Fouts Law Group, LLC provides assistance with Medicaid planning. Making a Medicaid plan is vitally important if you want to be able to get nursing home care if and when you need it, without imperiling your ability to leave a legacy. You should make your plans well in advance of the time you need nursing home care, and we are ready to help people of all ages who are thinking ahead.
If you suspect you may need costly nursing home care in the future or if someone you love needs care soon, give our Atlanta Medicaid planning lawyers a call today. We can offer you one-on-one personalized advice about qualifying for Medicaid and can answer questions you may have about Medicaid planning including:
- Why should I apply for Medicaid?
- Do I qualify for Medicaid in Georgia?
- Do I need a Medicaid plan?
- When should I make a Medicaid plan?
- How can I protect my assets from Medicaid?
- How Can a Medicaid planning lawyer help?
Why should I apply for Medicaid?
The most obvious question many people ask themselves is why they would need Medicaid at all? After all, that’s the program that the Federal government created to help the poorest among us. As it turns out, though, that program has been expanding over the years to the point where it is now a primary source of payment for long-term nursing care. Officially, it is listed as the single biggest provider of payments for nursing home care in America. In other words, millions of seniors are currently relying on this program to cover the ever-increasing costs of their care.
In Georgia, an estimated 74% of all senior long-term care residents rely on these benefits to pay for their stay. Why? It’s simple, really. Even with the most efficient savings plan and a lifetime of hard work, few Americans can amass the kind of wealth they need to pay for that kind of care for any length of time. Just think about it: at $65,000 in costs per year, how long would your savings last? Do you have the kind of retirement income needed to pay more than $5,000 a month in facility costs? Most don’t.
And it’s not as though other programs are waiting to pick up the slack either. Medicare – the program designed to pay for senior health care needs – will only pay for about 100 days of nursing home care before coverage ends. It’s almost impossible to find any health insurance plans that cover long-term care in a nursing facility. And while long-term care insurance does exist, only a tiny minority of Americans ever bother to purchase those policies. So, if your personal assets cannot cover the costs, Medicaid is really the last and best option available to you.
Do I qualify for Medicaid in Georgia?
You might be wondering at this point why a Medicaid attorney would be relevant here. You may even be wondering what a Medicaid attorney actually does. The answer to the first question can be found by examining how you qualify for the Medicaid benefits you might someday need. As for the answer to the second, suffice it to say that your friendly neighborhood Medicaid attorney is your best option for resolving any complications you experience as you try to qualify for program benefits.
Qualification for Medicaid benefits is not as easy as you might think. The program has pretty strict eligibility requirements related to both assets and income. In Georgia, your income has to be below $2,163 month before you can be declared eligible for those benefits for nursing home care. A Medicaid attorney can sometimes help you to avoid that limit by moving some of your income into a Miller Trust, or by spending down assets using the Medically Needy Program if you have medical bills that leave you with $317 or less each month.
At the same time, you must have no more than $2,000 in assets – including bank accounts and real property. Your home is excluded up to a value of $525,000 in equity, as are all your household belongings and one vehicle. Community spouse rules also provide protections to prevent spousal impoverishment. As a general rule, however, a senior seeking Medicaid benefits on his or her own has to be virtually impoverished before Medicaid assistance can be received.
Do I Need a Medicaid Plan?
You need a Medicaid plan if you do not want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of your own money on nursing home care. You also need a plan if you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars and you want to be able to keep the wealth you do have if you must go into a nursing home.
Nursing home care is very costly. Most people who must live in a nursing home need a type of care called custodial care. Custodial care is basic routine assistance with things like eating, bathing, going to the restroom, and doing other life activities. It’s not skilled medical care, like changing bandages or providing physical therapy after surgery, and it is not care that is designed to help you to improve specific ailment. Custodial care simply lets you maintain a basic standard of living.
Unfortunately, custodial care is not covered by private health insurance or by Medicare. This means if you need to go into a nursing home because you can’t care for yourself anymore, you’ll have to privately pay thousands of dollars per month for your care… unless you can qualify for Medicaid.
Since Medicaid is means-tested, those with too many financial resources cannot qualify. If you’ve worked, earned money, and acquired property, you likely have too many resources. You’ll have to pay privately for a nursing home, including generating funds by selling some of those resources.
Only when you have reduced your net worth below Medicaid’s allowable resource limits can you get nursing home care covered. This means losing virtually all of the assets you might have wanted to leave to your family. There is no way around this loss… unless you have a Medicaid plan.
When Should I Make a Medicaid Plan?
A Medicaid plan can allow you to structure ownership of assets and make strategic decisions about assets so you can protect your property and wealth in case you need nursing home care. In other words, Medicaid planning involves making sure your resources don’t disqualify you from getting Medicaid coverage.
Under its strict eligibility rules, Medicaid also imposes something called a five-year lookback period which is intended to thwart efforts to protect assets. Under the five-year lookback rule, Medicaid will disqualify you from benefits temporarily if transfers of assets have occurred within five years of the time you need nursing home care. These asset transfers are often an integral part of a Medicaid plan.
As a result, in order to make certain you are able to protect the maximum value of assets and keep all of your wealth and property safe, you should make a Medicaid plan at least five years prior to the time nursing home care becomes necessary. While a later plan could still provide some protection for your property, Medicaid planning is most effective when it is done as early as possible. Since you never know when you will need nursing home care, it makes good sense to make your Medicaid plan right away.
How can I protect my assets from Medicaid?
Medicaid planning is something that is best started earlier in life, since you don’t want to run into problems with that five-year look-back provision later. That provision enables Medicaid to go back through your asset transfers in the five-year period directly preceding your Medicaid application. That could result in any transferred assets being counted as part of your estate, and creating a penalty that could leave you ineligible for benefits for a period ranging from months to years. If that happens, you could be left without benefits and without the assets you need to pay for care on your own.
Proper Medicaid planning can eliminate such penalties and ensure that you qualify for benefits without using emergency measures like spend-down techniques. There are several different options that you can choose, and they are all intended to reduce the size of your countable estate to get it below that $2,000 asset limit. They include:
- One of the best ways to reduce your estate is to use liberal gifting techniques to transfer wealth to loved ones. This is especially beneficial when you’ve already planned to leave your family an inheritance, and involves transferring that inheritance to them while you’re still alive, over the course of several years.
- Using annuities. You can also use wealth to buy annuities that pay you regular income over a set period. This option is often used by those who have waited too long to use gifting or other techniques, but it can still enable you to salvage a portion of your wealth from nursing home costs.
- You can use irrevocable trusts to remove wealth from your estate permanently. When those assets are placed in an irrevocable trust, they are beyond your reach and protected from creditors, nursing home costs, and even the estate tax. You can even use trusts that provide a means for income-earning assets to continue to pay you income every month – ensuring that you receive some benefit from your wealth while you’re still alive. Then, when you pass away, those assets can be used for the benefit of your heirs.
As you might expect, this type of planning can be complex and risky for those who are unfamiliar with estate and Medicaid planning. To ensure that you don’t encounter problems, you should always work with an experienced attorney while creating and implementing this type of strategy.
How Can a Medicaid Planning Lawyer Help?
Fouts Law Group, LLC provides assistance with the Medicaid planning process. We will help you to use the appropriate legal tools and strategies to protect the maximum value of your assets depending upon your personal situation and when you need nursing home care.
Many times, a nursing home will appoint their own representative to assist you with applying for Medicaid, but they are looking out for their own bottom line. A Medicaid planning lawyer has a duty to help you make wise financial decisions and achieve your goals.
In Atlanta, nursing home residents pay upwards of $7,000 a month. A Medicaid lawyer can assist you for much less and help lower your out-of-pocket costs for elderly care. Even if you have been denied Medicaid coverage, your attorney can file an appeal on your behalf.
To find out more about the ways in which an Atlanta Medicaid planning lawyer can provide assistance to you, give us a call at (678) 242-8344 or contact us online today to speak with an experienced member of our legal team.