Medicaid Qualifications: Myths About Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid Qualifications: Myths About Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid is widely known but often misconstrued. With laws and regulations constantly changing, there is a possibility that you’ve heard incorrect or outdated information along the way. We’re here to help debunk some of the most common misconceptions about Medicaid eligibility, but first let’s cover a few of the basics.

What Is Medicaid?

Medicaid provides health coverage to low income families, disabled adults, and nursing home residents.

Who is Eligible for Medicaid?

Medicaid Eligibility varies from group to group. You can find the full list of eligibility requirements on the Alabama Medicaid website.

Myth #1: You cannot use Medicaid and Medicare simultaneously

False. Medicare is a federal program that provides health coverage primarily for those over the age of 65. Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides health coverage to low income people, and those with disabilities. If you qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, then you can use both.

Myth #2: Medicaid is a lot like Medicare

While Medicaid and Medicare can be similar, they are also very different. For instance, Medicare will only pay for 100 days of long-term care in a nursing home, while Medicaid will pay indefinitely for long-term care for recipients. Nursing home care in Alabama can cost around $70,000/year, so it’s important to plan ahead.

Myth #3: You can only apply for Medicaid if you are going to long-term care.

Did you learn to dial 9-1-1 after an emergency or before? If you have the proper Medicaid qualifications, then apply ASAP. It’s much easier to have Medicaid and not need it, than to need Medicaid and not have it.

Myth #4: Only lower income individuals are Medicaid qualified.

While it is true that Medicaid qualifications do have income restrictions, including Alabama Medicaid planning as part of your estate plan can be extremely beneficial. By planning ahead, it’s possible to use asset protection strategies to safeguard your estate.

Myth #5: Medicaid only looks at the individual’s income, so you can give away your assets to your spouse or kids.

Medicaid caseworkers will review all income, assets and financial records of both you and your spouse going back 60-months prior to the date on your application. Giving away assets or property in that 60-month period may tie up your application and cause penalties that can prevent you from getting the care you need.

Don’t let long-term care issues give you a sudden and unpleasant surprise. Know where you stand now, and how to plan for the future.  At Miller Estate and Elder Law, we have helped many families with both advanced planning and crisis planning. Give us a call at 256-251-2137 or use our convenient contact form below to reach out to our legal team today.

How to Talk About Estate Planning with Your Aging Parents

How to Talk About Estate Planning with Your Aging Parents

talk about estate planning with parents
Bringing up the subject of estate planning with your aging parents can be difficult. No one wants to have a conversation about what will happen when they are gone, but it is a conversation that needs to be had. Estate planning is about empowering your parents to make decisions for themselves, and ensuring their affairs are in order. However, many people feel like they come across as greedy when tasked with asking their parents about their estate plan.

If you find yourself in need of broaching the subject of estate planning with your parents, the following guidelines can help provide strategies for how to start the conversation with your parents, regarding both their estate and their plan for long-term care. By having a solid legal plan in place, you will have comfort in knowing that your parents will receive the best care possible, and that their final wishes will be handled the way they want.

Estate Planning: Having “The Talk”

Discussing estate planning with your aging parents can be intimidating. No one likes to think about a time when their parents may be too old to care for themselves, or what will happen to their assets once they pass. It is important, however, to make informed decisions—not just about inheritance, but about long term care options as well. By making these decisions together, you can ensure that your parent’s age on their own terms.

Once you have decided you are ready to sit down and speak with your parents, make sure you do some of the initial legwork ahead of time. It’s important to research the questions you may need to ask, have a goal for the conversation, and prepare yourself for their reluctance to discuss the topic altogether. Perhaps put together some talking points or a checklist, so if the conversation does go awry, you can steer it back on track.

If you are still nervous about starting the conversation, a good segue is to ask your parents about their plans for retirement. As the discussion progresses, ask questions that include whether they have a current will, a power of attorney appointed, or a living will. You may come to find that they have already started the estate planning process. If they haven’t, this would be a great opportunity to offer to help them search for an estate planning attorney.

The discussion about estate planning is not something that can be accomplished in one sitting. Listen to your parent’s needs and desires, accompany them to meetings with the estate attorney, and make sure to involve the whole family. By making it a family conversation, you can alleviate some of the pressure you may be feeling. Additionally, by going over everything as a family, everyone will be on the same page, and this can prevent issues when the plan needs to be put in motion in the future.

Remember that you are not alone when it comes to tackling this difficult conversation, but it is so important that you address it sooner than later. Anything can happen at any time, and by taking care of it today, you can make sure that you and your parents are protected if something happens.

For more tips on talking to your aging parents about estate planning, contact Miller Estate & Elder Law today.

Be Kind & Plan Your Estate

Be Kind & Plan Your Estate

Anyone who tells you they are excited about estate planning is either an estate planning attorney, themselves, or a liar. After all, nobody looks forward to paperwork, and even less than nobody enjoys contemplating their own death. This explains why, despite being a crucially important task, less than half of U.S. adults have taken any kind of step towards organizing their estate. Not only is this bad news for individuals whose financial and medical well-being remain unprotected from unexpected tragedy, but it is also bad for an individual’s loved ones, who face enormous hurdles should they be required to administer your affairs without a plan.

Estate Planning is an Act of Caring

Yes, an estate plan exists to protect your life’s work, but more than that it serves to protect your family and loved ones. Besides your advance directives and financial power of attorney—documents that protect your health and finances should you suffer incapacitating illness or injury—the documents which compose your estate plan act to ensure the proper and efficient distribution of your assets when you die. Naturally, then, you won’t reap their benefit…but those people that matter most to you in the world will.  Here’s how:

1. An Estate Plan Saves Your Family Conflict 

One of the first and most important steps to organizing your affairs is sitting down with loved ones and explaining your goals. Not only does this ensure no detail is overlooked, but it also presents an opportunity for conversation that, when you are gone, may otherwise be sorely missed. All too often, overlooking the need to talk loved ones through your last wishes gives rise to irreparable conflict that, beyond being wholly preventable, also represents the precise opposite of the legacy you wish to leave.

2. An Estate Plan Saves Your Family Time and Money

Among the principal reasons people execute an estate plan is to reign in the cost and complication of probate court. Should you die with no Last Will and Testament or trust agreement in place, your assets will pass according to your state’s intestacy laws. Often, this means an arduous probate court hearing that not only comes at a cost, but also leaves your estate vulnerable to legal challenges by loved ones who may disagree with the dictates of the law.

3. An Estate Plan Protects Your Family’s Financial Future

While every adult needs an estate plan, this is especially true of adults with dependents. After all, parents or caretakers will want to make arrangements that ensure their dependents’ continued well-being even when they are gone. Setting up a trust is a common solution, as doing so allows you to control the conditions under which an inheritance is received, thereby relieving worry about irresponsible spending or inadvertently interfering with access to public benefits.

4. An Estate Plan Helps Your Family Protect You

As mentioned above, advance directives and financial power of attorney documents ensure your health and finances are looked after even if you, yourself, lose the ability to do so. Beyond this, these documents also protect your family as they provide clear instructions concerning how to attend to your well-being and thus diffuse both anxiety and any possible conflict that might arise around the subject.

While only a partial list of estate planning’s many advantages, the above points show that the issue not just one of fiscal responsibility but simple kindness.

To learn more about protecting yourself and your loved ones or to address any other matter related to estate planning, do not hesitate to call Miller Estate and Elder Law at 256 251-2137  or to reach out using the contact form on our website.

Estate Planning Deep Dive: What is a Power of Attorney?

Estate Planning Deep Dive: What is a Power of Attorney?

Less than 50 percent of U.S. adults have any kind of estate plan in place, and this is in large part due to a general misunderstanding of what an estate plan does. Estate planning is not— despite popular misconception—a task you attend to in old age or ill health. On the contrary, it is a set of documents that protect you and your loved ones for the duration of your adult life. Most people think about the Last Will and Testament when they think about estate planning.  While that document plays an important role, so too do power of attorney (POA) documents, and because these are less well-known, this article will center on explaining exactly what they are.

The Two Types of Power of Attorney

POA refers to the legal authority one person (the principal) grants another (the agent) to act on their behalf. In general, this authority pertains to either financial or medical matters, and separate legal documents exist for each purpose. A medical POA acts to ensure you receive proper care should you suffer incapacitating injury or become incompetent, while a financial POA serves a range of purposes all of which relate to your financial well-being. Both types of POA are discussed in detail below.

Medical Power of Attorney

As just mentioned, a medical POA—sometimes referred to as a healthcare proxy—acts as an important protection against incapacitating injury or incompetency. In addition, it plays a crucial role should complications arise during surgery, or if you need regular help due to a long-term condition. The authority granted by a medical POA is usually broad, though you can provide as specific of care instructions as you wish when drafting the document.  These are usually paired with a Living Will and the two documents together are known as an Advance Directive for Healthcare.

When you sign a medical POA you designate an agent to act on your behalf. Any competent adult may serve in this role, though some states exclude your physician, residential healthcare provider, or any of either’s employees from being eligible. When choosing an agent, it is important that you consider a person whom you both trust and believe is capable of making difficult choices and advocating strongly on your behalf.

Financial Power of Attorney

Just like the above, a financial POA allows you to appoint an agent to handle your affairs in your stead, though in this instance the authority granted pertains to financial rather than medical matters. A financial POA can be limited or general and, further, its powers can be designed to terminate or remain in force should you suffer an incapacitating accident or become incompetent.

1.  Limited Power of Attorney
This type of POA is used when, for instance, you are out of town and need someone to sign a real estate purchase or perform some other type of transaction on your behalf. When drafting a limited POA it is critical that its purpose be clear. Once this purpose is complete, the authority granted by the POA ends.

2. General Power of Attorney
A general POA grants broad powers. Your designated agent gains the authority to perform virtually any financial transaction on your behalf, including conducting business deals, buying life insurance, settling claims, paying bills, and so on. A general POA is used if you will be out of the country for an extended period or are physically or mentally incapable of managing your affairs. Should you suffer incapacitating injury, the authority granted by a general POA automatically terminates.

3.  Durable Power of Attorney
A durable POA is much like a general POA except that the authority it grants remains valid even if you do become incapacitated or incompetent.  Indeed, a durable POA acts to protect you in this precise situation. If you end up hospitalized, your bills will still need to be paid and your finances managed, after all.  A General Durable Power of Attorney is on of the most important estate planning documents you can have.  It allows a trusted loved one to make financial decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so.

4.  Springing Power of Attorney
A springing POA also grants your agent general authority over your finances but, unlike the previous examples, only comes into effect when a triggering event such as incapacitating injury occurs. This feature makes a springing POA a good option for those uncomfortable with granting durable POA that goes into effect immediately, and yet it is not without risk. Unless described in unambiguous, clear language, the triggering event may not be recognized as such, leaving you without the protection of a POA just when you need it most.  The most common “triggering event” is that your doctor writes a letter explaining that you no longer have the mental capacity to make decision on your own and you need someone else to do so.

To learn more about the different types of power of attorney or to simply talk about any matter related to estate planning, do not hesitate to call Miller Estate and Elder Law at 256-251-2137 or to reach out using the contact form on our website.

Contact Attorney Bill Miller

Your First Steps Towards Medicaid Planning

Your First Steps Towards Medicaid Planning

According to the United States Census Bureau, by 2030 one in five residents in the United States will be of retirement age. Many of us will eventually require costly long-term care in our old age. Medicaid planning is one important step that helps individuals prepare for their loved ones’ care needs or for their own future long-term care needs and should be part of every estate plan.

Medicaid planning can help individuals make the most of the financial help available for long-term care in Alabama. Since there are income and asset caps for those hoping to qualify for Medicaid benefits, Medicaid planning can provide options for protecting assets and income while still qualifying for benefits.

What Is Medicaid Planning?

Medicaid planning will depend on an individual’s circumstances and can be as simple as receiving assistance with a Medicaid application. However, ideally, Medicaid planning should commence years in advance of any potential care needs and can involve the restructuring of financial assets to ensure eligibility for benefits.

If an individual’s income or assets exceed the caps set by Medicaid, various options may be available, such as Qualified Income Trusts (QIT) and converting countable assets into non-countable assets. Other challenges that Medicaid planners can help with include asset and income division in the event that one spouse needs long-term care while the other continues to live independently.

Contacting experienced attorneys that are Medicaid planners with the appropriate legal and financial expertise can be an important step for those hoping to qualify for Medicaid. Mistakes with Medicaid planning can lead to costly and irreversible consequences.

Mistakes to Avoid with Medicaid Planning

When making plans for long-term care, consider contacting an estate planning attorney to help you determine if either you or your loved one need residential or long-term care. It can be a substantial mistake to simply ignore planning issues, as Medicaid rules and eligibility criteria for benefits are complex and timely planning is essential. However, it is never too late to get help. Even once a loved one has moved into residential care, an attorney can still help with protecting assets and receiving Medicaid benefits.

Ignoring the Look-Back Period

While it can be tempting to transfer large sums to children or grandchildren in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits, in many instances this can be a detrimental decision. Your financial transactions will be subject to review going back several years. The so-called “look-back period” is currently 60 months in Alabama, according to Medicaid.

Other mistakes to avoid with Medicaid planning can include:

● Applying too early or too late
● Not having a power of attorney
● Not taking advantage of spousal protections
● Taking advice from friends and family rather than seeking professional help

Call Miller Estate and Elder Law Today for Medicaid Planning

Do not procrastinate when it comes to Medicaid planning. If you are reaching retirement age, planning for potential long-term care needs can be essential for your future financial health. An experienced elder law attorney from our firm can help you with all aspects of Medicaid planning, including but not limited to:

● Medicaid applications
● Meeting income and asset limits set by Medicaid
● Protecting your income and assets
● Assisting you with long term planning and immediate crisis situations
● Making sure your spouse’s income and assets are protected

Due to the look-back period, planning well in advance can be important. Contact Miller Estate and Elder Law today to find out how we can help you: 256-472-1900.

Four Common Misconceptions About Long-Term Care Planning

Four Common Misconceptions About Long-Term Care Planning

With the US population aging, life expectancy increasing, and events like the Covid-19 pandemic showing us that no one’s health is secure, new awareness has arrived concerning the need for a long-term care plan. This is great news and yet with increased awareness comes an increase in the circulation of misinformation. In a bid to clear the air, we address four of the most common misconceptions concerning long-term care planning below.

1. If you or your spouse enters a nursing home, the state will seize your assets.
Medicaid, the state and federal government-sponsored program that millions of US adults rely on to pay for long-term care needs, seizes nothing when you enter a nursing home. Instead, the program simply will not chip in a dime until you, yourself, have spent down your “countable” assets to a level that qualifies you for assistance. This does not mean only very low-income individuals are eligible to receive Medicaid, however; it simply means that you need to work with an experienced estate planning attorney well ahead of time to put a plan in place to protect assets so that you are able to qualify for Medicaid more quickly when the time comes.

2. If you use Medicaid to pay for care, you risk losing your home.

This misconception is similar to the above but deserves a separate address because of how often it is repeated.

As long as the person using Medicaid (the beneficiary) or their spouse continues to live in their home, it can neither be taken nor forcibly sold. This is the case even if you are single as long as you communicate your “intent to return home” in writing when you enter a nursing home.

It is true that upon your death, the state can file a claim against your estate (which includes your home) in order to repay nursing home expenses covered by Medicaid but even this can be avoided with help from an experienced attorney.

3. Making a financial gift disqualifies you from Medicaid for five years.
Medicaid employs a look-back period wherein any financial transfers or gifts made in the five years prior to applying for the program may be counted against your eligibility. This does not mean you will be barred from receiving benefits if you make a gift during this period. However, it does mean that you may have to endure a penalty period before Medicaid picks up the cost of your care.

This penalty is based on the value of the gifted assets made and how many days of long-term care they could have been used to pay for. Once more, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you work out specifics and determine the most affordable way for you to gain the coverage you need.

4. It is too late to start long-term care planning.
All too often, folks who are already receiving nursing home care or those with imminent need assume it is too late to engage in planning that preserves their assets. This is simply never true. You can always, for instance, use cash to pay down your mortgage and thereby convert a non-exempt asset into an exempt asset and thus save thousands. While it is always better to begin planning early, such last-minute strategies help you retain a large percentage of all that you have worked so hard to gain.

To learn more about long-term care planning or emergency strategies to ensure you have the coverage you need, do not hesitate to call Miller Estate and Elder Law at (256)251-2137 or reach out via the contact form on our website.