Category Archives: Medicaid Planning

Your Guide to Medicaid in Massachusetts

 

Before you sacrifice your own money, or your inheritance, to pay for your parents’ nursing home care, ask yourself the following question:

What are my parents’ assets, and what can I do with them?

According to Massachussets law, a person can only use Medicaid if he or she has less than $2,000 in “countable assets.” Certain kinds of assets, however, are exempt from this rule, including irrevocable trusts, long-term care insurance, and some annuities. If your parents have more than $2,000, ask a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer for advice on how to make these assets exempt.

What about my parents’ home?

Owning real estate makes paying for a nurisng home tricky under Massachusetts law. If your parents own a house, and one of them has to live in a nursing home, the house is exempt as long as your other parent continues to live there. You can also get an exemption if one of their children lives there and has a disability. Otherwise, your parents will have to sell it and spend the money on nursing home care before they can use Medicaid.

What are my responsibilities as a child?

Under Massachusetts law, children are required to support their elderly parents. If your parents use Medicaid to pay for nursing home care, the state may ask you to reimburse a portion of these costs. You can get out of this requirement, however, if you lack sufficient means or can prove that your parents didn’t support you in your youth. Ask a Massachusetts elder law attorney if you qualify for these exemptions.

Meta Title: Your Guide to Massachussets Elder Law and Medicaid

Meta Description: Before you put your parents in a nursing home, talk to your Massachusetts nursing home attorney about these three questions.

How a Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney can help you with Healthcare

Learn more about Massachusetts Elder Law and Health Care.In addition to helping with estate planning, financial issues and housing options, a Massachusetts elder attorney can help you make informed healthcare choices for your future. Your attorney can make sure that you have access to affordable healthcare and that you know how the latest healthcare legislation will affect your current and future plans.

Thanks to changes in healthcare on both state and federal levels, the field of medicine is constantly changing, making it difficult for the average person to keep up with the latest policies. These policies affect private health insurance programs, Medicaid, Medicare and veterans’ benefits, making it essential that you have a trusted person who can give you the correct information that you need to know. While the future of the healthcare system is uncertain, like potential spending cuts in government programs that many seniors rely upon, it’s important to have someone on your side to guide you through the maze of regulations.

Although you can’t predict the future, your Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help you make plans for the future so that your wishes are met every step of the way. They can help you decide on potential options such as whether you’d prefer in-home care by private caregivers or if living in a residential facility is better for your needs.

Your elder lawyer can also help you make important decisions related to your healthcare, and draw up the proper documents such as a power of attorney and advance directives, to ensure that you’re well taken care of. Making these decisions now allows your loved ones to focus on spending quality time with you, and without heavy burdens weighing on their minds.

For assistance with your estate planning, or to find out how a Massachusetts elder attorney can help you, contact us today!

Estate Planning To Do Check List

estate-planning-checklistDo you have elderly parents or relatives that need help with managing their money ? A MA elder lawyer can help you with wills, trusts, healthcare issues, and asset protection. An experienced elder law attorney helps you plan for the complicated issues that the elderly face with medical care, housing, and money management.

Do you need to appoint someone in the family to handle the finances ? A durable power of attorney handles the finances . when the elderly person cannot. An elder lawyer can help you choose a person if there is no one in the family to appoint and help you draw up the legal documents. A will is a complicated legal document that an elder lawyer can help you with. The elder lawyer can help draw up a document to insure family members keep certain assets in the family. He will meet with you to discuss the details and devise a sensible plan.

Some elderly clients with many assets to distribute will create trusts. A Massachusetts estate planning attorney can help you write up this document. A trust lets you pass on your assets to family or friends without court interference. There are many types of trusts: basic, special needs, living, irrevocable that an experience elder lawyer can help you set up. They can discuss which one is best for your family. After the person making a trust dies, an elder attorney can help your family protect and manage the trust fairly.

An MA elder law attorney can help you with health care proxies, Medicaid planning, probate, real estate, and even elder abuse. Whatever your needs an experienced elder lawyer can help you provide peace of mind to elderly relatives and friends that need assistance with complicated living and money issues.

Ten Reasons to Consult an Estate Planning Attorney

Helping your elderly parents face the financial and health-related challenges that come with growing older can put quite a strain on your other responsibilities. Enlisting the help of the right professionals leaves you with more time to spend with your family. Since there are complex state and federal regulations regarding wills and other paperwork necessary for settling an estate, it is best to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. There are ten specific benefits to working with an elder lawyer.

1. Ensure the last will and testament of your parent or relative is legally binding and properly designated.

2. Designate a power of attorney contract to ensure the right person is responsible for making medical and financial decisions if the person becomes incapacitated.

3. Create a living will. Living wills help your elderly relatives make their wishes clear and save you a lot of stress when the time comes for difficult decisions.

4. Avoid mistakes. A practicing estate planning lawyer can craft a strong will that covers all the bases, while most packages designed to help you do it yourself lack coverage of crucial areas.

5. Handle any business or investment transfers smoothly and without delays.

6. Address complex situations where blended or extended families are involved. Planning the estate is much more complicated if your elderly relatives have had more than one marriage.

7. Minimize the taxes heirs will need to pay by choosing the right type of trust.

8. Update and change any existing wills and estate paperwork. Changing laws and family structures make old agreements insufficient very quickly.

9. Take care of disabled family members for their rest of their life. A good probate lawyer can help craft a plan that ensures that the people in your family with special needs never go without support.

10. Make the process easier. Planning an estate is stressful for both the elderly and their helpers, but an experienced professional helps.

Understanding Medicaid

Nursing home care and Medicaid in Massachusetts.The process of applying for Medicaid can be difficult to understand. The first time many people begin to even think about entering this process is when a loved one requires nursing home care or such care is imminent. Many times applying for Medicaid is reactive to situations such as these and emotions are usually running quite high. In many instances the applicant tries to complete the process as quickly as possible and doesn’t pay close enough attention to some of the details – resulting in their application being declined. Since the Medicaid field is always changing it’s important to do your due diligence when going through this process.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid was created in 1965 as a part of the Social Security Act as a form of welfare for individuals and families with low income/resources who require long-term medical care. Often confused with Medicare, Medicaid is a joint federal-state funded program which is run by each individual state. While eligibility rules are often different from state to state, each system must adhere to federal guidelines in order to receive funding (which is usually about half of the state’s Medicaid costs).

What are the eligibility requirements for Medicaid?

Since each state operates its own Medicaid program there are often discrepancies in eligibility depending on which state the applicant lives in (the Medicaid program in Massachusetts is referred to as MassHealth).  You may be eligible to apply for Medicaid if you have limited resources and fall into any of the following categories: children requiring nursing home care (some states up to age 21), parents/guardians of eligible children (under age 18), pregnant women, people with certain disabilities, and elderly persons needing nursing home care. Each individual case is different so it is important to contact an expert on elder law services to help assess your situation. For more information about whether or not you may be eligible to apply for Medicaid click here.

For further assistance in this complicated process contact the law offices of Adam J. Tobin today!

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney to Assist with my Estate Plan?

If you are considering planning your estate, you may be enticed by the idea of doing it yourself to save money. Many websites offer “simple” solutions and forms that can be purchased for less than an attorney.  These forms are usually over-generalized and may not be legally viable for your unique situation. Estate planning is a complex, difficult, legal-intensive process. One wrong word or missing signature can void your entire estate plan. With an estate planning attorney there to help, you can be much more confident that any resulting trusts and documents will be tailored to your exact situation. It is all too common that someone plans their estate poorly without an attorney, which ends up costing their family time, effort, and thousands of dollars later in order to fix the problems in the estate.

Extended family in living room smiling ready for estate planningState Laws affect Estate Plans More than Anything Else and Differ Greatly Among States

State laws are extremely specific about every possible minute detail of any part of an estate plan. The exact format, procedures, language, and rules are different in every state, and a good estate planning attorney will know these differences and understand how to plan your estate accordingly.

This may not sound like a big problem, but what if your assets are in multiple states? What if your trustees are in multiple states? Estate planning attorneys understand the nuances related to these issues and can resolve them and plan your estate to fit your situation.

Common Estate Planning Issues that an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You Solve

  • You have substantial assets in 401(k)s and/or IRAs
  • You were recently divorced
  • You recently lost a spouse or other family member
  • You have a taxable estate for federal and/or state estate tax purposes
  • You’re in a second (or later) marriage
  • You own one or more businesses
  • You own real estate in more than one state
  • You have a disabled family member
  • You have minor children
  • You have problem children
  • You don’t have any children
  • You want to leave some or all of your estate to charity

Housing Options for Senior Citizens

Is staying at home still the best option for your elderly parents? Certain circumstances may have made you realize that this is no longer the case. Perhaps they have grown incapable of taking care of themselves in addition to their home. This could be the result of changing physical, mental, or financial conditions. Now you’re faced with the decision of how to go about providing the best opportunity for your parents to lead a comfortable lifestMassachusetts Retirement Communityyle. Before you try to swoop in and save the day, make sure to include you parents in the decision-making process. Ultimately, it’s their life and you need to be sure to recognize and respect their personal wants and needs. Now that you’ve got the conversation started it’s time to evaluate the various alternatives:

Retirement Community. Otherwise known as an Independent Living Community or Congregate Living, this may be the best option if your parents are still fairly independent – meaning that they don’t need help with daily activities, such as getting dressed, bathing, feeding themselves, etc. – but desire the security and convenience of a community. Some of these communities offer organized social and recreational activities, while others offer amenities such as housekeeping and transportation. Other amenities may include swimming pools, exercise facilities, clubhouse, laundry facilities, and access to meals. However, be aware these types of communities do not offer medical care to residents and there is also usually an age requirement (typically 55).

Assisted Living Community. These living communities aim to provide as much independence to the residents as possible in a private setting. These communities are designed for senior citizens who cannot safely live completely independently, but do not require the high level of care of nursing homes. Although 24-hour support services and licensed nurses are often provided, assisted living communities are not considered medical facilities and do not accept Medicare or Medicaid as payment. Also, amenities such as housekeeping, social activities, transportation, aMassachusetts Home Carend meals are also usually offered.

Nursing Home. Nursing homes cater to elderly citizens who can no longer care for themselves and require 24-hour professional care. Long-term residents generally require a high level of care and may have complex medical conditions. Nursing home residents receive in-house medical care, rehabilitation, physical and other types of therapies. Some facilities concentrate treating those with Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, dementia or other special health situations.

Home Care. Home care is designed to allow senior citizens to maintain a feeling of independence while still receiving the care that they require. Many home care nurses will come in on an agreed upon schedule, while others may live in the home in order to provide the highest level of care possible. This type of care typically includes help with daily activities, paying bills, making appointments, providing transportation, and providing companionship and emotional support to the individual.

After gathering all of the information about the best options in your area, your parents’ living preferences, and your financial position, you can make a decision. To help understand your parents’ rights and obligations throughout this process, consult an elder law attorney. Contact the law offices of Adam J. Tobin today for more information!

Social Security and Medicare Funds To Run Out Sooner Than Expected

Federal officials said Friday that the recent economic downturn has resulted in the trust funds that support both Medicare and Social Security shrinking faster than expected. The Medicare insurance fund is expected to run out five years earlier than previously projected –as soon as 2024. Social Security fared somewhat better, expected to be out of resources by 2936, only a year ahead of previous estimates.

Social Security FundsThese reports highlight the urgency with which the government needs to address the problems with these systems, and the employment levels which directly correlate to their success. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, commenting on this report, pointed to “the need to act sooner rather than later to make reforms to our entitlement programs. … We should not wait for the trust funds to be exhausted to make the reforms necessary to protect our current and future retirees.”

If your parents’ retirement savings is supplemented by Social Security, or they are entirely reliant upon it, consider speaking with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney. Unless these systems receive a significant overhaul soon, it will be necessary to plan your parents’ futures around other sources of income. Augmenting Social Security payments with other investments is a strategy that should be planned for early, so if you are concerned about the effect medical care costs and Social Security dwindling could have on your family’s future, contact Estate Planning Attorney, Adam J. Tobin today. It’s never too soon to plan for a safe and comfortable future.

Plan to Protect Your Assets

Our long-term health care needs and circumstances are unknowable. Appropriate planning with the aid of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is essential to preserve your family’s assets. Consider this example:

Plan ahead with an estate planning attorney

Jane entered a nursing home several years ago originally expecting to move back into her two bedroom home. She has a will and as a widow intends to leave everything to her only son, Fred. Her only major asset was the house that she had lived in since she was a girl. Jane’s condition did not improve and she remained in the nursing home. In the state where she lived, the protective period for a single or widowed person’s home was only 6-months and at the end of this period, the house was put on the market for sale. They could not find a buyer for the house and Medicaid paid Jane’s nursing home bills and put a lien on the house. When they eventually found a buyer, all the proceeds went to paying Medicaid. Jane passed away and Fred buried his mother without the house that his mother lived in for more than 60 years.

Jane and Fred could have avoided this situation by planning ahead. Although they could not have predicted Jane’s nursing home stay, they could have met with an estate planning lawyer, learned the laws of their state, and prepared. Jane could have transferred the house to Fred (or anyone she chose) at any time at least 5 years before entering the nursing home and continue

to live in the house. Without other major assets, she would have been eligible for Medicaid immediately, no lien would have been placed on the house, and Fred would maintain the house. In short, planning ahead can preserve your estate for your loved ones.

Medicaid rules and regulations vary from state to state and are subject to change over time. In order to best understand the most current laws, we suggest you consult with an elder lawyer, like Adam Tobin.

The Five Phases of Retirement Planning

Retirement in America has changed radically over the last few decades; years ago you expected to work most of your life for a single, large  employer, then you would count on a pension from that employer. “Retirement planning” was figuring out how to use your new-found free time. Today, however,  it’s more likely that you will be living in retirement on money that you saved yourself while calculating rates of return and deciphering tax rules.

the-five-phases-of-retirement-planning

This self-funded retirement constitutes a shift of responsibility. To help those who are beginning to plan for retirement, or those who just want to learn ahead of time, here are the five phases of retirement planning, including key aspects that should to be carried out during each phase.

Phase 1: Accumulation

This period begins when you enter the workforce and begin to set aside funds for later in life, and ends when you actually retire. If your employer offers 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plans, sign up and contribute the maximum amount allowed. The “new normal” requires retirement savings rates for most Americans to exceed 10 per cent. If you’re self-employed, look over your plan to see if you’re shortchanging yourself on Social Security to reap tax reductions, and if you are, consider re-working your plan.

Phase 2: Pre-Retirement

This occurs during the final years of Phase 1: Accumulation and should begin either when you reach 50 years of age or when you are 15 years away from retirement, whichever happens first. Now is the time to get your plan in place; make sure your finances are lined up correctly for the day your retire so nothing is left to chance. If the company you work for has a benefits specialist, schedule an appointment to become informed about the different ways you can convert your employer retirement savings into a stream of income or an IRA (Individual Retirement Account). Consider using “scenario planning” and start learning about Social Security and your options for receiving retirement benefits. Familiarize yourself with the basics of Medicare, including Medicaid.

Phase 3: Early-Retirement

This phase lasts from the day you retire until you turn 70. (For those who do not plan to retire until well into their 70s, some tasks in this phase may occur later.) An important purpose of this phase is to create a clear communication channel with your family: information can be shared, questions can be discussed, and decisions can be made in a calm and supportive way. It’s also the time to evaluate how well your finances are working now that you have started to use your retirement savings. Fine-tune your income and expense projections, remembering to take into consideration how you will meet minimum distribution requirements from  your tax-deferred accounts.

Phase 4: Mid-Retirement

This begins at age 70 and lasts as long as your high-functioning and able-bodied. Despite your good health, begin looking at what steps you would want your family to take if your condition declines significantly. In most cases, your ability to make all your own decisions, care for yourself, engage with the world, and manage your affairs does not disappear in a split second. It takes courage to dive into a  conversation about giving up and transferring control.

Phase 5: Late-Retirement

This phase begins when your health has taken a turn for the worse and it is not likely for it being fully restored and you require significant help to function from day to day. The hope for this phase, is that by this point all the planning you have done in prior years will make this transition as manageable and life-affirming as possible.

For assistance in retirement planning, it would be helpful to hire a qualified elder law attorney. Contact Adam Tobin to meet with a knowledgeable Massachusetts elder attorney, and receive advice and tips to make your retirement planning a smooth process.