Elder law attorneys commonly hear a lot of myths about this area of the law. Whether you get your advice from someone who is well intended but uninformed, hear something from a friend, or see something on television, relying on bad information could harm you as you create an estate plan or consider elder law topics. If you ever have a question about an elder law issue or need assistance, you should talk to your attorney for specific advice. In the meantime, here are two of commonly held myths that many people believe about elder law and estate planning.
You can qualify for Medicaid by giving your property away.
When people consider the costs of long-term care, some of them turn to Medicaid as a way to cover the expenses. While Medicaid will pay for nursing home expenses or similar costs, not just anyone can use it. To qualify for Medicaid you have to meet some fairly strict income and asset eligibility criteria.
A lot of people are aware of the Medicaid eligibility restrictions, but they believe that they can meet these requirements by simply giving their property away. For example, people who believe they own more than the maximum Medicaid asset level believe that they can give away their property to their family and then apply for the program.
This isn’t entirely true. While you can reduce your assets by making gifts, Medicaid will look at the gifts you’ve given within the past five years. If the gifts you’ve made during that time put you over the eligibility limit, you won’t be able to qualify.
I have a will, so I don’t need to worry about elder law.
When people hear the term “elder law,” many of them associate it with estate planning. While it’s true that estate planning and elder law cover many of the same issues, they also address very different concenrs.
Your estate is the collection of assets and obligations you leave behind after you die. A last will and testament is a tool you can use to choose how you want to distribute this property to others. Unfortunately, a will isn’t the only thing you will need when you are creating an estate plan, and it does nothing to address some significant elder law issues.
For example, you cannot use your last will and testament in order to make medical choices. Wills only apply after you die. If you want to communicate your medical wishes to your physicians in the event you become incapacitated, a last will and testament will do you no good. Creating a good estate or elder law plan requires you to address a wide range of issues, and develop the proper tools that address them.
Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.