As you age, you begin to face circumstances unique to Seniors. You may think about who will be legally responsible for your care and your finances if you become incapacitated. With a bit of planning, Seniors can have more say in what will happen if they lose abilities to care for everything on their own. Elder Law is an area of legal practice that focuses on the legal issues that affect Seniors.
Estate Planning is about making plans so that you are taken care of and your assets are protected. Estate planning allows you to choose the people who will be in charge of managing assets, managing decisions, and managing health care for your life.
Estate Plans include legal documents to plan for the disposition of assets at your passing with less tax or probate liabilities, plan for the day when you might be incapacitated or have diminished capacity, and plan to protect assets from the explosive costs of nursing home care.
- Last Will & Testament: This document is concerned with laying out who will inherit your assets including physical property as well as digital assets such as pictures or rights to books or publications, intellectual property and trusts or retirement accounts
- Trusts: Trusts can be an important tool for obtaining nursing care without using up your life’s savings. Often with a “Medicaid” Trust, we can find ways to help you qualify for Medicaid funds while enriching your standard of living at the same time.
- Durable Powers of Attorney: This legal framework is important for naming someone who will be in charge of your financial assets and investments while you are alive. This person needs to be someone you trust implicitly.
- Health Care Powers of Attorney: It is imperative that you name someone as your Health Care Power of Attorney so that if you become incapacitated or declared incompetent, someone you trust can make decisions about your health care.
- Advance Directives: Advance directives are a way for you to plan what will happen if you are on a breathing machine or have no brain activity. Someone will be tasked with making the decisions about how to help you pass on if you don’t make a plan now. Don’t make a family member choose for you and carry the weight of that decision around for the rest of their life.
Not Making an Estate Plan
When someone does not make an estate plan, our government and court system have default plans to handle that, including probate court, but this result leaves many questions unanswered and can cause grief and stress in loved ones’ lives.
There can be costly consequences to not planning including probate court fees and taxes in addition to claims made on your estate by those you may not have wanted to give anything. Not planning can place an undue burden on loved ones with tedious auditing requirements, and with limitations on the ability to protect you and your assets.
Long Term Care Planning
If you are afraid of losing your home due to the cost of nursing home care, you are in good company. A life’s savings can be quickly lost when a person needs a level of care that requires movement to a skilled nursing care facility. Health insurance plans ONLY cover a very limited stay in very specific circumstances.
Nursing homes are expensive, sometimes up to $8,000 per month. If you don’t plan, you may be forced to expend the vast majority of your assets to pay for such care.
Long Term Care Insurance
Some people will mitigate the risk of depleting their assets for nursing home care by acquiring long term care insurance policies. However, many people either choose not to invest in that type of insurance, don’t know it exists, or wait until they are beyond the age where it is possible to make such an investment.
Qualifying for Medicaid
If you do not have sufficient assets to pay for nursing home care, it is possible to qualify for Medicaid to pay for the cost of nursing home care. In order to qualify for Medicaid, you must have nearly no assets and not much income.
While some assets do not count against you for eligibility for Medicaid, Medicaid may still demand such items be sold after you pass away to repay Medicaid. Often, families are demanded to repay Medicaid by selling the home after a loved one has passed away.
Proactive Medicaid Planning
Elder Law Attorneys help you prepare for nursing home care with proactive Medicaid planning. This involves using trusts and other tools in advance of needing Medicaid to divert assets in a way which prevents Medicaid from counting such assets. This also protects you from Medicaid taking assets after you pass away to repay themselves. Asset protection trusts are a way to protect assets.
Elder Law Attorneys also help families with crisis planning. This is when nursing home care is imminent or has already started, and the family needs help with saving as much of the person’s wealth as possible, even though it is too late to proactively plan. While less ideal than planning in advance, it may be possible to save a substantial part of the assets from being depleted by nursing home costs. Helping Seniors preserve assets from the threat of depletion by nursing home care is one of the things Elder Law Attorneys do.
There are many other issues that Seniors struggle with that Elder Law Attorneys focus on. One of these issues is guardianship. If you are fighting to keep control over your own life and someone else is trying to have you declared incompetent, this would be an area that an Elder Law Attorney would focus on.
Conversely, if you are a family member who is trying to protect an elderly person who has diminished capacity by having the court declare a guardian, this would also be an Elder Law issue.
Elder Law Attorneys also handle cases where Seniors are mistreated by exploitation. Whether money or assets were stolen by a guardian or a nursing aide, a service tech or a family friend, Elder Law cases encompass these problems and finding solutions and judgments for the guilty party.
If you have a Senior Citizen legal issue or have a family member who needs help, contact an experienced Elder Law Attorney. All aspects of Senior care including planning for asset protection, healthcare issues, Medicaid planning, Senior Exploitation, and guardianship cases are part of Elder Law. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney specializing in Elder Law can help you find answers and make solid plans for the Seniors in your life. Contact us at Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna for more information.