Family & Elder Law Crisis Planning
You can’t avoid the unexpected, but you can be prepared to deal with it effectively. Family and elder law crisis planning is a focused response to a sudden debilitating illness or traumatic injury. Crisis planning ensures that the individual’s needs for medical care and long-term care are met without draining your family’s finances.
A knowledgeable and compassionate elder law attorney at the Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, in Raleigh and Wake Forest, NC, can provide assistance if you or an aging parent has received a terminal diagnosis, suffered a stroke or serious injury or faces circumstances that require immediate admission to a nursing home. Our caring professionals can help you deal with the multiple issues a medical crisis poses in a calm and orderly manner. We’ll help prepare legal instruments and long-term care financing plans and provide other assistance to help you navigate the situation.
Our elder law crisis planning lawyers have more than 35 years of experience helping families in crisis situations like yours. We understand the challenges of the sudden and unexpected need for major medical procedures or long-term care. We pride ourselves on providing thoughtful advice for our clients based on years of experience.
Establishing Durable Power of Attorney or Guardianship for Crisis Planning
Our objective in crisis care planning is to provide family caregivers the guidance necessary to protect the legal, financial and personal well-being of a loved one in need of major and/or ongoing medical care. We work to develop a plan that addresses your loved one’s specific situation while providing maximum protection of assets.
After conducting a full assessment of your situation, the first step for ensuring that the patient’s wishes will be carried out is to establish a durable financial power of attorney who can take over your financial matters and make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person (known as the “Attorney-in-Fact”) the right to make certain decision for the maker of the power of attorney (the “Principal”). It may be written to allow the Attorney-in-Fact to make health care decisions, conduct financial transactions and/or sign legal documents that the Principal is incapable of for one reason or another. A durable power of attorney remains effective if the Principal becomes incapacitated.
Having a durable financial power attorney allows the attorney-in-fact to execute the plans we will make for your loved one’s care. The attorney-in-fact needs to be someone with the ability and willingness to take on the responsibility. Legally, he or she must be competent and at least 18 years old. It should be someone who you trust to carry out your wishes.
An individual must be mentally competent to grant a power of attorney to someone else. If your loved one is not capable of making such a decision, we would need to pursue an order of guardianship through probate court. A general guardianship allows the guardian to manage another individual’s finances and other business matters as well as their care and custody, including making decisions about medical treatment and housing.
Any competent and willing adult can assume guardianship, unless the court finds them unsuited. There are statutory legal responsibilities and liabilities attached to guardianship and powers of attorney.
Financing Long-Term Medical Care Under Crisis Planning
Rule No. 1 is to obtain the medical care you or your loved one needs without undue delay. We are here to help you work out how to pay for that care.
We can explain the options available to you to make immediate and long-term care more affordable while taking into account your loved one’s existing income and savings and the value of personal and real property. We can help you obtain Medicare or Medicaid benefits and determine whether your loved one might qualify for other government benefits, such as Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income or VA benefits. We will analyze other existing insurance coverage, such as health care or long-term care coverage. We may be able to contact providers about additional benefits on your behalf.
While Medicare (and supplemental insurance) will cover many health care expenses for the elderly, it is not generally used for nursing home care. Medicare will cover such expenses as doctor’s appointments, hospital care and medical supplies and will sometimes cover the first 100 days of nursing home care. But, in most cases, Medicaid pays for long-term institutional care, such as provided by a nursing home.
You may need to act quickly to apply for Medicaid for a loved one in crisis. To qualify for Medicaid for long-term care, the patient and their spouse must “spend down” their countable assets. When planning ahead, there are opportunities to transfer assets to family members and protect assets, such as by establishing trusts. But a transfer of assets in close proximity to applying for Medicaid may lead to the government denying benefits.
Crisis planning for Medicaid eligibility needs to be done carefully by an experienced elder law attorney to avoid penalties. We can work with you to ensure your elderly loved one is properly cared for as we gather the information needed to submit a completed Medicaid application.
Crisis vs. Non-Crisis Planning in Elder Law
When we have the opportunity, we counsel prospective clients to plan ahead for the needs they and their loved ones will inevitably face as they age. Proper planning protects your assets and ensures your wishes are carried out if you become incapacitated and when your life ends. If a medical crisis occurs, the steps necessary to ensure proper care can be set in place and known to all involved.
The answers to many of the questions that must be addressed in our later years can be answered ahead of time through proper estate planning and long-term care crisis planning. They are among the elder law services that the Brady Cobin Law Group provides.
For example, you can transfer assets to prepare for Medicaid eligibility, but this must be done soon enough to clear the Medicaid five-year look-back period or there will be penalties. Other strategies available, such as gifts or trusts, are not affected by the five-year look back.
More comprehensive estate planning involves naming in advance who you want making decisions on your behalf if you cannot and who will receive the money and property you own after you die. It includes preparation of such legal instruments as a:
- Will – instructions for distribution of your assets, care of your underage children and more upon your death.
- Trust – a means to avoid sending your estate into probate at death and prevent court control of your assets if you become incapacitated.
- Health care directive – instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
- Financial and health care power of attorney – naming a trusted individual to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot
- Authorization to access your medical information – allowing trusted individual(s) outside of your immediate family to fully assess your condition and care needs if you cannot and your spouse or children are unavailable.
Proactive estate planning is important under North Carolina law. Many people mistakenly believe that their spouse or children will simply take over their estates upon their death. If there is no will in North Carolina, an “intestate” estate goes into probate, a costly and time-consuming process in which a judge chooses who will have authority over everything you once owned.
Estate planning that we offer also includes strategies to protect your assets from taxation to ensure you can pass on your wealth to your intended heirs. Almost everyone has some wealth to pass on, not just the rich or wealthy. Estate planning protection preserves the assets of clients who have more modest means.
No one wants to think about the end of life or imagine themselves being seriously ill and incapacitated. But death is inevitable and serious illness or injury is always a possibility. Those who delay planning for the final chapters of their lives leave others to respond to a crisis and make decisions while grieving a loss. Estate plans made now – and which you can alter as needed or desired in the future – remove that burden and grant you and your loved ones peace of mind.
Receive Guidance from a Trusted Source
At the Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, we see thorough estate planning as a thoughtful and important gift that our clients give to themselves and their families. At the same time, we offer compassionate care and guidance to families and individuals who find themselves with unexpected and immediate needs for a loved one’s care.
Brady Cobin Law Group is a small law firm with offices in Raleigh and Wake Forest that emphasizes personalized legal services for estate planning and elder law needs. Attorneys Dan Brady and Andrew Cobin are both recognized by the North Carolina State Bar as board-certified specialists in estate planning and probate law, signifying a specialized knowledge of an area of law. Only a small percentage of attorneys in North Carolina have board certification.
When an unforeseen illness or injury strikes, or if you are ready to plan a final gift to your family, we can meet with you in Raleigh or Wake Forest or virtually to discuss your needs. Contact us online or phone us at (919) 782-3500.