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Public Benefits Planning

Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys Serving Individuals Throughout Houston and Harris County

As we age, we begin to face challenging questions we may not have previously put much thought into. One of these issues is what our life will look like post-retirement. While most would prefer to remain in their home for as long as possible, the reality is that isn’t an option for everyone. And with the already high costs of long-term care increasing, it is important to consider public benefits planning. At the Houston estate planning law firm of McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, our attorneys command an impressive knowledge of Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans’ benefits, and the limitations of each. We work closely with our clients to develop sound long-term care plans well in advance of any need, providing valuable peace of mind and protecting their hard-earned assets.

What is Benefits Planning?

The term public benefits planning refers to the comprehensive review of all available public benefits with an eye towards creating a long-term care plan the protects an individual’s assets while ensuring they receive the care they need, should the occasion arise. For most, Medicare and Medicaid are the two most commonly available benefits, as well as Veterans’ benefits, for those who qualify.

The Cost of Long-Term Care

Long-term care options, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home healthcare aides, provide care to millions of older Americans. However, these options are all quite costly. For example, the average cost of a private room in a Houston, Texas nursing home can easily exceed $90,000 per year. Here’s a great resource for current costs of care and includes a projection for future costs.

Generally, most people are eligible for Medicare benefits at age 65. However, Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term care. Thus, this leaves most people with two options: pay out-of-pocket or apply for Medicaid, which provides long-term care coverage. The problem is, many people either have too many assets or make too much in passive income to qualify for Medicaid but don’t have sufficient assets to pay for long-term care. Even for those who have the ability to pay, spending a life savings on long-term care is not something most people envisioned.

This is where government benefits planning is useful. By creating a Medicaid plan in advance of the need for benefits, individuals can protect their assets while preserving benefit eligibility in the future.

Medicaid Planning

One of the key considerations when pre-planning for Medicaid eligibility is the five-year lookback period. When someone applies for Medicaid, the Department of Health and Human Services will review an applicant’s financial statements for the preceding five-year period. If there are any transfers for which you did not receive something of equal value, you will be ineligible for Medicaid benefits. Thus, you cannot merely transfer money to a family member immediately before applying for Medicaid. Similarly, waiting to purchase long-term care insurance is similarly ineffective in that most will not qualify if the need for long-term care is quickly approaching.

However, by engaging in Medicaid planning well in advance of the need for long-term care, individuals can take steps to protect their assets while setting themselves up for future eligibility. Of course, planning options vary significantly and depend on your individual circumstances. To ensure that your Medicaid plan is sound, it is important to work with an experienced Houston estate planning attorney.

Contact the Elder Law Attorneys at McCulloch & Miller for Immediate Assistance

If you are approaching retirement and have not yet developed a long-term care plan for you and your spouse, it is important to do so sooner rather than later. At McCulloch & Miller, our dedicated Texas elder law and estate planning lawyers have an impressive knowledge of all available public benefit options and diligently create comprehensive long-term care plans our clients can rely on. To learn more about the services we provide and to schedule a consultation with a Houston public benefits planning lawyer, give us a call at (713) 333-8900. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

* Since these amounts (e.g., the "Average cost of Nursing Home," etc.) are adjusted annually, these numbers may vary slightly depending on when the most recent figures are released.

Client Reviews
"In late February, 2020, I needed to file from out of state for successor Letters Testamentary in Harris County for my father's estate. The attorney I used, Ryan Cook, returned my call promptly, gave me the option of hourly or flat rate fee, explained what would be involved, then let his paralegal and other staff handle most of the contact with me. I worked with Crystal. She was very responsive and tech savvy. As the pandemic hit and communication everywhere was getting difficult and the probate court had limited access, these women continued to stay in touch and help me through the process, with us all working remotely. We were all experiencing a new way of being in the world and all three of them handled it with grace, humanity and efficiency." L.B.
"I would highly recommend this law firm because of their caring and professional staff. Mr. David Miller and Crystal Collins have gone above and beyond to help our family get all our elderly parents legal paperwork up to date. We are extremely appreciative for all they have done for us." A.B.
"I engaged the services of McCulloch & Miller to assist me with the difficult task of navigating Medicaid eligibility requirements for a close family member. I found them to be knowledgeable and thorough. Working with Darby was a pleasure. She took the worry and aggravation of dealing with a government entity off my shoulders. I highly recommend McCulloch and Miller for eldercare issues." B.S.
"We needed assistance with a Medicaid application and McCulloch & Miller were extremely helpful and expedited the paperwork promptly. We also greatly appreciated the professionalism, and caring manner in which Darby handled our case. If you need assistance, we highly recommend this firm!" P.M.