Most of the nursing homes in our area charge $11,500 to $13,000 per month

James Ward

When I looked at the upcoming appointments on my calendar, one popped out at me. The husband had called to book the appointment. He said that his wife was in the nursing home and he’s losing all their money. He said it’s all going to the nursing home, and he wants to know how we can help him.

That’s a common problem people face as they age. Whether it’s for a spouse, a parent, or a close friend, very few people understand the system, and very few people plan in advance. Most of the nursing homes in our area charge $11,500 to $13,000 per month. That’s a lot of money. Some specialists state that 70 percent of all single people who enter a nursing home are impoverished within one year, and 50 percent of all couples are impoverished within one year of just one spouse entering the nursing home.

California laws are very different than those of other states when it comes Medi-Cal or Medicaid paying for the costs of nursing home care. Equally, our laws are very different than the other states regarding the rules for asset transfers and protecting family assets. How different? Our laws here allow flexibility of asset transfers that are simply prohibited in other states.

Unfortunately, most people are unaware of what can be done to protect their assets, so they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in nursing home bills when their stay at the very same institution could have been paid mostly by the state and the family could have saved that money. It’s disheartening to see people spend $300,000 or $500,000 that could have been saved for the family and the elder would have received the same level of care in the same facility.

Why does this happen? It’s generally through lack of knowledge and planning. People have preconceived notions that are generally wrong. Maybe it’s a general belief they can’t qualify, or maybe they’ve had some exposure to the rules in other states because they had a relative there or because they did some Internet research and found the rules from some other state. California’s rules are very different.

Other than lack of knowledge, what else creates this problem? The absence of good foundational documents can prohibit us from taking the necessary actions to protect family assets. If an elder is in decline, we can usually sign new documents to protect the assets, but if the family has waited too long, or the elder has had a sudden incapacitating event such as a major stroke, then we’re unable to sign new documents. If there are no legal documents in place, or if the elder has legal documents in place that are inadequate, then we’re often unable to protect the family assets.

Don’t let these things happen in your family. The loss of family assets could be significant.

Most estate plans work just fine if people die suddenly without ever needing care in a skilled nursing facility. But what if  . . . ? The idea is to have the option of protecting the family assets if the need ever arises. I compare a good estate plan to a good spare tire. What if you have a flat tire and the spare won’t fit, or the spare is flat? What good is it when you really need it?

Do yourself and your family a favor and make sure you have a good estate plan put in place to protect yourself and your loved ones. Don’t wait.

James Ward lives in Morgan Hill. He went to law school in New England and earned a post-graduate law degree in Estate Planning at the University of Miami. Jim worked as an Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney in Florida, and then returned to open his law firm focusing on Estate Planning and Elder Law. He has offices in South Valley and Willow Glen.

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James Ward

Jim Ward is a longtime South Valley resident who resides in Morgan Hill. He went to law school in New England and obtained a post-graduate law degree in Estate Planning at the University of Miami. Jim worked as an Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney in Florida, and then returned home to open his own law firm focusing on both Estate Planning and Elder Law. He maintains one office in South Valley and another in Willow Glen.
James Ward
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