Well, the day finally came for me to send my kids back to school. The last week of August, I packed up four of my six wonderful children and waved them off at the bus stop, feeling excited and hopeful for their year ahead. People might think I’m crazy, but I do think kids are pretty simple. They need plenty of sleep, love, and good nutrition. You get them that, get them started, wind them up in the morning, they’ll go all day. They’ve got energy.
My oldest son Jordan, for instance, loves to wake up early with me and get in a work out before school. He and I will get up and hit the gym at about 5:00 in the morning, come home at around 6:00, collect his brothers and sisters, and I’ll take them out to the Shelby Cafe for some bacon and eggs. It’s a nice morning ritual that I hold dear to my heart, something to add brightness to their day before they head to school to get their education.
Yet my kids and the millions of school children around the nation are not the only ones who are in need of a good education. I interact with many seniors and family members of seniors who would also benefit from a robust education in elder law and other matters of importance. The mark of a good classroom is one that makes room for questions. Student questions, that is. So for the purpose of this blog post, I would like to address some questions and points that I have encountered in my years as an elder law attorney.
The real experts when it comes to look back periods are the social workers at your local social services, your county social services department. What they do is open the books and look at the last three or five years – depending on the type of Medicaid you are trying to qualify for – and they comb through bank accounts, investment records, and other financial information. They do this for the person who is in need of Medicaid coverage. They’re going to look at every transfer. You are not going to be able to hide anything, and you don’t want to hide anything. That’s called Medicaid fraud, which is a big deal. You don’t want to go there. They are going to look through what was spent in those periods and determine if those expenses were allowable under Medicaid rules. What did you use the money for in those look back periods? Were the funds spent on healthcare? Home improvement? Were they used for a special van to transport someone who needs a special van, such as a person in a wheelchair? Did they go toward pre-paying a funeral? Those are all allowable expenses.
As elder law attorney, I would come in and ask, “Under the rules, how can we preserve assets as best as possible to care for the senior, especially if this senior is married to someone who is in very good health?” It is crucial for seniors to know what are allowable expenses as per the look back periods of the type of Medicaid they need, because if they do not, then they could find themselves in a situation where a lien is attached to their house. Why go through the heartache of having that happen, of having something that you worked hard to purchase be threatened with a lien? That is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Medicaid and look back periods, which is why seniors should study up on these issues.
How much planning and preparation is necessary?
My wife Stephanie did a lot of preparation in getting the kids to school. I did chip in and help my boys with the school supplies list, while Stephanie helped our two girls that go to school. We want our kids to go back to school, we want them to do well, we want them to get the best education possible. I also want that for all seniors. I would hate to see them in situations where they might lose their hard earned money and property and they’re trying to protect that, either from other family members or from a Medicaid spend down in a long term care situation.
Therefore, it takes a lot of preparation and planning to do anything right, and if you don’t, you are going to feel really ambushed and find yourself in a crisis or emergency situation. We deal with seniors and their families who are in those situations sometimes; for instance, if a husband or wife, mom or dad are in a nursing home, or their health is declining or Alzheimer’s or Dementia has come upon them, some of the people that I interact with do not have simple things in place for those situations such as a general durable power of attorney. Others are simply pursuing guardianships so that they can handle personal business for the senior in their family. It is so important to plan ahead and to have that preparation in place. You have already worked so hard your entire life, why jeopardize the things that you have and the assets that are important to you?
In the end, it is much more cost-effective to pre-plan as opposed to crisis planning because it takes a lot more resources from you, the senior, from the family, and from an office like an elder law attorney’s office to get you out of that jam.
How much of this planning can I do on my own, without an attorney?
I’ve had people ask me about these books that you can buy, the do-it-yourself wills and what not. My answer to that is you’re gambling with everything that you’ve worked for your entire life. So the question is, should you work an entire life, pay off a home and possibly other things, accumulate assets and then try to write your own will by buying a book or going to a website? Are you willing to gamble it all on something that cost you $29.95? That just doesn’t make sense. You’re going to get what you pay for. You need to make sure that you’ve got proper witnesses and a notary there to view the signing of the will. Then you’ve got to have a self-proving affidavit on the will or else the clerks or the judge are going to want to call in those witnesses to verify that they actually saw the will signing. There are other elements that your will is going to need, too, but those do-it-yourself books are not going to go into that, I can guarantee it.
What resources are available to me so I can do my homework on these issues?
Before you can really identify your goals and what you want to do, you need to have a firm handle on all your assets and information. So our estate planning or long term care planning workbook is a great place to consolidate all your information. It really speeds up the process. Call our office if you want us to send you a workbook. We can mail that directly out to you priority mail or we can email it straight to you. It’s a great place to consolidate your information, and is a great tool to have if you come to me at a first appointment and have sit down. If you need help filling out that book, whether you’re a client or not, whether you’ve got an appointment with me or not, our client-relation specialist Kelsey at the office would be glad to sit down with you and help you complete it. Schedule an appointment to do that and get your items listed using our workbook. Our office number is 704-259-7040.
Call me if you have any questions:
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street, Shelby