Lawyer Monthly - June 2022

WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | JUN 2022 ELDER LAW COVER FEATURE - VALERIE PETERSON 16 monitor and understand the options clients have that they didn’t have in the past. Working closely with a variety of professionals that serve our growing senior population will be key in the future as these issues receive more media attention. If you had to give one piece of advice to a law student or recent grad who is interested in specialising in elder law, what would it be? Immerse yourself in learning this area. Don’t just dabble in it, really embrace it. You will make a huge positive impact in the lives of your clients. 2020, changed how retirement benefits are paid out and when. The age for mandatory distributions from an IRA was raised to 72. Individuals with earned income can now contribute to an IRA at any age, as opposed to having contributions barred at age 70½. One of the biggest changes was the 10-year distribution rule that requires most non-spousal beneficiaries of retirement plans to distribute the inherited account within 10 years of the account owner’s passing. However, there are exceptions for a disabled individual or a chronically ill individual (among other exceptions), which prompted ElderCounsel to create a new trust, called the SECURE Special Needs Trust, that allows a disabled or chronically ill individual to stretch out those payments rather than be limited to a 10-year payout. In the past year, we have seen some states loosen the financial criteria for qualifying for Medicaid. For example, in July, California will allow an individual with $130,000 to qualify for Medi-Cal benefits, when that limit was previously $2,000. There is a plan to phase out the asset limit altogether in that state. Other states have focused on providing more home and community-based services to allow individuals to access Medicaid benefits in a setting other than a nursing home. Are there any particular trends that elder law practitioners should watch out for in the years to come? Any newer challenges that you expect to emerge? The COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on long-term care and where it is received. Nursing home facilities were highlighted in the media and some had large numbers of casualties. There has been a lot of talk in Washington D.C. about expanding Medicaid’s budget to include more money for home and community-based programs (HCBS). This expansion would allow money to be available for care that a person could receive in their homes. Right now, these programs vary widely state to state and are generally underfunded with long wait times for approvals. The challenge for the elder law community is to stay on top of this issue and make sure the qualification rules make sense. Overall, I believe this is a positive trend for families to get their loved ones the help they need without having to move into a nursing home, but getting the legislation passed will require lobbying and volunteer time by elder law attorneys across the country. Another trend in long-term care is the expansion of creative ways to pay for it through private insurance policies. Traditional “use it or lose it” long term care insurance policies are being expanded upon by hybrid life insurance policies that can also have a long-term care rider. Again, this is a positive trend that elder law attorneys will need to Many elder law firms were able to expand their businesses as a result of changes they made to cope with COVID-19. Immerse yourself in learning this area. Don’t just dabble in it, really embrace it. You will make a huge positive impact in the lives of your clients.

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