Elder Law

Friday, March 25, 2011

Florida's Proposed Medicaid Overhaul Jeopardizes Seniors

Florida's proposed Medicaid overhaul puts spousal refusal on the chopping block. And that spells trouble for Florida seniors, who will find it tougher to get Medicaid benefits if they ever need longterm nursing care. The 2010 survey of nursing home costs by the Metlife Mature Market Institute shows that in South Florida, the average cost of a private room at a nursing home $302 per day. Those kinds of numbers will wipe out the average family in short order.
The proposed new law, Florida SB 1356, would deem any interspousal transfer made after July 1, 2011 in excess of $109,560 to be a gift for Medicaid eligibility purposes. Thus, if a spouse needs to enter a longterm care facility and wants to apply for Medicaid benefits, the well spouse can be left with no more than $109,560 in assets. That is not much for a well spouse to live on. After a lifetime of hard work and saving, that's a sad way for someone to end their days.
Given this dire outlook, those who do not have the considerable resources to pay privately for longterm care, and those who do not have adequate longterm care insurance, are well advised to act now. Our Florida elder law attorneys can assist you to put proactive plans in place that may enable you to preserve a significant portion of your assets.
Historically, our law firm has been able to help families preserve assets even if a loved one is already in a nursing home, or about to enter one. We will probably be able to continue to do so, but the new law is going to make it far more problematic. In any event, it is always preferable to plan in advance, as a greater percentage of assets can likely be preserved.
One advance planning method is the Florida Irrevocable Medicaid Trust. This is a flexible legal instrument that can save your family significant funds in the long term. It is also a complex one, and should be planned and drafted only under the guidance of a lawyer who is experienced with these matters and certified by the Florida Bar in elder law. 
To hear more about your options for Medicaid planning and preserving assets in today's economic climate, listen to my recent interview on the "Seniors Taking An Active Role in Society" radio program. For asssistance in putting a plan in place to protect your assets from being wiped out by nursing home costs, contact our Florida Elder Lawyers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Watch Out for Elder Abuse-(Here is a Common Example)

Actor Mickey Rooney has been the alleged victim of elder abuse at the hands of his own stepkids, according to the restraining orders filed Monday.  The 90-year-old actor, who, born in vaudeville has had one of the longest careers of any actor, was granted court protection from stepson Chris Aber and his stepdaughter Christina Aber, after he filed a case against them charging verbal, emotional and financial abuse, and for denying him such basic necessities as food and medicine.  The court documents say that both Chris and Christina Aber have been keeping Rooney as “effectively a prisoner in his own home: through the use of threats, intimidation and harassment.  Chris Aber has also been accused of taking control over Rooney’s finances, blocking access to his mail and forcing the actor into performances he does not whish to do.  With the assistance of attorneys Bruce Roth and Vivian Thoreen of Holland & Knight LLP, Rooney sought and was granted temporary protection for not only himself but for his wife, Jan Rooney, and his stepson, Mark Rooney, who lives with the actor.  Rooney fears for their safety and is worried Chris and Christina Aber might retaliate in a physically abusive way, or try to kidnap the actor now that the case has been filed, court documents say.  “All I want to do is live a peaceful life, to regain my life and be happy,” Rooney wrote in a statement to his fans.  “I pray to God each day to protect us, help us endure and guide those other senior citizens who are also suffering.”  
This is an excerpt I read provided by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  The original source is CBS News (February 16, 2011).  The full story can be read at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20032204-504083.html?tag=mncol;lst;4


Friday, February 11, 2011

Protecting Assets With Caregivers Agreements

by Michael Ettinger, Esq.

Family members overwhelmingly provide the care for elderly and disabled loved ones at home. Although a labor of love, taking care of ailing loved ones also has a market value, meaning that caretakers can be paid as a way to protect assets.

Through the use of a Caregivers Agreement, also known as a Personal Services Contract, the disabled or elderly person can transfer money to family members as compensation rather than as a gift. Gifts to family members made in the last five years before applying for Medicaid to pay for nursing home costs disqualify the applicant from receiving Medicaid for a certain period of time, known as a "penalty period."

For example, Mom depends on daughter Janice for her care. If Mom gifts $100,000 to Janice, then goes into a nursing home in the next five years, and applies for Medicaid, the gift to Janice will result in about a nine month penalty period. Janice will have to give the $100,000 back to Mom to pay nursing home costs during the penalty period, or Mom will have to use other resources to pay.

Instead, using a Caregivers Agreement, Mom pays Janice $2,500 per month for caregiving services. If Mom moves to the nursing home in the next five years, the payments to Janice are compensation, not gifts.

Caregivers Agreements must follow strict rules, so should be drafted by an experienced New York elder law attorney.

The Caregivers Agreement must detail the services to be performed and the obligations of the parties. The payment is based on the going rate of caretaking in that county. Compensation is clearly delineated with hourly and yearly calculations for 24-hour personal care.

Janice must actually give the care and document her caretaking duties. Mom must actually need the care, which should be documented with a doctor's note.

To protect family relationships, it's recommended that all family members agree with the arrangement even if they are not parties to the agreement.

Janice has tax consequences. She reports the payments as ordinary income on her income tax return and pays income taxes on the compensation. In some cases, Mom may be able to deduct the payments as a medical expense.

A proper Caregivers Agreement arrangement can be a valuable elder law planning tool in the right circumstances.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Are You a Veteran? Do you qualify for a ‘Presumptive Disability Benefit?”

by Susan M Graham, Esq.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a list of “Presumptive” Disability Benefits for Certain Groups of Veterans.  What does it mean to have a “presumptive” service connected disability?  According to the VA they presume “that specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans were caused by their military service.”

This means if you are a veteran and have been diagnosed with one of the identified conditions you may be eligible to receive a military service connected disability.  

I have attached the list prepared by the VA.

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