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The March of Time
Barbara Armstrong, Paralegal

As we enter into spring, I cannot help but notice how time slips by. Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas, and here we are ready to celebrate Easter?!

Working for an estate planning and elder law firm, I often receive calls from children of elderly parents who are concerned that their parents do not have any estate planning documents in place or have some major health issues which may deplete their assets. The children are usually asking how their parents’ assets can be preserved in the event that they need long-term care in an assisted living facility or convalescent center.

By the time we receive this call, it may be too late to do anything about asset protection. For example, Medicaid has a five-year look-back period on any transfer of assets, which means that an individual applying for Medicaid assistance to pay for institutional care will be penalized based on the assets that are given away during that time. In contrast, anything gifted away before this five-year clock starts is off the record, no matter the size of the gift. There are some measures that can be taken, and it is extremely important that the interested parties meet with an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in long-term care planning to take advantage of all possible asset-protection options. The attorney would be able to look at the individuals’ situation and can assist in creating and implementing a plan to attempt to protect as much of clients’ assets as possible. Any attorney fees that are associated in the long-term planning process can be counted in the asset spend-down process that Medicaid applications often require.

The bottom line is that everyone should have an estate plan in place before the need for long-term care planning takes effect. No one wants to think that they will need long-term care, but the fact of the matter is the number of elderly individuals in our country continues to grow, as does the need for institutional assistance as they lose their independence.

So, as we enter into Spring 2017, have a talk with your parents – or each other – and make that call to an elder law attorney to discuss any concerns that you have and how best to prepare for the future.