Many families don’t use a lawyer to plan for long-term care or Medi-Cal (or Medicaid in states other than California, often because they’re afraid of the cost. Realize that not all Attorneys will have the expertise to do this type of law, but an experienced Medi-Cal Attorney can actually help you save money in the long run.In most cases, an experienced attorney that knows what he or she is doing will be able to for less than a month or two’s cost for Skilled Nursing home, help you or your loved one to Qualify for Medi-Cal benefits (which at the moment, can be between $8,000.00 and $15,000.00 per month). An experienced attorney can either significantly reduce or eliminate your share of cost for the Skilled Nursing Home Care.
In addition, an Attorney skilled in this area of law (and there are not many), will be able to protect your home and other assets from being taken by the state as a part of their recovery plan as reimbursement for what they have paid out.
Last of all, a professional will keep up on the ever changing laws having to do with Medi-Cal (or Medicaid) planning, realize it could be different in each state, to know what rules apply today instead of trying to do the same thing that was done for Aunt Maude’s Mother 10 years ago. They would know that major changes have occurred in the law in the State of California at the beginning of 2017, could and will change again. A professional advisor will know how to make sure you are getting the best care for your loved one.
Let me give you an example,as I have been helping clients work within the Medi-Cal system for almost a quarter century. During that time, even though there are thousands and thousands of people that are losing their houses to the state for recovery after receiving Medi-Cal benefits, only one of my hundreds and hundreds of clients who have received Medi-Cal benefits have lost their home to the state – and that is because they did not do what I instructed them to do. We have been able to save all other homes for our clients. In addition, where the state will instruct your family to “Spend Down” your estate to be able to qualify to receive benefits, we are able to show our clients how to legally qualify by utilizing the rules that the state has promulgated to help you qualify and many times keep all of your assets for your use. This type of council will not come from the state or from an inexperienced attorney who does not really understand the procedure required by the state.
I had a client come in who had previously met with another attorney in the area to help with Mom’slong term care planning. This attorney transferred the house into a trust which was not the correct trust. When they needed to sell the house to obtain more money to help mom out with other expenses, because the house had been put into the wrong trust, they had to pay more than $60,000 in taxes which they would not have had to pay if things had been correctly. If it had not been transferred at all, then the state would have taken the house. If it had been done correctly, the house would have been safe from the state AND they could have sold the house and not paid the $60,000.
So, I guess if we had to put it in a nutshell, you have three options when doing Medi-Cal planning, (and everyone who has a loved one going into a Skilled Nursing Facility, unless you are financially wealthy, should at least talk to an experienced Medi-Cal Attorney);
First: The “Do It Yourself” plan. In actuality, sometimes this is the correct plan. Some people have the correct type and value of assets to be able to do the work yourself. Your Attorney will let you know if this is the correct path for you, and give you some pointers on how and what to do. But, for most people this will end up being the most expensive and difficult option of all. Let’s call this, the worst option of the three.
Second: Hire an unexperienced attorney to do the work for you. Maybe it is a neighbor or a friend ora son-in-law, or just a cheap willing attorney. Realize Attorneys are taught to have confidence that they can take care of any legal matter, whether they understand it or not. This is a good trait, but will not be beneficial to you when they used an old law, or does something wrong, like the attorney I gave the true story about above. This option may be better than the first, but not much. Who knows, the inexperienced attorney may accidentally get it right!
Third: Use an experienced Medi-Cal Attorney. He or she will be able to help you to legally qualify to receive Medi-Cal benefits to help lower or eliminate your share of cost which you will have to pay for the care, protect the assets from being taken by the state after receiving the benefits, and insure what you have can be used for your needs after entering the Skilled Nursing Home, instead of needing your family to come up with the funds needed. We should agree this is the best of the three options.
So, the question again is “Why use an Experienced Med-Cal attorney when doing Medi-Cal Planning? Instead of taking steps based on what you’ve heard from others, doing nothing, or enlisting a non-lawyer or inexperienced Attorney referred by a nursing home, you can hire an experienced elder law attorney. Here are a few reasons why you should at least consider this third option:
- No conflict of interest. When nursing homes refer the families of residents to non-lawyers to assist in preparing the Medicaid application, the preparer has dual loyalties, both to the facility that provides the referrals and to the client applying for benefits. To the extent everyone wants the Medicaid application to be successful, there’s no conflict of interest. But it’s in the nursing home’s interest that the resident pay privately for as long as possible before going on Medi-Cal, while it’s in the nursing home resident’s interest to protect assets for the resident’s care or for the resident’s spouse or family. An attorney hired to assist with Medi-Cal planning and the application agent or Medi-Cal Advocate, has a duty of loyalty only to the client and will do his or her best to achieve the client’s goals and do what is best for the client.
- Saving money. Nursing homes can cost as much as $15,000 a month in some areas, so it is unusual for legal fees to equal the cost of even one month in the facility. It is not difficult to save this much in long-term care and probate costs, not to mention protect the home and assets from being taken by the state under their recovery rights and authorities. Most attorneys will consult with new clients at little or no cost to determine what might be achieved before the client pays a larger fee. Our office an opportunity to meet and devise a plan at no cost, with only the work requested of us having a cost involved.
- Deep knowledge and experience.Professionals who work in any field on a daily basis over many years develop both the depth and breadth of experience and expertise to advise clients on how they might achieve their goals, whether those are maintaining independence and dignity, preserving funds for children and grandchildren, or staying home rather than moving to assisted living or a nursing home. Less experienced advisers, however well intentioned, are unable explain what they don’t know or understand.
- Malpractice insurance. While we should expect that every professional we work with will provide outstanding service and representation, sometimes things don’t work out. Fortunately, there is a remedy if an attorney makes a mistake because almost all attorneys carry malpractice insurance. This is probably not the case with other advisers in the Medi-Cal arena.
- Peace of mind. While it is possible though not probable,when you consult with an experienced Medi-Cal elder law attorney, the attorney could possibly advise you that in your situation, there is not much you can do to preserve assets or achieve Medi-Cal eligibility more quickly. The consultation will at least provide peace of mind that you have not missed an important opportunity.
- Fight for your Rights. In addition, if obstacles arise during the process, the attorney will be there to work with you to find the optimal solution. There seem to be many times where, under the code a person would qualify for benefits but still get a denial letter. Why this happens we do not know, but would suspect that because the states are mostly working in the red, this might be a way to encourage you not to keep trying to get benefits. In these cases, an experienced Medi-Cal Attorney can take the matter before the court or an administrative law judge, show them you should qualify for benefits, and obtain the benefits for you.
Medi-Cal rules provide multiple opportunities for nursing home residents to preserve assets for themselves, their spouses, children, grandchildrenand especially those with special needs. There are more opportunities for those who plan ahead, but even at the last minute there are almost always still steps available to preserve some assets and obtain benefits. It’s always worth checking out whether these are steps you would like to take.
Prepare now. The Law office of Beyer, Pongratz, & Rosen, a Professional Law Corporation, has been helping Families and Individual in California and throughout the US bring the peace back into their lives for over a quarter century by providing Cost effective and Professional Legal services.LET US HELP YOU THRIVE AGAIN. We are here to help you achieve your goals, through timely, professional and affordable legal services.