Category: elder law attorney

medicaid planning lawyer elder law attorney in jacksonville, florida

NJ Supreme Court Rules Medicaid Planning Attorneys Do Planning-Non-Lawyers Engaged In Unauthorized Practice of Law

Medicaid planning with Jacksonville Medicaid planning attorneys in FloridaJoining the states of Florida, Ohio, and Tennessee, the Supreme Court of New Jersey has found that Medicaid planning attorneys should handle Medicaid planning. Non-lawyers who apply the law to a Medicaid applicant’s specific circumstances are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.  Florida’s Supreme Court decision last year, to the same effect, provides that a non-lawyer who engages in Medicaid planning is guilty of the unauthorized practice of law and is committing a criminal felony.

The NJ state Supreme Court received complaints that non-lawyers retained by families or nursing homes to assist with the Medicaid application process were providing erroneous or incomplete law-related advice. A state attorney ethics hotline received reports that non-lawyers charged “clients” large sums of money for what turned out to be faulty Medicaid-planning legal assistance. These actions caused the elderly victims to suffer significant financial losses.

The NJ state Supreme Court was asked for an opinion specifying what activities non-lawyers may engage in and what activities are the unauthorized practice of law. The Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law concluded that while non-lawyer Medicaid advisors may provide limited services, “[a]pplying the law to an individual’s specific circumstances generally is the ‘practice of law,’ and should be accomplished through Medicaid planning attorneys.  A Medicaid advisor or Application Assistor may provide information on insurance programs and coverage options; help individuals complete the application or renewal; help them with gathering and providing required documentation; assist in counting income and assets; submit the application to the agency; and assist with communication between the agency and the individual. But the advisor may not provide legal advice on strategies to become eligible for Medicaid benefits, including advice on spending down resources, tax implications, guardianships, sale or transfer of assets, creation of trusts or service contracts, and the like,” as those items constitute the practice of law and should be done by Medicaid planning attorneys.

For the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law’s Opinion 53, “Non-Lawyer Medicaid Advisors (Including ‘Application Assistors’) and the Unauthorized Practice of Law,” , click here.

The Medicaid laws are very complex, and deal with a number of overlapping legal doctrines.  When you need assistance with Medicaid planning, including the preparation of spend down plans, trusts, personal care contracts, Medicaid asset protection trusts, or other options that comply with the Medicaid laws, you should seek out experienced elder law or Medicaid planning attorneys for that assistance.  Otherwise, you and your family may also experience “significant financial losses.”

medicaid planning lawyer and elder law attorney in jacksonville, florida

The Elder Law Attorney’s Role in Medicaid Planning

Do you need an elder law attorney for even “simple” Medicaid planning?

The answer, as so often is the case in legal matters, is that it depends on your particular situation and circumstances, but in most cases, the prudent answer would be “yes” you do need an elder law attorney to help you accomplish Medicaid planning to preserve your family’s assets and qualify your loved one for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home care.

The social worker atelder law attorney explains medicaid rules your parent’s nursing home assigned to assist you with the preparation of a Medicaid application for your mother knows a lot about the program, but maybe not that one particular rule that applies in your case or the newest changes in the law, which can make all the difference in whether your mother’s application will be approved. In addition, by the time you’re applying for Medicaid, you may have missed out on significant planning opportunities, that could have helped your family preserve valuable assets.

The best option is to immediately consult with a qualified and experienced elder law attorney who can advise you on your family’s entire situation, at the first thought that a nursing home might be necessary. At the very least, the price of the consultation should purchase some peace of mind that things are being accomplished appropriately and in your family’s best interest. What you learn from such a consultation with an experienced elder law attorney can mean significant financial savings or better care for you or your loved one. Proper Medicaid planning may involve the use of trusts, transfers of assets, purchase of annuities or increased income and resource allowances for the healthy parent who is living at home.

The Medicaid laws and regulations collectively create a maze in which the non-lawyer can easily run into dead ends. The experienced elder law attorney is aware of recent changes in the law, the results of the latest “fair hearings” (which are written decisions by administrative judges ruling on appeals of Medicaid denials of benefits made by the Department of Children and Families), and information gathered from other elder law attorneys who involved in dealing with Medicaid matters on a daily basis.

Medicaid Planning Constitutes the Practice of Law and Should Be Undertaken by Elder Law Attorneys

Furthermore, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled in The Florida Bar Re: Advisory Opinion — Medicaid Planning Activities by Nonlawyers, SC14-211, January 15, 2015, that Medicaid planning, because of the requirement to understand and implement the statutes and regulations, constitutes the practice of law.  In that opinion, the Florida Supreme Court said:

 

“. . . the testimony revealed that non-lawyer Medicaid planners are essentially unregulated, as there are no licensing, education, or advertising requirements. . . .

elder law attorney provides medicaid planningTestimony described the type of harm caused by nonlawyer Medicaid planners which includes denial of Medicaid eligibility, exploitation, catastrophic or severe tax liability, and the purchase of inappropriate financial products threatening or destroying clients’ life savings. The potential for public harm is even greater when the nonlawyers put themselves in a position of reliance and advising the customer as to the proper course of action to take. In order to protect the public from harm, it is the opinion of the Standing Committee that the activities described herein constitute the unlicensed practice of law and should not be authorized.”

Consequently, non-lawyers who engage in Medicaid planning are involved in the unlicensed practice of law, which in Florida is a felony.

If you are going to consult with an experienced elder law attorney, the sooner the better. If you wait, it may be too late to take some steps available to preserve substantial assets for the family.  Whether your initial consultation is in advance of the actual need for Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing home care, or on a crisis basis because your spouse or elderly parent has just been determined to need Medicaid, we can help. To schedule a consultation, just call us at (904) 448-1969.