Elder Law

What is elder law?

Elder law is a diverse area of legal practice focusing on the numerous areas of law that impact aging adults and their loved ones. This includes long term care planning, estate planning, retirement issues, tax planning, and planning for government entitlements.

Elder law often involves advance planning for illness or incapacity to minimize legal problems, preserve assets and maintain the dignity of senior citizens. Sometimes elder law involves crisis planning such as when someone is in need of immediate placement in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home.

Why should I plan in advance for long-term care issues?

Advanced planning allows one to greatly minimize legal fees, avoid emotional trauma for family members, and preserve assets. Planning ahead when someone has the ability to do so also allows you, and not a court, to decide in advance what medical care you will or will not receive. A well-drafted estate plan which includes a medical durable power of attorney and a financial durable power of attorney can avoid the need for court intervention to obtain a guardianship or conservatorship. These court proceedings are time-consuming, costly, and sometimes upsetting.

Who pays for long-term care?

Long-term care in a skilled nursing facility in Georgia currently averages over $50,000 per year. Private health insurance does not cover nursing home care and Medicare only partly pays for skilled care in a nursing home for 100 days after a hospital stay. If one has long term care insurance it can pay for nursing home care as set forth in the policy. This usually pays for a large part of the total cost (but not all of it).  Few people actually have long term care insurance. In reality, the cost of nursing home care is mostly paid for out of pocket or, if one qualifies for it, by Medicaid.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is an entitlement program funded by federal and state government.  The Medicaid program for long term care in a nursing home for persons over age 65 has strict rules regarding both income and assets.  There are different income and asset rules for the program depending on whether you are married or single.   In Georgia, a single person can only have $2,000 in countable assets ($3,000 for a couple) and certain excluded assets such as a pre-paid funeral, one car (per spouse), jewelry and personal effects, and a principal residence worth $500,000 or less.

What is Medicaid Planning?

Medicaid planning is a reallocation of assets designed to preserve or maximize someone’s eligibility for Medicaid, and to set aside funds for certain items such as:

  • A private room in a care facility (something that is vital for a person with advanced dementia)
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dentures, beauty shop visits
  • Geriatric care management services
  • “Companion” caregivers (as a supplement to often-overworked nursing home staff)
  • Cable TV,  a telephone line, and other conveniences

Good Medicaid planning allows an individual to optimize the care they receive (whether at home or in a nursing home resident), and pay for some of the relatively basic needs for which Medicaid won’t pay.

I am happy to help you & your loved ones craft a proper asset protection plan that observes Georgia’s intricate Medicaid rules and that will maximize quality of life for Medicaid recipients and their spouses.

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