By Larry S. Hartley
Board Certified Specialist in Elder Law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization, and by the National Elder Law Foundation
It is a New Year. Is this the year the family will lose everything due to long term care costs?
Virtually every week I am asked to assist families in protecting assets that are at risk of being lost due to the staggering costs of long term nursing care. The most pressing question often asked is: Can assets be protected so that they don’t all go to the nursing home, or to pay back the State of North Carolina, after a person has received Long Term Care Medicaid services and then dies?
Many times the answer to this question is; Yes, there are several ways to legally protect assets for the family or other deserving people or causes. On the other hand, there are times when after careful examination and discussion, the decision is made to commit all of the available private resources towards the cost of care. Either way, after reaching a decision on the course of action, it is critical to design a plan to accomplish the objectives that the client has decided to pursue. It is a common saying but true; “People don’t plan to fail, they usually just fail to plan”.
Techniques that we use will vary according to the individual situation of each client, and according to their own goals. There is no one size fits all solution.
The most important idea for families to grasp, is that there are usually techniques that are viable and can work, even when an urgent crisis is on the door step. This is not a do it yourself area of law. The rules for public, needs tested benefits are complex and ever changing. Mistakes can cost tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We can often save the family home or the family farm. We can help keep somebody who needs care, to stay in their own home longer. Even a lifetime of savings might be preserved. Keep in mind, we usually don’t save all of the assets, but we can often save a significant amount of hard earned assets for the benefit of your family or favorite charities. The sooner you act, the more effective your planning efforts can be.