The term Elder Law is less a description of any single area of the law, and more a description of the clients an attorney serves. The field includes estate planning, wills and trusts, conservatorships and guardianships, as well as counseling clients with regard to government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and V.A. Benefits. Perhaps more than anything else, however, an Elder law attorney seeks to coordinate the interaction of these areas of the law to counsel their clients as they age.
Elder Law attorneys often assist their clients in drafting of wills and other estate planning documents like powers of attorney, health care directives and living wills. In addition to drafting documents, however, Elder Law attorneys are often called upon to counsel families as they care for a loved one who is suffering a decline in mental capacity (whether due to Alzheimer’s, dementia or some other cause). In addition, they also help clients and their families plan for possible long-term care, whether at home, in assisted living, or in a nursing home. Elder Law attorneys can help families locate the appropriate type of care while coordinating public and private resources to finance the very high cost of care.
Nobody wants to go the nursing home, but the unfortunate reality is that more and more people require that level of care as life expectancy continues to increase. The average cost of a nursing home in Alabama is well over $5,000 per month. Because of the high cost of care, most people cannot afford to pay for very long, and the result is that Alabama Medicaid pays for a great deal of the nursing home care in this state.
To qualify for Medicaid nursing home benefits, an applicant cannot have over a certain amount of income. The bigger problem in qualifying for Medicaid Nursing Home benefits, however, is a person’s assets.
A married person entering the nursing home can protect between $25,000 and $115,920, (as of 2013) but only if there is a well spouse who is remaining in the community. An unmarried person applying for Medicaid nursing home benefits can have only $2,000 in assets. Any excess assets must be spent-down.
If a loved one is entering a nursing home, you should consider meeting with a qualified Elder Law attorney. While the application process may appear to be simple, even the United States Supreme Court notes that Medicaid is one of the most complex laws on the books.
Generally all Elder Law attorneys will charge a fee for an initial consultation. The reason is that the attorney is often (but not always) able to review an Elder Law matter and advise the client accordingly after a single meeting. Many families simply need some guidance regarding “what to do next” when it comes to placing a loved one in a nursing home.
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