New Special Needs Trusts Allow Persons under 65 to Keep Public Benefits!!!

Good news! If you are UNDER 65 years old and expecting an inheritance or court ordered settlement, you can have access to these funds and allows you to keep your public benefits (Medi-CAL or SSI).

There is a new federal statute that amended the rules regarding special needs trusts and now allows mentally competent individuals to establish their own “payback” special needs trusts with their own assets. This is called a California Self-Settled Special Needs Trust, as known as a First Party Special Needs Trust that can now be set up to protect your public benefits.  So this is a legal way for you to receive an inheritance or settlement (from a personal injury court case) and stay on Medi-CAL and have extra money be held in trust to enhance the quality of your life.

You must get this set up BEFORE your settlement or inheritance comes to you!

Attorney Joseph McHugh is our Special Needs Attorneys and he works quickly with your Personal Injury Attorney or Estate Attorney to ensure the Special Needs Trust is properly set up before the court ordered settlement(s) or inheritance monies are distributed to you.  With proper Pre-settlement planning, your expected money will help be expedited into the Special Needs Trust… which then can be used for your benefit as soon as available when the final settlement is placed in the Special Needs Trust account.

You will need a person to be your trustee and manage the special needs trust assets and determine what the trust can pay for…. this person must act on your behalf! (If you do not have someone you trust, you can hire a Professional Fiduciary to be the trustee for your Special Needs Trust.) This does not give you total access to the money coming to you, but it does allow for many things to be paid for and most importantly it allows you to keep your public benefits and have additional items paid for by the special needs trust California Self-Settled Special Needs Trust, known as First Party Special Needs Trusts can now be set up to protect Your Public Benefits.

There are rules about what this Special Needs Trust can pay for, but basically it can pay for things like the following:

  • Car and related expenses
  • Clothing
  • Furniture & Household Items
  • Electronics (including TV, Computers, cable and internet)
  • Home Utilities
  • Education and related expenses
  • Insurances
  • Supplemental home care and private care services
  • Travel expenses
  • Entertainment (movies, theater tickets)
  • Legal fees
  • Housing (*may reduce SSI benefits)
  • Food (*may reduce in SSI benefits)
  • Medical procedures or Physical Therapy not covered government assistance
  • Medications (not covered by government benefits

The rules for setting up any type of California Special Needs Trusts can be complicated and it is important to make sure that a person in need of a Special Needs Trust gets good legal advice from an elder law attorney about how to set it up and also properly manage the payments in order to avoid serious problems or loss of public benefits. We at LA Law Center have experience at setting up many different types of Special Needs Trusts and understand that they in many cases need to be created quickly as generally time is of the essences! We are happy to help you.  Call for a free 30 minute consultation to see if we can help you…Call us at: (818) 241-4238


Medi-Cal is California’s version of the Medicaid program that is funded by the state and federal governments.  The Community based Medi-Cal Benefits Program is a government program to help pay for medical needs for low income persons and others with limited resources and high medical bills for individuals are not in a nursing home.

NOTE: There is also Medi-CAL Long Term Care that helps pay expenses if the person is in a skilled nursing facility. THIS PROGRAM HAS DIFFERENT ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS!! LA LAW Medi-Cal Attorney and Medi-Cal Specialists can help you with these requirements.

We will explain the nursing home program in our next LA LAW Center Blog or you call us for a free phone consult to make sure you know if you can qualify for Medi-CAL LTC. Call 818.241.4238.

For Medi-CAL Community Based Program basic qualifications requirements are as follows:

Although persons 65 years old and older with Medi-Cal also receive Medicare, the Medi-Cal program is not related to Medicare Insurance. Medicare is an earned benefit. Medi-Cal is a need-based program with limited amount of income and resources a person has that determines eligibility.

  1. If you are 65, blind or disabled and on SSI, you are automatically covered by Medi-Cal.
  2. I If you are 65, and your income is too high to qualify for SSI, you may still be eligible for Medi-Cal if:
    1. you meet the Community based Medi-Cal resource limits ($2,000 for an individual, $3,000 for a couple). This means this is the amount of assets you have available to you (bank accounts, autos, real estate, more than your home, etc.! LA LAW Staff can help you move other assets into a special Irrevocable trust and then you will qualify.
    2. you are aged 65 or older, blind, or disabled; and payments for your medical bills would leave you with less than the available “need standard” for your other living expenses;

There are other Community based Medi-Cal programs for special conditions for individuals. What are the Income Limits? California law has a fixed maintenance need standard for those who are living at home (not in nursing home).Basically, it is  the amount of monthly income California has set that a person(s) need for necessary monthly expenses, not including medical bills. This set amount is for a single elder (over 65) or disabled person is $600 per month; for an elder/disabled couple it is $934 per month, unless you qualify for the Aged & Disabled Federal Poverty Level Program.

For the Aged & Disabled Federal Poverty Level Program, starting April 1, 2016, an aged or disabled person with countable income at or below $1,220 or couples with an income at or below $1,645 (both subject to change in April 2017) could be qualified for the Aged & Disabled Medi-Cal Program and pay no share of cost. Qualified individuals must be aged 65 or older or disabled and not in long term care nursing facilities.

Basically, if the monthly income is higher than the above listed need standard, or above the aged and disabled level, the person will have a “share of cost” (kind of like a deductible) for your medical bills each month. Once the person pays or agrees to pay the monthly “share of cost” towards the person’s  medical bills, the person will use their  Medi-Cal card to pay for the rest of Medi-Cal covered medical services each month.

This can be helpful for anyone with major medical bills.  The rules are different for individuals are under 65.  We are happy to help you understand your options.  Call us at 818.241.4238.


We often get questions about why people should hire an Elder Law Attorney. Recently one of our clients took the time to recap his experience with us on YELP, as we helped him through the LifeCare Process and I thought I would share this with you. This is the best thing I have seen that shows why you should call our Burbank firm! (818)241-4238.
YELP Review 5 Stars 2/2/2017 from LA LAW Center client…

I searched far and wide and interviewed countless attorneys to help me handle all my affairs with my elderly mother, and with this group of people at L.A. Law Center, I hit the jackpot.  They helped me with everything and are still helping.  Joe & Kathy, and their team (especially Diana who is outstanding too) This LAW CENTER IS THE BEST, HANDS DOWN, TAKING CARE OF EVERYTHING FOR ME AND MY MOM FROM BEGINNING TO END!  My mom had 4 strokes since she was 69 years old, and I brought her down to care for her at my home when she was 85 years old roughly 4 years ago.  She had SOME funds which made her ineligible for Medi-Cal initially,but I could not care for her at my home initially expense wise unless she could join Medi-Cal and make her eligible for some help from IHSS (IN Home Supportive Services). This senior help law group had a completely legal way of opening up a Medi-Cal asset protection trust  for my mom so the money she did have was transferred legally into that trust, (which Joe wrote) and immediately afterward they took care of getting her approved for Medi-Cal.

Kathy (his wife), is a licensed and experienced senior advocate.  Kathy has knowledge of how Medi-Cal works and is also an authorized Medi-Cal placement representative, as well as a licensed Triage director, and Certified Senior Advisor. She walked me through how to transfer the money and she did the paperwork and took me through it all step by step.  (And Diana was instrumental in handling all the paperwork and dealing with the Medi-Cal representatives.  It would have been insane for me to even attempt doing that myself) (They have never failed to get someone approved by the way) And then, once my mom was approved for Medi-Cal, they advised me on how to sign my mother up for In Home Supportive services where I received help for almost 2  years so I could care for my mother at home which were her wished and not be forced to put her in a facility immediately.  But Kathy’s service didn’t stop there, their services cover the lifetime of my mother, and we did this all in advance knowing at some point my mom would have another stroke event (which she did recently) and at some point facility care would be needed temporarily or permanently if she had too many needs for me to take care of her at home even with help.

So in the last 2-3 months, my mom’s most recent stroke put her in the hospital again, and then rehab which medicare covered up to a point.  Kathy guided me through this the entire time.  And when medicare (and Kaiser) stopped their rehab support, my mother was in no condition to come home safely, and this is where Kathy’s knowledge came in handy again, advising me in finding the best facility because after medicare stopped paying, she knew the law was that if I could not care for her at home, they would have to keep her in the long term care unit at their facility and transfer her to her Medi-Cal coverage.  And the facility did everything to try and kick her out but Kathy kept me strong to fight them and stand up for my mom’s rights.  Because when the LA Law Center agreed to take us on – Kathy became my mom’s personal legal advocate (in addition to me) and my mom is now being cared for and very happy in an outstanding facility which I never would have been able to make happen without her knowledge of what our rights were. (And as a side note – Kathy did this for us with a broken foot healing at home and recovering from that awful flu for a month – while I texted her these extremely long texts multiple times a day for about 30 days straight – during this entire last stroke episode – from hospital to rehab – to finding the best facility in Los Angeles Country to dealing with the case workers for the hospital and the facilities who are trying to do nothing but get my ailing mom out as fast as they can so they could make more money.  Kathy did this for me (with Diana’s help) – from her sick bed because it was crisis time.

Joe, and Kathy, and Diane, and the rest of their legal team, took my mom on after our first meeting with them, to make sure she was taken care of for the rest of her life.  That is what their service provides, overseeing my mom and helping me (her eldest son and power of attorney) to give her the best and most loving care possible.  I am eternally grateful to these people.  They are loving and caring and have their comprehensive help and legal expertise down.  It’s what they do.  I was recommended to them by another attorney who said if you want a group of people who will help you with your mom from beginning to the end.  This is the only group that provided the most comprehensive service.  And at EXTREMELY reasonable rates.  Read the other reviews and everyone has a slightly different situation but a similar recommendation,  These people are just the best.  I am so blessed and grateful to have found them.  Their help has been invaluable to me, and most importantly my beloved mother. Thank you,,Thank you, Thank you.

CALL US AT (818)241-4238 for a free phone or office consultation.

Arnold Palmer’s Death… a reminder that you should have your affairs in order!!

“Failing to plan is planning to FAIL.” – Ben Franklin

Arnold Palmer, known as “the King” for his personal grand legacy in golf, has died at the age of 87. He died Sunday evening at a Pittsburgh hospital while awaiting cardiac surgery, according to a statement from a spokesperson form his company. We will miss this great golfer!  What a lucky man to have worked in a sport for so many years he loved so much!

Every time a legends passes away, I always want to remind everyone to make sure you have a plan for your body and your assets.  Many say….I am not Rich, Why do I need Estate Planning?

Joseph McHugh, our Estate Planning Attorney is passionate about ensuring your final wishes are properly documented so they will legally carried out upon of your death. More importantly, your wishes in case of you suffer a tragic event as a result of illness or injury, leaving you unable to manage your life or your financial affairs.

It is important to ask a professional to help you decide what type of trust you may need. Do you have special needs loved ones, do you want to make sure certain relatives do not benefit from an inheritance?

We are happy to help you decide how to plan for you incapacity and death… (getting your affairs in order”!

Call us for a free consultation and fee schedule… you need to pull your head out of the sand and decide these things before you join Arnold and many other greats in the hereafter!

Call 818.241.4238 We are happy to discuss your thoughts and wishes!


Los Angeles Elder Law Attorney Protecting Seniors’ Assets… from the perspective of Summer UCLA Intern, Ryan Eason

I am a student at University of California, Los Angeles interning at LA Law Center, PC for the summer of 2016, and in my tenure here, this is what I’ve learned.

One’s twilight years should be a time of peace and security, not one of financial discord and stress. However, many senior citizens in the Southern California and Los Angeles area are tremendously burdened by the cost of long-term medical care and nursing homes, which currently averages roughly $8,000 a month in California. Sub-acute care can cost up to as much as $30,000 a month.

Despite these often-overwhelming inconveniences, there are opportunities to measurably reduce them through consultation with an elder law attorney. Many senior citizens in the Los Angeles area aren’t aware of their own eligibility to qualify for Medi-CAL, and without legal counsel, are forced to resort to dire financial compromises to afford long-term health care. That is why working with the team in Los Angeles at LA Law Center, PC is important, to be able to comprehend you and your loved one’s options to qualify for Medi-CAL benefits. It is certainly not necessary for you to “spend down” your assets to the $2,000 level or lose your home to get the financial security you deserve.

Through the reallocation of assets, transfer of non-exempt assets to exempt, and re-categorization of assets along State and Federal rules, our Los Angeles elder law attorneys will offer your family a strong, guiding hand toward receiving the financial assistance you and your family need, eliminating the necessity to resort to extreme measures to pay for nursing homes, such as depleting your savings.

At the LA Law Center, PC we understand Los Angeles families that wish to protect their hard-earned assets. We understand that every situation requires a unique and specialized approach, and in our office, you aren’t another client; you are a person. We understand that long-term medical care is not only a matter of numbers and figures, but also one of respect and dignity. And, most importantly, we understand the legal processes necessary to reallocate your assets to qualify for Medi-CAL while simultaneously ensuring those assets’ protection.

Joseph McHugh, Esq., our firm’s managing attorney, holds a “superb” 9.1 rating on, boasts a 100% success rate when it comes to qualifying clients for Medi-CAL, and has served the Los Angeles community since 1987. For a free consultation with our legal triage advisor, Kathy McHugh, call us at 818-241-4238.


Ryan Eason, Intern at LA Law Center, PC

UCLA ’17, English and Communications

Note: We wish to thank Ryan for doing a great job with us this summer… I think he understands Elder Law and what it takes to operate a small law firm! Joe & Kathy McHugh


If I Am On Medi-CAL, Can the State Take My Home When I Die?

Many clients in Los Angeles that are Medi-Cal beneficiaries are worried about being on Medi-Cal and what will happen to their hard earned asset….their house!

They want to know if the state (California) will “take” their homes after they die if they have been on Medi-Cal benefits.

The State of California does not take away your home exactly! However, your home can be “subject” to a Medi-CAL Estate Recovery Claim after your death. This ONLY HAPPENS when your home remains in your name when you die!

Medi-CAL Estate Recovery…  “the State” will make a claim against “your estate” (any asset in your name at the time of your death) for the entire amount of the Medi-Cal benefits paid or for the value of your estate, whichever is less. So to protect your home “from being taken by the State of California”, you must move your home from your name BEFORE YOU DIE OR LOSE MENTAL CAPACITY.

There are many ways to do this, but you must be careful to avoid possible capital gains for your children or beneficiaries.  We highly recommend that you discuss this with only an experienced elder law attorney that can guide you through your options.    Be careful of online legal services, regular estate planning attorneys, friends of the family referral lawyers, social; workers, etc. Many people make the mistake of getting the wrong advice!  There are many thing our Los Angeles Elder Law attorneys can counsel your family on doing.

Truly the only professional that you should trust and can help you in getting help to pay for your medical or long term care costs that has the proper understanding of the benefits versus the consequence is an Elder Law Attorney.

Los Angeles Elder Law Attorney, Joe McHugh has dedicated the main part of his practice to serving the needs of seniors and their families with the legal and asset protection issues that you need to know as you grow older.

We are happy to personally speak with you on the phone or in person at no charge to see if we can help you or your loved ones! Call 818.241.4238!


KNX 1070 Radio & LA Law Center “The Costs of Elder Care:  The Race Against Time Radio Show!”

As experienced Elder Law Attorneys and Medi-CAL staff, we are very pleased to be a part of a radio series on CBS KNX 1070 and KFWB 980 in Los Angeles, called ‘The Costs of Elder Care: The Race Against Time!’

This radio series program gives a lot of unknown information to the public regarding paying for  long term care in nursing homes and protecting family assets including the family home while qualifying for Medi-CAL (Medicaid).

Our Elderly Care Attorneys are passionate about educating everyone about options for seniors and their long term care! As an experienced Los Angeles Elder Law Attorney, Joseph McHugh, Esq. was interviewed by radio talk show host, Charles Feldman for his reporting of the challenges of the high costs of aging and the many options to pay for nursing home care including government programs. Of course one of these options is qualifying for Medi-CAL and Joe explains that middle class families with modest assets CAN qualify by reallocating their assets.

For additional information & replays of the interviews about elders and long term care on the CBS KNX Radio Station’s Web Site CLICK HERE!

As always, call us at LA LAW if you have concerns about your family and long term care! Elder Law Attorney,  Joe McHugh is dedicated to protecting senior’s assets, especially with a well spouse at home! Do not trust a social worker or other care professional to know elder law!! Talk to an Elder Law attorney in Los Angeles!

Our elderly care attorneys and staff are dedicated to informing the community about the Medi-CAL facts… and continue to fight the widespread misinformation and myths that surround Medi-CAL State Benefits qualifications, senior care and way to help paying for nursing home care.

Our highly experienced Medi-CAL Attorneys and Staff have a mission to educate the public about protecting seniors assets with California laws and rules for Medi-CAL gift transfers, eligibility, and Medi-CAL Estate Recovery.

For free consultation call us at (818) 241-4238!

Los Angeles County Senior Services

If you or a loved one is a senior and may be in need in care assistance, you should click on the below link to see what may be available to you.  Also find out if there is a senior center in your area (generally near a park & recreation area).  The senior centers can give the seniors some well needed activities and the caregiver a break! Senior caregivers need support as well as rest from the daily ordeal of caring for a loved one.  This link provides information regarding caregiver support and other services.

If you need advice on getting Medi-CAL Long Term Care or In Home Supportive Services and have more assets than Medi-CAL allows, we offer free consultations to let you know what we can do to help you gift assets into an irrevocable trust. Call us at 818.241.4238.

Gifting Your Home Directly to Your Children Can Have Negative Consequences!

Many seniors are thinking they can avoid probate, reduce their estate and directly gifting their home to their children with a quick claim deed or just add their name to the deed. This can be done, BUT!!… giving away your residence can have major tax consequences, among other possible estate problems if it is not transferred properly!

 Transferring property with a value over $14,000 in any one year requires you to pay a gift tax. However, currently, you can gift a total of $5,450 million over your lifetime without being taxed but you must file an IRS Form 709 Gift Tax Return to document it. This allows you to not pay the gift tax if you file the gift tax form. You may not be taxed by the gifting through the IRS Form, however; if the house is resold by your children quickly, they will have to pay capital gains taxes. If you gift the house to your child, the tax basis for the property is the same as when you owned the house. If the house is sold right away, the capital gains tax will be based on the difference between the current value of the home and the value when you owned it. To minimize this amount the children must live in the house for at least two out of the last five years. This allows them to exclude up to $250,000 or even $500,000 for a couple, of their capital gains from their taxes. Amounts above personal residence credit are taxed at 15% Federal Capital Gains Tax and 10.33% California Tax.


Inherited property is taxed differently that gifted properties before death. When your child inherits your home, the tax basis is based on the current value of the property at the time of your death. If the house is sold the basis will be the value of property at the time of death, eliminating or minimizing capital gains tax. This may not be the best solution if you intend to protect your home. If you use Medi-CAL, the Medi-CAL Recovery Department will try to recover their costs against the property when your surviving spouse dies, if the property was in the name of them at that time.

Not only is there a possible tax problem, but if you directly put the house in your child’s and they have creditor or a court judgement, you house could be taken to pay that debt! Our attorneys can help the home being protected until your death by setting up an asset protection irrevocable trust.

This for leaving your house to your children include transferring ownership to an Irrevocable Trust, with a Lifetime Occupancy Agreement to save your home from recovery and making it considered inheritance when you and your spouse pass away. It’s important to speak with an elder law attorney before you make any gifting decisions for your home. Our attorney’s can advise you to choose the best method for protecting your assets and the proper transfer of your property to your children.

There are other options for giving your house to your children, including transferring it into an Irrevocable Trust, or outright gifting accompanied by a Lifetime Occupancy Agreement, which can save your home from recovery and if written correctly, still be considered an inheritance when you (and your spouse) pass away, getting the step up in basis.  So, before you gift your family home, please talk to an elder law attorney, who can advise you on the best method for asset protection and making sure your home to properly transferred to your children!

Take advantage of a free phone consultation or appointment for a free 30 minute consultation to review your individual situation and determine if you would benefit from our experience and legal services.

For more information go to or call us at:

Local Phone: (818) 241-4238 or Toll Free Phone: (877) 537-8283


The Orlando Terrorist Attack Reminds Us it is Critical to get Medical Directives & HIPAA Releases!

If you are over the age of 18, there are MUST HAVE documents in case of emergency or incapacity.  You must have an Advanced Medical Directive and HIPAA Release Form in case of medical emergencies!

The Federal government waived the HIPAA laws in Orlando,  so family members could speak with Orlando Hospital staff to find out if the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting were in the care of hospital staff.

In most cases the Feds will not waive this law, so it is important that everyone over the age of 18, speak with an estate planning attorney to get theses documents in place and then give copies of these forms to family members of loved ones.  General, at LA LAW Center we are more concerned about car accidents for our clients and family members or significant others not being given proper access to an injured person’s condition.

HIPAA is the Privacy Rule, a Federal law, gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. The Privacy Rule applies to all forms of individuals’ protected health information.

Also the Advanced Health Directive allows you to choose others to make decision about your health care in case of incapacity… which in most cases means that the ill person is in a coma or has severe dementia.  This allows someone to decide whether or not to keep the a person that is brain dead on life support.  Most individuals that we speak with do not want to be kept alive on life support if their brain has been proven to not function any longer.

It is best to chose the person(s) to make these decisions so at least be able to talk to medical staff.

We are available to create these and other estate planning documents to protect our clients and offer free consultations.  Call 818.241.4238.