What Are The Differences Between A Skilled Nursing Home And An Assisted Living Facility?

Have you or a senior loved one reached the point where it may no longer be safe or appropriate to live at home without assistance? If so, you may be considering moving into a skilled nursing home or an assisted living facility and find yourself wondering what is the difference between the two? Although both facilities offer medical care and assistance with activities of daily living, there are a few essential differences that are important to understand.

 

First, an assisted living facility may be more of a residential setting and a skilled nursing home may be more of a clinical setting. The difference in settings may be due to the fact that those in a skilled nursing home typically require constant medical care and attention.

Another key difference can be the amount of independence afforded by the facilities. Those in an assisted living facility may be able to live a bit more independently and, thus, are given the opportunity to cook their own meals and participate in a wide range of social and recreational activities. In a skilled nursing facility, residents do not have access to their own kitchen for meal preparation and all meals are instead prepared by the staff. While nursing home residents are given the opportunity to socialize and participate in activities, they are often more limited based on the physical health and condition of the residents.

Finally, nursing home and assisted living facilities differ in cost and insurance coverage. According to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, the cost of a skilled nursing home is nearly double the cost of an assisted living community and can amount to over $100,000.00 annually for a private room. Paying for either senior care option can impose an enormous financial burden on seniors and their families. Medicare will not pay for assisted living costs and full Medicaid benefits might not be available. You should start investigating your coverage options as soon as possible. Fortunately, an elder law attorney will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and medical needs and help you come up with a plan to pay for whatever care option is right for you.

 

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

 

Estate Planning Tips Floridians Need When They Near the Proposed Tax Limits

Have you seen the  rise and fall in estate taxation rates making headlines these days? It seems to be more and more common, especially given the changes that often occur with new leadership at the federal level. Right now, the federal estate tax exemptions are so high that very few Americans need to be concerned with approaching the limits. The federal exclusion is approximately $11.7 million per individual person or $23.4 million for a married couple. Luckily for Floridians, the state of Florida does not impose any estate tax of its own in addition to the federal tax. Floridians who wish to be careful with their estate planning, however, may want to keep abreast of the proposed changes to the estate tax exemption at the federal level. 

 

The bill introduced to Congress in March proposes that the individual estate tax exemption be lowered to $3.5 million per person or $7 million for a married couple, reducing the current amounts by roughly two-thirds. Let us discuss some estate planning tips for Florida married couples who are nearing the proposed estate tax exemption limits.

 

You may want to consider creating a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT). This is because different types of irrevocable trusts, such as SLATs, may exclude your assets from being subject to estate tax if you are nearing the federal estate tax limits. Keep in mind that once you put money into an irrevocable trust, you cannot take it back, so if you are just nearing the proposed federal estate tax exemption limit you may want to shield only the funds necessary for exemption in a trust. A Spousal Lifetime Access Trust may work for a long-married couple. The donor spouse makes a gift to the trust for the other spouse’s benefit. Any appreciation of assets gifted to the trust will be excluded from the estate of both spouses for tax purposes, removing the need for the surviving spouse to pay taxes on the capital gains. 

 

You may also benefit from filing a surviving spouse return when needed. For a married couple, the combined estate tax limit can be important. Any part of the current $11.7 million individual exemption, or potential future $3.5 million individual exemption, that is not used when the first spouse passes away can be carried over to the other spouse. When the second spouse dies, they can use up to the full amount of the married couple credit. This is referred to as a Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion (DSUE). To obtain this benefit, the second spouse has to file a federal estate tax return (IRS Form 706) upon the first spouse’s death and make the accurate election. 

 

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

Protect Your Parents Before They Enter A Nursing Home

Do you anticipate that your parents may require full-time nursing home care due to their age or their health condition? If so, you should consider helping them put a plan in place now.  According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey, the average cost for a private room in a nursing home facility is over $100,000.00 per year. Although nursing home care can be incredibly expensive, there may be ways that you can help ensure that the assets of your parents are protected and that they do not lose all of their savings paying those exorbitant nursing home bills.   

There may be a variety of ways in which you can help protect your parents by planning for nursing home care payments. Long-term care insurance plans can be an affordable option to offset the costs of care, especially if your parents are young enough and healthy enough to qualify for the best rate. Veterans benefit programs, if available to your parents, can help cover the costs of nursing home care. Medicare also provides coverage in limited situations. Primarily, however, people depend upon Medicaid coverage to pay for nursing home care. Access to Medicaid coverage, however, requires that the nursing home patient fall below a certain asset and income threshold. An elder law attorney can help you and your parents understand what benefits and coverage options are available and ensure your parents are protected.

Even if you do not think your parents would qualify for Medicaid with their current assets and income levels, it may be important that you contact an elder law attorney because there are many strategies that can be employed to protect your parents’ assets and still allow them to qualify for Medicaid coverage. Because May is National Elder Law Month, now may be the perfect time to do so and help your parents take this significant step towards protecting their future. 

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

5 Tips For Caring For Aging Seniors During National Elder Law Month

Did you know that May is both National Elder Law Month and Older Americans Month? It is a month in which we celebrate our seniors and those who assist seniors in navigating their planning needs. Caring for your senior loved one can be stressful and difficult at times, but also very rewarding. Let us take a look at five tips to employ when you are caring for your aging senior to make your life, and his or her life, a little bit easier:

 

  1. Be organized. When caring for your senior loved one you may find the amount of assistance that is actually needed, overwhelming. In addition to ensuring that your loved one’s medical needs are attended to by the appropriate healthcare professionals, you may also need to provide your loved one with assistance in regular daily tasks like getting dressed, eating meals, and taking medication. Creating schedules and to-do lists can help you make sure you are able to keep everything on track.
     
  2. Be patient and flexible. The needs of your loved one, and his or her condition, may be ever changing and it can be important to help ensure that he or she understands that you are there to provide support, no matter what.   
  3. Be consistent. Keeping bedtime, mealtimes, activities, and social events as consistent as possible can provide structure and help you and your senior loved one create expectations for each day. 
  4. Share caregiving responsibility. If all of the caregiving falls on your shoulders, you may burn out quickly. If possible, share the caregiving responsibilities with relatives or friends so that you are not solely responsible for all tasks. 
  5. Seek the advice of an elder law attorney.  You should also contact an elder law attorney to discuss how to best plan for your senior loved one’s long-term care. Care for our seniors can be very expensive, but there are a variety of state and federal programs in place that may help alleviate a lot of the financial burden.

 

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

National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day

Did you know that Friday, April 16, 2021, is National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day? With social distancing measures still in place, and everyone still spending lots of time at home, it can be a great time to participate in cleaning out your unused or expired medication. Doing so on this day can be great preparation for National Drug Takeback Day, when local businesses, doctor’s offices and pharmacies will have collection bins where you can safely dispose of your medications.

 

One important reason to clean out your medicine cabinet may be that expired medication can be potentially harmful. First, there may be a direct risk that other people could get into unused or expired medication that they should not be able to access. For example, many common medications are safe when taken as directed and within their shelf life but can turn toxic over time after their expiration date. Tetracycline is a great example of this. Similarly, many over the counter medications are safe when taken as directed, but not so safe after they expire, and your kids or spouse may forget to check the date on the bottle before popping it open. It may be best to keep a regular eye on expiration dates and dispose of medication promptly to avoid this. Of course, there are also many people in our communities who struggle with substance abuse, whether opioid addiction or a different drug problem. Many prescription drugs can be misused or abused, with fatal effects.

 

You should not throw medication in the garbage. Medications thrown into the garbage can leak into the soil and can cause toxicity in the environment. You should not flush medications down the toilet either, as they then leak into the water supply, with harmful effects on both humans and wildlife.

 

On National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day you can clear out any unused, expired, or otherwise unwanted medications and keep them in a safe and secure place. The following weekend is National Drug Takeback Day. At that time, you should be able to dispose of your medication in one of many collection areas in your community. 

 

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

Establishing a Third-Party Special Needs Trust for a Disabled Grandchild

Have you considered creating a special needs trust that can be used to provide financially for a grandchild with special needs without jeopardizing the receipt or continued receipt of government benefits? There are different types of special needs trusts, each better suited to some situations than others. A qualified special needs estate planning attorney can guide you through the options. If you are a grandparent with a special needs grandchild, a third-party special needs trust may be the best choice.

 

A first-party trust and can be used when the beneficiary of the special needs trust is the person whose assets or property are going to fund the trust. This type is often utilized by a disabled individual in order to allow them to qualify for medical assistance from the state. As the grandparent of the special needs individual, this is probably not the right choice for you. Another type of special needs trust is a third-party trust. A third-party special needs trust can be used when you have decided to fund a trust for another special needs beneficiary, in this case your grandchild. A third-party trust is often also called a supplemental needs trust. This is because the trust is intended for you to provide funds to supplement the needs of your grandchild, rather than provide for all of their expenses or replace any assistance they might currently receive. 

 

If you decide to set up a third-party special needs trust, the trustee can be you, your spouse, your child (the parent of your grandchild) or another relative or friend. The trustee will be responsible for informing your local authority that the trust exists if your grandchild applies for any type of medical assistance, and the appropriate agency will decide whether it should count when determining your grandchild’s eligibility for services. The existence of the trust should not impact any responsibility of your grandchild’s school district to provide them with services, but it can be important to talk to a qualified attorney to understand the specifics. The main thing to keep in mind may be that, if you are considering leaving money to your grandchild with special needs, creating a third-party special needs trust will likely allow them to use the money you intend to leave them without jeopardizing other assistance they currently receive.

 

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

Three Tips on Helping a Loved One Deal with Memory Loss

Whether an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or just the memory loss that can come with aging, watching a loved one struggle to recall important events or little daily details can be painful. It can be important, however, to keep your expectations realistic and assist them where you can. Do you have a loved one dealing with memory loss? Let us discuss three tips on how you can help.

 

  1. Offer Help Where You Can. Your loved one may be too proud to ask for help or refuse it when you offer. Still, it can be important to keep trying. You may not need to micromanage everyday life. You can and should make sure your loved one remembers important doctor’s appointments and major holidays and events that he or she needs time to prepare for. If it feels like you are always the person reminding your loved one and he or she expresses frustration with the dynamic, you can ask other relatives to step in and assist as well so that it eases any tension that can build up in a caregiver relationship.
  2. Make Time to Grieve. You may be disappointed when your loved one forgets things that are meaningful to you. Remember that your loved one may likely also be forgetting things that are important to him or her, and to other children or grandchildren. It is okay to be upset when this happens. It can also be important to make time to grieve the loss of the type of relationship you had with your loved one before memory loss. You can still have a fulfilling relationship now, but it may not be the same. 
  3. Assist with Estate Planning. Before your loved one experiences memory loss to the point that he or she is unable to make major decisions, check in about his or her estate planning. Make sure existing documents are updated and start from scratch where essential documents do not yet exist. If you wait to do this, it might be too late, if your loved one gets to the point where he or she is not able to fully understand his or her legal and medical affairs. 

 

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

No Time To Waste: Why Your Aging Parent Needs A Power Of Attorney Now

Have you talked to your parent about incapacity planning? Although talking with your aging parent about planning for his or her potential incapacity is never an easy task, it can be critical to have these difficult conversations to help ensure that your parent may be protected. A power of attorney can be an essential legal document because it can allow someone to put in place a plan for managing his or her affairs in the event he or she is unable to do so due to something such as incapacitation.  

 

An example of such a circumstance that may benefit from a power of attorney being in place could be a tragic car accident where a person suffers injuries that impact his or her ability to make sound decisions. Alternatively, a common concern as our parents get older, a senior may begin to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. With a power of attorney in place, you can help ensure that your aging parent’s wishes are carried out in accordance with his or her plan if your parent is ever in the position where he or she is unable to manage affairs.

 

In the power of attorney document, your parent will identify one or more persons to act as his or her agent in the event of incapacity. The power of attorney document outlines the specific powers and authority that the agent has and it can be crafted based on your parent’s wishes. The agent acting pursuant to the power of attorney is a fiduciary to your parent so the agent must act only in your parent’s best interest. It may be important to note that putting a durable power of attorney in place can be important for incapacity planning. The durability feature means that the power granted under the power of attorney survives incapacitation of the principal, your parent.  

 

If your aging parent does not have a power of attorney in place, then you may need to enlist the help of an experienced estate planning attorney to put one in place for your parent now. As with all estate planning, many people may think that there is no need to rush. A power of attorney, however, can be critical because, in many states, including Florida, if you feel that your parent is unable to manage his or her own affairs, you may need to have your parent placed under guardianship if there is no power of attorney in place. This may mean a court will have to determine whether your parent is in fact incapacitated and unable to act on his or her own behalf. The court may need to hear from a doctor or witnesses to make this decision.  Once your parent is deemed incapacitated, the court next decides who manages his or her affairs and how to do so. The power of attorney can eliminate the need for court intervention and give your parent the ability to control who acts as his or her agent. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Medicaid Planning for Florida Seniors

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

 

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

 

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