As you (or your parents) begin to age, many individuals begin to worry about who will care for them when they are no longer able to care for themselves. They worry about whether or not they have enough saved to pay for help in the home, assisted living, or nursing home care. As elder care practitioners, we help individuals properly plan for their future through Estate Planning, Guardianships (if necessary), Veterans Benefits, and Medicaid planning. Our goal is to help you preserve your assets while still allowing you to receive the care that you need.
Estate Planning. Estate planning varies from person to person and depends upon the complexity of an individual’s assets. There are some documents that every person needs. They are a Health Care Directive and Appointment of Health Care Agent and a financial Power of Attorney.
A Health Care Directive and Appointment of Health Care Agent names an individual or individuals that you want to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so and allows the named individual(s) to speak with your doctors regarding your care. It is important to name individuals that you trust and who will comply with your wishes.
A financial Power of Attorney names an individual or individuals that you want to transact your financial affairs if you are unable to do so. It is important to name individuals that you trust and who are good with money.
A well written Health Care Directive and Appointment of Health Care Agent and financial Power of Attorney should eliminate the need for a guardianship should you become incapacitated. Additionally, you want to make sure that your Health Care Directive and Appointment of Health Care Agent and your financial Power of Attorney comply with current Maryland laws.
We will also discuss an individual’s Last Will and Testament, whether or not it is appropriate to establish a revocable or irrevocable trust, special needs planning, and other estate planning issues.
Guardianship. It is sometimes necessary to petition the Circuit Court for guardianship over a loved one. A guardianship is often sought when there is not a Health Care Directive and Appointment of Health Care Agent or a financial Power of Attorney and an individual is no longer capable of making decisions for themselves.
There are two (2) types of guardianship. The first is a Guardianship of the Person. When an individual petitions the Circuit Court to be the Guardian of the Person they are asking the Court to grant them the power to make medical decisions for another individual.
The second type of guardianship is Guardianship of the Property. An individual seeking a Guardianship of the Property is asking the Court to grant them the power to handle another person’s financial affairs.
It is our job to help the individual seeking guardianship navigate through the court system and understand the duties and responsibilities associated with being named as an individual’s guardian.
Veterans Benefits: Aid & Attendance. As people begin to age, one of their biggest fears is “how am I going to be able to afford Assisted Living”? For Veterans and widowed spouses of World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Era, and Persian Gulf War Veterans additional funds may be available to help defray the cost of in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care.
A Veteran, without a spouse, can be eligible for up to $1,758 per month in benefits; a widowed spouse can be eligible for up to $1,130 per month in benefits; and a Veteran, with a spouse who also needs care, can be eligible for up to $2,085 per month in benefits that will help defray the cost of care.
Through careful planning, we can make individuals eligible for Aid & Attendance benefits and also begin tolling the clock on Medicaid’s five (5) year look back period.
Medicaid. The average cost of nursing home care is $8,000 - $10,000 per month. This can quickly deplete an individual’s assets or the assets of a couple. In order to be eligible for Medicaid benefits, an individual must require skilled nursing home care AND have no more than $2,500 in assets on the date that an application for Medicaid benefits is made.
When applying for Medicaid benefits an Applicant must provide the Department of Social Services with five (5) years of financial records for every account that they have had in the five years immediately preceding their application for Medicaid benefits. This is commonly known as the “Medicaid Look Back” period and is designed to catch and penalize individuals who have gifted away their assets in preparation for applying for Medicaid benefits.
Many people do not realize that through strategic planning, an individual can qualify for Medicaid benefits much sooner than they anticipated. If an individual in a nursing home is married, careful planning will allow that individual to qualify for Medicaid benefits and protect ALL of their assets for their spouse within a relatively short period of time. If an individual is unmarried, planning will allow for that individual to protect approximately one-half (1/2) of all their assets to pass down to the next generation.