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The Elder Care Journey: How to Protect Your Assets Each Step of the Way

Posted by attorney Brett Howell

Stage 1: The Healthy Senior

  • At this stage you are likely using Medicare or private health insurance to pay for the treatment of any health related problems.
  • You should also consider long term care insurance in the event that you should later require assisted living or nursing home placement.
  • It is important to make sure you have properly planned your estate with a trust or will and financial and medical powers of attorney.

Stage 2: The Declining Senior

  • Once you enter an assisted living facility or require in-home care, the situation likely needs immediate attention.
  • There is still the option of private pay, but with rising costs of care this may not be practical or a long term solution.
  • Long term care insurance is still an option, but it is much harder to qualify once you have been institutionalized.
  • For wartime veteran’s and their spouse there is money available if they qualify for Veteran’s benefits. In order to qualify you must meet qualifications concerning assets, length of service, and reason for discharge. If you qualify, married veterans can receive over $2,000 a month and surviving spouses can receive more than $1,000 a month.

Stage 3: The Fragile Senior

  • Once you enter a nursing home, private pay becomes very impractical with costs averaging over $7,000 month.
  • Applying for Medicaid is often critical at this stage. Medicaid has strict rules for applicants including asset limits, limits on gifting to relatives or charities, and limits on how much income you can receive.
  • Despite all these restrictions, it is possible to qualify for Medicaid with expert assistance. Some of the strategies for applying include: spending down your assets, repositioning your assets to avoid Medicaid penalties, and re-titling certain assets.
  • Also, it is important to consider your estate plan. If you receive Medicaid benefits, the Michigan Department of Community Health will try to recover Medicaid expenses that were paid on the behalf of nursing home residents. However, only probate assets are currently subject to recovery. A good way to avoid estate recovery is to have a trust as a part of your estate plan instead of a will because a trust can avoid probate court.
  • Despite the benefit of a trust avoiding probate, there is much more to beware of. A poorly drafted estate planning document can become quite a hassle. The bottom line: seek professional assistance throughout your elder care journey to review your estate plan to make sure that it successfully meets all of your needs.

No matter where you or a loved one is on the elder care journey, it is important to seek professional help from a qualified elder law attorney each step of the way. Whether it is to protect assets from nursing home expenses or plan your estate, it is very risky to address these situations without expert assistance. While you should never procrastinate as far as your estate plan is concerned, the following situations require immediate attention from a qualified elder law attorney:

  • If you or a loved one is in a nursing home or will be entering a nursing home within the next year.
  • If a loved one has a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
  • If you have a child acting as your caregiver and they are being paid for their services.
  • If you are a wartime veteran or a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran with high cost of living expenses.
  • Finally, if you are a healthy senior who wants the peace of mind of having “all your ducks in a row".

Additional resources provided by the author

Additional Information can be found on the Elder and Estate Planning Law Firm's website

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