Elder Law: Medicaid Planning, VA Benefits, and Long-Term Care

What is Elder Law?

Elder Law encompasses all the different legal issues that affect our aging population. As such, it is a diverse field, and a range of different legal questions can arise. Elder Law includes Estate Planning, Trust drafting, Medicaid planning, VA Benefits planning, and long-term care planning. An elder law lawyer can also help you obtain guardianship of aging relatives if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.

What Can an Elder Law Attorney Do for You?

An elder care lawyer can help you with long-term care planning and medicaid planning, to make sure that you will be able to afford the care you may need in the future. They can also ensure that you won’t have to spend all your money before qualifying for benefits, allowing you to leave your hard-earned money to your loved ones, or use it to supplement the care you are receiving.

Elder Law attorneys will work with you to make sure your Estate Plan had taken your changing life circumstances into affect. As you age, a lot can change that should be accounted for in your Estate Plan: the potential of major illness or incapacity; living on a fixed income; loss of friend-networks; children moving away; potential fiduciary abuse; and more. I will work with you to account for all these possibilities ahead of time so that you don’t enter into a crisis situation.

Why is Long-Term Care Planning Important?

Someone turning 65 has a nearly 70% chance of needing long-term care at some point during their lives. Long-term care can also be incredibly expensive – the current average in Pennsylvania is over $10,000 a month. How long would you be able to afford that bill before you had no money left? And what happens to the inheritance you hoped to leave to your family?

By working with an elder care attorney, you can ensure that you will receive the care that you need, and that you won’t have to break the bank in order to get it. And it’s not just money, either – if you have a family home, medicaid can force a sale of it after you pass if you aren’t careful. You want to make sure you leave something to your family, and an Elder Law attorney will help.

When Should You Start Medicaid Planning?

You can’t predict when you might need long-term care. Unfortunately, the average cost of nursing-home care in Pennsylvania is more than $10,000/month. At that rate, it won’t take long for you to deplete your assets before you qualify for government benefits. At you can’t just give everything away, either: Medicaid has a 5-year lookback period, and you will impose a penalty-period where you have to pay for your own cost depending on how many assets you gave away.

If you expect you might need long-term care in the future, the best time to start planning is now. Through the use of irrevocable trusts (Medicaid Trusts or Special Needs Trusts), you can prevent your assets from being counted against you by Medicaid, while still keeping them safe.

Careful drafting of a trust will allow you to keep as much control as possible over them. However, any time you are setting up an irrevocable trust, you need to be very careful as you will no longer maintain total control of those assets. You need to make sure you can still get access to them if necessary, but not leave them open for the government or bad actors to get access to them.

But you should start the plan right away. Once everything is out of your name, you still need to wait five years before applying for medicaid, or you will still have to pay for your own care for a period of time. Planning now lets you save all of your assets, not just some of them. If you are ready to start planning, you can call me today at 215-360-3139, or schedule a free consultation here.

What If You’re Already Paying for Your Care?

If you are already in a nursing home, it’s not too late – you can still save some of your assets. While you won’t be able to save everything, careful planning will allow you to remove about half of your assets from your name, and still cover the cost of care until Medicaid begins. Depending on your assets, you could save hundreds of thousands of dollars to pass on to your family, rather spending all of it on your care.

If you are already paying for your care, you should call me today at 215-360-3139 – the sooner you start, the more money you can save.