ELPO Law Announces Addition of Medicaid Planning Practice Area

by Mandy Hicks

English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP (ELPO Law) announced today that ELPO Law Attorney Leah A. Morrison will now be offering legal services related to Medicaid Planning.

Medicaid Planning is a way to protect people’s assets from the threat of long-term care expenses. Attorneys who provide Medicaid Planning legal services work legally and ethically to protect assets when qualifying for Medicaid.

If a person finds themselves in need of long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, but lacks the money to pay for it, they may consider applying (or helping a loved one apply) for Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that offers health coverage to eligible low-income seniors. For Medicaid eligibility for long-term care, an applicant must have limited income and assets (as well as have a functional need for long-term care). If the applicant’s income or countable assets exceed Medicaid’s financial limits set by the state, it is possible to become eligible by “spending down” one’s income or assets to the point where they become financially eligible.

While a Medicaid spend down may be an optional strategy, the rules, restrictions, and requirements can be complex and confusing. And it is not your only option. Careful planning can provide Medicaid asset protection to your family. Consideration must be made to maximize the resources available to the Community Spouse (if applicable) through the Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) or the Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA), and issues such as estate recovery, and much more, must be addressed. A variety of options and solutions can include setting up a Miller Trust, QIT (Qualifying Income Trust), Special Needs Trust and more.

Careful planning to determine what is best for certain situations can be provided by a skilled attorney to help navigate the complicated system. Whether it be through the implementation of a Medicaid crisis plan to prevent the unnecessary dissipation of all of one’s life savings in the event nursing home care is required, or Medicaid asset protection planning in advance of needing nursing home or assisted living facility care, an attorney can help guide those seeking assistance through the process.

“This area of law is very personal to me,” says ELPO Law attorney Leah Morrison. “We went through the Medicaid process with my grandfather before his passing. It was hard enough on my grandmother to get through each day knowing we were going to lose him – she didn’t need the additional financial burden of providing him quality care. In offering these new services, I hope to be able to help families alleviate that financial burden during an already difficult time.”

The addition of providing Medicaid Planning legal services directly compliments the Special Needs Planning and Administration practice area which is served by both Leah A. Morrison and ELPO Law Attorney Elizabeth J. McKinney. While both attorneys have previously offered services in this area for third party planning, Morrison will now also offer first party planning.

If a person wants to leave money or property to a loved one with a disability, they also must plan carefully. Otherwise, the ability to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits may be jeopardized. By setting up a “special needs trust” as part of a will, these problems can often be avoided. Parents and guardians can establish and fund a “third-party” special needs trust or supplemental needs trust to hold a disabled child’s inheritance and avoid terminating their government benefits.

But what happens when the person with special needs unexpectedly comes into their own money? This could be an unplanned inheritance or maybe even a settlement from a car accident. In some cases, a spend-down may be the best solution. But other options exist: the “first-party” special needs trust (also known as a self-settled special needs trust or d4A trust) and pooled special needs trust (also known as a d4c trust). “First-party” special needs trusts are discretionary trusts subject to a Medicaid payback lien amongst other complex regulations to avoid being included as a countable resource. Pooled special needs trusts are similar to a “first party” special needs trust, except they are managed by a nonprofit organization instead of an individual trustee. Regardless of which kind of trust best fits your situation, care and consideration must be given to your particular situation to avoid a loss of benefits and a skilled attorney can help.

For more information on legal services pertaining to Medicaid Planning and Special Needs Planning & Administration, visit the Medicaid Planning and Special Needs Planning web pages or call 270-781-6500.