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Questions About Elder Law

What programs can help me stay in my home?

The Department of Aging has a Waiver Program, for those who are medically and financially needy, offering free services, averaging 40 hours per week.

There are also other Department of Aging programs, such as the Options program, that offers less hours of care, and you have to pay according to your income.

If I need to go to a nursing home, how would I pay for it?

Medicare pays for up to 100 days, if your medical need continues.  Days 1- 20 are paid in full, while days 21- 100 require a co-payment.  If your supplemental plan does not include the nursing home co-payment provision, you must pay for this. 

Long Term Care Insurance can pay for some of the costs of nursing home care, but it depends upon the policy terms.  It can be for a certain period of time, or a fixed amount, or it can be for an indefinite period of time, and have a rider in it to increase the policy payout amounts over time.  It can be expensive, or difficult to get, depending on your age and health conditions.

Veterans Benefits can pay for those who are qualified.  There are state and federal facilities that are available. 

Private payment is what most people think is their only option.  At around $6,000 per month, even those with a large estate can find it eaten away quickly.

Medicaid is the only program that will pay long term for nursing home care.  This program requires a medical and financial need.  It is based on need, and is not an entitlement, so there is an eligibility process.  When your assets are down to a certain level, and you meet the other requirements, then you can qualify for benefits.

Don’t I have to spend all my money before I can qualify for Medicaid?

No, but most people spend all of their money on the nursing home, and when the money is gone, then, if there are no ineligibility periods running from any gifts made, then the applicant can receive benefits.  With planning, assets can be transferred to protect them, and then qualify for benefits, leaving individuals with some extra to live on, and pass on to their children.

There are some assets that are exempt from this rule, such as your house, one car, an irrevocable burial account, funded with up to $7,500.00, and a small amount of life insurance.  They will either exempt one life insurance policy with a face value of less than $1,000.00 or they will exempt $1,500.00 in cash value from a policy.  All other cash values of the policies you own are subject to the cost of care.

If I put my daughter’s name on accounts, are they safe from the nursing home?

No.  According to the Medicaid rules, unlike the bank rules, you are assumed to have used your money to fund the account, unless you can prove that your daughter actually put money into the account.

Can’t I just give everything away and qualify for Medicaid?

If it were that easy, everyone would do it. 

Every time you give away money, the Department of Public Welfare will not pay for your care for a period of time.  While there is a formula that is applied, the simple answer is that under the new rules, if you give anything away within five years of asking the government to help you, you must pay it back.

Can’t I just leave my things to my children in my Will?

Leaving assets to your children in your Will does not protect it from recovery.  The state has priority over your children to receive money from your estate.

Can a Trust help me keep my money from going to the nursing home?

Yes, if it is the correct type of Trust.  There are basically two types of Trusts.  One is a Living Trust, which is also is called a Revocable Trust.  In this type of Trust, the individual putting the money in “Settlor” is also the person who can take it out “Trustee.”  Because the money can be put in and removed at will, this money is considered to be available to pay for nursing home care.  It is not at all protective of assets for this purpose, and those assets that are usually exempt lose their protection if they are put into this type of Trust.

An Irrevocable Trust, on the other hand, is one used for protection of assets from nursing home care.  In this type of Trust, the person who puts the money in cannot have the money to take the money out again.  Because this cannot happen, things that are in this type of Trust are protected from the cost

Can my kids take care of these things for me if I’m not able to?

Only if they have the ability to do so, in writing, in a Power of Attorney document.  This document must include unlimited gifting powers if the children need to do asset protection planning.