Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs: 

How do I get quality long-term care for my spouse or parent?

Our clients come to us from all walks of life and include seniors themselves as well as the loved ones that are caring for them or are concerned about them. No matter who it is or where they are from, they all want to ensure that they or their loved one has the best possible long-term care. Unfortunately, the cost of such care can be overwhelming. Many seniors have worked their entire lives providing for their loved ones only to realize that long term-care is simply unaffordable. The best strategy for long-term care depends on the health of your loved one, whether they need care today or will in the future, their financial resources, and other factors. As your elder law attorney, Jones Elder Law is uniquely qualified to provide you with solutions.

Whether your questions concern protecting your home, getting in-home care or finding a quality nursing home, Jones Elder Law is here to assist you every step of the way. One of the greatest gifts you and your family can have is the peace of mind associated with knowing that you have a plan in place to provide your loved one with the care they need and deserve.

How can I protect my home from Medicaid and nursing home bills?

Medicaid contains provisions that allow you to exclude your primary home. However, that is not the end of the story. There are pitfalls within the Medicaid rules, such as the Medicaid estate recovery provisions, that can still cause you to lose your home. Additionally, should you need to sell your home for any reason, the proceeds from the sale of your home would not be excludible for Medicaid purposes. Thus, even though you initially might have been able to exclude your home from Medicaid eligibility determination, if you later sell it, the proceeds from the sale may well prevent you from qualifying for Medicaid benefits until those proceeds have been spent on your long-term care needs. Merely using Medicaid’s exclusion rule for primary residences may not be sufficient to truly protect your family home. The Elder Law attorneys at Jones Elder Law can help develop a complete plan for protecting your family home no matter what your long-term care or financial needs.

What kind of advance planning can I do?

If you take away one thing from the information on this website, it should be that the sooner you select your counsel and start planning the better off you will be. Too often, clients come to us in crisis mode in which their loved ones are going to a nursing home or long-term care facility within days. In those instances, while we can still help, we generally will not be able to achieve the same level of protection when compared to clients that plan well in advance.

Additionally, the Deficit Reduction Act (“DRA”) has significantly tightened the rules and regulations surrounding the transfer of assets. As a general rule, the earlier a client comes to Jones Elder Law, the greater percentage of their assets we are going to be able to help them protect. And, accordingly, the greater control the client will have in the disposition of their assets.

While advanced planning is always preferable, it is never too late to seek help, even if you or a loved one has already entered a nursing home. As elder law attorneys, we can help make sure you or your loved one enters a quality nursing home and implement a plan to pay the nursing home bills while still protecting some assets.

Are your Medicaid-related asset protection strategies really (legal and ethical)?”

The Elder Law attorneys at Jones Elder Law are not trying to trick or deceive the Medicaid caseworker. In fact, just the opposite is true. Our attorneys will attempt to make very clear to the caseworker the nature of the transactions that have taken place. The more straightforward and clear we make the explanation of the transactions, the greater the likelihood that the caseworker will approve the Medicaid eligibility. The Elder Law attorneys at Jones Elder Law recognize their client’s dual goals of protecting their assets while still achieving Medicaid eligibility.

The strategies used by Jones Elder Law attorneys are based upon the language in the Federal and State Medicaid rules as well as certain fair hearing rulings and court rulings. Where necessary, we will provide the rule of law or court case that justifies the planning strategy that has been employed. In some instances, a caseworker will not be authorized to approve some of the more sophisticated planning strategies. In those instances, we will follow through with the application at the fair hearing and process.

If you can really do this, how come I have never heard about this before?

Medicaid is a maze of rules and regulations that is not easy to navigate. Both Federal law and state law apply to the Medicaid application and eligibility, adding another layer of complication to the process. Most lawyers that do not specialize in Elder Law do not know the subtle nuances of Medicaid law. Many folks have heard bits and pieces about what assets Medicaid can or cannot take. However, successful outcomes in this area of the law depend upon the mastery of many details.

How do you calculate my fees?

All of our Elder Law services are handled using a flat fee system based upon the stage at which you conduct your planning. We also offer certain specific services on a similar flat fee system. The fee we quote you is due at the inception of our relationship and will cover all of the expenses and work related to the representation we have discussed. If you choose, you can pay the flat fee with your credit card to make the process as easy as possible.

We have found that the flat fee system actually results in a better experience for the client. After paying the flat fee, the client does not receive a bill. There is never a bill for a phone call. Yet we still promise to return all your calls within a twenty-four (24) hour period. The flat fee system frees the client to ask all the questions and raise all the concerns they have. There is also no charge for faxes, copies, and other miscellaneous items that you find with many other attorneys. Our clients have told us they enjoy greater peace of mind knowing there are no “hidden costs” they will have to pay later for a plan that protects their assets and provides for adequate long-term care.

Is the initial telephone call and first appointment free?

Absolutely! We will be happy to take your phone calls and meet with you in person to discuss your situation and how we might be able to assist you with your planning and long-term care needs. After that initial phone call and meeting, we will provide you with information regarding how we think we can help you and what it will cost to engage our services. At that point you may choose to go forward with Jones Elder Law or not. If you choose not to have us represent you, then you will owe us nothing.

Can you help me?

During our initial phone calls and meetings we delve into the pertinent information surrounding your assets, liabilities, income and expenses. We also discuss your health and any genetic health issues that may affect your family. From this information we are able to develop an understanding of what we might be able to do to meet your asset protection and long-term care needs. We will clearly communicate whether or not we can help you achieve your goals and how we would go about achieving those goals.

What happens to my plan if the law changes?

Jones Elder Law attorneys keep a breast of all major changes in both Federal and State law. You can view upcoming seminars and articles about changes to the law on this website. If you hear about a new change to the law that might impact your situation, we urge you to contact us and schedule a follow-up meeting to review your case. Also, as a matter of course, we recommend that all of our clients schedule regular follow-up meetings to review their plan and current situation.

What happens if my situation has changed?

If your needs or family situation has changed, you should notify us immediately. While the plan we develop for you will seek to take into account as wide a range of circumstances as possible, no plan can account for all of life’s twists and turns. The same benefits to planning early apply to addressing changes in your circumstances—the sooner you contact us, the better.

What is Elder Law?

Elder law is like estate planning on steroids. Many of the same types of legal documents are used but they are significantly modified and enhanced to help the clients protect their assets against the devastatingly high costs of long-term health care. The Elder Law attorney works with their clients and their loved ones to develop a plan that will both protect their assets and distribute the clients assets upon their eventual demise, with a minimum of taxes and other problems. The goal of the Elder law attorneys at Jones Elder Law is to allow our clients to maintain their dignity, independence, and standard of living throughout their entire life. We address long-term care and estate planning needs of each individual based upon his or her unique situation.

What is the difference between Estate Planning and Elder Law?

Estate planning is very important and everyone should have the legal documents associated with estate planning in place. The focus of estate planning is passing your assets to those you love and care about upon your demise. Good estate planning is focused on minimizing taxes, administrative costs, court costs and time associated with getting those assets properly passed along. While a useful and important level of planning we believe it fails to answer the most important question for most families. The single most important question most families will face is not what happens to your things when you pass but rather what will happen to your things if you have not passed away and you are sick for the final three to five years of your life. The statistics are staggering as to how much we pay for health care during the final three to five years of life. Elder law planning focuses on taking control of the situation and making sure families do not lose a lifetime’s worth of work in those final three to five years. The best estate planning in the world does not matter if there is nothing left to distribute because you were not prepared to deal the devastating costs that my come in those latter years.

How do I know if someone is truly an Elder Lawyer?

One of the things we find most frustrating at Jones Elder Law is the misinformation that families receive before they find us. If you look in the phone book nearly every attorney is identifying himself or herself as someone that handles elder law and the legal issues of those growing older. When it comes to protecting your assets from long-term health care costs that simply is not true. While there may be thousands of attorneys in your area, it is likely that only a handful truly practice elder law and are capable of helping you protect your assets. It is sad when we meet with a family that has tried their best to get the help they so desperately need, only to lose thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars because they did not get the information that could help them. Make sure you are getting your guidance from someone that really practices elder law. Here are some questions you may want to ask to determine if they are the right people to counsel you:
Do they practice elder law exclusively or do they practice in multiple areas of law?
How many Medicaid applications did they file this month? Last month? Six months ago?
How many Medicaid appeals have they handled? Have they won or lost those appeals?
Are they members of groups like National Academy of Elder Lawyers? Have they served in any sort of leadership role with that group?
Have they done any training of other attorneys surrounding elder law?
Are they accredited with the Veterans Administration to obtain the Aid and Attendance benefit?
Ask them to explain some of the protections techniques they use like half a loaf gifting, promissory notes, Medicaid compliant annuities, caregiver agreements etc.

If the person you are speaking to handles divorce on Monday, bankruptcy on Wednesday and traffic on Thursday then they are not likely going to have the focus necessary to assist you in protecting your assets. It is also not uncommon to find an attorney that is truly only focused on estate planning. This can be the most confusing because they will reference many of the same documents. However, the documents such as the Power of Attorney used by an Elder Lawyer is vastly different than that used by an estate planning attorney. Getting incorrect information can often be more harmful to that family than not getting any information at all.

What is so special about an Elder Law Power of Attorney for Property?

Traditionally a power of attorney is used in the estate planning process to make sure that someone has the ability to make changes to your finances including paying your bills when you are no longer able to do so. It is a critical document that everyone over the age of 18 should have to avoid the need for a guardianship or a conservatorship action. For elder lawyers the power of attorney takes on an even greater role. Elder lawyers use numerous techniques such as half a loaf gifting, promissory notes, caregiver agreements, transferring property to different names or entities. In many cases the clients health has detiorated to the point that they are no longer able to carry out business and financial transaction on their own. That means in order to protect their assets their Agent under the power of attorney will need to carry out the plan. Whether or not the Agent will have the power to protect their loved one is the key. The Agent can only undertake strategies and transactions for which they have a specific grant of authority under the power of attorney. If the power of attorney does not allow them to undertake a half a loaf strategy, then the assets cannot be protected. Accordingly, the power of attorney used by an Elder lawyer is considerably longer than the traditional power of attorney for estate planning. That is because the elder law power of attorney enumerates countless methods that can be undertaken by the agent to protect their loved one. The proper power of attorney is the lynch pin that allows an Elder law attorney to help families. Without it, if the client no longer has the capacity to sign legal documents, the only option would be to seek a guardianship or conservatorship and then attempt to gain court approval employing an asset protection plan. While not impossible, it adds additional complexity, time and cost to the process than can be avoided by simply making sure the power of attorney provides all the powers needed.

Can you help me?

There is really only one way to find out, and that is give us a call. During our initial phone call with you we delve into the pertinent information surrounding your assets, liabilities, income and expense. We also discuss your health and any genetic health issues that may affect your family. From this information and our discussions we are able to develop an understanding of what we might be able to do to meet your asset protection and long-term care planning needs. We will clearly communicate whether or not we can help you achieve your goals. If your situation is something we can help you with, you will be offered an opportunity to come and meet with one of our Elder law attorneys in a Vision Meeting. During the Vision Meeting you will go through in detail with an attorney your situation and the potential legal solutions that might be appropriate for you. A Vision Meeting is a tremendous opportunity because it is a detailed meeting in which you will learn from a knowledgeable Elder lawyer what they think you should be doing to achieve your goal. At the conclusion of the Vision Meeting you will not owe Jones Elder Law anything unless you decide to move forward with implementing the plan.

What do I bring to the first meeting?

While there is no monetary charge for an initial consultation with Jones Elder Law, we do expect and require you to come prepared to your Vision Meeting. After the phone consultation, you will receive a letter from our office confirming the date and time of your Vision Meeting and outlining the information that we will want available for the Vision Meeting. So there is some homework that you must do in advance of the Vision Meeting. Gathering that information is essential to our ability to give you accurate comprehensive advice. Based upon your situation we may spend more time focused on some specific items or information than others. That does not mean they were gathered for nothing. The information you locate or prepare for the Vision Meeting will be used throughout the entire time you are working with Jones Elder Law to protect you and your family.

Do I have to wait five years before getting help if I have made gifts?

Absolutely not! This is a common misunderstanding that has cost many families thousands if not hundreds of thousand of dollars. The Medicaid system contains a look-back rule that goes back for a period of five years. The look-back says that in determining if you are going to receive assistance, the Medicaid agency can go back in time for a period of five years from the date you seek assistance and examine all of your records. What they are looking for is any gift or transfer for less than fair market value. The important thing to understand is that just because you may have made a gift or transfer for less than fair market value during that time period, it does not mean that you cannot receive Medicaid assistance. The look back rule’s only application is in regard to whether or not you may be subject to a penalty period. It is actually the size of your gifts or transfers for less than fair market value that will determine the length of time before you would receive Medicaid assistance. If you have made gifts or transfers for less than fair market value and need assistance in paying your long-term health care, you should consult with an Elder lawyer to determine when you should file an application and qualify for Medicaid assistance.

What is Elder Law?

Elder Law is a newer but growing practice area in which lawyers help their clients protect assets against the high costs of long-term health care. The Elder Law attorney works with clients and their loved ones to develop a plan that will both protect their assets and dispose of the client’s assets upon their demise, with a minimum of taxes and other problems. The goal of the Elder Law attorneys at Jones Elder Law is to allow our clients to maintain their dignity, independence and standard of living throughout their entire life. We address long-term care and estate planning needs of each individual based on his or her unique situation.