Updates from Solkoff Legal

The Elder Law Attorney and Mrs. Baker – Finding Solutions

 

elder law case

When Rose Baker first came to my elder law attorney office, she had been married to her husband, Joe, for 59 years. They lived their lives together in Massachusetts and retired to South Florida in 1992. When I came out to greet Mrs. Baker in the reading room (we don’t have a “waiting” room), her eyes were puffy, red and she was clutching a wrinkled tissue in one hand. I brought her back to my office where she immediately related her story to me. Joe is ill and in a nursing home. Rose feels overwhelmed, depressed, guilty, scared and lonely. On top of it all, she worries about being poor.

She goes further to explain that she has guilt and remorse for even talking about money because, she feels she should be at the nursing home taking care of what is really important — her husband, Joe. Crying again but trying not to, she feels embarrassed. I lean in from my desk to convey assurance and help her feel better. As an Elder Law Attorney, making her feel better is all I really want to do.

It’s overwhelming

Rose obviously feels overwhelmed with all that is going on in her life. In a burst, she tells me about the doctor at the nursing home, Joe’s most recent hospitalization, her daughter’s multiple sclerosis, her son living “back home” in Massachusetts, the high electric bill because it is so hot, her three CDs totaling $90,000.00, the stock once worth $140,000.00 but now worth only $100,000.00. How Joe used to be an important teacher and how good he was to her and the kids. She is crying off and on. Mrs. Baker reminds me of my grandmother.

I’m so glad I can help

I begin by asking her some questions from our elder law intake form. Instead of having a staff member do this, I do it. These innocuous questions help make wonderful small talk with my clients. Often, new clients are nervous and scared, just like Mrs. Baker and it helps calm things down. As Mrs. Baker and I talk, I write down some notes of my impressions and the answers to the questions using her own words wherever possible.

Elder Law Attorneys talk about the details

Mrs. Baker has two children; a daughter named Hillary and a son name Stephen. Hillary is a “good girl,” suffers from MS and does not “deal well with sad things.” Hillary calls once each week but Mrs. Baker does not want to “burden her.” Mrs. Baker last saw Hillary eight months ago. It is hard for Hillary to travel because of her MS. Stephen is a teacher, having followed in Dad’s footsteps. Stephen is a big help to Mrs. Baker. He was just down for ten days and will be returning next month. Because there is no school in summer, Stephen has some flexibility for the time being.

Mrs. Baker feels panic thinking about the expenses. She just paid the nursing home $5,700.00 for last month alone. “We never spent money like this,” she says. She tells how she and her husband saved and saved their money; how they never had two cars, how Joe “taught me how to put money away for later.” She tells me how Joe does not even recognize her sometimes and she starts crying a lot now.

Even though I know I can help Mrs. Baker as her elder law attorney, I feel frustrated that I cannot do more. I want her to stop crying, to be happy, and to feel secure again. For strength, I strong-arm my emotions aside and stay with my lawyerly, authoritative and assuring pose. My deepest wish is for her to understand that I can help her and that she will feel some precious relief.

Elder Law Attorneys provide solutions to lift the weight

“Mrs. Baker, when you leave here today, I want you to leave with a weight taken off of your shoulders. I cannot fix all of the problems, but I can remove the money problem from your worries.” She exhales some years of worry and her shoulders visibly relax.

“How?” She is wobbling her head and looks incredulous. Then she adds, “The money is not important though.” Even in her excitement to maybe have found some help, she feels guilty that we are talking about “money” when her husband is suffering so much.

“Mrs. Baker,” I continue, “Money buys care. I cannot make your husband all better. No one can. But what we can do is maximize the use of your savings so that he — and you — can get better care. We do this through a process of protecting your savings while accessing any and all benefits that will help you and your husband.”

I am very cool, very assuring. Inside, I want to jump up and hold Mrs. Baker and cry with her and tell her everything will be alright. But I know that I must convey detached professionalism so Mrs. Baker feels safe.

It’s so much more than the law

I am a healer at heart. My undergraduate degree is in religion. I had once planned to go into the clergy. I satisfy this need now by being an Elder Law Attorney and by doing magic shows. Magic makes people feel good and is a lot easier than Elder Law but I have learned that being a magician and being an Elder Law Attorney take very similar skills. My clients and friends kid me by saying that in one act, I make handkerchiefs disappear and in another act, I make assets disappear. I think this is funny too but it also makes me feel uncomfortable.

Some people do not understand what I do as an Elder Law Attorney. Some people think that Medicaid planning means taking rich people and putting them on the public dole. This is not true.

Mrs.Baker is a composite of my average elder law client. Middle to upper middle-class families who’ve dutifully saved for retirement only to be beaned by a long-term care system that has spiraled out of control. What the government wants is for Mrs. Baker to “spend down” the family savings and then, when there is little or nothing left, Medicaid will help pay for the nursing home. The problem, of course, is that Mrs. Baker then has little or nothing left to pay for those things that Medicaid will not cover. All of their efforts in saving for a lifetime mean nothing. They get no benefit from having saved. Indeed, in the room right next to Mr. Baker, a lady who never saved a penny is receiving the same care on Medicaid.

Planning makes all the difference

Through proper elder law planning, I know I can show Mrs. Baker how to protect all or most of the family savings. I can show Mrs. Baker how she can qualify Mr. Baker for Medicaid while still getting the benefit of their savings. By using their own dollars and the government’s dollars, Mr. Baker (and Mrs. Baker) will be able to afford more and better care. This can make all the difference.

The New York Court of Appeals (NY’s highest court) put it well when they held that, “No agency of the government has any right to complain about, the fact that, middle-class people confronted with desperate circumstances choose, voluntarily, to inflict poverty upon themselves, when it is the government itself, which has established the rule, that poverty is a prerequisite to the receipt of government assistance, in the defraying of the costs of ruinously expensive, but absolutely essential, medical treatment.”

Peace of mind is possible

Mrs. Baker is every client who has walked into my office full of grief, guilt and fear.

For the individual person who comes to me, Medicaid planning can mean the difference between that person’s (or their loved one’s) life and death and it almost always means a higher quality of life for one’s last weeks, months or years. With each individual person or family who comes into my office, I can care only about them and making things better. I know that more money means more care. An elder law attorney, I can show my clients how to protect their savings and access Medicaid to get better care. Most importantly, what I am doing is not only legal, but is morally just.

Mr. and Mrs. Baker worked hard for their money. They helped to build this country. Whether we serve as Elder Law Attorneys, guardians or in another helping capacity, we should feel good about doing all we can to make Mr. and Mrs. Baker’s lives better. That is what gives me pleasure and I hope you can and do feel the same.

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Best Lawyer I ever met! Mr. Solkoff represented me and my parents. He was able to protect their savings which were being spent at an astounding rate first for home health aides and then for my Dad's nursing home care. We paid one fee and he represented us for over three years. Never charged another penny and even suggested other documents and did not charge extra. I think we got to know the whole office because they all work together. Mr. Solkoff was recommended by my attorney in New York and then two other lawyers in Florida. I have learned in life that if you need surgery, find out who the other surgeons would go to for their family. Same with lawyers. I am a businessman. I work with lawyers a lot. This was by far the best experience I have had. Worth every penny. He literally wrote the book. This guy is the real deal and humble too. He was so patient with my mother.

Martin

Excellent. It was a great comfort knowing that my mom was protected, and she would be able to age gracefully, either in place or at a nursing home. Solkoff legal has been there from the beginning, and everything has worked out perfectly and as expected. The peace of mind is really worth it!

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Top elder law attorney. Both personally and professionally, I have utilized Solkoff Law for over 10 years. Personally, he has helped my dad before he passed at 101. His expertise and knowledge helped dad pass in a beautiful assisted living facility because of his work in family asset protection. He has prepare custom documents for me and my wife who is disabled. Professionally, he has helped dozens of my clients in long term care planning and for caring for a child of special needs. I have shared the podium with Scott and have been in meetings with his clients and mine. He is one of the most skilled attorneys that I have ever worked with in 30 years of wealth management practice. His staff is first rate and always responsive to my calls or those of clients. I have gone on end of life hospital visits with him to complete planning to help the family when their loved one is about to pass. Solkoff Legal is first class, knowledgeable, caring and accessible They are the team you want on your side with your planning and problems.

Paul

A great firm. I have used Solkoff Legal to set up all my legal documents in order to prepare for our needs in later life. I found Scott and all his associates to be knowledgeable and fully aware of my requirements. When a situation arose that caused us to use some of the documents (Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate) he suggested I knew that I was completely covered. I know my future is secure because I used this firm.


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When it comes to elder law, trust and estate planning, and medicaid asset protection, there is no name that is better known throughout Florida than SOLKOFF.  I have used Solkoff Legal for a long time, as has members of my family and clients whom I have referred. Attorney Scott Solkoff and his staff are true experts in this field, are consummate professionals, and have the client's best interests at heart. In fact, I believe Solkoff has received many awards not only for his humanitarian work in his community, but from his peers for his professional excellence.  I would recommend Solkoff to anyone looking for the very best...A+++!

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