Elder Law In Georgia: 4 Things You Need To Know About Georgia’s Elder Law

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Are you curious about Elder Law in Georgia? 

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • what is elder law in Georgia
  • estate planning for seniors (wills, trusts, POAs, advance directives)
  • how to plan for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income
  • how to set up guardianship and conservatorship
  • special needs planning for elders with disabilities

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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What Is Elder Law In Georgia?

Elder law is a specific area of law that focuses on the legal needs of the elderly and disabled. 

Here are the areas of focus for Georgia’s elder laws:

  • Estate Planning: Estate planning includes creating wills, trusts, and managing estate taxes. It can also involve power of attorney documents, healthcare directives (like living wills), and guardianship arrangements.
  • Long-Term Care: This includes planning for potential long-term care needs, such as nursing home care or home health care. Elder law attorneys often assist in understanding and navigating Medicaid regulations which often fund these services.
  • Medicaid Planning: Given the high cost of long-term care, many seniors may rely on Medicaid. An elder law attorney can help plan to ensure that seniors meet Medicaid’s financial requirements without being impoverished using qualified income trusts.
  • Retirement and Social Security: An elder law attorney can provide advice on retirement planning and Social Security benefits, and help to resolve any issues that may arise with these benefits.
  • Elder Rights: This can involve combating elder abuse, neglect, and fraud. An elder law attorney may advocate for the rights of seniors in situations like these.
  • Probate and Estate Administration: After a person passes away, their estate typically goes through a process known as probate. An elder law attorney can help guide families through this often complex process of estate administration.
  • Special Needs Planning: For families with special needs individuals, elder law attorneys can help create special needs trusts and other legal structures to provide for their long-term well-being.

Estate Planning for Seniors

Let’s look at estate planning for seniors. 

Wills and Trusts

In Georgia, a valid will is essential. 

It directs how you want your assets distributed after death. 

Without it, state laws dictate who gets what, which may not match your wishes.

There are different types of trusts in Georgia

Revocable living trusts let you maintain control over your assets while alive. 

You can change it anytime. 

It can also bypass probate, providing privacy and faster distribution to beneficiaries.

Irrevocable trusts, once established, cannot be changed easily. 

They’re useful for asset protection and can minimize estate taxes.

Special needs trusts support disabled beneficiaries. 

They preserve eligibility for government benefits while providing extra funds for the beneficiary’s needs.

Charitable remainder trusts can provide a stream of income for you or a loved one, with the remainder going to charity. 

This type of trust can offer significant tax benefits.

Georgia doesn’t have an estate tax, but federal estate tax may apply for estates over the exemption amount. 

The current federal exemption is $12.06 million. 

Any amount above this is taxed at a rate of up to 40%.

Trusts can reduce the size of your taxable estate, potentially saving thousands in taxes. 

However, trusts must be correctly set up and managed to achieve these benefits.

Power of Attorney and Advance Directives

In Georgia, elders can appoint a trusted agent using a Power of Attorney (POA). 

The POA document specifies the powers given to the agent. 

This can range from handling financial matters to making health care decisions.

For health care decisions, elders can use an Advance Directive for Health Care. 

This document combines the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

A Living Will states the person’s wishes for end-of-life care

It only takes effect if the person can’t communicate their own decisions.

The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care lets the elder choose someone to make health decisions for them. 

This person is known as a health care agent.

The health care agent follows the elder’s instructions in the Living Will and other preferences. 

They make decisions about treatments, doctors, and healthcare facilities.

These legal documents help ensure the elder’s medical treatment preferences are honored, even if they can’t communicate or make decisions.

It’s important to discuss these documents and decisions with trusted family members or friends. 

This ensures everyone knows the elder’s wishes and can respect them.

Medicaid Planning

In Georgia, to be eligible for Medicaid, you must meet certain criteria. 

These include:

  • Age and Disability: You must be aged 65 or older, or be disabled.
  • Income Limits: Your income must be below a certain threshold. This year, the income limit is $2,382 per month for an individual.
  • Asset Limits: You must have limited assets. Last year, the limit was $2,000 for an individual, not counting your home, a vehicle, and certain other items.

Asset protection strategies in Georgia for Medicaid purposes often involve:

  • spending down assets 
  • converting countable assets into exempt ones 

Common strategies include:

  • Spend-Down: Spend money on things like home improvements, a new car, or paying off debt.
  • Asset Conversion: Move money into exempt assets, such as a home or a funeral trust.
  • Caregiver Agreement: Pay a family member for caregiving through a formal agreement.

Trusts can also be used for Medicaid planning in Georgia. 

The most common is an Irrevocable Trust:

  • Irrevocable Trust: This is a trust you cannot change or control once it’s set up. After assets have been in this trust for five years, Medicaid can’t count them.

Remember that Medicaid rules can be complex, and any mistakes can lead to penalties or delays in benefits. 

It’s crucial to get help from an expert in Medicaid planning or Elder Law.

This way, you ensure you’re following all the rules and making the best decisions for your situation.

Read More: How To Protect Parents’ Assets From Nursing Homes

Guardianship and Conservatorship

Let’s look at guardianship and conservatorship in Georgia. 

Understanding Guardianship in Georgia

Elder law in Georgia includes a concept called guardianship. 

Guardianship is a legal tool that grants a person, the guardian, the authority to make decisions for another person, the ward. 

The ward is typically someone who cannot make decisions due to incapacity, such as an elderly person with dementia.

The purpose of guardianship is to protect the rights and welfare of individuals who can’t care for themselves.

It provides a way to manage their personal and financial affairs when they’re unable to do so.

The guardian’s role is to make decisions on behalf of the ward. 

These decisions can be about health, property, or daily care. 

The court supervises the guardian to ensure they’re acting in the ward’s best interest.

Establishing guardianship in Georgia involves several steps:

  • Filing a Petition: Someone interested in the welfare of the potential ward files a petition in probate court. The petition explains why the person needs a guardian.
  • Medical Examination: A licensed physician examines the potential ward. They submit a report to the court detailing the person’s mental and physical condition.
  • Hearing: The court holds a hearing. The potential ward has a right to be present, represented by a lawyer, and to oppose the petition.
  • Court Decision: If the court finds that the person needs a guardian, it will appoint one. The court may require the guardian to post a bond, an insurance policy to protect the ward’s property.
  • Letters of Guardianship: Once appointed, the guardian receives letters of guardianship. These are official documents proving the guardian’s authority.

Georgia Conservatorship for Financial Protection

In Georgia, a conservator is a person appointed by the court to manage the financial affairs of an individual who can’t do so themselves.

To appoint a conservator, you need to file a petition with the probate court. 

This petition should show that the person can’t manage their finances due to incapacity.

After the petition, the court appoints a guardian ad litem. 

This person investigates the situation and reports back to the court.

The court also schedules a hearing. 

During the hearing, the judge hears all the evidence and decides whether to appoint a conservator.

The conservator has many duties. 

They must manage the person’s money and property carefully. 

They must also keep accurate financial records.

Each year, the conservator must provide a report to the court. 

This report shows all income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.

There are also limits on what a conservator can do. 

For example, a conservator can’t make healthcare decisions. 

That’s the role of a guardian.

A conservator can’t sell property without court approval. 

They also can’t make gifts or change a person’s last will and testament.

It’s important to remember that a conservator’s role is to act in the person’s best interest. 

This means using their assets wisely and for their benefit.

Long-Term Care Planning

Let’s look at long term care planning. 

Evaluating Long-Term Care Options

Elder law in Georgia covers several areas related to care for the elderly. 

Here’s a simple explanation:

  • In-home care services provide help to seniors who live at home. This help may include personal care, such as bathing and dressing, meal preparation, and help with medication. Some in-home services also offer medical care, like physical therapy.
  • Assisted living facilities in Georgia offer a middle ground between independent living and nursing homes. Here, seniors live in a residential setting where they receive help with daily tasks like meals, medication management, and personal care. These facilities also offer social activities.
  • Nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities offer the highest level of care for seniors outside of a hospital. They provide round-the-clock medical care and assistance with daily activities. Skilled nursing can involve wound care, physical therapy, and other specialized medical services.

Each of these options can be expensive. 

Medicaid, a government program, may help cover some costs. 

Elder law attorneys in Georgia can provide advice on how to:

  • plan for these expenses 
  • navigate the complex Medicaid rules

All these care options aim to protect the rights and enhance the quality of life for seniors. 

In Georgia, laws and regulations are in place to ensure these facilities meet certain standards and that seniors are treated with dignity and respect.

Paying for Long-Term Care

In Georgia, Elder Law focuses on various aspects of aging, including healthcare and financial matters. 

Here is a brief explanation of Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance as they relate to elder law.

Medicare primarily covers short-term, acute care. 

It doesn’t cover long-term custodial care, such as assistance with daily activities or extended stays in a nursing home.

When Medicare’s coverage isn’t enough, Medicaid can serve as a safety net. 

Medicaid can cover the cost of long-term care, both in a nursing home and at home. 

But, it’s necessary to meet strict income and asset criteria to qualify for Medicaid. 

Planning for Medicaid often involves strategic legal maneuvers to protect assets while still meeting these criteria.

Long-term care insurance is another option to cover long-term care costs. 

However, it’s important to review policy details carefully. 

Factors like premium cost, inflation protection, daily benefit amount, and elimination period can vary widely.

Special Needs Planning

Let’s talk about special needs planning for elder law, including: 

Planning for Individuals with Disabilities

In Georgia, elder law focuses on three key areas for individuals with disabilities: 

  • creating special needs trusts
  • maximizing government benefits
  • making guardianship arrangements

Special needs trusts allow you to set aside assets for disabled individuals without affecting their eligibility for benefits. 

The trust holds and manages these assets, providing for the individual’s needs beyond what government benefits cover.

Maximizing government benefits while preserving assets often involves careful planning. 

Assets within certain limits won’t disqualify someone from programs like Medicaid. 

Transferring assets into a trust or spending down strategically can help maintain eligibility for benefits while preserving wealth.

Guardianship for individuals with disabilities is another important aspect. 

A guardian makes decisions for the person who cannot do so themselves. 

In Georgia, a court determines:

  • if a person needs a guardian
  • who the guardian should be
  • what decisions they can make

This process requires demonstrating that the individual:

  • lacks the capacity to make decisions 
  • needs a guardian to protect their interests

A Georgia elder law attorney would guide you through the process.

We will tailor strategies to the individual’s needs and the family’s resources.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid

In Georgia, the eligibility criteria for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) include:

  • being 65 or older, blind, or disabled
  • having limited income and resources

The income limit for SSI varies, but it considers both earned and unearned income. 

Resources should generally be under $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.

Medicaid eligibility also requires the individual to meet certain income and resource limits, which can vary depending on the specific program.

To protect eligibility for these benefits, you may use strategies like spending down assets on care or setting up trusts.

A “spend down” strategy involves using excess income or resources to pay for medical or care expenses, to reach eligibility limits.

Setting up a trust, like a Special Needs Trust or Qualified Income Trust, can also protect assets. 

Assets in these trusts don’t count toward eligibility limits.

Navigating the application process for SSI and Medicaid often involves gathering:

  •  personal information
  • financial records
  • medical documentation

Applications can typically be completed:

  • online
  • over the phone
  • in person at local Social Security or Medicaid offices

Help from an elder law attorney or advocate can make the application process easier, as they understand the complexities of these programs.

Remember to periodically review and update your financial plans, as eligibility criteria and personal situations may change over time.

FAQs About Elder Law In Georgia

Here are some common questions clients ask us about elder law in Georgia. 

When Should I Hire An Elder Law Attorney?

You should hire an elder law attorney:

  • When planning for future healthcare needs and long-term care.
  • When preparing a will, trust, or estate plan.
  • When a loved one becomes incapacitated and you need to make legal decisions on their behalf.
  • If you suspect elder abuse or fraud.
  • For assistance in navigating the probate process after a loved one’s death.
  • When planning for the care of a special needs family member.

What Does An Elder Law Attorney Do?

An elder law attorney helps older adults and their families navigate legal issues. 

They craft wills and trusts to manage assets. 

They set up powers of attorney and health care directives for when clients can’t make decisions. 

They plan for potential long-term care needs. 

They help clients understand and qualify for Medicaid. 

They provide advice on retirement and Social Security benefits. 

They fight for elder rights in cases of abuse, neglect, or fraud. 

They guide families through probate and estate administration after a loved one passes away. 

For families with special needs individuals, they create special needs trusts. 

Overall, they work to protect the rights, finances, and well-being of older adults.

Hire An Elder Law Attorney In Georgia

If you want help from an elder law attorney in Georgia, fill out the form below. 

At The Hive Law, we understand the importance of:

  • protecting your hard-earned assets 
  • ensuring your family’s future
  • not losing everything to Medicaid
  • being eligible for Medicaid

We only accommodate a limited number of clients each month.

So don’t miss your opportunity to work with our trust fund lawyers.

Benefits of our trust services:

  • Tailored solutions to fit your unique needs and goals
  • Expert guidance in navigating complex tax and legal matters
  • Preservation of your wealth for future generations
  • Streamlined asset distribution according to your wishes

Avoid the pitfalls of inadequate estate planning strategies:

  • Creditors seizing your assets
  • Lawsuits jeopardizing your family’s financial security
  • Family disputes over inheritance
  • Costly and time-consuming probate processes

Talk soon.

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