Frequently Asked Elder Law Questions
What is Elder Law?
Elder law is defined by the people it serves – the elderly and the disabled. It is a practice of law that is has no solid definition because the issues and concerns of the people it serves are broad and varied. An elder law attorney might be facing a landlord-tenant question in the morning and a nursing home issue in the afternoon. The point is that the concerns and issues the elder law attorney faces are the concerns and issues of the elder and disabled communities. Because of this, elder law is present in almost every field of the law.
Because elder law is multi-faceted, finding a full-service firm in Bangor and in the state of Maine that can properly handle an elder law case from the ground up is very important. Our estate planning attorneys can help clients craft estate plans, MaineCare plans, or Veteran’s Benefits plans that will help not only to preserve the assets the elders have, but also to make those assets last longer and more efficiently throughout the elder’s lifetime. Our office will also assist with MaineCare nursing home planning, MaineCare applications, and will see the family through the hurdles of the MaineCare application process.
Our attorneys can assist our elder clients with landlord-tenant concerns, guardianship or conservatorships (both contested and uncontested), Social Security Disability claims, nursing home negligence claims, and personal injury claims, to name just a few.
What is the most common Elder Law issue in Bangor and across the state of Maine?
The most common and frequent elder law concern brought to our office is how to qualify for, apply for, or plan for the need for nursing home level care. Most come to us because they want to know more about MaineCare, how it works, and how they can protect their property.
Our office is experienced in emergency and non-emergency MaineCare application planning. We are up-to-date on the latest changes in the law and practice.
We are happy to meet with you to begin the MaineCare planning process, or to simply answer questions you may have about expectations now that someone in your life needs nursing home level care.
I heard the state of Maine can take my house. Is that true?
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as it might seem. To get a better idea why that is, it is important to know what MaineCare is and what it does.
MaineCare is a public benefit that one can receive if he or she is medically and financially qualified that helps to cover the high financial burden of long-term nursing home level care. MaineCare will pay the nursing home expenses of a person who meets those medical and financial requirements. To offset those high costs, the assets of a MaineCare recipient may be subject to an action by the Department of Health and Human Services called Estate Recovery. This action allows the Department to reimburse itself for a portion, or all, of its costs incurred in paying for the MaineCare recipient’s care. That reimbursement usually comes in the form of a claim against the MaineCare recipient’s estate after his or her death. If the family home is part of the estate, and there is no exemption to the rules that might be used to preserve the home, then the home can be used to reimburse the State for its expenses.
There are, of course, certain exemptions to the Estate Recovery rule. Whether any of these exemptions could apply to your situation is very case specific and would require a meeting with one of our attorneys.
How do I know when it is time to talk to an attorney?
If you or a family member are facing a long-term medical diagnosis for which nursing home level care is a possibility, you can begin the early planning process by coming in and talking to an attorney.
If a family member is already in nursing home level care, talking to an attorney might make the MaineCare application process easier and could take stress off of the supporting family.
If you are approaching the age of retirement or are recently retired and you are afraid that your assets will not be there for you or your spouse’s needs in the event of the need for nursing home care, pre-planning can help to alleviate many of your concerns.
If you are in a crisis situation and you need help with an application as soon as possible, it is important to talk to an attorney so that the application is filed timely and correctly.
Nursing homes advocate very strongly for newly admitted patients to make MaineCare applications, even if the patient will not qualify. A premature application can be very damaging to any future MaineCare applications. The nursing homes know how to apply for MaineCare, but they do not know how to protect assets and eligibility for future applications, so it is important that you speak to an elder law attorney before making a MaineCare application.
How does Gross, Minsky & Mogul, P.A. meet most of our Elder Law clients?
Our elder law clients usually come to us one of two ways: either they previously did their estate plan with our office and are now in need of nursing home level care, or they are referred to us by community members who see that the client is at that point of needing to learn more about MaineCare. Our clients are sometimes the person facing the nursing home level care medical diagnosis, but our clients are, most often, the family members.
What can I do now if I am not ready to start planning?
First, prepare your estate plan. Get a financial power of attorney and an advance health care directive. Take care of your Will. Have the hard conversations with your family about your needs, wishes, and desires for a time when you are ill or after you have died. Without the financial power of attorney, emergency MaineCare planning is almost impossible.
If you have any questions, or if you are unsure about whether it is time to think about these issues, please come in and talk to us. We offer one hour consultations where we are happy to answer any questions we can.