Medicaid Planning in Georgia


What is Medicaid Planning?

If you or a loved one requires significant assistance with activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, toileting, transferring, feeding) in your home or a nursing home, then Medicaid planning might be something for you to consider.  For those who can afford the cost of this care from income, life savings are not really at risk.  However, the cost of this care outpaces the income of most middle-class families by a wide margin such that savings built over decades might be erased in the blink of an eye.  For these families, Medicaid planning can probably make a significant difference. Although this specialized type of estate planning was viewed with a degree of skepticism in the past, most have now come to recognize that Medicaid planning is not about “hiding assets” or skirting the law. Instead, Medicaid planners help their clients to understand and pursue steps which legally trigger Medicaid qualification before resources have been exhausted.  Using a football analogy, clients who pursue Medicaid planning are really just calling plays from the playbook that Medicaid wrote.  As an Eldercare law firm, our role is to teach clients about the plays that are available and help them select the ones that they like best.  Medicaid planning can take many forms, including the use of trusts, permissible gifts, and the reallocation of excess countable assets to exempt assets.

Do I Need Help with Medicaid Planning ?

Medicaid’s complicated and often illogical eligibility rules create a minefield for DIY planners to navigate.  For example, would you ever guess that an old $1000 burial insurance policy could cause denial if not accounted for properly?  Making matters trickier is the fact that the eligibility rules change frequently.  As a consequence, Phase I of any Medicaid planning case (design and implementation of the plan) represents only half the battle.  In Phase II, the process of filing an application for Medicaid benefits can be overwhelming, the DFCS interview intimidating, and the post-interview battle for approval fraught with pitfalls.  It is not uncommon for DFCS to take two or three months to issue an eligibility determination.  This means that the applicant’s pending charges at the nursing home can reach $20000 - $30000 before a decision is ever made.  If Medicaid is denied, the applicant is left to pay the full bill privately or face eviction.  While nursing home staff often offer advice about Medicaid laws, it is rare that the facility will accept responsibility for that advice when reliance on it leads to a Medicaid denial.  Thus, in all but the simplest of circumstances, it is wise to consider consulting with an experienced Elder care lawyer.  The more experienced an attorney is, the more likely it will be that the options offered will be diverse and comprehensive.  The less experience a Medicaid planning attorney has, the more likely you will be offered a few cookie cutter tools used for everyone.

 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Medicaid Planning Attorney

If you might need the help of an Eldercare attorney, but you are not certain about how to select one, a great place to begin your search is this informative article.  Additionally, here are some questions you might pose to the lawyers that you are considering:

How Long Have You Been Practicing Law?

Just as you might want to know that your heart surgeon has invested many years performing transplants, it is certainly wise to consider an attorney’s level of experience when deciding whom to engage.  Glossy marketing aside, look behind that image to determine if an attorney is the best fit for you.  When doing your due diligence, do not hesitate to ask how long an attorney has been in practice.

How long have you been practicing Eldercare Law?

Perhaps even more important than total years in practice is the level of experience an attorney has in the desired area – Eldercare Law.  Since the Great Recession of 2008, more and more attorneys from other practice areas have transitioned into Eldercare Law because of the perception that it is lucrative and recession-proof due to the aging of baby boomers.  Thus, it is possible that an attorney who has been practicing twenty or thirty years only transitioned into the niche area of Eldercare Law recently.  Attorney Daniel D. Munster has spent his twenty-seven year career practicing Elder Law exclusively.

What percentage of your law practice is Eldercare Law?

Inquire of each attorney being considered whether they dabble in the world of Eldercare or if they spend their days immersed in its fine points.  Whereas most eldercare firms offer a broad menu of services such as probate, estate and trust administration, guardianship, SSA disability, retirement planning, tax planning, business succession planning and so forth, our firm handles only cases involving Eldercare or Special Needs estate planning.

Do you provide a free initial consultation?

It is difficult for a law firm to know whether someone who calls for help actually needs a service that the firm provides.  With this in mind, law firms will often offer a no-cost initial “consultation” designed to allow the prospective client to investigate whether the firm offers a good fit … and the firm to determine whether it can meet the needs of the prospective client.  These consultations can take place either in person or over the telephone.  Often misunderstood as creating an attorney-client relationship, initial consultations are generally not intended to provide formal legal advice to the prospective client.  Instead, they are more exploratory in nature.  It is not unreasonable for you to expect that the firms you are considering should make this kind of an investment in the possibility of working with you.  Our firm offers free Discovery Calls to those who inquire about working together.  During these Discovery Calls, we gather important details about your circumstances and objectives in order to verify whether and how we can help.  If it turns out that you need something other than what our firm provides, we will strive to make a helpful referral..  If the conclusion is that you need our help, we will share the basis for this conclusion and offer information about how an engagement might work.

What will it cost?

If one were to ask a residential home builder the cost to build a house, he would likely delay reply till he knows more about things like how many bedrooms are desired, how many bathrooms are needed, or whether a finished basement is to be included.  Similarly, an Eldercare attorney needs to evaluate your circumstances, identify your goals, and discuss your planning preferences before a fee might be determined.  While this is true, our firm provides an approximate fee range following the Discovery Call so that you will have a reasonable expectation about what your fee might be.  For those who wish to explore cost comparisons when seeking legal counsel, just remember that achieving a true comparison will likely require that a comprehensive consultation with each firm under consideration so that final quotations (not estimates) can be compared. Additionally, many other factors will eventually play a role in the quality of your experience and the value received.  By one important independent measure (Google Reviews), our firm’s clients have unanimously ranked our firm worthy of 5.0 stars. 

Will I work with you or someone else in the office?

This is an excellent question if you consider it important that your case be handled by the attorney that you hire rather than a team of minions after the initial consultation.  Our firm has chosen a streamlined approach to the practice of law, so you can expect that all aspects of your case will be handled personally by Mr. Munster.

Are you a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)?

NAELA is the premier national trade organization for Elder Law attorneys in the United States.  Through NAELA and its vast resources, attorneys are able to build strong peer to peer relationships and stay on top of national trends in the law via conferences, eBulletins, Quarterly journals, a web-based data archive, and an active listserv.  Eldercare attorney Daniel D. Munster has been a member of NAELA since 1999.

What recognition have you received as an elder law attorney?

There are any number of professional organizations which utilize peer reviews to recognize attorneys known for exceptional expertise and integrity.  The following represent some of the extensive recognition Mr. Munster has received going back many years:

·         U.S. News & World Report ranked Mr. Munster’s law firm among Georgia’s “Tier 1 –             Best Law Firms” in the recently released 10th Edition (2020) of their

                    prestigious annual rankings.

·        Best Lawyers in America® recently recognized Mr. Munster for his work in the

                     categories of both Elder Law (2020) and Trusts & Estates (2019, 2020).

·        Martindale-Hubbell has awarded Mr. Munster its highest peer review rating (AV

                     Preeminent®) every year since 2005.  This recognition is reserved exclusively for

                     those attorneys who are "ranked at the highest level of professional excellence for

                     their legal expertise, communication skills, and ethical standards by their peers."

·        SuperLawyers® and Atlanta Magazine have ranked Mr. Munster a SuperLawyer® in           the category of Elder Law every year since 2007.

·       Georgia Trend Magazine has recognized Mr. Munster in its annual Legal

                    Elite edition in the category of Elder Law.

·       Google Reviews provide Mr. Munster with 100% 5-Star Rating 

·        AVVO awards Mr. Munster its highest rating (10.0 Superb)

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    5855 Sandy Springs Circle,
    Suite 270,
    Atlanta, Georgia 30328