The Kids Just Could Not Agree

Dad needed round the clock nursing home care.

Bob was dealing with the financial aspects of his dad's care. His sister, Jean, was dealing with the emotional impact of what her father was going through as the primary caretaker. Bob got advice from his father's attorney, a man who had done his parents' wills and had been with the family for many years. As it turns out, Medicaid planning was not his specialty.

Jean insisted that she and Bob get a second opinion from another attorney in town, who was well known for expertise in Medicaid. After a long discussion, Bob agreed. He called the Medicaid attorney's office to schedule an appointment and joked that the only reason for the appointment was to satisfy his sister's request and move on with the process.

Bob had already been told by his father's life long attorney that they would lose over $300,000 in assets and it would take 60 months or until they ran out of money in order to be eligible for Medicaid. He also shared that the local office of the aging told him to transfer the house so it would be protected. Bob trusted the family attorney and the local office of the aging and unfortunately believed them.

The client service administrator for the Medicaid law firm explained that the attorney could provide a complete analysis of his dad's Medicaid eligibility if she were willing to complete a simple one page form. In less than twenty-four hours after receiving the Benefits Eligibility Form from Bob, they provided Bob and Jean a written analysis that concluded that their dad could qualify for Medicaid immediately, without losing any of the family savings or transferring the house.

Bob was in shock and in fact, a little angry. He thought it was a ploy by the Medicaid attorney to get him to hire him. He returned Bob's call and explained that not only could the family achieve that result, but that it was completely legal under the law so long as all rules were followed properly in filing the application.

Bob asked why he should believe him when their family attorney and the local office of the aging told them something different? He did not know who to trust. The attorney asked Bob which result he would like better, the one depleting $300,000 of the family's assets and needlessly transferring the house (which would have immediately disqualified Bob's dad from receiving Medicaid), or the one that allowed his father to keep hold on his life savings and live life with dignity.

Although names and identifying facts have changed, this is a true story.

Every day we face tough choices like these. It is often the caregiver or the children who are forced to make these decisions. Without proper counsel and expertise many things go wrong that could have been avoided. Family wars break out because everyone wants to do what is best but no one knows how to achieve it. This is true not only for Medicaid planning but for planning in general.

Preserving the family assets provides options for the family they did not know were possible. The mistake the family attorney made was not knowing the exception Bob's dad fell under that legally protected all the family assets immediately. Medicaid law is complicated and each individual's qualification is determined on a case by case basis.

There is NO rule that qualification takes 60 months if assets are transferred and most social workers and health care agencies lack the legal knowledge to provide accurate advice.

A qualified Medicaid planning attorney should be able to provide a timely answer to eligibility that outlines the assets at risk to being lost, when eligibility can be obtained (it's rarely 60 months) and the assets that can be protected.

Preserving and protecting a lifetime of one's work is not an easy task. If you or someone you know is facing this situation, let them know that there is hope.