Elder law is a legal term coined to cover an area of legal practice that places an emphasis on those issues that affect the growing aging population. When starting the process of searching for a local Elder Law Attorney, it is important to determine the experience level of the practice to be sure it meets your needs and goals.
The importance of developing your family’s estate plan with an experienced attorney with a dedicated practice and extensive experience cannot be overstated. Older client’s needs are complex and varied, requiring a detailed analysis of health concerns, as well as legal, financial and insurance matters, all of which are constantly evolving as clients move through the continuum of aging issues.
In this time of uncertainty for the Medicare, Medicaid and Insurance programs, along with advances in medical treatments that extend life, the possibility of outliving retirement assets is of primary concern for clients at any age – it is critical to work with a professional that will best help preserve your hard earned savings!
No estate is too small for proper planning. A complete estate plan is more than just a Will or a Trust. Although a Will and Trust are critical to direct the ultimate distribution of assets, other documents are needed to address issues that often arise during one’s lifetime.
How We Can Help
Asset Protection – from potential future long term care costs
Our planning addresses one of the biggest areas of exposure that seniors face if health declines – long term care in a nursing home that now exceeds ten thousand dollars per month!
Avoiding the Probate Court system whenever possible is an important factor in any Estate Plan. Proper “living documents” such as a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and HIPAA Medical Release document that properly assign trusted individuals to act on your behalf in the event of mental or physical incapacity can prevent the need for court involvement during one’s lifetime (i.e., Guardianship/Conservatorship). Additionally, establishing appropriate trusts that allow assets to be distributed directly to heirs will eliminate the need for the time consuming, public nature and high cost of the Probate court process.
Estate and Medicaid Planning
- Probate Avoidance
- Powers of Attorney
- Health Care Proxies/Living Wills
- HIPAA Medical Release
- Revocable Trusts
- Irrevocable Trusts
- Trusts for family members with special needs
- Deeds with Life Estates or Realty Trusts
- Medicaid application and appeals process
- Asset Preservation strategies
- Optimization of care dollars
- Long term care insurance guidance
Maintaining ones independence is a common goal of our clients, and nursing homes are not the only setting that Medicaid (i.e. MassHealth) will cover once eligible for the benefit. There are several home and community based programs that help to keep a senior or disabled adult out of an institutional setting, and in the home or even assisted living. Oftentimes families come to us with either inadequate or no planning and are faced with the need to find a way to pay for care services without exhausting financial resources.
Community Based Programs
Once we establish the individual family goals, we then support a realistic action plan that includes evaluating benefits that can help cover the costs of care. We evaluate Community based options if the goal is to return home from a nursing facility, or if there is a need to access a community based Medicaid program to help pay for care, such as:
- Frail Elder Waiver Program
- PACE – Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly
- Caregiver Homes
- Personal Care Attendant
- SCO – Senior Care Options
The decision to access any one of these options are based on several factors, but mainly on maximizing the support system needed to keep a senior safe at home.
Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Pension
For veterans or their surviving spouse who are in need of personal assistance and have a certain amount of unreimbursed medical expenses, based on income, assets and care needs as well as dates of service during war time.
*It is important to note that the asset transfer rules for the Veteran’s and community based Medicaid programs are different than for long term care benefits, and in most cases can be accessed before the 5 year look back time period.
Nursing Home Medicaid
With the cost of nursing home care in Massachusetts at more than $10,000 per month, it is critical that families learn how to best plan for the possibility of requiring care in a skilled nursing facility at some point in their lives. Even if no planning has been done and someone is suddenly faced with needing long term care in a nursing home, there are still strategies that can be implemented to reduce exposure of assets, but only when working with a qualified, experienced Medicaid planning firm.