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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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Ten Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

What are some early warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often confused as being the same, but they’re not. Dementia describes a set of symptoms that include degraded memory, reasoning, and thinking. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes dementia, but dementia can also be caused by other conditions.

One of the challenges with identifying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s is that memory problems naturally increase with age. It’s important then to distinguish age-related memory changes from memory problems that interfere with daily life.

Here are ten early warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

  • Uncharacteristic changes in mood and personality
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Misplacing things, unable to retrace steps
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Trouble understanding visual signs
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Challenges in solving problems
  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help 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.

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Financial Power of Attorney

What is a Financial Power of Attorney?

Answer:  A Financial Power of Attorney is not a part of your will.  It is a separate document that authorizes someone you name to act in accordance with your financial intentions.  It becomes effective only when you cannot express your wishes yourself.   With a Financial Power of Attorney, you choose who will act and define their authority and its limits, if any. You should make sure that all your financial professionals (stockbrokers, accountants, financial planners) and banks have a signed copy.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help 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.

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Reverse Mortgage

What is a reverse mortgage?

A reverse equity mortgage allows senior citizens who are house rich and cash poor to obtain a loan based on the equity on their home. They retain title to their home as long as the continue to live there and receive nontaxable income which they can flexibly use for their own needs. According to the terms of most mortgages currently available, the loan, interest and other costs such as origination fees do not have to be paid back until the owner vacates the property through a move or death. Almost all reverse mortgages now provide a guarantee of lifetime tenancy. Most reverse mortgages are nonrecourse loans which means the lender can look only to the value of the home for repayment. Payments to a home owner from a reverse mortgage can be in the form of a lump sum of cash, regular monthly advances or a line of credit. New mortgage plans allow a combination of payment methods. The amount of the loan is seldom for the full value of the property; most lenders place minimum and maximum limits on the size of mortgages they are willing to establish. Loan periods can vary. Some mortgages combine a reverse mortgage with an annuity, thereby guaranteeing individuals monthly income for their lifetime regardless of whether they continue to live in their homes or not. The monthly payments are considered annuity advances and thus partially taxable. For purposes of Medicaid eligibility these payments may be counted as income.

21 “Mobile Friendly” Elder Care / Senior Care Directories

If you need help with this issue or with any Elder Care / Senior Care matter, 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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