In recent years many non-lawyers have started businesses offering Medicaid planning services to seniors as an alternative to Medicaid planning lawyers. While using one of these services may be seem to be cheaper than hiring Medicaid planning lawyers, the overall costs may be far greater. I’ve seen many of these non-lawyer services actually charge more than an experienced elder law attorneys and Medicaid lawyers will charge. Some of them have been pure scam artists! Most simply lack the expertise and education to properly and effectively engage in Medicaid planning that is both ethically and legally proper. Experienced Medicaid planning lawyers will help you find the “right” plan to fit your specific and individual needs for Medicaid benefits.
If you use non-lawyers to accomplish Medicaid planning, the person(s) offering services may not have any legal knowledge or training. Bad advice can lead seniors to purchase products that waste money, or take actions that won’t help them qualify for Medicaid, and may actually make it more difficult, or result in penalties. The consequences of taking bad advice can include the denial of benefits, a Medicaid penalty period, or income tax liability – or in come cases criminal legal liability. Experienced Medicaid planning lawyers will not let that happen to you or your family members.
As a result of problems that have arisen from non-lawyers offering Medicaid planning services, a few states (Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, and Tennessee) have issued regulations or guidelines providing that Medicaid planning by non-lawyers will be considered the unauthorized practice of law. For example, in Florida, a non-lawyer may not render legal advice regarding qualifying for Medicaid benefits, draft a personal service contract, determine the need for, draft or execute a qualified income trust, or sell qualified income trust kits. In Florida, the unlicensed practice of law is a felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison. In Ohio practicing law without a license is subject to civil injunction, civil contempt, and civil fine
Applying for Medicaid is a highly technical and complex process. Planning for Medicaid eligibility even more so. An improper action, even if accidental, can result in a loss of benefits, penalty periods, or any criminal prosecution. Medicaid planning lawyers are knowledgeable about Medicaid law in the applicant’s state of residence can help applicants navigate this process properly, without penalty, and without the potential for criminal prosecution. An experienced elder law attorney may be able to help your family find significant financial savings or better care for you or your loved one. This may involve the use of trusts, transfers of assets, purchase of annuities or increased income and resource allowances for the healthy spouse.
Whether you may need a full fledged spend down plan, just a qualified income trust, filing the Medicaid application for nursing home benefits, personal care contracts, or more esoteric planning, be sure to use experienced elder law attorneys for your Medicaid planning lawyers. We can help.