Elder Law involves helping people either obtain authority over another person who is incapacitated (guardianship and/or conservatorship), or planning for someone to qualify for assistance with long term care expenses.
“Probates” commonly refer only to the court procedures used to administer someone’s affairs after they have passed away. It can also refer, however, to guardianship and conservatorship cases. Read more about after-death probates on our probate page.
Various state and federal programs offer substantial benefits to cover some or all of the costs of long term care, but eligibility requirements can be confusing, complex, and inconsistently applied. With the threat of penalties, well-meaning decisions can very negatively affect whether someone qualifies.
Guardianship & Conservatorship
A guardianship is a probate lawsuit used to give someone legal authority over another person who cannot make responsible decisions about their personal affairs (medical decisions, where they live, recreational activities, etc.). This requires a determination of “incapacity” by a doctor. The incapacity may be caused by age, health, or mental illness.
A conservatorship is a similar type of probate lawsuit used to give someone legal authority over another person’s financial affairs when that person cannot make responsible decisions about their money or property.
Conservatorships require very detailed accounting records and annual reports.
We routinely help clients navigate through guardianship and conservatorship cases in our Arizona probate court system.
Arizona Long Term Care System
ALTCS, as it is commonly called (pronounced “all-techs”), is Arizona’s program that implements the long term care Medicaid program. It provides payment for all or a portion of long term care expenses of eligible individuals. The program requires that the person pass both a medical and a financial qualification test.
The basic financial eligibility criteria are different for a single person and a married person.
A single person can have no more than about $2,000 in countable assets and about $2,250 of monthly income. A married person has the opportunity to take advantage of rules allowing the non-institutionalized spouse to retain more of their income and assets. The maximum amount of assets the spouse can retain is adjusted for inflation and is about $120,000 in 2017. The spouse may also retain more monthly income.
In either situation, certain assets do not count against the financial limits. Taking full advantage of the “non-countable assets” will help maximize what you can keep and still qualify.
Veterans Improved Pension
The Veterans’ Administration offers a “pension” for certain service men and women who pass a means test and medical qualification. The VA describes the program as follows:
“Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, if under 65, who are permanently and totally disabled. Veterans who are more seriously disabled may qualify for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. These are benefits that are paid in addition to the basic pension rate.”
To qualify, the veteran does not have to have retired from the service and does not have to have a service-related disability. Instead, active service during designated times of war and a general or honorable discharge meets the service qualifications. Additionally, the VA will only approve a pension application if the veteran’s income and assets meet the eligibility requirements and the veteran meets certain disability requirements.
Many qualified veterans miss out on the pension benefits they have earned because they are never informed that income has a very different meaning for veteran pension purposes than it does in common usage. A veteran could have annual income of $100,000 or more, retain all of that income and still qualify for a tax free pension of over $2,000 per month as of 2012.
The pension benefit is a reimbursement for medical expenses and is, therefore, not taxable income to the veteran. Would you like to find out if your situation could qualify? Schedule an appointment for Estate Planning / Elder Law. (480) 418-8448.