What is Elder Law and Special Needs Planning
Elder law and special needs planning is a multidisciplinary and holistic area of law that concentrates on the legal, financial, medical, social and family issues affecting older adults, people with disabilities and their families. Here are some areas where we assist our 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.
Before a person loses mental capacity, it is important to have estate planning documents in place. Durable Powers of Attorney, if properly drafted and executed, important documents which may alleviate the possibility that someone may need a guardianship or conservatorship in the future. Advance health care directives also help protect the decisions of a person who may later become incapacitated.
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. 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. Pooled trusts can be established for first-party and third-party SNTs. Pooled trusts are managed by a non-profit organization.
Medicaid is a state and federal program for long-term care coverage for low-income persons who meet certain eligibility requirements. In order to qualify for long-term care Medicaid, a person must be unable to do one or more activities of daily living or have a diagnosis of a serious cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease and also must meet the income and resource requirements of the program. In an ideal situation, Medicaid Planning should begin at least five years before long-term care is needed. Through Medicaid Planning, persons who would otherwise have too much money to meet the resource requirements of the Medicaid program may be able to legally preserve assets.