Thankfully, this is not a frequent scenario, but the seriousness is worth writing about nonetheless.
A child or spouse calls the office of an elder law attorney. The caller’s loved one is about to be discharged from the hospital or short term rehabilitation, and upon the recommendation of a social worker, is urged to consult with an elder law attorney.
The child or spouse gets good information on how to begin protecting their loved one, but for various reasons, such as the overwhelming nature of the medical crisis at hand, dealing with health insurance, balancing their own family, job, etc., they put off further meetings with the lawyer, or proceeding with recommended services, and manage to get their loved one back home, or past the immediate crisis.
Fast forward several months, or even more than a year. Another medical crisis arises and there is no avoiding planning for long term care, which will now certainly be necessary going forward. The same caller calls the office and is now ready to go ahead with the recommended plan.
Unfortunately, that plan is no longer viable.
Too often, while their loved one had capacity to sign a power of attorney when they originally called, their loved one’s dementia got worse in the intervening months and he or she is no longer capable of signing a power of attorney with all of the elder law provisions needed to establish Medicaid and protect assets.
A spouse may have passed away in the intervening months, eliminating certain planning strategies that were available with the original strategy.
Often, the family shifted and used funds to pay for home health aides without guidance of an elder law attorney, and the transfers will result in a penalty with Medicaid or tax liability that could have been avoided with some guidance.
It’s possible that many years passed and had the planning been done at least 5 years previously, more of their loved ones assets could have been protected and preserved.
There is a certainly a time that is too early to begin elder law planning, but there also comes a time that it may be too late.
If you are a senior, and have not met with an elder law attorney, it will be worth your while to have your situation assessed. Perhaps you have everything in order already, or perhaps it is highly recommended to get some things in place. That one meeting is a small investment in light of the advice and guidance that can potentially save you and your loved ones from tremendous unnecessary frustration and loss later on.
Who wouldn’t want peace of mind?