The term “Elder Law” has a myriad of possible definitions. I view the practice of Elder Law as taking a holistic approach to address all of an elderly client’s legal concerns. These concerns include:
- Providing a client with estate planning documents that are specifically designed to deal with the legal issues that are unique to seniors;
- Explaining the complex eligibility rules for government benefits in a way that the client can understand;
- Discussing the various options the client has in planning for long-term care;
- Planning for the possibility of incapacity in the future due to illness or injury so that trusted family members can manage your affairs for you.
If any or all of these elder law issues are a concern, then I can sit down with you and your family members, either in my office or in the comfort of your own home, to discuss your options, the pro’s and con’s of each option, and recommend a course of action.
A Family Process
I understand that the majority of my elderly clients rely heavily on close family members, and so the elder law planning process is usually a process that the family must go through together. I believe that, in most cases, an effective approach to elder law issues should include the involvement of key family members and I welcome their input and participation.
Should we Transfer the House?
Transfer of real estate is the most common question that families have when there is a possibility that an elderly family member may need nursing home care in the foreseeable future. A home is usually the elder’s biggest asset and there may be a great deal of emotional value to the house. There is often a deep fear among family members that the house will be lost to the nursing home.
This is not a transfer that should be taken lightly. There are several important issues that must be considered, including tax-related ramifications, Medicaid eligibility, whether or not a “life use” interest should be retained and landlord-tenant law issues. I can meet with the family and facilitate a comprehensive discussion about all the benefits and risks of changing ownership of a house in order to protect it from a Medicaid spend-down. If the conclusion is that ownership of the house should be transferred, I can assist the family with the actual transfer by preparing the deed and recording it on the town land records.