Orlando Elder Law Attorney
Elder Law & Long-Term Care Planning in Orlando, Florida
Elder law is another aspect of estate planning, focusing primarily on the needs of families and individuals as they age. It also encompasses families dealing with development disabilities, mental illness or sudden disabilities such as those caused by traumatic brain injuries.
Issues of aging include senior housing and home care, long-term (or nursing home) care, guardianships and health care documents, and Medicare, long term health care pre-planning. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs provides a wealth of information for seniors and care givers.
The Long Term Care Dilemma
As our population ages, more and more of us confront elder law-related issues, whether for ourselves or our parents. One of the most pressing issues is long-term nursing home care, which typically is not covered by traditional health insurance. Depending on where you live and the level of care needed, nursing home care can cost from $35,000 to $150,000 a year. The average stay is slightly more than three years. Most people end up paying for nursing home care until their personal (or family) assets are depleted, then they may qualify for Medicaid to pick up the cost.
However, careful planning alongside an Orlando Elder Law Attorney can help protect your assets, whether for your own additional needs, your spouse or for your children. The belt-and-suspenders approach is to investigate long-term care insurance options while you are healthy enough to qualify, and to make sure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled under Medicare and Medicaid. Veterans (and their single surviving spouses) also may seek benefits from the Veterans Administration.
Clients are frequently confused over the differences between Medicare and Medicaid. Though their names are very similar, the programs are quite different. Medicare is an entitlement program that workers contribute to with each paycheck. When you turn 65, you can enroll. There are no financial qualification rules. Medicare has two primary parts: Part A and Part B.
Medicare Part A covers in-hospital care, extended care after a hospital stay, some home health care services, and hospice services. Medicare may pay for some rehabilitative care. It does not pay for long term or custodial care.
Medicaid is a joint federal-state program. Subject to certain federal requirements, each state implements its own regulations on how the program is managed. Medicaid is not an entitlement program like Medicare, but rather a needs-based program. Medicaid eligibility is determined after the proper application is submitted to the state, in Florida, the Department of Children and Families.
Pre-Planning or Crisis Planning
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do consider long-term care, Medicaid eligibility and qualification as key components of your estate planning process.
- Don’t make quick decisions when a loved one has a sudden medical crisis.
- Do consult a qualified elder law attorney if a crisis erupts.
- Don’t give away your home. For that matter don’t give anything away until you have a solid action plan.
- Do seek assistance even if you or a loved one is already in a nursing home. The earlier you begin your planning, the more options you will have to protect your assets and your loved ones. However crisis planning is still much better than no planning.
Use the Right Trust
Assets in a Revocable Living Trust are not protected and must be used to pay for the costs of long-term care. There are other trusts that may permit you to keep control of your assets.
Choosing the Right Time to Apply is Critical
Applying for Medicaid too early can result in being disqualified longer than necessary, while applying too late can mean having to privately pay for additional months of costly skilled nursing home care. Rule of thumb: Do not apply for Medicaid without a plan to ensure you qualify.
Get the Right Help
A nursing home or hospital that offers to file a Medicaid application for you has no fiduciary obligation to you and can’t legally advise you on how to protect your assets. Only a qualified Orlando Elder Law Attorney will be looking out for your interests. Since Medicaid planning is a complex matter, be sure to retain an attorney who has experience in Medicaid planning and qualification.
Call or contact our Orlando Elder Law Attorneys online to get started.