When people in Florida come talk to us about creating an elder law plan, or have questions about elder law issues, they often have questions that involve one or more common elder law myths. Elder law is an area of the law with which not many people are familiar. Compounding this, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there that a lot of people genuinely believe and portray as correct. Whenever you have a question or concern about an elder law topic, it’s important to speak to an experienced Florida elder law lawyer. Until then, here are a couple of common elder law myths about elder law that you might have heard.
Common Elder Law Myth 1. I’m married, so I don’t need to give my spouse the right to manage my affairs.
One of the most important documents that people create when they create an estate plan or an elder law plan is the power of attorney. Through a properly drafted power of attorney, you give someone else the authority to manage your affairs when you are no longer able. This is of special importance to people as they grow older because the aging process naturally leaves us with a decreased ability to look after our own affairs.
However, when married couples consider who they want to manage their affairs for them should they become incapacitated, they naturally assume that their spouses will be able to take on this role. While this is true in many circumstances, it’s not guaranteed. Further, your spouse might similarly lose capacity when you need that person to step in.
In other words, even if you are married, you need to take the time to create powers of attorney that will ensure that your affairs will be handled responsibly if you lose the ability to do so yourself.
Common Elder Law Myth 2. I can leave my house to my children and still use Medicaid to pay for long-term care.
This is one of the more potentially damaging common elder law myths. Medicaid is a government program that pays for long-term care expenses for people who qualify. However, you cannot simply apply for Medicaid and expect it to pay for your nursing home or other long-term care expenses. In order to qualify, you have to meet some stringent asset restriction eligibility criteria.
When people hear of these eligibility criteria, they naturally assume that they can transfer their assets to others and then qualify for Medicaid. While this is a sound strategy if you plan ahead, Medicaid imposes a five-year asset transfer restriction. In other words, if you apply for Medicaid and have had assets that have been in excess of the eligibility amount within the past five years, you will not qualify.
To take advantage of Medicaid you need to develop a Medicaid plan as soon as possible so you can structure your assets in a way that will allow you to qualify for the program.