According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, 36,675 people in Massachusetts, most of them seniors, currently reside in nursing or assisted living facilities. Many of them never expected they would need long-term care, so they didn’t make appropriate plans for residential elder care funding.
What should a senior or elder care plan include, and how can an “elder law attorney near me” help incorporate residential living care into general estate planning? Kimberly Butler Rainen, estate planning attorney in Andover, Massachusetts, answers a few common nursing home care questions.
When Should I Start Planning for Long-Term Care?
Understandably, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of moving into an assisted living or nursing care facility. You may hope that you have long years ahead of you before you must think about long-term care. Alternatively, you may assume that Medicare or Medicaid will shoulder the costs.
However, early, open-eyed planning is vital for making the necessary arrangements without undue financial stress. Even if you’re healthy and active right now, life is unpredictable, and having the proper plan in place can give you peace of mind.
Why Should Estate Planning Include a Long-Term Care Plan?
Much estate planning deals with what happens to your property when you pass away. Estate planning attorneys often focus on avoiding probate, reducing inheritance taxes, and distributing assets to heirs. However, estate planning and elder care go hand in hand, so it’s important to choose an attorney who practices both estate and elder law.
Long-term care planning may include considerations such as Medicaid eligibility, extended health insurance, reverse mortgages, annuities, and other legal tools that can serve long-term care purposes.
How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost in Massachusetts?
Long-term care costs may depend on the facility’s rates and level of care. Assisted living in Massachusetts costs about $5,250 a month, on average. According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey, nursing home residents can expect to pay over $12,000 a month for a semi-private room and over $13,000 a month—or over $160,000 a year—for a private room.
With rising life expectancy and increased demand for long-term care, leading authorities predict that nursing home costs will nearly double by 2040. Individuals who don’t have a solid long-term care plan may have no choice but to deplete their retirement funds and risk impoverishment to afford essential care.
Who Is Eligible for Medicaid in Massachusetts?
Medicaid, known as MassHealth in Massachusetts, offers several types of coverage plans to eligible Massachusetts residents of 65 and older. MassHealth may cover inpatient and outpatient care, long-term care, personal care attendance, and more.
To qualify for MassHealth, the applicants’ income needs to fall below certain criteria depending on the specific plan. Usually, income limitations equal $1,025 per month for a single person and $1,374 for a married couple. Applicants with higher incomes may have to pay a deductible.
MassHealth also looks at an applicant’s assets (divided into exempt and nonexempt). An unmarried applicant may own up to $2,000 in cash or nonexempt assets, while a married couple may retain up to $3,000. For many people, this means they would need to spend down most of their assets before they become eligible for Medicaid coverage.
How Can I Protect My Assets from Medicaid?
When you apply for Medicaid, you want to transfer as many assets as possible into the “exempt” category. One legal way to do this is by placing assets in an irrevocable trust. Placing assets in a trust can protect real estate property, investments, and cash. Once an asset becomes trust property, you are no longer its legal owner, and Medicaid cannot count it towards your nonexempt assets.
Another thing to keep in mind is Medicaid’s 5-year lookback period. Essentially, you may disqualify from MassHealth if your financial records show that you placed assets in a trust or gifted them to family members within five years before applying. This is another reason to start planning for long-term care long before you think you will need it.
How Can an Elder Care Attorney Help With Nursing Home Care Planning?
An elder care attorney can help protect your rights and navigate any legal issues that may occur with advanced care planning and Medicaid applications. Depending on your needs and family situation, an elder care attorney may:
- Assist with financial planning and tax preparations
- Protect your home and assets from Medicaid
- Facilitate estate and trust administration
- Guide family members who need to obtain guardianship or conservatorship
Kimberly Butler Rainen: Elder Law Attorney Near Me
At The Law Offices of Kimberly Butler Rainen in Andover, Massachusetts, we’re all about estate planning, simplified. We can help Massachusetts seniors and their family members secure their future by creating a comprehensive, long-term care plan today. Our practice areas include senior care planning, trusts, probate, and general estate planning.
Are you looking for an “elder law attorney near me”? Call The Law Offices of Kimberly Butler Rainen at (978) 409-1928 or fill out our contact us form to schedule a consultation. We will begin by discussing your situation in a brief call to get to know your needs. Then we will follow up with a strategy session to thoroughly explore your options to find an appropriate path to move forward.
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