Common Questions about Florida Elder Law
It is natural to have many questions and worries when faced with a legal issue or litigation. The experienced lawyers at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., ask many common legal questions and provide useful answers to help get you in making the best decisions for you and your family.
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How can Medicaid help pay for long-term care?
Medicaid is the federal program to assist the needy cope with extraordinary health care costs, such as long-term care. Health care providers all across the country give a wide range of services with Medicaid dollars. The Medicaid system is funded from both state and federal dollars. Florida runs the Medicaid program under guidelines provided by the Federal government as administered through the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”), where application is made for any benefits. Florida Medicaid helps the elderly, such as those that help paying for care in the nursing home, assisted living or for in-home care.
Medicaid has a good number of rules for applying if your assets are above the bare minimum. Here is our webpage on the Medicaid Income and Asset Guidelines that discusses more about the assets.
One important aspect to Medicaid is that the elder is not allowed to give away assets within 5 years of a Medicaid application. This is commonly known as the Medicaid "lookback" period. If money was given away, a transfer penalty was created. Here is our guide to calculating the Medicaid transfer penalty.
There are a lot of rules for accessing Medicaid, to say the least, and there is no such thing as an easy Medicaid application, even when the applicant's assets are at or below the asset limit. This is why elder law attorneys exist - to help our clients get good care while protecting the assets for their benefit. We have done hundreds of Medicaid applications for our clients over the many years of our practice. If you or your loved one is in the nursing home or assisted living, it is never too late to protect the assets. Also, if you do good planning, their is no Medicaid lien to consider.
If you want to learn more about Medicaid and asset protection planning, you are welcome to attend one of our free monthly educational seminars!
You may also find the following information helpful:
How are Jointly Held Assets Counted for Medicaid Purposes in Florida?
When someone it looking to apply for Medicaid for a loved one, one of the inevitable questions we get usually sounds something like this:
"I am a joint owner on my mother's bank accounts. Are half of the accounts mine for Medicaid purposes?"
The short answer here is that it is only an asset if the other account owner contributed monies to the account(s). The question here is rooted in ownership of the bank account. It is very common for an elder, rightly or wrongly, to add a child as co-owner of their bank accounts in the event they have a decline in health and need someone to pay their bills.
For Medicaid purposes, a joint owner on a bank account is not considered a partial owner for Medicaid purposes. The law presumes that if the Medicaid applicant is on the financial account, they are a 100% owner. Of course, this is usually true as the account is usually the elder's asset and the child was added for convenience purposes. If, however, the child could show that some or all of the money was the Medicaid applicants, then the asset can be excluded.
Of course, there are legal ways to protect assets in the event your elder is in the nursing home. Please call us today to schedule a consultation on paying for long term care, Medicaid or VA benefits.
If you liked this FAQ, you may also want to read:
How Can an Attorney Help My Elder Get Good Health Care?
Helping your elderly loved one can be very, very difficult. When your loved one is no longer able to stay at home safely, your loved one enters the long-term care "maze." You, as the caregiver, are forced to navigate this maze, often alone.
As part of the long-term care maze, you are going through three general areas with your loved one:
- Legal Issues: Wills, powers of attorney, estate plans and more.
- Financial Issues: This generally deals with Medicaid and Medicaid planning.
- Healthcare Issues: This is trying to find good care for your loved one. Here, may be dealing with nursing home placement, care concerns, doctors, rehabilitation, assisted living and much, much more.
Our goal in our life care planning practice is to not just placed your loved on Medicaid, but to help you navigate the long-term care maze. We will help you get good care for your loved one with our elder care coordinator. Our care coordinator will make your elder's life better by giving them good care while helping the primary caregiver make the right decisions.
The reality is that you generally would not think about going to an attorney to get good health care, but that is what a life care planning attorney does. We provide not just legal and financial advocacy, but health care advocacy as well!
IF you are having difficulties making the right decisions for your loved ones, which almost everyone does, we will be glad to help you protect their assets, help make sure their legal issues are taken care of, and making sure your loved one gets good health care.
My loved one is already in the nursing home. Is it possible to protect assets now?
Yes! When someone is in a Florida nursing home, it can be very expensive, often exceeding $10,000 per month. This means that all but the very wealthy can afford a nursing home for an extended length of time. Importantly, assets can be protected with the correct planning and advice. The first rule is that you cannot give your assets away within 5 years of a nursing home application. The Medicaid transfer penalty rules are very strict. This does not mean, however, that an attorney cannot legally help protect assets. Hiring an elder law attorney will allow you to protect your loved one's assets, legally lowering the elder's assets to below the countable asset limit. We generally call the asset protection process part of Medicaid spend down. Once the family hires a good elder law attorney, the attorney knows legal ways to protect assets without giving the money away. Once the funds are legally lowered, the elder law attorney will apply for Medicaid.
Legal Spend Down Planning
I generally think about spend down planning as legal and effective ways to spend money without paying it all to the nursing home. Examples of spend down planning includes fixing up the applicant's home, purchasing irrevocable funeral contracts, paying for burial plots and more. We have more information on Medicaid spend down planning here.
Legal Asset Protection Planning
After legal spend down planning, an elder law attorney can help protect assets. Asset protection here does not mean giving money away (which is bad) but working with an attorney who knows how to protect assets and then apply for Medicaid.
Can Our Law Firm Help?
A nursing home Medicaid application can be very, very difficult. We have made over 500 Medicaid applications at our office, all without a single denial. We are glad to help you and your loved one if they are in a nursing home or assisted living facility, no matter where you are in the state of Florida. We offer initial consultations to see if we can help.
Read Our Free Book on Medicaid and Long-Term Care!
I have written a book, Don't Lose Your Nest Egg to a Florida Nursing Home, available for download. My book discusses long-term care, Medicaid, Medicare and many other topics that can help the family in a difficult time.
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
- Florida Medicaid Assisted Living Benefits
- Medicaid and Asset Rules in Florida
- My Elder just went to the nursing home - what happens next?
How will Life Care Planning help ensure our loved one's assets are protected?
Life care planning looks at the elder's legal, financial and healthcare. Our stated goals are as follows:
- Make sure our client is getting the right care in the right setting;
- Make sure the client's caregivers (family) gets the right support in making the right decisions;
- Making sure our elder is using the appropriate government benefits, such as Medicaid, Medicare and VA benefits.
Thus, as parts of our life care plan, after making sure our client is in the right place getting the right care, we help make sure his or her assets are protected from the high cost of nursing home or assisted living care. We will look to Medicaid planning and VA Benefits planning to assist with these matters. This also means that any costs to paid to help the elder usually pays for itself many, many times over in good care, peace of mind and more.
Who Is a Life Care Plan For?
Dealing with your aging loved one can be very difficult. When your elder starts to go downhill due to dementia, stroke or other chronic illness, you may need help with a life care planning attorney. A life care planning attorney will help you and your loved one deal with a process that you are already going through.
Our first goal in life care planning is to help make sure our client, the elder, is getting the right care in the right place. We often come into difficult situations such as when the elder is no longer safe at home or after the elder has had a fall or a stroke. This is when things get most difficult as the family must try to advocate in a strange and complex medical system.
Our second goal of life care planning is to make sure our client's caregiver, whether a spouse or child or children, gets the help they need. Trying to find good medical care, good nursing homes, assisted living and other providers can be very difficult. Thus, life care planning is not just about helping the elder but we also help make the caregiver make difficult decisions.
In summation, life care planing helps both the elder by helping them receive good care while also helping the primary caregiver (i.e., the power of attorney/healthcare surrogate) by giving them the support they need. The reality is that there are few places to go in getting help in the long-term care maze - that is why we are here to help!
At What Point Should the Life Care Planning Be Developed?
Most people create a Life Care Plan immediately after a triggering event such as stroke or diagnosis of Alzheimer's or cancer. However, pre-crisis planning is ideal for families because you can immediately tap into the resources available and increase the possibility that your elder can remain in their home.
What Is Life Care Planning?
Life Care Planning is a new approach to dealing with issues created by long life and disability. It involves a team to help with the elder's:
Aspects of the aging process. When an elder is no longer able to live at home without long-term care, the elder, and his or her family, enter the long-term care maze. This maze is difficult and confusing to just about everyone.
The Life Care Plan places special emphasis on issues surrounding long life. The Life Care Plan connects your concerns about long-term care as you go through the later stages of your life with our knowledge and expertise at our law firm.
The Life Care Plan itself is a relationship and a planning process with our firm that changes over time as you and your circumstances change over time. Your Life Care Plan can provide the road map that allows you to follow through to achieve your quality of life and care and long-term care financing goals. There is no specific written document that encompasses the Life Care Plan, but it is our relationship, communication and goals that help guide us.
We have proudly had a Life Care Planning practice since 2010, helping save lives and providing peace of mind to hundreds of families.
Life Care Planning
Life care planning began in the field of personal injury litigation. The intent was to provide costs for care, equipment, supplies and other needs resulting from the injury.
Today, the definition and use of life care plans has evolved beyond litigation. In 1998, the International Academy of Life Care Planners and others described the life care plan as a dynamic document based upon published standards, comprehensive assessment, data analysis and research, which provides an organized, concise plan for current and future needs, with associated costs for individuals who have experienced catastrophic injury or have chronic health care needs.
A life care plan is a method to manage information about the individual. Families use a life care plan in elder care management as a guide to necessary services and resources and outcome evaluation.
For your Life Care Plan to be successful, all of us must have an understanding of your diagnoses,
Medical treatment, estimate, costs of treatment and services, factors affecting care outcomes, psychosocial implications, and ongoing health care and long-term care needs. We must be knowledgeable about community resources and eligibility for these resources. Furthermore, we must be able to identify and develop alternatives for care consistent with patient/family needs. A Life Care Plan represents the integration of these issues into a plan to meet individual needs.
There are three principal goals of the Life Care Plan that we help you develop and implement:
- We help make sure that you or your loved one gets good care, whether that care is at home or outside the traditional home setting. This is the most important of all goals, for it goes to the very heart of your quality of life in your later years. Your Life Care Plan is focused first on your good health, safety, and well-being.
- We help you make decisions relating to your long-term care and special needs. We are your resource of experienced, supportive, knowledgeable, and objective advisors.
- We help you find sources to pay for good long-term care. We work with you through the maze of choices and options to find the best, or often, the most comfortable solution to the asset protection problem created by the need to pay for quality long-term care.
Your Care Questions Answered
We will help you answer your questions about your long-term care and health care choices:
- What health care, chronic care, and long-term care services are available to me? How can I get the good care I need and desire, whether in my own home, in a residential community or assisted-living facility, in a child's home, or in a nursing home?
- How will financial and health care decisions be made for me if I cannot make them for myself? Who can I rely on to make sure that decisions to be made are the right ones?
- If I can't take care of myself, who will make sure my spouse continues to have a good quality of life?
- If there a health care crisis, what will we have to do? Where do we turn for the help we need?
- How do I know I am getting good care? Who will advocate and intervene for me if necessary to ensure my right to quality health care and long-term care?
A Life Care Plan helps you and your loved ones answer other pressing questions as well:
- How do I assure my financial security as I get older?
- What public benefits am I entitled to, and what do I have to do to qualify for them?
- Should I rely on Medicaid or other government benefits to help pay for my care? How do I apply for benefits?
- What kinds of insurance do I need? Should I buy long-term care insurance? Should I join a Medicare HMO?
- How and when should I distribute my assets? Can I save taxes and avoid probate?
- Do I have to spend all of my money on my care, whether in my home or in a residential care facility such as a nursing home? How can I protect my assets to take care of my spouse, to ensure I get good care, or to leave to my children?
- How do I provide for family members with special needs?
Your Road Map
Your Life Care Plan will be customized to fit your desires and needs. Your Life Care Plan can then provide you the road map to follow to achieve your care and asset protection goals. And, when changes occur, we stay with you every step of the way to help you shift to another road as it becomes necessary.
Your Life Care Plan therefore includes both elder law and care assessment and coordination services.
Come to one of our monthly seminars to learn more about how Life Care Planning can help you.