It is never too early to start planning for the future. And according to lawyer Ryan Coutlee, it is never too late either.
Coutlee, of the Estate Planning Law Center, recently presented at Woodside Hall in Cooperstown. Some topics he discussed included Medicaid and veterans’ benefits, home care, health care proxies, wills, gifts and trusts.
“I’m here to let you know what is even out there for you and how to achieve those benefits,” Coutlee said.
So who needs estate planning? According to Coutlee, everyone needs some form of it, whether it is a “simple” will, health care proxy or getting a power of attorney. He said anybody 18 or older should have a power of attorney and a health care proxy in place. From there, he said, the needs begin to become more individualized.
Coutlee said he is often asked whether someone has enough assets to worry about estate planning.
“If you have something you care about, then you have something you should do planning for,” he said. “It does not have to have any sort of asset threshold. There is no estate that is too big or too small.”
According to Coutlee, it is never too late to begin Medicaid planning — even if a loved one is already living in a skilled care facility.
“The sooner the better, and the more options you will have to protect what is important to you,” he said.
Medicaid is a federal program that provides health coverage for people with limited assets and incomes. Although it is a federal program, it is administered by the states and rules are done according to interpretation. This means that application of these rules can vary significantly from state to state, and in New York, from county to county because it goes one step further.
“The state can do more than federal law, but can never do less,” Coutlee said. “Counties cannot violate state or federal laws, but you will see different results in different counties.”