New York Medicaid – This Week’s Elder Care Article on ElderCareMatters.com

New York Medicaid – This Week’s Elder Care Article on ElderCareMatters.com

Written By:
New York Medicaid Attorney
Michael Ettinger, Esq.
Ettinger Law Firm
Albany, New York
An ElderCare Matters Partner

In the event that your loved one requires home care or institutionalized care in a New York nursing home facility, an application for New York Medicaid benefits may be required. Due to complex asset and transfer rules, a New York application should be made with the aid of an experienced New York Medicaid Attorney. Again, it is useful in this context for a confidential survey of the client’s assets, as well as any transfers of those assets, to be filled out prior to the initial consultation. This form of financial survey will be significantly different from the one used for estate planning purposes. As a combined federal and state program, Medicaid asset and transfer rules vary significantly from state to state.

There are two different kinds of Medicaid in the State of New York, Community Medicaid and Chronic Care Medicaid.

Community Medicaid

Community based Medicaid applications are for low income recipients and any elderly/disabled person who wishes to remain in the community, in the setting of their own home. This benefit requires three (3) months of financial documentation, current proof of income, along with “common documents” and the past year’s income tax filing, with 1099’s.

Once benefits have been applied for and a Medicaid “pick-up” date has been established, the applicant may keep some of their monthly income and the balance is required to be contributed to their care. The amounts you may retain are constantly changing and are naturally different for singles and couples. Consult with an elder law attorney for the going rates in your community at any given time. There are also a number of methods to keep additional income involving pooled trusts and Special Needs Trusts.

Resources, which are assets belonging to the applicant and/or community spouse, must be reported and an individual is allowed to keep only a modest amount. If there is a spouse at home, the resource allowance will be more.

Chronic Care Medicaid

Perhaps your loved one can no longer stay at home because they have become a danger to themselves or others. Maybe they need too much care or their caregiver is no longer able to manage their care. In such a case you may want to apply for chronic care benefits.

The Chronic Care application requires a look-back of sixty months. You must provide all financial statements of any open or closed accounts in this time period. Each county is different in the type of documentation you will need to present. Again, all “common documents” must be presented, three years of tax returns, proof of income, and the correct application.

The Department of Social Services will look for any gifts or transfers made in the look-back period (gifts to children, friends, grandchildren, church donations, charitable donations, etc.). Each gift will incur a penalty period determined by the state Medicaid Regional Rates chart published each year. Should you apply before the penalty period has expired you may be asked to provide additional documentation.

On all applications the county will begin an investigation. They will request an IRS report for the past three years, they will request a DMV report to see what vehicles are or were owned, they will request a financial institution report under the applicant’s and his/her spouse’s Social Security number and if something has not been reported the department may charge the applicant with fraud if they feel a deliberate attempt was made to hide assets.

In our experience, most individuals who attempt to file for Medicaid benefits, without the assistance of counsel, either complete the application incorrectly, do not provide the correct documentation or give unnecessary information which causes the county to investigate further. These types of errors may require an appeal, known as a Fair Hearing, to have the matter rectified.

An individual applying for chronic care benefits and who is in a nursing home is required to pay virtually all of their income towards their care. The community spouse, if there is one, is allowed to keep about three thousand dollars per month in income and, if they fall short, the institutionalized spouse is allowed to contribute some of their income to the community spouse before paying the nursing home.

If you need help with Medicaid Planning or other Elder Care Matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

And you can find thousands of elder care / senior care answers to your elder care questions as well as elder care articles to help you plan for and deal with your elder care matters on the following websites:

ElderCareMatters.com/ElderCareAnswers
ElderCareMatters.com/ElderCareArticles

I Don’t Have Children – Who Will Care For Me? (Estate Planning for Childless Women)

I Don’t Have Children – Who Will Care For Me?
(Estate Planning for Childless Women)

Written By:
Henry C. Weatherby, Connecticut Elder Law Attorney
Henry C. Weatherby, Esq., CLU, ChFC, CEBS
Weatherby & Associates, PC
Bloomfield, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Over the years, many women decided that they didn’t want children. Their decision was made not necessarily because they were selfish; many were career-oriented and received fulfillment through their work. But as these women age they wonder who will care for them, especially when they watch their friends’ children help them through illness or life chores.

Of course, having children doesn’t necessarily mean that they will care for you in later life. However, depending on the dynamics of the family through the years, they may be available from a distance, to help coordinate care and finances.

As more and more women decide that motherhood is not in the cards, the chances are much greater that as they grow older, more non-familial caregivers will be needed. In 2010, the “caregiver support ratio” was seven potential caregivers for each individual over the age of 80. This ratio will decline to four to one by 2030 and to three to one by 2050. AARP produced a report in August 2013 that stated 11.6 percent of women ages 80 to 84 were childless in 2010. That number will increase to 16 percent by 2030.

According to research done at the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, PA, 70 percent of long-term care is provided by adult children. Surprisingly, a 2012 study published by Fidelity Investments revealed that only 3 percent of parents were in agreement that their children would step up to provide care if needed. According to this study, having children does not necessarily equate to help for older parents.

The trend towards remaining childless means there will be fewer adult children, usually daughters or daughters-in-law, to provide care to relatives. These caregiving responsibilities are now being assumed by nieces, cousins, nephews etc. A recent trend does show that more men are involved in caregiving.

Having and raising children is expensive. A 2012 report released by the Department of Agriculture projected that it will cost a middle-income family about $241,080 to raise a child to the age of 17. That amount of money, saved for 35 years, would amount to $1.5 million with compounding interest. And that is the advantage for childless women. They are generally able to save enough money to hire caregivers or to take in a friend to help with care.

But there are other issues raised when women are childless. Where will they live in old age, especially if they are not well?

Many older women would rather remain in their homes; some live in apartments and those that do, are “aging in place.” In this instance, communal living is known as a NORC or, a “naturally occurring retirement community.” It is not unusual to find older childless women or couples who would prefer to live in a community.

Comprehensive estate planning for childless clients therefore will have to take an even closer look at long-term care considerations, and be individually tailored to each client’s needs and concerns.

If you need help with Estate Planning or other Elder Care Matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

And you can find thousands of elder care / senior care answers to your elder care questions as well as elder care articles to help you plan for and deal with your elder care matters on the following websites:

ElderCareMatters.com/ElderCareAnswers
ElderCareMatters.com/ElderCareArticles

Asset Protection: Long Term Care Insurance

Asset Protection: Long Term Care Insurance

Written By:
Long Term Care Insurance
George P. Guertin, Esq.
Guertin and Guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner

The average life expectancy for a person born in 1915 was 54 years, this number increased to 70 years in 1967 and 78 years in 2006. Today people are living longer than they have in the past, the recent past. Good news, right? Not necessarily. As our average life expectancy increases so does the chance that you will need long term care. The Wall Street Journal has reported that a married couple turning 65 this year has a 70% chance of at least one person needing long term care.

There are primarily four different ways to protect yourself against long-term care issues. The first plan would be to never ever ever get sick or hurt, or old for that matter. This is the least advisable pan. The second plan is to have lots and lots of children and send some of them to medical school, some to nursing school, and others to occupational and physical therapy schools, and hope for the best. For a lot of folks this plan may not work either. The third plan would be to save enough money to pay for your long-term care. For some people this plan is “do-able.” For others, this may not be a realistic plan. The costs can be staggering and there is no way to predict what the future cost will be. The cost will vary depending on the care you need and the length of time that you need it. Currently, long-term care in Connecticut is approaching five figures per month. The only other alternative is Long-Term Care Insurance.

Long-term care is not solely for the elderly. The need for this type of care can come on unexpectedly. Long-term care insurance is a good way to plan for unexpected incapacity. Long-term care insurance can provide medical care and other services. These services can be provided in your home, in a nursing home, or in an assisted living facility. This type of insurance helps people remain financially independent while guarding against the rising cost of long-term care. That being said, it can be costly. While this is true, you should consider the fact that one month in a Connecticut nursing home, at the private pay rate, would probably cost more than the yearly premium for a long-term care insurance policy. We all pay our yearly fire insurance on our homes and we rarely use this insurance. Many people will need nursing home care over the course of their lives; but most do not plan for this reality. Statistics show that after the age of 65 you have nearly a 50% chance of requiring long-term care in a skilled nursing facility. In Connecticut it can cost nearly $100,000 for a year of long-term care at the private pay rate. Many homes have been sold, and many potential inheritances have been spent providing skilled nursing care. You should weigh the cost of carrying long-term care insurance against the possibility of needing this type of coverage.

Many people believe their private health insurance or Medicare will pay for their long-term care. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. Private health insurance and Medicare (generally speaking) will only pay for skilled care, not custodial care, and there are limits to the coverage periods. For example, Medicare may pay for up to 100 days in a skilled care facility, but will only pay 100% of the cost for the first 20 days.

Lots of folks also think that Medicaid will pay for their long-term care. This is true (well, sort of). Medicaid will only pay for long-term care when a person has minimal assets. When we say minimal we mean it. The limits are not enough for a person to live on. Medicaid expects you to pay for your own care until your assets reach a certain level, then when you are nearly broke they will offer assistance. It is important to mention that if you are trying to place a person into a nursing home it is a good idea to have enough cash to pay for a few months of coverage privately. The reason for this is that nursing homes only have to provide a percentage of their beds for Medicaid patients. This means that you may have to find a room in a facility that is not your first choice, and potentially far away from your loved ones. However, if you have some money to spend there privately, you have a better shot of placement in a home of your choice, not just one that is willing to accept you.

If you cannot afford to privately pay for your own care, and most people cannot, then look into long-term care insurance. If you can afford to privately pay for long-term care you should still look into long-term care insurance because you can probably preserve a lot of your own assets by having it. We firmly believe that long-term care insurance is one of the best ways to protect assets, and at the same time provide you with peace of mind and quality care.

There are many types of policies offering many different benefits, different waiting periods, different inflation protection, and different costs. You should not take the purchase of a long-term care policy lightly. Do your homework. Make sure you know how long and how much the policy will pay, as well as what will trigger a payment from the policy. You should also know if the policy is indexed for inflation. Most importantly you should educate yourself on the level of care associated with the policy. Is custodial care covered? How about skilled nursing care? Is home healthcare provided? Check with several companies and agents and find the best policy for you, not the best policy for the agent to sell you. Understand the policy you are purchasing. Make sure you know what your policy covers and what it does not cover before you purchase it. Caveat Emptor!

If you need help with Asset Protection Planning, Long Term Care Insurance or other elder care / senior care matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

Bummers for Boomers – This Week’s Estate Planning Article on ElderCareMatters.com

Bummers for Boomers

Written By:
Estate Planning Attorneys
Scott A. Makuakane, Esq., CFP
Est8Planning Counsel LLLC
Honolulu, Hawaii
An ElderCare Matters Partner

In his article “Estate Planning Mistakes Every Boomer Should Avoid,” author Casey Dowd enumerates some of the things that you really don’t want to do if you hope to have an estate plan that will work as you intend. Here are Dowd’s Big Five mistakes:

  1. Failing to plan for large expenses such as long term care. This may not seem like a big deal when you are relatively young and healthy, but fully 70% of us can expect to be completely incapacitated for some period of time before we die. Many of us will need care that cannot be provided in our homes in a cost-efficient way. Our options are (A) be fabulously wealthy, (B) plan ahead, or (C) fall at the mercy of governmental programs. (B) works best for most of us.
  2. Failing to update beneficiary designations on bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. Having your will and revocable living trust agreement in place is not enough. It’s better than nothing, but better yet, actually transfer your assets (or funnel them by way of updated beneficiary designations) to your trust. And don’t forget that you need to update your will and trust from time to time. A lot of things change (your health, your family situation, your assets, the law, the list of people that you like and trust and would want to have making decisions on your behalf), and your estate plan needs to change in order to take those things into account. We recommend reviewing your estate plan at least annually, but making changes in the meantime as they become necessary.
  3. Failing to take steps to avoid family strife. Making your intentions clear is the first step. You can also build incentives (and disincentives) into your estate plan that can head off courtroom battles.
  4. Using a “do it yourself” computer program to design your estate plan. If you truly know what you are doing, these kinds of tools may work. If not, they are a crapshoot. Gamble with your family’s future if you like, but you will probably save your loved ones a good deal of time and money by not taking shortcuts.
  5. Putting your kids on title to your stuff during your lifetime. Not only might you be setting them up for capital gains taxes, you may be be putting your assets at risk. Once you give something away, it is gone. Not even your kids’ good intentions will spare you from the wrath of their creditors or ex-spouses.

Estate planning is serious business, and you are better off doing it right. Usually, that will mean working with professionals who will charge for their services. Shop around until you find advisors who know what they are doing, will help you devise a workable plan, and are worth their fees.

If you need help with Estate Planning or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

Your Last Will and Testament: This Week’s Elder Care / Senior Care Article on ElderCareMatters.com

 

Your Last Will and Testament

Written By:
Last Will and Testament
George P. Guertin, Esq.
Guertin and guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner

When most folks think of estate planning they think of making a Will. A Will or a Last Will and Testament is a commonly used instrument in estate planning, and is often regarded as the “core” document of any estate plan. Briefly stated a Will is a legal declaration of a person’s wishes as to the final disposition of his/her property. Wills are completely revocable during a person’s lifetime (barring incapacity), and only become irrevocable and operative upon the death of the maker of the Will. A Last Will and Testament is more than just a set of instructions that control the final disposition of your assets. Wills can help you to protect your assets, provide instructions for the care of minor children, name Guardians for minor children, and name a person (an Executor) who will carry out your wishes.

Wills can perform simple tasks like the outright distribution of your assets to your designated beneficiaries, or more complex functions, such as creating Testamentary Trusts at your death or moving your assets (or pouring them over) into a previously established Trust (commonly referred to as a Pour Over Will). Wills facilitate the distribution of your assets to family members, friends, charities and others. Wills can provide detailed instructions for the Executor on how to manage the decedent’s property, as well as other powers. As the maker of a Will you can decide how much detail and post mortem control is dictated in your Will. You are in charge. You can give your antique lamp to your Uncle Lou, make unequal distributions to your nieces and nephews, or make a large cash gift to the local animal shelter. It is really up to you.

It is not recommended that you use a do-it–yourself Will kit or an internet Will. Great caution should be used with these instruments. These instruments often fall short of planning for your individual situation. A qualified estate planning attorney is far better suited to develop a plan that accomplishes your specific estate planning goals, while taking into consideration the relevant federal and state laws, and tax regulations.

People often think they can save money through the use of an internet or fill-in-the-blanks type Will. If you are concerned with the cost of estate planning, you can save time and money if you meet with your estate planner fully prepared. Come to the meeting organized, with a good sense of what you would like to see happen after your passing. Have a clear picture of your assets, and good ideas on how those assets are to be disposed of, as well as other concerns like the appointment of Guardians, Executors and Trustees. If you have existing Wills or other estate planning documents, including divorce decrees and prenuptial agreements, you should also bring those to your first meeting with your estate planning attorney.

There are some folks who believe they can just write out their own Will by hand. Connecticut residents are cautioned against the use of “Holographic Wills.” A Holographic Will is a Will that is completely handwritten by the testator and signed and dated by him/her, with or without a witness. This approach simply does not work in Connecticut. Even though these writings certainly indicate your intent, your property will still pass via the State of Connecticut Intestate Succession Laws.

A Will that is validly executed in one state, is valid in any state. In order for a Will to be valid it must have been executed by a person who had the “testamentary capacity” to execute the instrument. Under most circumstances the maker of the Will must be 18 years-old and have the mental capacity to execute the Will. Someone has mental capacity if they understand the nature and extent of their property. They must also understand “the natural objects of their bounty,” meaning their children if they have any. Finally, to have the mental capacity, the maker of a Will must also understand the practical effect of executing their Will.

When designing your estate plan our mantra is “Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.” These tricky waters should not be navigated by amateurs, and one should always seek competent counsel. The more your attorney knows about your particular situation the better they can plan for you and your family. Some folks are embarrassed to discuss their family problems. Remember, what you tell your attorney is strictly confidential. Your attorney has sworn to protect that information and only use it for your benefit. The truth is, almost every family has issues, and that is normal. Your attorney is there to help you, not judge you.

If you need help with this Elder Care Matter, or with other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

5 Things You Need to Know About Health Care Documents

5 Things You Need to Know About
Health Care Documents

Written By:
Elder Care / Senior Care Articles about Health Care Documents
William E. Hesch, Esq., CPA, PFS
William E. Hesch Law Firm, LLC
Cincinnati, Ohio
An ElderCare Matters Partner

The Supreme Court has maintained that a competent person always has the constitutional right to accept or refuse medical treatment. However, when you are unable to speak for yourself, who do you want to speak for you? And what kind of limitations do you want to place on their authority? Here are five important things you need to keep in mind about advance health care directives:

  1. Know What Documents Do What. By executing a Health Care Power of Attorney, you appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you are physically or mentally incompetent. A Living Will, on the other hand, is a directive from you to your doctors letting them know whether you would like to receive artificially supplied life-sustaining treatment. Since these documents originate at the state level, there are inevitably statutory variations among states that can affect how and even if your wishes are implemented. In Ohio, there are separate documents for a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will. In Kentucky, however, there is a single document called “Living Will Directive and Health Care Surrogate Designation.” While you appoint someone to make decisions for you, that person may or may not be authorized to make medical treatment directions or authorizations about food and water.
  2. Choose Your Health Care Decision Makers Carefully. Before executing any health care document, discuss your wishes with your designee to ensure that they understand your wishes and that they have no ethical objections to your decision. You will want to ensure that your designee will act as you have directed and not according to their own ethical opinions.
  3. Give Copies of Any Documents to Your Primary Care Physician. Always give a copy of your documents to your primary care physician to be placed in your permanent medical record. Not only does this ensure the availability of the document, but also it allows you to discuss the practical consequences of the documents with your doctor so you can make a full and informed decision.
  4. Update it Frequently. Like all legal documents, you should ensure that they are kept up to speed with the circumstances of your life. The older a document is, the more likely it is to be challenged as not reflective of your current wishes. A recent document, on the other hand, can be clear and convincing evidence of your wishes. I recommend that everyone execute their desired advance health care directives every few years.
  5. Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s. Although most states have developed forms for their health care directives, you should always consult with an attorney to make sure the document complies with wishes. If you have any specific religious beliefs on blood transfusions, organ transplants, or other medical treatments, you should consult with a clergyman and make your beliefs evident in your documents. Also, be wary of forms given to you at the hospital as some hospitals have modified the forms prescribed by statute. You should also remember that if a hospital refuses to honor your advance health directive, you are allowed to be transported to another facility where your wishes will be respected.

If you need help with Estate Planning or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

The Rules of Estate Administration

The Rules of Estate Administration

Written By:
Estate Administration
Marie A. Corliss, Esq.
Corliss Law Group
Cortlandt Manor, New York
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Probate is the process by which a deceased person’s property, known as the “estate,” is passed to his or her heirs and legatees (people named in the will). The entire process, supervised by the probate court, usually takes about a year. However, substantial distributions from the estate can be made in the interim.

The emotional trauma brought on by the death of a close family member often is accompanied by bewilderment about the financial and legal steps the survivors must take. The spouse who passed away may have handled all of the couple’s finances. Or perhaps a child must begin taking care of probating an estate about which he or she knows little. And this task may come on top of commitments to family and work that can’t be set aside. Finally, the estate itself may be in disarray or scattered among many accounts, which is not unusual with a generation that saw banks collapse during the Depression.

Here we set out the steps the surviving family members should take. These responsibilities ultimately fall on whoever was appointed executor or personal representative in the deceased family member’s will. Matters can be a bit more complicated in the absence of a will, because it may not be clear who has the responsibility of carrying out these steps.

First, secure the tangible property. This means anything you can touch, such as silverware, dishes, furniture, or artwork. You will need to determine accurate values of each piece of property, which may require appraisals, and then distribute the property as the deceased directed. If property is passed around to family members before you have the opportunity to take an inventory, this will become a difficult, if not impossible, task. Of course, this does not apply to gifts the deceased may have made during life, which will not be part of his or her estate.

Second, take your time. You do not need to take any other steps immediately. While bills do need to be paid, they can wait a month or two without adverse repercussions. It’s more important that you and your family have time to grieve. Financial matters can wait. (One exception: Social Security should be notified within a month of death. If checks are issued following death, you could be in for a battle).

When you’re ready, but not a day sooner, meet with an attorney to review the steps necessary to administer the deceased’s estate. Bring as much information as possible about finances, taxes and debts. Don’t worry about putting the papers in order first; the lawyer will have experience in organizing and understanding confusing financial statements.

The rules of administering estates differ from state to state. In general, they include the following steps:

1. Filing the will and petition at the probate court in order to be appointed executor or personal representative. In the absence of a will, heirs must petition the court to be appointed “administrator” of the estate.

2. Marshaling, or collecting, the assets. This means that you have to find out everything the deceased owned. You need to file a list, known as an “inventory,” with the probate court. It’s generally best to consolidate all the estate funds to the extent possible. Bills and bequests should be paid from a single checking account, either one you establish or one set up by your attorney, so that you can keep track of all expenditures.

3. Paying bills and taxes. If an estate tax return is needed—generally if the estate exceeds $1 million in value—it must be filed within nine months of the date of death. If you miss this deadline and the estate is taxable, severe penalties and interest may apply. If you do not have all the information available in time, you can file for an extension and pay your best estimate of the tax due.

4. Filing tax returns. You must also file a final income tax return for the decedent and, if the estate holds any assets and earns interest or dividends, an income tax return for the estate. If the estate does earn income during the administration process, it will have to obtain its own tax identification number in order to keep track of such earnings.

5. Distributing property to the heirs and legatees. Generally, executors do not pay out all of the estate assets until the period runs out for creditors to make claims, which can be as long as a year after the date of death. But once the executor understands the estate and the likely claims, he or she can distribute most of the assets, retaining a reserve for unanticipated claims and the costs of closing out the estate.

6. Filing a final account. The executor must file an account with the probate court listing any income to the estate since the date of death and all expenses and estate distributions. Once the court approves this final account, the executor can distribute whatever is left in the closing reserve, and finish his or her work.

Some of these steps can be eliminated by avoiding probate through joint ownership or trusts. But whoever is left in charge still has to pay all debts, file tax returns, and distribute the property to the rightful heirs. You can make it easier for your heirs by keeping good records of your assets and liabilities. This will shorten the process and reduce the legal bill.

If you need help with Estate Administration or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

Make sure your Loved Ones know where your Estate Planning Documents are located – This week’s Elder Care Article on ElderCareMatters.com

Make sure your Loved Ones know where your
Estate Planning Documents are located

Written By:
Estate Planning Attorney
James J. Ruggiero, Jr., Esq.
Ruggiero Law Offices, LLC
Paoli, Pennsylvania
An ElderCare Matters Partner

For most people, finally establishing an estate plan is a big step that they have undertaken after years of delay. A second step is making decisions regarding the executor, trustees, beneficiaries, funeral costs and debt, and a third step is actually completing the will. There is, however, a fourth step that is often skipped: placing the original will and other critical documents in a place where it can be found when it is needed.

As far as wills are concerned, this step is more important than you might think, for two reasons:

  1. If your will can’t be found upon your death then, legally, you will have passed away intestate, i.e. without a will.
  2. If your loved ones can only locate a photocopy of your will, chances are the photocopy will be ruled invalid by the courts. This is because the courts assume that, if an original will can’t be located, the willmaker destroyed it with the intention of revoking it.

Options for Storing the Original Copy of Your Will

Because an original will is usually needed by the probate court, it makes sense to store it in a strategic location. Common locations recommended by estate planning attorneys include:

  • A fireproof safe or lock box
  • Stored at the local probate court, if such service is provided.
  • A safety deposit box in a bank

There are advantages to each choice. For many, a fireproof safe is simplest: it’s in the home, doesn’t need to leave the house and can be altered and replaced with maximum convenience. The probate court makes sense because it is the place where the last will and testament may end up when you pass away. A safety deposit box also makes sense, especially if you already have one for which you’re paying. Just make sure that your executor can access it.

By making sure that your original will is safe and can be found when needed, you don’t just ensure that it can be used when the allocation of your assets and debt occurs. You also ensure that disputes, confusion and disappointment don’t occur years after your death; while uncommon, in some cases, by the time the will has been discovered, the assets of the decedent have long been distributed according to intestacy laws and not the decedent’s will. Intestacy laws are essentially the “default will” that the state establishes for individuals who do not have their own estate plan.

You’ve taken the trouble to protect your assets and loved ones by creating an estate plan. Don’t leave its discovery to chance. Ensure that your executor or trustee can easily and reliably find it when it comes time to put it into effect.

If you need help with this or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

The Importance of Legal Advice When Planning YOUR Estate – This Week’s Elder Care Article on ElderCareMatters.com

The Importance of Legal Advice When Planning YOUR Estate
Written By:
Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney
Keith R. Lyman, Esq.
Frazer Ryan Goldberg & Arnold LLP
Phoenix, Arizona
An ElderCare Matters Partner

It’s tempting to look only at price when contemplating preparation of your estate plan. With on-line document production and document preparers charging far less than attorneys, you may easily be persuaded to save some money and avoid the attorney.

Remember your goal: You want to develop an estate plan, not just a document. Will the cheaper document achieve your objectives? Is an attorney’s experience and advice of any value to you? How will you know?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you know that your documents are properly drafted?
  • Will a Last Will and Testament avoid Probate?
  • Are living trusts just for the wealthy?
  • Do you understand the dangers of naming your trust as a beneficiary on your qualified retirement account?
  • Do you know that there are many types of financial powers of attorney?
  • Do you know that many financial institutions may refuse to honor your power of attorney?
  • Do you know that a health care power of attorney may still require a guardianship or conservatorship down the road without proper wording?
  • Do you know the difference between a power of attorney and a trust?
  • Do you know that only a Will can effectively create a special needs trust for a spouse?

The list goes on. There are a lot of different tools in the estate planner’s toolbox. Tools may be cheap, but you have to understand how to use them.

Don’t underestimate the value of an attorney’s advice. After all, that is what you are paying for, and need.

If you need help with this or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

Ten Steps for Adult Children Caregivers to Follow After a Holiday Visit

Ten Steps for Adult Children Caregivers to Follow After a Holiday Visit

Written By:
Elder Care Matters Partner
Sheri Samotin, President
LifeBridge Solutions, LLC
Marina Del Rey, California
An ElderCare Matters Partner

Many families take advantage of the holidays to enjoy time together. While these visits can range from fun to extremely stressful for all sorts of reasons, one common outcome is that adult children who haven’t seen their aging parents in a while to come away with feelings of surprise, fear, shock and even anger. Aging parents often do an excellent job of “hiding” their declining physical or cognitive abilities from their kids, especially when those kids live far away. They do this for a range of reasons – from not wanting their children “in their business” to denial that there is a decline or even the cognitive inability to recognize it. If you’ve recently returned from your holiday visit and find yourself in a bit of panic, here are ten steps to follow to get on track.

  1. Assess the situation – Do you have a crisis on your hands? An urgent situation? Or an ongoing chronic decline? Your answer to this very important question will determine how quickly you must act and make decisions, and how much collaboration you can afford. The more urgent the situation, the less time you will have to engage in a process to allow your parent and/or siblings lots of input. If you find yourself in this place, make sure that you are in fact the person with the legal authority and responsibility to be making decisions. If you aren’t, then it is imperative that you immediately get the person who is to get involved. If no such person has been named then this should occur immediately if your parent has the cognitive capacity to do so. If not, you may have to seek a court-appointed guardianship or conservatorship..
  2. Prioritize the needs – First make a long list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, fixed, solved, or otherwise handled. Then, prioritize this list according to what needs to be accomplished right now and what can wait. It is also important to distinguish between wants and needs. Finally consider those things that are best taken care of “on the scene” and which things can be handled from afar.
  3. Remember that safety must come first – As you are prioritizing, don’t forget that your job as an adult child is to make sure that your parent stays safe. Anything that is now, or could become, a safety issue should be near the top of your list.
  4. Make every effort to prioritize your parent’s independence – While you are at it, remember that whenever you can make a choice or recommendation that prioritizes your parent’s independence you will generally get less resistance when it comes time to implement. The most difficult aspect of aging for many older adults is the real or perceived loss of independence, so if you can keep your parent safe and as independent as possible it is almost always the better choice.
  5. Get organized– Now that you have made a prioritized list of all of the current and impending needs, get that list organized. At a minimum, make a sheet with three columns. In the first column, list the needs in order from highest to lowest priority. In the second column, write down your proposed solution if you know it (and leave it blank if you don’t). In the third column, write down the next step you need to take in order to work toward that solution.
  6. Figure out what resources you have available – Add a column to your list and fill in the resources you already know that your family has. For example, if the issue is grocery shopping and your parent already has a trusted housekeeper who comes once a week, maybe you can simply ask that person to take your parent shopping or do it for them. Alternatively, if the issue is how to pay for a solution, you might know that your parent is a veteran and may be eligible for veteran’s benefits that would cover the cost. If you are not sure what resources your family has to deal with a particular need, leave it blank.
  7. Make a plan – Take a look at that prioritized list. IF there are lots of blanks, your first step is to begin to fill them in so that you can create a plan. If the list is pretty well populated, now is the time to figure out how you might be able to divide and conquer.
  8. Build a team for now and later – Identify family, friends, neighbors, volunteers along with other trusted advisors and professionals who will help you execute your plan. If you don’t know these people, network and find them. Once you know who they are, make a comprehensive list with names, contact information and notes regarding who is available to do what.
  9. Communicate with both your parents and your siblings – Don’t do any of this in a vacuum. It is imperative to include both your parents (assuming they are able to participate) and your siblings in the process of developing the plan. The more inclusive you can be, the less likely you will later face roadblocks.
  10. Execute your plan!

While each of these steps can seem overwhelming, if you try to tackle them one at a time in a logical order it will be much less so. You may find that you need to do a “deep dive” into one of the steps; if that’s the case, try to assess whether you should stop everything to do so or whether you should simply put that step in the “parking lot” and come back to it after you have moved through the others. Finally, remember that any plans you make and implement will need to be revisited from time to time as your parent’s needs or resources changes.

If you need help with this or other elder care / senior care matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.