As a Boston area elder law attorney, I often meet with clients that I wish had come to see me sooner. It is sad when clients wait too long to call me. I know that they would have had better options for their care and could have saved money, if only they had called sooner. Usually they didn’t think that there was anything that could be done. The cost of meeting with an elder law attorney is a small price to pay that can often result in significant savings and peace of mind. In many cases, I can help clients protect their assets and get the care that they need. Here are eight times when you should contact an elder law attorney for guidance:
1. When you are healthy, but want to protect your assets in the event that you need long term care: The best time to meet with an elder law attorney is when you are healthy and will most likely not need long term care for at least five years. Planning ahead allows the greatest opportunity to protect your assets if you need care in the future.
2. When you are sick and will need help to stay at home: Paying privately for care around the clock at home can cost $100,000 per year or more. An elder law attorney will explore ways to help you to stay at home, and discuss options for protecting assets if possible. If you wait until your money is gone, you will likely only have one option left, nursing home care.
If you have family members helping take care of you at home and you want to pay them, you should meet with an elder law attorney. Without the proper guidance and planning, the payments that you make to your family member may cause a problem if you need to apply for Medicaid benefits. An elder law attorney can draft a caregiver agreement to minimize problems in the future.
3. When you need assisted living facility care: Paying privately for care in an assisted living facility for several years can exhaust your savings. MassHealth offers programs that help certain elderly and disabled individuals pay for care in assisted living facilities. Not all assisted living facilities accept these programs. If you need care in an assisted living facility, you should have a plan in place to make sure that you will be able to stay, when your money runs out. Ideally, you should meet with an elder law attorney, while you are looking for an assisted living facility. An elder law attorney will help you review the options available and ensure that you have the necessary estate planning documents in place.
4. When you or your spouse needs nursing home care: An elder law attorney can help you figure out whether you can take steps to protect your assets and qualify for Medicaid. Many times, with the proper guidance, a spouse that is still living at home can protect all of his/her assets. The nursing home may tell you that your only option is to spend down your money paying for nursing home care, as this benefits them. However, you may have options that are more beneficial to you. An elder law attorney can help you protect your interests.
5. When you do not have a basic estate plan in place: At a minimum, you should have a basic estate plan in place, including a will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care proxy. These documents will be critical to ensure that your wishes are honored and that your affairs are taken care of if you become incapacitated and upon your death.
6. When you are the power of attorney for someone who needs long term care: If you are the power of attorney for someone that needs long term care, an elder law attorney can provide guidance to help you figure out how to make sure that your loved one gets the care they need and how to pay for it.
7. When your loved one can no longer make decisions for himself/herself, but does not have a power of attorney or health care proxy: If you are trying to help a friend or loved one that can no longer make decisions for himself or herself, but does not have a health care proxy or power of attorney, you should contact an elder law attorney to discuss Conservatorship and Guardianship. In order to help, you will need to be appointed by the court as the Conservator or Guardian. An elder law attorney can assist you with this process.
8. When you have a child or loved one with special needs that you want to leave money to: An elder law attorney can assist you in devising an estate plan, including a special needs trust, to protect the money that you want to leave to a person with disabilities.
There are lots of attorneys in the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area. However, if you have a specific issue related to a senior or disabled person, you should make sure that you meet with an attorney that specializes in elder law to help you. A general attorney is not recommended, as the rules are constantly changing, and unless an attorney focuses specifically in this area, he or she may not have the most up to date information.
Senior Solutions, Attorneys at Law, is an elder law and estate planning law firm serving the Greater Boston and South Shore of Massachusetts. We are caring attorneys, ready to help you. Please feel free to contact us anytime that you have a question related to elder law or estate planning.