Do you anticipate your parents needing Medicaid at some point to help with their nursing home care? If yes, be prepared for a maze of paperwork. After all, Medicaid is a means-tested-State-Federal program that is bleeding red ink.
Accordingly, you need to have your ducks in a row when applying for assistance.
A recent Oprah Magazine article, titled “Sanity-Saving Secrets For Caring For Your Aging Parents,” provides some practical pointers from someone who has been there and done that, so you can escape some of the trial and error.
Here are some of the pointers:
Get going five years before earlier than you think you need to. Medicaid has a five-year look back regarding all of your parents' financial dealings. Translation: Any and all financial transactions conducted during that timeframe may be counted when determining their program eligibility. Practically speaking, have your names and numbers for all of the financial institutions where your parents have savings and investments. Regulators are looking at two things: if your parents are hiding any money and if they have given any away.
Also, if one or both of your parents still live in the family home and would like to keep it in the family, then you should to transfer ownership or set up a trust at least five years before they apply for Medicaid. Although there are some exceptions, typically if you do not address this issue, you will be forced to sell the home or lose it to "estate recovery" later.
Get a power of attorney. While you might never need this to obtain Medicaid approval for your parents, getting your parents to each sign a power of attorney is a good move. There will be many times when you try to act on your their behalf. Hint: You will be told "I'll need your POA to help you." Save yourself the hassle then by taking care of this fundamental legal document now.
Get ready for the paperwork. Start a filing system early. Why? Trust me, once you send in that initial application, there will be a boatload of questions that will need answering. And with each request, you will need to include your case number. You should also have easy access (or memorize dates of birth and Social Security Numbers of both parents).
Get some friends. Although you already are, be pleasant and friendly withcaseworkers, bank employees, eldercare counselors, and others who assist you with this process. Remember, the old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” People are more apt to help you with questions or problems if you are nice ... even if your patience is wearing thin.
Get back to your life. When you receive the approval for the Medicaid application, breathe easy. Once approved, however, there is an annual "redetermination" process to show that your parents have not come into wealth.
Absent such a windfall, however, the heavy lifting is all over.
Final thought: Engage the services of an experienced elder law attorney at the beginning of this process. Legal fees are not considered disqualifying transfers when applying for Medicaid. A helpful national directory of elder law attorneys can be found on the website for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: The Oprah Magazine (December 19, 2014) “Sanity-Saving Secrets For Caring For Your Aging Parents”