As we look to care for our parents and grandparents as they age in Florida, we need to think about their current and potential long-term care needs. How will they be able to find good care should they need it? Where should they look for help? What is available in our community? How will they be able to afford the care they need should the time come?
Unfortunately, many Florida seniors do not begin to plan for the high cost of long-term care until it is too late. For a myriad of reasons, they did not plan forward to think about what they may need both now and for a future that includes an increased need for long-term care assistance. Most of us today simply cannot afford the additional thousands of dollars per month it would cost to have support from home healthcare or a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility without rethinking our finances and looking for help from public benefits.
While many Florida seniors turn to Medicaid and other local community programs for assistance, for Florida veterans, there are additional benefits available. They range from health care and funeral assistance to disability support and pension assistance. For many veterans the available benefits remain unused and hard to obtain due to the qualification that is required to gain access to them.
Perhaps the most beneficial program for the Florida senior veteran in need of long-term care assistance is the VA Pension program.
The VA Pension program is in no way tied to a service-connected disability.
In fact, the health care disability standard associated at the basic level is met simply by being over age 65. This a monthly, tax-free benefit that can increase based on the health care needs of the veteran.
The rules changed substantially for this program on October 18, 2018. This program is not an automatic benefit for wartime veterans and their dependents. They must prove, first, that the veteran served for at least 90 days of active service with one day during a period of war. Second, he or she must prove that he or she was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Now, to access this program, the new rules created a few more qualifications. For example, there is an asset limit for the veteran’s countable resources. Prior to the rule changes, there was no set amount in place. This year the veteran may have $126,240, excluding exempt assets, and this amount will change each year.
Further, through these rules the Department of Veterans Affairs created a “look-back” period. A “look-back” period is a period of time during which the Department may review assets to determine if the veteran has made gifts of his or her resources. A similar set up currently exists for the Florida Medicaid program. The “look-back” period will be for thirty-six months. If the VA determines this occurred the veteran may face a disqualification period.
These are just a few ways the VA Pension program has changed.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and encourage you to schedule a meeting with us to get the answers you need for yourself and your loved ones.
Choosing to visit your aging parent during the holidays can be a great gift from you to them. It is during these visits, however, that you may learn that your parents are not physically or mentally able to care for themselves as well as in the past. You may determine during your visit that your aging parents are having significant problems dealing with activities of daily living and may need more help in the home.
We know how difficult this realization can be for you and your parents. As you face these challenges together, it is important for you to determine what strategies may best provide the support they need. Let us share seven tips for talking to your aging parents this holiday season that we share with our clients, friends, family, and local professionals in our community.
Are they having issues driving? As we age, driving becomes more difficult. It is not just the physical act of driving, but also, response times and observations. Be sure to let your parents drive you both short and long distances to determine how they are managing this task.
How is their day-to-day health? Observe your parents throughout your visit, taking time to see how they are doing throughout the day. Are mornings easier? Do they go to sleep after dinner? How quickly can they move between tasks?
Can they easily prepare meals? If your parents offer to prepare a meal, let them. Although many families go out to eat during visits or an adult child cooks, ask your parents to help. Be on the lookout for whether or not your parents have a hard time remembering frequently used recipes, where ingredients are placed, or remembering to turn off kitchen appliances, such as the oven.
How many medicines are they taking? Medicines increase for many Older Americans. Ask them to share their medication list and schedule for taking prescriptions. Are there duplications? Can your parents tell you why they take specific medicines? Is anything expired? Do they need help opening bottles? There are many pharmacies now that will organize medications by day and time. Talk to your parents about this type of service and if it would be beneficial.
What is the state of their house? If you can, stay at least one night in the home as you may not be able to observe the state of the house in a quick visit. Is it clean? It it well-maintained? Do your parents need help with organization or clutter?
Is their estate planning up to date? Ask your parents about their estate planning. The documents within their planning, such as the durable power of attorney, will be necessary in a crisis should you need to make decisions for them. What documents do they have included in their estate plan? Who is their decision maker? Is there an attorney you may talk to in a crisis?
Have they created a plan for long-term care? It is never too early to plan for long-term care. Ask your parents what plans they have created so far. Although this can be a difficult conversation to have, it is never too early to talk to them about what they want so you can both be prepared for the future.
We want you to know that we are here to help you answer these questions. We can work with your aging parents and you both now and in the new year. Do not wait to contact us to ask us your questions.
‘Tis Better to Give than Receive, but … It’s the giving season. Whichever holiday you celebrate, most enjoy showing their affection by giving gifts to loved ones. For larger families, these gifts can amount to a lot of money each year.
And that’s wonderful, but if you might need to apply for Medicaid long-term care benefits, you need to be careful. Giving away money or property can jeopardize your eligibility. Here’s why you need to speak with an experienced elder care/elder law attorney about gifting.
If you give assets away to someone other than your spouse within five years before applying for long-term Medicaid, you might be ineligible for benefits. Medicaid pays for some or all your care at home, in an Assisted Living Community, or in a Nursing Home.
The length of time you’ll be ineligible depends upon how much you give away. Even small gifts affect eligibility. The 2017 IRS rules allow gifts up to $14,000 a year, but Medicaid rules allow the government to deny benefits anyway.
And there is no exception for gifts to charities. So, gifts for holidays, weddings, birthdays, and graduations could all cause ineligibility. If you buy something for a friend or relative, this could also result in a denial.
If you face this problem, you can overcome it, but you’ll need help. To overcome a denial, you’ll have to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the purpose of the gift had nothing to do with becoming eligible for Medicaid. “Clear and Convincing” is almost the same as “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
So, before giving away assets or property, check with your elder law attorney to ensure that it won’t affect your Medicaid eligibility. Contact us today with any questions you may have.
Long-Term Care Asset Protection planning is a difficult and confusing process. Families make many mistakes when planning, usually, because they were given bad information from well-meaning loved ones, friends, and non-attorney professionals.
Thinking it’s too late to plan. It’s rarely too late to take planning steps, even after a senior has started receiving care at home, in an assisted living community, or a nursing home.
Giving away assets to children. First, it’s your money (or your house, or both). Take care of yourself first. When a child dies, becomes incapacitated, is sued, or gets divorced, they can no longer give money back to you when you need it. There are other ways to protect your money and remain in control of it.
Ignoring important permissible strategies created by Congress. There are many strategies authorized by Congress that people simply don’t know about. Unfortunately, space doesn’t allow me to explain.
Failing to plan for the spouse of a care recipient. If the spouse of a care recipient dies first, then the government benefits received by the care recipient are put in jeopardy. This can be avoided.
Applying for Government Benefits too late. This happens a lot. The family innocently uses funds to pay for long-term care that the government can’t count, so they lose tens of thousands of dollars. Know when to apply for benefits.
Not getting expert help. Long-Term Care Asset Protection Planning is a complicated field. Tens of thousands of dollars are at stake, sometimes more. It’s penny wise and pound foolish not to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable elder care attorney.
If you have any questions regarding this article, don’t hesitate to contact our office.
One of the greatest fears faced by aging Americans is that they may need a lot of care at home, in an assisted living or in a nursing home. This not only means a great loss of independence; it comes at a tremendous financial price. Nursing homes in Volusia and Flagler County cost over $100,000 a year.
Most people tragically end up paying for elder care out of their life’s savings until they are broke. Then they apply for Medicaid to pick up the cost. The advantage of paying privately is that you eliminate or postpone dealing with Florida’s bureaucracy–an often difficult, confusing, frustrating, and time-consuming process. The disadvantage of paying privately is that it’s expensive. People of ordinary means could lose everything that they have scrimped and saved to the nursing home.
Careful planning, though, especially in advance of an unanticipated need for care, can help protect your hard-earned savings, whether for yourself, your spouse, or your children. This is done by taking steps to make sure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled under the Medicare, Medicaid, and Veteran’s Administration programs.
Those that plan when they are not in immediate need of long-term care usually protect all of their life’s savings and quickly qualify for Medicaid benefits. Those that wait until they are facing long-term care costs might protect some of their life’s savings, but others may not be able to save anything. Don’t hesitate to contact our office with any questions you may have.
Many seniors do not have elder care planning of any kind. Unfortunately, this means they are not prepared for a sudden crisis. This crisis could be a healthcare diagnosis, a car accident or a rapid decline in cognitive abilities. Most of the elder care planning you need as you age may only be completed when you have capacity. You risk losing the right to make choices you want if you have not planned for incapacity.
When you have not provided legal authority to another person, such as in your Florida durable power of attorney and Florida health care surrogate documents, there is no one who can step in and make your decisions for you should you be incapacitated. Through these estate planning tools your agent is given the legal authority to act as you would in specific instances. For example, if you were in a car accident and were unable to pay your bills each month, your agent would be able to do so. Further, if you were to suddenly need long-term care such as in the skilled nursing facility, your agent would have the authority to to hire an attorney to assist him or her with this planning.
Unfortunately, when you do not plan ahead, and create the elder care planning documents you need, no one will have this authority. In the event of a crisis where you can go longer make decisions and have not created the documents to support you, your family may need to hire an attorney to start the Florida guardianship process. In the absence of legal planning, the guardianship process exists to first determine that you are truly incapacitated and then to select the right guardian to make decisions for you for the rest of your life.
While, at first glance, this may not seem to be the worst alternative, there can be significant downsides to the guardianship process. Let us share a few considerations with you.
1. The guardianship process is expensive. Your family will need to hire an attorney to represent them and a second attorney will also be appointed by the state to represent your interests. There will be court costs, medical examiners costs, and additional costs during the initial phase of this guardianship. This will quickly add up to thousands of dollars that could have been avoided by having Florida advance directives in most situations.
2. The lack of ability to plan for long-term care. Under almost every circumstance, you will no longer be able to plan to protect your life savings from the high cost of long-term care once you are under guardianship. Instead, the planning alternatives that work under your durable power of attorney, are no longer possible. Your family will have to spend your assets and income on the skilled nursing facility you need until they are depleted.
3. Increased family conflict and stress. Unfortunately, in the absence of choosing a decision maker early, your family may fight over who should be your guardian. We have seen countless arguments between spouses, children, and loved ones who each hire attorneys to fight over who should be the decision maker for a loved one. During stressful times like this, most of our loved ones will not be thinking clearly and will be unable to make rational decisions with regard to our care. Not only does this cause long-lasting friction for your family, it also incurs more costs with each person‘s attorney’s fees.
These are just a few of the reasons why it is crucial that guardianship not be your elder care planning choice. When you plan early and well, you can avoid scenarios where you will be forced to use your entire life savings to pay for your long term care needs. Don’t wait to talk to a member of our legal planning team about the help you and and your loved ones need.