Elder Law encompasses a number of practice areas, including Medicaid planning, long-term care planning, estate planning, asset protection and more. At Stockton & Stern, LLC, we have extensive experience in all of these areas and are committed to helping seniors and the people who love them cope with the changes that accompany growing older. We help our clients remain independent for as long as possible, protect their assets against the expense of long-term care, and offer compassionate guidance and sound legal counsel in a Medicaid crisis situation.

The Numbers are Alarming

Due to improved health care, diet and lifestyle changes, people today are living longer than ever before. This also means more and more people will spend a portion of their lives in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. The reality is that a majority of us will need long-term care at some point in our lives and 20 percent of us will require long-term care for five years or more.

Nursing home care in Kansas and Missouri can easily cost $60,000 or more every year and the costs continue to rise. In fact, experts predict that the annual cost of nursing home care will more than double over the next twenty years. When you couple this with the ever-increasing life spans of adults, it translates into more years of care at increasingly higher rates. Sadly, many families exhaust their life savings within a year or two of a family member moving into a nursing home.

Fortunately, there are options other than going broke when faced with the prospect of expensive long-term care. We can help you qualify for assistance from Medicaid and other sources so that you can preserve your life savings. We can put a number of powerful legal tools to work on your behalf to prepare in advance for a nursing home stay or help you in a Medicaid crisis situation. If you are a veteran or a veteran’s widowed spouse, we may be able to help you receive Aid and Attendance benefits to pay for long-term care.

Medicaid Planning

Medicaid planning, also known as long-term care planning, is for people who are currently healthy but want to make sure that if they require skilled nursing care they will be able to protect their life savings. We can design a long-term care plan that allows you to preserve your assets and adequately manage your personal and financial affairs in the event of incapacity or disability. With a well-designed and properly implemented plan in place, you not only ensure that you will be well cared for if you need skilled nursing care but enjoy greater peace of mind as well.

A Medicaid Crisis

A Medicaid crisis is a situation in which an individual has already entered a nursing home—or must be placed in one very soon—and been informed that he or she has too many assets to qualify for Medicaid assistance. It is essential for you to understand that information provided by friends, family, social workers, nursing home intake staff, and even Medicaid workers is often out of date or just plain wrong. These folks may very well have the best intentions, but the laws governing Medicaid eligibility are complicated and ever-changing. Few people fully understand them. Our elder law attorneys do.

If you or someone you love is faced with a Medicaid crisis, it is important for you to contact us as soon as possible. We can show you a number of ways to obtain assistance from Medicaid and other sources. And in the process, protect your hard-earned assets.

Contact our elder law and Medicaid planning attorneys for a free consultation to discuss your particular needs and goals.

Medicaid Eligibility

Applying for Medicaid benefits to cover the cost of nursing home care is complicated and can be very confusing and overwhelming. Worse yet, should you make a mistake in the application process or improperly gift or transfer assets through the process of attempting to meet the Medicaid eligibility spend-down rules, you may cause a significant delay in the start of Medicaid benefits or potentially even lose your ability to qualify for benefits altogether.

Qualifying for Medicaid and asset preservation

Medicaid requirements vary from state to state and each state specifies a maximum allowed income for individuals and couples in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits. In addition, the value of the applicant’s total assets cannot exceed a specified amount called the Individual Resource Allowance, which in Kansas is currently $2,000 and only $999.99 in Missouri for individual applicants. Although certain items of property, such as an individual’s primary residence and their car, are sometimes “exempted” for purposes of determining Medicaid eligibility, this figure is still quite troubling. If the Medicaid applicant is married, the process becomes more complicated as it requires going through what is referred to as a division of assets to reduce the spouse’s Maximum Community Spouse Resource Allowance.

So what can be done if the value of an applicant’s “non-exempt” assets exceeds the $120,900 Community Resource Allowance limit? If the applicant gives away their extra assets (which might seem like an obvious choice) the applicant will encounter more significant problems as he or she would have just violated Medicaid’s Transfer Penalty and may be ineligible for Medicaid benefits for years, depending on how much was given away. Not to mention, gifting away the assets may have just created a tax issue for the recipient that could have been avoided with proper planning.

If your need for nursing home care is immediate, time is not something you can afford to lose. At Stockton & Stern, LLC, we can help. Our elder law and estate planning attorneys can develop asset protection plans that effectively reduce the size of your estate, allowing you to qualify for Medicaid while leaving money available to supplement your care and to help preserve assets for your spouse and even to leave an inheritance to your loved ones. We do this through a combination of exemption planning, strategic gifting, irrevocable trust development and other Medicaid planning strategies.

However, it is important to think ahead. Medicaid has a five-year look-back period. Any gifts or distributions to trusts made within five years of entering a nursing home will not be protected. The best way to preserve your assets is to meet with our elder law team before you need long-term care services.

Don’t compromise your eligibility for Medicaid

Compromising your eligibility for Medicaid can be financially devastating, not only for you and your spouse but your loved ones as well. The experienced elder law attorneys at Stockton & Stern, LLC can alleviate the stress and confusion involved in applying for Medicaid benefits as well as other programs designed to protect our senior population. Our attorneys strive to ensure that our clients have sufficient assets to provide for their needs and the needs of their family and loved ones over the remainder of their lives.

At Stockton & Stern, LLC, we help elderly individuals throughout both Kansas and Missouri plan, apply for and obtain the Medicaid coverage they need to ensure that they are cared for in their golden years. Contact us today for a free consultation.