Disability and special needs

4 Periods of Planning for a Nursing Home

We got another one of those calls the other day. It went something like this: “Mom has been in the nursing home for 3 years now and her money is gone. Is there anything we can do?” Our hearts sink when we hear this, because for this family, it’s too late for a lot of planning options.

How do you deal with a parent or spouse who can’t stay at home anymore? It’s one of the most stressful things a family can face. Few know what to do because they have never faced this issue before.

The key is the earlier we can plan, the more we can do, the more assets we can protect, and the easier we can make it on the family.

Generally, we see 4 different periods of planning. How much we can do declines as time passes.

1. Too late. When the money has all been spent on the nursing home over several years, it might be too late to protect assets. But we can help the family deal with all the mountains of paperwork and complete the Medicaid application. Oftentimes, our Medicaid team spends 40-50 hours completing a Medicaid application! How long would it take someone less experienced? We can help take the stress off of the family.

2. Not too late. “Mom’s Medicare coverage for nursing home care runs out in about 3 weeks. What do we do?” At this point, the family hasn’t spent any of mom’s money, but in 3 weeks they will start spending A LOT of her savings on the nursing home. (Around $6500 per month in Central Illinois.) We can still do a lot for this family. We call this a “crisis plan” and we move quickly to maximize Medicaid and VA benefits. Often we can still protect 50% or more of mom’s assets.

3. Protect your nest egg. What if mom is still living at home, but her health is going downhill? The family sees a point in the future when she will need care. So how do you plan ahead? One option is to create a special kind of trust, a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, to protect the nest egg. The nest egg includes the assets she doesn’t plan to need or spend during her life. Maybe we protect the house or some savings or investments, while still leaving enough for her to continue to live well. Whatever assets were placed in the trust will be 100% protected once 5 years have passed.

4. Best option. The absolute best option is to buy long-term care insurance when you are still young and healthy. Often it’s too expensive or not available once you hit retirement age. Those who buy good long-term care insurance can rest easy, knowing the insurance company will help pay for their future care, instead of it coming out of their family’s inheritance. Read more about long-term care insurance here.

For more details on how nursing home crisis planning works, click here to read a case study. To learn more about Medicaid Planning, sign up for our free 3-part email series on the topic.

For immediate assistance, please call 217-726-9200 and speak with an Elder Care Advisor.

3 Ways to Pay for a Nursing Home

It’s difficult to face, but statistics show that 70% of people who reach the age of 70 will need some sort of long-term care (like a nursing home). The need for long-term care can arise because of stroke, dementia or any number of health problems. When that happens, you and your family will have to figure out a way to pay for it. There are really only three ways to pay for long-term care:

1. Use your own assets or income to pay for care. You could use your savings, your pension, your Social Security, your IRA, your investments or sell your house to pay for care. Even the wealthiest of people generally have trouble doing this for any length of time because the average cost of nursing care in Central Illinois is around $6500 per month! With the average nursing home stay lasting nearly 2.5 years, that’s $195,000!

2. Let the insurance company pay for it. If you buy long-term care insurance, or buy a life insurance policy with a long-term care rider, when the time comes your family won’t have to use their own savings. If you can purchase long-term care insurance early enough, this can be a good option for helping pay for care. However, there will come a point in life when purchasing LTC insurance just isn’t an option. Read “Should I buy long-term care insurance?” here.

3. Use benefits paid for by your taxes. Many people do not want to rely on government help as they age, yet 70% of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay the exorbitant costs of care. Until something changes, this benefit will continue to play a vital role in making sure people get the care they need as they age. You’ve paid a lifetime of taxes. Why not use this benefit just like you use Medicare or Social Security? Another very important benefit in paying for long-term care is the Veteran’s Pension and Survivor’s Pension Programs (often called “Aid and Attendance”). This benefit is available to a wide range of Veterans who often do not even know about the program. (Only 28% of those eligible actually take advantage of the program.) It is a great help in providing in-home care or nursing care.

The key is to plan ahead as to which of these options you hope to use to pay for your care. The tragic family situations regarding long-term care happen when people don’t plan ahead and then are surprised or having an immediate crisis which results in a worst-case scenario of depleting their life savings. Our Elder Care Advisors are a great resource for families who are trying to figure out how to get and pay for good care. Give them a call at 217-726-9200 today!

5 Problems Caused by VA Financial Planners

There are financial planners out there who hold themselves as VA planners offering “free” VA benefit advice, but their “free” advice often comes with a hidden price.

Non-attorney Planning Tactics Can Backfire

David was in Atlanta a few months ago at the Academy of VA Pension Planners. It’s one of many professional organizations that David belongs to in order to make sure the firm serves our clients better than anyone else. The AVAPP solely focuses on helping Veterans, and their families, get the benefits they earned in service to their country.

Did you know that only 28% of Veterans who qualify use their benefits? And as one of the only law firms in Central Illinois to be accredited by the VA, we want to make sure that everyone who has served our country gets to age with dignity and receive the best care possible.

There are some financial planners who hold themselves out as VA planners offering “free” VA benefit advice. Some are very knowledgeable, but there are some problems with the “free” advice that you need to watch out for.

5 Tactics that Non-attorney VA Planners Use

1. Transferring the house to the kids

Maximizing VA benefits sometimes means rearranging assets. One mistake we have seen is transferring a house to the children. While this will help work for VA benefits (allowing the house to be sold without messing up benefits), there are problems with this strategy. One problem is when the house is later sold, the kids will pay capital gains taxes that could have been avoided. By putting the house in a Veterans Asset Protection Trust, we could get the VA benefits but also avoid the capital gains tax later.

2. IRAs and taxes

Because the VA has asset limits, sometimes IRA accounts must be moved to qualify for benefits. Without proper tax planning, some families incur a huge tax bill that could have been avoided. Instead, working with an experienced attorney can help you consider all the planning options and the tax impact.

3. Annuities with long surrender charges

Often, the “free” VA advice comes with a recommendation to tie up assets in an annuity with long surrender periods. Is anything really “free” in this world? Unfortunately, some families do not realize that the VA financial planner they are relying on is ultimately trying to sell them costly and expensive annuities that tie up their assets far into the future. (This is how the financial planner makes his living.) Instead, a Veterans Asset Protection Trust can help you protect and arrange assets, while allowing your family free access to the investments held in the trust. You need to consider all of the legal and financial tools to see which is best. Unfortunately, non-attorneys often ignore legal tools, such as trusts, even though they may be the best option to help qualify for benefits.

4. Transferring assets to children

Some non-attorney planners transfer assets to the kids so the client can get VA benefits. So, what is the problem with that? If the client needs more care down the road, the funds may have already been spent by the kids. Plus, the gift could keep them from qualifying for Medicaid. (And 70% of nursing home residents use Medicaid to pay for their care.) Transfers of assets must consider both the current goal (VA benefits) and future needs (such as Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing care). By working with an attorney experienced in both VA and Medicaid planning, you can have a flexible plan that considers future health needs.

5. Messing up wishes

Another strategy that non-attorney planners use that can backfire is to transfer the parent’s money to one child in order to qualify for VA benefits. However, that strategy then changes the entire estate plan because one child legally ends up with all the money (unless they voluntarily share it with their siblings, and sadly, we’re experienced enough to know this happens much less often than you think). Instead, once again, the Veterans Asset Protection Trust is a great tool to preserve your wishes after death, but still help you qualify for VA benefits now.

Call 217-726-9200 if you have any questions at all. We will be more than happy to talk with you.

6 Things To Do BEFORE Your Parents Go To a Nursing Home

Taking care of these 6 things will save you time, money and heartache.

The decision to go into long-term care is rarely an easy one, but there are several things you can do to make sure the transition is a little easier:

1. See if your parent or loved one qualifies for additional financial benefits to help pay for their care. You may be surprised that, with good legal planning, your parents may qualify for benefits to help pay for care. Those benefits will help with the mounting costs of a nursing home, which now average over $200 a day. Every family should get a review by an experienced elder law attorney before giving up on the prospect of additional benefits. Many families miss out on benefits for which they could qualify, because they wrongly assume “nothing can be done now.”

2. Discuss end-of-life options. This is never an easy conversation, but it is vitally important! Just this week I heard of a situation where the elderly mother had to be placed on a ventilator because she had not prepared end of life documents. 7 of her 8 children agreed to take her off (because of a conversation she had had with one of the adult children), but the eighth adult child certainly made it more difficult for her mother and her siblings by refusing. Click here for practical ways to start this conversation and the types of thing you need to find out from the discussion.

3. Choose a facility that offers options for the future. Nobody likes to move, but think about how that must feel when you’re 85? By choosing a facility that offers a range of care, you may minimize having to move your parents as their health declines. Because we help people with these issues all the time, we know quite a bit about local facilities and enjoy being a resource for our clients as they are making these difficult decisions. Give us a call if you have questions about local facilities.

4. Know who can make important decisions. Once your parents move into a facility, it is best if they legally designate “helpers” to make decisions if the time comes that they can’t. A power of attorney is an important legal document that authorizes someone to represent or act on your behalf. They will need two different power of attorney documents: one for medical decisions (like in #2 above) and another for financial decisions.

5. Don’t take valuables into the facility. Your mom might really take comfort in having things like her jewelry with her, but if that jewelry is very sentimental or valuable, you should never let it go to the nursing home with her. It is far too easy for valuable things to disappear in long-term care environments.

6. Talk to your parents about important things like family history before it’s too late. While it is really important to take care of financial and legal responsibilities as your parents age, there are some things that will be lost forever once your parent is gone. Now is a good time to talk to them about things you’ve always wanted to know, but never asked – family recipes and the stories behind those recipes, or stories of your family’s immigration to this country and where those ancestors are buried. While these things may not have financial value, most people agree that things like this are irreplaceable. Check out our infographic on 10 Non-financial Planning Issues here.

As always, we hope that you’ve found this list to be a valuable resource. At Edwards Group we truly desire to help make this stressful time a little less stressful. That’s why we created Elder Care AdvisorsElder Care Advisors help seniors and their families make the best legal, financial, and care decisions. They are uniquely qualified to answer many of the difficult questions that arise as your loved ones age. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call today at 217-726-9200 and we’d be happy to help.

reverse mortgage

Are Reverse Mortgages EVER Okay?

Reverse mortgages should only be used as a last resort.

You know the old saying, “If it seems to good to be true, then it probably is.” Well, it seems that saying could easily apply to the reverse mortgage industry. Because of that, if you are considering one, you need to proceed with extreme caution.

Being able to borrow against the value of your home can seem like a really good idea at the time, but when it comes time to repay the loan (because that’s what this is after all), it can create real problems for your heirs or even yourself if you end up having to move out of your house unexpectedly.

As chronicled in this article from the New York Times, many lending companies are not behaving on the up and up when it comes to repayment of reverse mortgages. These shady practices create a lot of extra stress (emotional, financial and otherwise) on those left behind. After reading the full article, one has to wonder, “Is a reverse mortgage EVER a good idea?”

They can be. According to the website, eldercarelinkreverse mortgages can be a good idea when:

  • you own your home free and clear or have a low mortgage balance.
  • if you’re over 70.
  • if you need extra money for medical costs or other bills.
  • if you want to use the proceeds to downsize to a smaller home.

But sometimes, reverse mortgages can be a bad idea. This is especially true if:

  • your home lost a lot of equity in the housing downturn.
  • you aren’t that old.
  • the mortgage lender pressures you and also asks you to buy annuities or expensive financial services.
  • you plan to move in a few years.
  • you want to leave the home as an inheritance.

Bottom line from Dave: In most cases reverse mortgages should only be used as a last resort! The costs of these loans make them a very expensive way to get funds. A home equity line of credit should be considered before a reverse mortgage. And you should definitely get advice from an experienced elder law attorney before doing so. It’s possible that other benefits such as VA or Medicaid could be a better option for care than a reverse mortgage. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 if you have questions about this topic.

Updated Dollar Amounts in 2015

Social Security and VA pension numbers will change in 2015, with Medicaid numbers staying the same in Illinois. Here’s what you can expect:

VA Pensions and Social Security will increase by 1.7% in 2015

Effective December 31, 2014 (but not seen in your checks until Feb. 1, 2015) the social security benefit and VA pensions will increase by 1.7%. The new numbers for the VA are as follows:

Veteran – Aid & Attendance – $1788/mo (up from $1759)

Veteran w/1 Dependent – Aid & Attendance – $2120/mo (up from $2085)

Widow – Aid & Attendance – $1149/mo (up from $1130)

Medicaid Restrictions for 2015

The Individual Resource Allowance is $2000

The Community Spouse Resource Allowance is $109,560

The Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance is $2739

In 2015, if you are in a full time nursing facility and Medicaid is paying for your care, you will still only be allowed to keep $30/mo as an allowance for extras.

Confused?

If none of this makes sense to you, and you have a loved one who is facing long-term care, please give us a call right away. There is help for the skyrocketing costs of long-term care. There are ways to make sure your loved one gets the best care possible, but it takes expert planning, an understanding of the complicated laws and a familiarity with the government systems that need to be navigated. Our team is very experienced with VA and Medicaid applications. We save families tons of time, money and stress everyday by walking them through the process. Tarina would be happy to speak with you about your situation to see what the best first step might be. And you will never be pressured.

non-financial estate planning issues

10 Non-financial Planning Issues You Should Consider

Effective planning doesn’t just involve money…

We tend to do things a little differently around here. After years of doing planning the traditional way (and seeing ways that the process could be improved), I started my own firm. Not only is it important for me to educate you about planning financially, I also want you to think about the non-money planning issues that are often overlooked by more traditional estate planning.

Not planning for non-financial issues can be just as tragic as not planning for more traditional money issues. This lack of planning can lead to poor quality of life for you, extra stress for your kids and loss of a legacy.

Here are 10 non-financial planning issues to consider and their solutions:

1. Healthcare. Who will make your healthcare decisions if you can’t? And will they know when to “pull the plug”? When they do pull the plug, will your organs be donated? Solution: You need to cover the proper legal authority through a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. Also, have conversations with your family about your wishes so they know, without a doubt, how you want them to act on your behalf.

2. Pets. Without a plan, your special dog may be bounced around from relative to relative or even put down because there is nowhere for him to go. Solution: Your will or trust can specify who will care for your pet and how the pet’s expenses will be paid after you are gone. (Which reminds me of one of my favorite estate planning jokes.)

3. Wisdom. What does your family stand for? What values were important to your parents and grandparents? Will your grandkids know about those? Solution: Take the time to reflect on these things and write them down. You can find resources for where to start online, or even hire someone to help you at the Association of Personal Historians.

4. Online or computer stuff. More and more of our lives are being lived online – Facebook, online photos, emails with your grandkids.  How will your family access that info after you’re gone? In this day and age it’s important to have a plan for this. (Read a real life story about it here.) Solution: You can store the information yourself in a safe deposit box, you can use one of the newly formed companies out there (SecureSafe or PasswordBox), or your attorney can keep the information for you.

5. Family heirlooms. Grandma’s old table, the shotgun with the homemade stock, the family Bible that’s over 100 years old. What will you pass on? And will you pass along the story that goes with it? Antique shops are filled with stuff that has some value to a stranger, but could have been priceless to family members, if only the story behind the item had been preserved. Solution: Take the time to clearly communicate your wishes or preserve the stories behind those special items. You can include the history of family items as part of your “special stuff list” or in a separate letter your family will get after you’re gone.

6. Guardians for kids. If people who don’t share your values end up raising your minor children, then the money you leave won’t really matter. Solution: We help clients make this tough choice through resources like our Child Raising Priorities Checklist.

7. Sibling relationships. If you become disabled and one child is the primary caregiver, will the rest of the family be prepared? Will the caregiver feel like no one else is helping out? Will the other siblings feel like the caregiver is overspending your money? Only you can know the answers to these questions. Solution: As part of our process we will discuss with you how to best choose helpers and how to make sure they know what to do when the time comes. Good planning helps avoid misunderstandings between siblings.

8. Burial wishes. Do you want to be cremated or have a visitation? What will your obituary say? Will you plan it out or leave it to your kids to decide (or fight about) during a time of grief and high stress? Creating a funeral plan or burial plan can be a real gift to your family and make the time of remembering you more meaningful. Solution: In Illinois, you can specify your wishes in your Disposition of Remains document, which provides binding burial instructions.

9. Living arrangements. If you’re near the end of your life, sick and unable to care for yourself, all the money in the world won’t matter if your living arrangements are not what you want for yourself. How important is it that you remain living on your own? Are there certain facilities you absolutely do not want to be placed in? Solution: As part of your disability instructions in your living trust, you can be very specific about how you want to be cared for and where you want to live.

10. End of life issues. Do you want to be kept alive with a feeding tube? Ventilator? Will your family know what your wishes are? If you are 85 years old with terminal cancer, would you want heart surgery just to prolong your life a few weeks or months? Solution: Your living will and healthcare power of attorney give the legal authority and instructions on those issues. But it is also very important to discuss these difficult issues with your family so they understand your preferences.

See our Infographic illustrating these issues HERE.

We are always happy to talk with you about any questions or concerns you might have. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200. And if you want to learn more about the process of planning, feel free to check out a free workshop. Our workshops are a great way to learn about our unique process.

david edwards estate planning elder law

Long-term Care Planning and Why It Matters: 6 Goals of Planning

I know from experience that everyone who comes into our office has goals and expectations that they bring along with them. But did you know that we have goals for each of our clients as well?

Some people see long-term care planning as a shady way to get around having to pay for care as one ages. I can assure you that nothing we do when it comes to long-term care planning is shady. We truly care about helping people during one of the most difficult times in their life.

Here are 6 goals we have for every client who comes through the door and needs help with long-term care planning:

  1. Make sure they get good care when it’s needed. Aging in America is expensive, and we’ve all heard horror stories about nursing homes. (Or, sadly, experienced them firsthand with aging grandparents or parents.) Nobody wants to be neglected or mistreated as they age. By planning ahead, we can help make sure that the best possible care is available when the time comes.
  2. Make sure the right people are in charge. As one ages, there may come a time when someone else will need to make financial and medical decisions (because of stroke or dementia). We help our clients think through who might be best for that role. Read more about how to choose good helpers here.
  3. Maximize legally available benefits such as VA and MedicaidIt never ceases to amaze me how many people do not realize they are eligible for benefits, either from serving in the military (or being married to someone who served) or by paying taxes most of their life. Because we do this everyday, we know what help is out there. Long-term care is outrageously expensive. Maximizing available benefits is a must.
  4. Get the benefits as quickly as possible. We often help clients get benefits quicker than they otherwise would without us. With good Medicaid planning, we can protect assets and start nursing home benefits months or even years quicker than without planning. With the VA, our clients often get approvals in weeks, whereas some families trying it alone are stuck months or even years in endless bureaucracy. Quicker benefit approval means thousands of dollars more that will be available to pay for care.
  5. Protect assets if we can. Under Medicaid guidelines, a person is only allowed to keep $1 per day! That is not enough for extras that your loved one, or you, might need as you age. By protecting assets, we can make sure there is money for extras that otherwise couldn’t be afforded.
  6. Make things easier on your family or power of attorney. Dealing with a sick or aging loved one is incredibly stressful. We see it everyday. But families don’t need to go it alone. There are many things we can do to help ease the burden so your loved ones can enjoy their final years with you instead of having to stress about how to find care, how to pay for care, etc.

To read more about long-term care planning, check out this article: 8 Keys to Effective Long-Term Planning. If you have a loved one facing immediate needs related to long-term care issues, please call our Elder Care Advisors at 217-726-9200.

myths about retirement

3 Myths About Retirement That’ll Cost You Money

Many people plan for retirement, but there are expensive surprises that can crop up around healthcare and derail your plans. Read on for 3 surprises about retirement that can cost you lots of money.

3 Myths About Retirement That Will Cost You Money

1. You’ll retire at 70. 22% of workers say they’ll wait until 70 to retire, but only 9% of retirees actually retired at that age according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Think about your friends and family. At what age did they retire? This is probably a more accurate picture of what the reality will be for you.

2. It’ll be all fun and games. I was recently talking with one of our staff who has a lot of experience in long-term care facilities. She said something very poignant, “Everybody plans and thinks about retirement, but you can’t just plan for retirement. You have to plan for your health.” There will come a time (generally after the age of 75) where the traveling will wind down and your health issues will increase. Will you be ready for that? You can find a great clearing house of information on this topic at the University of Minnesota Extension site, in addition to the information on our own website under Challenges of Aging.

3. Medicare covers everything. Many people assume that once they are 65 Medicare will take care of all their health needs. Generally, Medicare will only cover 48% of costs, and Medicare DOES NOT cover long-term nursing care. That leaves a lot of expensive medical care and deductibles to be paid for out of your own pocket. Read more about Medicare and Medicaid here.

Life Care Planning Can Address These Issues

Life Care Planning can help address several of these myths, making you better prepared to deal with the reality of retirement.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is Life Care Planning?”

Life Care Planning is a fairly new concept in the estate planning field that came about because people are living a lot longer these days. Estate planning attorneys realized that planning didn’t just need to be “death planning” anymore, that there is a lot that can be done within the law to make the last decades of life a little easier and less stressful.

Life Care Planning can help you and/or your loved ones get the best possible care during their last decade of life and find the best way to pay for it. Good, holistic planning also looks ahead to the various stages that your family may go through during the aging process. Each stage has its own unique goals, pitfalls, concerns, and challenges. Some families may skip certain stages; others may move forward and then go back to a prior stage as healthcare improves or declines.

No matter what your journey holds, your planning should start now by determining where you (or your loved ones) are in the planning stages, while also looking to where they might be in the coming months or years.

Here are the 5 stages of Life Care Planning.

Which stage are you or your parents in right now?

Stage #1: Healthy, but let’s look ahead for the maximum benefit.

The situation: More than 5 years until care will be needed. (This is where Life Care Planning can do the most good.)

The person is still living at home, drives, travels, handles finances, volunteers, maybe even works part-time. Hopefully it will be 10-15 years or more until care is needed.

Actions: Update the estate plan, will, and powers of attorney. Review asset titling and beneficiary designations. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection.  Also, consider a revocable living trust.

Stage #2: Not as young as I used to be.

The situation: May need care or assistance within the next 5 years.

The person continues to drive, shop, and pay bills. But he or she is starting to lean on the family more for help or decisions. Increased health issues may even mean time in the hospital.

Actions: Update the estate plan, will, and powers of attorney. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection. However, beware of care needs coming more quickly than expected, which will change the legal and financial options.

Stage #3: Needing more and more help.

The situation: Needs help with meals and housework.

The senior’s memory is not what it used to be. You notice increased reliance on the family at home, or the person may be in an independent living facility with their own apartment and meals provided. The person may not drive or drives only during the day or on short trips.

Actions: Plan for looming care needs. May qualify for Veterans benefits now or, if not now, may qualify soon. Important to plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later.

Stage #4: Declining, but still at home OR declining but in assisted living.

The situation: Needs medical care at their own home or may be living with family. A lot of times the person has become too much for the family to handle themselves. At this point they may be in and out of the hospital.

The elderly person needs substantial assistance at home or in assisted living. They no longer drive. They need daily assistance that may include dressing, getting up, eating, using the bathroom, bathing. May need help during the day or maybe 24 hours a day. Leans on family for most, or all, legal or financial decisions.

Actions: Plan for looming care needs. Make sure finances are managed well, bills are paid on time, and help them avoid being taking advantage of by others financially. If the person is a veteran, they will probably qualify for Veterans benefits with proper planning. It’s important to plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later. Consider a financial plan, whether income will cover monthly expenses, and how long assets will last.

Stage #5: In crisis, either in the hospital or nursing home.

The situation: The person is in the hospital, rehab, or a nursing home. It is expected they will not be able to return home or to an assisted living facility. The next option is a skilled nursing facility.

Actions: Need immediate planning help to maximize Veterans or Medicaid benefits and protect assets. It is rarely “too late” to do anything.

Planning for retirement can be fun if you only think of the ideal situation. But reality may prove otherwise when it comes to unexpected hospitalizations or illnesses. However, by planning for reality and the challenges of retirement, you can make sure that you can still accomplish your goals, whether they be maintaining independence, passing property down to your children or preserving assets for charitable giving. If you’d like to learn more about comprehensive planning, one of our upcoming workshops is the perfect way to do that.

Call us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop today!

7 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Even if Your Loved One is Already in a Nursing Facility

What if your loved one is already in an assisted living or a nursing facility? How can an experienced elder law attorney help?

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In our last blog post, we covered 9 ways an elder law attorney can help with in-home caregiving. Here are 7 ways they can help if your loved one is already receiving care in a facility:

1. Find strategies to get additional monthly benefits.

Many families would qualify for VA or Medicaid benefits with good legal planning, but are unaware that they may qualify. Elder law attorneys can help identify what benefits are available.

2. Preserve funds to help your loved one pay for “extras.”

Without planning, many families simply spend down all the assets. But then they are left with only $30 per month under the Medicaid rules. Thirty bucks doesn’t go a long way these days. By planning ahead, an elder law attorney can preserve some funds for the family to use later. That way the senior can get “extras” without the family paying out of their own pocket.

3. Get benefits quicker than you thought was possible.

Good planning with an elder law attorney will help a family qualify more quickly and get more benefits than they would have without planning. Benefits may include VA or Medicaid to help pay for care.

4. Avoid real estate liens. 

Without planning, many families obtain government benefits only to have those benefits later recovered by the state when it puts liens on their real estate. The real estate can be family farmland, houses, or other property. With good planning, we can avoid those liens and protect the land — keeping it in the family.

5. Protect the healthy spouse from being impoverished.

When one spouse goes into a nursing home and the other spouse is still living at home, there are important legal planning steps that will help the healthy spouse keep enough funds to live on in the future. With good planning, the healthy spouse will have more assets and income available for future needs.

6. Carry out wishes after death.

Most people hope to leave something to their family at death and not have it all go to nursing home costs. With good planning, we can preserve those wishes and protect some funds for the family, while still getting the care needed.

7. Estate planning updates/changes. 

When one spouse needs nursing home care, it is very important for the other spouse to review their will, trust and powers of attorney to make sure they protect assets if the healthy spouse dies first.

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There is a lot to keep in mind when your loved ones are facing time in some type of nursing facility. We work with families everyday to find solutions that will ease the strain and bring financial and emotional relief. If you need to speak to someone right away about your current situation, call us at 217-726-9200.

Continue learning more by reading about our Elder Care Advisors here, or attend an upcoming workshop — Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind. Just call 217-726-9200 to RSVP.