Elder law deals with the legal, financial and health needs of senior citizens. The country’s average age is advancing all the time, and now even baby-boomers are dealing with health issues and legal concerns they had not anticipated. In addition to estate planning, elder law attorneys also help with preparing for long-term healthcare needs, applying for government programs, addressing financial fraud, combating physical abuse and establishing guardianships and conservatorships. If you have elder law or estate planning-related legal questions, call our firm today to schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer.
Health Concerns, Medicare, Medicaid and Nursing Homes
When nursing home care is needed, Medicare is of only marginal assistance. Medicare helps cover inpatient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, but long-term healthcare and extended time in a home is not covered by Medicare. The only government program that will pay for long-term care is Medicaid. Medicaid is designed to help low income people with medical bills. Medicaid will cover long-term care costs and some costs not covered by Medicare.
Unless an individual is impoverished or has adequately planned for his or her future healthcare needs, a nursing home stay or extended medical treatment can cause assets accumulated over a lifetime to be wiped out. To avoid this, an estate plan can redistribute an elderly person’s assets over time to reduce the assets below the amount required to qualify for Medicaid. This strategy allows an elderly person to distribute his or her assets to children or other family members so that they will not be used up to pay for healthcare expenses or nursing home costs.
Medicaid rules prevent a person from receiving benefits by transferring assets immediately before going into a nursing home. An estate planning attorney can work with you to plan ahead for residential care needs while minimizing the financial impact on your estate.
When a person’s health deteriorates to the point that he or she is unable to manage his or her own affairs, state law requires the appointment of a conservator. A conservator is given the authority to make financial decisions under court supervision for a person who lacks the capacity to make those decisions for himself or herself. The costs and expenses of a conservatorship, as well as any attorneys fees, are paid by the incapacitated person’s estate.
When a conservator is appointed by the court, there is no guarantee that the incapacitated person’s goals and desires will be known to the conservator. A good estate plan can usually prevent a court from imposing a conservatorship. A durable power of attorney allows an individual rather than the court to choose a person who he or she trusts to manage his or her financial affairs while he or she is incapacitated. A living will or healthcare directive can direct a healthcare professional whether to use artificial life support, and a durable healthcare power of attorney allows people to name someone who they trust to make healthcare decisions in the event they are unable to make those decisions for themselves.
There are many special concerns that must be addressed when drafting an estate plan. By planning early, you often have greater flexibility to draft a plan that allows you to maintain control of your estate and your destiny when you are older. If you have questions about estate planning or need to have estate planning documents drafted, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney.