Estate planning with an Elder Law attorney at Lawvex is a must if you or your elder parent’s medical needs create eligibility for public benefits such as Medi-Cal or Veterans’ Aid and Attendance.

Here are three things to consider before you commit to Medi-Cal or VA benefits applications:

  1. Your senior care facility is not an estate planning expert. Skilled nursing care facilities priority is getting paid. They may have a staff person that helps residents complete application forms but they are not the right person to analyze the effect of Medi-Cal or VA planning on your plan and the best way to protect assets for your family. We educate you on what all of your options are and the risks and benefits of each one so you can make an informed choice.
  2. You may not have to “spend down” to become eligible. Spend down eliminates the assets forever. We use legal tools to do asset protection and move assets to family or to a special trust to hold those assets so your family can still receive an inheritance.
  3. It is usually a very bad idea to add your children on title to your house or bank account as a “signor”. This is a common and disastrous idea that we have seen many times. Adding children, or other family, on title to your house can cause tens of thousands in unnecessary taxes when they go to sell someday. Adding children, or others, on your bank account can make your “signor” an unintended owner so that account is available to that person’s debts, creditors and even bankruptcy. We use legal tools to allow family to be a true “signor” without being an owner.

Why use a lawyer for Medi-Cal or VA benefits?

  1. Applying for Medi-Cal or VA benefits is a part of and has a huge impact on your estate plan. Everyone has an “estate”. You don’t have to be wealthy to be smart and protect and preserve what you have. Public benefits are “needs based” which means to be eligible to receive them, you must show that your estate size is below certain limits. Applying for benefits without considering the effect on your estate is a huge mistake.
  2. Lawyers provide more and better options. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding Medi-Cal and VA benefits. Skilled nursing facilities prefer private-pay clients because they make more money. Insurance agents see an opportunity to liquidate your estate in exchange for an annuity that pays the agent a large commission. Non-lawyers can not advise you about your legal rights because they are not licensed to.
  3. Lawyers are often not the most expensive option. Really. There are many insurance agents, financial advisors, CPAs and others that charge flat fees of $7,000 – $9,000 to perform “asset protection” or “wealth transfer planning” which is often a scam because they are not licensed to practice law and the fee is completely unrelated to the work involved. At Lawvex, we are estate planning experts, our fees vary based on the work you select after being informed of all your options and you only pay for what we actually do. Our fees for benefits planning generally start with a $1,500 retainer and typically do not exceed $5,000 for complete planning services.
  4. Lawyers are licensed and experienced with all aspects of estate planning, probate and Medi-Cal recovery. Lawyers are the only professionals licensed to provide you with the advice and the legal tools necessary for real asset protection and wealth transfer. We have seen and handled the whole estate picture from beginning to end: from planning, to probate, to trust administration and even successfully battling against the Department of Health Care Services in Court to reduce or eliminate Medi-Cal recovery claims. Can your insurance guy say that?
  5. Lawyers can accelerate your eligibility for benefits with estate planning. We can ensure you are eligible for public benefits and that your assets are maximized and protected from “spend down” now and in the future with our estate planning legal tools.
  6. Lawyers can create asset protection tools to prevent Medi-Cal estate recovery claims from being filed after you pass away. Our Elder Law services are ideal for those caring for an elder parent with serious medical issues that may require skilled nursing facility care, and our military veterans with medical needs and service record eligibility for VA benefits. If assets are transferred the right way, using the proper legal tools, they are exempt from a post-death Medi-Cal recovery claim from the Department of Health Care Services.

Before you commit to anyone to apply for Medi-Cal or VA benefits, give us a call and meet with one of our trust and estates attorneys. Contact us here to see how we can assist you during this stressful time.