Category: Elder Law

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.

Do You Know the Danger of Making Holiday Gifts When It Comes to Elder Law Planning

During the holidays are you considering giving gifts of money to loved ones? Are you aware that monetary gifts can impact Medicaid eligibility? Did you know that if you needed to apply for Medicaid in the next five years, these gifts could have significant consequences? If you answered yes to the previous questions, be aware that the impact could be on both the giver and receiver.

With respect to the gift giver, be aware that the IRS allows a tax-free annual gift per person with an unlimited amount of donees. However, this relates to tax law planning, not to Medicaid eligibility.

In regard to gifting, Medicaid takes a different stance. In applying for Medicaid eligibility, when a person’s assets are reviewed, there is a “Look-Back” period of sixty months, depending upon the state. If it is found that the Medicaid applicant gifted money, or made an uncompensated transfer in order to be eligible for Medicaid, the penalty may be Medicaid ineligibility. The length of time of ineligibility is determined by the amount of the gift and the average cost of a private pay nursing home in the area.

Are there any options for the person deemed ineligible for Medicaid due to gift giving? Possibly. The gifter could collect the gift back, or reimbursement, in order to “undo” the penalty. Even if possession of the money makes he or she ineligible for Medicaid, he or she can spend it down by temporarily paying for long-term care or making a home modification related to his or her disability until he or she reaches eligibility status. In addition, there may also be a possibility of an undue hardship waiver, if Medicaid ineligibility will cause the person to go without medical care, food or shelter.

There may also be important impacts on the gift receiver. All states have an asset limit to be Medicaid eligible and it is not very high. In fact, Florida allows a single person to only have two thousand dollars. Even a small gift can push a potential Medicaid recipient over the eligibility limit.

With the assistance of an experienced Florida elder law attorney, a potential Medicaid recipient does have some options if he or she receives a gift. Your elder law attorney may suggest paying off debts and/or purchasing a funeral plan or a Medicaid eligible annuity. If money is received before applying for Medicaid, the money can also be spent down in a similar fashion.

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.

What is the VA Pension and Is Your Loved One Eligible?

What is the VA pension? It is a non-service connected pension, available each month to a permanent and totally disabled veteran when the veteran is 65 years of age or older, honorably discharged after at least 90 days of active duty with one day being during wartime, and experiencing financial need.

Does the veteran over age 65 have to prove that he or she is actually disabled? No, it is presumed that because the veteran is over 65 that the veteran is disabled. A veteran who is younger than age 65, however, must demonstrate that he or she is permanently and totally disabled in order to receive this financial assistance. In fact, this disability for a person under age 65 must be an impairment that renders it impossible for the average person to follow a substantially gainful occupation. This impairment must be one that is reasonably certain to continue throughout life.

What are the three types of monthly non-service connected pensions that are paid by the Veterans Administration to offset the cost of necessary health care? They are: Low Income Pension, Housebound Benefits, and Aid and Attendance Benefits.

In addition, there may be an extra benefit amount if the claimant is “permanently housebound.” The person demonstrates this by being substantially confined to his or her dwelling and knowing that this condition will continue throughout his or her lifetime.

When the disability and wartime service test is met, and before the veteran may begin receiving a VA pension, a three part means test qualification must be met. First, the payments to the potential claimant, his or her spouse, and dependent children from all sources are considered. This also includes recurring income such as social security and pensions, as well as irregular income for the next twelve months.

The unreimbursed medical expenses are then excluded from income. Unreimbursed medical expenses include but are not limited to Medicare Part B premiums, Medigap premiums, Medicare Part D premiums, and prescription drug payments as well as caregiver expenses or recurring assisted living expenses. The gross income less the unreimbursed medical expenses will determine the claimant’s Income for VA Purposes (IVAP). The goal is for the IVAP to be $0. This is because there is a reduction against the Monthly Maximum Pension Rate (the income limit) for every dollar of IVAP.

We know the ins and outs of VA Pension can be confusing. Do not wait to schedule a meeting to ask your questions and address your concerns this November, or anytime throughout the year.

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.

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.

 

Elder Law – Three Documents Necessary During Any Emergency

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

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

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

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

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

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

(561) 694-7827

Helping Your Aging Parent Decide to Leave Their Home

One of the biggest challenges for parents and adult children is adjusting to the inevitable role reversals that come with age. As our parents get older, they may find it harder to do some of the things they once took for granted. They may also find it harder to admit that day-to-day tasks are becoming more challenging. As their adult children, it is then up to us to help them make difficult decisions. One is deciding when it is time to leave their home.

Some facts and figures to ponder. 

Before you talk to your parents about a permanent move, consider the following

  • Approximately 90 percent of the participants in a recent survey are planning on staying in their current homes for the next five to 10 years. Of these, a significant number, 85 percent, are convinced they can do so without making any major changes to their homes.
  •  The top two reasons for aging at home given by survey participants were proximity to friends and family and staying in a home they like.
  •  More than 60 percent of seniors between age 60 and 70 reported finding it “very easy” to live with little or no assistance. On the other hand only 43 percent of those over 70 do so. 

What to look out for as an adult child. 

As an adult child, you may feel the need to walk a very fine line. How do you know when it is time to talk to your parents about certain concerns, and when is it time to intervene? This may be especially difficult if you do not live near your parents and only see them occasionally. The following are clues that it could soon be time for your parents to leave their home: 

  •         Trouble getting around
  •         Noticeable decline in health, especially due to chronic illnesses
  •         Poor hygiene
  •         Disheveled appearance
  •         Poor nutrition
  •         Slower recuperation from illness or injury
  •         Failure to take medications as prescribed
  •         Difficulty with household chores and maintenance
  •         Ignoring mail
  •         Failing to pay bills on time
  •         Evidence of difficulty driving
  •         Confusion or becoming easily disoriented in familiar surroundings
  •         Difficulty caring for pets

We understand the challenges of finding a new place to live and being able to afford it as you age.

Figuring out where your parents may live after they move out of their house may also pose its own set of challenges. The decision is usually based on several factors, including their overall health and what they can afford. Options for seniors who still have significant independence include smaller homes or apartments and senior/retirement communities. Other options include assisted living and long-term care facilities, such as skilled nursing homes.

Starting to think about these issues well in advance can help alleviate some of the stress and heartache that you and your parents may face during this transition. We want you to know that we are here to support you now and in the long-term. Please feel free to call our law firm to schedule a meeting at any time.

Helping Your Loved One Plan After a Chronic Condition Diagnosis

Did you know that approximately 60 percent of Older Americans live with a chronic condition? Conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and diabetes can require frequent medical treatment, close monitoring, and costly medications. As such, your loved one may feel overwhelmed with the increasing cost of care and new challenges he or she may be facing. One of the best ways to put your loved one’s mind at ease is to help him or her with the planning process. To help get you started, let us share with you a few tips for helping your loved one plan after a chronic condition diagnosis.

Perhaps the most important first step is to talk to your loved one about his or her diagnosis. Your loved one may be uncertain about the impact this could have on his or her life. To help educate you both about the condition in question, we encourage you to take some time to research the condition together. Be sure to determine the symptoms your loved one may present and the challenges he or she may face as a result of the condition. You may also wish to research treatment plans that may help make your loved one more comfortable as the condition progresses. 

Once you and your loved one have a better understanding of your loved one’s condition, it is important to review any planning he or she has already completed. Evaluate whether his or her current estate plan has protections in place, right now, for this type of unexpected situation, including any long-term care plans. Some important components to look out for include your loved one’s health care coverage, insurance, and whether he or she has a durable power of attorney.

Above all, do not hesitate to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to help guide you and your loved one through this challenging time. Further, an estate planning attorney can advise you on the steps you could take to plan for a loved one with a chronic condition and account for his or her specific needs.

If this article raises more questions than it answers for you, do not hesitate to ask us your questions. Your loved one’s safety is important to us, and we are here to be a resource for you. We look forward to discussing your questions and supporting you with your particular needs.

Going Through a “Gray Divorce” Requires Keeping an Eye on Retirement

We know that going through a divorce can be a traumatic experience for anyone at any age. Younger and middle-aged couples often face the unfortunate challenge of splitting up with children involved. Older couples face their own harrowing challenges, particularly if they have been married for a long time and are beyond their prime working years.

Many older adults no longer possess the desire to climb the corporate ladder or compete in the job market, if they are able to work at all. Further, with their shared nest eggs and investments that can be greatly reduced through a separation, it is recommended that older couples keep an eye on their retirement accounts when going through a “Gray” Divorce.

As always, meeting with an experienced attorney should be one of your first steps if you are considering a divorce. When it comes to separating later in life a consultation with an estate planning and elder law attorney is critical so you may discuss the impact on your long-term care options. Let us share a few tips to help you through this process.

1. Seek wise counsel. Obtaining a qualified attorney is a must, but a financial advisor or attorney with estate planning experience can be an added advantage. They can help organize long-term retirement goals, set up estate documents, and provide information and guidance for negotiating a favorable divorce settlement.

2. Obtain documents. Whether you or your spouse was in charge of your legal, financial, insurance and tax documents, it can be critically important to obtain copies for your divorce negotiations and retirement planning. Think of these items as the bedrock for your financial future.

3. Be financially prudent. It is true that there is more to life than money, as evidenced by the love and compassion that once led to your marriage. Money, however, is an inescapable part of life, and the older one gets the more important financial stability becomes.

4. Make sound financial decisions. This is important throughout the course of a “Gray” Divorce proceeding, as well as, with post-divorce decisions about the lifestyle one can realistically afford. A healthy goal would be the funding a comfortable, long-term retirement and building up from there. It may be easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

Knowing that you are financially supported in your latter, non-working years can bring peace of mind during a difficult time. It may also allow you to live out your golden years with a greater sense of enjoyment amid your new family circumstances. Do not wait to contact us with your questions