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Think Twice Before Discarding Those Account Statements

 

It was not too long ago that we were told we would be living and working in a "paperless society."  I envisioned my desk being as clean as a whistle.  As I look around my office today, I think it is safe to say that the predictions of a "paperless society" were as accurate as those of the Y2K computer apocalypse.

 

Perhaps most illustrative of how paper intensive a society we have become is the documentary proof required by Medicaid for Nursing Home Medicaid eligibility.  The applicant, often an ailing senior or his or her spouse, is required to provide documentary proof literally from the moment of birth to the date the application is submitted.  If the applicant has not been in the habit of safekeeping biographical documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce papers, naturalization documents and military discharge papers, the task of preparing and filing the application can become daunting.  This process can be especially difficult for an applicant who has decided not to retain legal counsel.

In addition to the above stated documents of a biographical nature, the documentary financial proof required by Medicaid for a nursing home application is exhaustive and comprehensive.  The applicant is required to provide financial records for the 5 years preceding the date nursing home Medicaid is requested to begin. These records includes copies of federal and state income tax returns with 1099's and W-2's, copies of all account statements, both bank and brokerage, with copies of all checks, deposits and withdrawals of $3,000 or more (for Westchester County applications) with explanation thereof. 

Perhaps more than any other documentary proof, Medicaid's requirements for the account statements and explanations creates the greatest difficulty for the applicant, especially in cases where the applicant has multiple bank, brokerage and mutual fund accounts.  Even in the unlikely case where the applicant has been able to locate all of the required account statements, the likelihood that he or she will have immediate access to copies of all checks, deposits and withdrawals of $3,000.00 or more, with explanations thereof, is rare.  Fortunately, banks and major financial institutions are required to keep electronic copies that can be requisitioned. 

I regularly advise my clients to maintain all of their financial records for at least five years as one day their eligibility for Medicaid may hinge on their availability.

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