It is never too soon to plan for the future, especially when long term care is involved. Long term care planning must occur carefully because of the numerous eligibility disqualifications and the needless loss of assets that some people endure. This month, we share information on MassHealth planning and how we can help. We also share some changes to retirement distributions post-death. Finally, we celebrate some high points of events that we attended.
~ Wendy Guthro, Attorney & Counsellor at Law
"An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it's going to launch you into something great."
~ Paulo Coelho
Planning for Long Term Care and MassHealth
For all practical purposes, in the United States, the only “insurance” plan for long term institutional care is Medicaid. Medicare or Private Insurance rarely pays for any long term care in a nursing home unless you have purchased Long Term Care Insurance. The result is that most people pay out of their own pockets for long term care until they become eligible for Medicaid.
Is MassHealth the Same as Medicaid?
Yes. In Massachusetts, Medicaid is also called MassHealth. The federal government established this program to support seniors by providing them with resources and income. While Medicare, is an entitlement program, Medicaid, also known as MassHealth in Massachusetts, is a form of welfare—or at least that’s how it began. So, to be eligible for Medicaid/MassHealth Long Term Care, you must become “impoverished” under the program’s guidelines.
Options for paying for your Long Term Care
You may wish to use your own assets to privately pay for your care, in your home, an assisted living residence, or in a skilled nursing facility. If this is your decision, then no asset protection planning is necessary. When and if your assets are depleted, you can then take advantage of the Medicaid/MassHealth system. Alternately, under current law, you may wish to protect your assets from a nursing home by creating a Medicaid Asset Protection Irrevocable Trust or gifting your assets away five years in advance of entering a nursing home to qualify for the MassHealth Long Term Care program.
MassHealth Eligibility Requirements
MassHealth has stringent financial requirements. A single, unmarried applicant can have no more than $2,000 in “countable” assets to qualify. There are additional monetary concessions given to a married applicant’s spouse.
If a single, unmarried applicant has more than $2,000, they must spend that money toward the cost of healthcare, home repairs, or monthly bills until they spent down to $2,000. “Countable” assets generally include all belongings except for the following four items: (1) personal possessions, such as clothing, furniture, and jewelry; (2) one motor vehicle; (3) the applicant’s principal residence; and (4) a prepaid irrevocable funeral and burial.
Why You Should Prepare Early
While determining an applicant’s eligibility for MassHealth, under current law, the agency in charge looks at five years of financial records. If the agency finds that the applicant transferred a portion of their assets to someone other than their spouse, for less than fair market value within those five years, it will deny the application and impose a disqualification period as a penalty.
Our firm can help protect your assets, guide you in the proper asset spend down to qualify for services, or help you complete the complicated MassHealth Long Term Care application to avoid undue penalties or delays in the application process.
Many factors go into determining the best solution for a specific client. Every client situation is different, no matter what stage of planning you are in. It is wise to consult an Elder Law Attorney to help you determine which solutions will work best for your individual situation to reduce your long term care cost.
Guthro Law Can Help
Planning for MassHealth is very difficult for seniors and their families going it alone. Guthro Law has the experience and skill necessary to help. If you require the services of an elder care attorney, contact us today for a confidential consultation.
Noteworthy – Changes to Retirement Distributions Post Death
On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the SECURE Act: the first major law change regarding qualified retirement plan assets in almost two decades. The SECURE Act affects planning for required minimum distributions following the death of the owner of a retirement asset. The law now requires that the full retirement asset be distributed within 10 years, instead of the beneficiary’s lifetime. On a positive note, there are some exceptions to the 10-year rule, including distributions to spouses, disabled individuals, and Special Needs Trusts.
Wendy Guthro Presents at the Burlington Council on Aging
Wendy Guthro visited the Senior Center to present at the Burlington Council on Aging’s second Lunch & Learn series, “Spring into Action to Protect Your Money from a Nursing Home.” The program included a walk-through of what to expect when someone gets to the point of no longer being able to care for themselves. If you would like to watch the reply or learn more about the next event, click on the button below.
Wendy Guthro Joins Elder Law Attorneys at the 2022 NAELA Annual Conference
Along with 200 other Elder Law attorneys, Wendy Guthro attended the 2022 National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Annual Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The three-day symposium and tax school offered elder law and special needs attorneys educational programs designed to keep them abreast of changing legislation and help them sharpen their skills and knowledge to excel in their practice.
Highlights of the Chihuly in the Desert Exhibit
Here are a few of our favorite pieces from the Chihuly in the Desert exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. The glass pieces intertwined throughout the gardens were creative and a feast for the eyes. If you go, a visit around sunset is recommended in order to enjoy these fabulous blown glass pieces illuminated against the setting sun and Arizona landscape. It's incredible to see so much talent in these stunning and vibrant works of art.
Word of the Month
Intransigence definition, adjective:
having or showing an ability to understand difficult ideas and situations and to make good decisions
Student reviews paint the writing professor as a sagacious mentor and a compassionate teacher.
Do you have an idea for our next Word of the Month? Please send your suggestions to email@example.com.
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Attorney and Counsellor at Law
Seventeen Treetop Court Burlington, Massachusetts 01803 United States
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