Legal issues that impact the elderly are certainly nothing new; however, as the elder population explodes in the United States, much more attention is being paid to the elderly in general, and to their legal needs specifically. Consequently, the area of the law now known as “elder law” evolved to serve the older population and those who care for them. One of the legal issues often faced by seniors is the need to pay for long-term care which often results in the need to qualify for Medicaid. Without careful Medicaid planning, however, that can lead to the loss of a considerable portion of your retirement nest egg.
What Is Elder Law?
As the older population began to explode during the latter half of the 20th century, the legal community recognized the need for attorneys who could assist the elderly with their legal problems. In 1988, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, was created to address the unique issues faced by the elderly and those who care for them. Just five years later, the National Elder Law Foundation, or NELF, was formed. The non-profit NELF was created to help improve the professional skills of attorneys who choose to focus on elder law. Unlike other attorneys who choose to specialize in specific areas of the law, an elder law attorney is well versed in a wide range of areas of the law and focuses on how those laws impact the elderly.
Medicaid Services – Why Is Medicaid Planning Necessary?
The longer you live, the greater your odds are of spending time in a long-term care (LTC) facility. At age 65, you stand a 50 percent chance of needing LTC at some point prior to the end of your life. By age 85, your odds of needing LTC will have increased to a 75 percent chance. If you do end up needing LTC, the cost of that care could deplete your retirement nest egg in no time if you have to pay out of pocket. As of 2016, the average cost of LTC nationwide was $80,000 per year. In Hawaii, however, that same care averaged $140,000 a year. Don’t count on Medicare to help because Medicare only covers LTC under very narrow circumstances, and even then, for just a brief period of time. Your basic health insurance coverage is also unlikely to cover LTC expenses, leaving over half of all seniors in LTC to turn to Medicaid for help with their LTC expenses. Eligibility for Medicaid, however, depends in part on an applicant’s “countable resources.” Many seniors who failed to plan ahead are not eligible because their resources exceed the limit. When that is the case, Medicaid imposes a waiting period during which time the applicant must “spend-down” resources. In effect, this means you must sell your assets and rely on the proceeds to pay your LTC expenses during the waiting period. The key to protecting your assets and qualifying for help with LTC expenses if you need it is to include Medicaid planning in your comprehensive estate plan.
At Sterling & Tucker, LLP, our experienced and knowledgeable Honolulu Elder Law attorneys are committed to helping you with any legal issues you may have that impact the elderly. In addition, we encourage you to allow us to help you include a Medicaid Planning component into your overall estate plan to ensure that your assets are protected. Contact the Hawaii team today by calling (808) 531-5391or by filling out our online contact form.