Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How can I protect my assets from nursing home costs?
A. There are several ways to protect your estate from nursing home costs, particularly if you plan ahead. Irrevocable trusts, gifting, converting non-exempt assets into exempt assets, permissible spending down, the purchase of annuities and long term care insurance are all options. However, the law in this area is very confusing, and there is a good chance that whatever you have heard is wrong. It is important to consult with a Certified Elder Law Attorney experienced in all aspects of estate planning to discuss your individual situation.


Q. What is the difference between a Will and a Trust?
A. A Will takes effect after you die. If your estate exceeds $100,000 and you have a Will, your estate may have to go through Probate.

There are many types of trusts. A Living Trust, which is the most common type, can help you avoid probate. When properly drafted, trusts can provide you many other benefits as well.


Q. What is Probate?
A. Probate is a court process that distributes assets after an individual passes away. In California, it can be extremely time-consuming, frustrating and needlessly expensive. A skilled estate planning attorney can show you ways to ensure your estate will not be subject to probate, and the public scrutiny that accompanies it. However, if you are currently involved in probating an estate, a good estate planning attorney can guide you through the process efficiently and with a minimum of stress.


Q. What happens if I die without a Will?
A. In California, if you die without a Will, the state of California and the Superior Court will decide who will be in charge of your estate and who will inherit it.


Q. Do I have to pay my parent/parents bills after he or she passes away?
A. Unless you have signed for their bills, you probably are not responsible for paying them. However, if you take on the responsibility of personal representative for your parent’s estate, you have to pay them out of his or her assets.


Q. How can I protect myself if I don’t want to be kept alive on life support machines?
A. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, sometimes called a Living Will, will protect you in this situation and ensure your wishes are carried out.


Q. What is Conservatorship?
A. Conservatorship is a court process whereby the court appoints a person or entity to be in charge of your affairs if you are unable to do so. A proper estate plan can avoid the need for a Conservatorship, and the pain and expense that accompanies it. Martha Patterson understands the agony a family suffers when a loved one is under a Conservatorship and can help you avoid it.


Q. Does a Living Trust protect my estate from the high cost of nursing home care?
A. Not exactly. Living Trusts do protect your estate from the need for a probate and a Conservatorship, and may in some cases save taxes. But if your assets are in a Living Trust and you need to go into a nursing home, then all of the assets contained in the Living Trust will be counted to determine whether or not you qualify for Medi-Cal. To best protect your home and other assets from nursing home costs, you need to contact our office about our Medi-Cal Asset Protection Trust.


Q. Are Medi-Cal-related asset protection strategies legal? Are they ethical?
A. Yes, and yes. The asset protection strategies that we use are never hidden from the Medi-Cal caseworker. We are committed to using only strictly legal and ethical protections of the law, which are communicated to our clients and to the government officials.


Q. Why have so few of my friends and family heard about Medi-Cal planning?
A. Even many lawyers do not know or fully understand Medi-Cal law. It should come as no surprise that the public, or well-intentioned people in the senior services network, are unaware that legal and ethical assistance to cope with the high nursing home care costs is available.


Q. How long will it take you to determine if you can help me and my family receive assistance from Medi-Cal to help pay for nursing home costs?
A. We have extensive experience determining eligibility for Medi-Cal and other benefits. If you provide us with basic information about your current situation, which we will outline for you, we can generally give you an answer about whether or not we can help within 24 hours.


Q. How much do you charge for an initial consultation?
A. Nothing. Our initial meeting with you is free.