Elder Law FAQ

What is Elder Law?

Elder Law is an area of law that addresses issues related to aging, incapacity, and death, most often associated with senior clients and their families.

What is the difference between Medicaid and Medicare?

Medicaid is a financial need-based program, and individuals who receive Medicaid are generally only allowed to have a certain dollar amount in assets and in monthly income to qualify to receive Medicaid. Medicare functions more like medical insurance and is not need-based.

What is the difference between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)?

SSI is a financial need-based program, similar to Medicaid. SSDI is not need-based and one of the requirements to receive SSDI is that an individual is "disabled" under the definition in Social Security laws.

What is a Medicaid lien?

When a person receives Medicaid benefits, Medicaid and the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing can try to recoup the funds that the state of Colorado paid on a person's behalf during his or her lifetime from that person's estate. If the individual who died was on Medicaid during life, often their largest asset is their home. Medicaid will often put a lien on that individual's home after they pass away to try to recover the costs of the person's Medicaid care.

If I go into a nursing home, will I have to turn over all my assets and money to the nursing home?

No. You may have to pay for the cost of your care at a nursing home or assisted living facility from your assets, but you do not need to "turn over" your assets to the facility. Nursing homes are not collection agencies.

Does Medicare cover the cost of long-term care?

No. Medicaid is the program that covers long-term care.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust or a Disability Trust is a trust that is set up to hold a person's money when they are on public benefits. For example, an individual on public benefits could include a disabled child or grandchild. Financial need-based public benefits have maximum requirements for the amount of assets and amount of income an individual can have while receiving the public benefits. If the individual's assets or income exceeds those amounts, they will lose their public benefits. This can become a problem, for instance, if an individual receives a one-time inheritance or settlement; the amount the individual receives may not be enough to sustain the individual's living for their lifetime, and yet receiving the amount would kick them off of their public benefits for a period of time. In that instance, a Special Needs Trust might be appropriate. A Special Needs Trust is required to have specific language allowing Medicaid or the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing to be paid back from the Trust's remaining funds after the individual dies.

What is a Third Party Trust?

A Third Party Trust is a trust that is set up with the money of a third party (the "Settlor") to benefit another person who receives public benefits. For example, an individual on public benefits could include a disabled child or grandchild. The money in the Third Party Trust is never owned by the individual who is on public benefits but is expended for their benefit. A Third Party Trust differs from a Special Needs Trust because when the individual on public benefits dies, any leftover money does not go to Medicaid to pay the state back. Instead, it is distributed according to the Settlor's wishes in the terms of the Trust. This may include being distributed among the Settlor's own heirs.