Impact of Stimulus Check on Medicaid Eligibility

Impact of Stimulus Check on Medicaid Eligibility

Impact of Stimulus Check on Medicaid Eligibility

If you recently received a stimulus check from the Federal Government as a result of the CARES Act, we are writing to let you know that the stimulus check does not count as income and is an exempt asset for a period of twelve months after it is received.

If you are currently receiving Medicaid coverage (a “Recipient”) and received a stimulus check from the Federal Government as a result of the CARES Act, you may be concerned with maintaining your eligibility. Medicaid’s asset rule requires the bank account of a Recipient to remain below $2,000 as of the first moment of the first date of each month to maintain eligibility. In addition to the asset rule, Recipients must also report all changes in monthly income to FSSA.

How will FSSA treat the stimulus checks that thousands of Recipients are receiving in their bank accounts or mailboxes?

The stimulus check is an exempt asset for a period of twelve months after it is received and will not immediately disrupt eligibility. The receipt of a stimulus check is considered a federal refund under FSSA’s Policy Manual and therefore will not immediately count as an available asset.

In addition, Medicaid’s income rule considers the individual’s monthly income in the calculation of the monthly liability amount payable to a nursing facility. The one-time stimulus payment is not considered income and will not result in a change to your monthly liability amount.

What does this mean for you?

While it remains critical that the balance in a Recipient’s bank account NEVER exceed $2,000 on the first day of any given month, the stimulus check deposited is not included in this balance. While you can now essentially keep up to $3,200 ($2,000 asset limit + $1,200 stimulus check) in your account without penalty, we strongly recommend maintaining accounts at a balance of approximately $1,500.00 to avoid any unforeseen errors.

If you have any questions about the information provided or obtaining Medicaid eligibility for yourself or a loved one, please contact our office for assistance.

 

New Smartphone App for Health Care Decision-makers

The American Bar Association has launched a new app to help keep key health care decision-making information close at hand. Mind Your Loved Ones is available in all app stores and allows the user to keep copies of health care documents, such as powers of attorney, health care consents, living wills, and POST (physician’s order on the scope of treatment) forms on their smartphones, along with lists of medications, doctors and insurance information. Because there is no limit to the number of profiles in the app, you can keep this important information for your spouse, children, parents, and any loved one you are caring for. Documents stored in the app can easily be shared via email, text, or fax. For more information on the Mind Your Loved Ones App visit the ABA website. 

Kahlyn N. Barcevic, Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP

Author: Kahlyn N. Barcevic is an estate planning, estate administration, and elder law associate at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP. Kahlyn helps clients with wills, trusts, special needs trusts, guardianships, powers of attorney, and long-term care planning including Medicaid planning.

You can contact Kahlyn by calling 574.232.3538 or by email kbarcevic@thklaw.com.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
What to do First? Estate Planning in a Crisis

What to do First? Estate Planning in a Crisis

Recent events have many people wondering whether their estate plan is sufficient or thinking about an estate plan if they don’t have one. One thing is certain. Today’s events show that estate planning isn’t something that you should put off until tomorrow. Everyone over the age of eighteen needs certain basic documents, such as financial and healthcare powers of attorney to authorize others to make decisions for them in the event that they become incapacitated.

Even through the current quarantine, attorneys and law firms are considered essential businesses so that we can be available to help. Most of the estate planning process can be handed remotely via video or phone conference and, during this health emergency, both. While we hope that all of our clients and friends stay safe and avoid this virus, if you do find yourself needing intensive care, the right documents can help you ensure that your chosen friends or family can advocate for your care and that your wishes will be honored.

A common misconception is that estate planning is a time consuming, complicated process. The right guide can take the panic out of the process. The job of an estate planning attorney is to understand your family and your assets and put together the right plan for you. In its most simplistic form, a plan needs three elements:

Who makes financial and/or healthcare decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself?
Who handles payment of your final expenses and the management of your estate?
How do you want your estate divided?

Although you may see debates about wills versus trusts and hear complicated terms like irrevocable trust or advance directives thrown around, an estate planning attorney can cut through the noise to the documents you need for your particular situation.

What about do-it-yourself online planning? In many respects, estate planning is like assembling a car. While you can follow instructions and do the basic assembly, the best way to be certain every part is in place and not worry about a breakdown is to have the help of an expert. In the case of your healthcare directives, if your chosen advisor should have any difficulties or questions, you have the security of knowing that they have a knowledgeable professional to turn to for advice and answers.

Contact our estate planning and elder law team with your questions at 574.232.3538. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all our attorneys are available to assist you via phone and virtual meetings. Print PDF (2 pages)

Author: Jennifer L. VanderVeen is a certified elder law attorney (CELA) at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP where she counsels clients on long term care planning, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits applications, guardianships, special needs trusts, and complex estate planning issues. Jennifer frequently speaks to community groups on caregiver responsibilities and caregiver burnout.

You can contact Jennifer by calling 574.232.3538 or by email jvanderveen@thklaw.com.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
Estate Planning & Elder Law Issues in Trying Times

Estate Planning & Elder Law Issues in Trying Times

Dear Clients and Friends,

Recent events have many people thinking about their estate planning documents and whether they and their family members are adequately covered. Despite the lockdown, the attorneys of Tuesley Hall Konopa stand ready to answer your questions or help you get a plan in place or revise the plan you have via video or teleconference.

Estate Planning

In a crisis situation, your estate planning points of focus should be as follows:

  • First, do I have the necessary documents in place to ensure my wishes are carried out in the event that I cannot communicate with my health care providers?
  • Second, if I am unable to make financial decisions or handle routine bill-paying tasks, is there someone authorized to take over and do they have the information that they need?
  • Third, for those who are caregivers for a family member or other loved one, is there a plan in place to ensure continuity of care for those individuals?
  • Finally, are my final wishes and my plan for the management and distribution of my estate clear and properly documented?

If you already have documents in place, now is the time for a quick read through to make sure they still meet your needs. If you can’t locate your copies, don’t worry. If we prepared them, we have them on file and can get copies to you. Make sure that you have communicated your plan with the appropriate people so that everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are.

If you do not have a plan in place, or if you have been sitting on draft documents that you just haven’t signed, we can help. While we are currently limiting in-office appointments to document signing meetings, we are continuing to hold meetings with new estate planning and elder law clients via video or teleconference.

Elder Law

As if the current pandemic wasn’t complicating life enough, effective March 1, our region began implementing a new case processing system for Medicaid applications. This is leading to increased delays in the Medicaid application process and more incorrect denials of eligibility. If you receive a denial notice that you believe is incorrect or are experiencing difficulties in the Medicaid application process, contact our office to see if we can assist with your situation.

Most, if not all, nursing home and assisted living facilities are currently on lockdown, either severely restricting visitors or banning them altogether. How can you be sure your loved one is getting the care they need and maintain contact with them? One option is to have an iPhone or an iPad delivered to the facility. You can have it pre-set up with FaceTime and if the facility has Wi-Fi, you can get the connection set up from the facility parking lot. Another option is the use of private home health aides. While some facilities are not allowing family members to visit, they may be allowing outside health care workers into the facility, and hiring someone to go in and check on your loved one periodically (and possibly help facilitate communication with the outside world) can help with your peace of mind.

Contact our estate planning and elder law team with your questions at 574.232.3538. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all our attorneys are available to assist you via phone and virtual meetings.

Print PDF ( 2 pages)

Author: Jennifer L. VanderVeen is a certified elder law attorney (CELA) at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP where she counsels clients on long term care planning, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits applications, guardianships, special needs trusts, and complex estate planning issues. Jennifer frequently speaks to community groups on caregiver responsibilities and caregiver burnout.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid

Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid

Whenever I tell people that I’m an elder law attorney, I usually get asked one question – “How is it ethical for people to take advantage of loopholes in the rules and protect their assets while qualifying for Medicaid to pay for nursing home care costs?

Recently, I was asked this question in a rather unusual context. New York Times columnist Ron Leiber has been writing a series of columns this summer focusing on issues of Medicaid, the middle class, and long-term care. He wanted to talk to me about how I justify helping families protect assets to qualify for a program that was intended to benefit the poor. Although the resulting column, which you can read here, gives a pretty good overview of the reasons people take steps to protect assets, there are a few more that didn’t make it into the column.

People are living longer and requiring longer nursing homestays. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the median nursing home stay in 1985 was 237 days at an average cost of care of around $80 per day. In 2004, the median nursing home stay had increased to 835 days at an average cost of $210 per day. Currently, families in our area can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $320 per day for long-term care.  When people who are in their 80’s today were retiring, they could not have anticipated the costs of care and length of stays we are seeing today.  They could not have predicted and planned for costs in excess of $10,000 per month.

Many of my clients are couples, where one person may need nursing home level of care while the other needs to continue to support him or herself in the community. Medicaid’s rules allow a spouse to keep a maximum of $120,000 in assets and may leave a spouse at home with as little as $2000 a month of income.  If a spouse has extraordinary living expenses, that might increase to $3,000 a month of income. So, if the well spouse needs assisted living costing $4,500 per month, plus insurance and prescriptions of another $500 per month, she can afford to pay for that care for about five years.  And this assumes that there is $3,000 per month of income to transfer to her, enough assets to make her limit the maximum of $120,000 and that her costs don’t increase at a greater rate than her income.

Once a person is on Medicaid in the nursing home, they are allowed to keep a minimal amount of money each month to cover any needs not covered by Medicaid. In Indiana, this amount is $52 per month. Michigan gives a more generous allowance of $60 per month.  This must cover haircuts, clothing, and anything else “extra” that a person needs. Medicaid has limits on how often it will pay for items like hearing aids, glasses, and dentures.  If those items are lost or damaged before Medicaid will cover them, the patient will need to use his or her meager monthly allowance to pay for these items. Asset protection allows nursing home patients to have the funds available to pay for necessities and for niceties that contribute to the quality of life.

Finally, we are beginning to see a shortage of Medicaid beds in this area. While it hasn’t reached the level that other areas of the state or country have seen, waitlists for Medicaid beds in some facilities can be months long.  If you are not eligible for Medicaid when a bed becomes available, you run the risk that a bed may not be there when you run out of funds.  You may be forced to move to a different facility to find an available bed.

Medicaid asset protection is more than just preserving an inheritance for the next generation.  It can be an essential part of preserving the dignity and quality of life for your loved ones. If your family members are facing long-term care needs in the near future, call (574) 232-3538 for an appointment.

Author: Jennifer L. VanderVeen is a certified elder law attorney (CELA) at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP where she counsels clients on long term care planning, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits applications, guardianships, special needs trusts, and complex estate planning issues. Jennifer frequently speaks to community groups on caregiver responsibilities and caregiver burnout.

You can contact Jennifer by calling 574.232.3538 or by email jvanderveen@thklaw.com.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
Take Your Health Care Wishes with You

Take Your Health Care Wishes with You

Your health care powers of attorney are one of the most important pieces of your estate plan, but in an emergency, they are only useful if they are accessible. A new smartphone app now lets you carry health care information for you and your loved ones with you wherever you go. The My Health Care Wishes app from the American Bar Association lets you store pdf versions of your health care power of attorney or appointment of health care representative along with the contact information for the individuals named in those documents. You can also store copies of any POST (Physician’s Orders on Scope of Treatment) forms, do not resuscitate orders, or your Five Wishes worksheet, if you have completed one.

If you are a caregiver for a parent or other family member, storing that person’s documents with this app means that they will always be available. In addition, you can store other important information such as medication lists, allergy information, and insurance information. Password protection within the app keeps your information secure, even if your phone is compromised.

The app will also remind you to review your information annually to make certain your wishes and medical data are still up to date. More information about the app is available at My Healthcare Wishes App.

For more information on health care powers of attorney, POST forms, or Five Wishes worksheets, contact the estate planning attorneys at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP.

Call 574.232.3538 to make an appointment to talk to one of our estate planning and elder law team.

Author: Jennifer L. VanderVeen is a certified elder law attorney (CELA) at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP where she counsels clients on long term care planning, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits applications, guardianships, special needs trusts, and complex estate planning issues. Jennifer frequently speaks to community groups on caregiver responsibilities and caregiver burnout.

You can contact Jennifer by calling 574.232.3538 or by email jvanderveen@thklaw.com.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
Tax Reform & Charitable Gift Planning

Tax Reform & Charitable Gift Planning

Much has already been written this fall since the House and Senate tax reform proposals were made public. What final form these bills will take when reconciled, or whether it passes at all, remains to be seen, but from what is known already there are plenty of planning considerations to make, some of which may impact individual taxpayer decisions before year-end.

In particular, I want to focus on the proposal to double the standard deduction, and the impacts such a change might have on charitable giving. For many Americans who itemize, the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for state and local taxes, the medical expenses deductions, and the charitable deduction are often some of, if not the, most significant components of their Schedule A. Setting aside the first three for now, which are themselves also in the crosshairs for major changes or outright eradication, the tax advantage of the charitable deduction would decrease, and possibly evaporate entirely, for many charitably-minded taxpayers. One clear consequence of the doubling of the standard deduction would be a large reduction in the number of taxpayers who itemize, especially in combination with the reduced availability of other key deductions. Consequently, fewer annual charitable gifts will result in income tax deductibility for donors.

Now, it is probably fair to say that most folks who give to charity do not do so primarily for the tax benefits, and it may well be that the diminution of the charitable deduction’s tax benefits would not matter one whit to many donors. But, tax policy is more than just revenue, it has also long been used to incentivize certain behaviors we have elected as a society to favor, such as homeownership, capital investment, and, of course, charitable giving, to name but a few. The proposed changes would shift the calculus for many donors, not necessarily whether to give, but instead how and when they give. In my mind, the proposed changes to the deduction regime will likely lead to less annual giving, perhaps substantially so.

Instead of annual giving, taxpayers may consider shifting their giving to other strategies, such as qualified charitable distributions from IRAs, bequests at death, or other planned giving vehicles like charitable trusts or gift annuities. In particular, the comparative value of the qualified charitable distribution from an IRA (only available to taxpayers who are over age 70 ½), where a principal directs their IRA administrator to distribute their annual required minimum distribution directly to charity rather than to the principal (thereby avoiding income taxation on the RMD amount, but bypassing the charitable deduction), will increase dramatically if the proposed changes take effect. This will be compounded to an extraordinary degree if the stretch IRA rules also end up on the chopping block, as rumored, as will charitable giving at death through IRA beneficiary designations.

Charitable organizations need both annual giving and planned giving to survive and to thrive. These changes could shift the balance in ways that will have charitable organizations scrambling to adjust their fundraising and financial management. It will also change the calculus for individual charitable giving in ways that ought to be given thought. In the meantime, while we all wait to see what the final tax reform package will look like, on the eve of such changes, individual taxpayers would do well to consider (and consult their advisors on the advisability of) possibly front-loading their annual giving.

Adam S. Russell, Estate Planning & Administration Attorney, Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP

Author: Adam S. Russell is an estate planning attorney at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP. Practice areas include trust and estate planning, estate administration, tax planning, charitable planning, and charitable trusts, trust funding, special needs trusts and supplemental needs trusts, prenuptial agreements, and probate. Additionally, Adam is licensed to practice in both Indiana and Michigan and regularly meets with clients in our South Bend, Elkhart and Cassopolis offices.

You can contact Adam by calling 574.232.3538 or by email arussell@thklaw.com.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.