust to allow you to get some benefits from the assets in the trust. For example, you can continue to live in your home although it will be owned by the trust.
It is important to note that the assets you put under the irrevocable trust doesn’t always have to be a house. An elder law attorney can review your assets and advise you on the assets you should place under the trust.
What if you have too many assets to ever qualify for Medicaid?
Medicaid asset protection trusts are suitable for those with assets such as homes but with modest income or assets in their retirement or bank accounts. If you have several millions of dollars in your bank or retirement savings in addition to your home, a Medicaid asset protection trust may not work for you. There are other ways that an elder law attorney can help you be able to afford long-term care without losing all your assets. This may include:
- Medicaid compliant annuinities
- Life insurance plans
- Hybrid plans
Why do we encourage people to focus on elder law?
Planning for the future is vital, especially because of the high cost of long-term care. With the help of an elder law attorney you can:
Plan For Your Future and Ensure That You Can Afford It
Are you planning to live in your home? Do you want to live in a particular long-term care facility? Working with an elder law attorney can help you determine the best options for your care in the future and how you can afford the care. With the help of an elder law attorney, you can ensure that your wishes for your future are achievable.
Navigate Government Programs
Medicare benefits aren’t just for those that want to be able to afford long-term care in a nursing home. Benefits may also be available for in-home care. Working with an elder law attorney ensures that you have options for your future. You can ensure you qualify for Medicaid and stay in your home for as long as possible.
When should you consult an elder law attorney?
Waiting until you are in need of long-term care will leave you with limited options for protecting your assets. This is especially true because of the Medicaid five-year look-back. We recommend that you begin planning for long-term care at least 10 years prior to when you think you will need it. For example, if you’re approaching retirement or have already retired, you should consider making an appointment for a consultation with an elder law attorney.
You should also consider having this discussion with an elder law attorney if you have a health condition that may cause you to need long-term care sooner. In general, if you are in your 60’s or early 70’s, you should consult with an elder law attorney and begin planning for the future.
What happens if you don’t plan for the future with a qualified elder law attorney?
When many think of their retirement, they picture a comfortable retirement relaxing on a sunny beach or in their art studio exploring their creative side. However, the reality is often not what we envision. Illnesses, injuries, and other factors can affect our plans for the future. While you may be healthy well into your retirement, it’s not uncommon that you may end up needing long-term care as a result of an illness.
Many seniors assume that their family will care for them when they need care. However, your family may not be able to do so. Your only option may be to seek long-term care.
Long-term care is very costly. Without proper planning in advance with the help of an elder law attorney, you could end up losing the assets you have worked hard to accumulate over the years to cover the cost of long-term care. Failing to plan for long-term care with an elder law attorney will also mean you have limited choices when it comes to protecting your assets.
Ensure that your assets are protected and you can access the care you need when you need by consulting with an elder law attorney from our law firm.senior
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