Category: General

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, we are here to answer any of your questions and help address your concerns. You are welcome to ask us about storing your original estate planning documents, or about any estate planning matters, at any time. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Three Tips to Prevent Your Parents Losing a Lifetime of Savings to Long-Term Care

Have you been able to provide the necessary care on your own for your aging parents and now it is not enough anymore? Are you facing the difficult decision to place your aging parents into a nursing home? Are you concerned about the cost of nursing home care and trying to help your parents protect a lifetime of savings from being completely used up by the cost of care?

Because May is both National Elder Law Month and National Older Americans Month, this is an important time of year to ensure our aging loved ones have the support they need. Let us discuss three tips to prevent your aging parents from losing their life savings to a nursing home.

1. Early Planning. The most important thing your parents can do to preserve their life savings is to start planning for the future before those plans need to be put into effect. Meet now with a Florida qualified elder law attorney to engage in long-term care planning, this planning can be critical.

2. Know the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid. Your parents may be hoping that Medicare will help with nursing home costs, but they probably should not. Typically Medicare only covers 100 days of nursing home care. If your parents qualify for Medicaid, then the Florida Medicaid program will take over when Medicare benefits are no longer enough. Medicaid will cover nursing home costs for qualified individuals for as long as they need it. But there is a catch! Medicaid rules require your parents to spend down most of their life savings prior to qualifying for the program. Medicaid also has a look back period of 5 years. Medicaid will see what your parents held in assets, and what their income and expenses were during this time period.

3. Stay 5 Years Ahead in Planning. By working with a Florida qualified elder law attorney, she can help your parents plan around this 5-year “lookback” rule to protect the life savings of your parents. Your attorney may advise that the best way to do this may be to ensure that the assets of your parents are transferred out of their estate prior to the 60 months before they need nursing home care. Since the need for this care may be on the horizon, it may be best to start planning early. Your attorney can work with you to figure out the best approach.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

3 Ideas for Including a Pet Trust in Your Florida Estate Plan

Do you have a pet or pets? You know how hard it is when the pet you have loved and cared for and who has been with you for a long time passes away. However, It may be very possible that your pet will outlive you. Are you an aging adult or do you have a pet that has a longer than average lifespan? You may want to consider a pet trust to ensure your pet is cared for after you are gone. We would like to share with you more about a pet trust and give you three A, B, C, thoughts to consider in regard to a pet trust being in your estate plan.

1. Aim for the right caregiver. You know your pet best. When you set up your pet trust, you will be able to name the right person to care for your pet. Now, your adult child may feel it would be his or her responsibility to take your pet. However, your adult child does not have the right circumstances at home to do so, perhaps because of having very young children or already having pets of his or her own. By choosing a different friend or relative you can ease the pressure on your adult child and it gives you the chance to make that choice yourself, rather than having it be decided under stressful circumstances later on.

2. Be sure to provide financial support for your pet. In most states, when you create a pet trust, you are permitted to instruct the trustee, the person in charge of handling the money in the trust, to make distributions to your pet’s caregiver on a monthly or annual basis. This can be done for either the remainder of your pet’s life or for 21 years, whichever is shorter. In some states, the cut-off is simply for the remainder of your pet’s life. This can be an important point if you have a less common type of pet, like a bird or lizard, who could live beyond 21 years after your death because their breed has a longer-than-average lifespan.

3. Comfort of your pet is important. Like many humans, your pet may have special medical needs, or personal preferences. You are allowed to put as many specific instructions as you wish into a pet trust. For example, you can state that the pet needs to see a certain veterinarian, for as long as that person is practicing, or that the pet needs to be seen two, three, or four times per year. You can also leave funds for a more expensive brand of food if your pet needs that brand. This can be important for many pet owners who want their companion to be comfortable after they are gone.

Are you interested in establishing a pet trust? Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Can You Afford a Nursing Home If Your Loved One Has Parkinson’s Disease?

Have you and your family recently learned that a loved one has received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease? Has your loved one learned that his or her ability to walk, bathe, and dress may become increasingly impaired? In addition, your loved one may face an increased risk of falls. In the future, as the Parkinson’s progresses you, your loved one and your family may be faced with the difficult decision of placing your loved one in a nursing home. With the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, the question will be how to afford the exorbitant cost of the nursing home.

As you, your loved one and your family determine how to pay for a nursing home, find out if your loved one is in possession of any type of benefits which may cover the cost of a nursing home. For example: a long-term care insurance policy, life insurance policies, which can be cashed out, or veteran’s benefits. If your loved one does have one or more of these benefits be sure to gather copies of all the supporting documents of these policies, which may include copies of insurance policies or proof of veteran’s benefits. Having this conversation now about nursing home coverage with your loved one and family can help guarantee you have the required proof of coverage should your loved one’s mental capacity decline.

An excellent next step may be to meet with a qualified Florida elder law attorney. In addition to determining the existence of benefits, you, your loved one and family can meet with an elder law attorney to find the most reliable ways of determining how to afford a nursing home when the time comes. An elder law attorney, who is experienced in the area of long-term care planning, can assist with the review of any benefits you believe may cover the cost of a nursing home. Be aware that Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term nursing home stays, but state Medicaid does. Because Medicaid eligibility is based upon your loved one’s assets, a qualified elder law attorney may assist in the drafting of planning documents, such as a trust, which may make your loved one Medicaid eligible. Medicaid planning is best conducted early in your loved one’s diagnosis because there are time limits on the transfer of assets which may affect Medicaid eligibility.

We are very aware that a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be very stressful to your loved one and family and we know there may be many other issues to navigate. By working with an estate planning and elder law attorney as soon as diagnosis is made may be the best strategy of helping to assure your loved one will be able to afford a nursing home, when the time comes. We know you and your family will want the peace of mind that your loved one will receive the care he or she deserves as the disease progresses, so that all of you can focus on sharing quality time in the present and in the future.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Understanding How to Keep Seniors Safe from Sweetheart Scams Throughout the Year

Are you a senior living in Florida? Are you aware of the tragic fact that Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals? This is because it is perceived that seniors have access to money, are less tech-savvy than younger adults, and suffer higher incidences of loneliness and social isolation. There is a type of scam called the romance scam, or “lonely heart” scam, that is rising among seniors. According to the Federal Trade Commission, romance scams stole more than $304 million from Americans in 2020. Whether you are one of the Florida seniors who are prime targets for cyber criminals or have a loved one who is a Florida senior, let us share a few key tips about how seniors can protect themselves throughout the year.

Cyber criminals meet their victims online and present themselves as interested in genuine love or companionship. Once they have made an emotional connection with the senior he or she is typically lured into buying gifts, sharing personal information that can be exploited by identity thieves, and sending money through credit cards or financial institutions. As a major precaution, a senior should discuss any new online relationship with friends, family, and caregivers and pay attention to any advice they may give.

Keep in mind that it is never a good idea to send money to a romantic interest you have not met in person. It is a major red flag if a new social media or message board love interest asks you to send money, personal information, or data to access your bank account! Do not do it, in fact, no matter how tempting it is, you should break off all communication immediately. This is just one of the ways Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals. Do not offer to accept money either, as it may be another way of gaining access to your financial accounts, or it may be an illegal money laundering trap.

As a Florida senior, you should always be extremely cautious if you spot a nice floral arrangement pop-up ad, get a thoughtful e-card from an odd acquaintance or stranger, or any other online gift. Remember to look for telltale signs of fraud before clicking on any online buttons. There are numerous fake websites and advertising scams out there that look real to the untrained eye, but are in fact fraudulent. In addition, also:

• Be wary of websites and offers that do not accept common payment providers like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal.
• If you are going to buy something, stick to reputable websites that you already know.
• Avoid online greeting cards from unknown sources as they could be infected with malware.
• Google a curious website or ad’s name + “scam” or “complaint” and see what pops up.

Never forget that Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals and be on guard at all times. If you or someone you know has been the victim of online romance scams, do not wait to contact law enforcement.

Most importantly, make sure you have picked an advocate who has the legal authority to act for you in a crisis that leaves you incapacitated. Under your Florida durable power of attorney your agent will be able to monitor your identity and accounts when you cannot to ensure that you do not fall victim to any scams. We encourage you not to wait to ask us, your Florida elder law attorney, any questions on this or any important issue facing Florida seniors today.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Do You Know the Pros and Cons of Planning for Medicaid Early in Florida?

Are you a senior living in Florida and enjoying your golden years? That is good, but are you also considering your future? Have you started planning for any long-term care needs you may have in the future? Right now would be a good time to begin to investigate how you could pay for your care if you were to need it in the future. Let us discuss more about planning for long term care in the Sunshine State.

Are you planning for Medicare coverage as an option for long-term care? Unfortunately, even though you use Medicare for your health insurance, it will not cover much in the way of long-term care, whether in a nursing home or in your own home. Although Medicare is what most senior citizens use for health insurance, it has an extremely limited nursing home benefit, covering only up to 100 days of care and only in some circumstances. It is not a reliable source of coverage if you end up needing real long-term care.

Are you wondering what other options for long-term care are available for seniors? Some seniors may rely on family members to help as they get older. There may be an adult child or another relative who can come to the senior’s home regularly or the senior may be able to move in with them. We are, however, living longer these days, and with different generations living in different parts of the country, in-person consistent help from family might not be something you can rely on. This may be particularly true if your children are raising their own children at the same time you need the most help.

If you have no other options, you might be wondering what to do next. A Florida elder law attorney is an excellent next step. Make an appointment and consult with a Florida elder law attorney who specializes in Medicaid planning to find out whether you qualify for Medicaid or how you can plan to qualify for Medicaid when the need for long-term care arises. Qualification depends on your income and assets at the time of your application for coverage. The sooner you meet with a Medicaid attorney, the better the attorney may be able to help you plan for the future. If you are able to qualify for coverage, Medicaid will cover all nursing home costs you may need in the future.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

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.

The Best Gift You Can Make This Holiday Season

Have you realized that in just a few short weeks, it will be 2022? Even with the persisting pandemic adding a layer to our plans, for most of us, we are busy finalizing our end of the year plans, purchasing last minute holiday gifts, and making plans to spend time with family. This is the perfect time to take stock of what has happened this year, as well as reflect on your goals for the coming year. For example, what went well and what could we improve on.

As we reflect on the past year and look to the future, do you have goals for yourself, your loved ones, and your legacy? We encourage you to take the time to not only think about the immediate actions that must be completed before the end of the year, but that you also think about what the future may hold for you. While you may be rushing to complete a shopping list of holiday gifts for your family, consider that completing or updating your Florida estate plan may be the best gift you can give them.

Do you have a current Florida estate plan? As a Florida senior, you may have many questions. For instance, who will make your decisions if you are not able to make them for yourself? If you are in a car accident, who will have the legal authority to pay your bills? Who could handle your business affairs if you could not? Should both your adult children be in charge of your finances? Will your retirement plans be able to support you as you age?

We hear questions like these, and more, from our clients and their family members each day. Remember that old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Based on our experience, when it comes to Florida estate planning, you need to know your plan will work when you need it to. This holiday season, a completed Florida estate plan is quite possibly the best gift you can give to your loved ones.

In addition, while Florida estate planning is a critical part of your health and well being, we want you to know that there is a second planning component that needs to be addressed and completed as well. It is your elder law planning, which includes long-term care. After they reach the age of 70, the majority of Americans will need some form of long-term care. Much of this care is not covered by Medicare and will fall on the Florida senior to pay for out of pocket. With prior planning we can assure you it does not have to be this way. We can work with you to not only create an estate plan but also a long-term care plan that can protect the estate plan you are putting in place and allow you to be able to leave a legacy for your family, no matter what the future holds.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. You are welcome to contact our law practice now, or at any time throughout the year, and schedule a meeting to make sure you have the Florida legal planning you need to accomplish your goals.

4 Tips for Reviewing Your Florida Estate Plan During National Estate Planning Awareness Week

Did you know, during the third week of October every year we focus on National Estate Planning Awareness week? How familiar are you with estate planning in Florida? Did you know estate planning involves putting legal protections in place to help secure a future you want for yourself and your loved ones? Do you have a Florida estate plan right now but need to make sure it reflects what you need?

Many of our potential clients have estate planning that is years out of date. It does not reflect their goals for their:

• Decision makers for finances and health care
• The age or marital status of their children
• Is missing key beneficiaries such as grandchildren
• Does not reflect their disability needs
• Does not represent the legacy they wish to leave

Let us share four tips on how to review your Florida estate plan with your attorney on our blog.

1. Is it from Florida? While this may seem like an unusual question to begin with, your out of state estate plan may not work in Florida. Start by reviewing your plan to make sure that it was written and executed in Florida. After you determine the state of origination, look at the dates. Is it only a few years old? Or older? Laws change over time and you may need to work with your attorney to update it to reflect the current laws.

2. Does it consider your incapacity planning? Incapacity planning allows for considerations such as having someone you have selected assist you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The most important tools for incapacity planning include a Florida durable power of attorney, health care planning tools, and living will.

3. Does it reflect your goals for your legacy? Creating a legacy is what most of our potential clients who come to our firm are looking for. While the last will and testament may be the most common legal document for estate planning, there may be more flexibility to create the legacy you want through a trust agreement. What are your goals? Have they changed since you last created your estate plan?

4. Make a list of what you want, now. Your needs met change over time. They may have changed since you last created your Florida estate plan. Go ahead and make a list of what you want, now, and the changes you anticipate you will need to make. You can bring this list to your meeting with your estate planning attorney so that she can help you update your existing Florida estate plan or create a new one to reflect what you need.

Whether you schedule an appointment with our firm during the month of October or anytime throughout the year, our law firm is here to help you. We can guide you through your Florida estate planning options and update your existing plan to ensure it reflects what you want. Please do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a meeting with our experienced Florida attorneys.

Planning for a Loved One with Special Needs in Florida During National Special Needs Planning Month

Do you have a loved one in your family who has a disability? There are many legal considerations you need to discuss with your Florida estate planning attorney if your Florida estate plan needs to include special needs planning for someone who may need more assistance to manage his or her disability. While we know that it may be easier to avoid this estate planning topic due to the potentially difficult future it forces you to face, you simply cannot wait to complete this planning. Instead, you need to be proactive and plan ahead for the long-term future of your loved one with special needs.

One of the biggest issues we see in our practice is that when someone with a disability reaches the age of majority, there are many changes that can take place that the family is often not prepared for. As an example, did you know that if the person with the disability is extremely high on the spectrum or can barely function for him- or herself, a parent no longer has the legal right to make decisions? Without the proper Florida estate planning in place, even your loved one with a significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions at the age of majority.

What should you do as a parent or grandparent of a disabled family member? Plan ahead with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney! After all, for years, you have spoken to the school, to banks, financial institutions, doctors, specialists and so many more for this individual. It does not have to stop, but you do need the legal authority to act. If your disabled family member does not have the requisite capacity to make Florida advanced directives, such as powers of attorney or health care planning documents, you may need to consider creating a guardianship or engage in the guardian advocacy process.

As a guardian of the person and property, or as the guardian advocate, you will be able to maintain the authority to make legal decisions for your special needs loved one. The process of deciding whether or not guardianship is necessary can be difficult. Before speaking with your attorney, evaluate your loved one’s medical, educational, financial, and vocational decision-making skills. In this situation, your loved one may be able to retain specific control over some aspects of his or her life, but you, as the guardian, maintain the rest.

Your attorney with specific expertise in this area can be especially helpful for guidance and decision-making. Your attorney will not only help you with the advanced directives or the guardianship but work with you to ensure that your Florida estate planning is comprehensive and up-to-date. You need to ensure your legacy will provide for your loved one with disabilities should something happen to you. Planning ahead for a future when you are no longer here is extremely important. You do not want the person with disabilities to be left to his or her own defenses, or let the court make decisions through the intestacy process in the probate court.

A special needs trust can be set up for people with disabilities to ensure that money will be available for a person with autism throughout his or her lifetime. It can be used for a special needs beneficiary while not interrupting his or her ability to receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income. We can help you both understand this process and complete the Florida estate planning you need.

You know as well as we do that people with disabilities deserve the best planning possible. The key to success with all Florida estate planning is to prepare and take action early. We encourage you to contact our office now, or anytime throughout the year, to schedule an appointment and start planning.