For My Parents

My Parent May Need Care Soon

Table of Contents

Paying for Care

Spending money on care can be a good thing. You want to ensure the best care is available for them and money keeps those options open. However, most clients also want to control costs and not deplete the entire estate on care expenses. Thankfully, planning is available. You do not have to spend through everything before you look at alternatives.

When interviewing facilities, inquire about their cost of care, whether they participate in Medicaid, and whether they have a required period for private payment. Talk with an experienced Elder Law Attorney to develop a Long-Term Care plan for them as soon as possible. 

Learn More: Paying and Planning for Care

My Parent or Loved One is Single

It is important that your parent or loved one has some money to privately pay in order to be able to choose their destination. Facilities may refuse to accept a resident if you cannot demonstrate an ability to privately pay for a time period specified by them. Once assets are depleted, if the facility participates in the Medicaid program, the resident can receive assistance in paying for care. Your parent should be prepared with funds not only to cover the costs for the private pay requirement at the facility but also funds that allow them to afford changes in their care. 

It is also extremely important that your parent has a care advocate. They may not be in a position to communicate their own needs or assess the quality of care that they are receiving. The care advocate can determine whether the facility is providing appropriate care and a good quality of life and, if not, make changes to the care plan. 

My Parent or Loved One is Married

When one parent is facing care, it is important not to forget the needs of the healthier parent. For example, will the spouse living at home be able to afford their current lifestyle with only their own income? Although only one parent may need care, the parent who will remain in the home will still have financial obligations to meet such as property taxes, utilities, insurance, groceries, etc. Additionally, some spouses attempt to provide care for themselves for too long. 

Like we discussed in the prior section, it is important to have enough assets to pay privately at any facility to gain entry. You also have to remember that the healthier spouse may need care in the future and would need to meet the same financial tests to gain access to a facility of their choosing. Money available for the second spouse to be able to enter a facility of their choosing is essential. In short, they cannot afford to use up all the assets on the first spouse who needs care. 

This event is also a critical time to review their Estate Plan. Commonly, spouses name each other as Agents under Powers of Attorney and Trusts. It may be appropriate to update these documents because one spouse likely cannot be an Agent anymore. Additionally, the disposition of assets at death is normally altered to take into account the care needs by adding a Testamentary Special Needs Trust to the plan. This allows assets to be preserved to provide for the surviving spouse without disrupting Medicaid eligibility. 

There are numerous planning options available to ensure that care can be paid for while not impoverishing the spouse living at home. Each family’s situation is different but an experienced Elder Law Attorney can walk you through the various options and determine which course of action is best. 

When Both Parents or Loved Ones Need Care

When both parents need care, they often find themselves taking care of each other. It is not always to their benefit to keep them together. Care needs may differ significantly causing stress on both of them. Also, one spouse may have a harder time coping emotionally using their loved one as the scapegoat who has no alternative to removing himself or herself from the situation. Care needs may differ significantly causing stress on both of them. Also, one spouse may have a harder time coping emotionally and their spouse may be the only familiar face where they feel safe releasing their frustration. Their spouse may not have the opportunity to remove himself or herself from the situation at times to relieve some of the pressure they are confronted with. 

One concern is how to divide income and assets in a way that is fair to both spouses. Wisconsin is a community property state so when applying for Medicaid, the assets of both spouses are counted for eligibility determination. Often in a second marriage situation, each spouse may try to maintain control of the assets they brought into the relationship by keeping separate accounts. This will prove to be irrelevant for Medicaid purposes. Planning in advance can provide protection over assets and ensure that they are distributed according to the wishes of each spouse and their individual family.

Removing each other as Agents on the Durable Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney documents and as Personal Representative in the Will should be done as well if either parent is no longer able to act in that role. Once again, as we discussed in the previous section, a Testamentary Special Needs Trust becomes very important for both parents. 

When facing care needs, whether it is an immediate need or in the future, it is important to remember that you have options that can be tailored to your specific situation. By speaking with an attorney that is dedicated to Estate Planning and Elder Law, you can be assured that every aspect of maintaining those choices will be considered. 

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