If you’ve seen recent news about the high cost of nursing home care in Michigan, then you may have experienced something that most elderly residents of the nation experience at one point or another in their twilight years: that sudden realization that you can’t even begin to cover those costs on your own. You’re not the first person to worry about those costs, and you certainly won’t be the last – especially since most experts agree that the costs will only continue to increase in the coming years. The news isn’t all bad, however, since there is help available in the form of that joint federal and state program known as Medicaid. Before you attempt to obtain program benefits, however, you would do well to get assistance from a Michigan Medicaid attorney. Here are six reasons why you need a lawyer’s help.
Few Seniors Can Afford Nursing Home Care on Their Own
The most obvious reason for needing an attorney to help you with Medicaid: long-term care costs are simply too much for most seniors to cope with alone. Care costs around the country can be between $7,000 and $10,000 a month – an amount that far exceeds the savings most people have accumulated throughout their lives. Be honest: do you have that kind of money sitting around? Chances are that whatever wealth you do have is tied up in your home and retirement account or pension. None of those assets are liquid enough to pay for the care you need.
Medicaid Eligibility Standards Can be Tough to Meet
While those assets may not be valuable enough to pay for your care – or even have the liquidity needed to be used for that purpose, they may still prevent you from easily obtaining the eligibility you need. Medicaid’s eligibility rules are strict, and even many seniors with limited assets can struggle to meet them. For example, you are only permitted to have $2,000 in countable assets, and a set level of income every month – a very small portion of which you are allowed to keep as a personal allowance. If you apply when you don’t meet those limits, your application will be rejected.
Mistakes Can be Costly
To get around those income and asset limits, some seniors try to give wealth away to friends and loved ones. This often leads them into trouble, as they run afoul of the program’s rules against sheltering or giving away assets. Of course, you might assume that all you need to do is exercise great caution while transferring assets, but that’s problematic too. The fact is that Medicaid will discover any asset transfers that you’ve made prior to your application, using the power afforded to the program via the law’s five-year look-back provision.
This power enables Medicaid to look at all your asset transactions during the five-year period before you apply for Medicaid benefits. When the program discovers transfers that don’t meet the law’s requirements, it can count the value of those transfers as part of your current estate. That not only makes you ineligible for benefits now, but earns an eligibility penalty that can prevent you from qualifying for months or even years – with the exact penalty based on the total value of the discovered assets. An attorney can help you to avoid those concerns and ensure that everything is handled properly.
Medicaid Planning Requires Legal Knowledge
Medicaid benefits are based on existing federal and state law. Whenever you are doing anything that involves statutes and regulations, you should always have the advice and assistance of someone familiar with those legal concerns. A Medicaid attorney will be well-versed in all applicable laws and can help you to navigate any potential pitfalls – ensuring that you avoid penalties, take advantage of all favorable legal provisions, and get the help you need to secure your benefits.
Planning Can Help You Protect Assets
Contrary to popular belief, you may not have to impoverish yourself to qualify for the benefits you need. Using a variety of different planning strategies, your attorney can help you to convert countable assets into exempt wealth, use trusts and annuities to remove wealth from eligibility consideration, and preserve assets that you might otherwise lose to the high cost of nursing care. Without this help, you could be one of the many seniors whose personal wealth is consumed by high long-term care facility costs. Why be totally dependent upon the state when you can secure your wealth the right way with an effective Medicaid planning strategy?
Legal Assistance Protects Your Loved Ones Too
There are numerous provisions in the law that help to protect your spouse and other loved ones from suffering deprivation due to your need for long-term care. Do you know what they are? Your Medicaid attorney can help to ensure that your wealth gets put to maximum use for your loved ones, making the most of every legal provision available. Your assets can be used to benefit those loved ones by purchasing a new home, improving your existing home, buying a new car, and more.
Most importantly, the right Medicaid and estate planning strategy can help to provide your loved ones with a legacy that reflects the hard work and sacrifices you’ve made during your life. Rather than watch as your assets are consumed by ever-rising nursing home costs, allow an experienced attorney to help you use that wealth to properly care for and protect those you love.
The Medicaid planning professionals at Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC can provide you with the Michigan Medicaid attorney you need to safeguard your family’s interests. We’ll work with you to review your estate, examine your needs, and craft the plan you need to protect assets, secure your loved ones’ well-being, and get you the benefits you deserve. The high cost of nursing home care doesn’t have to be a frightening thing. With sound planning and attention to detail, we can ensure that your eligibility for benefits is there when you need it. To learn more about how we can help you with your Medicaid needs, contact us online or call us today at (989) 872-5601.