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.

Woman of the Year Nominee, Anne’ Desormier-Cartwright

Did you know that Attorney Anné Desormier-Cartwright was recently honored as a Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce 2020 Woman of the Year nominee? She is among 25 nominees that were selected from 50 nominations from the community. In a year where there were a record-breaking number of nominations for this highly sought after award, Attorney Desormier-Cartwright finds herself among the highest caliber of women in the Palm Beach North community.

The Woman of theYear award recognizes women for their outstanding leadership as well as their demonstrated commitment to the Palm Beach North Region. It should come as no surprise that Attorney Desormier-Cartwright finds herself among such prestigious company. Her dedication to the community and to excellence is clear in everything she does. In addition to being appointed to the Guardianship Education Committee for the Palm Beach County Bar since 1998, she also serves on the Probate and Guardianship Practice Committee of the Florida bar.

While excelling in her capacity as managing partner of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA, Attorney Desormier-Cartwright is also a Charter member of Elder Counsel, which is a nation wide association of elder law attorneys who focus on how changes in the law impact the elderly. She remains dedicated to organizations that pave the way for both understanding and preparing legislation that impacts the elderly, such as the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys. Additionally, she has been a member of The Greater Palm Beach Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction for the past 30 years and has served on the Board of Directors.

Do you have questions about elder law or estate planning? 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.

What are the Different Types of Trusts to Use in Estate Planning?

Trusts are an estate planning tool created for the management of assets, both during your life and after your death. Are there different types of trusts to use in estate planning? Yes, there are several types. They can, however, be divided into a couple of categories, which may make them much easier to understand. 

First of all, trusts can be either living or testamentary. Living trusts, also known as inter vivos trusts, are created while the trustor is still living. There are also testamentary trusts, which are created by a trustor after his or her death. 

Secondly, trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. In simplest terms, this speaks to whether or not they can be changed or revoked after they are created. There can be important legal implications of choosing between revocable or irrevocable. 

A revocable trust is created by a trustor, who also remains as the beneficiary until his or her passing, and then passes onto the successor trustee and beneficiaries. The easiest way to envision a revocable trust may be one created by a married couple, who remain as both co-trustors and co-beneficiaries until their passing and then, an adult child becomes the successor trustee and their other children, and possibly grandchildren, become the successor beneficiaries. A revocable trust can be revoked or changed at any time prior to the original trustor’s death. Accordingly, there are no tax benefits. Essentially, the revocable trust can function as a means of distributing assets to beneficiaries while avoiding the timely and costly probate process. 

As the name implies, once an irrevocable trust is created it cannot be changed, except under rather limited circumstances. Once the assets are transferred to the trust, they are no longer considered to be the property of the trustor, but rather, are the property of the trust. The benefits include limiting or eliminating both income and estate tax and usually the trust property cannot be reached by the trustor’s creditors. Another key draw of the irrevocable trust may be because the assets of the trust are no longer the property of the trustor, they are not considered, when determining the trustor’s eligibility for government programs, such as Medicaid, which can make them an integral tool in long-term care planning. Along the same lines, a special needs trust, which is most typically created to provide for an adult disabled child following the passing of their parents is most usually irrevocable, assuring the disabled child remains eligible for government programs. 

Now that you have an understanding of the fundamentals of trusts, it is a great time to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss how best to meet your estate planning goals. 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.

Choosing the Right Estate Planning Attorney in Your Area

Does choosing the right estate planning attorney to help you create an estate plan seem like an overwhelming task? It can be understandable to feel like this. With these tips, however, it can be easier to narrow your choices to a few qualified attorneys in your area. Let us discuss these tips for choosing the right estate planning attorney in your area.

You might want to first start your search by asking your accountant or financial planner for recommendations. Estate planning can be a critical part of financial planning and money management. Drafting a will, a health care proxy, or power of attorney, as well as creating a trust, and maximizing your loved ones’ inheritances by minimizing taxes can all be important financial matters that often benefit from the specialized knowledge of an estate planning attorney. If your financial advisor and accountant have not already brought up estate planning, ask them who did their estate plan, and whether they would recommend their estate planning attorney.

You could also ask other attorneys for recommendations. You may have already worked with an attorney on another matter, perhaps setting up a business, buying a home, or reviewing a contract. Lawyers are often happy to refer their clients to other lawyers who practice in other areas of expertise, and they will want to refer you to good attorneys so that you will trust them again when you next need their assistance. Ask your former attorney who did his or her estate plan, and for references, so you can choose the right estate planning attorney in your area.

Contacting the state or local bar association may also be a good idea. State and local bar associations offer referral services or a searchable directory of attorneys with their practice areas. These services can make choosing the right estate planning attorney in your area as easy as a Google search. 

Your friends may also act as a solid referral source. While a staggering number of people do not have estate plans, there are many who do. Ask your friends if they have a will or a trust, and if so, who the attorney was that drafted it. Let friends know that you want to choose the right estate planning attorney in your area, and that you want to know if they worked with a great attorney. 

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.

Why a Florida Prenup Should Be at the Top of Your Estate Planning To Do List

Were you aware that a Florida prenup can be a useful tool in estate planning? While most people assume that prenuptial agreements are only used to protect assets in the event of divorce, this is far from the only reason why many engaged couples choose to create one. 

Couples can use a Florida prenup to designate which assets should be considered separate property, and which are community or shared property. Making this distinction before marriage can prevent separate assets from being wrongly classified as community property when a spouse dies. This may be particularly useful for second or subsequent marriages, or for those who are marrying later in life or who have accumulated significant assets prior to the marriage. In some states, marriage entitles each spouse to a share of your estate (between a third to a half, depending on where you live). If you intend to leave less than that amount to your spouse, he or she has the power to request a higher percentage, which can leave your intended beneficiaries with less. 

Another reason why many couples choose to have a prenuptial agreement is to avoid disputes about money or property during the marriage. For a prenuptial agreement to be valid and legally binding, both parties must fully disclose their assets, properties, and debts in the agreement. Due to their financial picture being clear, there are fewer disagreements about how to manage their assets. 

Another common instance where a Florida prenup may be useful may be in the case of a closely-held family business. Often, business owners require only family members to be owners of the business and its holdings. If during a divorce, the business is determined to be partially owned by both spouses, the non-familial spouse could end up being an owner. In order to alleviate that situation, restrictions could be placed in the business’s agreements, or by transferring ownership of the business to a trust. A prenuptial agreement that describes the business as separate property and sets forth the rights and restrictions on ownership, however, would be another layer of protection for the business. 

Do you have questions on a Florida prenup and using it in your estate planning? 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 Key Veterans Benefits to Know About This November

With Veteran’s Day, November is a great opportunity to set aside time to honor our veterans and thank them for all they have done for our great nation. One way the U.S. tries to give back to veterans is through veterans benefit programs. Did you know, however, that veterans benefits can be very complicated and many veterans may not even be fully aware of the wide range of benefit programs available to them? Let us take time to review three key veterans benefits to know about this November.

First, there are several education benefits offered through the VA. In addition to the GI Bill offering credits to use towards a college degree, it also provides coverage for training certification courses and vocational training programs. The fact that the GI Bill offers these kinds of training opportunities makes it ideal for those veterans who are seeking a career change that does not require a college degree. Veterans can also participate in free coding bootcamps and comparable software training and technology programs through the VET TEC program.

Second, veterans have the option of getting life insurance through the Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program. Through this program, veterans may be able to receive up to $400,000 in life insurance. Not only does this program offer competitive premium rates, but it can allow veterans a chance to gain life insurance where they may find it difficult to find it otherwise. Many veterans face difficulties in getting traditional life insurance and this can be particularly true if they have suffered a service-related injury.

Lastly, veterans should be aware of the long-term care benefits they may be eligible to receive. For instance, the VA Pension with Aid and Attendance benefits program offers qualifying veterans financial assistance in order to cover the cost of a nursing home and other long-term care facilities. In fact, the program means that couples may receive upwards of $25,000 a year in benefits to help with long-term care costs 

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.

Staying Healthy While Giving Care

Did you know that, according to a survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP in 2015, there are approximately 43.5 million caregivers in the United States? With the 65+ age group expected to double to 70 million people by 2030, family caregivers are likely to increasingly provide care for aging parents, siblings, and friends.

Caregiving for a loved one can be very rewarding, and it can also involve a lot of stress. Often, caregiving is a long-term challenge, and the emotional and physical impact on the caregiver can multiply over time. Signs of caregiver stress and burnout include: anxiety and depression, feeling tired, difficulty sleeping, overreacting to minor problems, new or worsening health problems, trouble concentrating, increasing feelings of resentment, drinking and/or smoking more, eating more or less than usual, and cutting back on leisure activities.

To practice self-care, while caregiving, start by trying to recognize what may be causing stress and take actions to manage it. It may seem like everything is stressful, but often there are one or two aspects of caregiving that make it particularly stressful. This could be whether your caregiving is voluntary or whether you felt you had no other choice but to provide care.  It could be the nature of your relationship with the person you are caring for or your coping abilities created from stressful events in the past. It could also be the nature of the caregiving arrangement (for example, caring for a person with dementia may be more stressful than caring for someone with a physical limitation) or whether you have additional support available.

Once you have identified the source(s) of stress, ask if it is something you have control over. If it is, then take action. Look for solutions with an open mind. Try on different perspectives. Ask a friend to help you brainstorm. From the list of possible solutions, pick one and try it. Evaluate the results and decide if you should try something different. Use other resources and be sure to ask friends, family, and professionals for suggestions.

Think about the next 3-6 months, and decide what you would like to accomplish. This could include taking a total break from caregiving, finding help for particular caregiving tasks (like bathing or meals), making appointments for your own health and personal care, or even engaging in activities that you enjoy (like going for a walk or spending time with a friend). Once you set a goal, decide what the first step is and when you will do it.

Also, ask for help. Often, the barrier for help is not a lack of other people wanting to help. Many caregivers struggle with accepting help, in part because they do not know how best to use that help. Right now, start making a list of things that someone could do that would be helpful. For example, someone could take the person you care for on a 15-minute walk a couple times a week. A neighbor could pick up groceries once a week. A family member could fill out insurance paperwork. Keeping a list of simple tasks will make it easier to accept help when it is offered. 

For more ways to support caregivers and assistance in long term care planning for you or a loved one, please contact our office.

Medicare Open Enrollment 2020: What You Need to Know

Are you ready for Medicare Open Enrollment? Every year, Medicare health and drug plans make changes to costs, coverage, providers, and pharmacies in their networks. Have you considered that, between coverage changes and health condition changes, it may be wise to revisit health plans during the open enrollment period annually? This year, Medicare’s annual open enrollment period begins October 15th and ends December 7th.

For those already on Medicare, you should have received an “annual notice of change” from your Medicare plan in September. This letter explains all the changes coming in the new year, including coverage and costs such as premiums, deductibles, and copays. Review your medical expenses over the last six months, including a list of the doctors you see regularly and the medications you need.

Medicare beneficiaries without some sort of Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) may face Medicare cost-sharing if they have health problems. Original Medicare pays for much, but not all of the cost for covered health care services and supplies. A Medigap policy can help pay some of the remaining health care costs, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

If you are not able to purchase a Medigap policy, a Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) might be a good option. MSAs combine high-deductible insurance plans with a medical savings account that you can use to pay for your health care costs.

Medicare Advantage plans are a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide all of your Part A and Part B benefits. Most Medicare Advantage plans also offer prescription drug coverage. Before switching to a Medicare Advantage plan, be sure to examine it closely to see if it makes sense. While many have $0 premiums, the out-of-pocket costs can be high, or your hospital or your doctor may not be in-network.

The Medicare Plan Finder on is an online tool from the government to help you select a plan. After you enter your zip code and details about your medications and whether you receive them by mail, you can compare plans available in your area. You can also try the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, which offer free local counseling to enrollees, or call 1-800-MEDICARE. 

For help evaluating your Medicare coverage options and which plan may work best for you, contact our office today to schedule a meeting time.

 

Estate Planning Awareness Week: How to Prepare for COVID-19 Continuation

Estate planning can be important for a number of reasons. Did you know that the U.S. House of Representatives even designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week? The week is an opportunity to recognize and raise awareness as to the many things that can be accomplished through a strong estate plan. The protections put in place by a comprehensive estate plan seem especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When developing an estate plan, you should consider including:

1. A Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney is a legal document that gives an agent the authority to carry on your financial and legal affairs and protect your property by acting on your behalf when you are incapacitated. The power of attorney can give the agent the ability to do things like pay bills, write checks, make deposits, sell or purchase assets, and sign tax returns.

2. Health Care Planning Documents: These documents empower you to select a trusted individual who will be given the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incompetent or incapacitated.

3. A Living Will: A living will allows you to indicate what kinds of end-of-life care you do and do not want when you are in a terminal medical situation. Without this document, your family will be uncertain about what types of care you would want, decisions which are often fraught and stressful.

4. A Will: This is possibly the most common legal document in estate planning. It can be used to direct the distribution of your property at the time of your death. It also allows you to appoint a personal representative to oversee the distribution of your assets. Additionally, it allows you to appoint a guardian to take care of minor children.

5. A Revocable Trust: This is a tool that can be used both for incapacity planning and for your estate after you pass away. This can be a great tool for maintaining privacy, and ensuring that your wishes are followed both during end-of-life and after you pass.

We know you may have questions. Let us help. Please contact us today to discuss the tools you need in your estate plan.