Aging adults often are concerned about their future, especially when it comes to health and finances. Seniors in need of care, their caregivers and family members, and disabled persons may face complicated social and legal questions relating to Long-Term Care needs.
Information about public benefits programs and other care issues can be difficult to locate or are presented in legal language, making it difficult if not impossible to understand. Here we attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Elder Law in a simple, straightforward manner.
At Elder Law Group PLLC we help clients understand their options to ensure the highest quality of life, and maintain the autonomy and dignity of the senior. We focus on Asset Protection Estate Planning™, Special and Supplemental Needs Trusts, Long-Term Care planning and utilization of government benefits, including Medicaid and Veterans benefits through Medicaid Asset Preservation Strategies®, as well as Probate and Trust administration.
Estate planning is the necessary steps taken during your lifetime to put into place the documents required to make sure that your financial affairs are in order and health care wishes will be honored, and that loved ones are provided for upon your passing.
Fundamental Estate Planning documents should include:
Power of Attorney for Financial Matters
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document through which you grant authority to a trusted individual to act on your behalf. It does not take away your authority to act. And it can be revoked at any time (as long as you have the capacity to do so).
Durable Powers of Attorney for financial matters and health care can be separate documents or a combined document. It is “durable” because it remains in effect even should you lose capacity.
Power of Attorney for Healthcare
The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal document in which you authorize a trusted individual to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so due to illness or incapacity.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows for responsiveness to changing health care situations as the Health Care Agent that you appoint will express your wishes and respond to unexpected changes in your condition; thus decisions will be based not just on your written wishes, but will be guided by your Agents familiarity with you and your desires regarding your care.
Very simply stated, Medicaid is a government-funded health care program for individuals who meet income or resource qualifications. Medicaid provides benefits to pay for Long-Term Care costs.
Many planning techniques exist to preserve assets and achieve current or future Medicaid Long-Term Care benefits eligibility.
Probate is the legal process for transferring property upon death. It is a relatively quick and inexpensive process in Washington and Idaho. The Will is filed with the court, the Personal Representative is appointed and given legal authority to act on behalf of the estate, usually through the issuance of Letters Testamentary. Most probates are called “non-intervention”, meaning the court is not involved in the estate’s administration.
Health Care Directives & Living Will
A Health Care Directive, an Advance Directive and a Living Will are the same thing, a document where you state your health care wishes if you are at end of life. The term “Living Will” is confusing as it bears no relationship to a Last Will and Testament. To avoid confusion we will only use the term “Advance Directive.”
An Advance Directive refers to a legal document in which you specify in writing your wishes regarding your health care should you be at end of life or in a permanent vegetative condition and unable to communicate your wishes. It is critical that you make your health care wishes known through your Health Care Directive.
The Advance Directive is an important document that works with your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions to empower your Attorney-in-Fact to confidently carry out your wishes.
Medical care or personal assistance provided by a caretaker or a facility for a period of weeks or months (or longer) is Long-Term Care. Neither the level of care nor the length of time is subject to exact definition. “Long-Term Care” refers instead to the condition of extended or permanent dependence on care from another.
Long-Term Care can be provided in nursing homes, adult family homes, assisted living facilities, congregate living arrangements, adult day care centers and in a person’s own home or apartment. This list of Long-Term Care settings is arranged roughly from more restrictive to less restrictive settings, though seriously impaired individuals might be cared for at home in surroundings that mimic more institutional settings, and some institutions (especially adult care homes) may be homelike and inviting.
Elder Law is a client-focused practice area where lawyers help seniors plan their estates to optimize asset protection and understand options related to Long-Term Care, including what government benefits may be available to pay for care. Elder Law goes beyond the realm of traditional Estate Planning to address the legal and social issues affecting seniors, the disabled and vulnerable adults. Finding, keeping and paying for Long-Term Care is an integral part of Elder Law. Asset protection against Long-Term Care costs is a key component of Elder Law planning.
At our first meeting, we will discuss your situation and the nature of the services that will be provided, and an estimate of the timeframe for completing the needed services. We will prepare you a fee agreement that spells out the work to be done and the fee we will charge. It will indicate whether you are paying a flat fee or an hourly fee and how often you can expect us to bill you. If the scope of the work changes, or if you require additional work that was not discussed at the initial meeting, we will prepare a new fee agreement to cover the additional work.