At KC Elder Law, we're here to be a trusted guide along The Elder Care Journey ©. Hundreds of Kansas and Missouri families have turned to us when they're dealing with the endless red tape of applying for benefits to pay for care, or safeguarding loved ones so they don't end up out of money and out of options.
We strive to help families find solutions for their legal and financial frustrations, as well as find support and services to aid them. The practice of elder law, when done right, is about 50% legal work and 50% social work… we're here to help you find all the resources you need.
If your loved one is beginning to have memory or mobility issues, it is likely the right time to start planning. The earlier you begin, the more options you may have. However, if your family is in crisis, the time to call is now. It's not too late!
You may have been told by a case worker or a well-meaning friend that there's nothing you can do but let your loved one lose all their hard-earned savings to chronic healthcare needs. That's often not the case. We work hard to employ honest, legal solutions so that your loved one can live with dignity, no matter what stage of life and health they're in.
Elder Law - When trying to find an elder law-focused attorney, it's important to understand how elder law differs from traditional estate planning (death planning). A traditional estate plan is typically designed to do three things:
- Minimize estate taxes
- Avoid probate court
- Distribute assets from the deceased person to his or her heirs.
Elder law, on the other hand, is death planning plus long-term disability and care planning – what we call "longevity planning." The elder law attorney is not only dealing with your estate plan, but must also think ahead for life care issues in the event that you or your spouse has long term health care needs during your lifetime.
These days, it is quite common to see families spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars when both a husband and wife have long term care needs. The key focus of our office, as elder law attorneys is to help the family to try to protect their assets during their lifetime, to avoid such a catastrophic loss.
Trusts & Wills - Individuals work a lifetime at accumulating assets, personal property and mementos. It only takes a little time to make sure those valued items pass on to your loved ones. If executed correctly, a Last Will and Testament can clearly state your wishes and ensure they are carried out.
Depending on your situation, a Revocable or Irrevocable Trust may be more appropriate. A trust, like a will, is a legal document that includes instructions regarding what should be done with your assets when you die. The key difference between the two is that a trust prevents the assets from being probated (tied up in the court system) at your death - a will does not.
There are lots of issues to consider when deciding if a will or a trust is right for you. We've spent more than twenty years assessing clients' individual situations and helping them understand their options based on current laws which estate planning documents will help them achieve their goal of distributing their assets.
Powers of Attorney - Powers of attorney for health care and property/financial decisions are a relatively low cost way to decide which family member or trusted friend will have the legal authority to carry out your wishes, if you can no longer speak or act for yourself. If you do not have power of attorney, or if your powers of attorney are not drafted properly and something happens that results in your inability to make decisions, your loved ones may later face costly court proceedings and court-supervised guardianship and/or conservatorship.
Your loved one needs a power of attorney that allows their agent to be able to take very special actions to protect them and their loved ones. They need powerful documents, which authorize their loved ones to change the way your assets are held so as to provide the best protection for them and their healthy spouse when they inevitably need long term care.
Medicaid Planning - Medicaid is a benefits program primarily funded by the federal government and administered by each state. Unlike Medicare, which only pays for rehabilitation in a skilled nursing home, Medicaid pays for long term care. As life expectancies and long term care costs continue to rise, the challenge quickly becomes how to pay for these services. Many people cannot afford to pay $6,000 to $8,000 per month or more for the cost of a nursing home.
The rules of Medicaid are nearly impossible for the layperson to understand. In fact, most likely, your family attorney will say things like, "It's too late to do anything!" and offer you the same will and power of attorney that he prepares for his healthy clients. We know more solutions. We help people deal with the mind-boggling, complex maze of Medicaid paperwork and the frustration that accompanies it. We help clients avoid having to spend more that they should and avoid having their family security jeopardized.
VA Benefits - It never ceases to amaze us when we talk to the families of veterans how little they understand the VA's benefit programs that are available to those honorably discharged veterans who are over 65 and are struggling with the cost of their care. Imagine the difference up to $2,019 extra each month (that's an additional $24,228 per year) TAX-FREE would mean to you and your loved ones?
If you or a member of your family is an honorably discharged veteran who served at least one day during a period of wartime (the definition of “wartime” may be broader than you think), and if you are in an assisted living facility or are spending several hundred dollars a month or more on the cost of your health care, then you may qualify for benefits under the VA Aid and Attendance Pension Program. We know the steps you should be taking right now to find out if you or your loved one qualify.
Probate - Probate - When an individual who has written a will dies, and he or she owns property solely in his or her name, a formal court procedure ("probate") is usually required to confirm to whom the property will pass.
If the person dies without a will, the property also goes through probate court and will pass to the individual's heirs at law. The state laws determine who the individual's heirs are and what they receive.
Keep in mind that although it is often beneficial to avoid probate, because it can be costly and time consuming, such devices have pitfalls; probate is sometimes the best option. Our office has years of experience dealing with probate and we can examine your specific situation and advise you and your loved ones on what is best for your family.
Whether it's Alzheimer's or dementia, Parkinson's, ALS, MS, the after-effects of a stroke, or a host of other issues your loved one may have, we're here to provide peace of mind and offer solutions for care.