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Only hire an Elder Law attorney for Medicaid and long term care issues.

Medicaid has a maze of complex rules and regulations that most people find almost impossible to understand and navigate. Unless they’re Elder Law practitioners, even attorneys are generally ill-equipped to provide accurate advice about the Medicaid system and the strategies that can properly be used to protect clients’ money, property, or income. Wrong or incomplete advice can cost you a fortune.

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As an example, in a number of cases we have reviewed documents drafted by other law firms that created trusts for clients, which supposedly protected their assets from Medicaid’s “spend down” rules. Unfortunately, we found that the language in these trust agreements allowed the clients access to principal funds, thereby nullifying any protection the trusts might have provided. Trusts established for long-term care planning require very specific, tightly-worded provisions in order to function properly, and to withstand Medicaid scrutiny.

An Elder Law attorney is not the same as an estate planning lawyer. This is a recurrent fallacy, based on a misunderstanding of the difference between Elder and estate law. Elder Law planning seeks to preserve your money, income and assets, to be used for your benefit and care while you’re still alive. Estate planning focuses on distribution of your assets, typically in a tax-advantaged manner, after you die.

While Elder Law strategies often involve estate and tax planning, the two practices are different. If you need long-term home or nursing facility care, your needs will best be served by an Elder Law attorney.

One other important consideration: an Elder Law firm will have unique and in-depth insight into the rights of senior citizens. For example, in one case we handled, a major bank had convinced a client to put a substantial sum into an annuity. This particular investment was totally inappropriate for an elderly person in his particular financial circumstances.

Normally, once money is placed in an annuity of the sort our client invested in, most of the cash cannot be withdrawn for several years without incurring a penalty. However, we contacted the bank, and informed them that our client needed his money for Elder Law planning. We explained our position that the bank’s recommendation was improper, and asked for the funds to be returned to our client without any withdrawal penalty. The bank complied without a fight.

In another case, our client had accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt. We believe it is completely inappropriate for credit card companies to solicit elderly people with certain economic profiles as customers. In this instance, we were able to give the client advice that rapidly resolved her debt issues.

The moral of these stories: there’s no substitute for getting the right advice.


25 Strategies to Prevent Financial Ruin from Long-Term Health Care Costs

  1. You can qualify for Medicaid (even if you don’t think so)
  2. The “Wait and See” Approach can Result in Ruinous Health Care Expenses.
  3. Plan for Home Care and Nursing Home Facility Care while You Still Can.
  4. What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
  5. It’s NOT too Late for Effective Medicaid Planning (even if you think it is)
  6. Why Hire an Elder Law Attorney?
  7. Don’t Prepare Your Own Medicaid Application
  8. Trusts Can Protect Your Home and Your Money!
  9. Special Trusts for Specific Purposes
  10. Protecting Co-op Apartments Require Special Handling
  11. Evaluate Your 401k or IRA Carefully when Planning for Medicaid
  12. Why Take the Lump Sum Option on Your Pension or Retirement Account?
  13. Choose Your Trustee Wisely
  14. Private Annuities can Help Protect Your Assets
  15. Caregiver Agreements Help Achieve Medicaid Eligibility
  16. Keep Your Medicare Insurance
  17. The Durable Power of Attorney
  18. Elder Law and Estate Planning
  19. The Health Care Proxy vs. the Living Will
  20. How to Choose an Elder Law Firm
  21. Streamline Your Financial Affairs and Record Keeping
  22. New York State is More Generous than Other States
  23. Your Attorney can Help Find the Best Care for You
  24. Long-Term Care Insurance Won’t Necessarily Solve the Problem
  25. Compassionate Elder Law Planning Focuses on Your Future Quality-of-Life!
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