Boca Raton Elder Law Attorneys
Elder law is a broad field of law focused on serving the needs of older adults, their family members and caregivers. Specifically, elder law focuses on long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, and guardianship/conservatorship issues aimed at ensuring elders receive the care they need in their preferred setting (home, community, nursing home) while maximizing their quality of life and independence to the fullest extent. Hand-in-hand with estate planning, an elder law attorney helps seniors address these needs while also aiding them to leave a lasting legacy and support for their spouse, children, grandchildren and other important people in their lives.
Samuels Wood PLLC is a Florida elder law firm with a Florida Board-Certified Specialist in Elder Law and a team of attorneys and staff responsive to the needs of older clients and those who care for them. Learn more about our firm’s elder law services below, and contact our experienced Boca Raton elder law attorneys to discuss your needs and goals in person.
Long-Term Care Planning
On average, Americans are living longer, giving them more time to accumulate wealth and enjoy it. Living longer also means an increased risk for eventual falls, strokes, illness, or memory impairments that could require long-term care. The cost of care is often so great that it wipes out a family’s savings, leaving them unable to afford their personal needs or meet their estate planning goals.
At Samuels Wood PLLC, we want you to live your healthiest, fullest, and best life while being prepared for whatever adversity the vicissitudes of life may bring. We are here to advise you on wealth preservation and asset protection strategies so you can afford the care you need while also leaving a legacy for future generations. Long-term care planning tools can include Trusts, immediate annuities, pre-paid funeral expenses, and long-term care insurance. Such approaches may not be appropriate to your needs. Our elder law expert can explore your options and create the right Trusts or other documents that best meet your goals.
Individuals aged 65 and older are eligible for Medicare, which provides medical insurance, hospital insurance, and prescription drug coverage. Medicaid, on the other hand, covers the cost of similar services (basic medical care, hospital inpatient and outpatient, home healthcare, and hospice care) for low or very low-income individuals. Aside from eligibility (Medicaid is means-tested while Medicare is not), another important difference between Medicare and Medicaid is that Medicare only covers temporary stays in a skilled nursing facility, while Medicaid can cover the costs of long-term care. At $4,000 (?) a month or more, a long-term stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility without Medicaid coverage can wipe out a family’s savings.
Medicaid planning can help avoid this tragedy. Medicaid planning refers to using a variety of legal tools to qualify for Medicaid while protecting assets and preserving wealth as much as possible. This is a complex area, and mistakes can be costly and delay eligibility for months or years. The elder law attorneys at Samuels Wood PLLC are experts in Medicaid planning and can advise you and assist you on how to qualify for Medicaid should you need it. Our comprehensive Medicaid planning lawyers help with:
- Asset Protection
- Qualifying for Medicaid
- Making full use of the Florida homestead exemption
- Specialized planning for married couples to provide long-term care for one spouse while protecting the quality of life for the other
- Avoiding the Medicaid clawback when the agency tries to seize assets to recover the cost of benefits it has provided
- Crisis planning when the need for long-term care is immediate or someone has already entered a nursing home
Guardianship and Conservatorship
In Florida, guardianship is a legal status imposed on an incapacitated person, where a guardian is court-appointed to exercise authority over the financial affairs and personal healthcare of their ward. A conservatorship, meanwhile, is a legal status imposed over the estate of a person who has gone missing or is presumed dead. There may be times when guardianship or conservatorship is appropriate, and the elder law attorneys at Samuels Wood PLLC can assist the relevant parties in this process. More importantly, through proper planning our compassionate and caring elder law attorneys can put the right mechanisms in place that will avoid the need for having to go to court should an individual later become incapacitated. while ensuring the person in need receives appropriate care.
Florida Elder Law FAQs
As older adults and their children grapple with issues such as planning for long-term care or Medicaid eligibility, they frequently have questions regarding how to qualify for Medicaid, whether to purchase long-term care insurance, and more. Below we answer some of the questions we get most often in our elder law practice. If you have other questions or need help with long-term care planning, Medicaid, guardianships, or other elder law matters, contact Samuels Wood PLLC to meet with a Florida Board-Certified Elder Law Specialist dedicated to serving your needs with compassion, caring, and excellence.
What is the Medicaid Asset Recovery Program?
When a Medicaid beneficiary passes away, the agency might bring a claim against the estate to recover the cost of benefits it paid for long-term care or other services. This is done through the Medicaid Asset Recovery Program (MERP). Not all benefits are subject to recovery, however, and it is possible to protect your home and other assets by titling property correctly and creating trusts such as Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts. Medicaid planning, avoiding the Medicaid clawback, making full use of the Florida homestead exemption, and other asset protection strategies are critical issues that are central to elder law and best dealt with through the help of an experienced elder law attorney.
What is the spousal refusal for Medicaid?
Generally speaking, spouses are required by law to support each other financially, which presumably includes the duty to pay for a spouse’s medical needs. However, when it comes to Medicaid eligibility, Florida is one of two states in the country (New York being the other) that allows a spouse to refuse to pay for the medical care of their spouse who is applying for Medicaid. By doing so, the “well” spouse’s assets are not counted and are not subject to the strict asset limits for Medicaid eligibility. The spouse applying for Medicaid could also transfer their assets to the well spouse, further protecting the couple’s assets while not negatively impacting the applicant’s Medicaid eligibility. Consult with an elder law attorney before transferring assets, applying for Medicaid, or deciding to utilize the spousal refusal for Medicaid.
Should we purchase long-term care insurance?
There is no question that long-term care is costly, and figuring out how to afford it is a valid and important concern. Long-term care insurance is one option, but there are many factors to consider in determining if it is the best option in your particular circumstances. Long-term care is expensive, but so is long-term care insurance. Factors such as your age and health will dictate whether the premiums are affordable and make financial sense. Other options such as creating Medicare Asset Protection Trusts and taking steps to secure Medicaid eligibility might be a more sensible route. This is something to discuss with your elder law and estate planning attorneys to ensure you are making the best decision.
What is the difference between guardianship and conservatorship?
A guardian is a court-appointed surrogate who is authorized to make personal and/or financial decisions on behalf of a minor or an adult with disabilities. A conservatoris a court-appointed surrogate authorized to make financial decisions on behalf of a missing person or someone who is presumed dead.
Having a guardian or conservator appointed requires going to court and incurring additional time, expense, and stress during an emotionally difficult time. Proper planning with an elder law attorney can put the right tools in place to look after a person’s healthcare or finances without the hassle and uncertainty of going to court in the midst of a loved one’s crisis.
The bank is refusing to honor my power of attorney. Can they do that?
Banks are conservative institutions by nature, and bank managers might be leery when presented with a power of attorney by a stranger to access a bank account, especially if the power of attorney is not drafted on the bank’s own forms. However, banks are required by Florida law to accept powers of attorney when they are presented, with limited exceptions (described below). In exchange for being required to accept powers of attorney when presented, banks have limited liability for any funds stolen from the account; they are only liable for stolen funds to the extent they honored a power of attorney that was obviously fraudulent or had been revoked by the principal.
If a long-term relationship exists with your bank, the bank manager and tellers can actually be helpful in spotting and preventing fraud and financial elder abuse, a very real issue that affects millions of older Americans every year. If a bank does reject a power of attorney, it must provide a written explanation of its reasoning within four days of the rejection. Acceptable reasons to reject a power of attorney can include:
- A belief that the agent is subjecting the principal to financial or physical abuse
- The bank has requested the agent to provide a lawyer’s opinion or affidavit authenticating the power of attorney
- The bank has knowledge of a revocation of the agent’s authority
- The bank believes in good faith that the power of attorney is invalid or that the agent is attempting to exercise authority beyond the scope of the document
Talk to your lawyer if you believe the bank is acting unreasonably in refusing to accept a valid power of attorney. In Boca Raton and surrounding areas, the elder law attorneys of Samuels Wood PLLC are at your service.
Contact Samuels Wood PLLC Today
For help with Medicaid planning, long-term care planning, and all your elder law needs for yourself or a loved one, call Samuels Wood PLLC to discuss your needs and goals with an experienced Boca Raton elder law attorney.