Medicaid is a government program that provides critical financial assistance to help seniors pay for long-term care. Unfortunately, the rules are complex, the application process can be confusing, and mistakes might cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
People you trust will likely suggest that you call either an Elder Law Attorney or a Medicaid advisor company for assistance. There are major differences between what an Elder Law Attorney and a Medicaid advisor company can do for you, and it’s important to understand what you will miss if you forego the assistance of a licensed attorney.
Under New Jersey law, the unauthorized practice of law is a criminal offense. N.J.S.A. 2C:22-1. The New Jersey Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law clearly outlined the boundaries for those who are not licensed attorneys in its 2016 opinion entitled Non-Lawyer Medicaid Advisors (Including “Application Assistors”) and the Unauthorized Practice of Law.
A non-lawyer (such as a Medicaid advisor company) is limited to the following:
- Provide information on insurance programs and coverage options
- Assist with Medicaid applications (gather documentation, count income and assets, and submit applications)
- Assist with communication between the agency and applicant
- Represent persons in hearings
A non-lawyer may NOT provide advice in matters that require the professional judgment of a lawyer.
Only a lawyer may provide legal advice on issues such as:
- Strategies for how to become Medicaid eligible
- The impact of marriage and divorce
- How to spend down resources
- Sale or transfers of assets
- The authority to transfer assets
- The need for guardianships
- Tax implications
- Estate planning (including provisions of wills and Powers of Attorney)
- Avoiding estate recovery
- Nursing home laws
- Estate administration and the elective share
Attorneys are able to offer far more than the administrative services offered by a non-lawyer. When the stakes are high and your loved one’s care and financially security are at stake, who will you choose?