On a recent broadcast of the Van Wie Financial Hour radio program, we featured a Board-Certified Elder Law Attorney. Having spoken with her in the past, we knew that some of what she had to say would pleasantly surprise many of our listeners. As non-attorneys ourselves, we are passing along some fundamental clarifications regarding misunderstood areas of Florida’s asset protection laws for our millions of older residents.
We have identified at least five specific areas of Elder Law in which our clients have expressed interest: Medicaid Planning, Veterans’ Planning, Special Needs, Probate/Trusts/Estates, and Elder Abuse. As professional financial planners, among the most interesting misconceptions we find are in the arena of Medicaid qualification for nursing home care. As parents, friends, and citizens, the most worrisome arena is Elder Abuse.
Most Americans understand that Medicaid is a State-run program for people with very little wealth and few assets. Very few understand that Florida is exceptionally friendly to elders in identifying those who could qualify for Medicaid nursing home benefits. Knowing some of the basic rules can protect our citizens from needlessly divesting assets to seek needed care for elderly spouses, parents, etc. Call an Elder Attorney before making assumptions based on false rumors.
Medicaid qualification begins with an assessment of assets owned by the applicant. The maximum is $2,000, an absurdly low figure in today’s economy. But that figure is misleading, as it does not include protected assets, which include a Homesteaded residence, an automobile, and Qualified Retirement Accounts.
Further, assets may be legally shifted between spouses to avoid the 5-year “lookback period,” during which assets removed from the intended patient’s control would otherwise be counted toward the low qualification limit. Done correctly, assets can be sheltered from the lookback period, and preserved for remaining family members. Before depleting assets for someone you believe to be a nursing home candidate, consult an Elder Attorney to determine your minimum requirements.
Elder abuse is rampant across America and takes place in any environment and within all socio-economic levels. It is a costly national problem, both in terms of financial losses and maltreatment. Abuse can and does take place anywhere and everywhere, from paid facilities to personally owned properties. When and where abuse is suspected, call an Elder Attorney immediately to determine your rights. We will be covering the other serious Elder Care topics in future Blogs.
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