A few years ago I had a family come see me. They did not have a terribly unusual situation, but had some good goals in mind. I had a good but complicated plan outlined for them. At the end of the meeting, I had the feeling they were just “fishing” for information.
Long term planning, and especially trying to qualify for Medicaid, is very involved. The rules are foreign. Many times I tell clients there are several different kinds of “laws”: the Constitution; federal laws; state laws; regulations; and IRS laws. And then there is Medicaid.
To say Medicaid is difficult is an understatement. Many of the “rules” of Medicaid are not actually rules at all; many times they are internal policies that end up acting with the force of a rule or a law.
Many of my clients come from a background of self-sufficiency. As an office we stress to our clients the need to spend money to take care of themselves now, both from a healthcare standpoint and from a planning standpoint. Sometimes they decide to do it on their own.
Back to the family that came to see me a few years ago. While their goal was to protect the land and home, they decided to try to do it on their own. They ended up applying for Medicaid, only to be denied and now owe the nursing home almost $100,000, with an eviction notice being served on them.
Their only recourse is to start selling the home and farm. And when they do, particularly as to the farm, they are going to end up paying taxes.
It is particularly frustrating to me. I designed a plan for the family that would have helped them avoid being in such a difficult situation. Their loved one that is in the nursing home now has the added pressure of a possible eviction.
Sometimes when a family does not hire me, I feel guilty. I feel like somehow I did not express to them how important and how helpful our services would be.
I know that what we do as elder law attorneys may seem confusing and difficult. But when it comes to long term care, I always urge families that if they do not want to hire me, to go talk with another elder law attorney. I just want them to get help. I know there are too many traps out there.
Do not waste an opportunity to find help. Do not try to do it on your own.
Randy Clinkscales founded Clinkscales Elder Law Practice in 1985. He is a 1980 graduate of Washburn Law School.