Elder Law is another aspect of Estate Planning, focusing primarily on the shifting needs of families and individuals as they age. “Pure” Estate Planning, on the other hand, focuses on the best planning to pass assets after death in the most tax, time, and cost-efficient manner. Elder law issues of aging include identifying and paying for senior housing and home care, long-term care, nursing home care, guardianships and health care/financial documents, Medicare, Medicaid, and VA benefits to help pay for medical expenses.
Our attorneys are experienced in helping manage those critical situations that arise during the aging process. Whether navigating a crisis or planning for the future, we bring clients the assurance of decades of experience. These types of unfamiliar legal challenges can seem to be overwhelming and we help guide you through this wilderness that can seem daunting.
Please read some of the testimonials to learn what other clients in your position have said of their experience working with our firm.
We focus specifically on the following common matters most often dealt with by Florida’s older demographic.
- Medicaid and VA benefits and long term care planning
- Planning for the disabled and those with special needs
- Wills, Probate, Trusts and Trust Administration
- Serving as personal representative or Trustee
- Estate planning
- Litigation dealing with any of these areas
The Long-Term Care Dilemma.
As our population ages, more and more of us confront elder law-related issues, whether for ourselves or our parents. One of the most pressing issues is long-term nursing home care, which is usually not covered by traditional health insurance. Depending on where you live and the level of care need, nursing home care can cost from $100,000 to $150,000 a year. The average stay is slightly more than three years. Most people end up paying for nursing home care until their personal (or family) assets are depleted, then they may qualify for Medicaid to pick up the cost.
Careful planning, however, can help protect your assets, whether for your spouse or children. You can purchase long-term care insurance while you are healthy enough to qualify. You should also make sure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled under Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA.
Clients are frequently confused over the differences between Medicare and Medicaid. Though their names are very similar, the programs are quite different. Medicare is a federal health insurance program in which most people enroll when they turn 65 years old. There are no financial qualification rules, unlike Medicaid, which is needs based.
Part A and Part B.
Medicare Part A covers in-hospital care and extended care after a hospital stay. Part B covers doctor’s services and lab costs. The rules for nursing home coverage are very strict and Medicare pays for less than nine percent of nursing home care in this country. Think of it as being designed to pay for post-hospital rehabilitation stays at a nursing home only until the rehab is complete, when no further improvement is possible. Then Medicare stops paying. In no event, will it pay for more than 100 days. As mentioned above, most long-term nursing home stays far exceed this limit. The take-away: don’t depend on Medicare to pay for your long-term care stay.
Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, subject to certain federal requirements. Each state implements its own regulations on how the program is managed. Medicaid is not an entitlement program like Medicare, but rather a form of welfare. Medicaid eligibility is determined after the proper application is submitted to the state. There are many Medicaid insurance programs available in Florida, from basic medical coverage to nursing home programs.
We assist seniors and their families in making tough decisions regarding long-term care planning, including whether Medicaid eligibility may be an option.
Senior Housing Options
Helping a parent move to senior housing can seem more intimidating than orchestrating a rocket launch. The death of a spouse, declining health or safety concerns can trigger the need to move. The first phase comes with the realization that what has been home to someone is no longer a suitable option. Emotional ties to a place are hard to overcome. Finding a new home that is appealing and appropriate is no easy task, and neither is sorting through a lifetime’s accumulation of “stuff”.
The founder of Estate Planning and Elder Law Center of Brevard, Robin M. Petersen, has personally experienced many of the steps in the Elder Care Journey with his parents, as well as thousands of his clients’ families. Here are some of his tips to help make the transition easier:
- Plan ahead. Don’t wait for a health crisis to start the process. Unfortunately, this is how most folks seem to begin planning: with a health crisis. The smoothest transitions occur when the person moving is in the driver’s seat. Think way ahead about how to pay for the services. There is much planning you can put in place way ahead of needing it. Planning during a crisis limits your options. Look at a few specific areas on our website that deal with paying for long term-care, such as Medicaid and VA benefits. There are also new long term care insurance policies to help pay for care that retain the benefits for heirs if long-term care is not needed. You can’t obtain one of these policies after the health crisis has happened.
- Get a full objective assessment of the current situation. Obtain it from others who have helped their clients in your very situation. Care planners and Elder Law attorneys are a fountain of insight. Physical care needs and financial resources are a great place to start. Consider the costs of staying in place, including renovation and ongoing maintenance. Add the cost of rising utility bills and taxes, and don’t forget transportation and food. Make a list and decide whether it’s cheaper to stay or move to a community designed for seniors.
- Take a multi-phase approach. Seniors often take longer than a year actually to make the move and even longer to admit they even have a problem enough to nudge them into the next phase.
- Fully explore new housing options. Senior living offers a broader range of options than ever before.
Planning for disability can and should take the form of getting yours or your loved one’s ducks in a row ahead of time. Execute Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate Designations, Living Wills, and Preneed Guardian Designations. To understand more about this, see our Fundamental Estate Planning section of this website. These plans usually will assist with avoiding Guardianships. To understand more about guardianships and why they might be necessary or why you might want to avoid them, click here.