Planning for your elder years may feel overwhelming. What will happen to your finances when you die? What if you suffer from health issues that affect your decision-making? An elder law lawyer can help you plan for the future.
To be sure an attorney is the right fit, you want to ask them some questions before you hire them.
What’s the Difference Between Elder Law and General Practice?
Elder law falls under the category of estate planning. Planning your asset distribution is an important part of the elder plan. But, there are lots of specific laws that affect the elderly that can be complex to navigate.
For example, what about elder care? How will you ensure you are getting the care you want if you are suffering from dementia?
What if you have a special needs child that is dependent on you? What happens when you die?
Here are a few questions to consider.
How Can an Elder Law Lawyer Help Me?
An attorney would work with you to help set up a suitable plan for your golden years. They can work with you on coming up with a plan for your estate.
They can also work with your loved ones to ensure that they carry out your wishes.
For example, may want to consider appointing a power of attorney for medical or financial purposes (or both). An elder law attorney can help set up this legally binding appointment.
You may want to appoint a trustee to manage your trust. An attorney can certainly set this process up. They can also work closely with the trustee to ensure your assets get distributed fairly.
Whether it is you or your loved ones seeking answers, an elder law attorney is there to answer everyone’s specific questions.
When Should I See an Elder Law Attorney?
The sooner you can see a lawyer, the better! This is especially important if you want to protect your assets.
You never know if you’ll suffer a sudden heart attack or stroke. Or, what if you trip and fall in your house, causing a sudden severe injury?
Early planning is key to prevent against the issues a sudden health crisis may bring.
If you don’t have a plan, what happens to your future? A family member may place you in an elder care facility you don’t want to be in. Loved ones may be arguing over what medical treatment plan is best for you.
And in the event of your sudden death, your beneficiaries could be even more confused if you don’t have a will. They could be spending lots of time and money trying to figure out estate distribution. They are doing this on top of mourning your passing.
If you’ve already done elder planning, then you’ve got the steps laid out for you and your loved ones to follow. It will save everyone time, hassle, and confusion.
Get planning as soon as you can!
What’s the Best Way to Manage My Estate?
You don’t need to own many properties, expensive cars, and luxury goods to create an estate plan. It does not matter how humble you think your possessions are. Your assets, belongings, and property all count.
A good first step is to inventory all your assets. This includes physical items like your property and vehicles.
You also want to examine all your intangible assets. Think about if you have a 401k, health savings account, life insurance, or stocks.
Once you’ve got all of your assets accounted for, ask yourself how you’d want them distributed when you’re gone. What beneficiaries do you have in mind?
Do you think one person would be better off owning your property? But, maybe another would benefit more from your vehicles?
From there, you can craft multiple plans to manage your estate. You may want to put everything in a trust. You can consider a medical care directive or financial power of attorney.
An elder care attorney can help you determine which estate plan is best for you.
How Can I Protect My Assets?
Fraudulent activity runs rampant in the elder care world. Make sure you’ve got legal mechanisms to protect your property.
You want to get a head start on this process, so you have a plan in place before you experience financial difficulty.
For example, say you exhaust your savings on expensive medical treatment. Instead of taking a measure like selling your home, you may qualify for Medicaid to pay for your medical treatment.
If you don’t have a will in place, the probate court determines who gets your assets. Even if you ask a beneficiary to pass something of yours along to another, unless they’re bound legally, they don’t have to do it. Creating a will or estate plan can create an orderly flow for the beneficiaries you want.
Hiring an attorney can help you determine what course of action is best to protect your assets.
What’s the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid?
Medicare and Medicaid are federal health care plans. That’s basically where the similarities end.
Medicare is for those 65 and older. It pays for medical needs like doctor visits, lab tests, brief hospital stays, and short-term rehabilitation stints.
It does not cover long-term care like nursing homes or long stays in rehabilitation facilities.
That’s where Medicaid comes in. For anyone who qualifies, Medicaid will pay for long-term care. However, proving that you qualify can be a complicated process.
You have to meet certain financial qualifications to apply. Sometimes, there is a “look back” period of five years you need to account for. That means that Medicaid could examine your assets up to five years before you apply.
If you exceed the financial limit in those five years, you may not qualify for benefits.
You should be sure to plan if you think you’ll need Medicaid as a part of your elder care plan. Working with an elder care attorney can help you organize your finances accordingly.
It will be essential to continue to work with a lawyer even if you qualify for Medicaid. The rules constantly change. Hiring a lawyer can help keep your qualification on the right track.
What Will Happen To My Special Needs Child After I Pass Away?
If you are a caregiver for a person with special needs (whether physical, mental, or both), your passing away could weigh heavily on your mind. You want them to receive the best care and support they can get.
Usually, the only health insurance a special needs person can qualify for is Medicaid. But, Medicaid requires certain financial measures to qualify. If you wanted to leave assets for your special needs, wouldn’t this disqualify them from government aid?
You don’t want to leave your child with no assets. Especially just to get government health benefits. How can you ensure that your special needs child lives the life that they deserve?
You can work with an elder care attorney to set up a special needs planning session. In this session, you can learn about different options to ensure your child has optimal care.
One plan is to set up a special needs trust. This trust can set aside supplemental benefits, while at the same time preserving eligibility for government aid.
You can create the trust for anything that you think would improve your child’s quality of life. It can include funds for doctor’s visits and grocery store trips. It can even include the money to go on vacation or train for a recreational hobby!
You will likely need to designate a third party to distribute the assets on behalf of the beneficiary. The third party is legally bound to distribute assets according to your wishes.
That way, you know that your special needs child gets the funding that they need after your death.
Set Up a Consultation With an Attorney Today!
Needless to say, there are a lot of steps in the elder planning process. From estate planning to elder planning, to making sure dependents are all set, you’ve got a lot to consider.
And your situation is going to be different from your friend’s situation. That’s why it is so important to discuss your concerns with an elder law lawyer.
Contact us to schedule a consultation at Smith Baird Law. Our attorneys can help get you started on an elder care plan that is right for you.