Why Choose an Elder Law Attorney?
You may wonder why you should choose an Elder Law attorney. Many people, even those over 65, feel that all they need are estate planning documents. A typical husband and wife may have a few health issues but no real crisis. We believe that everyone should have updated estate planning documents. But an experienced Elder Law attorney can help with so much more than simple document preparation. You cannot predict when one of you could have a heart attack, or a diagnosis of dementia or cancer. If COVID taught us anything it is the plain fact that new diseases will continue to arise and can strike any formerly healthy person. If you or your spouse becomes physically or mentally impaired you will rapidly learn the need for qualified assistance dealing with the process of finding, accessing, and paying for long term care. Bear in mind that long term care costs on average over $100,000 per year. Also you often need care for years, which can quickly deplete your retirement savings. This is why so many times we plan with Medicaid in mind. A good Elder Law firm knows how to become eligible for Medicaid in case that need for long-term care arises.
Once you qualify for Medicaid, other than a possible co-pay from your monthly income, Medicaid can help cover the rest of the long-term care costs. But Medicaid has strict limits and rules. The application process is complex. Applying without knowing that all of your ducks are in a row can disqualify you for many months until your situation can be sorted out and a new application filed. Remember that there are many different aspects of the Medicaid rules both as to income and assets. Some assets are exempt and many are not. Some assets can be protected with the well spouse. She may also qualify for a diversion of part or all of the sick spouse’s income. Knowing the rules is where the Elder Law firm excels. Sometimes a simple restructuring is all that is needed to preserve some assets for the well spouse or other heirs.
Unfortunately, most people assume they will not get sick or need long-term care. These people have failed to make a plan and have very few options to pay for their care. Fortunate are those wise enough to have invested in long-term care insurance. That can be an excellent resource in paying for long-term care. Sometimes there is no long-term care insurance or its maximum benefits run out. Medicaid will then be the ultimate payment source. But a Medicaid application is not an overnight process. There is a lot of documentation needed for the complex application. Even after the application is submitted, the State of Florida will take months before approving a qualified application. If anything is done wrong, Medicaid will deny the application. Sometimes they deny perfectly good applications due to inexperienced personnel. This can lead to a request for a Fair Hearing. Qualified Elder Law attorneys can represent you at the Fair Hearing to help push through the application by explaining why the denial was in error. If that happens with your application, you will be glad that you had representation who made sure you complied with the Medicaid rules.
Some of the other ways an Elder Law firm can assist you if you are facing long term care include the following:
- Offering you legal advice on your rights
- Creating a will for you and your spouse
- Designating your beneficiaries
- Preparing a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for Health Care
- Maximizing the use of legal exemptions to assets/income to minimize the out-of-pocket costs of long-term care
- Determining if there are ways to avoid probate
- Creating Medicaid-qualifying trusts as needed to shelter assets or income
- Discussing options of different venues to receive long-term care
- Touring different options for long-term care facilities
- Determining and perfecting Medicaid eligibility
- Working with you on detailed document gathering (including checklists) for the Medicaid application
- Preparing and filing the application
- Following up with the department if they are slow on approval
- Working with some facilities to allow interim payment of only “patient responsibility” while Medicaid is applied for but not yet approved
- Representing you at Fair Hearing to defend the application and appeal an erroneous rejection of the application.
If you have some assets you would like to protect and transfer to your children and spouse after your death, it is important to consult with an experienced Elder Law attorney.
Consulting with an Elder Law firm specializing in Medicaid is more effective for long-term planning than consulting with just a non-attorney Medicaid preparation firm. Those firms are not legally allowed to prepare trusts or estate planning documents because that would be the unauthorized practice of law. There overall expertise is lacking when compared to the depth of experience a good Elder Law firm possesses.
The fees for good representation are significant. So is the amount of time the law firm will spend on your case. When you look at the potential monthly savings, usually one or at most two months of private pay at a long term care facility would have paid for the entire legal fee to a good Elder Law firm.
If you would like to make a plan for your long term care, you should call an established Elder Law firm. If you are in Southwest Florida, call Burzynski Elder Law to speak with one of our intake specialists. They can help you determine if you could be made eligible with pre-planning for possible future long term care needs. Our number is 239-434-8557. Call today.