What is the average cost of using an attorney to help with Medicaid benefits?

What is the average cost of using an attorney to help with Medicaid benefits?

The average cost could run the gamut depending on various factors. The key is to make sure you work with a qualified elder attorney. Once you have an assessment and evaluation from a qualified elder attorney where you live, you will receive advice on the next steps and range or estimate of legal fees. They may even charge a flat fee for this type of work. Various scenarios may arise that lay out the level of importance an elder law attorney can play. 

One scenario exists when we have a 90-year-old older woman with dementia going into a nursing home. She is entirely impoverished, with little to no assets whatsoever. She does not own a home, automobile, or retirement assets. She may have a few thousand dollars, twenty or thirty thousand dollars at the most, in her savings or checking account. In this scenario, the family may work with a Medicaid specialist who can apply for Medicaid on their behalf. They can even look at permissible spend downs to get that twenty or thirty thousand dollar estate down to less than two thousand dollars to meet the Medicaid eligibility threshold.

Permissible spend downs could be examples, such as entering into an irrevocable funeral contract. These contracts can be purchased for up to fifteen thousand dollars. Another spend down is paying for any medical expenses or bills. However, she cannot gift money away at this juncture in her life because that would trigger a penalty period with Medicaid. This could disqualify or delay the ability to qualify for Medicaid benefits. In this scenario, an attorney may be helpful, but not as necessary as the below scenario.

In scenario 2, a married couple may be seeking Medicaid assistance. One individual is disabled and incapacitated with dementia. The other is currently writing out a monthly check for fourteen thousand dollars for the care. The doctors say there is longevity, which could be another two or three years in the nursing home. If this is true, over three years, the spouse could be spending up to $540,000. The couple does have significant assets, such as a home and $300,000-$500,000 in qualified retirement accounts.

Although they may not be millionaires, they have a reasonably significant estate. Therefore, they should strongly consider working with a qualified elder law attorney. The attorney can help them properly qualify for Medicaid benefits, including filling out and submitting a Medicaid application. The application is relatively robust, and if you check the wrong or incorrect box or submit inaccurate information, it likely can delay your eligibility for Medicaid.

In either scenario, you do not want to delay applying for Medicaid. The more you delay your eligibility for Medicaid benefits, the more it will cost. If you are already paying $15,000 per month, as in the second scenario, the sooner the application gets approved, the sooner you stop paying out-of-pocket. This also makes filling out the application correctly even more critical. If things are delayed by two or three months, this equates to $30,000-$45,000. By the third month, if the application still needs to be approved because they’re not crossing the T’s and not dotting the I’s appropriately, it will dig into their private assets at a very high rate. 

Another matter especially in the second scenario is having an elder law attorney do estate planning for the couple. Depending on testamentary capacity, a durable financial power of attorney can provide legal authority to the spouse to step in and manage all the financial affairs.

A Medicaid will or Medicaid trust can also be created to avoid a situation where the spouse predeceases the incapacitated spouse, who then receives the assets. For example, you would not want the incapacitated spouse in a nursing home to acquire assets and affect her continued eligibility or allow Medicaid to make a state recovery and recover some of those assets for the state. Again, this makes having that elder law attorney extremely helpful and valuable. 

If you are in a scenario more like the second, there is a potential cost of $10,000-$18,000. This can depend on the level and the scope of work that an elder law attorney may need to do to help with Medicaid eligibility. However, the key is to get qualified for Medicaid benefits in the shortest possible time to avoid costly delays and engage in proper estate elder law planning to protect and preserve the remainder of the family assets.

We specialize in educating and helping you protect what you have for the people you love the most. Contact us or attend a free workshop to learn more about how we can help.

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