Long Term Care Planning

What long term care planning tips can you pass along?

I got a lot of phone calls about long term care planning after an article on Medicaid planning I ran a month or so ago. There were common areas of concern from spouses, parents and children caring for loved ones about the nature and range of financial planning options for long term care so here goes my top five tips.

Tip #1 Long term care includes nursing home care, assisted living, adult day care, respite care, and home health care. By age 85 nearly 55% will require some form of long-term care and approximately 44% will require nursing home care after age 65. These numbers do not reflect the millions of younger disabled persons that need long-term care at some point in their life. Caregivers report endless frustration, severe emotional stress and lose billions of dollars a year in lost wages trying to deal with bureaucracy. A knowledgeable professional should be able to review everything in an hour or two and give you a solid plan that suits your family situation and personal needs. Working with a professional will give you peace of mind and you will spend much less up front and save tens of thousands of dollars and endless hours of trying to learn everything on your own.

Tip #2 Purchase long term care insurance, if you can afford it. Many policies use to be for only 3 years, now you will see five year plans and more affordable spousal options. Nevertheless, shorter plans can still be good deals and useful planning tools if you have family support for home care.

Tip #3 Professional long-term care planning tools include: personal dependency, medical deductions, home transfers after accounting for basis and capital gain issues, annuities, converting interest income, domestic help, sale of property, sale of the home, owner financing, purchasing a new home or condo, commercial and family held reverse mortgages, owner occupancy rules and using a Medicaid waiver on the back side, partial sales, gift tax rules, life estates, private pay using long-term care insurance and other options, Medicare, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid, dozens of spend-down strategies, promissory notes, student loan forgiveness, life insurance loans and cash ins, legal separations and divorce, QDROs, bankruptcy, income trusts, special needs trusts, housekeeping and caregiving contracts, and various asset transfer options including special consideration for IRAs, 401K, deferred pension plans and other retirement plans. One plan does not fit all situations. Be wary of the source of your legal information. I’ve had the family insurance man cost clients $8,000 on a preneed burial, an elder’s home sold when a lawyer gifted it to a son who then lost his job and declared bankruptcy, and an entire estate gobbled up by listening to the next door neighbor.

Tip #4 Consider a caregiver contract with children or others where you pay for necessary services. Such contracts need to be in writing and comply with all aspects of the law including state and federal earned income rules and mandatory withholdings.

Tip #5 Disability and long-term care needs can come at any age, this is not just a senior issue, and therefore having good legal documents is the foundation of any plan. All powers of attorneys and wills should be reviewed for adequacy. Often old documents or those prepared by non-elder law or estate planning specialists fail to include language to deal with the IRS, gifting, specifics on the description of real property that may be sold or financed that a title insurance company may prefer, and have accounting provisions to safeguard your financial assets.

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.


Pet Trusts – planning for your pets in your estate

What are Pet Trusts?

Some animals are undoubtedly beloved pets. They provide us with love and companionship, while there are other animals that are more than pets. For example, horses are an investment, they are a partner in exercise, they help some children with therapy and a comrade to see the world with if you ever had the distinct pleasure of exploring the wilderness on horseback. Seeing eye dogs or other therapeutically trained animals are literal life savers in some cases. All of these animals are deserving of the full legal protections that you can provide to them. Pet trusts are not tools reserved for the rich and eccentric. As of 2012, 46 states (and the District of Columbia) have laws in effect that allow for pet trusts. In 1996, the New York legislature enacted NY EPTL § 7-8.1, which allows for the care of any pet or animal by way of a trust, which terminates when the beneficiary animal dies. In fact, pet trusts are so popular and well ingrained in the law, that there is a model, uniform law, found at Uniform Trust Code 402. Pet trusts are now practically commonplace.

WILL VERSUS TRUST

There are some distinct issues that you will need to address if planning for your pet. The first is whether you want to plan for your pet in your will or create a trust. If you address the matter in your will, it is generally more inexpensive and easier to plan for. Wills, however, dispose of property, they do not impose enforceable promises upon the caretaker. Wills are more likely to be invalidated by a Court and wills only fund for the caretaking of the pet one time. If you have an expensive animal, such as a horse, you may need to insure continued funding and care. Trusts generally require more planning and involvement in its creation, but allow a greater degree of peace of mind and assurance that your wishes will be carried out. Trusts allow for a stream of income over time. If the trustee or caretaker is unable to fulfill their obligation the law allows for a Court to appoint another trustee or caretaker. In addition, you do not need to wait for the trust to be administered as you do a will.

ISSUES TO ADDRESS

There are several issues that best practice dictate you should address, whether you choose a will or trust.

Ownership: Pets are property, hence the need for an owner. A trust document can still control even with a third party owning the pet.

Financing: Paying for a pet rabbit is easy. This issue rears itself for more expensive animals such as a horse or exotic animals. You should also take into account the medical care for the pet. Horse owners know that horses even have their own dentists. If you have an large animal, transportation is necessary. Additional insurance costs may be incurred to transport them. The caretaker’s homeowners policy may increase or require a separate liability policy.

Remainder beneficiary: If there is money left in the trust when the animal passes, who gets that money?

Income generated: If the pet is also an investment, such as allowing for stud fees, who receives the income?

Whatever your decision, it will require legal counsel to guide your decision every step of the way. Only an experienced estate planning attorney should be considered for these decisions.

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.

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

 


Special Needs Estate Planning

What is Special Needs Estate Planning?

Special Needs Estate Planning focuses on providing for the special needs of our loved ones with disabilities when we are no longer there to organize and advocate on their behalf. Parents of children with special needs must make careful estate planning choices to coordinate all of the legal, financial, and special care needs of their children – both now and in the future.

An Overview of Special Needs Estate Planning

There are several types of trusts to assist with these special planning challenges. The most common types are Support Trusts and Special Needs Trusts.

  • Support Trusts:  Support Trusts require the Trustee to make distributions for the child’s support in areas like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and educational services. Beneficiaries of Support Trusts are not eligible to receive financial assistance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. If your child will require SSI or Medicaid, you should avoid a Support Trust.
  • Special Needs Trusts:  For many parents, a Special Needs Trust is the most effective way to help their child with a disability. A Special Needs Trust manages resources while also maintaining the child’s eligibility for public assistance benefits.

There are two types of Special Needs Trusts:

  • Third-Party Special Needs Trust:  Created using the assets of the parent(s) as part of an estate plan; distributed by a Will or Living Trust.
  • Self-Settled Special Needs Trust: Generally created by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian using the child’s assets to fund the Trust (e.g., when the child receives a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit and will require lifelong care). If assets remain in the Trust after the child’s death, a payback to the state is required, but only to the extent the child receives public assistance benefits.

Special Needs Trusts are a critical component of your estate planning if you have loved ones with disabilities for whom you wish to provide after your passing. Generally, Special Needs Trusts are either stand-alone trusts funded with separate assets (like life insurance) or they can be sub-trusts in existing living trusts.

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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The Importance of having an Estate Plan

Would you please share an example of why it is so important to have an estate plan?

In the land of opportunity, many people have “made it” and made it big. Mr. Roman Blum did just that. However, having amassed close to 40 million dollars, he died last year at the age of 97 with no apparent heirs to his fortune. According to the state comptroller’s office, Mr. Blum’s estate is the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history. His story illustrates how critical it is to have an estate plan.

Mr. Blum was born in Poland. Having survived the Holocaust, he met and married his wife, also a Holocaust survivor, after the war. They migrated to the United States and settled in Forest Hills. He was a real estate developer who seized the opportunity to develop land in Staten Island when the Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964. He ultimately moved to Staten Island himself. He and his wife never had any children. It was said that the former Mrs. Blum suffered from infertility after being a subject of Dr. Mengele’s experiments while she was held in Auschwitz. The couple eventually divorced and Mrs. Blum later died in 1992. Mr. Blum was said to have had a wife and children in Poland before the war, but there is no evidence of any surviving relatives.

In a case like that of Mr. Blum, in which no will was found, the estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. This means that the estate will go through an “administration proceeding” where an administrator (the equivalent of an executor in a will) is appointed to handle the estate. The following list of individuals may petition to be the administrator of the decedent’s estate:

(a)  surviving spouse, (b)  children, (c)  grandchildren, (d)  father or mother, (e)  brothers or sisters, (f)  other persons who are distributees (entitled to receive under the law).

If none of the above individuals exist, the Public Administrator of the county will be appointed. Currently, the Richmond County Public Administrator’s office is handling the estate of Mr. Blum. The Public Administrator is charged with collecting his assets, selling them, and paying the appropriate federal and New York State estate taxes. The Public Administrator is also conducting a thorough search for a will, and is hiring a genealogist in an effort to find Mr. Blum’s relatives. If any relatives are found, the order of individuals entitled to inherit from Mr. Blum’s estate is as follows:

  1. surviving spouse and descendants (children, grandchildren, etc);
  2. surviving parents;
  3. surviving descendants of parents (i.e. siblings, nephews and nieces);
  4. surviving grandparents or the descendants of grandparents (i.e. uncles, aunts, and cousins)

If no will is found and no relatives are located, Mr. Blum’s estate will be turned over to the New York City Department of Finance. After three years, if no relatives come forward, the funds will then go to the New York State Comptroller’s office as unclaimed funds. If any relatives ever surface, all the funds will be returned.

Mr. Blum’s case is a stunning example of the importance of having an estate plan. Even if you do have close relatives, it is imperative to take control of your own estate. Why have New York State determine who your beneficiaries will be? Be proactive and make sure that you have a well-prepared will, power of attorney, statutory gifts rider, health care proxy, living will, and living trust. If Mr. Blum had planned ahead, he could have specified in a will that his estate would go to charitable organizations serving Holocaust survivors. Or, he could have engaged in more complex estate planning to avoid or minimize estate taxes and provide for an extensive list of beneficiaries.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this elder care 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.

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


Things to Consider Before Transferring Your Home to Your Children

Should you transfer your home to your children?

Before transferring your home to your children, there are several issues that should be considered. Some are tax-related issues and some are none-tax issues that can have grave consequences on your livelihood.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the current federal estate tax exemption is currently over $5 million and thus it is likely that you may not have an estate tax issue anyway. If you are married you and your spouse can double that exemption to over $10 million. So, make sure the federal estate tax is truly an issue for you before proceeding.

Second, if you gift the home to your kids now they will legally be the owners. If they get sued or divorced, a creditor or an ex- in-law may end up with an interest in the house and could evict you. Also, if a child dies before you, that child’s interest may pass to his or her spouse or child who may want the house sold so they can simply get their money.

Third, if you give the kids the house now, their income tax basis will be the same as yours is (the value at which you purchased it) and thus when the house is later sold they may have to pay a significant capital gains tax on the difference. On the other hand if you pass it to them at death their basis gets stepped-up to the value of the home at your death, which will reduce or eliminate the capital gains tax the children will pay.

Fourth, if you gift the house now you likely will lose some property tax exemptions such as the homestead exemption because that exemption is normally only available for owner-occupied homes.

Fifth, you will still have to report the gift on a gift tax return and the value of the home will reduce your estate tax exemption available at death, though any future appreciation will be removed from your taxable estate.

Given the multitude of tax and practical issues involved, seek counsel before making any transfers of property.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this elder care 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.

#elderlaw, #eldercarematters, #eldercare, #eldercareanswers, #elderlawattorneys, #elderlawanswers, #seniorcareanswers


Medicaid

Should you complete the Medicaid Application yourself? 

Simply stated, the answer is “No”, “No”, and “No”. There are no instructions to explain how to fill-out the Medicaid Application. This results in many hidden traps that must be avoided. Even a retired attorney was fooled into thinking he could fill-out the Medicaid Application. He got a “first-look denial” of benefits for his friend. Medicaid workers, at most offices, don’t know how to fill-out an application. Remember, it is the function of the Medicaid office to deny you benefits that you are entitled too! It can become very adversarial at times. Medicaid wins when you get frustrated with the system and drop your claim for benefits. The private pay rate for a local nursing home is anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 per month depending upon services needed. Mistakes can be very costly.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this elder care 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.

#elderlaw, #eldercarematters, #medicaid, #eldercareanswers, #elderlawattorneys, #medicaidattorneys, #findmedicaidattorneys


Medicare Information for 2016

What are the Medicare Parts A and B Premiums and Deductibles for 2016?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has announced the Medicare premiums, deductibles, and coinsurances for 2016. As expected, for the third year in a row the standard Medicare Part B premium that most recipients pay will hold steady at $104.90 a month. However, about 30 percent of beneficiaries will see their Part B premium rise to $121.80 a month. Meanwhile, the Part B deductible will increase for all beneficiaries from the current $147 to $166 in 2016.

The Part B rise was supposed to be much steeper for the 30 percent of beneficiaries who are not “held harmless” from any increase in premiums when Social Security benefits remain stagnant, as will be the case for 2016. But the premium rise was blunted by the Bipartisan Budget Act signed into law by President Obama November 2. Medicare beneficiaries who are unprotected from a premium increase include those enrolled in Medicare but who are not yet receiving Social Security, new Medicare beneficiaries, seniors earning more than $85,000 a year, and “dual eligibles” who receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

For beneficiaries receiving skilled care in a nursing home, Medicare’s coinsurance for days 21-100 will go up from $157.50 to $161. Medicare coverage ends after day 100.

Here are all the new Medicare figures:

•Basic Part B premium: $104.90/month (unchanged)
•Part B premium for those not “held harmless”: $121.80
•Part B deductible: $166 (was $147)
•Part A deductible: $1,288 (was $1,260)
•Co-payment for hospital stay days 61-90: $322/day (was $315)
•Co-payment for hospital stay days 91 and beyond: $644/day (was $630)
•Skilled nursing facility co-payment, days 21-100: $161/day (was $157.50)

Higher-income beneficiaries will pay higher Part B premiums:

•Individuals with annual incomes between $85,000 and $107,000 and married couples with annual incomes between $170,000 and $214,000 will pay a monthly premium of $170.50 (was $146.90).
•Individuals with annual incomes between $107,000 and $160,000 and married couples with annual incomes between $214,000 and $320,000 will pay a monthly premium of $243.60 (was $209.80).
•Individuals with annual incomes between $160,000 and $214,000 and married couples with annual incomes between $320,000 and $428,000 will pay a monthly premium of $316.70 (was $272.70).
•Individuals with annual incomes of $214,000 or more and married couples with annual incomes of $428,000 or more will pay a monthly premium of $389.80 (was $335.70).

Rates differ for beneficiaries who are married but file a separate tax return from their spouse:

•Those with incomes between $85,000 and $129,000 will pay a monthly premium of $316.70 (was $272.70).
•Those with incomes greater than $129,000 will pay a monthly premium of $389.80 (was $335.70).

The Social Security Administration uses the income reported two years ago to determine a Part B beneficiary’s premiums. So the income reported on a beneficiary’s 2014 tax return is used to determine whether the beneficiary must pay a higher monthly Part B premium in 2016. Income is calculated by taking a beneficiary’s adjusted gross income and adding back in some normally excluded income, such as tax-exempt interest, U.S. savings bond interest used to pay tuition, and certain income from foreign sources. This is called modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). If a beneficiary’s MAGI decreased significantly in the past two years, she may request that information from more recent years be used to calculate the premium.

Those who enroll in Medicare Advantage plans may have different cost-sharing arrangements. The average Medicare Advantage premium is expected to decrease slightly, from $32.91 on average in 2015 to $32.60 in 2016.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this elder care 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.


Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

Get Listed in 21 of America’s TOP Elder Care Directories For 1 Low Price

ElderCare Matters Alliance

If you are an Elder Care Professional with expertise in any of the 75 Elder Care Services that are listed on ElderCareMatters.com and you would like to “GET THE WORD OUT” across America about your expertise in helping families plan for and/or deal with their Elder Care Matters (in a “cost effective” way), then you owe it to yourself and to families across America to become a Member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance Today.  As a member of this national Elder Care / Senior Care professional organization, you will be listed in ALL of our 21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care Directories that apply to you for just one low monthly price.

Here are the 21 Elder Care / Senior Care – specific Directories that 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.


Probate

What Is Probate, Anyway?

Probate is the court proceeding to transfer a dead person’s assets to the people who are supposed to get them. Simple in concept, but humbug in practice. Probate can easily take a year or more to complete, and the attorneys’ fees and other costs associated with probate could easily eat up 5% or more of a decedent’s gross estate. (“Decedent” is lawyer talk for a “dead person.”) If a decedent owned assets located in more than one state or country, it may be necessary to have a probate in each jurisdiction where the assets are located. If one probate is bad, you can bet that more than one probate is worse. In addition to the money and time that probate can consume, another reason people try to avoid probate is that the court’s probate files are public records. Nosy people can go through the court’s probate files and gather all kinds of information that may be profitable to them-and detrimental to decedents’ families.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with this elder care 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.


Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA)

What is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA)?

A quick glance through the “attorneys” section of the yellow pages or one of the many internet directories will reveal that most attorneys specialize in certain fields of law. With the aging baby boom and a slump in some other specialties such as real estate, more attorneys are looking to elder law as an area of practice. So how can you, as a consumer, know whether an attorney has deep expertise in the area or if they are a newcomer to the field?

The National Elder Law Foundation offers a certification for elder law and special needs practitioners to reflect their specialized knowledge and experience. The title, Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), identifies an attorney who has completed the requirements for the NELF certification and passed a written examination. The American Bar Association (ABA) accredits specialty certification programs including the CELA designation to ensure it meets standards for reliably recognizing experienced legal specialists.

The CELA certification has frequently been referred to as “the gold standard” for elder law attorneys.  There are only approximately 450 CELAs in the United States and less than 50 in all of New Jersey.  Compare that to the approximately 1500 certified matrimonial lawyers in the state.

Choosing a CELA means that you can be sure your attorney has:

(1) focused at least half of their practice in the specialty for three of the last five years,

(2) demonstrated “substantial involvement” by handling a minimum number of cases across seven subspecialties of elder law,

(3) passed a rigorous examination (less than 50% recent pass rate), and

(4) undergone a peer review.

Shana Siegel, Esq., CELA has attained this certification and subsequently has been a grader for the CELA exam.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help in planning for and/or dealing with an 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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