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Dad is already in a nursing home for the past three months and my mom is still living in their home and quickly going through savings - he has been on hospice but seems to be more stable lately. I already started gathering 5 years of documents and have the application but I need an attorney who specializes in this process so I don’t make a mistake and delay the process.

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So, here's a checklist that I found online for a "Medicaid Planning" firm. It's a list of documents that they will need. Notice it doesn't say anything about needing access to these accounts.

https://www.senior-planning.com/document-checklist/

When my mom was in the hospital having her broken hip repaired, we met with the discharge planning team. They gave us a form asking us to list mom's assets. (I remember bristling at this a bit, but my SIL the MBA understood that they needed to see if she could private pay for a while, how long before Medicaid, etc.) We gave them round numbers and they were able to figure out how long mom's assets would last before we would need to apply for Medicaid.

I'm now happy to talk with financial people about round numbers; I can't imagine giving access to my accounts to anyone except my eldest child who is POA.
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Mary; We have a poster here who always says "Filing for Medicaid when there is a Community Spouse is NOT a DIY project".

I've never had to do it, but I don't understand why a Medicaid planner would need access to your parents' accounts. I think bringing them statements from brokerage, SS and pensions (with account numbers blanked out) would be sufficient.

Be diligent if figuring out (with mom) what her expenses look like so that you can arrange for her to have adequate monies to live.
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Mary; a couple of things.

The terminology you want to be familiar with is that mom is the "community spouse", i.e., the spouse who is not institutionalized.

There are "non-countable" assets: a home and one vehicle.

Medicaid does not want to impoverish the community spouse, so mom will be provided with enough of the couple's joint income to allow her to live, even if that means that some of dad's SS and pension income goes to her and not to the NH.

Will the NH that dad is in accept him as a Medicaid patient after a period of private pay or will he need to move?

Retainers of $10K are not uncommon in North Jersey and NYC for this sort of work; make sure that the attorney you retain has NAELA or CELA certification. Remember that it's mom and dad's funds, not yours that pay for the lawyer and that Medicaid considers this a legitimate use of their money.
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MaryV2019 Aug 18, 2019
Hi Barb thanks so much for your reply and advice! I will need to confirm that the NH accepts Medicaid after private pay - I have spoken with their business manager about needing to start the process and she didn’t mention anything about it being a problem but I will make sure. In the meantime I have done the bulk of the work (five years of all documents for all open and closed accounts as well as all other requirements from the Medicaid checklist) - I just realized after going through the application that I need the experience of an attorney who specializes in this and knows what to consider as far as asset spending down, etc especially since mom is alive and mainly dependent on my Dad’s income. Having said that, I also spoke with an elder planner whose fees were less expensive than one elder Attorney we met with but I didn’t like the request to sign over authorization to access all their accounts - it’s possible that is what they all request but I have gathered all the required data at this point and made all the necessary copies of statements. So I’m hoping to hopefully hire an attorney this week and feel less stressed about it all. Thank you again!
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Mary, FreqFlyer makes a very good point about retaining an attorney with a larger firm.   There is always someone else to pinch hit in the event of an emergency.   And in my experience, there's a broader range of support in a practice area, i.e., estate planning attorneys counsel both young and old clients, often handle probate litigation, and are active in gifting.    Another attorney may focus more on clients who aren't at higher income levels. 

Paralegals who participate in those fields can do a lot of the "leg work" at a lower cost, but it's supervised by the attorney in charge.   So your costs would be lower than if an attorney did all the work.
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MaryV, wish there was a caregiver on-line here who is from Bergen County, New Jersey, and who has used an elder law attorney they could recommend. Chances are few and far between since this website goes worldwide.

Lot of excellent advice given from GardenArtist.

When I was looking for an Elder Law Attorney, I had scrolled to the bottom of this page and clicked on "Elder Law Attorneys", put in my zip code, and was given a list of such attorneys. For me, I was looking for an Attorney who worked for a large firm, thus if the attorney should move or retire, there are other Elder Law Attorneys in the firm to take over my file. Yes, the attorney was expensive, but she also had Para-legals who were able to do some of the work at a lesser hourly rate.
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MaryV2019 Aug 18, 2019
Thank you for your reply and pointing out your experience in going with a larger firm. I had a recommendation from a social worker at the NH and she is an attorney in her own practice and I left two messages last week with no reply yet. My only thought was it is summer vacation time but her voicemail didn’t say anything of the sort. So it’s maybe a better route as you say with a firm that has other attorneys/paralegals available to get back to you in the event one is away or absent.
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My standard response to locating an attorney in a specific practice area:

Locate the NJ state bar association or the bar association in your county.  In my experience bars typically list attorneys alphabetically and by practice area.   Search for elder law attorneys, check out their websites and determine how much experience each attorney has, while also trying to determine how successful they are (often incorporated into each attorney's description.)

This is a link to the Michigan site, so you can get an idea of what information might be available on a State Bar Assn. site.

https://www.michbar.org/

Also search for NJ Elder Assistance to determine if there's a free Elder Law or Medicaid search assistance available.   Eg, Michigan provides free advice to income qualified older people on various areas.   

Then contact them, with a list of questions to ask to determine (a) whether one will take your case (b) what level of retainer is required (c) what the plan of action would be and (d) any other questions you need to know before retaining an attorney.

Other options:   Depending on size and staffing diversity, local senior centers may be able to guide you to other sources to identify elder law firms, but they generally won't make any recommendations on specific firms.   

The Jewish Welfare Federation and the Alzheimer's Assn. are top notch sources for referrals.    The AA responds within 1/2 hour most times.  Area Agency on Aging takes a week or so to respond.  

The best thing you can do is contact firms and evaluate them yourself.   Any recommendation that anyone here would make might be more tailored to our specific needs, rather than yours.   And contacting law firms will help you flesh out just how much help you need.
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MaryV2019 Aug 17, 2019
Thank you so much this is very helpful info - I’ve already been to one elder attorney and their rate was outrageous so I’m looking for a good referral which is always the best to know from someone else’s experience.
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MaryV it's best not to put personal information of any kind up on the forum - I'm reporting my own post so that the moderators will edit your question.
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MaryV2019 Aug 17, 2019
Okay thank you I’m new to the board and this is my first time writing so will not for the future.
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