Elder law is a topic in the field of estate planning that covers three needs that are particularly necessary for elderly persons. First is the preparation of documents that prepare for a possible need for a trustworthy person to manage an older person’s financial affairs in the event of a disability.
Next is consultation with the experts as to local resources and geriatric specialists in different disciplines to cover how to locate an assisted care home, or nursing home, if needed. Alternatively, there are in-home services to be identified so people who want to can live in their homes as long as possible.
Last is “Medicaid planning” to cover the cost of nursing home care. Medicaid is a welfare program for the poor. There are very low limits on how much a single person can have in assets so as to qualify for Medicaid, roughly $2,000. For a married couple it is different because a “community spouse” is not required to be totally impoverished so that the infirm spouse can qualify for assistance. The number changes from year to year, but a good approximation is about $100,000 of assets belonging to the married couple at the time of the application for benefits. However it does not include assets that are exempt from the eligibility calculation. Exempt assets include: a home, rental real estate, vehicles, small life insurance policies, personal effects, burial contracts and plots and certain types of loans. There are also income limits for Medicaid eligibility which are too complicated to discuss here.
Gifts to children or grandchildren so as to “get down to” a level of assets that qualify that person for Medicaid are subject to a five-year look back period. So any large gifts made in the five-years prior to an application for Medicaid nursing home benefits will create a period of disqualification. The calculation of the length of that period is too complicated to get into here. Broadly speaking, it is tied to a dollar figure for the government’s monthly cost for the nursing home care in question that is divided into amount of the disqualifying gift. The result is the number of months of disqualification.
The Medicaid issue dominates the Elder Law field but should not overshadow the basic estate planning that people should do to arrange their probate and non-probate assets to make the best disposition in the event of death or disability.
For a private consultation with an experienced Roswell elder law attorney, contact me by e-mail or call me at 770-645-4990. Flexible meeting times are available to accommodate your schedule. I am conveniently located in the Historic District of Roswell, Georgia.