This post is by elder law attorney Kristin L. Burrows, who recently joined my firm. Look for more entries from her in the future, focusing on elder law.
There are numerous rules governing who is eligible for Medicaid to help pay nursing home costs. Medicaid planning involves advising clients about what those rules are and applying the rules to their financial situation. The goal of Medicaid planning is to protect the client’s rights and maximize the assets that Medicaid allows them to keep or transfer.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the people who are coming to see me for Medicaid planning are not wealthy, and are not trying to hide money. The people who come to see me are often the spouse or family member of an elderly person who needs to enter a nursing home. The family is overwhelmed by the circumstances. They are worried about how to pay for the huge nursing home bills and how to protect the spouse who is still living at home. They are devastated by the thought that everything their spouse or parent spent their life working for and saving will be depleted by their final health care costs. They are often planning for Medicaid eligibility in order to protect the spouse who will remain at home (the “community spouse”) from becoming impoverished, and to protect some resources to help the person entering the nursing home maintain the best possible quality of life in his or her last years.
The truth is, Medicaid planning is usually the last ditch effort. How many people really think about long-term care planning? Even if they have thought about it, how many people know how to plan for it? Who knows if they’ll need it? Who knows when they’ll need it? Who knows how long they’ll need it? Who knows what level of care they’ll need? Who knows how much it will cost by the time they need it?
Moreover, in situations where someone needs nursing home care, there are often many other issues going on simultaneously. In some cases, the person entering the nursing home has either reached the point or is about to reach the point that he can no longer make his own decisions. An elder law attorney can help you navigate all of these issues to understand your rights and options, and to develop a plan to tackle the hurdles ahead.