A Tale of Two Sisters - Affording Long Term Care

Two sisters were in disagreement.

They had each sought legal advice about Medicaid qualification for their ailing mother.

Mary, the decision maker, was dealing with the financial aspects of her mother’s care as an Alzheimer’s patient. Her sister Alice was dealing with the emotional impact of what her father was going through as the primary caretaker. Mary got advice from her father’s attorney, a man who had done mom and dad’s will and had been with the family for many years. As it turns out, Medicaid was not his specialty.

Alice insisted that she and Mary get a second opinion from another attorney in town, who was well known for expertise in Medicaid. His ads indicated he was a member of the Medicaid Practice Network (MPN). After a long discussion, Mary was persuaded to get a second opinion from the MPN attorney.

Mary called the attorney’s office to schedule an appointment and joked that the only reason for the appointment was to satisfy her sister Alice and get on with the process. Mary had already been told by her father’s attorney that they would lose over $300,000 in assets and it would take 60 months or until they ran out of money, to be eligible for Medicaid. She also shared that the local office of the aging told her to transfer the house so it would be protected. Mary trusted the family attorney and the local office of the aging and believed them.

The receptionist explained that the attorney could provide a complete analysis of her mother’s Medicaid eligibility if she were willing to complete a simple one page form. In less than twenty-four hours after receiving the Benefits Eligibility Form from Mary, the new attorney provided Mary and Alice a written analysis that concluded their mother could qualify for Medicaid immediately, without losing any of the family savings. Mary was in shock and in fact, a little angry. She thought it was a ploy by the new attorney to get her to hire him. He returned Mary’s call and explained that not only could the family achieve that result, but that it was completely legal under the law so long as all rules were followed properly in filing the application. Mary asked why she should believe him when their family attorney and the local office of the aging told them something different? She did not know who to trust. The MPN attorney asked the sisters which result would they would like better, the one depleting $300,000 of the family’s assets or the one that allowed their father to keep hold on his life savings and live life with dignity.

This story is true.

Every day we face tough choices like these. It is often the caregiver or the children who are forced to make these decisions. Without proper counsel and expertise many things go wrong that could have been avoided. Family wars break out because everyone wants to do what is best but no one knows how to achieve it.

Preserving the family assets provides options for the family they did not know were possible. The mistake the family attorney made was not knowing the exception Mary’s parents fell under that legally protected all the family assets immediately. Medicaid law is complicated and each individual’s qualification is determined on a case by case basis.

There is NO rule that qualification takes 60 months if assets are transferred and most social workers and health care agencies lack the legal knowledge to provide accurate advice. A qualified Medicaid planning attorney should be able to provide a timely answer to eligibility that outlines the assets at risk to being lost, when eligibility can be obtained (it’s rarely 60 months) and the assets that can be protected.

If you or someone you know is facing this situation, let them know that there is hope. Have them call us, a licensed MPN attorney, to arrange a time to meet as soon as possible or to receive the same personalized eligibility analysis that was provided Mary.

Taking such a step will help them learn what they need to know to keep Mom and Dad from being forced into poverty- and making sure that all their “stuff” is protected.

If this type of planning is interesting to you, please call our office to set up a time to discuss this with you.