Longer lives are among the greatest achievements of our modern era. Advances in healthcare and other progress related to human safety have resulted in what the United Nations says is one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century.
However, with the success of longer lives come problems that catch most of us off-guard. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care services at some point in their lives. Few families are in the position of being able to step-up and take over the care of their elderly loved ones, so they must seek outside help.
Unfortunately, many wait until their loved one is in full-blown crisis to seek long-term care assistance. Making decisions in this way can be fraught with emotion and very expensive. That is why we highly recommend that our clients not wait until their parents are in dire need to begin the long-term care planning process. If you are struggling with finding and paying for the right long-term care option for your parent in Marietta, Georgia, here are some things you need to consider.
Appropriate Level of Care
Long-term care encompasses many different levels of care, so it’s important to match up the facility with the individual needs of your parent. Different types of facilities include skilled nursing facilities, custodial care facilities, and intermediate care facilities. While it’s not always possible to plan ahead for nursing home care, it is a good idea to become familiar with some of the long-term care facilities in your area and select the ones that you and your parent would prefer. When the time comes for long-term care, a Marietta GA elder law attorney can assist you in determining the level of care required for your parent and work with the long-term care facility of your choice.
Paying for Long-term Care
You will also need to think about how to pay for your parent’s long-term care. Facilities can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per month, depending on the level of care required. Long-term care insurance policies may help defray some of these costs, but very rarely do those policies cover the entire amount needed. Special benefits are available to veterans through the VA, and Medicare may help pay for a very limited amount of time in a nursing home based on the illness/injury. Medicaid is the most common option to help pay for long-term care, but there are strict eligibility requirements attached to that assistance, and it is very easy to become disqualified from that care if your parent exceeds asset or income limits without the proper planning in place. It is important to speak with a Marietta elder law attorney to review your available options and determine the best course of action to pay for your parent’s long-term care.
Planning ahead for long-term care can make a world of difference in your life and contribute to the comfort of your parent when the time comes. If you would like to start this conversation with a Marietta elder law attorney who has extensive experience helping people find the best long-term care solutions, call our office at 770-425-6060 and schedule a consultation.
Millions of individuals are affected by dementia in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it is usually after a medical crisis like dementia hits that many families begin to think about estate planning, and talking to their Marietta Estate and Elder Lawyer.
What people don’t realize, however, is that it may be “too late” under the law to make a plan after dementia strikes. This is usually the case when dementia is in an advanced state. In order for legal documents to be valid in Georgia, the person signing them must have “testamentary capacity.” This means that he or she must fully understand the implications of what is being signed.
Does that mean that your loved one can no longer sign legal documents after a diagnosis of dementia? Not necessarily. Dementia is a progressive condition, and mental capacity can be fluid in earlier stages. Your loved one may still be considered mentally competent to sign legal documents, even with a diagnosis of dementia if he or she:
- Can understand the nature and extent of their property
- Can remember their relatives and descendants
- Is able to articulate who should inherit their property
- Can understand what they are signing
- Can understand how all these things relate and come together to form a plan
In some instances, a verification from a physician about the individual’s competence may be required and the ability of whether a person with dementia can sign legal documents will rest in the doctor’s hands.
If the physician determines that your loved one cannot execute legal documents, the family must then turn to the court system, and likely the process of Guardianship and/or Conservatorship, in order to take over control of the senior’s affairs in the absence of a current Trust, Power of Attorney, or Health Care Directive.
Whether your loved one can sign legal documents following a diagnosis of dementia really depends on his or her individual battle with the disease. Talk to a Marietta estate and elder lawyer, as well as your loved one’s doctor for an idea of what your options may be. Be sure to go through all the proper channels as your loved one’s legal documents could be contested later on if you have them quickly signed while there is still a question of mental capacity out there.
If you need assistance getting started and evaluating your loved one’s situation, we invite you to contact our Marietta GA estate and elder law attorneys at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation.
November is Caregivers Month, which is an important time to recognize individuals dealing with the burdens and responsibilities of caring for sick and/or disabled loved ones. Marietta Georgia elder law attorney Steve Worrall talks here about how pre-planning and communication can make the caregiver’s job mush easier.
Caregivers often become burnt out, depressed, and sick themselves, assuming that the reason they are having such a hard time in their role of caregiver must be due to the fact that they are “letting their loved one down” and not providing the “level and quality” of care that they should be.
But, caregivers across our state might be relieved to know that the struggles and frustrations they face have less to do with them being a “bad caregiver” and more to do with a lack of pre-planning and communication.
Unfortunately, no one ever anticipates becoming ill or disabled to the point that they would be unable to care for themselves. That means, in most cases, the person you are caring for right now never intended to have you in this role—leaving both you and them unprepared and ill-equipped for the future.
The simple solution to get everyone back on the same page, while more effectively managing stress and expectations, is to begin having open and direct conversations about the future and possible long-term care hurdles that may arise.
These conversations may be uncomfortable to have and may even be met with resistance from your loved one; however, addressing long-term care issues in a direct way will ensure everyone is on the same page and that there’s enough time to put a solid plan in place to carry out your loved one’s wishes, while safeguarding their independence, finances, and future well-being.
To get the conversations rolling, here are a few key issues to begin discussing with your loved one. Approach them gently with your loved one’s continued independence and best wishes in mind as you ask:
- What are your wishes for emergency or end-of-life medical care (i.e. life support, feeding tubes, blood transfusions, organ donation)?
- Are there any lifesaving procedures you would NEVER want?
- Who do you trust to make medical decisions and communicate with your doctors if you are unable to speak for yourself?
- If at all possible, would you prefer in-home assistance?
- If you needed nursing home or in-home care, how would you want us to pay for it? What if Medicare or Medicaid is not an option?
- Do you have a will, trust or other estate planning documents in place? Where can we find them, and are they up to date?
- Who have you named in your “legal helper” roles (i.e. Power of Attorney, Healthcare Representative)? Where can we find the documentation we need to handle your affairs in an emergency?
In all, you will find that knowing your loved one’s wishes in these different situations will make your job as a caregiver much easier, as you will be prepared to make appropriate decisions under pressure and avoid many of the financial struggles that families face when attempting to secure long-term care. Don’t forget to also stay in close contact with your estate and disability planning attorney, who will help you utilize legal tools such as Living Trusts and Powers of Attorney in order to stay in control and protect family assets from being lost to creditors, nursing homes and/or the government.
Steve Worrall is a Marietta Georgia estate planning and elder law attorney at Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC. For a Caregivers Legal and Life Planning guide, please visit Hope4Caregivers. com
In 2008, Congress declared the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. This week is to be used for estate planning attorneys to spread the word about their services and why it is so important to put together an estate plan. We think it’s equally important to let East Cobb seniors know the importance of planning with an East Cobb elder law attorney to address the possibility of needing long term care.
Here are a few common misconceptions people have about elder law plans:
- I’m too young for an elder law plan. WRONG!
The sooner you plan, the less likely you will lose your savings to the high costs of long term care. Tragedy can strike anyone at any time. It’s best to hope for the best but plan for the worst.
- Elder law plans are just for the rich. WRONG!
Very few of us can afford to pay thousands of dollars a month out of pocket for care. Working with an elder law attorney to put a comprehensive plan in place can save you and your loved ones not just tens of thousands of dollars, but it will lessen the emotional turmoil on your family.
- When I die, my kids will obviously just get everything. WRONG!
Probate court is no place any family wants to be after a loved one dies. Creating an elder law plan is the only sure method to stay out of the courts, avoid unnecessary court fees, and make sure that your specific wishes are carried out.
We encourage you to use this week to bust these planning myths. Call our East Cobb Elder Law Attorneys today at 770-425-6060 and schedule an appointment to learn about what an elder law attorney really does and how we can help you protect the things you care about and the people you love the most. Take the time and learn how every family, and yours especially, could benefit from our services in one way or another.
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.