Navigating the Maze of MassHealth: Why You Need an Elder Law Attorney as Your Guide

By Attorney Erin L. Nunes, Esq., Partner

Facing the prospect of long-term care for a loved one is daunting enough. When finances come into play, the complexities of MassHealth, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, can add a whole new layer of stress. That’s where an experienced elder law attorney becomes your invaluable compass. The attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski have successfully guided hundreds of our clients to MassHealth eligibility over the last two decades. We do that with compassion and empathy for the applicant and for their family who are having to make the difficult decision to transition their family from a community setting to a care facility coupled with an extensive knowledge of the MassHealth rules, what is allowed and what isn’t, and how best to advocate for our clients when an issue arises during the application process.

Just recently, we met with a family who had worked with an attorney recommended to them by the nursing home to file a MassHealth application. The application was approved, but after approval that attorney contacted them to relay that they needed to transfer the ownership of parent’s home back to parent. The family wanted a second opinion, so they came to us. We reviewed the way the home was owned, which was in a life estate deed put into place more than 5 years before parent needed care. With a life estate deed, parent transferred ownership of the property to himself for life, meaning he had the right to live in the home for the rest of his life, and upon his passing the deed designated who was take full ownership of the property. Parent is the “life tenant” and his children were the “remaindermen.” Since it was signed more than 5 years before care was needed, this type of deed protected the home from the cost of long-term care so long as it was not sold during parent’s lifetime. The attorney was incorrect when he informed the family that the deed needed be undone. Our office helped the family by contacting MassHealth and resolving the matter favorably.

Had this family not gotten a second opinion, they would have transferred the home back into parent’s name, individually, which would have subjected the home to being part of the parent’s probate estate when he passed. During the probate process, MassHealth’s Estate Recovery Department can seek reimbursement from estate assets for care that they have provided. The family would have unwittingly taken property that was not subject to the probate process and was protected from the cost of long-term care, and caused it to be subject to probate, and made it an asset against which MassHealth could have been reimbursed.

That family is not the first we have met with who have received incorrect information from someone claiming to know the MassHeath rules. Unfortunately, not everyone gets a second opinion. It is critical to vet the person or company that you are working with to make certain that they are, in fact, as knowledgeable about MassHealth as they want you to believe. Many families fall victim to misinformation and misunderstandings about MassHealth. That’s why having an elder law attorney in your corner is crucial. Here’s what they bring to the table:

  • Specialized knowledge: They are well-versed in the ever-changing MassHealth landscape, ensuring your application complies with the latest regulations and maximizes your chances of approval.
  • Asset protection strategies: They can identify and implement legal tools, like life estate deeds, to shield your loved one’s assets from being depleted by long-term care costs.
  • Advocacy and negotiation: They are skilled in presenting your case to MassHealth and advocating for your loved one’s eligibility. They can also negotiate favorable terms and navigate the appeals process if needed.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing you have a qualified expert guiding you through every step can alleviate stress and empower you to focus on your loved one’s well-being.
  • Don’t leave your loved one’s future to chance. Choosing the right elder law attorney can pave the way for smooth MassHealth approval, protect your family’s assets, and ensure your loved one receives the care they deserve.

Finding the right guide: Ask potential attorneys:

  • What percentage of your practice focuses on MassHealth applications?
  • How many successful MassHealth applications have you secured?
  • How do you stay updated on the latest MassHealth regulations and procedures?
  • Do you offer representation during the appeals process?

Remember, an elder law attorney is an investment in your loved one’s future. Their expertise can navigate the complexities of MassHealth, safeguard your family’s financial security, and ultimately, bring peace of mind during a challenging time.

Don’t wait, reach out to an elder law attorney today and take control of your loved one’s path to secure care.

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This article does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this article.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.