By Emily Williams
One of the most challenging moves for the McCune family was when it came time for the late matriarch, Lena McCune, to move into the skilled nursing unit at Fair Haven at the age of 87.
A very close-knit family, Debbie McCune and her brothers, Steve and Bradd, spent the years leading up to the move researching the options open to them.
“All of the monthly costs are expensive,” Debbie McCune said, and when they settled on Fair Haven, they discovered they would be unable to afford the cost of a private room, which runs about $900 more than the cost of a standard semi-private room.
Had McCune not attended a legal conference and run across a vendor booth for the Alabama Family Trust, her mother could have suffered a monetary fate that many elderly Alabamians with disabilities fall victim to: the spend-down.
For an adult over the age of 65 with a disability, Medicare will not cover long-term care in an assisted living facility. Medicaid will, but only after the individual is down to a net worth of $2,000. In addition, when Medicaid kicks in, it covers only the absolute essentials.
The only way to avoid a spend-down is to put any funds over $2,000 in a pooled special needs trust. Alabama Family Trust is the only one in the state that can offer this option to the disabled elderly.
After researching and keeping in contact with Alabama Family Trust, McCune and her brothers opted to open a pooled special needs trust with the organization to protect their mother’s money while opening the gates for Medicaid funding to flow.
According to the trust’s CFO, Doug Marshall, the organization was created by the state to help the disabled population obtain the highest quality of life possible.
“We work to serve disabled people on three different levels,” Marshall said. “One, we protect their assets. Two, we open the gates for Medicaid to pay for long-term care. Three, we are helping improve their quality of life.”
In a spend down, if an elderly person with special needs pools all of their funds together and ends up with $50,000, they will pay for all of their care out of pocket until they hit $2,000. With average assisted-living care running at around $6,500 a month without any added features, a person who might live for eight to 10 years would be depending on that $2,000 to cover any non-Medicaid covered necessities.
“Just because an elderly person is disabled doesn’t mean they should be poor, too,” Marshall said.
In the case of Lena McCune, her daughter was able to contact AFT any time she needed a non-essential expenditure covered for her mother.
“In protecting my mother’s money, she was able to continue her life affording all of the amenities she had her entire life: hair salon, manicures, a telephone, a newspaper subscription,” McCune said. “She loved reading and always kept up with current events.”
In addition, the family had the funds to furnish her private room to look like her home.
“She was very comfortable there and enjoyed watching old movies and college football,” McCune said.
The key to her mother’s smooth transition, McCune said, wasn’t just the great work of AFT, but the fact that the family was well-prepared.
To properly qualify for Medicaid and avoid spend-downs, there are a few requirements that must be met in advance. For example, property must be put in children’s names at least five years in advance to avoid being counted as a part of the person’s net worth.
“It’s important not to put off the hard questions and to make sure you’ve gotten everything prepared in advance,” McCune said. “Also, everyone needs to get long-term insurance care.”
Long-term care insurance rates get exponentially higher with age.
McCune noted that without preparation, her mother’s transition could have been a life-changing experience for the entire family.
For those who end up in assisted living earlier than expected or those who have not prepared, AFT can still work in their favor by protecting some assets. In addition, people who have run through their trust funds can benefit from other AFT trustees who have passed. Through a charitable trust option, AFT will set aside 10 percent of the trustees’ remaining funds after their passing and will use it to HELP other trustees afford a good quality of life.
For more information on AFT, visit alabamafamilytrust.com.
Alabama Family Trust Wins State Award for Commitment to Elderly
Alabama Family Trust has been selected to receive the Alabama Gerontological Society’s 2017 Organization Award at their 36th Annual Conference.
AFT, a pooled special needs nonprofit 501(c)3 trust, recieved the honor for its commitment to improving the quality of life for older Alabamians.
“We fully endorse the Alabama Family Trust to caregivers with elderly loved ones across Alabama as the assets held in trust are able to improve their overall quality of life. Further, AFT is able to protect that person from financial exploitation or fraud from people that would otherwise prey on the elderly,” said Mary Bess Prise, president of AGS.
Established by the state in 1994, the organization invests and protects assets of individuals with disabilities, including the elderly.
Opening an AFT trust will enable a disabled senior to be eligible for Medicaid benefits. Once qualified, Medicaid will pay for long-term care in a skilled nursing home or for caregivers at home while assets put in trust are used to pay for needs not covered by Medicaid.
The organization, based in Vestavia Hills and led by Executive Director Melanie Bradford Holliman, a law attorney, accepted the AGS award along with Doug Marshall, AFT CFO and director of community relations, on April 19 at the Pelham Civic Complex.
“Alabama Family Trust focuses on and is compassionate about offering families with disabilities a progressive way to financially support their loved ones,” Bradford Holliman said. “AFT is truly a special organization, perhaps the best kept secret in Alabama because we only serve those with special needs.”