Category: Uncategorized

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.


How to Help Seniors Prepare for a Hurricane During a Pandemic

For the next few months, Americans living on both coasts and in states along the Gulf of Mexico potentially face a common threat. That threat is facing a hurricane. On top of that, COVID-19 remains a public health threat in the United States. With all of this, how do you help seniors prepare for a hurricane during a pandemic? Let us take a look at how you can do just that.

A good place to start can be discussing potential hurricane risks so that older adults understand what they may come up against. Although they pose significant threats to coastal communities, hurricanes are powerful storms that often cause damage well inland, too. Make sure seniors are aware of potential dangers such as flash floods, high winds, and storm surge. By talking to older adults about these storm hazards, you can help them make informed decisions about evacuating, sheltering in place and so forth.

Additionally, be clear that staying informed can be very important during hurricane season. Most seniors have access to televisions and radios. It can also be important that they have other tools to help keep them informed about potential storm impacts.

 Encourage them to get a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA Weather Radio, and set it to their local or regional emergency channel. You can also download the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA app for them. This app provides weather advisories from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations throughout the United States.

 Check to see that seniors have access to the latest official guidance regarding COVID-19 and its impacts on hurricane evacuations in their community.

It may also be helpful to assist seniors in establishing an emergency plan and gathering supplies. Ask if an emergency plan is in place. If it is, ask if you can review it to see if it addresses all of their needs if they have to evacuate or shelter in place. If not, help them make a plan that addresses:

  • Communication with family and friends
  • Treatment of chronic health conditions
  • Pets and/or service animals

Help make sure they also have the supplies  they need to shelter in place or evacuate quickly. The American Red Cross suggests keeping these supplies in a “stay at home kit,” and a “go-kit.” A “stay at home kit” usually includes two weeks worth of emergency supplies such as: 

  •  Food
  • Water
  • Cleaning products
  •  Personal necessities
  •  Pet food

A “go kit” usually includes enough supplies to last at least three days away from home. These are:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Personal necessities
  • Masks/face coverings for adults
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes 
  • Pet food and supplies
  • A one-month supply of prescription and over the counter medication

Our office works with seniors and their families in hurricane-prone areas and we understand the importance of proper preparation. If you have questions or concerns about hurricane readiness during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can help you connect with community resources. We are also happy to discuss any legal implications associated with hurricane preparation and recovery. Please contact us to arrange an appointment with our elder law attorney, today.

What to Expect After a Positive Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

A positive Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis is a life-changing event, but you and your loved ones are not alone. Every June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and advocates across the health care, legal and nonprofit communities gather to raise awareness about the disease and provide access to resources for those in need. Here we discuss some of what you can expect after receiving a positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

There can be uncertainty and many emotions. Assuming symptoms like memory loss and abnormal confusion led you or a loved one to get tested, it is important to know that a rollercoaster of emotions may soon follow. Fear, anger, denial, despair, and hope are all common feelings, and understandably so. If they persist for a prolonged period, however, then consider seeking help from a health professional.

It can be overwhelming and often stressful. Taking care of yourself or supporting an afflicted family member can be critical to coping with the diagnosis. Consider taking care of yourself by:

  • Eating healthy and engage in light exercise
  • Sharing your feelings with close family and friends
  • Surrounding yourself with kind, supportive people
  • Joining an early-stage Alzheimer’s support group 

You can benefit greatly from seeking out support and resources. Alzheimer’s Disease can leave people feeling lonely, fearful, and disconnected. Sometimes people feel embarrassed or like they have something to hide. You do not need to. Consider reaching out to trusted companions or groups like the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association. It is a leading participant in the June Alzheimer’s public awareness campaign and it has a 24/7 Helpline (1-800-272-3900) for information, referrals, and care consultations, as well as a local Alzheimer’s Association tool to find programs and services in your area. There is also an Alzheimer’s Navigator tool that gives customized guidance on topics like health care, transportation, and home safety.

Gathering information and being proactive about the positive diagnosis is often necessary to get the care needed. A positive diagnosis is based on a physician’s best judgement of the cause of a patient’s symptoms. Make sure to ask your evaluating physician why the diagnosis was Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, how far along is the disease in terms of its progression and what should you expect in the future? Ask about treatment options and which symptoms you should be most concerned about.

Receiving a positive Alzheimer’s Diagnosis can feel like your life is turning upside down. You do not and should not go through this alone. If you or someone you know would like more information or guidance on related legal matters, our team of dedicated elder law attorneys is here for you. Please consider contacting our office to schedule a meeting.

Tips to Consider During Women’s Health Week

It does not matter whether you are a young professional, a student, or a working mother. Twenty-first century life for American women is often a delicate balancing act. Further, it is nearly impossible to find a healthy balance if you are constantly putting everyone else first or, let’s face it, during a time of a global pandemic. These are just a few of the reasons why National Women’s Health Week is so important.

This year, National Women’s Health Week is celebrated May 10-16. During this time, women are reminded to look after themselves. Here are some tips we want you to consider this month, and throughout the year.

1. Make your health a priority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends that women take charge of their health by doing the following: 

  • Seeing the doctor regularly for routine checkups and screenings.
  • Getting plenty of exercise including aerobic and strength boosting activities.
  • Eating a healthy diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoiding foods that have too much sugar or salt.
  • Refraining from smoking or drinking too much.
  • Getting enough rest, at least seven hours per night for adults.
  • Finding constructive and effective ways to cope with stress.

Of course, the first step toward improvement is choosing to start. Experts acknowledge that taking the first step towards a healthier lifestyle is often the hardest part of the process. This is especially true if you already feel as though you are constantly juggling a million things at once. For many of the women we work with in our practice this holds especially true as they are the primary caregivers for young children and aging parents, in addition to working.

Instead of feeling pressured to try the latest exercise craze or fad diet, professionals say the best approach is to do what is most effective for you. They also say that identifying what that is may take some reflection on your part. Specifically, they suggest that you think about: 

  • Your goals
  • What motivates you
  • What is holding you back

In all honesty, prioritizing your health is now more important than ever. By now, everyone knows that social distancing and self-isolation are two of the most important steps we can take to slow the spread of COVID-19. Besides taking steps to protect others, the Office on Women’s Health also urges women and girls to take steps to protect themselves at this time. This is especially important for those who are most susceptible to the virus. 

Finally, health providers agree that emotional wellbeing is a key to safeguarding your physical health. In addition, finding healthy ways to cope with stress is an important part of the equation. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and we want to help you. If you have any legal concerns that are causing you stress at this time, please know that we are here to help. You may reach us by email or phone and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

When Should I Come Back to Re-Evaluate My Florida Estate Plan?

The only thing worse than not having a Florida estate plan is having a plan that’s no longer current. For this reason, it’s recommended that you re-evaluate an existing plan every few years, or more frequently if you’re an aging adult. An even better way to ensure your plan is consistent with your life circumstances, however, is to re-evaluate it after a significant life change or external events, such as a new tax law.

Remember, estate planning has many benefits and you most certainly don’t have to be rich to enjoy them. In fact, estate planning involves much more than just divvying up assets to family members after you pass away. Although wills and trusts are common features, estate planning also includes:

  • Power of attorney documents
  • Guardianship designations for minor children
  • Instructions for special needs family members who rely on government benefits
  • Directions relating to business ownership or equity stakes
  • Advance health care directives or living wills
  • Letters of intent

Significant life events require various aspects of a plan to be re-evaluated, and the closer to the event the better. For example, beneficiaries often pass away prior to the drafter of a will or trust. In some instances, the beneficiary may even be the drafter’s spouse. Not only would will or trust documents need to be re-evaluated, but so would any other estate document that includes the deceased spouse. Conversely, a marriage or birth of a child in the family would require estate revisions to include the new family members, if desired, as well as provide for potential contingencies, like divorce. 

Remember that changes to state and federal laws can impact you as well. For example, a new tax law, like the SECURE Act of 2019, further demands a re-evaluation, especially if a 401k or IRA is part of your estate. Other significant reasons to consider re-evaluating an estate plan can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A devastating health diagnosis
  • Catastrophic injury
  • A large increase or decrease in the estate value
  • Moving to a state with different tax laws
  • Children or grandchildren who reach age 18
  • Dramatic market changes

Finally, you can re-evaluate an estate plan simply because you changed your mind since the last time it was updated. Goals and investment strategies may change, or perhaps a close relationship evolved for better or worse. Maybe you want to designate a new trustee or personal representative to your estate plan. 

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that a good estate plan should always reflect the wishes of the person making it. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. If you or someone you know would like more information about re-evaluating an estate plan, do not wait to contact our law practice. We look forward to discussing your planning needs with you now, or in the future.

Did You Know Legal Forms from an Office Store May Fail?

Do you need a legal form such as a Florida durable power of attorney, or a last will and testament? If so, finding one is simple. All you need to do is visit your local office supply store. If you have a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection, you can purchase these forms on the office store’s website. You should be aware, however, that either approach carries definite risks. This is due to the likelihood the “document” will fail, leaving you or your family to cope with unintended consequences.


We frequently receive questions from our clients, friends, and advisors we work with as to why the simple option cannot work. Let us share some critical information that you need before making the choice to use forms instead of an estate planning and elder law attorney.


First, the legal forms found at office stores are usually generic versions of documents that attorneys use in practice areas ranging from business law to contract, real estate, family, and estate law. For the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on the latter. In addition to those we have already mentioned, common types of forms are: 


  • Living trust agreement 
  • Living will 
  • Power of attorney for healthcare 
  • Revocation of living trust 


Of course the cost will vary depending on what you need, but you can generally expect to spend less than fifty dollars.


This may lead you to a second question such as: are these forms valid? The short answer to this question is, “technically, yes.” This is because legal forms available at office supply stores can serve as frameworks that can be supplemented with your personal information. There is significant danger, however, with basic, “boilerplate” forms. As such, they do not allow for any degree of flexibility and do not take your needs into consideration. 


Take a Florida durable power of attorney form from an office supply store as a case in point.  Unlike the formal version used by an attorney, the store-bought variety does not allow you to include contingencies for unanticipated circumstances. Hypothetically, this could preclude you from naming someone else to act on your behalf if something happened to your original agent. Further, this document, in almost all circumstances, does not include the critical superpowers you need in Florida. Unfortunately, since it does not accommodate specific language, this type of power of attorney form could cause you to make costly mistakes. These include giving your agent too much authority, or failing to give him or her enough power to act on your behalf.


To put it plainly, taking shortcuts when it comes to your future and your legal rights is never a good idea. Why not let us help you create a plan that will serve you best in the short term and the long run? Do not wait to contact our office to plan forward for what you need both now and in the future. 

7 Considerations When Protecting Your Child’s or Grandchild’s Inheritance Through A Spendthrift Trust

Did you know a spendthrift trust is a trust that can be created for the benefit of a person who is often unable to control his or her spending? A spendthrift trust can give an independent trustee full authority to make decisions as to how the trust funds may be spent for the benefit of the beneficiary who is normally a child or a grandchild. Creditors of the beneficiary generally cannot reach the funds in the trust, and the funds are not actually under the control of the beneficiary. This is because the trust normally becomes irrevocable upon the death of the person creating the trust.

This is a critical planning tool to discuss with your estate planning attorney so that you can ensure it can operate the way you want it to. For example, the trust provisions may provide for a monthly stipend to pay for the child or grandchild’s monthly necessities. It could also be designed to pay for occasional distributions by the trustee to the spendthrift beneficiary’s college education, vocational training, or to buy the spendthrift beneficiary a home. This residence, however, will remain owned by the trustee and is merely available for the spendthrift beneficiary’s use if he or she needs a residence.

In choosing the best type of spendthrift trust, you, as the creator, may need to consider many different factors that could affect the trustee’s authorized distributions for the child or grandchild. As you discuss these factors with your attorney, consider these seven discussion points:  

  1. The child or grandchild’s chronic health and medical needs.
  2. The child or grandchild’s age 
  3. The intended duration of the trust
  4. The marital status of the child or grandchild’s parents or legal guardian
  5. The other financial resources available to the child or grandchild
  6. The assets that will fund the trust, income producing or growth oriented
  7. Any substance abuse issues experienced by the child or grandchild
  8. Whether the child may qualify for governmental benefits such as Medicaid for children

Trustees of irrevocable trusts typically have certain duties to inform and report to beneficiaries without being prompted to do so by a beneficiary.  The trustee’s duty to inform and account includes, but is not limited to, giving the beneficiary a copy of the trust instrument and an annual accounting of the trust assets’ performance.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do not wait to schedule a meeting in our firm to discuss them. We look forward to planning with you to protect those you love.

Tips You Need When It Comes to Ancillary Probate

When creating an estate plan, a common goal for many people is to avoid probate proceedings. Probate is the legal process through which the assets of a deceased person are distributed to heirs and beneficiaries. Did you know, however, that there is an additional type of probate proceeding called ancillary probate?

Ancillary probate can be required if you own real property or other assets that are attached in another state. To help you learn more about this important estate planning topic, let us share with you a few tips you need when it comes to ancillary probate.

First, it is important to be careful when appointing a future beneficiary as a joint owner or payable on death recipient of any property you own outside of Florida. Before committing to this important choice, take some time to consider whether what will happen if you need to be the sole owner of the property. Further, evaluate whether this lifetime gift will exclude you from public benefits such as Medicaid and what will happen if you change your mind after making this appointment. Discussing the implications of this decision with an experienced, local estate planning attorney may provide you with some peace of mind.

Second, did you know that a last will and testament will likely not cover any property you own outside of Florida? Unfortunately, this is true, and a factor that is commonly overlooked when people create their estate plans. A last will and testament only protects your in-state property, so be sure to account for this in your estate plan to ensure all of your property remains protected.

Above all, ancillary probate is not a “one size fits all” proceeding. We encourage you to discuss your specific circumstances with an experienced estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws of your state. There are no uniform rules concerning ancillary probate, as different states have different laws. Importantly, do not wait to notify your estate planning attorney if you acquire any property outside of Florida or if you are planning a move in the near future.

These are just a few tips about ancillary probate. We know that this topic may raise more questions than it answers, as it is a particularly complex topic that can be challenging to understand. We encourage you and your loved ones not to wait to find the answers you need. We look forward to supporting you and your loved ones with your estate planning needs.

How a last will and testament can help you communicate your final wishes

The time to plan for what you want to happen after your death is now. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows you to communicate your final wishes to loved ones and outlines your directions for distribution of your property and possessions to individuals and charities, known as beneficiaries.

“A person writes a will while they are alive, and its instructions are carried out once the individual passes away. The will names a still-living person as the executor of the estate. The probate court usually supervises the executor to ensure that wishes specified in the will are carried out.” says Anne Desormier-Cartwright of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA.

A last will and testament is not only a financial document. It also provides your directions for the care of your children and assigns guardianship, according to your wishes.

Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to handle all of your estate and planning needs.