As seniors age, health complications can often make it difficult for them to handle many of the daily chores that they once took in stride. The rigors of advancing age, combined with the need for more intensive medical care, can often leave seniors unable to continue independent living in their own homes. In-home care and assistance from friends and family can sometimes help for a time, but many seniors eventually find that they require the more invasive care that can only be delivered at long-term care facilities like a nursing home.
At the Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law, we can assist you with many of the more complex issues involving nursing home care, including the need to deal with care costs that can easily rise to hundreds of dollars a day. Contact us for a free consultation with a California nursing home planning attorney by calling (408) 356-9200 in Campbell or (831) 476-2400 in Aptos. We’ll work to answer important questions like:
- Why do I need nursing home planning?
- What does nursing home planning entail?
- How can a California elder law attorney help me?
Why Do I Need Nursing Home Planning?
According to estimates, more than half of the state’s adults may need long-term care at some point in their lives. Nursing homes are a common option, with facilities that are designed to provide continual care with nursing staff on duty twenty-four hours a day. These facilities can provide their residents with not only the nursing care they need, but assistance with daily chores like laundry, cleaning, meal services, and more.
That care comes at a cost, though. The average nursing home cost in California is more than $280 a day – a rate that most seniors cannot long afford. And while some seniors can manage to get enough help from friends and family members to cover those costs for a limited time, few can maintain it for as long as they need it. To cover those nursing home costs, many seniors are forced to rely on nursing home planning to obtain essential benefits to pay for nursing care in their later years.
Planning is essential, since many seniors will find that they have too much wealth to qualify for government benefits, but nowhere near enough wealth to cover the costs of their care. That leaves them in a precarious position where they may have to spend all their assets and income before they can become eligible for those benefits.
Unfortunately, that would leave them impoverished, completely reliant on government aid, and unable to leave their heirs any type of financial legacy. A California elder law attorney can help to provide the nursing home planning strategies you need to avoid that undesirable outcome.
What Does Nursing Home Planning Entail?
In California, nursing home planning typically involves all the strategies required to ensure that you can qualify for benefits from Medi-Cal – the state’s Medicaid program. And since Medi-Cal is needs-based, that means meeting certain income and asset limitations before you can qualify for those nursing home benefits.
For eligibility purposes, there are both countable assets and non-countable assets, with the latter being exempt from Medi-Cal’s calculations. Most assets are considered countable, including bank accounts, stocks and bonds, art collections, real estate holdings, business assets, and so on. Things like your home, car, home furnishings, and personal belongings are exempt from consideration.
Nursing home planning is a process that involves restructuring your wealth so that assets are not countable for Medi-Cal purposes. This can involve a variety of different strategies:
- If you have accumulated wealth that you plan to leave to heirs someday, you can reduce your estate by gifting money to loved ones now. An attorney can help you to devise a strategy that minimizes tax consequences.
- Asset conversion. One of the most effective ways to reduce the countable assets in your estate involves a strategy that converts those countable assets in ways that make that wealth exempt from Medi-Cal consideration. This can involve things like purchasing a more expensive home, buying a new car, spending money on home improvements, and so on.
- The use of irrevocable trusts. Used properly, trusts can provide a way to secure your wealth and remove it from your estate. That effectively reduces your estate’s value to a level that meets the Medi-Cal program’s requirements for benefit eligibility.
- Other strategies that can be used for long-term or even emergency nursing home planning needs.
As with most planning efforts, these strategies are best employed well in advance of any nursing home need. Gifting and other transfer strategies can be especially problematic, particularly when they are done within the five-year period directly preceding your Medi-Cal application. Medicaid is empowered by federal law to look back over the five-year period prior to any application filing, and can choose to count transfers made during that period as countable assets. That can result in applicants not only being denied the benefits they need, but receiving an ineligibility penalty as well.
To avoid that negative consequence, always rely on a California elder law and nursing home planning attorney to assist you with your Medi-Cal strategy.
How Can a California Elder Law Attorney Help Me?
Nursing home decisions can be some of the most difficult issues seniors ever need to address. As care costs continue to rise with each passing year, the need for effective nursing home planning continues to grow. At the Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law, we understand these concerns and are committed to helping people just like you obtain the important benefits that you need. Contact us through this website to learn more about how nursing home planning can benefit you, or call us at (408) 356-9200 in Campbell or (831) 476-2400 in Aptos for your free consultation.