When someone’s living expenses suddenly, or are expected to dramatically increase, their first call is often to their banker or financial adviser (often in a panic, “how am I going to afford this?!”).
If your client is elderly, statistically speaking, the likely cause for their financial concern will be related to the need for medical or long-term care (whether its paying for home-health care, assisted living facility care or, eventually, nursing home care).
There are a variety of ways to pay for long-term care expenses, but most Americans can’t afford long-term care insurance or wont qualify for Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits. Most Floridians believe that this means your client has to sell assets and spend nearly all of their own money until they are impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid’s long-term care programs.
Most don’t realize that there is a way to protect their client’s assets and allow them to qualify for Medicaid BEFORE becoming impoverished. To do so, you should be guiding your client to an experienced Florida elder care lawyer.
Financial Advisers and Elder Law Attorneys
Elder law attorneys who focus on Medicaid planning use existing state and federal laws to legally and ethically convert their countable assets into resources that cannot be counted against them when determining eligibility for Medicaid home care, ALF care or skilled nursing services.
When your client has five years to plan
Elder care lawyers can utilize a device referred to as a “five year irrevocable trust” or a “five year medicaid trust” when your client has (you guessed it) five year or more before they expect to need long-term care services. Typically this is when your client (or his/her family) starts to suspect a mild case of dementia. But we have plenty of clients in their 60s and 70s who come to us because someone they knew was financially wiped out by the cost of long-term care, and wanted to protect themselves against the same fate.
This proactive Medicaid planning benefits the financial adviser because the client still wants the money to be invested to grow and maximize returns. In addition, I find that many of my clients have their financial assets spread out (they think that by splitting their money between UBS, Morgan Stanley, and Ameriprise accounts, they are diversifying) among different brokerage houses. It often makes sense and is efficient to house the irrevocable medicaid trust funds in one location. This makes things easier on the five year medicaid trust's trustee or co-trustees.
When your client needs long-term care now!
When your client calls you in a panic (typically it's the spouse or adult child calling) because they have just had a severe health crisis, such as a stroke or heart attack, that takes away some or all of their ability to care for themselves, they obviously cannot wait five years.
No need to wait five years to qualify for Medicaid’s long-term care benefit
One of the biggest misconceptions in Medicaid planning is that Floridians have to wait five years before they can apply to Medicaid if they do anything with their money. This is not what the medicaid five year look back rule refers to. Medicaid simply does not one giving they money away and then applying for Medicaid. If this is done within five years, then there will be a penalty period imposed.
However, there are a suite of tools that we Florida Medicaid lawyers have at our disposal that will allow our medicaid-planning clients to transfer money out of their name in a way that will not be penalized. Its never done as a gift (unless the client has the time to utilize the five year irrevocable medicaid trust). Instead we have different ways to convert what medicaid considers to be countable assets, into non-countable resources.
How Elder Law Attorneys Work Closely with Financial Professionals
As an elder care lawyer, my goal is to make financial advisers, bankers, and other financial professionals look like heroes to their clients. You are their trusted money adviser and they may initially think that they are going to lose their home or have to go broke before qualifying for Medicaid's valuable long-term care benefits that will allow them to remain at home or help pay for an ALF or skilled-nursing facility.
This helps your client live a higher quality of life until the end, and also increases the likelihood that their heirs will receive something after the medicaid recipient passes away.
You, the financial adviser are encourage to sit in on our initial consultation (with the client's knowledge and permission of course) to understand that strategies that we can implement and to better advise your client on how to maximize their resources.
The attorneys at Elder Needs Law, PLLC can meet with clients in one of our South Miami, Aventura, Plantation or Tampa offices. We also regularly assist clients throughout Florida as consultations and paperwork can be handled remotely.