The End of the Year Long-Term Planning Checklist You Need in Florida

Are you an active senior living on your own in Florida? As the year comes to an end, have you thought about your future and long-term care? What would happen to you if you suddenly became incapacitated due to an accident or surgery? What is your plan if you receive a serious health diagnosis? Do you have a legacy in place for your estate when you pass away? All these questions need planning ahead for answers.

Quite frankly, most of us would like to avoid even thinking about any long-term planning, let alone doing anything, but it is very important. Having the time to decide early, before a crisis occurs, is invaluable. Working with an experienced Florida elder law attorney to ensure your lifetime of savings is protected from nursing home bills is an invaluable gift. 

When you do meet with your Florida elder law attorney, how do you begin the conversation about planning for the future? In our office, we understand that long-term planning can be complicated. We know that you, like many of our clients, have questions. Below, we would like to share with you an end of the year long-term care planning checklist. As the year is drawing to a close you may want to use it when talking to your loved ones about long-term care planning for yourself over the holidays, or anytime throughout the year.

  • Do you live at home?
  • Are there mobility issues within your home?
  • Is your home equipped for you to age in place?
  • Do you have a life alert or alarm system in place to help you should you fall?
  • Have you had any changes to your doctors or your medications?
  • Are your doctors covered by your insurance?
  • Do you have any new health care concerns that have arisen over the past year?
  • Do you have a good local support system?
  • How is your mental health?
  • How collaborative is your family dynamic?
  • Do you have a Florida estate plan and is it up to date?
  • Does your Florida durable power of attorney include super powers?
  • Are you able to live comfortably on your monthly income?
  • Do you have long-term care insurance?
  • How long could you afford to pay for a nursing home out of pocket?
  • Have you worked with an experienced Florida elder law attorney to create a plan for long-term care?

While long-term planning can be difficult to think about, it is critical. As the year draws to an end, long-term care planning may be developed in a way to provide certainty, which can often be missing in the aging process. When you plan for your long-term care you and those you love will benefit from the peace of mind that comes with your planning.

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.

Resources and Ideas to Support Family Caregivers This November

Are you aware that the month of November has been devoted to recognizing and encouraging the nation’s family caregiver population? During November, National Family Caregivers Month formally acknowledges the work of these unselfish family members who are crucial to our society and understands their value. In fact, without the vital and year-round aid of family caregivers, millions of seniors would have serious difficulties.

Throughout the nation there are over 53 million of these compassionate individuals. In recognition of National Family Caregivers Month, we would like to share some very important resources for caregivers and seniors on our blog.

1. Respite care should be available for caregivers. Caregiving is often a sacrifice in terms of time, money and opportunity costs, especially if a senior loved one has a physical or mental health disability. Therefore, many times caregivers are at risk of developing their own health problems due to exhaustion and unmet needs. By having respite care available, caregivers are able to take breaks and care for themselves.

2. Health care options for seniors. Do you know all the health care options available to seniors today? Please look at this list.

  • Department of Veterans Affairs – The V.A. provides a vast array of support services for qualifying senior veterans and their families, including a paid family caregiver benefit. The program is called Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services. Elder law attorneys are potent advocates for senior veterans’ rights and often help secure V.A. benefits if they are denied.
  • Medicare — Medicare is a massive federal health program for people aged 65 and older. Senior caregivers might not realize that Medicare covers home health and skilled nursing services in many circumstances.
  • Medicaid — Medicaid is a federal-state partnership program that provides health coverage for people with limited income and assets. Medicaid can also pay for long-term care in nursing homes.
  • SHIPs — State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or SHIPs, provide free support to Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers.

3. Legal planning is essential. If you have a senior loved one, the time to start legal planning is now. Do you have questions about what you or your aging loved ones need? From advance directives to estate planning to long-term care proactive planning, a Florida elder law attorney can help.

We know you may 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.

8 Critical Considerations When Planning for Florida Long-Term Care

Did you know that with less than half of all Americans today having an estate plan, even fewer have planned for their long-term care needs? What exactly is long-term care planning? Long-term care planning, or elder law planning, is planning for a possible future when you may need to depend on someone every day due to physical and/or mental cognitive issues.

We meet with seniors and their loved ones on a regular basis about what it means to need long-term care and how to plan successfully to meet those needs. We would like to share and have you think about these critical considerations as you learn more about long-term care.

1. Start to plan for long-term care now. You do not want to put off planning until it is too late. In fact, the best gift you can give yourself is to have a long-term care plan in place so that should the time come when you are in need of long-term care you are prepared and not at risk.

2. Be sure your estate plan is up-to-date and reflects what you want. In addition to a long-term care plan, having an estate plan is important. Your estate plan allows you to give legal authority for healthcare and financial decisions to another trusted person. You can also designate this person or persons the authority to make decisions when you are not able to do so independently.

3. Know the cost of long-term care. Long-term care in any setting is expensive. You can learn the cost for the type of care in our state by using this link from the Genworth Cost of Care Survey. Look at your financial resources. Should the time come that you need long-term care there will be a cost. What can you afford right now? What do you want to protect? What are your monthly bills? Prepare yourself for the future by understanding where you stand right now. Your Florida elder law attorney can assist you with your preparations.

4. Know the different types of long-term care. You need to know that there are many steps in between nursing home care and home care. From homebase care to independent care to assisted-living care and skilled nursing home care, there are many options. You can use this link we want to share with you from the AARP website.

5. Look into whether long-term care insurance is an option for you. Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance that can provide financial assistance should you need long-term care. Do not put off speaking with a long-term care insurance agent to learn more about what your options are.

6. Speak with an experienced Florida elder law attorney. An experienced Florida elder law attorney will be able to educate you on what your options are in numerous circumstances and come up with a plan to make sure you, your family, and what you care about most, is protected. Make a list of questions. Long-term care, the aging process, and family relationships are all complicated. Do not hesitate to make a list of what you are concerned about and the questions you need answered. Be aware, this list will change over time as you answer one question and encounter the next.

7. Know your support group. Unfortunately, many of us do not have the luxury of our children living in the same city, let alone being able to help with long-term care needs should they arise. Determine who your local support group is and speak candidly with them about what long-term care means and how you will get the support you need.

8. Discuss now with your doctors and specialists. Long-term care impacts every person differently. If you have a new diagnosis or a chronic condition, speak freely with your doctor about what you should expect in the future. While your long-term care needs are unique to you, your doctor knows you and will be able to give you advice on what to understand and potentially plan for.

We know this list may seem daunting. We also know you may have more questions now that you’ve read it. 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.

Helping Your Aging Florida Parents Answer Key Questions Before it is Too Late

Are you the child of aging parents living in Florida? As your parents age, are you looking for ways to support them in the challenges they face, including mobility and physical challenges, changing health care or financial providers and aging in place issues, to name a few. All these circumstances your parents and you face may, at times, feel overwhelming.

As you look to the future for your aging parents, do you have questions about how best you can support them? We advise our clients that have issues like this in our practice each day and we want to share a few key questions for you to ask them right now.

1. Do your aging parents have short term goals? If they do have definite goals for what they want now, and in the immediate future, then start the conversation, but do not hesitate to include these conversation points:
• Are they approaching retirement?
• Will they be able to afford their lifestyle when they no longer have a paycheck?
• Do they need to address any advancing health care concerns now?
• Do they have long-term care insurance?
• Do they want to live in their home as long as they can or do they plan to relocate?
By starting to ask questions like this, you and your parents can begin to find answers and begin planning in order to help them reach their goals.

2. Do your parents have any long-term goals? This may be an uncomfortable conversation, but it is critical to have with your aging parents sooner rather than later. Be mindful that no one wants to consider end of life plans, or a time when only one spouse is alive, so be thoughtful. Another difficult conversation, but also very important is the conversation in regard to a potential disability or the need for skilled care.

3. Have they thought about aging in place? Aging in place is still a fairly new term across the nation. It is the idea of being able to stay in your own home longer and avoid skilled institutional care. You need to begin talking to your aging parents about this as soon as possible. Because when it comes to aging in place, proactive planning is critical and you can make a difference when you talk to your parents as soon as possible. If they like the idea, they should meet with an experienced Florida elder law attorney to address their needs.

4. Do they have an estate plan and does it reflect their current goals? Believe it or not less than half of all Americans have an estate plan. Therefore, the first step is to be sure your parents have an estate plan. If they do not, you need to explain to them that you do not want them in the vulnerable position of not being protected against probate or at risk of not having a healthcare decision maker in times of crisis. If they do have an estate plan be sure your parents are updating their estate plan on a regular basis and that it reflects their current wishes for both their legacy and their decision makers.

5. Do your parents have a Florida estate planning and elder law attorney? It is critical that your aging parents have the representation that comes from working with an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney. She can step in to ensure both their lifetime and end of life decisions can be met. To the extent you can be included as you respect the privacy of your aging parents, request to be so that you have a full understanding of your parents wishes.

We know this article may bring up more questions than it answers. Helping your aging parents address issues like this will both help you care for them and ensure everyone is working toward the same goal together.

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.

2022 Medicare Open Enrollment Tips for You and Your Aging Parents

Are you the adult child of aging parents? Do you look with them each year during Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period to see if there are any health and drug plan changes? These changes can range from out of pocket costs and network coverage to providers and pharmacies within their networks. Beginning October 15, there is much for you and your aging parents to review.

Have your aging parents had health care changes this past year? Because of their health changes and possible Medicare plan coverage changes it is wise for every Florida senior to revisit their health plans at least annually and make the changes they need during the open enrollment period. Below we have a few tips that you can use to be sure your aging parents have the Medicare coverage that best meets their needs.

1. Be sure to review the Annual Notice of Change letter that was sent to your aging parents. Your parents, as Medicare beneficiaries, should have received an “annual notice of change” letter from their Medicare plan. They should have received this letter no later than September. Medicare explains all the changes coming in the new year in this benefits letter. You and your aging parents will now see an overview of their plan, including coverage and costs, premiums, deductibles, and copays.

2. Are you and your parents debating whether to switch plans? Do you and your aging parents want to see what additional plans are out there in your area? Be sure to look at The Medicare Plan Finder on the Medicare website. This is an online tool from the government to help you select and compare plans. You enter the zip code of your parents and details about their medications and whether they receive them by mail, then you and your aging parents can compare plans available in your area.

3. What do your parents need as Florida seniors and have their care needs changed, in fact, is there a less expensive option? If you and your aging parents are thinking about switching to a new plan we recommend you start by looking at their medical expenses over the last six months. This way you can get an accurate picture of whether their Medicare plan is the best fit. By reviewing the medical care for your parents in the last six months, you can account for changes in their health as well as changes in their plan. That being said, is there a less expensive option for your aging parents? Premiums for some parts of Medicare are based on your modified adjusted gross income (or MAGI) from two years ago. MAGI also adds in capital gains, Social Security, and required minimum distributions from individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans. You and your parents, of course, cannot change your income but you can plan for 2022’s premiums.

For more information, we encourage you to call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit Medicare.gov.

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 Get Important Answers When You Are in Your Parents’ Florida Estate Plan

Did you know that less than half of the adult American population have completed their estate plan? With that said, have you just learned from your parents that they have created their estate plan? We know that you must be very relieved that they are now protected by having a decision maker in place during a time of crisis. However, were you surprised to learn you were the person who was chosen to make decisions for your parents in the event they were incapacitated? We know you probably have many questions now that you are named in your parents’ estate plan. How do you get the answers? Do you need to know what your duties and responsibilities actually are as a part of this process? We have five questions you could ask right here.

1. There is a crisis, what do you do now? First, you need to talk to your parents about what they would want you to do in a sudden crisis. Now this crisis could be anything from being in a coma due to a serious accident to being stuck overseas due to a flight delay. What is your role? What are your parents expecting you to do? Having a plan in place now, before the crisis, is the best discussion to have with your parents and will help guide any decisions you make when it comes to successfully navigating the crisis.

2. Health care decisions need to be made, are you in charge? As part of their estate plan your parents would have included health care planning. Your parents will have named each other as decision maker, but if they were both incapacitated they need a second decision maker named and that is you. So, right now you need to know what they want for their health care. Start with the basics: What do they want for their general care? What is their goal for long-term care? What would they want if they were on life support? Honestly, these are tough questions, but you need to know their answers to learn what they would want so you can act in their best interest in any health care situation. Also, we recommend that you keep and maintain a current list of their diagnoses, doctors, specialists, and medicines.

3. Finances, who is in charge? It would not be surprising to know that you have little knowledge of your parents’ finances. If you have been put in charge and been named as the agent in their durable power of attorneys or a trustee in their trust, now is the time to learn. You can ask your parents questions about where they invest, who they work with, and what type of management fees they pay? Find out whether they have life insurance or other policies with beneficiaries that might pass outside the estate plan? Are all their planning tools current? As soon as you can, start this discussion with your parents so you know what to expect should you need to step in.

4. Do your parents have a legacy they want to leave behind? In addition to protecting themselves, does a part of your parents’ estate plan protect what they want for their future, their family, and their legacy? Do they have a legacy they wish to create? What goals do they have for you in continuing their legacy? Discuss with your parents what their vision is so that you can see it come to fruition if they should pass away.

5. Should you meet the Florida estate planning attorney for your parents? If it is okay with your parents, it would be good to know and even meet their Florida estate planning attorney. There is no doubt that successful Florida estate plans have an experienced Florida estate planning attorney behind them. Ask your parents the following questions: Who did your parents work with? What will be your relationship with them? Where do the original documents live? Can you meet the attorney in advance to make sure you understand your roles and responsibilities? Be sure your parents know that you are willing to meet their attorney if they want you to.

Being named within your parents’ estate plan brings serious questions that you need answered. 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.

Are There Ways Technology Can Help Florida Seniors Age in Place?

Are there ways technology can help Florida seniors age in place? Absolutely! You may not realize that when used appropriately, the right technology can make it easier for Florida seniors to engage with their family and friends and remain healthy and safe in their independent living situation.

Do you have a Florida senior loved one or know a Florida senior who wants to age in place? In fact, they have always lived in their own home, taking care of themselves by handling their own shopping, cooking, medications and driving to appointments. Do you only call or visit occasionally? However, are you beginning to notice that your senior loved one or senior friend are beginning to age and may need some extra help? Are you wondering where that help can come from? We would like to share a few technologies that might help your Florida aging loved ones and friends. We encourage you to share and discuss these technologies with your senior loved ones and friends. We also recommend that you and your senior loved ones and senior friends should consult with their primary care practitioners to help identify areas where technology may help them now and in the future.

To begin, we know that health and wellness are very important for your senior loved one and you. Technology may be of great assistance, in fact in the aftermath of Covid 19, many of us are familiar with telehealth. This technology will enable your senior loved ones to manage their illnesses and connect with their health care professionals while at home. Be proactive and plan to assist your Florida senior and friends during the first few video visits that they have with their physicians. By helping them you will give your senior loved one and friends the confidence to connect with their physicians independently. Another very useful technology is medication management. These technologies can dispense medications, issue reminders, monitor medication usage, and notify caregivers when doses are missed. Two of the products available to consumers to purchase or rent are epill, and MedMinder.

Next, it is very concerning that many of our senior loved ones and friends are often isolated or lonely. This is an area of technology that can definitely help. A cell phone, which for many is a simple technology, can increase the ability of our Florida seniors to connect with all their family and friends. For your loved ones, you can even look for phones with large buttons and clear screens. The Lively Flip phone was designed for seniors, and comes with a special one-click button to connect with a member of the Lively Response Team. This team can summon help or connect the caller with a board-certified doctor or nurse. Florida seniors with a hearing loss may have help with a captioning app like Clear Captions, which will enable them to read the phone.

Finally, to enable your senior loved one to age in place, consider a Medical Alert System. In fact, this type of system now comes standard in many home security systems. There are immediate responses for crises such as falls, as well as daily check-ins to make sure your loved one is alright throughout the day. You should start by determining if your loved one would wear a care button or bracelet to have immediate access to help or if there needs to be a home monitoring system instead. There are many companies available to choose from.

We know this article raises 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.

How Could SLATs Be The Best Planning Tool For You?

Do you and your spouse have a Florida estate plan?  Are you wondering if a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust, commonly referred to as a “SLAT,” is an estate planning tool that you should add to your estate plan? Are you aware that SLATs will allow you to remove up to $11.6 million from your estate and place it in an irrevocable trust for your spouse? Your spouse will then be able to use and access these funds during his or her lifetime.  You need to know that one of the primary benefits of a SLAT is that it allows your spouse to use distributions from the irrevocable trust while you are both living while simultaneously avoiding the estate tax and isolating those assets from creditors.

With a SLAT, however, there are a few precautions you should consider taking in order to obtain the estate planning and asset protection benefits of a SLAT. To begin, you should be sure that there is no express or implied agreement that the party gifting the assets in the trust will get those assets back. It should be clear that the assets in the trust will not be returned to the grantor or the trust will not be viewed as “irrevocable.” Next, the SLAT should not allow the funds in the trust to be used to pay the creditors of the grantor. Be mindful that if the trust allows for such payments, it may not qualify as a SLAT and there may be resulting tax consequences.  Lastly, even though the beneficiary of SLATs cannot agree to return the funds to the grantor, the beneficiary can distribute the funds to their children, which will allow the assets to remain in the family if the beneficiary spouse should pass away while the trust remains funded.

We would highly recommend that you see your Florida estate planning attorney to find out if you and your family would benefit from a SLAT. Your Florida estate planning attorney can review your finances and your estate planning goals to help make recommendations regarding the best estate planning vehicles, including SLATs, to preserve your assets for your family and minimize any adverse tax consequences.

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 Reasons Why Trusts Fail

Are you contemplating adding a trust to your Florida estate plan? Trusts are a useful estate planning instrument: To keep an estate out of probate. For tax planning purposes. For long-term care planning by structuring a person’s assets in a way that makes him or her eligible for Medicaid to cover the expense of a nursing home. Unfortunately, though, trusts can also fail. We would like to share with you three reasons why a trust may fail.

1. The trust was never funded. Working with your Florida estate planning attorney and creating a trust is a lot of work. Equally important is signing the trust and making it legal. However, there is one more very important step, the trust must be funded. All of the assets described in the trust must be moved into the trust in order for the trust to be funded. This means that the trust must hold title to all of your assets. This involves changing the deed on your home, the title to cars, boats, RV’s, the ownership of bank accounts and stock certificates intended to be transferred into the trust. Funding a trust can be a critical step in properly establishing a trust, but it is also one that may be overlooked. If the trust is not funded, the trust’s beneficiaries may find that they will receive nothing from the trust.

2. The beneficiaries were never updated. Once you have completed your trust, you do not just place it in a drawer or safety deposit box and forget it. A trust should be reviewed and if necessary updated whenever there is a significant life change, such as the birth or death of a loved one, a divorce or a remarriage, or even the death of your trustor. All of these life events can impact who inherits from your estate.

3. The trust was never updated to reflect current law. You need to be aware that the laws on trust and estates can change. In fact, your trust may have been drafted under one set of laws, but more importantly, there may be new or updated laws at the time of your passing, which have the potential to invalidate portions of your trust. Your best solution to this problem is to work with your Florida estate planning attorney. She can provide periodic bulletins regarding significant changes in the law, which can alert you to the need to have your trust revised. It is vital that everyone have their trust reviewed periodically by their estate planning attorney to assure that it is supported by current law.

With good planning, trusts can be one of the most useful estate planning instruments. 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.

4 Reasons Why You Should Always Prioritize The Creation Of Your Estate Plan

Have you created your estate plan yet? If not, is it at the top of your list of things to do? Are you aware that, according to a 2022 survey, even though almost two-thirds of Americans know that having an estate plan is important, less than one-third of Americans have an estate plan in place? The primary reason why people do not have an estate plan in place is because they have just not gotten around to it. We would like to share with you four reasons to make it a priority to work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney to create an estate plan.

1. Taxes may be kept to a minimum with a good estate plan. You may be able to minimize the amount of taxes your estate may have to pay by creating a Florida estate plan. If a good estate plan is not created and put into place, depending on the size of your estate and the location of your property, the tax burden for your estate may be very significant.

2. Children need your estate plan in place for their protection. If you have children, there are a myriad of reasons why estate planning is important. For example, you will want to identify in your will who you would like to raise your children in the event of your death, otherwise, a court will probably make that decision for you. Also, you want to be able to decide how your assets are distributed to your children in the event of your death. If you die without an estate plan, the distribution of your assets will likely be governed by the laws of Florida.

3. Privacy is important to protect. You like to keep your life private. You also want to keep the probate of your estate private. By working with your estate planning attorney, she will show you a variety of estate planning documents, other than a Last Will and Testament, that can help you accomplish your goal of privacy.

4. It is very important to have a plan for incapacity in place. Estate planning is about what happens to your assets when you die, but it can also involve planning for the possibility of your incapacity due to an accident or illness. Your estate planning attorney can show you the documents to put into your estate plan that will allow you to choose a trusted family member or friend to be your agent should you be unable to make financial or healthcare decisions.

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.