Monthly Archives: August 2016

Medicaid VS Medicare

Is it Medicare or Medicaid?

Medicare is the federal program that provides health insurance for those 65 and older, as well as for younger people who are disabled. Medicaid is the federal program, administered by each state according to the state’s own set of rules, which pays for medical care for low income individuals who are aged, blind or disabled.  Medicare is an insurance program, while Medicaid is a welfare program.

Too often, people mistakenly believe that Medicare will pay for nursing home costs if a senior requires long term care.  Medicare does provide a benefit for skilled nursing care, but it is a very limited benefit.  If a patient is hospitalized for a period of at least three days under a stay covered by Medicare, is discharged to a nursing home within 30 days after the hospital discharge, and requires daily skilled nursing or rehabilitation services, then Medicare will provide coverage for up to 100 days.  It will pay the first 20 days in full, but then there will be a copayment required from the patient for days 21 through 100.  After 100 days, Medicare will no longer provide coverage.

Medicaid is the program that pays for long term nursing home care.  To qualify for Medicaid,  the applicant must meet asset and income tests.  In Georgia, an individual is allowed to have $2,000 in assets.  If the applicant is married, the non nursing home spouse, called the “community spouse” is allowed to have an additional $119,200 in 2015.  Some assets, such as a primary residence, are exempt, but are subject to recovery by the state after the Medicaid recipient’s death.  The income cap for 2015 is $2,199 a month.  An applicant can qualify for Medicaid even if the income exceeds the cap amount, by using a special trust called a Qualified Income Trust or a “Miller” Trust.

It is possible to protect and preserve hard earned assets from being completely spent down on nursing home costs, but doing so requires careful planning that takes into account the limitations of Medicare and the rules for Medicaid qualification.

If you’re looking for an expert in helping you plan and protect yourself once you or your loved ones are in retirement, then we invite you to contact our office and schedule an appointment today. We can help develop the right estate plan for you and your needs to make sure you will be protected.

You need more than just a will

You Need More Than Just A Will

If you have a Will, you’ve taken an important step. However, if all you have is a Will, you’ve left yourself unprotected for a significant risk – disability.  The risk is more obvious for the elderly, but illness or an accident can happen to anyone at any time.

What would happen if you were suddenly disabled?  Who would pay your bills, talk with your insurance company, make medical decisions?  If you are married, and have joint accounts with your spouse, then those accounts would be accessible.  But your spouse has no legal right to access accounts that are held only in your name.  Your insurance company, because of the HIPAA privacy laws, is not allowed to discuss your coverage unless you’ve given legal authority.

Planning for incapacity is an essential aspect of a sound financial and estate plan.  Without proper planning, families find themselves in court filing for guardianship and conservatorship in order to make health care decisions and access and manage finances.

In Georgia, the two essential documents to protect yourself and your assets in the event of incapacity are a Financial Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for Health Care.

A Financial Power of Attorney, sometimes called a General Power of Attorney, enables you to appoint someone as your agent, to manage your financial affairs.  A Financial Power of Attorney can be effective when it is signed, or it can be a “springing” power of attorney that becomes effective only when triggered by a designated event, such as a doctor’s certificate of incapacity, or a panel of family members making a determination of incapacity.

An Advance Directive for Health Care, which replaced the old Georgia Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, enables you to appoint someone to make medical decisions if you are not able to communicate your wishes.  You can also provide instructions on your treatment preferences.

There may be other estate planning techniques that are right for you, such as a revocable or an irrevocable trust.  But the core documents that everyone should have include a Will, Financial Power of Attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care.

If you want to find out more about about the documents we discussed in this article, you can check out our additional resources on our site here.

DIY can end up costing heirs

“Do It Yourself” Can End Up Costing Your Heirs

The concept of “Do it Yourself” is everywhere these days. But doing it yourself when it comes to legal documents can end up in headaches and unnecessary costs to your heirs.

A married couple owned a residence with their son, as joint tenants with right of survivorship.  That meant there would be no probate when one of the three died.  They wanted to take their son’s name off the deed, but instead of hiring an attorney, they bought a form at an office supply store and prepared the deed themselves.  Their son learned after both parents died that the deed they prepared was not with right of survivorship, so each of them owned 50% of the property. That meant probate was required for two estates instead of one.  By doing it themselves, they saved a few hundred dollars, but cost their son five times that much after their deaths.

A widow redid her Will shortly after her husband died, with the assistance of a lawyer.  A few years later she decided she wanted to change the Executor, but did not want to pay the lawyer to make the change.  She crossed out the Executor’s name, handwrote in the name of the person she now wanted, dated and initialed the change.  After she died, her family learned that you can’t make changes to a Will by crossing out and initialing.  The person she no longer wanted as Executor was the one appointed by the Court.  She saved money by doing it herself, but she left her estate in the hands of someone she no longer trusted.

A young couple used a do it yourself program to prepare their Wills.  The wife was killed in an accident.  After she died, the husband discovered that she’d reversed names when she filled in the blanks, and her sister was named Executor instead of her husband.  Not only did the sister live out of state, but she was a terrible procrastinator. They saved money by do it yourself Wills, but caused the grieving husband unnecessary delays and frustration.

You won’t know what mistakes you might be making when you do it yourself.  By the time your heirs find out, it will be too late.

That’s why we want to invite you to attend one of our Free Workshops where you can learn even more about how you can really protect you and your loved ones.  Go ahead and click to register today:

I’m Single. Why Do I Need Estate Planning?

Having a Will may not seem important to someone who isn’t providing financial support to other family members.  But if you’ve worked hard to accumulate assets, don’t you want to able to decide who gets to benefit from those assets?  Did you know that:

  • You could arrange some of your assets to pass by beneficiary designation, or in payable on death accounts, in order to avoid probate and ensure you determine who receives your inheritance
  • If you own a home solely in your name, it would have to go through probate at your death.  Without a Will, it will be up to state law to determine who receives your property.  But with a Will, you make that decision

For a single person, it is even more important to have a plan in place for incapacity.  The plan should include both of the following documents:

  • Financial Power of Attorney – A single person usually doesn’t have joint accounts with someone else. How would your bills get paid if you were in an accident or became very ill?  With a properly prepared Power of Attorney, you can name someone to take care of your finances if you aren’t able to.
  • Advance Directive for Health Care – This document names someone as your agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate. By designating that person as your representative under the HIPAA privacy laws, you’ll make sure all your medical information will be accessible to your agent.

It can be difficult for a single person to choose someone to serve as agent, whether for financial or health care decisions.  If family is the most comfortable choice, but they all live far away, it’s better to have the document and name someone far away, rather than not have a plan at all.

Without any incapacity documents, if you fall ill or are in an accident, and are unable to manage for yourself, someone would have to go to court, to petition for guardianship and conservatorship.  Your hard earned dollars would pay for lawyers and court costs, and the person appointed by the court to take charge of your financial and health decisions might be the last person you would want.

Single people should protect themselves and their assets through careful estate planning so that you have the care and support you deserve.

Isn’t it time you take the first step in protecting yourself and your future?  We can help you plan for all stages of your life, and are ready to find the right estate plan that will meet your individual needs.  Single people should protect themselves and their assets through careful estate planning so that you have the care and support you deserve.  Contact us at (770)817-4999 or click here to get started!