A general rule of Estate Planning is to plan AHEAD. We want to know that we have decision-makers standing at the ready if the time comes when we cannot make health or financial decisions for ourselves. We want to be able to cover the cost of any care we need without bankrupting our families. We want to ensure we are taken care of and we want to leave a legacy.
It is relatively common knowledge that if we want Medicaid or government benefits to assist in paying for long-term care, we will be subject to the “five-year lookback.” In other words, when you apply for Medicaid, any gifts or transfers of assets made within five years (60 months) of the date of application are subject to penalties. To avoid this, we must transfer assets out of our name in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits. The problem is we don’t like giving our money away without some ability to access it. We want to use that money while we are healthy to do so!
As an elder law attorney, I am focused on making sure you can use and enjoy the money you have worked so hard to earn and still qualify for Medicaid to help defray the cost of long-term care (whether in our home or in a nursing home) to the greatest extent possible if and when the time comes.
The best way to accomplish this is with advanced planning. By employing the use of trusts and other techniques, we will work to save your entire estate from being reduced at a rate of $13,000.00 or more per month. Of course, the real problem in planning is that we don’t have a crystal ball. We never know when we, or our loved one, might become sick or require care on a temporary or permanent basis. For this reason, many people put off estate planning until the need for homecare or institutional care is immediate.
Countless clients (and sometimes other attorneys) assume that there is nothing that can be done to preserve a family’s assets if care is needed immediately. This assumption is simply incorrect. Even in the eleventh hour, there are virtually always strategies we can utilize to preserve a family’s assets if long-term care is needed. Complex emergency planning, the use of trusts and gift/promissory note strategies, and taking advantage of little-known Medicaid laws and regulations are just some of the techniques that can be used to protect your assets.
Whatever you do, don’t assume all is lost. Make sure you contact an attorney who focuses in the area of elder law to help you navigate the overwhelming Medicaid process.
If you have any questions about the above material or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact us at (716) 204-1055.