Elder Law involves planning for the complex health care, long-term care, and other issues facing elderly and disabled individuals and their families. Studies show that if we reach age 65, we have a 40% chance of going into a nursing home in our remaining lifetime. Therefore, everyone should take into account that at some point, residency in a nursing home or an assisted living facility may be needed.
The substantial cost of nursing home care for an incapacitated person can wipe away a family’s nest egg and the inheritance planned for surviving family members. The primary alternative to privately paying the nursing home is Medi-Cal.
Often times, families come to us in crisis. They don’t know what to expect from the Medi-Cal process. They are under the mistaken impression that there is nothing that can be done to protect assets from nursing home costs. Some people are told by nursing homes or other facilities that they need to spend all their assets to qualify for benefits. This is not true. You do not need to be impoverished to qualify for Medi-Cal. With our help, many of the assets you have spent a lifetime accumulating can be protected from high nursing home expenses.
Our certified elder law attorneys can assist you in drafting a will to transfer property at death. Perhaps more importantly, we can also help you develop a comprehensive care plan for you or your loved ones, including financial planning for quality care and asset protection, assembling a caregiver team and connecting with appropriate community services.
Our elder law legal services include:
Preparation of advance directives for financial and health care decision making;
Evaluation of opportunities to qualify for benefit programs, including Medi-Cal;
Assistance with conservatorship proceedings;
Evaluation of long-term care insurance options;
Advocating for seniors in nursing homes and with in-home service providers;
Creating “care teams” for seniors and disabled adults, including geriatric psychiatrists, care managers, and home care providers;
Crisis planning for seniors, disabled adults and their families;
Creating Special Needs Trusts.
The Top Eight Mistakes People Make with Medi-Cal Qualification
1. Thinking it’s too late to plan.
It’s almost never too late to take planning steps, even after a senior has moved to a nursing home. Families come to us after being told by the nursing home that they have too many assets to be eligible for Medi-Cal. Although well intended, the information given by the nursing home staff is not always correct because they do not know the complicated laws related to Medi-Cal eligibility. We can help you get assistance from Medi-Cal and protect your life savings.
2. Giving away assets too early.
First, it’s your money (or your house, or both). Make sure you take care of yourself first. Don’t put your security at risk by putting it in the hands of your children. Precipitous transfers can cause difficult tax and Medicaid problems as well.
3. Ignoring important safe harbors created by Congress.
Certain transfers are allowable without jeopardizing Medi-Cal eligibility. These include: transfers to disabled children, transfers to certain siblings and transfers to a trust for anyone who is disabled and under age 65; a transfer to a “pay-back” trust if under age 65; and a transfer to a pooled disability trust at any age.
4. Failing to take advantage of protections for the spouse of a nursing home resident.
In California, there are several ways to protect assets for the spouse of a nursing home resident. These protections include obtaining a Court Order to protect the at-home spouse, petitioning for an increased community spouse resource allowance, petitioning for an increased income allowance and obtaining professional advice on how to decrease the share of cost that must be paid to the nursing facility.
5. Applying for Medi-Cal too early.
This can result in a longer period of ineligibility in some instances. Unless you know for a fact that you will be eligible, it is better for you to get expert help to complete the application. Spend down?
6. Applying for Medicaid too late.
This can mean the loss of many months of eligibility.
7. Not getting expert help.
This is a complicated field with ever changing laws that most people deal with only once in their lives. Tens of thousands of dollars are at stake. It’s penny wise and pound foolish not to consult with people who make their living guiding clients through the process.
8. Confusion about the difference between Medi-Cal qualification, liens and estate recovery.
The assets that are exempt for purposes of Medi-Cal qualification are not the same as the assets that are exempt for Medi-Cal recovery after a beneficiary’s death. There are many individuals on Medi-Cal who own a house and Medi-Cal is often entitled to be reimbursed from the house after the individual’s death. To avoid such estate recovery against the house, it is important to get professional advice regarding the best option for your particular family’s needs.
We will help you determine the best path for your situation. Everyone is different and no two paths are the same. We maintain a small firm so we can offer clients the tailored solutions they need. It takes knowledgeable attorneys with years of experience to accurately assess your entire situation and accommodate your needs and goals.
Contact us online or call (818) 227-8010 to learn more about the options that are available to you.