What are the requirements to be eligible for Medicaid?

Question:  What are the requirements to be eligible for Medicaid?

Answer:  There are basically three requirements to be eligible for Medicaid.  First, skilled nursing care must be recommended for that person and the state agency must approve that recommendation of the need for skilled nursing home care.

Second, there is an asset limit which will vary from state to state as each state.  This asset limit is usually $2,000 for the Medicaid applicant and $117,240 for the spouse (non-Medicaid applicant).  If both spouses are in the nursing home the figure is $3,000 for both of them combined.  However, do to some differences between states, it is always best to check with an Elder Law Attorney for any variations from the norm.  In proper planning for these individuals or couples, it may become necessary to change the character of an asset (for instance a CD) into an income stream (place funds into an annuity) or convert the asset into an exempt asset such as a roof repair on the family home.

Third, there is an income limit that must be met as well as the asset limit. For instance in Florida the limit is $2,163 a month and this includes all income (Social Security, pension, rental income, interest income, etc.).  Florida is an income cap state, which means that if you receive more than $2,163 a month then the Medicaid applicant must establish a Qualified Income Trust to hold most, if not all, of his/her income.  Whether or not the need for a Qualified Income Trust is necessary, all of the Medicaid patient’s monthly income goes to the nursing facility with $35 a month set aside for the patient’s haircuts, nails, etc.

In all instances, whenever a question exists regarding Medicaid eligibility, one would be wise to consult with an elder law attorney as the rules can be tricky and may a family has tripped over a Medicaid rule although well meaning in their intentions.

You can find some of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys who can help you with your family’s Elder Care Matters on ElderCareMatters.com - America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Ivan Michael Tucker, Esq.
Law Office of I. Michael Tucker, PLC
Altamonte Springs, Florida
An ElderCare Matters Partner

What is a Special Needs Trust?

Question:  What is a Special Needs Trust?

Answer:  While the majority of the clients we see love their children equally and wish to treat them equally when they die, there are circumstances where this is not a good idea. One of those circumstances is where a child has “issues”. Issues, in this context, usually mean that he or she has a developmental disability that may last for their lifetime and now or later they may need government assistance. Issues could also mean that he or she has an alcohol or drug dependency and also may need government assistance, or worse yet, may use their inheritance to further their addiction with a terrible ending.

Although it may seem like a good idea, I strongly discourage people from establishing custodial accounts or leaving cash or other assets outright to heirs with disabilities, if they are or will receive benefits from the State. The distribution of assets outright may disqualify the beneficiary from government assistance, which is means-based.

When the assets of an individual with special needs exceed the governmental financial resource limits, the individual may be disqualified from both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

A more appropriate way to pass an inheritance to a special needs beneficiary is to utilize a Supplemental Needs Trust, also known as a Special Needs Trust. Supplemental Needs Trusts can be either self-settled Trusts, or third-party Trusts. A self-settled Trust is a Trust set up with the disabled persons own assets. The disabled individual is the Grantor and the beneficiary. A third-party Trust is created by one person (the Grantor) for the benefit of another, so long as the Grantor is not legally responsible for providing support for the disabled individual.

A Supplemental Needs Trust containing certain provisions may be established to administer and distribute Trust assets to a beneficiary with special needs without otherwise disqualifying them from governmental benefits. If drafted properly, the assets in the Trust are not counted for the purpose of determining eligibility for governmental benefits. A properly drafted self-settled Supplemental Needs Trust will require the Trust to pay back the government after the death of the special needs individual for governmental benefits provided to the individual.  If the assets are depleted then they do not need to be reimbursed.   Supplemental Needs Trusts should be drafted with care. The instrument should not direct the Trustee to make disbursements for a disabled person’s heath, maintenance or support as this will cause the Trust assets to be includable in determining eligibility for governmental benefits. One way to accomplish this goal is to give the Trustee absolute discretion on disbursements. When distributions are up to the Trustee’s sole and absolute discretion, the assets in the Trust are not counted when calculating eligibility for governmental benefits.

Supplemental Needs Trusts can be a valuable tool in planning for disabled individuals. The process requires consideration of many issues and should be approached with care by a qualified legal professional.

You can find some of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys who can help you with your family’s Elder Care Matters on ElderCareMatters.com - America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
George P. Guertin, Esq.
Guertin and Guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Michigan Elder Law Attorney Answers Family’s Question

Question:  What is the difference between an Elder Law Attorney and an Estate Planning Attorney?

Answer:  The difference between an Elder Law Attorney and an Estate Planning Attorney can be quite substantial. An Estate Planning Attorney traditionally focuses on dealing with what happens to a client after the client passes away. They would often deal with avoiding probate, minimizing estate taxes and distributing assets to the client’s loved ones exactly as the client wanted them to be distributed – to name a few. However, Elder Law Attorneys not only focus on estate planning issues (a very important part of elder law) but they also deal with issues that face clients during their lives. An Elder Law Attorney will help protect assets for a client if there is ever an incapacity issue. Elder Law Attorneys will often deal with Medicaid issues, Veterans’ Benefits, Special needs counseling and Long Term Care Issues – to name a few. 

You can find some of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys who can help you with your family’s Elder Care Matters on ElderCareMatters.com - America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Elder Law Attorney Jim Thomas
Law Office of Carol Thomas
Saginaw, Michigan
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Connecticut Elder Law Attorney Answers Question about a Living Trust

Question:  What is a Living Trust, and is this something that my elderly parents should consider setting up?

A Living Trust is often “sold” as a device to avoid Probate. It seems that every week there is an ad in the local newspapers encouraging seniors to attend a lunch or dinner seminar where they will learn to avoid Probate. While this may be of benefit to some, there are, in my opinion, better reasons for couples and individuals to have Revocable Living Trusts. But, not only elderly parents should consider Living Trusts. This form of Estate Planning is beneficial for many age groups; from the young couple with the minor children, to the middle aged who may have grown the size of their estate to the taxable level, to the retired person who wants to assure a smooth transition of their assets to the next generation. There is no age group that is immune to incapacity, taxes, family issues, or death.

A Will, which most people have or are familiar with, only provides instructions to others when you die. Wills do not contemplate you becoming incapacitated, where as a Living Trust provides people that you, not the Court, want to help you manage your affairs should you become incapacitated. Why would you want to take a chance that this situation will arise and you will have a Judge, who does not know you, appoint another individual, who may not be a relative or even someone you know, to manage your financial as well as personal affairs. You can name that person now in your Living Trust, and also an alternate in case your first choice is unable to serve.

Another benefit of a Living Trust, also sometimes referred to as a Revocable Living Trust, or an AB Trust, for married people is the ability to increase the amount of assets that you are allowed to pass without paying Estate Tax.

Some clients are concerned about the privacy of their estate plan. While a Will is a public document which is available to anyone, a Living Trust is not. If you do not want your neighbor to find out that you gave your jewelry to your niece or that you disinherited your wayward son, then a Revocable Trust is for you.

Many of our clients own property in multiple States. They may own their home here in Connecticut and have a “winter home” in Florida or the Carolinas. Normally when they die there is Probate in both jurisdictions. A Revocable Living Trust will often eliminate that probate process for both.

And finally why would anyone want to have their estate go though Probate. It is a government process full of forms to be completed and hearings to attend.   It is a long process, usually nine months to one year and is a public process, as described above, where anyone can go and observe what most people believe is a private matter. Oh, and it is not inexpensive either.

You can find some of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys who can help you with your family’s Elder Care Matters on ElderCareMatters.com - America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Attorney George P. Guertin
Guertin and Guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Trust Administration – What You Need to Know BEFORE You Agree to Administer a Trust

Question:  What are some of the things I should know BEFORE I agree to be the Administrator of someone’s Trust?

Answer:  If you are considering taking on the responsibility of administering someone’s trust, there are a few things you should know about your obligations. Trust administration is an important job, and it can be frustrating or even overwhelming. Keeping various family members and beneficiaries happy, tracking down all of the assets, and complying with Michigan law is no easy juggling act!

Can an Attorney Help You Administer a Trust?

While you might not think that you need an attorney to handle some of the tasks of administration, working with a seasoned estate planning professional is useful to properly carry out the provisions of the trust and give you the knowledge of how to do your job the right way. Not every trust needs to be administered with a Michigan attorney, but many do.

Even trustees managing the simplest trusts should at least consult with an experienced attorney before starting estate and trust administration. Some trusts can be very complex to sort through. Even basic and straightforward trusts will lead to questions about what you should do, when and how.

Professional advice can give you a great deal of confidence with the tasks of administering a trust, such as filing tax returns and other pertinent documents, making wise investment decisions, transferring real estate ownership, communicating with beneficiaries, and funding any sub-trusts.

The Importance of Good Organization and Record Keeping

An important aspect of administering trusts comes down to your own organizational ability. You’ll need to keep records for all the beneficiaries of the trust and be able to contact them with updates and any changes.

If you are carrying out a living trust after someone has passed away, you’ll be required to take on even more responsibility for managing several critical tasks like identifying beneficiaries, dealing with creditors, obtaining death certificates, alerting the Social Security Administration of the death, providing an inventory of trust assets, and establishing a record-keeping system to track every dollar that comes in our out of the trust.

The Right Team of Professionals Can Help Make Your Job Easier

The right team of professionals – an attorney, accountant, and financial planner – can help you set up the right system from the start. It’s much easier to spend the time at the outset of administration getting a clear and efficient system running rather than trying to backtrack and piece together information later on down the road.

Additionally, you will need to make sure that you are compliant with the IRS regarding any trust administration. You will need a federal tax identification number so that the gains and losses from the trust are reported appropriately. Your legal and financial professionals can help. You may also have to interact with other professionals, like realtors or appraisers, in order to verify the value of various assets. Taking the time to put a good team around you will be well worth it in the long run.

If you need help with this or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Don L. Rosenberg, Attorney and Counselor
The Center for Elder Law
Troy, Michigan
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Financial Requirements for Medicaid’s Long Term Care Benefits

Question:  What are the financial requirements for being approved for Medicaid’s Long Term Care Benefits?

Answer:  Although Medicaid, also known Title 19, is a Federal benefit program, it is administered by the States, and as such it is very state-specific. This answer is only applicable to residents of Connecticut.

In Connecticut there are two different sets of requirements for Medicaid Long Term Care benefits; one for married people, and one for single people. We will first look at a married couple.          

In this scenario we have one spouse who is in a long term skilled facility (convalescent home, nursing home). Except for very limited pilot programs, Medicaid does not cover Assisted Living Facilities. We will call her the Institutionalized spouse. The other spouse is called the Community spouse.

The first issue most people need to deal with is that regardless of the name on the account, between married couples, any money that is in either name, or both names is in one pot for either to use. This means that one spouse can’t give all of her/his assets to the other spouse and say that they are destitute.

That being said, for an institutional spouse to receive benefits, that individual can have no more than $1,600 in assets in their own name, no vehicles, life insurance with a cash value not to exceed $1,500, and a pre-paid irrevocable funeral contract not to exceed $5,400. They can also have a small pre-paid revocable funeral contract. In addition, generally all of the “applied income” of the institutional spouse, which would include Social Security, Railroad retirement, any pensions, royalties, etc. goes to the facility. The institutional spouse is allowed to keep $60. from the applied income for personal items such as haircuts, etc.

The Community Spouse is allowed to keep one home with equity of no more than $814,000., one car, pre-paid funeral contracts as above, and one-half of the remaining assets not to exceed $117,240. What does this mean? It means if a couple has 1 Million dollars in either or both names, the Community spouse can keep $117,240. and if the couple has $100,000 in either or both names, the Community spouse can keep $50,000. There is also a minimum amount that the Community spouse can keep of $23,499 regardless of the total.

For a single individual who is in, or going into, a long term skilled facility he or she can keep the same $1,600, the same pre-paid funeral contracts, and the same amount in cash value of life insurance ($1,500.). They can’t have a car, a home of any value, or any other assets including cash. As before, all of their income, less $60. goes to the long term care facility.

If you need help with this or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
George P. Guertin, Esq.
Senior Partner, Guertin and Guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Medicaid Look Back Period

Question:  What is the Medicaid “Look Back Period”?

Answer:  The Medicaid “Look Back Period” is a period of time before the date you are seeking benefits to begin during which the Medicaid agency will review financial records to determine if transfers of money or property were made that may disqualify you from receiving Medicaid benefits.  The Medicaid “Look Back Period”  in most states is 5 years before the date you are seeking to have Medicaid benefits paid.

If you need help with this or other legal elder care matters, you can find Elder Law Attorneys near you on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families. You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Attorney Robert M. Slutsky

Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Answer to Reverse Mortgage Question is Provided by our Connecticut State Coordinator, Attorney Henry C. Weatherby

Question:  What are the qualifications for getting a Reverse Mortgage, what happens to my home after my death, and will my 3 children have any rights to my home after I die?

Answer:  The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is FHA’s reverse mortgage program. To be eligible for a reverse mortgage you must be 62 or older and own your home outright or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off at closing with proceeds from the reverse loan. Your home must be a single family home, a one-unit to four-unit dwelling, or a condominium. Cooperative houses and trailer homes are excluded. You must live in your home. You are also required to talk to a reverse mortgage counselor and receive consumer information prior to obtaining the loan.  When the home is sold or no longer used as a primary residence, the cash, interest, and other HECM finance charges must be repaid. All proceeds beyond the amount owed will belong to your spouse or estate, so your three children can inherit any remaining equity. No debt will be passed along to the estate or heirs.

If you need help with this or other elder care matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families. You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

Connecticut State Coordinator, ElderCareMatters.com
Henry C. Weatherby, Esq., CLU, ChFC, CEBS

Weatherby & Associates, PC
Bloomfield, Connecticut
Connecticut State Coordinator of ElderCareMatters.com