Cona Elder Law

A senior citizen reviewing legal documents with her elder law attorney

Top 10 Questions to Ask an Elder Law Attorney


1. What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?

Elder Law is a specialized field of law that addresses the unique legal issues affecting older adults as they age.  Elder Law encompasses estate planning, asset protection, special needs planning, Medicaid planning and applications, probate and estate administration, guardianship proceedings, and, at Cona Elder law, estate litigation. An Elder Law attorney is your advocate, whether that means securing the most hours of Medicaid home care services, finding creative ways to help you become eligible for government benefits and protect your hard-earned assets for the next generation, minimizing estate taxes, or representing you in court in a family dispute such as a contested guardianship or contested estate. 

2. When Should I Hire an Elder Law Attorney?

The earlier the better! For asset protection purposes, the current look-back period is five years for institutional Medicaid. That means you need to take action to protect assets, such as by placing your home or other assets into an irrevocable trust five years before a health care crisis occurs. Since no one knows when a crisis may occur, early planning is key. Certainly the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we are all vulnerable. If COVID was not enough of a wake-up call, many people will hire an Elder Law attorney when they are beginning their retirement planning. 

3. How Can an Elder Law Attorney Help Me?

An Elder Law attorney will help you and your family members determine how you will pay for long term care. In New York, a home health aide, assisted living or nursing home typically costs $5,000 – $20,000 per month.  Without long term care planning, a family’s assets can be wiped out in short order. That’s where our law firm comes in. Cona Elder Law attorneys are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and we’ve been practicing elder law for over 20 years.

An Elder Law lawyer can help you in various ways.  When you are young, we can help you ensure that your financial and medical decisions can be taken care of if you are incapacitated by an illness or accident.  As you begin your career, marry and have children, we can help you plan for the future, making sure that your assets are protected.  We can help you in retirement and with long-term care planning to ensure that the cost of any long-term medical care will not render your family insolvent.  We are with you every step of the way.

4. What is the Average Cost for an Elder Law Attorney on Long Island?

The cost of an Elder Law attorney varies based upon the type of work. Certain types of legal work may be billed on an hourly basis while other types of work may be billed on a fixed or flat fee basis. The important thing to know is that you get what you pay for! When it comes to hiring an Elder Law attorney to preserve your assets and protect your loved ones, now is not the time to be penny wise and pound foolish. You want to hire knowledgeable and experienced Elder Law attorneys like the award-winning attorneys at Cona Elder Law.

5. How Can an Elder Law Attorney Help Protect my Assets? 

Asset protection is one of the most important areas of our practice.  After reviewing an individual’s assets, circumstances and wishes, we will discuss all the options available to our clients, weighing the risks and the pros and cons.  We pride ourselves on our best-in-class attorney-client relationships, getting to know you and your goals before engaging in any action. Once we’ve agreed on a sound legal plan that you are comfortable with, we take action right away because when it comes to asset protection, time is money and we need to get the five year clock ticking.

6. What is the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid? 

Medicare is the country’s health insurance program for people age 65 and older, regardless of their financial situation or their health status.  Medicare is a short-term payor and covers doctors, hospital visits and very limited stays in sub-acute rehabilitation facilities.  Medicaid is a means-tested government insurance program for individuals of any age who qualify financially.  You must be both financially and medically eligible to qualify for Medicaid benefits.  Medicaid benefits are only accepted by certain doctors and, if eligible, Medicaid covers community benefits (home health aides, adult day care), assisted living facilities in limited situations, and nursing home care.

7. When Should I Start Medicaid Planning? 

The earlier the better! The earlier you start Medicaid planning, the more likely you are to make it through the entire look-back period and therefore will be able to preserve all the assets you put into an irrevocable trust. If a health crisis occurs, you may have to break the trust and spend down one-half of your assets. Or is you fall ill before taking any action, it simply may be too late.   

8. How Can I Protect my Elderly Parents’ Money? 

If your parents did not do any planning and now they need care in a nursing home, rest assured that all is not lost. There will never be a time when you will have to spend every single penny of your parents’ hard earned money on their care.  If no asset transfers have been made and no trusts have been established, our experienced Elder Law attorneys can protect approximately one-half of an individual’s assets using a promissory note and gift, a legal technique that allows us to protect one half of your loved one’s assets even if he or she is being admitted to a nursing home the very next day.

9. Have Your Attorneys at Cona Elder Law Handled Cases Similar to Mine? 

The compassionate and experienced Elder Law attorneys at Cona Elder law have been practicing elder law for over 20 years, helping clients just like you find the right solutions for your family. We have helped tens of thousands of clients just like you over the years. But one size does not fit all; every family and every person is different. That is why we create customized trusts, estates and elder law plans for each and every client.

10. What Documents Should My Loved One Have in Place?

Anyone age 18 or older should have Advance Directives. A Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Will, collectively known as Advance Directives, allow you to plan ahead in the event of incapacity.  These important legal documents allow you to keep control of key financial and health care decisions by making these arrangements in advance and appointing trusted agents to assist you in the future.

In addition, you should have a Will, where you set forth your instructions regarding who will receive your property upon our death, including when and how. For example, you may wish to specify an age when assets will be distributed and you may decide whether assets should be given to your heirs outright or in a trust. You can also name a guardian for minor children, protect assets in a Special Needs Trust for disabled beneficiaries, engage in tax planning, make charitable gifts and properly plan for second marriages and blended families as well. You will appoint a trusted individual to handle these responsibilities, called your Executor.

Life changes over time and Estate Plans should change as life circumstances change. Revisit your Estate Plan when there are marriages or divorces, births or deaths in the family or major changes in the health care needs of aging loved ones. Laws also change, including tax laws and Medicaid/asset protection laws, of which you may want to take advantage. 

Start Preparing for Your Future Today by Speaking With one of Our Experienced New York Elder Law Attorneys 

Cona Elder Law is the recognized leader in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. Our award-winning firm has been continually ranked the #1 Elder Law firm on Long Island. Our holistic approach sets us apart from the others; we help our clients with legal issues but also provide assistance with financial matters, caregiver issues, health and housing and other practical matters. Our mission is to inspire and empower older adults to embrace aging with support and resources. Our customized trusts, estates and elder law plans have made us the go-to Long Island Elder Law attorney for well over 20 years. Contact us at 631.390.5000 to learn more.

About the Author Cona Elder Law

Cona Elder Law is a full service law firm based in Melville, LI. Our firm concentrates in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, special needs planning and health care facility representation. We are proud to have been recognized for our innovative strategies, creative techniques and unparalleled negotiating skills unendingly driven toward our paramount objective - satisfying the needs of our clients.

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