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Elder Law

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law is a legal practice area that focuses on the legal needs of older adults.  Here are some areas where we assist clients:

Long-term Care Planning

Long-term Care is health care delivered at home, an assisted living facility, or nursing facility.  You may not need long-term care but if you do, it is important to plan for your estate, finances and plan for your future health care.  The best time to think about long-term care is before an unexpected fall, illness or injury.  If care at an assisted living or nursing home is needed, long-term care can be very expensive.  Some people are surprised to learn that Medicare does not pay for complete Long-Term Care.

Planning for the possibility of long-term care allows you to make important decisions while you still have capacity.  People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias should not delay planning for long-term care.  We help clients with disability planning.

Special Needs Trusts

A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is intended to help people with disabilities pay for things that Social Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid will not cover but allow the person to continue to receive SSI and Medicaid benefits.

There are two main types of SNTs:  first-party and third-party.  First-party trusts (also known as self-settled and D4A SNTs) are created with assets belonging to the individual with a disability.  A first-party trust can be funded by the disabled person’s inheritance or personal injury settlement.  The person must be less than 65 years old at the time the trust is established to avoid the transfer penalty.  With the first-party trust, Medicaid recovers funds remaining in the trust at the beneficiary’s death for reimbursement before left-over funds can be transferred to anyone else.  A friend, relative or professional will manage the trust.

Third-party trusts are created with assets originally owned by someone other than the disabled person.  Parents, grandparents, other relatives or friends of the beneficiary can fund a third-party trust.  An important distinction between the first-party SNT and third-party SNT is that unlike the first-party SNT, the third-party SNT is not required to use the remaining assets to reimburse the state for Medicaid benefits received by the beneficiary during his or her lifetime when the beneficiary dies.

Pooled trusts (also known as Pooled Asset Special Needs Trust and D4C trusts), can be used to established both first-party and third-party SNTs. Because the pooled trust funds are managed and invested by a non-profit for multiple beneficiaries, the fees to establish and administer a pooled trust are not as high as a self-settled SNT.  Pooled trusts can be used for persons on Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Medicaid Planning

Medicaid planning is the process of planning to become eligible to apply for Medicaid.  Medicaid is a state and federal program for long-term care coverage for low-income persons who meet certain eligibility requirements.  These eligibility requirements include the person’s physical ability to do one or more activities of daily living or diagnosis of a serious cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease.  There are also resource and income requirements in order to qualify for Medicaid.

Qualifying for Medicaid does not mean that you have to spend all your assets before you apply.  While the Medicaid income and resource limits are very low in Washington, in limited situations, persons with assets above these thresholds may use various Medicaid Planning techniques to preserve assets in the process of qualifying for Medicaid.  Medicaid Planning is a complex area of the law.  In an ideal situation, you should start Medicaid planning at least (5) years before you anticipate needing long-term care.