At the same time, years are passing, and you can wake up one morning and come to the realization that you are not as young as you used to be. Matters that are of interest to senior citizens can suddenly become quite relevant as your retirement years start to peek over the horizon. This is where elder law services can enter the picture.
If you have questions about the eventualities of aging, you could obtain answers if you consult with an elder law attorney. These legal professionals are dedicated to the interests of senior citizens, and there are some very important elder law issues on the table at the present time.
Let’s look at three important questions that you may want to ask an elder law attorney.
When will I qualify for Social Security and Medicare?
You gain eligibility for Social Security through the accumulation of retirement credits. In 2016, you get one credit for every $1,260 that you earn. The maximum accrual is four credits per year, even if your earnings are in excess of $5,040. Once you have 40 credits, you will qualify for Social Security.
The eligibility age depends upon the year of your birth. People born between 1943 and 1954 become eligible at the age of 66. The eligibility age then goes up by two months each year until it tops out in 1960 at the age of 67. The eligibility age for anyone born in 1960 or after is 67 at the present time, but these numbers could be changed via legislative mandate, so you should always stay abreast of the current state of affairs.
If you are willing to accept a reduced benefit, you do not have to wait until you reach the full eligibility age. It is possible to accept a reduced benefit at the age of 62, and you could also go in the other direction. You could delay the submission of your application, and this would result in an increased benefit when you do start to draw a Social Security direct deposit.
The age of eligibility for Medicare is 65, regardless of when you were born, and there is the same 40 retirement credit eligibility requirement.
Will Medicare cover everything?
Medicare will help, but there are out-of-pocket expenses to contend with. These would include monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-payments.
Another thing to understand about Medicare is that it does not pay for nursing home care. Nursing homes are very expensive, and most people will need living assistance eventually, so this is a very significant factor to take into consideration when you are looking ahead toward the future.
Paying for nursing home care out-of-pocket is not a very pleasant prospect unless your pockets are extraordinarily deep. Nationally, the average annual charge for a private room in a nursing home is over $90,000, and the average length of stay is over two years.
We practice law in Indianapolis, and the nursing home costs in our area are consistent with the national average.
Is there a solution to the nursing home situation?
You are probably aware of the existence of the Medicaid program. This is another government health insurance program, and it does pay for long-term care.
However, this is a program that is only available to financially needy individuals, so there is a $2,000 limit on countable assets.The good news is that some assets are not countable, including your home (up to $552,000 in equity).
In spite of the fact that Medicaid is a need-based program, it pays for most of the long-term care that seniors are receiving.
Medicaid rules are complex, but if you take the right steps in advance, you can keep assets in the family and qualify for Medicaid if you need long-term care. It takes careful planning, but it can be done.
A Medicaid trust can be an effective nursing home asset protection tool. You can convey assets into the trust to get them out of your own name so you can qualify for Medicaid. At the same time, you can continue to receive income from the earnings of the trust before you apply for Medicaid.
Learn More About Elder Law Services
If you would like to obtain more detailed information about elder law services, attend one of our free seminars. We are offering a number of sessions over the coming weeks, and you can visit our seminar schedule page to get all the details.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.