Frequently Asked QuestionsQ: What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
A: Medicare is health insurance for people over sixty-five. It pays for hospital stays, doctor visits, and medical tests. It covers only limited skilled nursing care. Medicaid is health insurance for limited income people who meet certain economic criteria for eligibility – it does cover the costs of nursing care.
Q: What is Medicaid Planning?
A: Medicaid Planning involves developing a plan to reallocate your assets in such a way that Medicaid will not take them into consideration when determining your eligibility for coverage. If you need nursing home care is needed in the future, you will then qualify to have Medicaid pay for the cost of care, rather than depleting your own resources to cover these costs.
Q: How can we find out if we’re eligible for Medicaid coverage?
A: Medicaid eligibility is based on the amount of your monthly income and your assets. If both are within the very low limits set by Medicaid, you qualify for coverage. Dennis Sullivan & Associates ’s job is to protect your assets in such a way that they are not included in Medicaid’s determination of whether you qualify for coverage.
Q: If my spouse goes into a nursing home, will I have to give away all or most of my assets to keep them from being taken to cover the costs of care?
A: This question goes to the heart of our Estate Planning mission. The Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates uses unique Medicaid Trusts to ensure that your assets will not be taken to cover the cost of nursing home care. Some of our trusts permit you to maintain full control and access to your asset income while ensuring that those assets are not counted towards your eligibility for Medicaid.
Q: Why should I apply for Medicaid coverage?
A: Most families cannot support the enormous cost of nursing home care. Those who fall within the qualification guidelines for Medicaid may be well advised to apply for coverage. The program offers people a means of providing a decent level of skilled nursing care for their loved one.
Q: Why do I need help obtaining Medicaid coverage? Isn’t it just a matter of submitting the application?
A: Many people apply for coverage without any help. But beware - Medicaid will not tell you how to protect your assets. What The Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates offers is its specialized knowledge, skill, and experience to help you follow all the proper application procedures, and handle all of the necessary legal correspondence with your local Medicaid office. More importantly, we offer a range of options for protecting your assets should you need nursing home care. We will see your case through to its conclusion and work hard to produce a positive outcome for you and your family.
Q: How much will it cost to protect my family and my assets?
A: We offer our services as per a specific fee schedule based on your particular needs. (Often times, once we become familiar with your personal and financial situation, we are able to protect your assets with less work than what was originally anticipated.) Our services are designed to pay for themselves over a relatively short time. For example, our Foundation Medicaid plan with Trust is much less than the average cost of one month’s stay in a skilled nursing facility. By helping you obtain Medicaid qualification and protect your personal assets, this plan can effectively cover that amount many times over.
Q: I’ve heard Medicaid can take our house for reimbursement. Is that true?
A: No, they cannot take your house, nor do they want to. This is one of the Three Myths Of Medicaid. While Medicaid does require the spouses of beneficiaries to contribute some portion their available assets (above a level determined by each state) to the cost of care, the federal Spousal Impoverishment Protection law excludes your family home from that calculation.
Q: How do I know if we’re eligible for Medicaid coverage?
A: To put it simply, eligibility is based upon your ability or inability to pay long-term care expenses. Medicaid allows each state to establish specific standards for eligibility based on personal income and assets. The general standard is the applicants can be eligible for coverage if the couple’s “countable” assets (cash, investments, etc.) and income fall within state-designated limits. This calculation excludes the family home, car, certain limited life insurance coverage, and personal household possessions, such as clothing, furniture, etc.
Q: If my spouse goes into a nursing home, will I have to give away most or all of my assets in order to protect them from being taken to cover the cost of care?
A: No. This is one of the Three Myths of Medicaid. Under federal Spousal Impoverishment Protection rules, you can receive Medicaid benefits and retain your home, your vehicle, your household effects, and “countable” assets up to a state-determined maximum.
Q: What is a Health Care Proxy?
A: It is a document that empowers someone else to make health care decisions for you in the event that you have lost the capacity to make those decisions yourself, due to some disability. Bear in mind that, in many states, the decision of whether or not to administer care to someone who is incapacitated automatically defaults to the physician, not the spouse…unless you have it in writing that you want someone else to have that power. Having The Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates prepare a health care proxy for you is a good way to ensure that your decisions are being implemented by someone you trust…and that your specific wishes with respect to medical intervention are spelled out in unambiguous detail.
Q: What is a Power Of Attorney?
A: Power of attorney is a document that authorizes someone else to make legal decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to make them yourself – decisions and actions such as paying bills, selling real estate, accessing bank accounts, and so on. There are several different types:
* Non-Durable Power of Attorney – Your designated agent is only authorized to make legal decisions for you until your disability. When disability occurs, the power of attorney terminates.
* Durable Power of Attorney – The legal authority is still valid after you become disabled.
* Springing Power of Attorney – This is a variety of durable power of attorney in which the authority to act is triggered by some future event, identified in advance, typically involving physical or mental incapacity.
Bear in mind that power of attorney documents are valid when signed, kind of like a blank check. One important goal of this designation is to provide specific instructions consistent with your estate plan, so that important planning decisions you have made cannot be undone through use of power of attorney. For more details, contact us today.
Q: I can buy a Power of Attorney form at the office supply store for a couple of bucks. Why should I go to you?
A: The power of attorney form you buy at a stationery store is just the basic, standard form. It does not accommodate your wishes in any detail. When The Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates prepares a power of attorney document for you, it is custom tailored to your purposes, with specific instructions for your agent with respect to a broad range of planning issues, including:
* the creation of trusts
* asset protection for your spouse before and after your death
* asset protection for your children from creditors or divorce
* prevention of business failure
* information about finances and distributions
* instructions on privacy
…and more. This is a detailed legal document of the type you cannot obtain off the shelf at the local store.
Q: What is a Will?
A: A will is a legal document that deals specifically with the distribution of your assets after your death.
Q: What is a Trust?
A: Here is one explanation: A trust is like the little red wagon you had when you were a child. Silly answer? Think about it…
Imagine for a moment that all of your assets are boxes – your home is a box, your car is a box, your bank account is a box, and so on. You have this stack of “boxes” you’re carrying in your hands as you walk through life. If you should trip and fall (i.e. die or become disabled), what happens to the “boxes”? They fall all over the place, and you need a lawyer to help you gather them all up. If you’re alive and disabled, the “boxes” are picked up with a power of attorney. If you’re dead, they can be picked up with your will, though your heirs will have to go to probate court.
You can avoid all that with a trust. When you establish a trust, it’s like getting a little red wagon to put your “boxes” (or assets) in. They all fit inside the wagon, nice and snug. You have total control over what goes in the wagon, where it goes, etc. If you want to take it from Dean Witter over to Citigroup, that’s up to you, because it’s your wagon, and you’re the one pulling it around. And if something should happen to you, the only thing you drop is the handle. The “boxes” (your assets) are all still safely tucked inside the wagon.
Now, attached to the handle of the wagon is a book of instructions. These instructions spell out in very specific terms what you want to have happen if you can no longer control your wagon full of assets. That is what a trust is – it's your book of instructions that keeps your assets together, and establishes a plan for what happens to them if you should become incapacitated.
Q: Why should I go to The Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan and Associates to establish a trust?
A: Not all trusts are created equal. Because our firm is a member of the MPS™ network, we are collaborate with attorneys from around the country who concentrate their practice helping people protect assets and with medicaid planning. In the process, we have developed a unique planning process that provides for the protection and preservation of your assets, with specific attention to the requirements of Medicaid qualification. Only MPS™ member firms can offer you the benefits of these trademarked trusts.
Q: Why do I need estate planning?
A: Simply put, effective estate planning is the best way to ensure that you will be able to control your property while you’re alive and well, provide for your loved ones and yourself if you become disabled, and leave your assets when you die to whom you want, when you want, the way that you want.
Every state has laws that govern what becomes of your assets if you die or become disabled. But the government also allows you to establish your own set of rules that supersede those laws, if you so choose. The process of establishing your rules is called estate planning. So, for instance, while the state may require your will to go through probate, you can choose to spare your heirs this sometimes drawn-out legal process. But you can only do it through estate planning.
Q: I hold joint accounts with my kids. Are they safe?
A: No. Medicaid treats any asset with your name on it as yours unless you can overtly prove that the joint owner actually contributed assets to the account. To learn more about options for asset protection, contact us today.
Q: Can I protect assets by transferring them to my kids?
A: No. If your children get into financial trouble, the assets become available to their creditors. If your children go through divorce, the assets may become available to their spouses through divorce settlements. If your children have health problems, the assets may be at risk, as well. In any case, by transferring your assets, you are losing control of them. For more information on asset protection options, contact us today.
Q: If one of us is already in a nursing home, is it too late to protect our assets?
A: No. It is never too late to protect your assets. The sooner you get started with Medicaid Planning, however, the more you can protect. Contact us today to find out more.
Q: Are my assets safe in a revocable living trust?
A: No. General rule of law holds that whatever you can access, others may access as well. Assets in a revocable living trust are open and available to you; therefore, they are also open and available to Medicaid. What would make your assets safe is an irrevocable living trust, such as the MPS™ Trademarked Medicaid Trusts we offer. These allow you to retain access to and control of your assets, while protecting them at the same time. For details on this and other Medicaid Planning Issues, contact us today.