Monday, September 15, 2014

Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Raising a grandchild creates unique legal, financial, medical, educational and family issues for the grandparent. Unfortunately, grandparents may lack easy access to the information and support they need to fulfill their caregiver role.

If you are a Northeastern Pennsylvania grandparent raising a grandchild you are fortunate that information and support is available to you through the NEPA Intergenerational Coalition
The Coalition was created to provide a support system and advocacy network for grandparents and other family caregivers raising grandchildren. It holds monthly support group meetings in locations in Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Wyoming counties. Here is a link to a flyer containing support group information:

Conference on October 24, 2014 is Free for Grandparents

The Coalition will be holding its 8th annual conference on Friday October 24, 2014 at the Mohegan Sun conference center. The conference will include many social service support agencies and information on legal issues. The conference is free for grandparents. For information about the conference contact Anne Hogya, Director Pittston Memorial Library, 47 Broad Street, Pittston, PA, 570-654-9565,
To contact the NEPA Intergenerational Coalition, you can call the Pittston Memorial Library, which houses the group, at 570-654-9565. When you call the Library ask for Howard Grossman or Anne Hogya. Or you can email the group at or find out more through its website at
If you live outside this area, has a webpage on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren to help you find grandparent programs in your state and get information about benefits, assistance, and more.

Related Reading:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

No Medicaid Penalty for Gifts to a Disabled Child

As we age many of us will reach a point where we need help with our daily activities. If our care requirements go beyond what our family can provide we will have to pay for help in meeting our daily needs.
This kind of help is called “long-term care” and it is expensive. Average costs range from $19 an hour for home help with household tasks to $240 a day for a private room in a nursing home. (See 2014 Survey details the cost of Long-Term Care Services and Supports). It's no wonder that seniors struggle with finding ways to obtain the care they need and pay for it without using up all of their income and savings.  
The problems of aging and the cost of care become even more complicated for seniors who have been providing financial support for a disabled child. What will the child do for financial support when the parent’s money is gone?
In general, Medicare does not pay for long-term care. Medicaid is the major governmental program that helps seniors pay for long-term care. But you have to qualify financially for Medicaid and the law may limit your ability to give away assets in order to meet the qualification level. It imposes a period of ineligibility for benefits if assets have been given away during the preceding five years. 
Exception to the Transfer Penalty Rules
The section of Medicaid law that penalizes transfers of assets includes a number of exceptions. One important exception applies to transfers that are made by a parent to his or her disabled child. This exception is found in the federal law at 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(c)(2)(B)(iii).
Several years ago the Pennsylvania Medicaid agency (the Department of Public Welfare or “DPW”) issued a policy clarification to help spell out the “disabled child” exception from the Medicaid transfer penalty rules. The policy clarification (PMN15789440) was dated May 18, 2011.  It answers four key questions:
1.     Can assets be transferred to an individual's disabled child? 
2.     Is there an age limit for the individual’s disabled child?
3.     If assets are transferred will a penalty period be imposed?
4.     Could the asset transfer affect the eligibility begin date? 
Here are the answers to these questions as provided by DPW’s Division of Health Services:
1.     Yes, assets (income and resources) may be transferred to an individual’s child, who is disabled per Social Security (SS) standards for the sole benefit of the child.  The disability must be documented.
2.     No, there is no age limit for the individual’s disabled child, including an adult child.
3.     No, a penalty period will not be imposed if the asset is transferred to an individual’s child who is documented as disabled per SS standards. 
4.     Yes, if an individual applying for Medical Assistance (MA) and payment of Long Term Care (LTC) services must reduce resources to be eligible, it could affect the begin date of eligibility, if the assets are transferred to an individual’s disabled child.  I.E. Mr. B is requesting MA LTC effective 2/15/11 and has resources totaling $15,000.  He has a child, who is documented as disabled per SS standards.  On 2/28/11, he transfers $8,000 to his child for the child’s benefit.  Mr. B would be eligible for MA LTC on 3/01/11 if all other conditions of eligibility are met. 
Important Note: If you are considering making a gift to a disabled child you must first factor in the issue of maintaining a disabled beneficiary's eligibility for means-tested government benefits like Medicaid and SSI. Consult an experienced elder law attorney before you make the gift.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Effect of the Elective Share on Medicaid Estate Planning

If your husband is in a nursing home, can you disinherit him? This may not be that easy to do. 

What is the elective share?

The purpose of the Pennsylvania elective share law (20 Pa. C.S. 2201-2211) is to provide a surviving spouse with a reasonable share of a decedent's estate. This is meant to protect the surviving spouse from becoming impoverished by an inadequate inheritance. 

In Pennsylvania, the surviving spouse is entitled to approximately 1/3 of certain property interests. The surviving spouse may either claim this "elective share" or "waive" it. If it is waived the surviving spouse gets to keep whatever he or she receives as a result of the will and other arrangements made by the decedent.

When one spouse is admitted to a nursing home and may need financial help from the Medicaid program, a married couple will often arrange all of the couple's assets so that they are held in the sole name of the spouse at home ("community spouse"). But, if the community spouse is the first to die, assets inherited by the institutionalized spouse will likely disqualify that spouse for continued Medicaid benefits.

In order to preserve the Medicaid benefits for the institutionalized spouse, and provide for an inheritance for a couple's children, the community spouse may sign a new will that disinherits the institutionalized spouse. The idea is to have the couple's assets pass to the children rather than being lost to the cost of nursing home care. 

However, if the institutionalized spouse elects to receive the 1/3rd elective share, that election will take priority over the community spouse's will. And the assets received will normally mean that the institutionalized spouse would no longer be eligible for Medicaid nursing home benefits. 

So, what happens if the institutionalized surviving spouse waives his or her right to their elective share?

Does the Department of Public Welfare require that the institutionalized spouse claim the elective share?

Yes.  The Department of Public Welfare requires that a disinherited institutionalized spouse claim the elective share
or else face a Medicaid transfer of assets penalty. 

What if the institutionalized spouse chooses to waive the elective share?

If an otherwise disinherited nursing home spouse waives the elective share, the Department of Public Welfare will deny Medicaid eligibility based on the theory that there was an available asset that could have been collected and thus used to pay for the nursing home resident's care. The waiver of the elective share will be deemed to be a non-exempt transfer of assets by the institutionalized spouse. This deemed transfer will create a period of ineligibility for Medicaid benefits.

How is the penalty period calculated when the elective share is waived?

The Department of Public Welfare will consider the non-election as a transfer of assets for less than fair consideration and deny benefits for a period of time based on the value of the unclaimed elective share divided by a penalty divisor (which is based on the average cost of nursing home care). The result of this arithmetic establishes the length of the period of time during which the surviving spouse will be ineligible for continued Medicaid long term care benefits.

The elective share is a complicated planning issue. But, effective planning by a knowledgeable elder law attorney can reduce or eliminate the negative impact of the elective share on the continued eligibility of the surviving spouse for Medicaid. 

It is extremely helpful if appropriate planning was completed during the lifetime of the community spouse and appropriate provisions have been included in powers of attorney, wills and trusts. Don't wait for a crisis. Plan in advance.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September is Senior Center Month

Senior community centers are widely used by America’s older adults. Nationally, 11,400 senior centers serve more than 1 million older adults every day. But many seniors who could benefit from the programs and services have never been in one.
Senior community centers are a gateway to services that allow seniors to stay healthy and independent, such as:

  • Meal and nutrition programs
  • Health, fitness, and wellness programs
  • Transportation services Volunteer activities and employment opportunities
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Educational and arts programs

According to the National Council on Aging, older adults who participate in senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience measurable improvements in their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic well-being. Compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction and lower levels of income.
September is National Senior Center Month and a great time for older adults to check out one of the 550 senior community centers located throughout Pennsylvania.
To find a Pennsylvania senior community center near you, click here.