Elder Law: Frequently Asked Questions

Retirement in North Carolina is more expensive than ever. Some nursing homes in North Carolina cost as much as $8,000 per month. Many hard-working Charlotte residents have tried hard to save money for retirement, but medical and living expenses can eat into that money quickly.

One of the best ways to ensure that you have enough assets to live comfortably throughout your retirement is to hire an elder law attorney. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our elder law attorneys use proven strategies to help our clients plan for retirement. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. We have included a few of the most frequently asked questions we receive from clients regarding elder law below.

Will Medicare Pay for My Long-Term Care?

Understanding the difference between Medicare and Medicaid can be incredibly confusing. Medicare does not cover the full cost of nursing homes and other long-term care, and in many cases, it does not cover any of those costs. Medicare only covers the cost of stays in nursing home facilities when the following circumstances occur:

  • You need inpatient hospital treatment for three nights following entrance into a skilled nursing home;
  • The reason you need to enter the nursing home is the same reason you required hospitalization; and
  • Your stay in the nursing home begins within 30 days of your hospitalization.

Once all of these conditions are met, Medicare will provide coverage. Keep in mind, however, that Medicare will not pay for a long-term stay. Most individuals who need to enter a nursing home facility end up staying for a long time, possibly for the rest of their lives.

Will Medicaid Pay for a Nursing Home Stay?

Yes, North Carolina Medicaid will cover the cost of long-term care in a nursing home. However, qualifying for Medicaid is difficult because it is a needs-based health insurance program. When it comes to long-term nursing home care coverage, you will need to demonstrate all of the following:

  • You require skilled nursing care
  • You are a Qualified Alien or U.S. Citizen
  • You are a resident of North Carolina if you apply for benefits in North Carolina
  • You are over the age of 65, or you are disabled
  • You are in a nursing home that has a Medicaid bed available
  • You have applied for all other health insurance benefits to which you are entitled
  • The cost of your required care is more than your income
  • Your countable assets are worth no more than $2,000 in value, in most cases
  • You have not transferred your money to other people within 60 months of the date of your application for Medicaid, with some exceptions

As you can see, qualifying for Medicaid is difficult. If you have more than $2,000 in assets, you will likely not qualify. An estate planning lawyer can help you transfer your assets into a trusts or use other mechanisms to allow you to qualify for Medicaid Insurance. The sooner you do this, the better, as any transfers made within 60 months of applying for Medicaid will count against you.

My Spouse is in a Nursing Home, Can She Transfer Her Assets to Me?

In most cases, transferring assets between spouses when one spouse is in a nursing home and the other spouse is at home does not count against the spouse in the nursing home. In other words, the transfer of money between spouses is not sanctioned by Medicaid. However, keep in mind that there are asset limits for the spouse who was still living in the community, and the institutionalized spouse will need to show that he or she can make the transfer. It is best to speak with an attorney before making any transfers.

How can I Protect My Assets?

One of the best ways to protect your assets is to create a trust to allow you to qualify for Medicaid. An estate planning or elder law attorney will know how to draft a trust that will protect your assets and allow you to spend down your money, so you qualify for Medicaid. While revocable living trusts are incredibly popular, they cannot protect your assets while allowing you to qualify for Medicaid. Thus, it is important to speak to an attorney to make sure your estate plan utilizes the proper trust.

When Should I Engage in Elder Law Planning?

If you are concerned about saving for retirement and paying for long-term care, the best time to hire an elder law attorney is now. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we can help you spend down assets and avoid a Medicaid crisis. Planning at least five years before you need nursing home care is the best way to prepare for an uncertain future. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation at our Charlotte, Mooresville, or Monroe office.