A Path to Financial Freedom

What if there was a simple way to finance your future long-term care?

How can you age in place at home without spending a fortune? Does that sound too good to be true? It’s not. If you are still insurable, advance planning with long-term care insurance can keep your options open.

Most of us will need a skilled nursing level of care, some for months or years. Medicare, Medigap and other health insurance plans do not pay for custodial care. These policies will only pay for limited sub-acute and skilled care for limited periods. Disability insurance is intended to replace your earned income from work if you become disabled.

What if you have a medical crisis and need 24/7 care? At a cost of over $5,000 per month at the private pay rate, even staying at home with paid care can be very expensive. https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html.

The benefits of long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance can help protect your family’s financial and emotional freedom and can facilitate asset protection planning.

How to you get and pay for long-term care insurance? Policies are typically purchased while the insured has attained the age of forty and before approximately age 66. With age, the risk of uninsurability increases.

Some federal and state government employers offer long-term care insurance. It may also be available through some private employers. Long-term care insurance can also be purchased through an insurance agent. Private banks also can help high net worth individuals obtain specially priced policies. Some individuals use their qualified retirement assets to pay for long-term care insurance premiums. Many policies are tax-qualified, meaning that the benefits paid under the policy may not be subject to income taxes. Some policies have special Medicaid protections. These are called “partnership policies.”

It is very important to understand what the policy will cover and how the elimination period will work. Make sure any long-term care insurance you purchase is a policy you can still afford if the premiums increase. Talk to your elder care attorney if you think you may want to lower the benefit amount or increase the waiting period before benefits are payable under the policy.

Individuals who want to plan for themselves can benefit from long-term care insurance. Dick and Jane are married and in their mid-sixties. Dick is a government employee with a long-term care insurance policy through his work. The policy pays four years of benefits after a 90-day elimination period. Dick has a serious fall and fractures requiring surgery. He goes into the hospital for surgery and contracts COVID-19 in the hospital. By the time he is ready for discharge from the hospital, he is generally deconditioned and just wants to go home.

Jane is a petite woman. She tells the hospital discharge planner that she is afraid she might hurt herself if she tries to lift Dick himself. Dick needs constant hands-on assistance to perform activities like walking, dressing, bathing, toileting, and transferring from a bed to a chair. At first, the social worker was recommending placement in a nursing home or rehabilitation for Dick, due to concern that Jane can’t care for Dick safely in the home. But after learning that there is a long-term care insurance policy, the hospital discharges Dick to the home. Once Dick satisfies the policy’s 90-day elimination period, the benefits are triggered and the benefit payments can pay for Dick’s care, relieving the financial burden on Jane. Dick and Jane do not need to spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid, due to the long-term care insurance benefit. If they have substantial additional assets and Dick and Jane wish to do so, they can work with an elder care attorney to protect additional assets that may be at risk after the policy term is exhausted.

 Adult children who want to plan for their parent or parents can benefit from long-term care insurance. Sarah was a single mother in her early 60’s who raised four very successful adult children while working two jobs and living frugally. She is active and healthy and still working at Dunkin Donuts every day. When she retires, based on current projections, her income will limited to Social Security of about $1,500 per month, which is not enough to pay for a nice assisted living facility, if she should need some care. Her now very successful adult children purchase a policy insuring their mother, so that she can now enjoy her golden years in a comfortable community setting if she should need assisted living care. With her income and several years of long-term care insurance, if Sarah were to need a skilled level of care, she could potentially age in place in assisted living, in a very comfortable setting, and then transition to Medicaid after the facility’s private pay period is satisfied.

More information about long-term care insurance in New Jersey is available online click here .

Smooth Sailing In Your Golden Years

Life is smooth sailing, until it’s not. Don’t jeopardize your independence and quality of life, or your loved ones’ freedom, by waiting for a crisis to plan your elder care and your estate.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us the importance of being prepared. Failing to plan for death, taxes, long-term care and disability can create hardship and stress. Medicare only pays for a limited amount of long-term care under limited circumstances. Private pay long-term care can cost you and your spouse more than $13,000 per month at the private pay rate in New Jersey. At that rate, your life savings can be quickly dissipated without advance planning. Even the cost of part-time paid care at home can add up quickly. For an idea of the costs you may be facing, check out the Genworth long-term care study at https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html.

Here are some tips that can help you remain at home as long as possible, avoid an elder care crisis and preserve a legacy for your heirs.

  • Your MVP team should include a tax and estates and elder law attorney, an accountant or enrolled agent, and a financial advisor. They can help you define your goals and the right plan to achieve them.   They can also vet others to help protect you from elder financial and other forms of abuse.
  • Execute a valid Will, a power of attorney and a health care proxy.   Work with your attorney to do this.
  • Discuss your completed estate plan with your attorney and your accountant or financial planner. Understand how your estate will be funded.   
  • Work with an elder care attorney to understand your options for long-term care.
  • Explain your wishes and preferences with your health care proxy and the person who will serve under your power of attorney.    
  • Trusts can protect your life savings, a special needs child or grandchild, and can leverage a charitable gift.  A trust can protect an inheritance from bankruptcy, divorce, disability, addiction and/or some taxes.
  • A revocable trust with a “pour over” will can provide privacy and ease of administration.
  • Periodically review your finances. Update your retirement account and insurance beneficiary designations.
  • Purchase long-term care insurance if you can qualify medically for a policy. Your financial planner can evaluate your disability, long-term care and life insurance needs.  Your elder care attorney can evaluate the policy provisions.
  • Periodically review your legal documents.  If they are outdated, or misplaced, how can they be useful?  
  • Don’t add payable on death or transfer on death designations to all your financial accounts without speaking to an attorney.   
  • Consider a prepaid burial.  Your loved ones and your funeral representative will be grateful that you did.

For questions, contact Jane at Archer Brogan – Elder Law Attorney – Trenton – Princeton – Somerville – Brick – Jamesburg

Featured man in blue sweater sitting on brown chair near the window

Avoiding a Medicaid Penalty Period

What is the Medicaid penalty period?

During the Medicaid look back period, you can’t give away your money (without receiving equal value in return) and go on Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) Medicaid. If you do, a Medicaid penalty period will result. During the Medicaid penalty period, the Medicaid applicant is treated as if she still had the gifted funds. During this period, Medicaid will not pay for long-term care.

How long with the Medicaid penalty period be?

The sum of all the gifts made during the look back period is added. Then the total of those gifts is divided by the applicable Medicaid divisor. The result of this equation is the Medicaid penalty period.

Example. The Medicaid penalty divisor is $374.39 per day, or $11,387.69 per month. If I give away the sum of $11,387.69 during the look back period, the total gifts ($11,387.69) are divided by the Medicaid divisor of $374.39 per day. The resulting penalty is just over 30 days. A penalty period of about one month will apply on my Medicaid application, without an exemption.

Why can even a short Medicaid penalty period be a big problem? During the Medicaid penalty period, Medicaid will not pay for my long-term care. If I am already poor and living in a nursing home, how will I get the money to pay my nursing home bill? This can be a real challenge. No nursing home or assisted living facility will provide free care.

Increase in the Medicaid penalty divisor.

The higher the divisor, the shorter the penalty period will be. On May 24, 2022, the State of New Jersey increased the Medicaid penalty divisor to a rate of $374.39 per day. The new divisor applies to Medicaid applications filed on or after April 1, 2022.  Increase_in_the_Penalty_Divisor_Effective_4-1-2022.

Medicaid Penalty Traps

Unfortunately, the Medicaid penalty period can be a trap for the unwary. A penalty period can be imposed even with no gifts during the Medicaid look back period. The recent decision of H.L. v. Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services et als. shows what can go wrong. The Final Agency Decision is available online at H.L.vDMAHS&MonmouthCty

In that case, a Medicaid application was filed on behalf of H.L. with the Monmouth County Medicaid office. The Medicaid office reviewed H.L.’s bank records. H.L. withdrew about $58,000 during the Medicaid look back period. No gifts were made. The cash was spent on everyday living expenses, including rent. Some of the withdrawals were made after H.L. moved into a nursing home.

The Medicaid office computed a 162 day Medicaid penalty period. H.L. was now in a difficult situation. Unless the Medicaid penalty period was removed, H.L. would have an unpaid long-term care bill of approximately $60,000.

Reducing the Penalty with a Medicaid Fair Hearing.

The solution in H.L.’s case was to file for a Fair Hearing. On Fair Hearing, the Medicaid penalty period was reduced by the amount of the rent. The penalty period might have been avoided with better documentation of H.L.’s expenses.

How An Elder Law Attorney Can Help You.

Applying for Medicaid may appear simple, until it’s not. Doing it yourself or using a non-attorney Medicaid advisory service) can be like wading through quicksand. You may not realize you are in trouble until it is too late. Once assessed, a. Medicaid penalty can be difficult to remove. Fortunately, a seasoned elder law legal team can help obtain Medicaid coverage with as little stress as possible.

For more information on how we can help you with your New Jersey Medicaid planning and application, contact Archer Brogan, LLP at telephone number (609) 842-9200 or visit our firm’s website at https://archerbrogan.com.

Do I Have To Pay For My Parent’s Care?

Adult children often ask, do I have to pay for my parent’s care?  That depends. If you have taken control of your parent’s assets and income, absent a provision in a durable power of attorney allowing you to gift your parent’s funds to yourself, you are generally required to use your parent’s money to pay for their care.  But what if your parent’s funds are already spent down and beyond your reach? A recent published New York case considered this question and took an interesting and pro-child approach to the subject. 

In Wedgewood Care Center, Inc., Etc. v. Kravitz, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 04731 (N.Y. App.Div., 2nd Dept., August 18, 2021), the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division overturned an award for a for profit nursing home, which sued the son of its former resident. The nursing home wanted to hold the son liable for his mother’s unpaid nursing home bill for the sum of approximately $49,000.  An irrevocable burial trust was funded with some of the mother’s funds.  The nursing home argued (among other points) that the resident’s son, who was named as her agent under her durable power of attorney, violated his mother’s nursing home admissions agreement by failing to use all of his mother’s money to pay for her care and by not getting his mother approved for Medicaid benefits quickly enough. 

In the trial court, the resident’s son argued that he could not be held liable for the cost of his mother’s care, as this would violate the federal Nursing Home Reform Act.  The nursing home focused on the admissions agreement, which required the son pay his mother’s nursing home bills from the assets and income of his mother within his control if he could do so without incurring any personal financial liability. The trial judge ruled for the nursing home. 

On appeal, the appellate court concluded that the funds in the irrevocable burial trust were not available to the son to pay for his mother’s care because the son was unable to withdraw this money and apply the funds to pay for his mother’s care.  With respect to the timeliness of the Medicaid award for the mother, the appeals court noted that the nursing home failed to identify any specific document that the son should have provided to the Medicaid office but failed to do so. The matter was remanded for further proceedings and should not be interpreted as a “get out of jail free” card for adult children who do not cooperate fully in the parent’s Medicaid application process.  

The bottom line is that a seasoned elder law attorney can help you understand and carry out your duties to assist in your parent’s Medicaid spend down and application and that your obligations may be more complicated than they seem at first blush. When in doubt, it is a good idea to consult an elder law attorney to explain the rights, duties and obligations incumbent upon you and your parent under a long-term care admissions agreement, the federal Nursing Home Reform Act and state law. 

Back to School: Medicaid & 529 Plans

Most people assume that they will not ever need skilled nursing care, but statistics show that that is not the case.  Medicare may be available to pay for a limited period of care under limited circumstances, but if an individual does not have long-term care insurance, care in a skilled nursing facility care can cost more than $12,000 per month in New Jersey. That is an awful lot of money to pay out-of-pocket, so more often than not, the client or his or her responsible caregiver turn to the Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) Medicaid program as a source of funding, combined with the elderly resident’s income, for long-term care. 

MLTSS Medicaid is a joint federal/state means-tested welfare program. In New Jersey, for single individuals, the countable asset limit is $2,000. Countable assets are available resources, i.e., resources that are available to pay for your car.  In other words, if you have an asset that can be liquidated within 30 days, you can’t simply chose to do nothing to take the cash out of the assets and simply go on Medicaid, expecting Medicaid to pay for your care.  In New Jersey, this general rule applies to an individual’s (or a spouse’s) accessible retirement accounts as well as any educational savings accounts, including IRC 529 accounts, that can be converted to cash within a relatively short period of time. 

It can be a shock to family members to learn that the funds on deposit in a IRC 529 educational savings plan account may have to be returned to the contributor and spend down for the contributor’s long-term care or may be subject to a Medicaid penalty period, which is a period of time during which payment for long –term care is unavailable due to assets given away for less than fair market value during the Medicaid five year lookback period.  A seasoned elder lawyer can provide solutions. Depending on the circumstances, this might include purchasing a Medicaid friendly annuity to offset any Medicaid penalty period from the transfer of assets into a 529 plan or planning years in advance with an educational trust.

QuestionsLet Jane know