The Difference Between Estate Planning and Elder Law
Many of our clients ask us what the difference between estate planning and elder law is within the legal profession. Estate planning is primarily concerned with what happens to an individual’s assets when he or she passes away. An informal name for estate planning is “death planning.”
Elder law, on the other hand, takes an all-encompassing view of both the client and his or her estate. While practicing elder law includes figuring out how to distribute a person’s assets when he or she passes away, a true elder law attorney will also plan to provide for a person’s assets if the individual does not pass away, but instead needs to pay for multiple years of long-term healthcare expenses. This planning is referred to as long-term care planning, and is primarily concerned with preserving assets from the expenses incurred by in-home care, independent living communities, assisted living communities, and nursing home communities. Without proper long-term care planning, families are often forced to spend their life-savings to care for themselves and/or their spouse who is experiencing health problems.
In short, estate planning is concerned primarily with how an individual’s assets are distributed after he or she passes away, whereas elder law accounts for the preservation of these assets so they can be saved and still remain a part of the estate when it comes time to distribute them.
From our experience, people often confuse Medicare with Medicaid. Medicare is the United State’s health insurance program for persons aged 65 or older, and also for persons with certain disabilities. Medicare has many various types, and most often includes medical insurance for doctor and other health provider services, prescriptions, and other medical services of that nature. Importantly, Medicare does not include long-term care, which includes in-home care, assisted living, and nursing homes.
Medicaid, on the other hand, does cover long-term care. Medicaid is an incredibly complex program that an individual must qualify for in order to receive long-term care benefits. The program varies from state to state, and within some states, from county to county. Many people cannot afford to pay monthly nursing home expenses for long, as those expenses can range from $5,000 to $9,000 per month, depending on where you live. That is why it is imperative that our clients understand how they can qualify for long-term care benefits via Medicaid, without losing their assets that they have spent their entire life accumulating.
A lot of well-intentioned case managers at nursing homes will tell you that “It’s too late to do anything!” regarding preserving your assets from the expense of paying for a monthly nursing home. As a matter of fact, many family law attorneys may also tell you that “Nothing can be done!” in regards to preserving your assets from the expenses of long-term care; these family law attorneys will offer you a basic Last Will and Testament or trust that they would prepare for any other client, without taking into account the need to preserve your assets from the expense of long-term care.
The Dudeck Law Firm will provide you with solutions to qualify for Medicaid benefits, while also preserving most of your assets for yourself, your spouse, and your children.
The Estate and Gift Tax
In regards to The United States Gift and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, which is also known as The Estate and Gift Tax, many of our clients have been told that they can gift $15,000 per year to as many individuals as they choose with no repercussions. While this may be true in regards to The Estate and Gift Tax, what many seniors may not understand is that such gifts can often DISQUALIFY an individual from receiving long-term care state benefits in the event that they ever have to go into a nursing home. State long-term care programs, such as Medicaid, operate on a completely different set of rules. If you have questions about what you can or should gift, or questions about how to ensure that you can preserve your life savings no matter whether you need long-term care or if you pass away, contact The Dudeck Law Firm today!