The purpose of practicing Elder Law is to help enhance the quality of life for the elderly. Elder law involves counseling clients in the areas of public benefits, health and long-term care insurance, probate and estate planning, and guardianship.
In recognition of the difficulties which many of our clients and their families have faced due to increasing medical costs and increasing life spans, we are now advising our clients in the areas of Medicaid planning.
Nursing home costs can exceed $100,000 a year. Most people do not generate enough income to pay for these costs so that they eventually are required to deplete their savings to pay for nursing home care. Long term insurance is the best way to cover nursing home costs. Unfortunately, long term insurance is not affordable for many people and if a person is already sick they may be uninsurable for long term care.
Few lawyers are skilled in this area of law. We can assist you by evaluating whether Medicaid planning is right for you and by taking you through the application process, from start to finish. We can also assist you in drafting the estate planning documents necessary to prevent your family members with special needs from being disqualified for public benefits.
Special Needs Trusts
Special needs trusts – also known as supplemental needs trusts – allow a disabled beneficiary to receive gifts, lawsuit settlements or other funds without losing eligibility for certain government programs. Special needs trusts are designed to pay for comforts and luxuries that could not be paid for by public assistance. These trusts typically pay for things like education, recreation, counseling and medical attention that reach beyond the simple necessities of life. The trustee can also use trust funds for basic support (such as food, clothing and shelter) if in the beneficiary’s best interest. We can draft a special needs trust so that the funds are not included in the beneficiary’s assets for purposes of public benefits eligibility.
Establishing the Trust
Often, special needs trusts are created by a parent or other family member for a child with special needs. Sometimes the recipient has reached adulthood by the time the trust is created or funded. An individual may also establish a trust through a will to leave assets to a disabled relative.
Some programs allow disabled individuals to create the trusts themselves. These “self-settled” trusts are frequently established by disabled individuals with their own funds, whether received as a result of an accident, medical malpractice, inheritance or other means. There are different rules that apply to these trusts than to third party trusts.
The overall goal in special needs trust planning is to maximize and supplement – but not supplant – the goods and services from government resources already provided or which could be provided to persons with disabilities. It is particularly important to protect the severely disabled beneficiary’s access to publicly funded medical care. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a new set of rules apply and a determination needs to be made if it is in the individual’s best interest to obtain publicly funded medical care or private insurance.
However, in some cases, special needs trust planning is not always required. Often there are better alternatives than SNTs. Unnecessary planning with attendant costs of creating and administering special needs trusts is as inappropriate at times as no planning at all.
Maintaining Eligibility for Needs-based Public Benefits
Programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and health insurance through Medicaid and Medicare provide you with critical financial and medical resources to help you pay for indispensible healthcare. But numerous arcane and technical regulations can render a disabled person ineligible to receive these essential benefits. We strategize legal means for preserving your eligibility. We develop viable financial plans that protect these much-needed life-saving public benefits. Often we are able to provide you with complete solutions in one brief office consultation. If you need further assistance, we are available to assist you until your issues are resolved. We have up-to-the-minute knowledge about program requirements. We help disabled children and adults and their families meet the rigorous rules for securing and maintaining Medicaid and other public benefits.