Why You May Be Left Out of a Relative’s Meeting With an Elder Law Attorney

January 16, 2013

 

When you bring a family member or friend to meet with an elder law attorney, you might expect to sit in on the consultation. However, elder law attorneys need to meet with their clients alone for at least part of the consultation, so be prepared to spend time in the waiting room.

 

Although your instinct may be to sit in on your relative’s meeting with the attorney in order to help explain the relative’s situation, a new brochure from the American Bar Association explains why elder law attorneys need to meet with their clients without anyone else present. While elder law issues often involve lots of family members, usually the attorney can only represent one person without a conflict of interest arising. Even if you are the one paying the bill, the lawyer’s client — usually the older person — is going to be the person whose interests are at stake in the legal planning.

 

The attorney also has a duty to keep client information confidential, so he or she cannot give you information unless your relative agrees. Each client is different and the attorney needs to find out how much information the client wants shared.

 

One job of the elder law attorney is to assess a client’s competency. The attorney needs to know whether the client has the capacity to make decisions, and speaking privately with the client is the only way to make this determination. The attorney may need to check with you to get details, such as addresses or dates, but in general the attorney should be able to get most of the information from the client.

 

Keeping family members out of the discussion also helps to make it less likely the finished documents will be challenged. There are many cases where a family member is accused of having undue influence over someone in the making of a will or power of attorney. If you maintain some distance from the process, it is less likely that this will occur.

 

To read the brochure from the American Bar Association, click here.

 

To discuss elder law issues with an attorney, please call the Elder Law Center at 630-844-0065 or contact us via email. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.

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Key 2013 Dollar Limits for Medicaid Long-Term Care Coverage Released

January 3, 2013

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released the 2013 federal guidelines for how much money the spouses of institutionalized Medicaid recipients may keep and the limit on how much a home can be worth for its owner to still qualify for Medicaid.

In 2013, the spouse of a Medicaid recipient living in a nursing home (called the “community spouse”) may keep as much as $115,920 without jeopardizing the Medicaid eligibility of the spouse who is receiving long-term care. Called the “community spouse resource allowance,” this is the most that a state may allow a community spouse to retain without a hearing or a court order. While some states set a lower maximum, the least that a state may allow a community spouse to retain in 2013 will be $23,184.

Meanwhile, the maximum monthly maintenance needs allowance for 2013 will be $2,898. This is the most in monthly income that a community spouse is allowed to have if her own income is not enough to live on and she must take some or all of the institutionalized spouse’s income. The minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance – the income level below which a state may not allow a community spouse to fall if income from the institutionalized spouse is available — is $1,891.25 in the lower 48 states ($2,365 for Alaska and $2,176.25 for Hawaii).  This figure took effect July 1, 2012, and will not rise until July 1, 2013.

In determining how much income a particular community spouse is allowed to retain, states must abide by this upper and lower range. Bear in mind that these figures apply only if the community spouse needs to take income from the institutionalized spouse. According to Medicaid law, the community spouse may keep all her own income, even if it exceeds the maximum monthly maintenance needs allowance.

Home Equity Limits

Medicaid will not cover long-term care services for applicants whose homes are valued above a certain limit.  For 2013, that limit is $536,000, although states have the option of increasing this equity limit to $802,000. But the house may be kept with no equity limit if the Medicaid applicant’s spouse or another dependent relative lives there.

These new figures (except for the minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance) take effect on January 1, 2013.

For more on protections for the healthy spouse, click here.  For more on Medicaid’s asset rules, click here.

To discuss elder law issues with an attorney, please call the Elder Law Center at 630-844-0065 or contact us via email. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.