There was buzz in national news last month about the potential for tens of thousands of Louisiana’s nursing home residents being evicted. The first draft of the state’s new budget from the House didn’t appropriate any money for Medicaid programs that pay for Long Term Care. Louisiana Department of Health & Hospital’s Deputy Secretary, Michelle Alletto, told the press that the agency would notify about 37,000 Medicaid recipients, whose eligibility to receive the benefit would end on July 1, should that draft pass that they would be without Medicaid to pay for their nursing home care. For most of these residents, the lack of state funding would mean not being able to afford the cost of nursing home care.
Opting to make cuts to every other state agency, lawmakers were able to shield the residents from eviction. This situation shows how the situations we believe to be secure can quickly change. That’s why it’s always important to always have a plan.
While a singular person may not have the ability to change the state budget, each person can plan for long-term care for themselves and their loved ones. A qualified elder law attorney can help you and your loved ones figure out how to navigate the rocky road that is planning for long-term care.
Unfortunately, many seniors and their families don’t use a lawyer to plan for long-term care or Medicaid, often because they’re afraid of the cost. However, an elder law attorney can help you save money in the long run, as well as make sure you are getting the best care. Here are a few reasons why you should at least consider the option:
- No conflict of interest. When nursing homes refer the families of residents to non-lawyers to assist in preparing the Medicaid application, the preparer has dual loyalties, both to the facility that provides the referrals and to the client applying for benefits. But, an attorney hired to assist with Medicaid planning and the application has a duty of loyalty only to the client and will do his or her best to achieve the client’s goals.
- Saving money. Nursing homes can cost as much as $15,000 a month in some areas, so it is unusual for legal fees to equal the cost of even one month in the facility. It is not difficult to save this much in long-term care and probate costs. And most attorneys will consult with new clients at little or no cost to determine what might be achieved before the client pays a larger fee.
- Deep knowledge and experience. Professionals who work in any field on a daily basis over many years develop both the depth and breadth of experience and expertise to advise clients on how they might achieve their goals, whether those are maintaining independence and dignity, preserving funds for children and grandchildren, or staying home rather than moving to assisted living or a nursing home. Less experienced advisers, however well-intentioned, can’t know what they don’t know.
- Peace of mind. While it’s possible that when you consult with an elder law attorney, the attorney will advise you that in your situation there is not much you can do to preserve assets or achieve Medicaid eligibility more quickly, the consultation will provide peace of mind that you have not missed an important opportunity. In addition, if obstacles arise during the process, the attorney will be there to work with you to find the optimal solution.
There are many opportunities for those who plan ahead, but even at the last minute there are almost always still options available. It’s worth checking out whether these are steps you would like to take. Whether planning for your own future, a loved one’s, or doing emergency planning like the thousands of Louisiana nursing home residents almost faced, an experienced elder law attorney can help you figure out what your options are.
The information provided is not intended to be legal advice and does not constitute any attorney/client relationship. You should consult with an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
Ms. Melancon is an attorney with Legacy Estate & Elder Law of Louisiana, LLC with offices in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, LA. The primary focus of her practice is estate planning, probate, special needs planning, and elder law. For more information or to attend an upcoming estate planning seminar, call her office at (225) 744-0027.