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I want to apply for Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits for my mother, but there are some financial obstacles in the way. I have made an appointment to meet with an Elder Care Attorney. Have you found their services useful? If I have DPOA, will I be able to make the necessary decisions to protect my mother's assets?

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Is a good elder service worth it? ABSOLUTELY. Caveat: make sure you find a GOOD one.

My family looked into getting the services of an elder service attorney when we were first applying for state assistance to get 'every day care' for our mom who suffers from mild-moderate stage Alzheimer's Disease (August 2012). We thought it would be a good idea to enlist the help of an attorney to make sure that our dad wouldn't be left with nothing if/when our mom eventually needed full time assistance in a nursing facility. The elder service attorney we spoke with came recommended and was very nice but said he couldn't do very much for us since my dad already had his 'affairs in order' (HCP, DPOA, etc.). Once my dad told him that my parents had a reverse mortgage on their home he became even less interested in us. He was quick to say we could call him with any questions we had but that we should probably look into whether the reverse mortgage might affect our mother's application for aid. When he left, I think we were all a little mystified by the fact that this lawyer seemed more interested in having US do the legwork rather than him doing it and charging us.

After that my dad lost interest in seeking an attorney's advice and let the matter drop. We continued to work with a caseworker through the local Elder Services Association in our area and through her my dad managed to get some day time assistance for himself and for my mom.

In May my dad passed away unexpectedly leaving my mother without a live-in primary caretaker. My brother and I quickly contacted the attorney we had spoken with before, and much to our chagrin, seemed very unconcerned and disinterested in helping us get care and support for our mom. We questioned ourselves whether it was because we were beyond help or if he just didn't want to help us.

In desperation we contacted the director of the day-program my dad had been taking my mom for the past year. She was a WONDERFUL help and recommended an elder service attorney who she said was very very good. Although we were somewhat skeptical in speaking with another attorney, the result couldn't have been more different from our previous experience.

We have never been so grateful to both our mom's casework, Terri, and to our new elder service attorney, Margaret. Not only was Margaret able to take a highly stressful, complicated set of circumstances and sort through them for us, she had super contacts at numerous nursing facilities and the state healthcare system. We believe to this day that Margaret was instrumental in getting our mom into the nursing facility that best fit her needs and that we were most happy with. When our dad's will had to be probated, she was able to do that too. Her help has been (and continues to be) invaluable in streamlining the most complicated paper trail known to mankind: Medicare and MassHealth. My personal confidence in her is such that when I am ready to put my OWN affairs in order, I will be retaining Margaret as my own attorney.

Do some homework and use the contacts you DO have to find out about attorneys who have a known track record in what you need help with for your particular case. Just because someone is recommended, doesn't mean they are interested or experienced in what you need.
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I should add that once you have a durable power of attorney, if at all possible, use it. Or at least take it to the elder's bank and get it on file. They need to send it to legal for decisions, and if they're unwilling to honor it for the things you need to do for your elder's welfare, you want to know that, not find it out by unpleasant surprise.
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My experience is that a good elder attorney is priceless. A bad one can dig you a very deep hole. And there doesn't seem to be any guideline about who can call themselves an elder attorney.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, she went to an elder attorney in her own city and had a new will, new power of attorney, and new healthcare directive done. Good thinking, right? Fast forward a year, when my mother was given an emergency tracheostomy and put in a nursing home. I start having to actually use the power of attorney to get her affairs in order and find out that it's hardly worth the paper it is written on. I drove 300 miles to her provincial little credit union because they have no branches anywhere else, and they turned me away because the power of attorney was so weakly written.

I found a new, local elder attorney and we got an updated power of attorney done. That was one of the last times she was able to sign a document, but I have been so grateful to have it... and the other guidance I got from them while I've been plowing through the last-minute estate planning process for her. What I learned was that elder attorneys aren't inexpensive, but their knowledge -- and that of their rock star paralegals who really do most of the work -- can help you navigate the confusing tangle of regulations and laws to get things done right so that you don't run afoul of any laws or lookbacks when time is of the essence.

I recently had to contact the original lawyer who wrote the useless power of attorney because he had kept the original copy of my mother's last will and testament. It was really hard for me to bite my tongue and not mention how utterly useless that thing had been, but I did. Thinking about it, I wondered whether he did things to try to ensure he would get additional business from my mother's estate later, like trying to be the lawyer who handled probate. Not gonna happen.
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Yes, an elder attorney is worth the money.

I had been after my mother for years and years to get her affairs in order. It took her falling and breaking her hip after she got Parkinson's to move her into action. She used her attorney to set-up things up. She was about 70 at the time and her attorney was even older and the only attorney in his office. He wanted me to do the running around to file things at the court house and mail legal documents to other counties where she had holdings. Manage things with the bank, stocks and her house.

Hey, guess what? He didn't know what he was doing and he wasn't able to be reached when I needed a question answered.

I went to an elder attorney and she picked through things and I think everything is in good order now. I only have a few loose ends to tie up.

One problem with parents signing their entire home over to kids is that if the kid gets in trouble financially it is possible to say goodbye to the home to cover the kids' financial problem.
My understanding is you have to spend down to the last $2,500 in assets before the government will step in and pay for a nursing home.
Apparently, you can purchase a special wheelchair van and that is not considered an asset.

Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Trust and Will. You need to know what each is and how it operates.
I have a Living Will on file with my physician and the local hospital. I have everything for my mother including her DNR on file with the hospital that is local.
I had everything on file with a large hospital in another city that we also use. They lost the documents. I refiled everything and had the employee type, date and sign that they had received everything. I also carry a copy of her living will, durable power of attorney and DNR in my glove compartment in my car. (Yes, I was a girl scout).
I was listening to something that said the child that handles things is out of pocket on average about $10K a year. This sounds about right since I take every Friday off to deal with mom's needs, dr. appointments and special speech therapy for Parkinson's.

There is a prevision in her trust that allows the person acting as the trustee to pay themselves about 1% of her total networth. I'm going to try and figure that all out this week. I've been told you can't include the worth of an IRA. I also don't know if you can let it ride for several years or not and pay yourself later. If anyone has experience with this, I'd like your advice.

Good luck! You can shop around over the phone. Ask your friends. You might check with the Better Business Bureau and the Bar Association.
Now, if I can get my husband to face the reality of mortality, life will be less stressful for me.
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We have had mixed reviews with a elder care attorney. They originally were helpful and suggested things such as purchashing 1/2 mom's house to ensure it could not be taken from her if she went into a nursing home and medicaid paid for the nursing home. There is a 5 year look back on this. Also, advised that we signed over her $10,000 life insurance policy to a funeral home, again so gov't come not take it. But then they decided they wanted $10,000 for any further assistance when then knew she only had $9,000 and some change in her accounts. They would not permit us to hire them on "one off" matters at $250, so we fired each other. This left the family with an impression of greedy lawyers. Good luck. I think there are some attorneys that really do want to help and are not just looking to make $$.
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Yes, and I'm glad I did because now my mom has dementia and everything is in place.
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What do I do when her dementia has over taken her reasoning skills? I know I need to get legal assistance, but she thinks everything is fine, but it is not. The house is about to be closed on because she has not made payments since my dad passed away in June. The flood in her neighborhood damaged the house, but she thinks it is all been cleaned up. She didn't want to leave the house. We are afraid to take her back to finish emptying it with her because she will refuse come back with us. We are at a loss and my family is slowly beginning to fracture due to the stress. I do not have power of attorney and she won't give it to me. Her answer, "I don't even have power of attorney." Any suggestions?
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I absolutely agree with the responses above. I thought I'd mention that the Alzheimer's Association's website has a section dedicated to Legal and Financial Planning. They provide tips and a helpful checklist of what to bring to your meeting. Many of these things are covered in igloo572's thoughful and thorough post, but if you haven't checked out the Alz. Assn. info, it's worth looking at to make sure that you are fully prepared. Good luck.
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I agree with the previous two posts. We hired a very competent and experience "elder attorney" who was referred to us by our financial advisor. He is very experienced, kind and professional. His assistance was priceless as this may be a very complicated process depending on your circumstances. He lives in the Boston area. If anyone reading this would like his contact information please post a request and I will gladly send his contact information to you.
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I would add interviewing several eldercare attorneys and selecting the best qualified with a staff of legal aides who will do most of the work. Bring your mother and look for compatible chemistry between you, your mother and the attorney during your first pro bono "meet and greet". Good Luck!
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I went with my father to a certified elder attorney because we were concerned with the possibility of my mother some day having to go into a nursing home. It was the best thing we could have done. Issues regarding the elderly and disabled are complex. We were helped to understand all our options for getting Medicaid while protecting assets. We now have all our legal papers in order, up to date and adjusted to our special needs. The peace of mind is well worth the cost of doing it right.
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I've found having an experienced attorney to be priceless. That being said, the "experienced" part is the big hurdle. For my mom, most of her legal was done over a decade ago and we used an estate attorney and he was pretty elder law savvy but not elder law certified but everything he suggested was really valuable. For example, he had her do a "Guardianship in Case of Incapacity" done, which isn't usually routinely done, but he did because it was his experience that so often the elder will in a fit of dementia or spitefulness, go can change the DPOA, MPOA from you to an outsider......the Guardianship kinda gives you (as DPOA) an edge or a trump card to use if that happens and you have to go to court to get DPOA rescinded or get guardianship.

Whatever the case, you need to go to the appointment with all the documents you can find and do a general list of important info on your parent to make your time with the attorney as efficient as possible for all of you. Time is $$.
I would take:
copy of their drivers license, SS card, passport or other document that shows citizenship if that could be an issue later on (my mom is naturalized citizen); copy of marriage license, divorce decrees and children dob. If they were married before then the info on that marriage, divorce, kids too. If their spouse has died, then the stuff from probate court for that. If they own property (house, land car), then copy of the mortgage or deed of trust; latest property tax valuation from the assessor's office; any old wills or codicils to those wills. Now if you don't have all this, the attorney can have their paralegals get this, but it will increase the cost. Most counties have documents available for the last 5 - 7 years on-line for cheap and done in real time, so look to see what you're missing and request them. For stuff more than 5 -7 years old, it gets archived, so you may have to do a courthouse run to get those documents. Good luck.
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