In recent years a number of non-lawyers have started businesses offering Medicaid planning services to seniors. While using one of these services may be cheaper than hiring a lawyer, the overall costs may be far greater.
If you use a non-lawyer to do Medicaid planning, the person offering services may not have any legal knowledge or training. Bad advice can lead seniors to purchase products or take actions that won’t help them qualify for Medicaid and may actually make it more difficult. The consequences of taking bad advice can include the denial of benefits, a Medicaid penalty period, or tax liability.
As a result of problems that have arisen from non-lawyers offering Medicaid planning services, a few states (Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, and Tennessee) have issued regulations or guidelines providing that Medicaid planning by non-lawyers will be considered the unauthorized practice of law. For example, in Florida, a non-lawyer may not render legal advice regarding qualifying for Medicaid benefits, draft a personal service contract, determine the need for or execute an income trust, or sell income trust kits. In Florida the unlicensed practice of law is a felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison, while in Ohio practicing law without a license is subject to civil injunction, civil contempt, and civil fine.
Applying for Medicaid is a highly technical and complex process. A lawyer knowledgeable about Medicaid law in the applicant’s state can help applicants navigate this process. An attorney may be able to help your family find significant financial savings or better care for you or your loved one. This may involve the use of trusts, transfers of assets, purchase of annuities or increased income and resource allowances for the healthy spouse.