Serving families throughout Lynnfield, Wakefield, Reading, Peabody, Danvers, Beverly, the Greater Boston, North Shore, and Southern New Hampshire area
According to the Population Reference Bureau’s bulletin, Aging in the United States, the number of Americans who are 65 and older will almost double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. This means that this age group’s share of the total population will increase from 16 percent to 23 percent. Not only is our older population increasing, it is also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, plus our older adults are working longer. As of 2018, about 24 percent of men and 16 percent of women in the workforce were 65 and older.
In 1950, the average U.S. life expectancy was 68, while by 2017 the average U.S. life expectancy had increased to 78.6. The aging of the baby boomer generation could potentially fuel a more than 50 percent increase in the number of Americans age 65 and older who require nursing home care; the demand for elder care will also be driven by a steep rise in the number of elderly Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease.
As our population ages, more and more of us will confront elder law-related issues—either for ourselves or our parents or other loved ones. Perhaps the most pressing issue remains long-term nursing home care, and how to pay for it. Traditional health insurance, as well as Medicare, will rarely pay for long-term nursing home care, and in the greater Boston area, nursing home care can cost between $120,000 and $150,000 per year.
What is Elder Law?
Elder law, a branch of law which serves the needs of the elderly and the disabled (and their family members), is a relatively new development, resulting from increased life expectancy. Elder law is an aspect of estate planning which focuses on the needs of individuals and their families, as they age. Finding the right ways to ensure seniors are properly cared for while protecting their home and assets is a major focus of the FEPLG law practice. Elder law, while necessary in many situations, can be complex.
State laws are very specific about what can be included in a will, a trust, an advance medical directive, or a financial power of attorney. Individual states control who can—and cannot—serve as an attorney in fact, a health care surrogate, a trustee, or a personal representative. The states also dictate who can witness these documents. Further, despite the fact that Medicaid is a federal program, each individual state administers Medicaid at a local level, meaning the laws and rules which govern the program can vary significantly from state to state.
A Single Mistake Can Cost Dearly
A single mistake can be costly for an elderly person and working with a qualified elder law attorney can help avoid such a mistake. While you might save a few dollars by filling out the Medicaid application for your elderly loved one, or using Internet forms for estate planning, you could be in for a shock down the road when you realize one simple mistake has cost you dearly. Although many people tend to think of elder law in the same category as estate law, there are significant differences between the two. While elder law seeks to preserve your income and assets for use while you are alive, estate planning is primarily concerned with distributing your assets and implementing your wishes after you pass. These two types of law actually work together; without a good elder law plan to preserve and protect your assets and income, you may find you have no estate to distribute.
Getting Experienced Elder Law Help from FEPLG
An experienced elder law attorney from the Family Estate Planning Law can guide all those involved through the intricate ins and outs of any situation which might arise, protecting the rights and welfare of seniors and their family. Our elder law attorneys can knowledgeably address conservatorships, guardianships, power of attorney documents, estate planning, probate and estate administration, advanced directives, and Medicaid and Medicare planning.
The Family Estate Planning Law Group elder law attorneys are skilled, experienced, and up-to-date regarding policy and legal issues in Massachusetts which apply to elder law issues. The elder law attorneys at FEPLG provide sound strategies and comprehensive planning for seniors to preserve family wealth, plan for nursing home care, and anticipate other financial and legal concerns associated with aging. Our highly skilled elder law attorneys can help you with the following issues:
- Medicaid Planning—Medicaid is a jointly funded, federal/state healthcare program for those who are financially eligible. Medicaid can provide for long-term care at home and in nursing homes, rehabilitation, and acute medical needs, as well as community-based programs such as adult daycare. Far too many seniors believe they can wait until it is time to go into a nursing home, then simply give all their assets to family members and be eligible for Medicaid. Unfortunately, this is not true—there is a five-year look-back law which governs Medicaid. An elder law attorney knows the acceptable ways to “spend-down” assets, which will allow you to qualify for Medicaid as a low-income senior. Some assets can be gifted, within limits, to a beneficiary. Medicaid requirements are complex as the applicant’s total assets cannot exceed a specified amount known as the Individual Resource Allowance. This amount is typically very low, often as low as $2,000. While your home and automobile and certain other possessions may be exempt for the purpose of determining Medicaid eligibility, that figure is still rather alarming. If the applicant is married, the process becomes exponentially more complicated. If the value of non-exempt assets exceeds the $123,600, giving away assets could create even greater problems as violation of the Transfer Penalty Rule could disqualify the applicant from receiving Medicaid for months, or even years. If the need for nursing home care is immediate, time is simply not something you can afford to lose. The Family Estate Planning Law Group professionals can guide you through this maze, advising you throughout the application process while ensuring you retain the maximum income and assets allowed by law. We can also discuss irrevocable Medicaid trusts, life estates, and private annuities along with other proven strategies.
- Medicare—Although Medicare does not pay for long-term care, there are many decisions related to Medicare, which increase the need for elder law resources. As an example, choosing the right Medicare plan can prevent costly mistakes which lead to lasting, negative impacts on the future of seniors. It is important to fully understand Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and other available plans. Further, some level of hospice care may be available through Medicare. For a terminally ill person with a life expectancy of 6 months or less, who chooses to accept palliative care (comfort care) rather than a “cure” for the illness, and who signs a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered benefits, hospice care will cost nothing.
- Estate Planning—At FEPLG, we assist our elderly clients in drafting wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, living wills, health care proxies and HIPAA release forms so that loved ones and medical caregivers will be aware of their wishes.
- Tax Planning and Succession—The Family Estate Planning Law Group attorneys are well-versed in the use of asset protection tools, trusts and gifting exclusions to ensure the estate of an elderly person will pass to his or her heirs with the minimal exposure to taxation, probate complications, and creditors.
- Conservatorship—In the same way an adult can be appointed as guardian of a child, the same process is available for the elderly. Elderly conservatorship occurs when the court appoints an individual to care for an elderly person, whether a close friend or a family member. This usually occurs when an elderly person is no longer able to take care of themselves. Conservatorship can be a lengthy process, involving the court and many documents. When a person takes on the role of a conservator, they must always put the interests of the elderly person first. Responsibilities of a conservator may include the following:
- Making the end of life decisions;
- Managing real estate and personal property;
- Taking care of doctor’s visits and medications;
- Handing finances, and
- Deciding where the elderly person should live.
- Special Needs Trusts—A Special Needs Trust can help an elderly person maximize their finances while continuing to receive Medicaid benefits. A Special Needs Trust allows a person who is 65 or older to place his or her assets in a pooled special needs trust, then use the trust to supplement the elderly person’s care while Medicaid pays for long-term care. This can allow the elderly person to have things he or she would do without if the trust did not exist. A Special Needs Trust can pay for clothing, private rooms in facilities, caregivers, durable medical equipment, televisions, toiletries, lift chairs, magazines and books, and even funeral arrangements.
- Elder Financial Abuse—A highly qualified FEPLG elder law attorney can ensure financial oversight for the elderly person, avoiding any type of financial abuse, whether from strangers or even from relatives or friends.
Your elder law attorney can also address a charity legacy, a reverse mortgage, and even funeral planning. Our elder law attorneys serve families throughout Lynnfield, Wakefield, Reading, Peabody, Danvers, Beverly, the Greater Boston, North Shore, and Southern New Hampshire areas. With careful planning, the elderly can protect most, if not all, of their assets, ensuring those assets will go to their spouse or children. Medicaid or nursing home asset protection should always be done with an attorney whose primary focus is elder law and estate planning because if such planning is not done early, the state of Massachusetts could disqualify an elderly person for Medicaid eligibility.
At FEPLG, we assist seniors and their families in making tough decisions regarding long-term care planning, including whether Medicaid eligibility may be an option. Through proactive planning, we can help you protect your home and assets from long-term care expenses. We also offer ongoing maintenance programs to monitor the plan in place. We believe in planning ahead, rather than waiting for a health crisis. Speak to an experienced Family Estate Planning Law Group attorney today who can fully assess the current situation, including physical care needs and financial resources. The Family Estate Planning Law Group attorneys are highly knowledgeable and can address every aspect of elder law, helping you understand the decisions you need to make now for an easier transition later. Contact the Family Estate Planning Law Group today for a comprehensive evaluation of your current situation.