The Medicaid Application process for long term care benefits can be complex and confusing. The process can be overwhelming in the best of times, and certainly when a family is already faced with the physical, emotional and financial stress of caring for a loved one suffering from illness or disability. When an individual needs long term care services, and seeks Medicaid to pay for it, the application process must be followed through. An experienced elder law attorney, who knows and understands the rules relating to Medicaid eligibility and the process to obtain the benefits needed, provides a tremendous advantage to an individual and his or her family for many reasons. Here are five reasons why you will want the assistance of an experienced elder law attorney when seeking Medicaid long term care.
1. An elder law attorney can advise you on a strategy to preserve your assets so you don’t have to spend down your money to become Medicaid eligible.
You worked hard your whole life. Do you want your hard earned savings to be spent down on your long term care needs or do you want leave an inheritance for your loved ones? While a non-lawyer can help you process your Medicaid application, he or she cannot advise you on how you can legally protect and preserve your assets for your family. A lawyer that is well versed in Medicaid planning can identify and implement strategies to protect your assets so that not only can you qualify for Medicaid without spending down your assets, but your assets can be preserved for your loved ones. Ultimately, the price of paying for the lawyer’s assistance will be insignificant compared to the high cost of failing to do so.
2. An elder law attorney can advise you on a strategy to avoid a lien or payback from assets that are Medicaid exempt.
Too many times individuals are either misguided or fail to be guided on potential Medicaid liens and payback. For example, an individual can obtain Medicaid while owning their home. The idea is that an individual needs to live somewhere when they are getting home care services – they aren’t going to get services on the sidewalk! However, when the individual passes away, or permanently moves to a nursing home, the individual no longer needs to live in their home and before a family can inherit the home, Medicaid can lien the home and demand repayment for the cost of care which may be hundreds of thousands of dollars. While a non-lawyer can assist in the Medicaid application process for an individual, they would not be concerned with protecting the home against any claims that may come much later on. An elder law attorney would review the full picture and advise on ways to protect the home so that Medicaid does not seek repayment from the value of the home.
3. An elder law attorney is looking at the applicant’s whole picture, not just his or her immediate Medicaid needs.
A non-lawyer may assist with getting approval for care for an individual based on the individual’s then current needs. Once there is approval often other aspects of the process may not be addressed, such as preservation of monthly income or future long term care needs. On the other hand, an experienced elder law attorney is confronting the Medicaid application process from a very wide lens. It is not only about the specific Medicaid application and approval, but about the bigger picture, future long term needs of the client and his or her family. For example, if home care is needed, the look back is different than if nursing home care is needed. What may work to successfully obtain home care can disqualify a person from obtaining nursing home care later if needed. A family can ultimately pay a very high nursing home cost because of actions taken earlier to obtain home care eligibility. Further, income rules are different for an assisted living facility vs. home care services or nursing home care services. What may be a great strategy for one kind of service can have adverse effects when seeking another type of service later.
4. An elder law attorney is looking at not only the applicant’s whole picture, but the needs of his or her spouse and often other family members as well.
A non-lawyer is not qualified to address the planning needs of a spouse of a Medicaid applicant. If there is a spouse, you want to make sure that you are protecting him or her as well, both from a financial perspective of potential Medicaid liability and spousal contribution as well as for his or her own possible future need for long term care. By getting Medicaid approval for one spouse, without having a strategy for protecting both spouse could have tremendously costly consequences. In addition, planning strategies can have both positive or negative effects on the children, which must be considered as well. An elder law attorney will look at the big picture, considering many various scenarios that may affect both husband, wife, children, and even other family members, and not just address the immediate needs of the Medicaid applicant.
5. An elder law attorney has the legal obligation to advocate for you without any conflict of interest.
If you use the assistance of someone that works for the agency or institution that will be providing the Medicaid long term care services, there may be a conflict of interest. Although they mean well, ultimately, it is in their interest to get Medicaid approval as quickly as possible so that they can get paid. It is not their job to look out for preservation of your income or assets, protection for a spouse, or for the need for future services that may be precluded without proper advance planning. They cannot provide legal advice to you, and the fact that Medicaid may put a lien on your house in the future or your assets may become subject to estate recovery by Medicaid is really not their concern. The cost of hiring an attorney that will advocate for you and focus on your interests, and not any third party’s interest, will be a very worthy investment.
Elder law attorneys not only understand the rules relating Medicaid benefits but will also advise and advocate for you with regard to many additional considerations that you may not even be aware of. Failing to hire an elder law attorney for the Medicaid process can cost you a fortune. You don’t want to discover later on that you didn’t plan right. If you or a loved one is in need of long term care and is seeking Medicaid benefits, make the right decision and call an elder law attorney.
We would be happy to help you. Start protecting yourself today and call (516) 466-9455 for a free consultation.