7 Considerations for Attorneys to Determine Whether a Client Is a Good Fit for LTC Planning

Jonathan Michaels

Disclaimer: With Medicaid, VA, and insurance regulations frequently changing, past blog posts may not be presently accurate or relevant. Please contact our office for information on current planning strategies, tips, and how-to's.

As CEO of a wealth management firm and author of the book, “The Medicaid Roadmap,” many of my trusted referral sources are elder law and estate planning attorneys. One of the biggest frustrations attorneys report to me is how much time they spend qualifying whether a prospective client is a fit for their practice and the services they provide. As an adjunct to that, many attorneys are disappointed to send a prospect away empty-handed if they aren’t currently a good fit for the services they provide and/or the fees they charge.

In order to help you cut through that process and deliver quick value to prospects you can’t help right now, here are some important aspects to consider.


1. Significant Resources/Assets

Simply put, the more resources a potential client owns, the more they need LTC planning. We have all seen tragic stories of hard-working people exhausting almost all of their assets before applying for Medicaid benefits. The sooner you can capture a client with resources, the more strategic you can be in how you help them preserve their assets and the more runway you have to implement these strategies.

Pro tip: More resources = more qualified for your services


2. Substantial Income

Clients with higher incomes may be able to pay some or all of their LTC expenses – but for how long? And what does that cash outflow do to their existing fixed-income budget and retirement plan?

Pro tip: Higher income = more qualified for your services


3. Complexity and Recency of Existing Estate Structure

Even if the prospect has an airtight estate plan replete with trusts and LLCs to protect assets, they may still benefit from LTC planning. For instance, what if they need LTC but they’re within the five-year lookback on funding these entities? Fortunately, much can be done to modify the existing structure to pave the way for Medicaid planning. But at what cost?

Pro tip: If the prospect has an estate plan but needs long-term care, work may need to be done to better position them for Medicaid benefits, especially if they are within the five-year lookback. If the prospect does not have an estate plan, they will need to build one quickly as they transition to long-term care. Either way, they are a fit for what you do!


4. Medical Condition/Timing

Many LTC planning prospects aren’t medically ready for Medicaid benefits yet but want to get out in front of the problem. Sometimes all they want is an education, which they may expect you to provide for free. (I can see you nodding your head to that!) You’re not a non-profit operation, but you’d like to help them and build goodwill in the process (still nodding).

Pro tip: The worse their medical condition, the more assistance they need now, and the more they need your services.


5. Prospect’s Perceived Budget

Uneducated prospects might hear your fee structure and get scared. What they don’t understand is the ROI they’ll receive from hiring you to handle their LTC plan the right way, the first time. Still, some prospects simply don’t have the resources to pay your fee. No matter what you say or do, only the prospects who can truly afford your fees are going to become paying clients.

Pro tip: Realistic budget and willingness to pay your fees = a very solid prospect


6. Prospect’s Proclivity to “Do It Themselves”

Some prospects believe they can handle their own LTC planning themselves once they do enough research. They’ll reach out to you to understand the basics and then try to apply for Medicaid themselves. It’s best not to fight these DIYers too hard. 90 percent of them will be back when they receive that first denial or realize they don’t have the skills or experience to truly do it themselves.

Pro tip: Prospects who understand that estate planning and Medicaid law is very complex and crucial will not want to do it themselves. These families will make for your best prospects versus the DIYers.


7. Personality Fit (or lack thereof)

Sometimes a prospective client’s personality, attitude, or world view may clash with yours, making them difficult to work with. Obviously, it’s up to you to determine whether or not working with this individual and their family is worth your time and energy. The good news is you get to choose your clients as much as they get to choose you. Assuming you are selective, you might decide certain cases just aren’t worth it.

Pro tip: Prospects with a grateful/appreciative attitude often make the most profitable and enjoyable clients. Conversely, opting out of working with a difficult prospect can be awkward, especially if they are a referral, but you may decide it’s worthwhile to do so anyway.


What to Do If a Prospect Is Not a Good Fit

If a prospect turns out not to be a good fit for your firm, they may very well be a solid client for you at a later time (unless you don’t want to work with them in the first place). However, sending them away with a, “Call me when you’re ready,” doesn’t create good will and rarely leads to a prospect circling back to you. That’s why it’s a great idea to offer them value as you send them away. This builds trust and rapport and generates a positive emotional memory with the prospect.

One suggestion I have is to offer them access to or distribute them a copy of my book, “The Medicaid Roadmap.” This is an eBook designed to take the prospect step-by-step through the Medicaid planning process. It’s a godsend for families who can’t afford your fees and don’t know where to start. It also provides details on all the areas where they will need the help of an experienced attorney, even if they are adamant about doing Medicaid planning themselves.

By inviting the prospect to read my book, the worst-case scenario is discovering they were never going to be a client anyway. In the end, at least you provided them some benefit at no/minimal cost to you. The best-case scenario is they read the book and realize how desperately they need your services. A win-win!

The easiest way to invite a prospect to access the book is to send them to www.medicaidroadmap.com. From there, they can download a free chapter and decide for themselves if they want to purchase the book directly. Alternatively, your firm can license the book from me and distribute it to your clients and prospects under the terms of the license agreement.

If you’re interested in discussing this further, you can reach me at [email protected].


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