If you are providing care to your parent, you are probably doing it without being asked and without compensation. It probably isn’t on your mind at all. But, I can tell you as a Marietta elder law attorney, it should be.
As a society, we value our elders and provide the care they need without being asked, just as they did for us. In most cases, the last thing on a caregiver’s mind is being compensated for their time. We value your commitment, but you should know that getting compensation for helping them might actually benefit everyone in the long-run. This is because paying you may help them become eligible for Medicaid – and once eligible they can get the professional care they need.
Medicaid is an income-based benefit. If you have too many assets (money or property) you would not be eligible. To become eligible, you must “spend down” assets to a certain level. Paying you, as the caregiver, is a perfectly legal way to do that. However, it is best to set up a caregiver contract to keep the terms of the agreement clear.
The caregiver contract should be carefully drafted so that there is no confusion about whether your parent simply gave you the money. (Medicaid will look back 5 years to see if the recipient gave away money to become eligible – a BIG no, no!) However, if the money is earned in exchange for providing caregiver services, then it is acceptable.
Please consider these points when creating a caregiver contract:
- Contact an experienced elder law attorney in Marietta GA to ensure that the compensation will count toward the spending down of their assets.
- Include a detailed list of the caregiver’s responsibilities including transportation, laundry, cleaning, etc.
- Make sure the compensation is in line with what professional caregivers charge.
- The caregiver must report the compensation as income earned on their taxes.
If you are caring for a parent – especially if that parent is likely to need long-term nursing home care – call our Marietta elder law attorneys at 770-425-6060 right away for a free Georgia Family Treasures Elder Planning Session.
Seniors face complex legal concerns that are often different from what they faced when they were younger. Actions taken may have unintended legal effects. As a senior or someone who’s helping make decisions for a senior, it’s important that you work with an attorney who is an expert in Elder Law.
What Is Elder Law?
Elder Law encompasses many different fields of law. An Elder Law attorney specializes in how to best use their knowledge to fit the needs of seniors. Some of these fields include:
- Preservation/transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home
- Medicare claims and appeals
- Social security and disability claims and appeals
- Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues
- Disability planning, including use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts,”living wills,” for financial management and health care decisions, and other means of delegating management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity
- Conservatorships and guardianships
- Estate planning, including planning for the management of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death through the use of trusts, wills, and other planning documents
- Administration and management of trusts and estates
- Long-term care placements in nursing home and life care communities
- Nursing home issues including questions of patients’ rights and nursing home quality
- Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases
- Housing issues, including discrimination and home equity conversions
- Age discrimination in employment
- Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits, and pension benefits
- Health law
- Mental health law
Most Elder Law attorneys do not specialize in every one of these areas, so when an attorney says he or she practices Elder Law, find out which of these matters he or she handles. You will want to hire the attorney who regularly handles matters in the area of concern in your particular case and who will know enough about the other fields to question whether the action being taken might be affected by laws in any of the other areas of law. For example, if you are going to rewrite your will and your spouse is ill, the estate planner needs to know enough about Medicaid to know whether it is an issue with regard to your spouse’s inheritance.
Why Hire an Elder Law Attorney?
Rather than being defined by technical legal distinctions, Elder Law is defined by the client to be served.
An Elder Law attorney:
- Focuses his or her practice on the legal needs of seniors.
- Works with a variety of legal tools and techniques that specifically meet the goals and objectives of the older client.
- Uses a holistic approach to legal advice, taking into consideration the key issues facing seniors: housing, financial well-being, health and long-term care, and autonomy/quality of life.
- Brings to his or her practice a knowledge of the issues facing seniors that allows them and their staff to ignore the myths relating to aging and the competence of seniors.
- Will take into account and empathize with some of the physical and mental difficulties that often accompany the aging process. Their understanding of the real- life problems of people as they age allows them to determine more easily the difference between the physical versus the mental disability of a client.
- Is tied into a formal or informal system of social workers, psychologists, and other elder care professionals who may be of assistance to you.
How to Find an Elder Law Attorney
Members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) are attorneys who are experienced and trained in working with the legal problems of aging Americans and individuals of all ages with disabilities. Established in 1987, NAELA is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations and others. The mission of NAELA is to establish NAELA members as the premier providers of legal advocacy, guidance and services to enhance the lives of people with special needs and people as they age. NAELA currently has members across the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit NAELA.org.
The clients served by Elder Law attorneys can be among society’s most vulnerable people, often seeking help when they are most in need of wise counsel and advice.
Because of this, NAELA members believe that Elder Law attorneys should aspire to a higher level of professional practice standards and so they developed Aspirational Standards to define them. Every member pledges to uphold the Aspirational Standards as a requirement of membership.
Hiring an Elder Law attorney will give you peace of mind that the legal advice you seek will come from an expert in the legal needs of people as they age.
Do you have concerns about:
• Running out of money if you (or your spouse) become ill and require significant care
• Having no control over who provides care for you if you need it
• Choosing the type of care you want and where you want to receive it
• Leaving an inheritance to your loved ones, only to have it taken by their creditors
• Your children misusing the property or money you leave to them
• Providing support to a loved one with a disability both during your lifetime and after your passing
• Making sure your wishes about care and your finances are carried out
If you answered YES to any of the questions above, we can help. A long-term care asset protection plan is not a one-size-fits-all set of documents. Each plan is designed based on your concerns, your desires, and your goals.Call our Atlanta elder law attorneys at or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a frequent reader of our Marietta, Georgia, elder law blog, you know that we talk a lot about how to take care of your older and/or disabled loved ones. We are passionate about helping people spend their end of life as comfortably and securely as possible.
However, one thing that we don’t discuss quite as frequently is how to help you, the caregiver, take care of your elderly loved one while making sure that YOU stay healthy and secure. That is why we offer you this quick test to see if you are remembering how important you are and if you are taking steps to ensure that you take care of yourself.
Please check the appropriate column for each response.
Ideally, you have checked all “yes” answers. But, if you have more than 2 or 3 “no” or “needs work” answers, it’s time to take steps to get the help you so desperately need.
The good news is that help does exist. If you haven’t yet, ask family and friends for help. You may be surprised at the number of people willing to step up.
Help is also available through government and community resources. If you need help sorting through the services available, give our Marietta elder law firm a call so we can help you sort through the choices as well as talk you through the options for paying for them and protecting your elderly loved one’s nest egg.
The moral of this post is that being a great caregiver REQUIRES that you take care of yourself. The better you feel the better your loved one will feel. We promise!
Identity theft is the fastest rising crime in America today. Criminal syndicates located overseas are gaining access to your personal information through a variety of tactics and using that information to open credit cards and bank accounts to buy products that they are then selling for profit.
Due to complex international laws most of these criminals are never prosecuted and you are left to deal with the aftermath. If you know anyone that has had their identity stolen, you know that the problems that arise from this can last years. These criminals have relied on hacking into computer systems to gain access to your personal information, but they have now turned to “phishing scams” where they trick you into given them your personal information. The criminals will pose as IRS agents, credit card operators and now estate planners.
When posing as estate planning lawyers, criminals in Atlanta will use several different tactics. One common tactic is a telemarketing scam. On the phone they will exaggerate the benefits of estate planning, likely promising a tax free transfer of all your assets once you pass away.
Since they have no intention of making good on these promises they will tell you whatever you want to hear. They will aggressively insist that this offer is only good for a limited time and will do everything to keep you on the phone until you give over your personal information. They know once you get off the phone they will have lost you as a victim. As a general rule never give out your social security number over the phone.
Another common tactic is to use a mass marketing approach. They will send emails or sometimes letters through the regular mail. They will again over-promise what is legally possible in the hope that you will want to sign up. They will then ask you to send your personal information as well.
The bottom line is if the offer is too good to be true it usually is. If you have any doubt, always follow up with a qualified estate planner. Even if it is not a case of identity theft there are many companies that will oversell a flimsy, one-size fits all estate plan that will not make it through the probate process.
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be an Atlanta estate planner and they are asking for your personal information, you should contact us to review the information they sent you. You can call our office at 770.425.6060 with any questions you may have regarding potential identity theft scams.
One of the most common issues that Marietta elder law attorneys deal with is how to help clients when it comes to both short-term and long-term care. Folks are living longer than they ever have before due to advances in both health care and technology. Certainly, this is what people have been hoping would happen for generations, but it does bring with it some new challenges. High on that list is the increased need for short-term care (to recover from an illness or injury, for example) and long-term care. What people so often want their East Cobb elder law attorneys to explain is how they can afford it and whether Medicare or Medicaid can help.
The answers to these questions are, of course, fairly complicated; but it’s worthwhile to have at least a little knowledge to get started. In the case of Medicare and Medicaid, you will find that both of them can help when it comes to paying for rehab services, but under different guidelines. This is something that Marietta elder lawyers spend a lot of time researching, and with laws constantly changing, it’s best to confer with someone knowledgeable about the current status of these programs.
If you are over 65, then Medicare might be a reasonable option for you. While similar to health insurance, Medicare is a federal program. Whether you live in Georgia or any other state, you can expect the same benefits and requirements. For example, to qualify, you need to transfer to a rehab facility (or nursing home) only after staying three days and three nights in the hospital; and the move needs to take place within 30 days of the hospital stay.
Basically, Medicare is there to help when an unexpected illness or injury arises so that you can get through it and recover. It’s not a plan for long-term care, rather it’s for those who need skilled care as they’re making their recovery. For that reason, Medicare will only pay for 100 days of care, and the last 80 days require a co-payment from the patient.
Your elder lawyer will tell you, however, that Medicaid is a state-run program. It is in place for those who have a demonstrated financial need. And that need must be pretty significant. In fact, you may have to prove that you have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify, and if you have more, you might have to get creative in how to reallocate it to qualify. Again, and elder law attorney in Marietta, Georgia, may be able to offer advice and suggestions on how to do this appropriately. The good news is that there are some exemptions to this $2,000 worth of assets rule, and you may be able to keep your house and your car while still qualifying.
Getting the most out of Medicaid can be difficult to figure out, so gaining clarification from an East Cobb elder law lawyer is definitely recommended. Social workers and staff at the hospital may also have suggestions and recommendations. This is one of those times when it pays to be prepared in advance, too, so that you know what your options will be and can set things up to work to your utmost advantage should you need to rely on Medicaid.
If you are a caregiver and you want to learn more about Medicare, Medicaid and long term care planning for your elderly loved one, please check out my free guide, “Hope For Caregivers: ABC’s of Long-Term Care and Legal Planning.” You can download it by clicking here.