Elder Law is a growing field of law. It is much more than just Medicaid planning. Legal issues of concern to people of retirement age branch into various fields of law such as estate planning, taxes, real estate, finance, caregiver and nursing home contracts, and guardianships.
Who is on your side?
Consulting with an attorney is a wise move for people considering moving into an assisted living or skilled nursing facility. There are financial arrangements to be made, contracts to be reviewed, property to be sold, and tax considerations. The old “sell the house to the kids for a dollar” method is generally a bad idea and could get you into serious legal and financial trouble.
Nursing homes sometimes offer to do Medicaid applications for free. Nursing homes are a business and they want to get paid. There is nothing wrong with this, but keep this in mind when something is offered "for free".
A lawyer, on the other hand, has an ethical duty of loyalty to you, as his client.
Keep things private.
If you have a family member who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or has other health issues, the right legal advice can make a huge difference. Handling family matters privately is far preferable to having expensive and often embarrassing guardianship proceedings in court, where your loved one’s welfare and assets are in the hands of strangers. Family battles in court are almost always a disaster for all concerned, especially the often-bewildered senior.
I often get private social workers involved to cover the options for home nursing care, independent living apartments, and assisted living.
Proper planning, in a personal and cooperative setting with family caregivers, is always the better alternative to litigating in court. Proper planning also avoids the many legal and tax landmines that await the unwary.
What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a federal program, called "Medical Assistance" in Pennsylvania and administered by the (PA) Department of Human Services.
In order to receive Medical Assistance (MA) for long-term care (a nursing home), you must be financially qualified, i.e., you have to have virtually no assets. The dollar amounts are set each year by the government.
Transferring assets to children and relatives to make it look like you have no money can easily result in disqualification from MA and even charges of fraud. Medicaid planning is the legal way of qualifying for Medical Assistance/Medicaid and is a complex process.