Applying for Medicaid: How Can An Elder Law Attorney Help
Yes, you can obtain the forms necessary to apply for Medicaid on your own. However, should you fill out the application form yourself or seek professional advice? Let's keep in mind that can does not always equal should.
While it may not be a bad idea to get a copy of the necessary forms, only to see what kind of information they require in order to process your application, when dealing with an overworked, understaffed government agency with confusing rules and regulations, we recommend seeking advice from someone who can ensure an approval.
After all, we are talking about an approval saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and a denial costing your family $120,000 per year plus the family savings and possibly the home.
Medicaid forms, gifting, eligibility and penalty periods
Most likely you will certainly be able to complete the forms yourself if you are able to understand the questions but more importantly, you may not understand the impact of the questions or what the state is really trying to find out. For example, the form will ask you if you have made any gifts or other transfers of assets within the last 60 months. What the state really wants to know is, [are you are subject to a penalty for having made any such transfers of $500 or more]. If so, the penalty may bar you from receiving Medicaid benefits for a certain number of months. This is calculated by dividing the total value of the transferred assets by your states penalty divisor rate (which is published by your state each year).
But wait, are you familiar with the various exceptions to the penalty? And if so, will you be able to argue that such exceptions apply in your case, thereby avoiding any penalty?
If you have made transfers within the past 60 months, you may be better off not applying for Medicaid until after the 60-month period following your most recent transfer [depending upon the transfer amount and whether or not the transfer issue can be cured]. You'll have to ask yourself if you are able to calculate and determine these issues?
In addition, if you have titled a joint bank account with your children, there are different ways the Medicaid agency will determine these circumstances. Will the account be deemed an immediate transfer to the child or not?
If you are married, there are completely different rules regarding the treatment of joint assets, including your home.
Should you transfer assets to the at-home spouse now or after applying for Medicaid? Not sure? Most are not.
Timing is everything
Applying too early or too late can cost you and your family many thousands of dollars. Applying too early may result in a longer period of ineligibility or a denial [it's best to determine complete eligibility first]. Filing an application too late means that you and your family would miss out on months of Medicaid coverage [and possibly owe tens of thousands of dollars to a nursing facility].
Should you hire an elder law attorney?
So, unless you are 100% sure that your situation is completely without the possibility of any complications* you should without any hesitation consult the input of an experienced attorney , specifically one that specializes in Medicaid planning to evaluate your eligibility to apply for Medicaid. The attorney should conduct a complete financial resource assessment to include all of your assets, how your house and any bank or investment accounts are titled, review any transfers or gifts that you may have made within the last 60 months and then suggest a plan of action to get you qualified for Medicaid much sooner than if you simply spend down your money until it is gone.
Note: it is not illegal for someone other than an attorney to assist you with the application, as long as you request them to do so. Although, you may not want them to assist with advice on how to protect your family's assets.
That being said, even most attorneys are not competent to offer assistance in this very narrow area of specialization. If you decide that your situation warrants having an attorney help you, be sure to look for an elder law attorney with specific training and experience in the area of Medicaid planning and application processing for your state.
Help from the proper attorney will ensure that:
- your eligibility will be determined properly
- an approval is granted
- your family's hard earned savings and assets, including your home, will be protected [as much as possible] and passed on to your family
* very, very few applications will not have any complications. An application without any potential issues is mostly limited to those who are already on government assistance and have not owned property in the past 5 years.
Have questions about Medicaid planning and Long Term Care Planning? Contact us today, we'll ensure that you're guided through the maze properly.
Medicaid Plus, P.C 855.471.6771