Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal matters impacting the senior population and people with disabilities, including health care, long-term care, guardianship, retirement, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and more.
The needs of older adults are often unique and more specialized than those of younger adults. An elder law attorney can assist with financial and estate planning issues as well as day-to-day issues impacting seniors, such as life planning and assisted living.
An elder law attorney is there to help plan, counsel, educate, and advocate for clients.
Generally, elder law issues can be divided into three realms: financial, living situations, and healthcare. Some examples of matters elder law attorneys deal with include:
- Medicaid planning
- Estate planning
- Will and trust planning
- Financial planning
- Guardianship, guardianship avoidance, and conservatorship
- Retirement planning
- Possible long-term care needs, including finding nursing home care
- A number of issues regarding planning for aging, illness, and incapacity
An elder law attorney’s role is to provide tools and information necessary to deal with potential problems that arise during the aging process.
One’s needs change as they grow older and the magnitude of the decisions can seem overwhelming. It is always best to consult with an elder law attorney before illness or incapacity becomes an issue so they can help you clarify the problems you could face down the road and provide guidance to help you plan ahead and maintain control of your life.
However, even if it feels like these types of issues are beginning to spiral out of your control, an elder law attorney can help show you the path to sorting out your affairs.
If you are ready to meet with an elder law attorney or have additional questions, contact Cordell Planning Partners.
The high cost of nursing home care causes many residents to rapidly exhaust their resources. However, through Medicaid planning you can pay for your long-term care while also protecting your assets for your loved ones.
What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a federal-state program that provides medical assistance to low-income individuals, including senior citizens (65 or older). It is the largest payer of nursing home bills in the United States and a final resort for those who have run out of ways to pay for long-term care.
Medicaid eligibility requirements vary by state, but federal minimum standards must be observed. Additionally, your assets and monthly income must fall below a minimum standard to qualify.
Medicaid planning can help you meet the minimum requirements
When assessing whether you qualify for Medicaid, many states only count the income and assets legally available to you for paying bills. Medicaid planning helps you come up with ways to make your income and assets inaccessible.
There are several strategies attorneys have devised to help you rearrange finances and legally shelter assets, although these strategies can be fairly complicated.
In addition to helping you qualify for Medicaid benefits, Medicaid planning can help you:
- Shelter countable assets
- Preserve assets for your beneficiaries
- Provide for your spouse
Exchanging countable assets for exempt assets
Each state compiles a list of exempt assets based on federal guidelines. Typically, this list includes items like the family home, prepaid burial plots, one automobile, and term life insurance.
It is possible to rearrange your finances so that countable assets are traded for exempt assets or made inaccessible to the state. For example, instead of exhausting your savings on nursing home bills, you could pay off your mortgage or purchase a vehicle for your healthy spouse.
Consult an experienced elder law attorney for more information on ways to shelter countable assets.
Irrevocable trusts help preserve assets for your loved ones
One of the reasons you don’t want to liquidate all of your assets to cover your own nursing home care is because you want to assist your loved ones financially even after you’re gone.
One way to do this is by establishing an irrevocable trust. Property placed in an irrevocable trust is excluded from your financial picture and thus not considered a countable asset when determining Medicaid eligibility.
By naming a proper beneficiary, the principal deposited into the trust is sheltered from the state and preserved for your heirs.
It is important to keep in mind that the terms of an irrevocable trust cannot be changed if you decide to end it. Also, the trust must be established and funded for a specific time period for the strategy to be effective.
An annuity can ensure your healthy spouse is provided for
Another concern when you find yourself in need of nursing home care is figuring out how to provide your healthy spouse money to live on.
When the state considers whether one spouse is eligible for Medicaid, the couple’s assets are pooled. The healthy spouse is allowed to keep a spousal resource allowance that typically amounts to half of the couple’s total assets.
The healthy spouse may want to utilize jointly owned, countable assets to purchase a single premium immediate annuity. By converting countable assets into an income stream, each spouse can keep all of his or her income rather than pooling their assets. This allows the institutionalized spouse to qualify for Medicaid while the healthy spouse still has a steady stream of income.
Medicaid planning risks
It is important to be aware of the risks and drawbacks of Medicaid planning, including potential look-back periods, disqualification for Medicaid, and estate recoveries.
To learn more about Medicaid planning, contact Cordell Planning Partners.
Asset protection is an area of law in which your asset protection lawyer works with you to ensure that the assets you have worked to accumulate are legally safeguarded from third parties.
This can include protection from creditors, legally minimizing unnecessary tax liabilities when transferring property, and protection from any other third party attempting to collect funds in the future from your assets, such as future civil plaintiffs in litigation suits.
How to implement an asset protection plan
When implementing an asset protection plan, often a transfer in legal title is used. This can occur by transferring property into a trust account, gifting property to a spouse or child, or investing assets in a limited liability business.
However, creditors can challenge transfers in legal title if there is the appearance that the transfer was not done “in good faith” and instead was done specifically to hide assets from creditors currently trying to collect funds.
There are requirements under federal law that the creditors must prove in order to be successful on a claim that a person fraudulently transferred property, and a thorough asset protection strategy can help mitigate that risk.
Properly transferring title, preparing trusts with the necessary language and provisions, and ensuring that the business in which you are investing has all of the requirements needed to limit a creditor’s access to the funds invested, are all endeavors in which your asset protection attorney can assist you.
If any of the above actions are implemented incorrectly, the creditor, IRS, or other third party collector may still be able to get access to the funds you are trying to protect.
Choosing the best asset protection strategy
Additionally, an asset protection lawyer can review your assets and determine which methods of protection are best for your specific property and goals. Your attorney can evaluate tax provisions, different types of trusts and clauses to include in your trust language, or help you find or create a business opportunity in which to invest your funds for maximum protection and preservation.
For example, if you want to establish a trust, a lawyer can counsel you on your options for trustees and beneficiaries, and which property you can include in the trust to maximize your level of protection for your assets.
Proper language within the instruments you establish is key to safeguarding your assets in the future. Ensuring that your asset protection strategy reflects non-fraudulent property transfers, contains the necessary provisions to protect your assets, and is executed legally so that the provisions themselves are enforceable are all imperative tasks your asset protection attorney can help you accomplish.
Your attorney will be able to counsel you on the specific language needed to prepare an irrevocable trust and establish the requirements for withdrawing funds from that trust – if certain requirements are not put in place on the trust that restrict your ability to withdraw funds freely from the trust for any purpose.
An asset protection lawyer will also know the most current statutes and case law affecting asset protection. As this area of law is constantly evolving, new case law can substantially influence the steps needed to legally protect your specific assets.
To learn more about how to most effectively protect your assets or to meet with an asset protection attorney, contact Cordell Planning Partners.
Estate planning provides a method for individuals or families to organize their affairs for the future. Unexpected events can arise at any time, and proper planning can assist you in minimizing the impact of those events.
Estate planning is generally defined as a process of arranging your assets so that, if you were to become ill, injured, or die, your “estate,” which is essentially what you own, is already designated to go to the people, entities, and charities who you want to inherit your assets or control your affairs.
Estate planning for your loved ones
While determining how to distribute your property is a fundamental part of estate planning, it is not just about your tangible property; estate planning also includes your decision-making powers for yourself or your children.
Estate planning is important for almost any person to consider. If you have children, have a long-term significant other to whom you are not married, own any property, have personal items with sentimental value, or have specific wishes regarding your own care if you were to fall ill and incapacitated, you should consult an estate planning attorney regarding your options.
Estate planning options
An estate lawyer will be able to review the various options for estate planning and ensure that your wishes are accomplished regarding your personal estate.
While certain estate planning devices, such as wills, may seem straightforward, an improperly executed estate plan could be declared unenforceable under the law. Your estate planning lawyer can counsel you on the best language and clauses to include in your will or other estate planning document to properly enact the outcome you desire.
As uncomfortable as it may be to contemplate your mortality, it is important to provide clear plans for your estate. While you may think that your family members and friends “know” what you want, when emotions are running high, people may not clearly remember what you had instructed them to do in passing long ago.
If certain family members do not get along, think about how well they will get along once you throw in the reaction to a sudden death or injury of a loved one, financial complications, and attempted interpretations of what you may or may not have said about your wishes to various people.
Estate planning allows you to be proactive in protecting your estate and your loved ones. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine the best ways to avoid messy probate, financial, or family issues, and ensure you maximize the amount of property you are able to pass on to your heirs.