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Florida Elder Law FAQs

Your questions answered by an experienced elder law attorney dedicated to serving seniors throughout Maitland and Orlando, Florida

Whether looking for answers for yourself, a spouse or a parent with elder law needs, you’ve come to the right place. Florida elder law attorney Shea Fugate is dedicated to helping seniors plan for the future and deal with present needs to make the most of their years with their families and for themselves. Read on for answers to commonly asked questions, and contact the Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, P.A. if you have other questions or need immediate assistance with an elder law matter in Maitland or Orlando.

I’m remarried and want my spouse to be cared for after I’m gone, but I also want to ensure my children from my first marriage are looked after. What are my options?

There are many different ways to arrange to leave property to your spouse as well as your children from a former marriage. One option is a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust, commonly called a Q-TIP Trust. This type of trust provides income to your surviving spouse during their lifetime, with the rest of the assets held in trust for your children from your first marriage. A Q-TIP trust is just one of many possibilities that may work for you.

What can a special needs trust be used for?

A special needs trust (SNT), also called a supplemental needs trust, can be used to provide funds to an individual with special needs without jeopardizing the individual’s ability to receive Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or other needs-based government services. The funds in a special needs trust must supplement the public benefit and cannot be used for certain activities. An SNT should not be used to buy food, pay rent or utilities, or give the recipient regular, unrestricted cash payments. Such impermissible uses could cause a one-third reduction in SSI or worse. SNT funds can be used for a variety of other purposes, however, including: a car; a computer; education, training or enrichment classes; hobbies; home furnishings; a gym membership; memberships to zoos or museums; a bus pass; cable TV; summer camps; vacations and travel for the individual and a companion; medical expenses not otherwise covered; and more.

How can a disabled adult get Medicaid if he has assets that put him over the low-income threshold for Medicaid?

Just as family members can provide for a child with special needs without jeopardizing Medicaid eligibility by putting assets into a special needs trust, a disabled adult can create a self-settled special needs trust with his own money. The individual can put enough money into the trust to spend down to Medicaid eligibility levels, and the money in the trust can be used to supplement Medicaid without replacing it.

My husband needs nursing care now, but we did not plan for the costs of a nursing home. What can we do?

Call the Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, P.A. in Maitland and Orlando. There are steps you can take for nursing home planning even if you are already in “crisis” mode. Don’t simply think you can put your property in your children’s name and magically qualify for Medicaid. The government has a five-year lookback period for transfers of property, and they may see those transfers as a fraudulent attempt to be eligible for Medicaid. Many different kinds of transfers are allowable, however, including certain transfers to spouses, children acting as caregivers, or disabled children. This is a complicated area of law; call our office before making any transfers of property, and we’ll make sure you take the right steps to get nursing home care you can afford.

How do I choose a nursing home I know I can trust?

Choosing a nursing home is a big step, and you want to feel confident you found the right facility. First off, you can talk to other family members, friends or neighbors who have a loved one in a nursing home; not only can this help you find a quality facility, but also one where the patient may already know someone there. If the patient has special health needs, talk to the patient’s doctor to recommend a facility that meets the patient’s health needs. You can also use Nursing Home Compare to narrow your search. Nursing Home Compare is a Medicaid website that uses a five-star rating system to rank nursing homes in your area based on quality measures like inspections and nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Once you have a shortlist of choices, visit the facilities and see them for yourself. Talk to residents, staff and administration during your visit. All facilities will offer a guided tour by appointment, but also try to pop in unannounced and see if they will let you look around, even if they weren’t prepared for your visit. This will give you a better sense of what the facility is like on a regular basis.

Is there any special planning we can do to help a family member with dementia?

Alzheimer’s and dementia are progressive diseases, and patients with dementia are likely to eventually need others to take charge of their care and make decisions on their behalf. When the disease is still in its early stages, this is a great time to engage in planning and involve the patient in the process. While patients are still competent to make decisions, they can provide valuable input on whom they would trust to make medical decisions on their behalf and what sorts of medical interventions they may not want. Planning can also set out criteria for if, when and where the patient should receive care outside the home. Of course, proper planning can also ensure that costs of long-term care are affordable without putting an undue hardship on the family or the person’s estate.

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