Massachusetts Elder Law
Serving families throughout Lynnfield, Wakefield, Reading, Peabody, Danvers, Beverly, the Greater Boston, North Shore, and Southern New Hampshire area
Elder law is another aspect of estate planning focusing primarily on the needs of families and individuals as they age. Finding the best way to ensure a senior is cared for while protecting their home and assets from the nursing home is a major focus of our elder law practice.
The Long Term Care Dilemma
As our population ages, more and more of us confront elder law-related issues, whether for our parents or ourselves. One of the most pressing issues is long term nursing home care and how to pay for it. Traditional health insurance and Medicare do not typically pay for long term custodial care. In the greater Boston area, nursing home care typically costs between $120,000 and $150,000 a year. The average stay is slightly more than three years. Most people end up paying for nursing home care from personal (or family) assets and can deplete their life savings. Once they spend all their assets, they may be eligible to qualify for Medicaid to pick up the remaining costs.
With careful planning, however, you can protect most, if not all, of your assets so they will go to your spouse or children. Medicaid or nursing home asset protection should be done with an attorney whose primary focus is elder law and estate planning. If planning is not done early, Massachusetts could disqualify you from Medicaid eligibility. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts laws say that any gifts made within five years of your Medicaid application are “disqualifying transfers” and can disqualify you from receiving Medicaid eligibility. This is called the “five year lookback period.”
Even if you have done no planning prior to entering the nursing home, there may be options available to protect your assets. The key is to plan, plan early, and plan with a qualified elder law attorney.
Medicare versus Medicaid (or Massachusetts Medicaid)
Many people are frequently confused over the differences between Medicare and Medicaid. Though their names are very similar, the programs are quite different.
Medicare is a federal health insurance program in which most people enroll when they turn 65 years old. There are no financial qualification rules. Medicare can be viewed as “health insurance” to pay medical expenses for medical services designed to help you get better. Generally, Medicare will not pay for custodial or nursing home care.
Medicaid is a joint federal-state welfare program. Unlike Medicare, which is an entitlement program, you will need to qualify for Medicaid benefits by showing you have limited assets. You will need to qualify for Medicaid benefits by showing you have limited assets. Medicaid eligibility is determined after the proper application is submitted to the state.
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs provides a wealth of information for seniors and caregivers.
We assist seniors and their families in making the tough decisions regarding long term care planning, including whether Medicaid eligibility may be an option. We can also help you determine whether through proactive planning or crisis planning you may be able to protect your home and other assets from long term care expenses. Planning early and with an attorney concentrating in elder law and with an ongoing maintenance program to monitor the plan is critical.
Helping a parent explore housing options can seem overwhelming and intimidating. In recent years, we have helped clients determine the best housing options when the death of a spouse, declining health, or safety concerns trigger the need to move. When it appears that living at home alone may not be the most suitable or safest option, we help our clients look at options like downsizing, assisted living, hiring a live-in caregiver, or building an addition onto the home or a child’s home.
Making the right decision is not easy but here are some things to consider:
- Plan ahead. Don't wait for a health crisis to start the process. The smoothest transitions occur when the person moving is in the driver's seat.
- Start exploring all housing options, including live-in caregiving, assisted living, and other options. Look at each option and compare the advantages and disadvantages for you and your family.
- Speak with an elder law firm to fully assess your current situation. Physical care needs and financial resources are a good place to start. Consider the costs of staying in place, including renovation and ongoing maintenance. Add the cost of rising utility bills and taxes, and don't forget transportation and food. Make a list and decide whether it's cheaper to stay or move to a community designed for seniors.