Tips and Pointers on Where to Keep Your Original Florida Estate Planning Documents?

As a senior adult, are you like many Americans, still keeping your important paperwork and valuables at your bank? Do you believe a safe deposit box is the best place for storing important documents? After all, is it not logical that renting a safe deposit box is a much safer bet than keeping everything at home? These are all good questions and we would like to address them in our blog.

Now that you, together with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney, have created your documents for your Florida estate plan, you may be thinking about keeping your documents at your bank. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are pros and cons to this plan. We would like to share more on this topic so you can make a decision and, as always, do not hesitate to ask us your questions.

Interestingly, many estate planning attorneys may urge their clients not to keep the original copies of their estate planning documents in a safe deposit box. Let us share four tips and pointers as to why: 1. The bank is only open on certain days and at specific times. 2. Access to safe deposit boxes is limited to the owner or owners. 3. If you are the sole owner of a safety deposit box, your family and/or the personal representative(s) of your estate may need a court order to get your documents. 4. There can be ways around this, such as adding additional owners to the box, but you may not want to or forget to use them. We recommend you speak with your attorney because you can designate access to your safe deposit box in your durable power of attorney. A word of caution, though, banks do not always honor these documents when the time comes. Further, they cease to work upon your passing.

Where should you put your original estate planning documents, other papers and valuables? Instead of putting your original estate planning documents in a safe deposit box, consider these tips and pointers: 1. A fireproof and waterproof lockbox at home. 2. A home safe. 3. A secure container on an upper shelf of a closet or cabinet.

No matter where you decide to keep your original documents, remember to make copies. You can safely take copies of your documents with you to any professional visits you need to make, for example, your physician. Your original estate planning documents need to remain safely stored away so that there will be no challenges in the future for your needs, the needs of your family and your legacy. Be sure to discuss this now with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

As always, we are here to answer any of your questions and help address your concerns. You are welcome to ask us about storing your original estate planning documents, or about any estate planning matters, at any time. 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.

The 10 Point Nursing Home Checklist You and Your Loved Ones Need

Do you have loved ones that you care for and now need skilled nursing care? Are you finding this discussion with your loved ones the most difficult thing you have ever done? We realize that the decision to move your loved ones to a nursing home is hard. How do you find the right one? Will there be challenges? How do you make sure that the needs of your loved ones, both now and in the future, will be met by the facility?

Finding the right facility for your loved ones, that can meet their health care needs, is only the starting place in your research. In addition, what other factors will you and your loved ones need to consider that you may not be aware of yet. Right now, in this blog, we would like to share our 10 Point Checklist that you and your loved ones can read and use in your research as you assess your choices.

1. Financial programs and health care services. Are programs such as Medicaid and long-term care insurance, that can help offset the high cost of care, accepted? Find out early in your evaluation process. Be aware that not all nursing homes provide the same health care services. Make a list of the health care services your loved ones need and use this list to determine if the facility is a fit for them.

2. Location may be important. If your loved ones want to stay in the community where they have always lived, then you must try to find a good nursing home in their community.

3. Change in levels of care and medication management. If the health of your loved ones declines or improves, will they be able to stay in the facility? You need to know this now, so that any moving later on can be avoided. Does the nursing home manage medications or is it considered an additional service? Most skilled nursing homes include this service, but some do not, so be sure to ask.

4. Programs, activities and ways to engage the residents. Knowing that loneliness and isolation are a leading cause of death for Older Americans, it is crucial that the facility offers opportunities for your loved ones to be active and engaged.

5. Communication plan. How does the facility communicate with the families of their residents? Does the facility report to one designated family member about the needs of the resident? Will the facility talk with multiple family members, as well as the agent(s) under the durable powers of attorney of your loved ones? Communication is vital and you need to know the facility’s plan.

6. Online connection plan. Will you be able to connect online with your loved one? Will you and your loved ones be able to use FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, or other methods of online communication? Be sure to see if the facility has a plan to ensure you can connect with your loved ones once they become residents.

7. Licensed by the state. Be sure to look into the facility’s licensing. Is it up-to-date? Have there been any problems? How were challenges addressed?

8. Disaster management and updates on Covid-19. All nursing homes you visit should have a plan for how it will manage disasters. Disasters can range from viruses to natural disasters to power outages, and in Florida, to hurricanes. You need to discuss what to expect and the facility’s plan for handling these issues before signing the contract.

9. Take a tour, read reviews and ask for opinions. Before visiting the nursing home read any reviews you can find online. Once you are onsite, if possible, ask residents their opinions. Get the opinions of family and friends about the facility. Be sure to schedule a tour, but also consider an unscheduled tour so that you can evaluate the facility without it having time to prepare for your arrival.

10. Staff, turnover, and health care provider permissions. Find out about the people working in the facility. Do they seem happy? Caring? Busy? Is there frequent staff turnover? Also, find out if your loved ones’ current health care provider will be able to enter into the facility to treat your loved ones.

These 10 points are just the beginning of the research you will want to finish before placing your loved ones in a long-term care facility. We encourage you to discuss your potential choices, as well as your goals, with your Florida elder law attorney. Your attorney can help guide you in this critical decision so your loved ones can find and access good long-term care.

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.

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.