Receiving Care Through Medicaid in North Carolina
Though Medicare benefits do not generally support long-term care, Medicaid can cover the costs of nursing homes and similar services. Medicaid is operated at the state level, meaning North Carolina maintains its own requirements for who qualifies and receives benefits.
Anyone who is at least 65 years old can potentially qualify for Medicaid benefits, meaning all seniors by default may be eligible. However, you must also meet the program’s strict income and resource limits. You cannot have more than $2,000 in nonexempt property, though you can generally exempt a substantial amount of equity in your home, a car, and personal items.
Medicaid income limits are extremely complex and restrictive. As of 2020, a person seeking Medicaid for purposes of long-term care must not make more than $2,349 per month, or $28,188 annually, for a one-person household. This threshold scales with the amount of people in a household. In some cases, individuals who exceed this limit can still qualify if the additional income is used to pay for necessary medical expenses.
Medicaid benefits alone will not be able to cover all of the expenses of your elderly loved one, which makes the income and asset limit requirements especially taxing. Specifically designed Medicaid trusts can be used to manage additional expenses necessary to your loved one’s care without jeopardizing their nursing home funding through the program.
Beyond the income and asset limitations, seniors seeking long-term care through Medicaid will need to demonstrate that they require a nursing home level of care. This generally requires obtaining an opinion from an approved medical professional that evaluates the candidate’s physical and cognitive abilities. This opinion must ultimately recommend that the senior’s condition requires a “nursing home level of care.”
Navigating the complex application system and obtaining the Medicaid benefits that your elderly loved one will need can be an exhausting and frustrating process. Our team can guide you through each step, advocate for your loved one, and work to overcome any obstacles we encounter, including the filing of any necessary appeals.
Estate Planning for Seniors
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is for everyone. Even young and healthy individuals should take steps to protect their families and plan for their futures.
Estate planning does become especially important as one grows older. Every estate planning situation is different, but planning for seniors typically requires additional considerations.
Our Raleigh elder law attorney can help you or your elderly loved one with:
- Review and update all estate planning documents. If you have not reviewed your estate plan in some time, you may be surprised to realize just how much your interests, priorities, and relationships have changed. An out of date estate plan can create problems for your loved ones or even act in ways you did not anticipate or intend.
- Forming and placing assets in trusts. If you are seeking to avoid probate or estate taxes, you will need to place the majority of your assets in trusts. Many types of trusts can be modified throughout your life, but as you grow older, you should ensure everything is placed in accordance with your final wishes.
- Finalizing end of life care decisions through living wills or advanced healthcare directives. It is possible that you become temporarily or permanently unable to communicate due to an injury or illness, a likelihood that tends to grow as you get older. It is important that you have written, legally enforceable instructions in place that prepare for these scenarios.
- Elect powers of attorney. Should you become unable to conduct your own affairs toward the end of your life, it can be extremely useful to have medical or financial powers of attorney available to act on your behalf. A medical power of attorney can advise on healthcare decisions, while a financial power of attorney can attend to your estate under responsibilities that you define. Should you not have powers of attorney and your inability to communicate threatens your health or your financial affairs, your loved ones might be forced to seek a guardianship. Proactively selecting powers of attorney can avoid this costly, protracted process.
Guardianships for Seniors
It can be heartbreaking when declining health can result in a loved one no longer being able to adequately care for themselves. In these situations, it may be necessary to seek a legal guardianship. A guardian has the ability to make decisions for the elderly individual with supervision from a state court.
In North Carolina, a person seeking guardianship over an elderly loved one will need evidence supporting the person’s incompetency and inability to make critical decisions. This typically requires obtaining a professional medical opinion. In granting a guardianship, the court will determine the scope of responsibilities being conferred. The elderly loved one may retain certain rights and decision-making abilities.
Guardians are generally required to abide by any wishes or intentions specified by the elderly loved one. These can be dictated in estate planning documents, including advanced healthcare directives, or may stem from discussions with family prior to their health deteriorating. Absent these factors, guardians must make decisions in the best interest of their loved one.
North Carolina does give guardians some broad flexibility to manage the financial and day-to-day affairs of their elderly loved ones. Guardians have the right to take possession of property, hire attorneys or advisers to assist with the guardianship, purchase insurance, and conduct routine transactions (including the payment of bills) involving the estate.
Courts across the United States are wary of elder abuse, which can include scenarios where a loved one or guardian seeks financially exploits their loved one. For this reason, certain actions require explicit authorization from a court.
Guardians in North Carolina must receive special permission from a court to:
- Place an elderly loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility or move them from their primary residence
- Sell the elderly loved one’s real estate or a substantially valued amount of their personal property
- Make medical decisions that could result in a serious risk to the health of the elderly loved one
Procuring a guardianship can be difficult and time-consuming, even in situations where an elderly loved one is clearly unable to function on their own. We can represent you in guardianship proceedings and can work to get you the authorization you need to protect your family as efficiently as possible.