Answering Tough Elder Law Questions
At Connors and Sullivan Attorneys at Law, PLLC, in New York City, Brooklyn and Queens, our attorneys are committed to helping senior citizens and their families plan for the future.
Below, we answered some of the most frequently asked questions about elder law. If you need more specific answers, contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.
Q: What is elder law?
A: Elder law is estate planning for the middle class. The main goals of elder law are to save assets from being wiped out on nursing home, medical and home care bills as well as avoid court proceedings.
Q: What is probate?
A: Probate is a court proceeding in which a judge (called a surrogate in New York) validates a will after a person passes away. A will is not automatic and must be approved by a judge before assets can be transferred.
Q: How do I avoid probate?
A: To avoid probate, plan your estate so that when you pass away, there are no assets in your name alone. If you own real estate, the best way to avoid probate is through a trust agreement that says your home is yours for your lifetime, and then it passes to the next generation, ordinarily free of estate taxes and capital gains taxes.
Q: What do I need to do to protect my assets or my parents’ assets from nursing home expenses?
A: The best way to protect assets from nursing home costs is through an irrevocable trust agreement that is, in effect, a partnership agreement between parents and children. It takes five years to fully protect assets from nursing home bills, so the earlier you start, the better. However, an irrevocable trust can protect assets from medical bills not covered by insurance and make you eligible for home care, Medicaid or veteran’s assistance in one month.
Q: How much of my parents’ assets can I save?
A: It depends on the amount of planning your parents have done. If they planned five years in advance, most or all their assets may be saved. If a single person plans at the last minute, we may be able to save only half of his or her assets. If one spouse goes to a nursing home, we eventually may save virtually all the assets.
Q: My parents are already in a nursing home. Does that mean it is too late to plan?
A: It is never too late to plan, but the earlier you plan, the better. If your parents enter a nursing home and you start planning then, Connors and Sullivan Attorneys at Law, PLLC, can save at least half of their assets under ordinary circumstances.
Q: What is a health care proxy?
A: A health care proxy is a document witnessed by two people that appoints a person (usually a family member) to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself. It is important to have a health care proxy so that the person you choose can discuss your medical needs on your behalf and get the answers needed to make the best decisions under the circumstances.
Q: What are Medicare and Medicaid?
A: Medicare is an insurance program that most senior citizens receive as part of Social Security. Medicaid is a combination of state, city and federal programs that pay for home care services, nursing home bills and other medical bills not covered by insurance. To be eligible for Medicaid, you need to do some planning if you own assets such as a house or cooperative. The earlier you plan, the better.
Q: I hear a lot of things about whether I can qualify for Medicaid. How can I find the truth?
A: There are many misconceptions about Medicaid. If you are in a crisis situation, then get the right advice. Assets may be transferred to a spouse, a disabled child or a relative of a caretaker of child or sibling. It is never too late to save assets no matter how desperate the situation.