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Frequently Asked Questions about Elder Law and Estate Planning

We answer commonly asked questions about Medicaid, probate, estate plans, wills, trusts, and other life planning strategies.

The name “Elder Care Law” can be deceiving, because Elder Care Law is not just for “old” people. However, it is the terminology the industry has adopted.

Nelson Elder Care Law provides personal legal planning that focuses on helping you to plan ahead for some of the curve balls that life can throw us. For example, if you were unable to make your own decisions about your health care, is there someone that has the legal authority to make those decisions for you?

What if you are unable to manage your finances due to an illness? Did you know that without the correct legal documents, your family couldn’t access your bank accounts or other assets unless their name is on the accounts? Without the correct legal documents, your family will be required to go to court to use your assets to pay for your care.

Nelson Elder Care Law provides peace of mind at every stage of life. We help young families that want to ensure their spouse and children are protected. Many individuals come to us when they discover the state of Georgia will make decisions for them if they do not have the appropriate legal documents. As you are planning for retirement, contact us to help you to protect your hard-earned assets from the high cost of medical care. When your parents become unable to live independently, we can guide you through the maze of resources available.

Elder Care Law is the practice of helping clients at every age to maneuver through the very complex legal tenets involved with how to secure and pay for long-term care, qualifying for government benefits (Medicaid, VA Aid and Attendance), estate planning, as well as litigation for guardianships, conservatorships, and probating wills.

If there is someone in your life that you love, the best gift that you can give is to plan ahead.

In the past, most people worked throughout their lives to save a little bit of money for a comfortable, bus not luxurious, retirement. After retirement, they would travel for a while if they were lucky before they got sick and passed away. Most people did not live long after retirement.

Today, the average life span is into the mid-eighties. That means that most of us need to be prepared to financially support our lifestyles for at least another twenty years after we retire.

In addition, modern medicine has made it possible for us to live many years with illnesses that would have quickly taken our lives in the past. As a result, we need to be financially prepared to pay for our lifestyle with the rapidly increasing cost of medical treatments for our illnesses. The challenge for all of us is to find the medical care that we require as we age and determine a way to pay for that care while at the same time, maintaining as much of our independence and dignity as possible.

Also in the past, families lived in close proximity to each other with many women working in the home. Today, families are spread across the country or multiple countries and more than half of all women work outside of the home. This make is more difficult for a family member to provide us care as we age. Providing care from a distance or while trying to hold down another full time job is wrought with stress amongst the family and typically results in care that is not adequate.

None of us wants to be a burden to our families. None of us want to have to go to a nursing home. However, if we do not plan ahead, we limit our options when the curve ball comes our way.

There are four options available when you need long-term care. First, you can self-pay with your own money. Most of us do not have enough money to do that for long. Second, if you have invested in a long-term care insurance policy, you can make a claim to your insurance carrier for your long-term care expenses. Third, government benefits called Medicaid (not Medicare) are available to people that require long-term care and meet the income and asset limitations. Fourth, there is a Veteran pension called Aid and Attendance that many Veterans have earned based on their service to the country.

Long-term care insurance is an insurance policy that you purchase to help you pay for the high cost of care in the future. The policy provides coverage if you need assistance with two basic self-care tasks like toileting, feeding, grooming, bathing, walking, etc. While you may believe that it is unlikely that you would ever need that type of assistance, the odds are very high that you will require help with these basic tasks. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects 70% of people turning 65 years old now will require long-term care during their lives.

Many long-term care insurance policies cover the cost of care in your home, assisted living care, or nursing home care. While this level of care varies greatly depending on the quality and level of care that you require, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars a month. In Georgia in 2010, in home care cost $38,897 per year for 44 hours per week of care, an assisted living facility cost $30,000 per year, and a nursing home cost $63,875 per year. (CareScout 2010 Cost of Care Survey)

At these rates, you can see where it would be beneficial to have long-term care insurance to pay for your care.

Medicare covers up to 100 days of skilled nursing care rehabilitation per illness if you have been hospitalized for 3 or more days as an inpatient, require a high level of care, and continue to improve. The first 20 days are covered 100%; the next 80 days require a $157.50 per day co-pay. Additionally, once you stop improving, Medicare stops paying. After the initial 100 days, you are responsible for the entire cost of your care.

Medicare will pay for home health care if you are housebound and your physician has ordered home health for you. Medicare will pay up to 35 hours per week and you only have to pay 20% of the cost of the medical supplies and equipment.

Medicaid is a federal program that will pay for nursing home care. While Medicaid and Medicare sound similar, they are two completely different government programs. Medicare is a program that you contribute to during your working years. Medicaid is a program that will pay for medical expenses when you cannot afford the cost.

Medicaid planning is legal. Nelson Elder Care Law works to protect your assets within the bounds of the law. Congress allows you to qualify for Medicaid after meeting certain requirements, and Congress can change those requirements if they felt they were being abused. Many of us use a certified tax planner to complete our taxes because they are very familiar with the laws and changes to the laws that can be used to reduce our tax payments.

Nelson Elder Care Law works with the laws governing Medicaid eligibility on a daily basis; we know the ways to legally protect your assets.

This is inaccurate information. If you give away or transfer assets during the 5 years before you apply for Medicaid, you will be penalized and not able to receive the benefit for a period of time. Your Medicaid application will be carefully reviewed to ensure that you have not given away or transferred your assets for less than they were worth during the past 5 years. Let Nelson Elder Care Law help you to qualify for Medicaid before you take action that cannot be corrected.

Not necessarily, but everybody’s situation is different. You need to contact an elder care attorney to answer that question for your situation and to protect as many of your assets as possible, including your house.

No, if you think that you will be need long-term care at any point in the future, give us a call now. There are actions you can take to protect your assets that may not be available to you if you wait until you need the care. Nelson Elder Care Law has expertise in Medicaid and Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit planning. We can evaluate your personal situation and help you to take the appropriate steps to preserve your rights, your assets, and maximize benefits.

Aid and Attendance pension is a benefit available to some veterans. The service requirements are that the veteran was on active duty at least 90 days with at least 1 day during wartime and they were not dishonorably discharged. Medically, the veteran needs to be over 65, blind or disabled, need assistance to perform at least basic self-care tasks like toileting, feeding, grooming, bathing, walking, etc. Financially the household of the veteran must have limited income and assets to pay for medical expenses. Many veterans qualify for this benefit and they don’t even know it.

To protect you and your loved ones, you should have the following legal documents; Advance Directive for Healthcare, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, HIPAA authorization, and Will.

An Advance Directive for Healthcare is a legal document that allows you to choose whom you would like to make decisions about your health in the event you were not able to make your own decisions. Everyone age 18 and older needs to have this fundamental legal document. An Advance Directive for Healthcare is sometimes referred to as a Healthcare Power of Attorney.

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to choose whom you would like to manage your finances if you are not able to make your own decisions.

A Living Will is used for you to document and inform others of your preferred medical treatment in case you become unconscious, terminally ill, or unable to communicate your desires about your medical treatment.

Some medical providers have refused to release information even to spouses and adult children on the grounds that the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits such releases. So as an added protection, you should sign a HIPAA authorization form that authorizes the release of medical information to your family and loved ones.

A Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, is designed to transfer your assets according to your wishes. A Will also allows you to choose an Executor, who is responsible for carrying out your instructions. If you have minor children, you should name a Guardian for them. A Will only becomes effective upon your death and after it is admitted by a probate court. If you die without a will, the laws of Georgia decide who will inherit your assets.

A trust is a legal entity with at least 3 parties; the creator of the trust, the trustee, and the beneficiary. With most “revocable living trusts” you are all 3 parties. Depending on your circumstances, there could be advantages to establishing a trust. There are many different types of trusts. You need an elder care attorney experienced in trusts to guide you through the complex creation process.

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