Putting the Pieces of the Elder Law Puzzle Together: Why We Ask What We Ask

During your first meeting with an Elder Law Attorney, the attorney will ask an array of questions about your health, your existing legal documents, as well as your income and assets. You may be asking yourself, “why does the attorney need to know all of this information?”

Discussing health concerns with an elder law attorney may seem odd at first, but understanding the full picture helps the attorney properly plan for your family. Being aware of any health concerns help the attorney determine a timeframe for planning, whether care is needed, and if so, what level of care is appropriate.

When it comes to health insurance, most of the senior clients we serve are covered by Medicare. Many also have supplemental insurance.

Individuals who end up needing nursing home care may have a portion of that cost covered by their Medicare and supplemental health insurance.  For example, if an individual goes into a nursing home for skilled care (usually physical therapy and occupational therapy), Medicare will pay for days 1-20 at no cost. Additionally, Medicare may cover up to 100 days, with a copay assessed for days 21-100. However, after Medicare skilled days expire, Medicare will not cover the cost of long-term care in the nursing home.

In addition to discussing health, we also get a lot of questions about estate planning documents.

Plan to bring any existing legal documents to the first meeting. Documents may be outdated, and documents prepared in other states may not meet all of the requirements of Georgia law. Because laws are ever-changing, it is important to make sure that documents are up to date and prepared by an attorney.

Elder care attorneys recommend that you have a General Durable Power of Attorney for Financial matters, a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, and a Last Will and Testament. Some individuals and families may require additional planning.

Detailed information regarding income is another topic that families should be prepared to discuss during the first meeting.

Most seniors receive some form of social security, and for many, this may be their only source of income. Others may have pensions, retirement, or other supplemental income.

Knowing how much income there is helps the attorneys educate families on what type of care their loved one can afford. It also allows the attorney to determine how long your loved one’s money will last. Elder law attorneys will want to review income documentation, like social security award letters, pension statements, and other proof of income.

Elder law attorneys also consider long-term care insurance to be income, and this can have a major impact on your life care plan. Long-term care insurance can offset the cost of various levels of care. Families should bring long-term care insurance policies to the first meeting for the attorney to review.

 

While families may be hesitant to discuss some other topics, they almost always want to talk about the family home and how to preserve it when their loved one needs care.

For most clients we serve, their home is their largest asset. The attorney will want to know what the home is worth, as well as whether there is a mortgage and how the deed to the home is titled. In some cases, the home may be transferred to a well spouse or put into a trust. However, it is important to remember that these actions should not be taken without the advice of an elder law attorney because every situation is different.

Even though the house is typically the largest asset, the attorney also needs to know what is in checking and savings accounts, as well as any investment accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement funds. Just like with income, knowing how much there is in assets helps the attorney determine what type of care your loved one can afford and for how long.

Disclosing any other relevant facts makes it easier for the attorney to advise your family and tailor a life care plan to your specific circumstances. Many families have estranged or deceased children, blended families, and relatives with disabilities or substance abuse issues. Families should also inform the attorney if they anticipate inheriting assets or if assets have been gifted away in the past. An elder law attorney can create a plan that accounts for all of these concerns.

At Hurley Elder Care Law, we are committed to helping our clients find, get, and pay for good long-term care.

For more information on how an elder law attorney can assist your family, please visit our website at www.hurleyeclaw.com or call our office at (404) 843-0121 for a complimentary telephone consultation. We look forward to hearing from you and serving your family!