More formality may be better with intergenerational households

As elder law attorneys, our clients have presented us with many difficult situations involving adult children or grandchildren who live in their houses. Sometimes a child has run into some hard times and sees the parent’s home as an economical option; the child may move into his parent’s house along with his spouse and children. Sometimes the child just never became self-sufficient and never made any plan to move out. The adult child may or may not be disabled. Sometimes the expenses are being shared to a degree, but often the parent pays for most of the expenses. The parent may be wrestling with a feeling of obligation, and the child may have a feeling of entitlement. The child may feel that they are “taking care of the parent,” yet the actual need for care or the work being done may be imprecise and doubted by others in the family.

The longer the arrangement lasts, the more difficult it can be for the parent to move on. The dynamic can really change when there are other children who are upset at the arrangement. The parent’s financial security may get on edge. Things can particularly blow up when the parent has to hire a caregiver or wants to sell the house in order to downsize or move to assisted living or nursing home.  How can all of these competing interests be managed? How will the house be sold, and where will the child go?

Aging parents who are still supporting their adult children may want to do some careful planning. They need to consider what will happen to them if they need their funds for care but their child is counting on all of that ongoing financial support. There are many issues to consider. Should they charge actual rent? Should there be a written lease that specifies that occupancy only continues of the occupancy fees are paid? Should they put restrictions on the child’s behavior so that the parent’s peaceful residence isn’t disturbed? A parent may want to put a provision in his or her Will that allocates some extra amount for the dependent child so that at the parent’s death, there are extra funds for relocation. By putting protective provisions into the estate plan, the parent may be able to provide better protections than counting on other family members to honor the parent’s verbal “wishes.” It may not work well to just assume that the whole family will be able to work out an agreement to support the dependent one after mom or dad passes on.

At some point, should the parent insist that the child move out, but agree to pay for the alternate housing for some period of time? What if the house is going to be sold. Does the parent want to give the child written, enforceable rights to remain in the house for a certain amount of time under certain terms & conditions if the parent dies or moves out? How will that impact the parent’s well-being, or the ability of their Executor to wrap up the estate after death? Will the child need a new guardian or life care planner?

Call us for legal advice on developing a family well being plan … 732-382-6070

There’s no “income cap” anymore for Medicaid long term benefits

When I first started filing Medicaid applications for my clients back in 1995, a person who needed long-term care services in the home or assisted living but had run out of money could not even apply for Medicaid if their gross monthly income was higher than the “income cap.” Of course, the income cap was well below the amount that was needed to pay for care, which meant that a lot of people couldn’t receive necessary services. Basically it meant that many people who would have done well in a community environment with a home health aide and other support ended up moving into a nursing home, because that was the only setting where Medicaid would pay for them. Or they had to do without care or cobble together a plan in which family members took care of them.

Finally, in 2014 when the State’s Comprehensive Medicaid Waiver went into effect, the income cap was eliminated as a bar to receipt of community & assisted living services. There is a special procedure that the applicant has to use, because the income has to be funneled through a structure called a Qualified Income Trust (QIT), but at least the person can now apply for Medicaid benefits. You can read more about QIT’s in our earlier blogs.

We continue to meet people who haven’t heard this good news. If your family is struggling with how to arrange and pay for long term care, call us for legal advice regarding Medicaid eligibility that fits your specific situation.

For personalized advice about a Medicaid plan call … 732-382-6070

Feeding the Patient is Part of the Plan of Care

What can you do if your loved one can’t feed himself but the nursing home staff just keep leaving the tray on his table? The Nursing Home Reform Act Residents’ Rights 42 CFR Ä 483 requires that provision of adequate nutrition be part of the services provided to all nursing home residents. The facility must provide adequate services to “attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident, as determined by resident assessments and individual plans of care.” Dietary Services must be included in the Medicaid or medicare daily rate and cannot be billed to the patient separately, and this includes feeding. The facility must provide special equipment if that is what a resident needs to be able to feed him or herself, and in lieu of other certified staff dietary aides, a nursing home may employ a paid trained Feeding Assistants to take care of feeding certain patients who have non-complex feeding needs: ” (i) A facility must ensure that a feeding assistant provides dining assistance only for residents who have no complicated feeding problems.(ii) Complicated feeding problems include, but are not limited to, difficulty swallowing, recurrent lung aspirations, and tube or parenteral/IV feedings.”

I was responsible as legal Guardian for the care of a fellow who was confined to his bed in a nursing home for the last few months of his life due to various illnesses and weaknesses. When I would visit him, I often saw that his meal tray was on his table, the containers were opened, and spoonfuls of food were on the floor or on his bed or on himself. It was apparent that he could no longer hold his spoon. He was rapidly losing weight. The patient insisted that he could feed himself and didn’t need help, but clearly he wasn’t getting the nutrition he needed. Or he’d say he wasn’t hungry – clearly not true, as he ate eagerly when I fed him. I had a discussion with the case manager and they began assigning someone to sit with him and feed him and encourage him to eat.

The family of a nursing home resident is not responsible to feed their frail loved one. This is the facility’s legal duty. Call for a care planning meeting and address this with them if you are told that there “aren’t enough staff” or “not enough time” or “the family needs to do it” or “the patient keeps refusing.”

Call for legal advice about the rights of residents of nursing homes … 732-382-6070

Don’t count on the Medicaid representative at the County Board to remind you to Spend Down

An application for Medicaid benefits cannot be approved before the applicant (and spouse, if any) has completed the spend-down, because benefits are not payable unless the applicant is financially eligible. It is not uncommon for someone to initiate an application for Medicaid without having any idea whether they are eligible or not. The nursing home may start the process; a nonattorney representative may start the process; a hospital social worker may suggest that  they apply. They may leave the intake interview with a List of Required Documents, but not be told that they have to spend down to “X” level before the application can be processed. Sometimes, months go by and the hapless applicant is running up nursing home bills without actually being Medicaid eligible because they didn’t “spend down.”

Despite the fact that the regulations of the State Medicaid Manual  at N.J.A.C. 10:71-2.2(c) specifically obligate the County Welfare Board to assist the applicant in this process, all government agencies are reticent to provide advisory opinions on what measures will comply with a program’s rules. There may be substantial opportunities to shelter assets for the family, but the CWA cannot be counted on to provide that sort of advice. Also, given the huge volume of cases, there may be many procedural tangles that prevent the applicant from receiving necessary advice through the CWA. Unfortunately, if the applicant sits back and waits for guidance, they may discover that they and their spouse are incurring tremendous financial obligations that they have no good way to pay.

The spend-down may be a combination of expenditures, exempt transfers and replacement of existing assets. The math is precise and until the spend-down is completed, there can be no eligibility. By getting individual legal advice early in the process, an applicant can take advantage of the opportunities that the rules provide to protect his family and achieve eligibility at the soonest possible time.

Call for representation regarding Medicaid eligibility spend down planning …. 732-382-6070

Watch out for Transfer Inheritance Tax when you do your estate planning

Most of the publicity in the news concerning changes to New Jersey’s “death tax” has focused on its raising of the estate tax thresholds. Now, if a person dies and has less than two million dollars in his or her estate, there will be no estate tax regardless of who is receiving that bounty. Not so for the Transfer Inheritance tax, which is based on the relationship of the recipient to the deceased person.  Inheritance by a lineal ancestor or descendant — parent, child, grandchild, even a step-child — incurs no inheritance tax. Same goes for inheritance by the spouse. All of these people are considered to be “Class A Beneficiaries.” However, tax will be imposed to some extent on inheritance by others — brothers & sisters (“Class C”), nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, aunts, uncles, and even the grandchildren of step-children (“Class D”). This means that careful planning must be done.

To avoid delays in estate administration, the executor may need cash to pay the inheritance tax when some of the folks inheriting under a Will or through a non-probate arrangement such as a Pay on Death account are not Class A beneficiaries. If all of the assets are tied up in a non-probate format [either/or accounts, joint accounts, pay on death, or other beneficiary designations) this will cause obvious problems. Delay in payment of tax can cause interest and penalties to accrue. The recipient of the “joint” account may not cooperate to provide cash to the estate for the tax.

If the non-Class A recipient is receiving his/her inheritance pursuant to the Will, the Will should specify whether the tax is to be drawn out of that bequest or should be just rolled into the taxes and expenses that are paid from the residue of the estate. Precise drafting of the Will is so important, so that the intentions of the deceased are known.  We always say that “careful planning can prevent a crisis,” and careful drafting can avoid time, expense, and battles when it comes to estate administration.

Call for advice concerning estate planning and estate administration ….

732-382-6070