Long-term care generally refers to care which lasts beyond any rehabilitation stage. Many times the long term care patient will require ongoing skilled nursing or the patient will be deemed “custodial” in that they are not improving. In home care might suffice in some cases, but sometimes placement in a long term care facility may be necessary in order to keep the patient safe, considering factors such as medical needs, mental capacity, support systems and finances. Elder Law attorneys are licensed attorneys who assist their clients in planning should the need for long term care arise in the future or if the client is already receiving long term care.
Cost of Long Term Care:
Considering the cost of long term care (approximately $7,000-$8,000 per month for a private room in a nursing home in Colorado), many families do not want to wait until they are in a crisis to address this issue. Long term care costs can be devastating to a person’s or a couple’s life savings. The Elder Law attorney will consider many factors as part of the planning process, including the size and nature of the estate, the cost of care, the health of the individual(s), and various life insurance strategies and government benefits that may be helpful in paying the bill when the time comes. If government benefits, such as Medicaid, may be achieved, one goal may be to protect the home from Medicaid recovery.
Benefits of Working With an Elder Law Attorney
An Elder Law attorney provides clients with a “one-stop” planning service. Usually, planning starts with estate planning. It is imperative for clients to have a solid estate plan in place, such as a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy, a Living Will and a HIPAA Release. Should the clients become incapacitated and need care, the path will be smoother, less expensive, and controlled by a person selected by the client who has the powers needed to further the interests of the client. For instance, a good Durable Power of Attorney will allow the agent to make legal and financial decisions, such as in a Medicaid application, without need for the court process known as Conservatorship. Without the right powers and proper documents, clients can still end up in a court proceeding. Oftentimes, statutory powers of attorney, online legal documents, and even some estate planning attorneys may not have the language needed in their documents to complete the long term care planning process by an agent. A good Elder Law attorney would be able to provide clients with the right documents and language to specifically accomplish long term care planning goals.
Why Work With an Attorney on Medicaid Planning?
Additionally, an Elder Law Attorney will explain the Medicaid qualification rules and gifting penalties. For instance, the attorney will explain which assets are “non-countable” under the Medicaid rules and how much income or which types of assets are acceptable. In many cases, the Elder Law attorney is able to make recommendations and put a plan in place to protect the family home and assets and toward qualification under the regulations. Unlike working with a non-attorney, attorneys in general have something called an attorney-client privilege under which any client communication is completely confidential. Also, attorneys cannot represent multiple parties if there is a conflict of interest. This means, the attorney has a fiduciary duty to only the client, and to act and zealously represent the client’s best interests.
Lastly, an Elder Law attorney is usually licensed to practice in a State court and, if the attorney does VA Pension planning, accredited with the Department of Veterans Affairs. This means the Elder Law attorney is required to complete a certain number of Continued Legal Education hours in order to remain licensed with the courts, and accredited with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Elder Law attorney can represent the client in all stages of the planning, application, and, if needed, the appeals process.
If you have questions about Medicaid or VA Pension planning, please give us a call at (719) 694-3000.