Elder Law in North Carolina: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Senior citizens face some unique vulnerabilities. Elder law is a specialty practice focused on the needs of retired people and older Americans. As it is explained by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, elder law covers a wide range of different specific issues, including “ retirement benefits, probate and estate planning, health care and health management .”

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our elder law attorneys are committed to helping people and families find solutions. We want to make sure that you have the tools and knowledge you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. Here, our North Carolina estate planning lawyers answer some of the most frequently asked questions about elder law.

Elder Law: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) When Should I Work With an Elder Law Attorney?

There is no one right time to start working with an elder law lawyer in North Carolina. As a general rule, it is best to be proactive. You are never too young to set up a comprehensive estate plan. All adults should have a personalized estate plan in place. As you begin to approach retirement age, an elder law lawyer can help you address some areas of concerns, including retirement planning, probate law, long-term care planning, and wealth preservation. If you have any specific questions about any of these topics, reach out to our Charlotte, NC elder law attorneys for help.

What Documents Should Be Included in My Estate Plan?

Estate planning is about protection. A well-constructed estate plan should consider your property, your finances, and your health. Depending on your circumstances and your goals, there are a number of different documents that may be part of an estate plan. Here are some of the basics:

  • A will;
  • A durable power of attorney;
  • A health care power of attorney; and
  • A living will.

Other estate planning tools—such as a trust—may also be useful. A North Carolina elder law attorney can review your estate plan and ensure that it is the best strategy to protect your rights, your interests, and your family.

How Do I Make Sure My Estate Avoids Probate?

There are many different benefits to limiting your estate’s exposure to probate or avoiding the process altogether. Probate can be frustratingly slow. Some of your property/assets can easily avoid probate through a proper beneficiary designation. For example, the proceeds of an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) can avoid probate. Other assets can be spared from the probate process through more complex estate planning strategies, including setting up trusts.

What Are the Best Asset Protection Strategies?

The most effective asset preservation strategies will depend on your specific situation. There is no-one-size-fits all approach to asset protection. An elder law attorney can help you determine the right option for your estate. That being said, all well-designed asset protection strategies will include some consideration of long term care costs. Long term care/nursing home care expenses are one of the biggest threats to your life savings.

Will My Nursing Home and Long Term Care Costs Be Covered?

It depends on your specific circumstances. It is important to understand that Medicare generally does not cover nursing home costs or long term care costs. You can get coverage for these costs through Medicaid—but the government program is strictly means-tested. If your income or assets are too high, Medicaid may require you to “spend them down” before you can qualify for long term care coverage.

How Does Medicaid Long Term Care Coverage Work in North Carolina?

Medicaid will only pay for long term care/nursing home care if you have limited countable assets. For this reason, it is imperative to begin long term care planning well before you have any actual needs. An experienced North Carolina elder law attorney can help you set up a strategy that protects your life savings assisted living care costs while also preserving your eligibility for coverage through Medicaid. The sooner you get started with long term care planning, the more options that will be available to you and your family.

Speak to Our North Carolina Estate Planning Attorneys Today

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our North Carolina estate planning lawyers have extensive experience advising people and families on a wide range of elder law matters. If you have any specific questions or concerns about elder law, we can help. Contact us now to arrange an initial consultation with an attorney. From our legal offices in Charlotte, Mooresville, and Monroe, we provide elder law services throughout the region, including in Mecklenburg County, Union County, and Iredell County.