Planning for Later Years
There are many changes that occur as we or our loved ones enter the later years of life. In addition to potential health and lifestyle changes, there are financial considerations to this time in life that can tremendously impact us or our family members if not handled properly.
Our workshop, “Planning for Later Years”, hosted elder care experts to address all aspects of elder care and help us gain a better understanding of the planning considerations during this time in life. Attorney Joy Riddell, who focuses on estate planning, trusts and estates, and elder law at Robinson, Boesch, Sennott, & Masse in Portsmouth, gave us great insight into estate planning documents that are important to have, as well as considerations for long-term nursing home care and Medicaid planning. Joy is passionate about helping families gain peace of mind by putting in place an estate plan that executes their wishes and helps to educate them on their options. She is a Past President of the NH Chapter of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is very involved in many other professional and community organizations. The following are a few of the highlights of her talk.
The Importance of Estate Planning Documents
Who will handle the financial affairs for us or make healthcare decisions if we should become incompetent?
- A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that is easily drafted to appoint another person to handle one’s property in the event of incompetency.
- A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints another person to make health care decisions should one become incompetent.
- Without these documents, guardianship through the court will be necessary to allow someone to make these decisions for a family member who is incompetent.
Planning Considerations for Nursing Home Care
- Nursing Home care can currently cost in excess of $100,000 per year and has the potential to diminish or wipe out a lifetime of savings.
- Medicare and private health insurance do not cover long-term nursing home care.
- Individuals must pay for nursing home care from his/her own funds until they qualify for assistance under Medicaid.
- Read the fine print if you are asked to co-sign for a family member at a facility. Your signature may designate you financially liable.
- Having financial powers of attorney and/or revocable trusts that permit Medicaid planning can avoid the costly expense of guardianship and costly delay in qualifying for Medicaid and thus preserve more of a family’s assets in the event of long-term nursing home care.
- Even in situations where families will privately pay for nursing home care, couples in a second marriage should review their estate plan to ensure they understand how their assets will be utilized to pay for such care.
What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a jointly funded federal and state health program for low income people, and is the only assistance program that pays for long-term nursing home care. When evaluating Medicaid qualification and whether a person satisfies the requirements, there are three areas of Medicaid law that must be fully understood.
- Income Qualification Rules – Medicaid coverage is available as long as the individual’s income does not exceed the Medicaid reimbursement rate.
- Resource Qualification Rules – A person can have no more than $2,500 of “countable resources”.
- Transfer of Assets Rules – A Medicaid applicant or spouse cannot have transferred assets within a 5-year period.
Image Credit: The Autumn Garden 01 is an image the was resourced from Flickr user Smilla4 and can be found here.