In life, nearly everything goes better and more smoothly if you plan ahead. Nursing home stays are no different.
Because nursing home care can be extremely expensive—often costing over $7,000 per month in Ohio—it is crucial to plan in advance. To qualify for Medicaid, you must be poor, having used all of your assets until you have only $1,500 left. Failing to plan can cost you and your family thousands and needlessly deplete your legacy.
Many mistakes can be made if you do not plan ahead and consult with a knowledgeable professional about nursing home planning. Many people pay more for nursing home costs than necessary before applying for Medicaid. Others pay off debts before applying for Medicaid. Still others make large gifts right before entering a nursing home, making them ineligible for Medicaid. These mistakes can cost a family quite a bit of money and prevent a person from getting the care they need.
All of these errors can be avoided with careful planning and the help of a compassionate, knowledgeable estate planning attorney.
Each person should begin nursing home planning by finding an office—not just a lawyer—that does a lot of work in Medicaid and nursing home planning and that has genuinely good attorneys and staff. Nursing home planning involves a lot of cooperation between a person and their attorney. Finding an estate planning attorney that is not only experienced but is caring and easy to work with will make the process much less difficult.
Share your wishes and your timeline with your attorney. Your attorney can help you determine the best course of action for you, including how to pay for the care. Depending on when you or a loved one will be entering a nursing home, your process will be different.
Even if a nursing home stay is not imminent, your attorney will need to review your finances and prepare certain legal documents. Your attorney should know what you own and what your assets are worth. They should review existing powers of attorney and the living will (if you have them) to make sure that they are sufficient. Nearly always, the attorney will prepare a Medicaid trust, a new will, and new financial powers of attorney so that everything is in place to pay for a future nursing home stay.
However, if a nursing home stay is just around the corner, you can expect that your attorney will need quite a bit more information from you. This will be everything that Medicaid will ask for when determining your eligibility. These documents may include all bank and broker statements for all our your assets, deeds, monthly expenses for your house and other bills, driver’s license, Medicare card, marriage certificate (if you are married), proof of military service (if applicable), bank account statements going back three months, proof of any gifts made in the last 5 years, among others.
If you are thinking about estate and nursing home planning, it is most likely the time to start. The more time that you and your attorney have to plan, the better the potential outcome for you. You can save more of your own money for yourself and your family and have Medicaid pay for more of your care.