Author: audrey

Five Tips For Helping Your Senior Loved Ones Avoid Feeling Isolated During COVID-19 And Beyond

Have you considered that our senior citizens may have been one of the groups most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, not just because they are the citizens with the highest fatality statistics, but also because they are forced into isolation to best ensure their safety? Many of them have lost their spouses, live far away from family, or live in a facility that may not allow visitors or only limited visitors during the pandemic. Let us review five tips for helping our senior loved ones stay connected during and after the pandemic.

1. Increase your virtual contact. Make sure you are contacting your senior loved ones as much as possible, even if it is just a daily text message to say hello and to tell them you are thinking about them, it can give them something to look forward to every day.

2. Send cards and gifts. Show how much you care by sending cards or small gifts to make them feel special and loved.

3. Photos or videos of grandkids. Nothing may brighten up the face of our seniors more than seeing children. Since they probably cannot visit, make sure they still get to see their grandchildren. Send framed photos or photo albums that they can keep in their room. Text pictures and videos that they can save to their phone and view anytime they want. 

4. Schedule virtual activities. Get activities on the calendar. Maybe you can schedule a weekly “story time with grandma” and block off a time when your senior loved one can read to a grandchild over Zoom, Facetime, or another virtual platform. Maybe your senior loved ones like to play board games and you can schedule a weekly virtual game night. Putting an activity consistently on their calendar can help keep them engaged in the family and avoid feeling isolated. 

5. Visit outside. If feasible, and weather permitting, try to have outdoor and socially distant visits to get your loved ones out of the house and connected with you in person.  You could go for a walk or have an outdoor picnic to brighten their spirits.

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Medicaid Planning for Florida Seniors

Did you know that, according to the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, a person turning 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services, including assisted living or a nursing home? The median cost of a private room in a nursing home is over $100,000 annually, according to the Florida Health Care Association. Medicaid planning involves legally and ethically protecting assets for those who do not already qualify for Medicaid, and for those who qualify but may be expecting an influx of money, such as an inheritance or a personal injury settlement, so that individuals can make their money last longer and lead to the highest possible quality of life. 

The laws governing Medicaid can be complex. For 2021, the income cap to qualify for Medicaid in Florida is $2382.00, per month. If your monthly income, from all sources, exceeds the limit for this year, you will not qualify for Medicaid. You may, however, consider creating either a Miller Trust, a Qualified Income Trust (QIT), or a Supplemental Needs Trust. A Miller Trust is an irrevocable trust that accepts any monthly income over the income cap or slightly more, even though the Trust still uses that money to pay for your long-term care, minus a small personal allowance. These types of trusts may be structured so that certain assets and income sources are removed from the Medicaid calculation, allowing a person to then qualify to receive Medicaid benefits to cover the cost of long-term care.

Medicaid planning may require a thorough examination of your total asset portfolio. Our office can help you protect your home and other assets. This can be especially important if one spouse needs care and the other can live independently. Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Financial Power of Attorney – One COVID-19 “essential” You may be Missing

How can you protect your finances from coronavirus complications?

A Financial Power of Attorney (FPA) allows you to select a trusted family member or friend who will be responsible for managing your money and other property if you become mentally incapacitated (unable to make your own decisions) due to illness or injury. Without this document, bills won’t get paid, tax returns won’t be filed, bank and investment accounts held in your name will become inaccessible, retirement distributions can’t be requested, and property can’t be bought or sold.

Why holding assets jointly isn’t always enough.

Financial Power of Attorney

If you already have a Financial Power of Attorney

An FPA can become quickly outdated—sometimes within a year. Once you get your FPA (or a complete estate plan) in place for potential incapacity, you cannot simply stick it in a drawer and forget. Instead, you need to have your FPA regularly refreshed and revisited after any major life event (such as a divorce or death) to ensure that the plan will work the way you intend it to work if it is ever needed.

We’re here to help

We can make sure that your choices are updated and right for your situation and goals.

Please contact my office now to schedule a convenient time for us to discuss your questions about an FPA and to arrange for an estate plan review. Only an up-to-date estate plan works and we’re here to help you get yours in order.

Where to Turn if Your Loved One May Have Parkinson’s Disease

Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of many events usually held during Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Even so, virtual events are still being held as planned. To that end, the Parkinson’s Foundation and AARP are hosting a webinar on April 30th, which should be available afterward on their websites. The purpose is to provide comprehensive information about Parkinson’s Disease for newly diagnosed patients and caregivers. 

This is just one resource available to you if you believe someone you love may have Parkinson’s Disease, or if a loved one is trying to cope with a recent diagnosis. We know this is just a start to the information you need and want to provide additional resources for you and your loved ones right here.  

The following organizations provide general information and support for people with Parkinson’s Disease:

1. The Parkinson’s Foundation offers access to a comprehensive online library, Helpline, podcasts, webinars, online discussion groups and local resources. It also provides information specifically for newly diagnosed patients.

2. The American Parkinson Disease Association provides education and support through its local chapters and support groups. In all it has more than 1,400 support groups throughout the United States. It also offers online resources, including access to its webinars through its website.

3. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides detailed information about Parkinson’s Disease, treatment and prognosis on its website. It also provides links to relevant publications and other advocacy/support groups.

4. Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers are coordinated through the Department of Veterans Affairs, these groups help U.S. veterans who have the movement disorder. Support available through the main webpage includes access to a telephone hotline, links to publications, and links to local and regional centers.

Many of these organizations and groups we have just detailed may also provide information about research, treatment, clinical trials and related topics. Additional resources dedicated to these subjects include:

 1. The Michael J. Fox Foundation which provides updates about the latest research, and information about its approach to funding research that advances treatment.

2. The Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center which provides patients with information about and access to clinical trials and relevant research.

3. The Parkinson Alliance which provides information about the research it supports, patient-centered research, and relevant insights.

Unfortunately, Parkinson’s Disease has long been recognized as a progressive condition that is likely to have a dramatic impact on a patient’s quality of life. Along with the medical implications associated with a new diagnosis, there may be legal implications, too. 

Specifically, you and your loved ones may want to create Florida health care documents to ensure that your wishes are honored. This is just the start of the Florida estate plan you may need, which we can discuss in detail together. If so, know that we are here to help. Please feel free to contact us to arrange an appointment to learn more at any time.

A Charitable Remainder Trust Can Protect Your 401k & IRA from the SECURE Act

Millions of Americans have worked hard, saved for retirement and planned to give their remaining assets to loved ones when they pass away. If those assets involve tax-qualified retirement accounts like 401ks or IRAs, however, then you may want to contact an experienced estate planning attorney and discuss a charitable remainder trust.

As of January 1, 2020, non-spousal beneficiaries who inherit tax-advantaged retirement accounts will no longer be able to “stretch” annual required minimum distribution (RMD) payments over the course of their lifetimes. This was a longstanding practice that was virtually eliminated last year by federal legislation known as the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, or the SECURE Act. The law is intended to boost retirement savings for more Americans by expanding access to 401ks and IRAs, along with a number of other provisions, but costly changes were also included. 

Prior to the SECURE Act, retirement account beneficiaries could opt for lifetime RMD payments and reap the benefits of continued tax-deferred account growth and reduced annual tax bills due to the lifetime period of distributions. Now, applicable retirement accounts must be liquidated within 10 years. That means less tax-deferred growth and higher tax liabilities for beneficiaries. 

A charitable remainder trust, however, can provide a solution. A charitable remainder trust is designed to generate income, reduce taxes and support philanthropic activity. Instead of bequeathing a tax-advantaged retirement account, like an IRA, directly to a non-spousal beneficiary, the account holder would make the charitable trust the beneficiary. Then, the account holder would select an individual, perhaps an adult child, to receive annual income payments from the trust for a specified period of time, including the adult child’s lifetime. 

This mirrors the pre-SECURE Act stretch arrangement and includes the benefits of tax-deferred asset growth and lower annual taxes. Plus, after the specified period of time or the death of the adult child, remaining assets in the trust would be donated to a charity to help others. 

We know this blog may raise more questions than it answers. If you or someone you know would like more information about charitable remainder trusts and how they might help protect your retirement accounts, do not wait to contact our law practice today.

COVID-19 Florida Supreme Court Administrative Orders and District Court

During this time of the Coronavirus pandemic, getting information is important. We are providing links to help you. Updated: 3/25/2020

Florida Supreme Court


Palm Beach County – 15th Judicial Circuit Court


Palm Beach County

Protecting Family Caregivers from the Coronavirus

We know that you and the Florida seniors you love may have concerns right now.  We also know that uncertain times can put all of us on edge. Often, even when we are inundated with information, the right knowledge from a trusted source can put our minds at ease. We can no longer ignore the fact that the COVID-19 virus is spreading at an alarming rate around the world. Even with its unprecedented spread, however, there are still many precautions that we can take right here in Florida to protect you, as well as your loved ones.

 By now we are all familiar with the most popular precaution which has been shared by the various health authorities around the world:

Make sure that you properly wash your hands! 

What does it mean to “properly” wash your hands? This means meticulously cleaning your hands for at least twenty (20) seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub.  You may find it interesting to learn that, according to the FDA, “the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap have not been proven.”  Washing your hands remains one of the best preventative measures that you can implement to safeguard yourself and your elder loved ones.  In addition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) washing your hands helps to kill viruses that may be on your hands.

Let us share a few other suggestions from the WHO.

 1. Maintain social distancing. Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.  This one is especially important because it is easy to breathe in the droplets of someone who is suffering from the COVID-19 virus. This is true for most viruses like the flu.

 2. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Remember, especially for our younger loved ones, touching many surfaces can cause you to pick up viruses. WHO states that, “once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.”

 3. Practice respiratory hygiene. How do you practice respiratory hygiene?  Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately.

 4. Help “at risk” loved ones limit interactions with those who may be infected. First, understand who may be at risk using this article we want to share with you. Although social isolation can be hard, help these individuals try to make informed decisions about where they truly need to be. Routine check up? Maybe postpone it until the virus is under control as very ill people could be in the waiting room. Although these decisions are up to you and your family, think about how to best keep everyone’s health intact.

Another important precaution that can help everyone around you is to stay home if you feel unwell. Further, if you have a fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing, do not wait to seek medical attention. Be sure to call your healthcare provider in advance, if you can.

The last tip we will share is also extremely important as we continue to battle this deadly virus. Make sure that you stay informed and follow any advice given by your healthcare provider. Do not rely simply on the news or secondhand information. Staying up to date can arm you with the right information to make the best decisions for yourself and your loved ones.

If you would like to learn more about how you can protect yourself and your loved ones check out this WHO article that goes into detail about preventative measures that we can follow in the fight against COVID-19. Know that we are here for you, both now and in the future. Do not hesitate to contact our law practice to learn more about how to protect and advocate for yourself and those you love.

All Local Social Security Offices Closed Due to COVID-19 – Notice

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This decision protects the population we serve-older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions-and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, we are still able to provide critical services.

Please read our press release to learn more, including how to get help from the Social Security Administration by phone and online. You can also visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page to learn more and stay up to date.

Please share this message with your friends and loved ones.

When Should I Come Back to Re-Evaluate My Florida Estate Plan?

The only thing worse than not having a Florida estate plan is having a plan that’s no longer current. For this reason, it’s recommended that you re-evaluate an existing plan every few years, or more frequently if you’re an aging adult. An even better way to ensure your plan is consistent with your life circumstances, however, is to re-evaluate it after a significant life change or external events, such as a new tax law.

Remember, estate planning has many benefits and you most certainly don’t have to be rich to enjoy them. In fact, estate planning involves much more than just divvying up assets to family members after you pass away. Although wills and trusts are common features, estate planning also includes:

  • Power of attorney documents
  • Guardianship designations for minor children
  • Instructions for special needs family members who rely on government benefits
  • Directions relating to business ownership or equity stakes
  • Advance health care directives or living wills
  • Letters of intent

Significant life events require various aspects of a plan to be re-evaluated, and the closer to the event the better. For example, beneficiaries often pass away prior to the drafter of a will or trust. In some instances, the beneficiary may even be the drafter’s spouse. Not only would will or trust documents need to be re-evaluated, but so would any other estate document that includes the deceased spouse. Conversely, a marriage or birth of a child in the family would require estate revisions to include the new family members, if desired, as well as provide for potential contingencies, like divorce. 

Remember that changes to state and federal laws can impact you as well. For example, a new tax law, like the SECURE Act of 2019, further demands a re-evaluation, especially if a 401k or IRA is part of your estate. Other significant reasons to consider re-evaluating an estate plan can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A devastating health diagnosis
  • Catastrophic injury
  • A large increase or decrease in the estate value
  • Moving to a state with different tax laws
  • Children or grandchildren who reach age 18
  • Dramatic market changes

Finally, you can re-evaluate an estate plan simply because you changed your mind since the last time it was updated. Goals and investment strategies may change, or perhaps a close relationship evolved for better or worse. Maybe you want to designate a new trustee or personal representative to your estate plan. 

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that a good estate plan should always reflect the wishes of the person making it. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. If you or someone you know would like more information about re-evaluating an estate plan, do not wait to contact our law practice. We look forward to discussing your planning needs with you now, or in the future.

Helping Your Aging Parent Decide to Leave Their Home

One of the biggest challenges for parents and adult children is adjusting to the inevitable role reversals that come with age. As our parents get older, they may find it harder to do some of the things they once took for granted. They may also find it harder to admit that day-to-day tasks are becoming more challenging. As their adult children, it is then up to us to help them make difficult decisions. One is deciding when it is time to leave their home.

Some facts and figures to ponder. 

Before you talk to your parents about a permanent move, consider the following

  • Approximately 90 percent of the participants in a recent survey are planning on staying in their current homes for the next five to 10 years. Of these, a significant number, 85 percent, are convinced they can do so without making any major changes to their homes.
  •  The top two reasons for aging at home given by survey participants were proximity to friends and family and staying in a home they like.
  •  More than 60 percent of seniors between age 60 and 70 reported finding it “very easy” to live with little or no assistance. On the other hand only 43 percent of those over 70 do so. 

What to look out for as an adult child. 

As an adult child, you may feel the need to walk a very fine line. How do you know when it is time to talk to your parents about certain concerns, and when is it time to intervene? This may be especially difficult if you do not live near your parents and only see them occasionally. The following are clues that it could soon be time for your parents to leave their home: 

  •         Trouble getting around
  •         Noticeable decline in health, especially due to chronic illnesses
  •         Poor hygiene
  •         Disheveled appearance
  •         Poor nutrition
  •         Slower recuperation from illness or injury
  •         Failure to take medications as prescribed
  •         Difficulty with household chores and maintenance
  •         Ignoring mail
  •         Failing to pay bills on time
  •         Evidence of difficulty driving
  •         Confusion or becoming easily disoriented in familiar surroundings
  •         Difficulty caring for pets

We understand the challenges of finding a new place to live and being able to afford it as you age.

Figuring out where your parents may live after they move out of their house may also pose its own set of challenges. The decision is usually based on several factors, including their overall health and what they can afford. Options for seniors who still have significant independence include smaller homes or apartments and senior/retirement communities. Other options include assisted living and long-term care facilities, such as skilled nursing homes.

Starting to think about these issues well in advance can help alleviate some of the stress and heartache that you and your parents may face during this transition. We want you to know that we are here to support you now and in the long-term. Please feel free to call our law firm to schedule a meeting at any time.