Elder Law and Medicaid Planning

Senior Independence Plans

Senior citizens want to remain as independent as possible as they age. For some, this means remaining in their own home, perhaps with support services. For others, it means assisted living or other living arrangements that help preserve autonomy but provide a safety net.

A good estate plan may help seniors achieve the goal of maximizing their independence.

Long Term Care Options

Most people will tell you that they plan never to enter a nursing home, but statistics show that nearly half of all people who reach age 65 will spend time in a nursing home. Sometimes nursing home care is unavoidable, despite the best efforts and intentions of everyone. This is especially true when a high level of round-the-clock supervision and care are necessary. Families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's or Dementia, for example, typically suffer burnout in a relatively short period of time.

The average nursing home stay is nearly three years, and the cost in our region generally exceeds one hundred thousand dollars per year. There are three ways to pay. The first option is simply to pay privately until you run out of funds. This can wipe out many estates in a hurry. Even large estates may be subject to serious erosion.
A second option is Long Term Care insurance, to help defray the cost of long term care in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or for home care. While Long Term Care insurance may not be right for everyone, it may result in greater autonomy for many people and a wider choice of options for a person in need of long term care. But the insurance costs may be significant. In general, the younger you are when you take out a policy, the lower the premium. Health problems as you age may result in higher premiums or disqualify you altogether. We recommend that people consider whether long term care insurance is right for them, with the assistance of a Long Term Care insurance professional who may help them sort out their policy options and make informed choices. If you already have long term care insurance, you should be aware of what your policy covers.  Many policies have high deductibles or limited benefits.
For those who cannot afford or qualify for long term care insurance, or whose insurance is inadequate, there is a third option - Medicaid.

Medicaid Planning to Protect Your Home and Life Savings

The third means of paying for nursing home care is through Medicaid. Do not confuse Medicaid with Medicare, which is essentially health insurance for senior citizens. Medicare does not pay for long term custodial care in a nursing home. Medicaid, however, is a government assistance program that pays for nursing home care for those who have no other means to pay. 

Medicaid is a federal-state program that provides medical assistance to certain low-income individuals.  Medicaid is the single largest payer of nursing home bills in America and serves as the option of last resort for people who have no other way to finance their long term care.  Although Medicaid eligibility rules vary from state to state, federal minimum standards and guidelines must be observed. There has been a steady drift towards more complex and restrictive Medicaid rules, and these changes have resulted in complex eligibility requirements for those in need of Medicaid benefits.  There are a myriad of regulations involving look-back periods, income caps, transfer penalties and waiting periods to plan around. 

Ward Legal Group PC is an estate planning and elder law firm serving all of New Hampshire and Vermont, including Keene and the nearby areas of Peterborough, Walpole, Brattleboro, Wilmington and Bellows Falls.

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