An Ounce Of Prevention

This week we are taking an opportunity to have our intern at Alexander & Associates, Elizabeth Wilkinson, write a guest blog post. Elizabeth is a third year student at Campbell Law. The legal content of this post is not intended to provide specific legal information; a licensed attorney has verified this post for accuracy.

When I first began working at W.G. Alexander & Associates, I thought that I had a general idea of the laws of Wills, Trusts, & Estate Planning, as well as the importance of having your documents in order before your death.  After observing various client meetings over the summer, I realized that, like me, many people fail to realize that there is far more to consider than regular Estate Planning when a senior is in crisis or starts worrying about the cost of long term care for themselves or loved ones.  Seniors can avoid many pitfalls simply by having the correct information and taking the appropriate steps ahead of time.

I observed many clients in our office over the summer who would have been in a far better position had they come to an Elder Law attorney before they made any major decisions regarding their assets.  I was surprised to see numerous clients come in who had gotten themselves into similar predicaments as a result of bad information.  Like many of the seniors who come into the office, I also believed some of the common misconceptions and myths about Medicaid and other public assistance programs at the start of my internship.

One common misconception that many people believe is that you must sell your home in order to qualify for Medicaid.  In fact, this summer I learned that the opposite is true; your house is an exempt asset for the purposes of Medicaid.  For this reason, it is important not to sell your house, as doing so will increase the amount of countable assets that are attributable to you.  Don’t forget, however, that even though your home is not a countable asset, Medicaid will still have the right to recover the proceeds from the sale of your house after you die.  As a result, it is necessary to take certain steps to protect your home from Medicaid estate recovery.

Another common misconception is that once you are in a nursing home, it is too late to apply for Medicaid, or protect your assets from Medicaid recovery.  This is also false; it is never too late to apply for Medicaid.  Many clients came in over the summer who had been paying for their care out of pocket for some time prior to coming in for assistance from an attorney. Fortunately, the law still permitted them to apply for Medicaid and take legal steps to protect their assets from Medicaid estate recovery.  It is likely that had they known about this option sooner, they would have saved tens of thousands of dollars.

To help prepare and educate the public on other myths and misconceptions, as well as provide a general overview of the public assistance programs that are available, Alexander & Associates offers free monthly seminars and weekly radio programming.  This helps many people by providing them with more knowledge about the various laws of each program, which can often be confusing and complicated.   Contact W.G. Alexander & Associates today to make a reservation for the next seminar, as well as to make an appointment to speak with a knowledgeable Elder Law attorney about your particular situation.