Today’s Elder Care / Senior Care Q&A for Tuesday, 1/5/2016

QUESTION: What are some things we should keep in mind when dealing with funeral and burial planning issues?

Answered by:
funeral and burial planning
Don L. Rosenberg, Attorney and Counselor
Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C.
Troy, Michigan
An ElderCare Matters Partner

ANSWER: When a loved one passes away, family and friends feel stricken with grief and loss. During this difficult time, figuring out how to handle the deceased’s estate and carry out their wishes can be an overwhelming burden. One of the smartest things you can do for your family is to make burial and funeral arrangements in advance. When an individual passes away without leaving behind a plan expressing their wishes, surviving family members may bicker, stymieing progress.

Planning ahead while you are still living ensures not only that your wishes will be carried out to your satisfaction, but it also will limit problems for your family after you pass on. Planning for burial and funeral arrangements means anything from picking an individual who will carry out your wishes, deciding whether you want a ceremony or not and how that will be carried out, choosing burial or cremation, and deciding how funeral and burial expenses will be paid.

Michigan Funeral and Burial Default Rules and Appointing a Representative

Michigan has no law allowing an individual to designate another person to carry out funeral and burial wishes. However, you should still choose someone and document your wishes clearly in writing. Family members will be more likely to honor your wishes, and if there is any dispute, a court will be more likely to honor your wishes as well. Furthermore, keep in mind that if one wants to be cremated, then all of the closest next of kin have to agree or the cremation will not occur.

If you do not plan ahead at all, however, the state will apply the default rules to choose a representative. State default rules choose a decision maker as follows:

    • Surviving spouse
    • Adult children
    • Siblings
    • Grandparents
    • Next of kin (next closest degree of consanguinity)
    • Personal representative of deceased’s estate
    • Personal guardian
    • Special personal representative
    • Designated public official

Upon first glance, this default order seems sensible enough. But what if your children do not get along? When there is more than one member to a class, majority rules. If there is no majority, then they would likely go to court to sort out their differences. Or what if you never got along with your siblings, and you would have much preferred that your cousin make decisions for your funeral and burial? Anything could happen between now and the date of your passing. People you thought would be around to take care of your final wishes might predecease you. To avoid these problems, it is best if you set out an explicit plan in advance.Before creating a plan, find an experienced attorney to draft your final wishes properly. Some people think they can designate a person to handle funeral and burial matters within a will. However, the funeral and burial or cremation typically happens before a court reviews the will. This means your wishes may not get carried out.A better approach is to draft a separate document that only deals with your preferences surrounding funeral and burial arrangements.You should decide whether you would like to be buried in a casket or cremated. Decide what will happen to your ashes. Choose a casket and where you would like to be buried. Make decisions about what kind of funeral ceremony, if any, you would like to have. Budget the expenses so your wishes can be fulfilled regarding the remainder of your estate.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


#eldercarematters, #eldercare, #eldercareanswers, #seniorcareanswers,  #eldercaredirectories, #seniorcaredirectories, #findseniorcareprofessionals, #findseniorcareexperts


Today’s Elder Care / Senior Care Q&A for Wednesday, 12/30/2015

QUESTION: What are some tips that we can use to pay off credit card debt?

Answered by:
Credit Card Debt
E. Dennis Bridges, CPA
Atlanta, Georgia
An ElderCare Matters Partner

ANSWER: The average credit card balance for an American household as of August of this year was $7,529, which is an increase over years previous and not something that any of us really would like to see increase further. And that counts the households that carry no debt, so the figure for those who *do* is even worse.

So, you may be in a better situation … it may also be worse. So, to answer the questions we often get around here from clients facing tough times, I’ve put together a step-by-step process which we often help people work through.

1. First, pay more than the minimums
If you only pay the minimum payment each month, your credit card debt could continue to INCREASE, even if you completely stop using your card. This is called “negative amortization”–where you think you are paying on your debt but the additional fees and finance charges are more than the minimum payment. The bottom line is: Pay more than your minimum or you will eventually be in debt over your head.

2. Create an automated system
With online banking and automatic payment options, there are GREAT tools for ensuring you don’t mess up because of administrative chaos. If you feel you can’t manage all your bills by pen and paper, there are several good software programs available for keeping track of your financial records.

In fact, I recommend that you automate a payment ABOVE the minimum monthly payment, just to be certain that you start getting ahead of the game. Those minimum payments are rigged against you, and the only way to get ahead is to … get ahead. I have some more thoughts on automation in a moment.

3. Yes, you can negotiate
No, you do not need to be an attorney or other professional to negotiate with your credit card company (negotiating with the IRS, on the other hand, is a very different story!). The rising amount of consumer debt in this country has made creditors realize that they need to be more understanding of their customers — if they hope to get any money back. If you file bankruptcy they are only going to get pennies on the dollar, so they are willing to make deals.

4. Proactively contact your creditors — in writing
Open communication always helps. Usually credit card companies get ignored and end up sending delinquent files to a collections agency. So they’ll actually appreciate your openness in contacting them and may be more understanding of your situation. Proactively dealing with your credit card debt rather than hiding will not only help your financial problem, but will make you feel better about yourself as well.

5. Develop a simple tracking system
If you are not able to pay the full amount of your credit each month, you still should still pay something to stay on top of it. You should work off a written budget so you know exactly where you stand. Some experts suggest that you divide your monthly debt budget by the percentage each bill makes of the total and pay that amount.

Here’s an example: If you owe a total of $1,000, and one credit card is $800 and the other is $200, and you only have $100 available to pay for that month… You should pay $80 on the $800 balance, and $20 on the $200 balance. This way you are reducing each debt by the same percentage.

6. Do NOT be intimidated
No matter how forthcoming and honest you are, some creditors have been taught to be mean and downright nasty. Hang in there and don’t let this tactic intimidate you.

Lastly–don’t let the IRS be one of those creditors. Let us help you this tax season, and THAT will be one less creditor to worry about, I assure you!

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


#eldercarematters, #eldercare, #eldercareanswers, #seniorcareanswers,  #eldercaredirectories, #seniorcaredirectories, #findseniorcareprofessionals, #findseniorcareexperts


Today’s Elder Care / Senior Care Q&A for Thursday, 12/17/2015

QUESTION:  What is Life Care Planning?

Answered by:
Life Care Planning
Shana Siegel, Esq., CELA
WanderPolo & Siegel, Counselors at Law, LLC
Upper Montclair, New Jersey
An ElderCare Matters Partner

ANSWER: Estate planning is merely one piece of the puzzle for our clients. Life care planning focuses on ensuring a continued quality of life, maintaining independence for as long as possible, and maximizing benefits and community resources. We work with care managers, financial planners, insurance agents, accountants and families to develop a comprehensive plan that is customized to meet your needs. We then coordinate that plan providing you with information and support so you can focus on living your life and have the peace of mind that you are equipped to handle inevitable life challenges.

One of the important differences in life care planning is that elder law attorneys work hand-in-hand with care managers to ensure the client’s medical and psycho-social needs, as well as family dynamics are properly addressed.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


#elderlaw, #eldercarematters, #eldercare, #eldercareanswers, #elderlawattorneys, #elderlawanswers, #seniorcareanswers,  #estateplanning, #estateplanningattorneys, #findelderlawattorneys, #findestateplanningattorneys, #lifecareplanning, #caremanagers, #geriatriccaremanagers, #findgeriatriccaremanagers


Today’s Elder Care / Senior Care Q&A for Wednesday, 12/16/2015

QUESTION:  What are the 2016 Estate and Gift Tax Limits, as set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?

Answered by:
Estate and Gift Tax
Patrick C. Smith, Jr., Esq.
The Smith Law Firm, P.C.
Augusta, Georgia
An ElderCare Matters Partner

ANSWER:  The IRS has announced that the basic estate tax exclusion amount for the estates of decedents dying during calendar year 2016 will be $5.45 million, up from $5.43 million for calendar year 2015.  This figure is in line with earlier projections.  The annual gift tax exclusion will remain at $14,000 for 2016.

Also, if the executor chooses to use the special use valuation method for qualified real property, the aggregate decrease in the value of the property resulting from the choice cannot exceed $1,110,000, up from $1,100,000 for 2015.

The increase in the estate tax exclusion means that the lifetime tax exclusion for gifts should also rise to $5.45 million, as will the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


#elderlaw, #eldercarematters, #eldercare, #eldercareanswers, #elderlawattorneys, #elderlawanswers, #seniorcareanswers,  #estateplanning, #estateplanningattorneys, #findelderlawattorneys, #findestateplanningattorneys


Today’s Elder Care Question and Answer for Monday, 12/14/2015

QUESTION: What are some asset protection mistakes that ALL families should be aware of?

Answer Provided by:

Asset Protection

Kevin Pillion, Esq.
Life Planning Law Firm, P.A.
Sarasota, Florid
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Top 10 Asset Protection Mistakes

1. Relying solely on a will or a living trust

A Will takes effect only upon your death, and a Living Trust, although preferable in some cases, will not protect your assets from Medicaid Recovery and Nursing Homes.

2. Relying on Medicare or health insurance

Neither Medicare nor health insurance pays for the cost of long-term care in a nursing home. With the average cost exceeding $7,000 a month, without a Plan most families will quickly run through their life savings.

3. Transferring all assets to children or other relatives

This almost always results in lengthy, unnecessary periods of ineligibility when Medicaid or other public assistance is applied for. And the tax consequences can be devastating. Often, it’s wiser to do nothing.

4. Placing all assets into joint ownership with another family member

This is often regarded the same as a transfer and can result in lengthy disqualification periods. Or it may not shelter assets at all. It can also create unfortunate legal problems for families.

5. Selling the family home to pay for nursing home care

This is almost never required. Yet many still believe that a person must sell his home to pay the nursing home.

6. Not taking Medicaid estate recovery seriously

Medicaid can and does sell your home after your death to recoup benefits paid out on your behalf.

7. Applying for a guardianship

This court-supervised method of dealing with a person’s incapacity is time-consuming, costly, burdensome, and restrictive. With proper planning, you avoid the need to go to Court.

8. Relying on family members to “do the right thing” when critical health care and financial decisions need to be made

In the absence of a Plan to protect assets and other planning documents, this is an awful burden to place on the members of your family.

9. Not seeking the advice of a specialist in elder law and asset protection planning

Medicaid and other government benefits programs are a highly complex area of the law; the law varies from state to state and even within a particular state. Very few attorneys and advisors know and understand the laws and rules that apply.

10. Doing nothing

Unless you have no assets to protect or you are unconcerned about how decisions will be made in the event of your disability or incapacity, you should take steps now to protect yourself.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


Today’s Elder Care Question and Answer for Thursday, December 10, 2015

QUESTION: What Documents are Needed to Apply for Medicaid?

Answer Provided by:

Medicaid Attorney

Nancy Burner, Esq., CELA
Nancy Burner & Associates, P.C.
East Setauket, New York
An ElderCare Matters Partner

ANSWER: In New York State, you do need to provide 5 years worth of financial documentation when you apply for chronic/nursing home Medicaid. The purpose of providing this documentation is to comply with the state’s requirements regarding a look back period to determine eligibility based on current asset levels and past transfers of assets.   Transfers that can trigger a penalty period for Medicaid are any that are done without compensation. There are certain persons to which you can transfer assets without triggering a penalty including, but not limited to, spouses and disabled children. Note that this look back period does not apply to community/home care Medicaid.

The documentation that you should keep on hand in preparation includes 5 full years of monthly bank statements. These statements must be provided for all accounts regardless of whether they are still open at the time of application and include all CDs, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, checking accounts, annuities, and savings accounts. You must also provide canceled checks and/or withdrawal slips for all transactions over a certain threshold amount, which vary county to county.  Other items to maintain include 5 years of tax returns, copies of documents regarding any estate of a spouse or any other person of which you were a beneficiary, closing documents for the sale of a residence, and records of insurance policies, especially those with a cash value.  While, many of these items can be obtained after the fact if you do not have them on hand, it makes for less leg work at the time of application if you have been saving the documentation through the years.

Medicaid is a federal program that also has state funding but is administered by each individual county. Each county has differing rules and may require different documentation. Familiarity with each county’s ever-changing rules will ensure the smoothest possible application process.

Often more important than knowing what documents to keep on hand as you age, is to prepare your estate plan in a way that protects your assets if and when you need the assistance of the Medicaid program. The five year look back period has strict rules that must be complied with and it is the job of an elder law attorney to make certain you are dealing with your assets in a way that is consistent with these rules.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


Today’s Elder Care Question and Answer

Who may act as an agent under a Power of Attorney?

Answered by:
Power of Attorney
Stephen J. Bailey, Esq.
Bailey Law Firm
Birmingham, Alabama
An ElderCare Matters Partner

In general, an agent, or attorney in fact under a Power of Attorney may be anyone who is legally competent and over the age of majority.  Most individuals select a close family member such as a spouse, sibling or adult child, but any person such as a friend or a professional with an outstanding reputation for honesty would be ideal.  You may appoint multiple agents to serve either simultaneously or separately.  Appointing more than one agent to serve simultaneously can be problematic because if any one of the agents is unavailable to sign, action may be delayed.  Confusion and disagreement between simultaneous agents can also lead to inaction.  Therefore, it is usually more prudent to appoint one individual as the primary agent and nominate additional individuals to serve as alternate agents if your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.

 


Today’s Elder Care Q&A is about Incapacity Planning

What is Incapacity Planning?

Incapacity planning is a broad area of law that covers how you are cared for if you become physically or mentally unable to care for yourself. The type of care could range from simple tasks like buying groceries, paying bills, and handling financial matters to more important decisions such as selling real estate, gifting assets to your children, or making critical medical decisions.

Depending on the needs of the individual or family, incapacity planning could include a number of planning techniques such as Property Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills or Advance Health Care Directives or Guardianships/Conservatorships.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


VA Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit

What is the VA Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit?

If you or your spouse are a qualified war veteran, one or both of you may qualify for the VA Aid and Attendance Pension benefit. The purpose of this benefit it to assist to with the cost of long term care including in home care, assisted living and nursing homes.

To qualify for this benefit, the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) will look at the amount of your financial assets and whether or not you own a home. If you own a home but are no longer living there, you may need to transfer your home in to an irrevocable residence trust. This is required even if your home is owned by your revocable living trust. Once the home is transferred to the trust and assuming you qualify financially otherwise, you can start receiving tax free income from the VA in the amount of approximately $1,000.00 – $2,000.00 per month. Your financial assets can be placed in this trust as well and then will not count towards the resource limits.

Other benefits/characteristics of the trust in addition to qualifying for the Aid and Attendance Pension benefit include:

  • The home will be protected from the Medi-Cal Estate Recovery Lien
  • The low Prop 13 tax basis in your home will be preserved and can be passed to the children
  • The beneficiaries of the trust will get a stepped up basis in any inherited property from the trust. This will result in little, if any, capital gains taxes due upon the sale of the property. If the a trust is not used, the beneficiaries will receive a lower carry over basis in the property if the property is gifted to them while the parent is alive and thus would have to pay capital gains taxes upon the sale of the property.
  • Any real estate owned by the trust can be sold by the trust and the proceeds from the sale of the home will not affect the seniors financial qualifications for the VA Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit or for Medi-Cal (assuming the property was the primary residence of the senior).

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, you can find the professional help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


TOP 5 PROBLEMS WITH YOUR ESTATE PLAN

What are some unexpected problems that may arise when you leave money to your family upon your death?

  1. Heirs recklessly spend their inheritance: Failure to leave your estate to your heirs in a trust means that your family “wins the lottery” upon your death. Your spouse and/or children may recklessly spend their inheritance within months or years, which is what most lottery winners do. A trust can control what distributions are made to your surviving spouse and/or children after your death and also delay the distributions over a number of years.
  2. Wrong heirs inherit your estate: Failure to leave your estate to your heirs in a trust means that your surviving spouse or children own the assets outright and may choose to leave their inheritance to their second spouse, stepchildren or non-family friends instead of to your children or grandchildren upon their death. A trust can control who inherits what property upon the death of your surviving spouse and/or children and delay distributions so that your grandchildren inherit your estate after the death of your children.
  3. Heirs make bad investments decisions: Failure to leave your estate to your heirs in a trust means that your surviving spouse and/or children own the assets outright and may make bad investments and lose their inheritance within a matter of a few years. If a trust is set up properly with a trustee and successor trustees, you can control who makes the investment choices for the trust assets so that your family members do not end up like many lottery winners who go bankrupt as a result of bad investments.
  4. Heirs with drug/alcohol problems use your money to feed their addiction: Failure to leave your estate to your heirs in a trust means that family members who have a drug or alcohol problem may stop working or going to school and use their inheritance to fund their lifestyle of drugs and alcohol. A trust can be used to control distributions to your heirs and limit their access to trust money if their drug or alcohol problem causes them to stop working or going to school.
  5. Heirs lose inheritance to their creditors: Failure to leave your estate to your heirs in a trust means that family members own the assets outright and if they are subject to a lawsuit or the claims of their creditors, their inheritance may be lost to their creditors. A trust if properly set up can provide asset protection for your family members so that any assets held in trust for them are not subject to the claims of their creditors.

Solution: Each of these 5 problems identify why you need a trust in your estate plan. Don’t let these unexpected consequences hurt your family.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this legal matter or with any Elder Care / Senior Care issue, you can find the help you need in one of the following 21Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories. These Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories are sponsored by the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, an organization of thousands of America’s TOP Elder Care / Senior Care Professsionals who help families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care Matters.


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