What Is Elder Law?
The practice of elder law encompasses estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, and, in Los Angeles County, Medi-Cal planning. As we and our family members age, there comes a time when we must decide to consult with a life care attorney so that we can begin to make the important plans for what will happen to our children, spouses, and assets after we pass away or become unable to handle our own affairs.
Probate is the court process of sorting through a deceased person’s estate, establishing heirs, distributing assets, and paying off debts. When a loved one dies, there are options for avoiding the costly and timely process of probate, but only if proper estate planning takes place well before death. A life planning and elder law attorney can advise you and your loved ones on the use of trusts and other instruments to avoid probate and eliminate some of the stress that your family will have to go through after you are gone.
At a certain point in life, many people find themselves in a situation where their loved one is in need of long term nursing home care. The average cost of nursing home care in California is $8,000 per month. Therefore, many California residents require the help of Medi-Cal coverage to finance this type of long term care. However, Medi-Cal sets forth a list of very strict income and asset limitations that you must comply with, in order to qualify for the program.
If you or your loved one has not properly planned for the day when Medi-Cal coverage and nursing home care is required, you may not qualify for Medi-Cal or you may find yourself losing most of your assets in order to qualify. This does not have to be the case. The Medi-Cal planning and elder law attorneys at The Estate Planning Law Center in Los Angeles County can help you set up your assets and income far in advance, so that you can qualify for Medi-Cal while still preserving as many of your assets and as much of your income as possible.
Don’t Be Misguided By The Myths: Equip Yourself With Knowledge, And A Knowledgeable Elder Law Attorney In Los Angeles County, CA
There are a number of myths surrounding estate planning, particularly regarding wills and the probate process. Before you let them scare you off into further procrastination, read on to equip yourself with a basic understanding of the truth, and then equip yourself with an elder law attorney in Los Angeles County, CA who can guide you the rest of the way.
- Creating a will can wait until I am elderly or sick
While it is true that a will can still be drafted once someone is approaching an elderly age or develops a serious illness, it is certainly not the best time to have one drafted. When you are ill or simply less capable of doing the things you once could, the last thing you are going to want to deal with is the creation of a will. In addition, the truth is that it doesn’t matter how young or healthy you are right now: you could suffer a devastating injury, lose your life, or become seriously ill at any time. If you pass away without a will in place, it will be up to the state of California to decide who receives your assets.
- I can’t create a will yet because I don’t have very many assets
Many people are guided by the misconception that only the wealthy need to worry about creating a will. Other people will say that they have no assets at all, but that is hardly ever the case. Do you have a couch, a bicycle, or a car? If so, then you have assets, and you should create a will. Over the course of your life and career, you will likely accrue additional assets, and will be able to revise your will accordingly with the help of an elder law attorney in Los Angeles County, CA.
- All of my assets will have to go through the probate process, even if I do have a will
The idea that all assets will have to go through probate is simply not true. In fact, there are ways for an elder law attorney to help you plan in a way that prevents many or even most of your assets from having to go through probate. The following types of assets are generally exempt from the probate process in Los Angeles County, CA:
- Jointly-owned assets
- Bank account funds with a payable-on-death beneficiary designation
- Any investment or retirement account with a designated beneficiary
- Life insurance policies with a designated beneficiary
- Any assets held within a revocable or irrevocable trust
- Pieces of land or homes that have transfer-on-death designations
- Probate costs so much that my family members will end up being left with very little
While there are a couple of situations which can lead to significant costs associated with the probate process, probate usually costs no more than five percent of the total value of the estate, which means that your heirs would definitely be left with an inheritance. For details on the specific costs that are likely to be associated with your case, it is best to consult an experienced elder law attorney in Los Angeles County, CA.
Do I Really Need An Elder Law Attorney?
Probate and elder law are extremely complicated areas of law with incredibly precise and inflexible rules and regulations. In many jurisdictions in California, it is not even permitted for a person to attempt to file a probate case without an elder law attorney due to the amount of timely mistakes that are unavoidable for any person without proper legal training.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing a loved one’s urgent need for nursing home care and you can’t afford to spend $8,000 on it each month, you need professional help. The ins and outs of Medi-Cal planning, especially when it has not been handled far in advance, require a very skilled California elder law attorney. The fact is, you are very unlikely to be taken seriously by a nursing home or by Medi-Cal without one.