Author: audrey

Helping Loved Ones Understand on World Alzheimer’s Day

On September 21, we celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day to raise awareness of the impact of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia on loved ones afflicted and on family members and friends impacted by their diagnoses. Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia are often called a “family” disease because of the difficult impacts it can have on the afflicted person’s family members and friends. Supporting those with Alzheimer’s can also mean supporting their loved ones who help them to cope over time.

There can be many ways to promote understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease among family and friends. The first step may be to tell your loved ones, as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, after receiving a diagnosis. When you decide to have the conversation, it may be helpful to bring some articles that explain what Alzheimer’s means, and discuss the typical prognosis. 

You can also encourage loved ones to go online and visit the Alzheimer’s Association website to learn more. This way, instead of having to be the scientific resource yourself, you can give them the tools to learn more and make yourself available for more practical and emotional discussions about the specific situation and changes for your family.

If your spouse or parent has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may want to take some time to discuss future caregiving plans with extended family members who want to be included in the process. It may also be advisable to complete any estate planning needs that remain unfinished before your loved one becomes incapacitated by Alzheimer’s, so that they can take an active role in the planning. 

It can be difficult for friends and family to explain Alzheimer’s when their loved one struggles in public. Sometimes, giving visitors a helpful speaking prompt and asking them to say their name and explain who they are, rather than expecting your loved one to recognize them immediately, can be helpful. Speaking to them naturally, and not treating them like a child, can help preserve their dignity. You can also explain that correcting your loved one when they make a mistake may be embarrassing to them, so letting the little things go can be the smoothest path for everyone. 

If you are out in a very public setting, like the grocery store or a park, you may want to carry some literature from the Alzheimer’s Association with you. If someone asks you questions, it can be an opportunity to educate and raise awareness of the disease. You never know, the person asking you might have a loved one who was recently diagnosed. Having information on hand could help him or her on his or her own journey. 

For more information about legal issues associated with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, please reach out to our office to schedule an appointment.

How to Help Seniors Prepare for a Hurricane During a Pandemic

For the next few months, Americans living on both coasts and in states along the Gulf of Mexico potentially face a common threat. That threat is facing a hurricane. On top of that, COVID-19 remains a public health threat in the United States. With all of this, how do you help seniors prepare for a hurricane during a pandemic? Let us take a look at how you can do just that.

A good place to start can be discussing potential hurricane risks so that older adults understand what they may come up against. Although they pose significant threats to coastal communities, hurricanes are powerful storms that often cause damage well inland, too. Make sure seniors are aware of potential dangers such as flash floods, high winds, and storm surge. By talking to older adults about these storm hazards, you can help them make informed decisions about evacuating, sheltering in place and so forth.

Additionally, be clear that staying informed can be very important during hurricane season. Most seniors have access to televisions and radios. It can also be important that they have other tools to help keep them informed about potential storm impacts.

 Encourage them to get a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA Weather Radio, and set it to their local or regional emergency channel. You can also download the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA app for them. This app provides weather advisories from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations throughout the United States.

 Check to see that seniors have access to the latest official guidance regarding COVID-19 and its impacts on hurricane evacuations in their community.

It may also be helpful to assist seniors in establishing an emergency plan and gathering supplies. Ask if an emergency plan is in place. If it is, ask if you can review it to see if it addresses all of their needs if they have to evacuate or shelter in place. If not, help them make a plan that addresses:

  • Communication with family and friends
  • Treatment of chronic health conditions
  • Pets and/or service animals

Help make sure they also have the supplies  they need to shelter in place or evacuate quickly. The American Red Cross suggests keeping these supplies in a “stay at home kit,” and a “go-kit.” A “stay at home kit” usually includes two weeks worth of emergency supplies such as: 

  •  Food
  • Water
  • Cleaning products
  •  Personal necessities
  •  Pet food

A “go kit” usually includes enough supplies to last at least three days away from home. These are:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Personal necessities
  • Masks/face coverings for adults
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes 
  • Pet food and supplies
  • A one-month supply of prescription and over the counter medication

Our office works with seniors and their families in hurricane-prone areas and we understand the importance of proper preparation. If you have questions or concerns about hurricane readiness during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can help you connect with community resources. We are also happy to discuss any legal implications associated with hurricane preparation and recovery. Please contact us to arrange an appointment with our elder law attorney, today.

Will My Estate Lawyer Store My Original Estate Planning Documents?

When it comes to making an estate plan, there are some things you may not think to ask about and some things you may take for granted. Consider your original documents, for example. Did you ask your estate planning lawyer who is responsible for storing them? Or did you simply assume that he or she would give them to you? 

A few factors determine what actually happens. The first is whether your attorney still keeps his or her clients’ original documents. Some do, some do not. Even if your estate planning lawyer stores your paperwork, it may not be kept on site. 

If your attorney’s practice has transitioned to a paperless system, you may end up getting your original documents. You may also ask your attorney for the originals if you simply prefer to have them. Either way, let us go over some things to consider when deciding where to store your estate planning documents.

If you are going to keep your will and other estate planning documents at home, think about buying a fireproof and waterproof safe or lock box. If you get a home safe, make sure someone you trust knows the combination. If you opt for another type of container, make sure you put it as far out of harm’s way as possible. 

 It is recommended that you avoid hiding your original documents in an unusual spot, or in a spot known only to you. This would make it difficult, if not impossible, for your personal representative to find them after you die. 

 It is also recommended that you avoid keeping your original estate planning documents in a safe deposit box. One reason is that the bank is not always open. Another reason is that access to the box is restricted to the owner. If you were the only owner, your family or personal representative would need a court order in order to open the safety deposit box.

No matter what, make sure that you make and keep copies of the original documents. If your original documents are lost, a court may accept a copy of your will for probate. This is an option only if your personal representative convinces the court they have exhausted all efforts to find the originals.

Conversely, intestacy rules may apply if your family is unable to provide your original documents or copies. This means that state law will govern distribution of your estate, not your own wishes. This happens based on the legal presumption that you never had any estate planning documents or that they were deliberately destroyed. 

Estate planning documents provide critical information regarding your wishes for your future and that of your loved ones. If you have any questions relating to estate planning or where to safely store your documents, please contact our firm to schedule a meeting.

Elder Law – Three Documents Necessary During Any Emergency

If you are watching this video, you are concerned about what documents you need during an emergency. I’m talking about estate planning documents.

I’m Annè Desormier-Cartwright, of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, and I’m here to talk to you about the documents you want access to during an emergency and how to gain that access.

The first document is the Durable Power of Attorney. That’s where you name an agent to act for you. In Florida, a Durable Power of Attorney is immediately effective upon signing. That means it can be a dangerous document, so you must name an agent to act for you that you trust.

The second document is your Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document allows somebody to make health or medical decisions for you when you are not able to. This is a very important document as we come into hurricane season, because if you’re unable to make your decisions because you get hurt this is the document the medical provider will rely on to get you the medical help you need.

The third document is a Living Will, or an Advance Care Directive. That’s where you tell the world, “Keep me alive artificially, or don’t.” “Pull that plug, I don’t want to be kept alive.”

I get it, these documents can be overwhelming, the concepts confusing. We are here to help. Give us a call, the number is below.

(561) 694-7827

What to Expect After a Positive Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

A positive Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis is a life-changing event, but you and your loved ones are not alone. Every June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and advocates across the health care, legal and nonprofit communities gather to raise awareness about the disease and provide access to resources for those in need. Here we discuss some of what you can expect after receiving a positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

There can be uncertainty and many emotions. Assuming symptoms like memory loss and abnormal confusion led you or a loved one to get tested, it is important to know that a rollercoaster of emotions may soon follow. Fear, anger, denial, despair, and hope are all common feelings, and understandably so. If they persist for a prolonged period, however, then consider seeking help from a health professional.

It can be overwhelming and often stressful. Taking care of yourself or supporting an afflicted family member can be critical to coping with the diagnosis. Consider taking care of yourself by:

  • Eating healthy and engage in light exercise
  • Sharing your feelings with close family and friends
  • Surrounding yourself with kind, supportive people
  • Joining an early-stage Alzheimer’s support group 

You can benefit greatly from seeking out support and resources. Alzheimer’s Disease can leave people feeling lonely, fearful, and disconnected. Sometimes people feel embarrassed or like they have something to hide. You do not need to. Consider reaching out to trusted companions or groups like the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association. It is a leading participant in the June Alzheimer’s public awareness campaign and it has a 24/7 Helpline (1-800-272-3900) for information, referrals, and care consultations, as well as a local Alzheimer’s Association tool to find programs and services in your area. There is also an Alzheimer’s Navigator tool that gives customized guidance on topics like health care, transportation, and home safety.

Gathering information and being proactive about the positive diagnosis is often necessary to get the care needed. A positive diagnosis is based on a physician’s best judgement of the cause of a patient’s symptoms. Make sure to ask your evaluating physician why the diagnosis was Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, how far along is the disease in terms of its progression and what should you expect in the future? Ask about treatment options and which symptoms you should be most concerned about.

Receiving a positive Alzheimer’s Diagnosis can feel like your life is turning upside down. You do not and should not go through this alone. If you or someone you know would like more information or guidance on related legal matters, our team of dedicated elder law attorneys is here for you. Please consider contacting our office to schedule a meeting.

Family Caregivers Can Help Senior Adults During Older Americans Month

Senior adults have not only made a lifetime of contributions to society, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau seniors are on track to outnumber young people for the first time ever. Thus, older adults deserve both recognition and support for senior-specific issues that are only going to increase in the years to come, and that is what Older Americans Month is all about.

Since 1963, every U.S. president has declared the month of May, Older Americans Month. This involves ceremonies, events, fairs and similar activities, as well as connecting seniors to resources that provide valuable support services. Older Americans Month also coincides with National Elder Law Month, which provides outreach, education and legal services to seniors across the country. 

Adult children of aging seniors and family caregivers can play a critical role in facilitating these resources by assisting their elder loved ones. Let us share a few of these important resources for you to consider.

  • Eldercare Support: The national Eldercare Locator helps connect older adults and their family caregivers with trustworthy elder care organizations across the country.
  • Health Care: State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or SHIPs, provide free support to Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers.
  • Long-Term Care: The U.S. Administration on Aging assists seniors in understanding what is involved in long-term care, such as nursing homes and assisted living. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care helps older adults and their family caregivers understand their rights. It can also assist in obtaining help if they need it. 
  • Elder Abuse: The National Center on Elder Abuse helps combat elder abuse. Learning more about this critical issue can help identify warning signs, protect vulnerable seniors and take necessary actions.
  • Pensions: Millions of senior adults depend on their pensions to survive. Family caregivers can help resolve pension-related problems by connecting with groups like PensionHelp America.
  • Legal: The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, which our own attorney is a member of, is a nonprofit association that provides legal services for senior adults and people with special needs. NAELA established National Elder Law Month as a way to acknowledge the elder law profession and provide legal support for the nation’s senior community.

We know that you and your loved ones may need estate planning or elder law help right now. If you or someone you know would like more information or specific guidance on legal matters, do not hesitate to contact us now, or anytime throughout the year.

 

Tips to Consider During Women’s Health Week

It does not matter whether you are a young professional, a student, or a working mother. Twenty-first century life for American women is often a delicate balancing act. Further, it is nearly impossible to find a healthy balance if you are constantly putting everyone else first or, let’s face it, during a time of a global pandemic. These are just a few of the reasons why National Women’s Health Week is so important.

This year, National Women’s Health Week is celebrated May 10-16. During this time, women are reminded to look after themselves. Here are some tips we want you to consider this month, and throughout the year.

1. Make your health a priority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends that women take charge of their health by doing the following: 

  • Seeing the doctor regularly for routine checkups and screenings.
  • Getting plenty of exercise including aerobic and strength boosting activities.
  • Eating a healthy diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoiding foods that have too much sugar or salt.
  • Refraining from smoking or drinking too much.
  • Getting enough rest, at least seven hours per night for adults.
  • Finding constructive and effective ways to cope with stress.

Of course, the first step toward improvement is choosing to start. Experts acknowledge that taking the first step towards a healthier lifestyle is often the hardest part of the process. This is especially true if you already feel as though you are constantly juggling a million things at once. For many of the women we work with in our practice this holds especially true as they are the primary caregivers for young children and aging parents, in addition to working.

Instead of feeling pressured to try the latest exercise craze or fad diet, professionals say the best approach is to do what is most effective for you. They also say that identifying what that is may take some reflection on your part. Specifically, they suggest that you think about: 

  • Your goals
  • What motivates you
  • What is holding you back

In all honesty, prioritizing your health is now more important than ever. By now, everyone knows that social distancing and self-isolation are two of the most important steps we can take to slow the spread of COVID-19. Besides taking steps to protect others, the Office on Women’s Health also urges women and girls to take steps to protect themselves at this time. This is especially important for those who are most susceptible to the virus. 

Finally, health providers agree that emotional wellbeing is a key to safeguarding your physical health. In addition, finding healthy ways to cope with stress is an important part of the equation. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and we want to help you. If you have any legal concerns that are causing you stress at this time, please know that we are here to help. You may reach us by email or phone and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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.