Texas Elder Law & Medicaid Planning
Elder law is another aspect of estate planning, focusing primarily on the needs of families and individuals as they age. Issues of aging include senior housing and home care, long-term (or nursing home) care, guardianships and health care documents, Medicare and Medicaid.
Senior Housing & Long-Term Care Options
The Long Term Care Dilemma
As our population ages, more and more of us confront elder law-related issues, whether for ourselves or our parents. One of the most pressing issues is long-term nursing home care, which usually is not covered by traditional health insurance. Depending on where you live and the level of care needed, nursing home care can cost from $35,000 to $150,000 a year. The average stay is slightly more than three years. Most people end up paying for nursing home care until their personal (or family) assets are depleted, then they may qualify for Medicaid to pick up the cost.
Careful planning, however, can help protect your assets, whether for your spouse or for your children. The belt-and-suspenders approach is to purchase long-term care insurance while you are healthy enough to qualify, and to make sure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled under Medicare and Medicaid.
There is a broad range to the type of care you may need, from assistance with everyday tasks to complex financial transactions such as the purchase or disposition of real estate. Appropriate medical care for yourself can also be a part of that advance planning.
Incapacity planning may include Durable Property Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies/Powers of Attorney, Living Wills or Advance Health Care Directives, or Guardianships/Conservatorships. Your unique desires and goals will determine the planning tools to be utilized.
Guardianships are court-supervised proceedings which require filing specific documentation. The court will name an individual or entity to manage the affairs of the minor or incapacitated person. Responsibility for care of the Ward (minor or incapacitated person) may also be included.
Advance planning can avoid the necessity of a court-supervised proceeding. The Estate Planning Center can help you create this advance plan so that an unexpected incapacity is handled smoothly, ensuring that your affairs are handled according to your wishes. We can also guide you through a Guardianship process if/when that becomes needed.
Clients are frequently confused over the differences between Medicare and Medicaid. Though their names are very similar, the programs are quite different. Medicare is an entitlement program, a federal health insurance program in which most people enroll when they turn 65 years old. There are no financial qualification rules. Medicare has two primary parts: Part A and Part B.
Medicare Part A covers in-hospital care, extended care after a hospital stay, some home health care services, and hospice services. The rules for nursing home coverage are very strict and, in fact, Medicare pays for less than 9 percent of nursing home care in this country.
Medicaid, is a joint federal-state program, subject to certain federal requirements, with each state implementing its own regulations on how the program is managed. Medicaid is not an entitlement program like Medicare, but rather a form of welfare. Medicaid eligibility is determined after the proper application is submitted to the state. There are many Medicaid insurance programs available in Texas, from basic medical coverage to nursing home programs.
We assist seniors and their families in making the tough decisions regarding long-term care planning, including whether Medicaid eligibility may be an option.
Senior Housing Options
Helping a parent move to senior housing can seem more intimidating than orchestrating a rocket launch. The death of a spouse, declining health or safety concerns can trigger the need to move. The first phase comes with the realization that what has been home is no longer suitable. Emotional ties to a place are hard to overcome. Finding a new home that is appealing and appropriate is no easy task, and neither is culling through a lifetime’s accumulation of “stuff.”
Here are some tips to help make the transition easier:
- Plan ahead. Don’t wait for a health crisis to start the process. The smoothest transitions occur when the person moving is in the driver’s seat.
- Get a full assessment of the current situation. Physical care needs and financial resources are where to start. Consider the costs of staying in place, including renovation and ongoing maintenance. Add the cost of rising utility bills and taxes, and don’t forget transportation and food. Make a list and decide whether it’s cheaper to stay or move to a community designed for seniors.
- Take a multi-phase approach. Seniors often take longer than a year to actually make the move.
- Fully explore new housing options. Senior living offers a broader range of options than ever before. We can assist you in evaluating and deciding on the best option for you and your family, and we can help walk you through the process
Guardianship or Conservatorship
Guardianship usually applies to a minor, and Conservatorship to an adult. Both are court-supervised proceedings which require filing specific documentation. The court will name an individual or entity to manage the affairs of the minor or incapacitated person. Responsibility for care of the Ward (minor or incapacitated person) may also be included.
Advance planning can avoid the necessity of a court-supervised proceeding. Our law firm can help you create this advance plan so that an unexpected incapacity is handled smoothly, ensuring that your affairs are handled according to your wishes. We can also guide you through a Guardianship or Conservatorship process if/when that becomes needed.