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Some important facts . . .

Elder Law involves planning for the complex health care, long-term care, and other issues facing elderly and disabled individuals and their families. Studies show that 30% of men and 50% of women will need long-term care at least once before death. The length of stay of long-term care varies from a few weeks to years. Therefore, everyone should take into account that at some point residency in a nursing home or an assisted living facility may be needed.

The substantial cost of nursing home care for an incapacitated person can wipe away a family's savings and the inheritance planned for surviving family members. Effectively, the only two alternatives for long term care that do not deplete the assets of an estate are long-term care insurance, (which is purchased by only 10% of elderly), and Medicare, which provides 'transitional care' for those who qualify, albeit characterized by high deductible costs and meeting less than 10% of long-term care needs. The primary alternative to private pay for nursing home costs is Medicaid, and state laws mandate that these costs be recovered from the estate when the recipient of Medicaid assistance passes away. Therefore, unless one has purchased long-term care insurance, the assets of the estate will almost certainly be required to fund long-term care.

So many times clients come to our office under the mistaken impression that there is nothing that can be done to protect assets from nursing home costs. Unfortunately, available circulating consumer knowledge reflects the propagation of misinformation, if not outright lies. For example, it isnít always necessary to wait 5 years after gifting assets to become eligible for Medicaid. The answer actually depends upon the specific estate situation. An experienced Estate and Elder Law attorney with knowledge of Medicaid and other alternatives can help you protect many of the assets you have spent a lifetime accumulating and keep those assets from being depleted by high nursing home expenses.

Although with the passage of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 increased restrictions upon some estate-preserving techniques, other asset protection strategies remain viable, especially for married couples where one spouse requires long-term care. Some of these techniques may include setting up an Irrevocable Living Trust, making gifts to family members, and paying for certain Medicaid expenses.

Whether you or a family member is facing long-term care issues, I encourage you to call me with your questions. The timing of the decisions families need to make has a dramatic impact on whether or not someone can actually qualify for this type of support. Don't procrastinate!

For additional information addressing Elder Planning, see the Frequently Asked Question.

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