Happy old couple

“So don’t give away your money. There are other things you can do ahead of time. Talk to an elder law attorney to make sure you are maximizing your dollars, that you can still give your kids some kind of inheritance and still go into a skilled nursing home on Medicaid.”

A recent article in Hometown Life article, titledPlan ahead to assure secure future for aging parents, stressed the importance of planning ahead for elderly parents who are or may become physically or mentally unable to care for themselves. This process should include two important documents: a power of attorney—which can give an adult child legal authority to act on behalf of elderly parents with financial matters—and a patient advocate designation—to help them in medical matters. By starting early, children and their parents can work together to create these documents.

The article also answers questions on a few other topics:

What about putting your name on your parents’ bank accounts?

Children should not be joint owners, because you’ll be subjecting your parents’ assets to all of your liabilities, causing issues for future benefits. The government is more likely to scrutinize a joint account if the parent applies for Medicaid when transitioning to a skilled nursing facility. Instead, a signed financial power of attorney allows an adult child to pay bills, sign checks, and help the parent with other financial matters—without the need for joint bank accounts.

Who pays when an elderly parent, on Medicare, needs rehab in a skilled nursing center?

Medicare may pay 100 percent of the first 20 days. After that, Medicare may pay 80 percent, and supplemental insurance may pay the other 20 percent of the bill. There is a 100-day Medicare benefit, but not everyone qualifies. You also need to have a 30-day wellness period outside the hospital or a skilled nursing center for that benefit to reset. For example, if the parent leaves the facility on Day 20—but returns the next week—they start where they left off at Day 21 because they didn’t have a 30-day wellness period.

Should I give any money away if considering entering a skilled nursing home (with Medicaid)?

No, Medicaid will examine the past five years of your finances when you apply for coverage. If you have given money away, you could be severely penalized with long periods of ineligibility and you may not get Medicaid even if you have zero dollars.

Reference: Hometown Life (January 23, 2015) Plan ahead to assure secure future for aging parents

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.