Author: Anne' Desormier-Cartwright

How to Start Important Conversations About Medical Care with Aging Loved Ones

Are you the adult child of aging parents? Do you know if your loved ones have a current estate plan in place? Have you had any conversations with your aging parents about planning for their future? If you are uncertain of the plans of your aging parents it is important for you to know what they would want in the event of a sudden crisis or incapacity. We encourage you to set aside time, as soon as possible, to have conversations with your aging loved ones about their personal preferences for medical and long-term care.

Are you having a difficult time starting the conversation with your parents about their plans for their future healthcare? You could begin your conversation with these questions.

• Do you have someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf?
• Do you have someone you absolutely DO NOT want to make decisions for you?
• Do you want to use feeding tubes, life support, and other artificial life-saving devices?
• Is there any type of medical care you would NEVER want?
• If you were permanently disabled or incapacitated, what would help or take away from your “quality of life?”
• If you had a choice, would you prefer skilled nursing home care or in-home healthcare?
• If co-pays become excessive or insurance does not cover your treatment how would you want your family to pay for your care?

As your aging loved ones make their choices, they must be sure to document all of their decisions and choices in their estate plan.  Your parents should make an appointment to meet with an experienced and qualified Florida estate planning attorney as soon as possible. Their estate planning attorney will be able to offer advice and assistance as they choose a healthcare decision maker.

Do you have questions? Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Three Tips to Prevent Your Parents Losing a Lifetime of Savings to Long-Term Care

Have you been able to provide the necessary care on your own for your aging parents and now it is not enough anymore? Are you facing the difficult decision to place your aging parents into a nursing home? Are you concerned about the cost of nursing home care and trying to help your parents protect a lifetime of savings from being completely used up by the cost of care?

Because May is both National Elder Law Month and National Older Americans Month, this is an important time of year to ensure our aging loved ones have the support they need. Let us discuss three tips to prevent your aging parents from losing their life savings to a nursing home.

1. Early Planning. The most important thing your parents can do to preserve their life savings is to start planning for the future before those plans need to be put into effect. Meet now with a Florida qualified elder law attorney to engage in long-term care planning, this planning can be critical.

2. Know the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid. Your parents may be hoping that Medicare will help with nursing home costs, but they probably should not. Typically Medicare only covers 100 days of nursing home care. If your parents qualify for Medicaid, then the Florida Medicaid program will take over when Medicare benefits are no longer enough. Medicaid will cover nursing home costs for qualified individuals for as long as they need it. But there is a catch! Medicaid rules require your parents to spend down most of their life savings prior to qualifying for the program. Medicaid also has a look back period of 5 years. Medicaid will see what your parents held in assets, and what their income and expenses were during this time period.

3. Stay 5 Years Ahead in Planning. By working with a Florida qualified elder law attorney, she can help your parents plan around this 5-year “lookback” rule to protect the life savings of your parents. Your attorney may advise that the best way to do this may be to ensure that the assets of your parents are transferred out of their estate prior to the 60 months before they need nursing home care. Since the need for this care may be on the horizon, it may be best to start planning early. Your attorney can work with you to figure out the best approach.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

3 Ideas for Including a Pet Trust in Your Florida Estate Plan

Do you have a pet or pets? You know how hard it is when the pet you have loved and cared for and who has been with you for a long time passes away. However, It may be very possible that your pet will outlive you. Are you an aging adult or do you have a pet that has a longer than average lifespan? You may want to consider a pet trust to ensure your pet is cared for after you are gone. We would like to share with you more about a pet trust and give you three A, B, C, thoughts to consider in regard to a pet trust being in your estate plan.

1. Aim for the right caregiver. You know your pet best. When you set up your pet trust, you will be able to name the right person to care for your pet. Now, your adult child may feel it would be his or her responsibility to take your pet. However, your adult child does not have the right circumstances at home to do so, perhaps because of having very young children or already having pets of his or her own. By choosing a different friend or relative you can ease the pressure on your adult child and it gives you the chance to make that choice yourself, rather than having it be decided under stressful circumstances later on.

2. Be sure to provide financial support for your pet. In most states, when you create a pet trust, you are permitted to instruct the trustee, the person in charge of handling the money in the trust, to make distributions to your pet’s caregiver on a monthly or annual basis. This can be done for either the remainder of your pet’s life or for 21 years, whichever is shorter. In some states, the cut-off is simply for the remainder of your pet’s life. This can be an important point if you have a less common type of pet, like a bird or lizard, who could live beyond 21 years after your death because their breed has a longer-than-average lifespan.

3. Comfort of your pet is important. Like many humans, your pet may have special medical needs, or personal preferences. You are allowed to put as many specific instructions as you wish into a pet trust. For example, you can state that the pet needs to see a certain veterinarian, for as long as that person is practicing, or that the pet needs to be seen two, three, or four times per year. You can also leave funds for a more expensive brand of food if your pet needs that brand. This can be important for many pet owners who want their companion to be comfortable after they are gone.

Are you interested in establishing a pet trust? Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Can You Afford a Nursing Home If Your Loved One Has Parkinson’s Disease?

Have you and your family recently learned that a loved one has received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease? Has your loved one learned that his or her ability to walk, bathe, and dress may become increasingly impaired? In addition, your loved one may face an increased risk of falls. In the future, as the Parkinson’s progresses you, your loved one and your family may be faced with the difficult decision of placing your loved one in a nursing home. With the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, the question will be how to afford the exorbitant cost of the nursing home.

As you, your loved one and your family determine how to pay for a nursing home, find out if your loved one is in possession of any type of benefits which may cover the cost of a nursing home. For example: a long-term care insurance policy, life insurance policies, which can be cashed out, or veteran’s benefits. If your loved one does have one or more of these benefits be sure to gather copies of all the supporting documents of these policies, which may include copies of insurance policies or proof of veteran’s benefits. Having this conversation now about nursing home coverage with your loved one and family can help guarantee you have the required proof of coverage should your loved one’s mental capacity decline.

An excellent next step may be to meet with a qualified Florida elder law attorney. In addition to determining the existence of benefits, you, your loved one and family can meet with an elder law attorney to find the most reliable ways of determining how to afford a nursing home when the time comes. An elder law attorney, who is experienced in the area of long-term care planning, can assist with the review of any benefits you believe may cover the cost of a nursing home. Be aware that Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term nursing home stays, but state Medicaid does. Because Medicaid eligibility is based upon your loved one’s assets, a qualified elder law attorney may assist in the drafting of planning documents, such as a trust, which may make your loved one Medicaid eligible. Medicaid planning is best conducted early in your loved one’s diagnosis because there are time limits on the transfer of assets which may affect Medicaid eligibility.

We are very aware that a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be very stressful to your loved one and family and we know there may be many other issues to navigate. By working with an estate planning and elder law attorney as soon as diagnosis is made may be the best strategy of helping to assure your loved one will be able to afford a nursing home, when the time comes. We know you and your family will want the peace of mind that your loved one will receive the care he or she deserves as the disease progresses, so that all of you can focus on sharing quality time in the present and in the future.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Understanding How to Keep Seniors Safe from Sweetheart Scams Throughout the Year

Are you a senior living in Florida? Are you aware of the tragic fact that Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals? This is because it is perceived that seniors have access to money, are less tech-savvy than younger adults, and suffer higher incidences of loneliness and social isolation. There is a type of scam called the romance scam, or “lonely heart” scam, that is rising among seniors. According to the Federal Trade Commission, romance scams stole more than $304 million from Americans in 2020. Whether you are one of the Florida seniors who are prime targets for cyber criminals or have a loved one who is a Florida senior, let us share a few key tips about how seniors can protect themselves throughout the year.

Cyber criminals meet their victims online and present themselves as interested in genuine love or companionship. Once they have made an emotional connection with the senior he or she is typically lured into buying gifts, sharing personal information that can be exploited by identity thieves, and sending money through credit cards or financial institutions. As a major precaution, a senior should discuss any new online relationship with friends, family, and caregivers and pay attention to any advice they may give.

Keep in mind that it is never a good idea to send money to a romantic interest you have not met in person. It is a major red flag if a new social media or message board love interest asks you to send money, personal information, or data to access your bank account! Do not do it, in fact, no matter how tempting it is, you should break off all communication immediately. This is just one of the ways Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals. Do not offer to accept money either, as it may be another way of gaining access to your financial accounts, or it may be an illegal money laundering trap.

As a Florida senior, you should always be extremely cautious if you spot a nice floral arrangement pop-up ad, get a thoughtful e-card from an odd acquaintance or stranger, or any other online gift. Remember to look for telltale signs of fraud before clicking on any online buttons. There are numerous fake websites and advertising scams out there that look real to the untrained eye, but are in fact fraudulent. In addition, also:

• Be wary of websites and offers that do not accept common payment providers like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal.
• If you are going to buy something, stick to reputable websites that you already know.
• Avoid online greeting cards from unknown sources as they could be infected with malware.
• Google a curious website or ad’s name + “scam” or “complaint” and see what pops up.

Never forget that Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals and be on guard at all times. If you or someone you know has been the victim of online romance scams, do not wait to contact law enforcement.

Most importantly, make sure you have picked an advocate who has the legal authority to act for you in a crisis that leaves you incapacitated. Under your Florida durable power of attorney your agent will be able to monitor your identity and accounts when you cannot to ensure that you do not fall victim to any scams. We encourage you not to wait to ask us, your Florida elder law attorney, any questions on this or any important issue facing Florida seniors today.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Do You Know the Pros and Cons of Planning for Medicaid Early in Florida?

Are you a senior living in Florida and enjoying your golden years? That is good, but are you also considering your future? Have you started planning for any long-term care needs you may have in the future? Right now would be a good time to begin to investigate how you could pay for your care if you were to need it in the future. Let us discuss more about planning for long term care in the Sunshine State.

Are you planning for Medicare coverage as an option for long-term care? Unfortunately, even though you use Medicare for your health insurance, it will not cover much in the way of long-term care, whether in a nursing home or in your own home. Although Medicare is what most senior citizens use for health insurance, it has an extremely limited nursing home benefit, covering only up to 100 days of care and only in some circumstances. It is not a reliable source of coverage if you end up needing real long-term care.

Are you wondering what other options for long-term care are available for seniors? Some seniors may rely on family members to help as they get older. There may be an adult child or another relative who can come to the senior’s home regularly or the senior may be able to move in with them. We are, however, living longer these days, and with different generations living in different parts of the country, in-person consistent help from family might not be something you can rely on. This may be particularly true if your children are raising their own children at the same time you need the most help.

If you have no other options, you might be wondering what to do next. A Florida elder law attorney is an excellent next step. Make an appointment and consult with a Florida elder law attorney who specializes in Medicaid planning to find out whether you qualify for Medicaid or how you can plan to qualify for Medicaid when the need for long-term care arises. Qualification depends on your income and assets at the time of your application for coverage. The sooner you meet with a Medicaid attorney, the better the attorney may be able to help you plan for the future. If you are able to qualify for coverage, Medicaid will cover all nursing home costs you may need in the future.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Tips for Aging Children to Help Keep Florida Seniors Safe from Sweetheart Scams

Are you familiar with romance scams or sweetheart scams that seem more prevalent during the month of February and threaten Florida seniors? Are you a senior adult or have senior adult parents? Are you aware that scammers and cyber criminals often target senior citizens? Online senior scams have risen and continue to be extremely dangerous.

The question needs to be asked, why are senior adults more likely to be victims of a scam? We need to look at several different factors. First, aging seniors are believed to be more vulnerable. Secondly, they are known to often have large amounts of money in accessible accounts and be very trusting and easily manipulated. Thirdly, with the advent and use of the internet by senior adults, cyber criminals find it easier to target them and fool them. To make matters worse, scammers tend to target seniors when they are most vulnerable. During Valentine’s Day romance scams are prevalent and this shows us just how much aging adults, suffering from loneliness and social isolation, are at an elevated risk.

Are you a senior and wondering how you can protect yourself? Do you have a senior loved one in your family that you are concerned about? We would like to share eight tips you may use to avoid a “lonely heart” senior scam.

1. Be cautious when someone you do not know contacts you online. The person you see or you are communicating with may not be who you are really dealing with. Online cyber criminals are looking for older victims to begin a romance scam using social media, online dating or friendship websites.

2. Remember this golden rule: Seniors should always be suspicious whenever someone online attempts to gain their trust and affection if they have not met in-person.

3. Senior adults should never provide their personal information or send money to someone they have met only on the internet. Do not let anyone convince you to do so via social media, email or any other online forum.

4. If you meet someone on social media, like Facebook, and this person wants to quickly move to a private form of communication such as text or email, immediately become suspicious and do not agree.

5. You should absolutely never send intimate photos or videos of yourself. Scammers can use them to try to blackmail or embarrass you.

6. If you do plan to meet someone in person that you met online, be safe and bring someone with you and meet the person in a public place. Also, let your family, friends and caregiver know of your intentions.

7. If the person you met online addresses you by the wrong name, it may be a red flag that something is wrong. Scammers often work on several victims at once.

8. Be sure to tell family, friends, caregivers and neighbors immediately about your online experience if you think you are in contact with a potential scammer. Do not let embarrassment get in the way of protecting yourself.

9. Do you think you have fallen victim to a Valentine’s Day romance scam? It is never too late to call the police and your appropriate financial institution, let them know what happened so they may get involved and protect you.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Tips for Creating a Loving Legacy for Your Children This Valentine’s Day

Do you enjoy giving your adult children gifts on Valentine’s Day? Most of us do. This year, though, are you trying to look for a gift that will show them how much you love them and care about their future?

A gift that will show your love and concern for their future can be accomplished in many ways. As we move forward through the month of February and beyond, we would like to share a few ways that you can plan to protect your family and create a loving legacy that will provide for them in the future, especially this Valentine’s Day.

1. Put a plan in place to protect your legacy from long-term care costs. The cost of long-term care for Older Americans is expected to rise. It is, therefore, important that you be prepared now to afford the long-term care that you may need in the future. This is critical so that your spouse and children are not left struggling to find answers or to have to pay the long-term care costs. Floridians must realize that the failure to plan can cost them their goals for the legacy they create for their children.

We encourage you to develop the planning needed with your loved ones and discuss shared goals for long-term care. A vital next step in the development of your plan is to meet and speak to an experienced estate planning attorney. Most estate planning attorneys are also knowledgeable about elder law issues, and will understand your goals and needs and can help you prepare the appropriate planning documents.

2. Planning to retire soon? You can still start right now to leave a legacy for your children. As you consider the legacy you want to leave behind, find out whether retirement will impact your legacy and also how your long-term care plan could be affected.

Retirement can bring you and your loved ones many changes. Creating an estate plan is one of the best ways to ensure that your children have a clear understanding of how you want to use your retirement savings, as well as how you want it to provide for them and their families in the future. This is the way you can begin to create your legacy, which is how you will both protect yourself and your family’s future. Plan now, not later, to create a legacy for your children so that they are protected in the event something happens to you.

3. By creating your planning documents early you can define your legacy and discuss it with your loved ones. Do you want to ensure your loved ones are well taken care of in the event of your passing or sudden incapacity? Create an estate plan! In addition, it is a way to prepare for your own care as you get older. With your estate plan your family will know the legacy that you have created.

We urge you to not be like so many others and put off this type of planning until it is too late. Be very aware that without the ability to make decisions, you cannot be involved in any planning for yourself or create your own documents. By choosing to not move forward with your planning you may leave your family vulnerable in a crisis. Further, it is not enough to simply make your estate plans, your planning needs to be discussed with your loved ones. This will give them the peace to know that you have an estate plan and now they know what you want for the future.

These are just a few of the ways you can plan to protect your family and make the plans you need to provide for them when you are gone. As we reflect on Valentine’s Day and show those in your life the ways you love them, now is the time to get started. Preparation is key to successful planning and to help you accomplish your goals. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Is Protecting Your Digital Assets a Key New Year’s Resolution?

When you made your New Year’s resolutions did you include understanding how to protect your digital assets? Digital assets are a hot topic and data security is in the headlines.  In addition, digital privacy is on the mind of many Floridians making this month a perfect time to be sure that our digital assets are secure now and in the future, including after we pass on. 

As you create or update your Florida estate plan, did you know that digital assets can be included in your plan? One aspect of securing your digital assets in the future can be accomplished while creating or updating your estate plan. We would like to share some  guidelines that may assist you in understanding how to include digital assets in your estate plan while keeping them secure in the meantime.

A critical first step in addressing the security of your digital assets is to preserve and protect your passwords. Most of us protect our digital assets with passwords. That being said, it is often tough to keep track of all of the different passwords you use to access different accounts on a frequent basis.  In fact, you may have resorted to using a memory or list feature on your computer or on your cell phone to keep track of all your passwords. Saving to some type of device is, unfortunately, not the most secure of practices.  Remember, it is important to choose strong passwords that cannot easily be guessed, and to change them frequently, even if only once a year. Always check frequently to be sure that your passwords have not been compromised. Update them immediately if they have!  We suggest that you keep track of your passwords by making a written list and keeping it in a locked desk drawer or safe deposit box. Wherever you keep this list it should be somewhere you can access frequently, so that you can make updates to the list.

What assets can become part of your estate plan?  Financial digital assets, like a digital Paypal, Venmo, or bitcoin account. Also, sentimental digital assets, like a collection of photographs or videos of your children and grandchildren. With any and all assets like these, someone needs to be able to access these assets after you pass away.  How do you accomplish this?  You may want to consider picking a “password person” who can be trusted with this information and keep him or her informed of where you keep your password list so it can be accessed if and when the time comes. As stated previously, when you create or update your estate plan you may also wish to detail who should have access to your digital assets or leave your personal representative instructions with respect to your passwords. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

6 Questions to Ask When You Update Your Estate Plan in the New Year

The New Year is here and the holidays are coming to an end. As the month of January gets underway, we know many Floridians are focusing on how they will reach the resolutions they set. What are your resolutions? Did you focus on work? Or health? Or family?

No matter what you choose, we want to let you know that one of the most important New Year’s Resolutions you can make this year is to create your Florida estate plan. Your estate plan can protect you both during life and at the time of your death. During your life, you can work with your attorney to create a plan that ensures your choices for your health care and finances are honored by your chosen decision maker. Your attorney will also show you how you can ensure that your family will be provided for when you are no longer here with them.

Already have an estate plan? While this is great news, if you already have a plan in place, time is of the essence to ensure it reflects your wishes for yourself and your loved ones. Many changes can happen within your family, your business, and your finances in a year. It is important to make sure your estate plan remains effective in not only encapsulating the desired future for you and your loved ones, but also has the best tools in place to accomplish those goals.

How do you get started? Let us share six questions to ask yourself and your Florida estate planning attorney as you work on your Florida estate plan in the new year.

1. Should I update my plan if my immediate family members have changed? Yes! When there is a birth, death, divorce, or other life update, you should make it a priority to work with your attorney to determine if your estate plan needs any updates or significant changes.

2. Have the laws changed? This is an important question to ask your attorney. She stays up to date with all the latest information that could impact your legal planning and can make recommendations if your current plan needs to be changed.

3. Am I really unprotected if I do not have a Florida estate plan? You most certainly are. In the event of a crisis or death, there will be no guidance for your family, your bank, your friends, or the court system. When we do not take the time to create an estate plan the court in Florida may be required to in order for there to be legal authority for another to act on your behalf. This can be time consuming, costly, and public, and can be avoided by completing your estate planning while you have the capacity to do so.

4. What does a Florida estate plan really do? A Florida estate plan employs a variety of legal planning tools to address how your assets will be managed and distributed in the event of your death or incapacity, among other things.

5. When should I get started with creating a plan or updating it? As soon as you possibly can. To maximize the potential benefits a Florida estate plan has to offer, it is important to put the plan in place sooner rather than later.

6. What will my Florida estate planning attorney discuss with me? She can discuss with you the importance of lifetime planning using tools such as the durable power of attorney for your finances. She can help you choose your decision maker, as well as back up decision maker, for times of crisis. She can also discuss with you the difference between will based estate planning and trust based estate planning.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you achieve the New Year’s Resolution of having a Florida estate plan that can meet your needs. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.