Legal Tip of the Week – 2/10/17!

Time and again I get the same type of call – an elderly individual tells me that their spouse was admitted to a facility several years ago, which they were paying for privately, but now the money has run out.  They tell me they need someone to help file a Medicaid application for their ill-spouse, but are concerned there may not be sufficient funds to cover the attorney’s costs.  While I am sure this must be an agonizing call to make for that individual, it is equally upsetting for attorneys like me who practice in this space. Although we genuinely want to help these families more than anything else, we often have to turn these vulnerable seniors away because we can’t afford to take on any more pro bono cases. These individuals often end up choosing less expensive services, who may not be able to give them the specialized guidance and legal advice that they need.

Every time I get a call like this, the one thing that crosses my mind is: had this individual consulted a specialized elder law attorney before their loved one was admitted to a facility, there may have been ways to ensure that the Community Spouse (or the well-spouse) had enough money to live on for the duration of his or her life, to get the ill-spouse eligible for Medicaid, and to even protect some of their hard-earned assets for their children.

An esteemed colleague of mine used to say “you should not buy flood insurance after a flood”. Similarly, in elder law, it is prudent to explore the myriad of options available to harness both public and private resources, so we can help our elderly before it’s too late.