The distinction between medical care and long-term care (“LTC”) was explained in our Medicaid (Nursing Home/Long-Term Care) Planning page. If you are unclear about the nature of LTC, it may be helpful to review that content first.
At times, the need for long-term care, such as placement in a nursing home or assisted living facility, arises without the person who requires such care having had the chance to become knowledgeable about the related implications, or to implement long range proactive planning strategies. In that situation, it is often incorrectly assumed (sometimes even by attorneys who do not practice elder law) that nothing can be done to protect the legal rights of the person who requires care.
In reality, even in such a “crisis LTC” situation, an experienced elder law attorney can still provide invaluable assistance. While the options for protection of assets may be more limited, a significant portion (often 30-50%) can usually still be protected. In addition, strategies to maximize the ability for continued self-support and preserve at least some ability to legally pass an inheritance to family or loved ones can also be developed. Just as importantly, potential landmines or future problems can brought to light so that the actions to avoid them can be identified and clarified.
A crisis LTC situation will typically involve assistance in completing and submitting an application for LTC Medicaid. The most common objective is usually to obtain eligibility for Medicaid as quickly as reasonably possible, but in a manner which preserves all of the available protections afforded to the applicant and family under the Medicaid law and regulations. In a sense, this can be likened to preparing a tax return. The objective is to fully comply with the law, but to minimize the tax liability owed by identifying and properly claiming whatever deductions, credits, or other protections are available under the law. Medicaid applicants are often tempted to simply rely on the county benefits specialists who process the applications for the government. In Wisconsin, they are employed by an agency known as the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). In our experience, those specialists are generally kind and well-intentioned, but there are limits to both their legal knowledge and the strategies they are able to suggest. As a consequence, the objective of avoiding “unnecessary taxes” will generally require additional assistance.
When the need for LTC is imminent, proper decision-making demands a deep and thorough understanding of both Medicaid and a broad range of other areas of law. Unfortunately, Medicaid law is extremely complex and tends to change frequently. Furthermore, it is often the case that Medicaid and other areas such as marital property law and tax law are not consistent. As a practical matter, navigating such complexity successfully will almost invariably require obtaining knowledgeable legal advice.
As is true with long-term or proactive planning, obtaining help early is very important. The more that decisions have been made and assets have been depleted, the more limited your options will usually become and the less benefit an elder law attorney can provide. Contact us today to discuss how we can help.