How Much Can You Give Away and Not Pay Taxes?

How Much Can You Give Away and Not Pay Taxes?

After staying the same for five years, the amount you can give away to any one individual in a year without reporting the gift has increased for 2018.

The annual gift tax exclusion for 2018 is $15,000. This means that any person who gives away $15,000 or less to any one individual does not have to report the gift or gifts to the IRS.

Most think that if you give away more than $15,000, that you’ll have to pay taxes. WRONG!! You will only have to report the gift to the IRS. But no tax will be due, if you haven’t given away more than allowed over your lifetime.

The IRS allows individuals to give away a total of $11.2 million and couples $22.4 million during their lifetimes before a gift tax is owed. This exclusion means that even if you must file a gift tax return (Form 709) because you gave away more than $15,000 to any one person in a particular year, you will owe taxes only if you have given away more than $11.2 million (for an individual) or $22.4 million (for a couple) in the past.

I have been doing Estate Planning and Elder Care Legal Planning since 2006. Although I have represented people with lots of money, none of them had given away tens of millions of dollars. As a result, I must conclude that the filing of a gift tax return is merely a formality for nearly everyone.

Contact our office if you have any question about the new tax law.

How to Protect Your Parents from Elder Abuse When You Live Out of State

How to Protect Your Parents from Elder Abuse When You Live Out of State

Elderly parents don’t need to live very far away to be out of reach. Living only a few hours by car or in a neighboring state might as well be living in different country. Regardless of how close or how far away they live from you, an uncomfortable aspect to consider is how to protect them from abuse.

Elder abuse is far more common than most people realize. According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, millions of seniors from all walks of life are abused every year.

Elder abuse is defined as the mistreatment or harming of an older person. It can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, as well as neglect and financial exploitation. It can take the form of bruises, welts, untreated bed sores, dehydration, poor living conditions, and even sexually transmitted diseases without any clear explanations. Emotional and behavioral signs of abuse include excessive fear and anxiety, depression, isolation and general unresponsiveness. Financial abuse can result in unpaid bills, fraudulent signatures, and sudden changes in the estate plan.

There are things you can do, even when you live out of state to protect your parents.

Building a strong support system is probably the best protection available. As the old saying goes: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If friends or family live nearby, have them check in with your elderly parent on a regular, or semi-regular basis. Keep in touch as much as you can. Establish daily communication routines so that you are better equipped to identify a crisis should it happen.

Take advantage of community resources. There’s a surprising range of services available to seniors. Establishing relationships with people who work in community facilities that offer senior activities can be a great value. Senior centers and community-focused groups are a great place to start. If you need help getting started on your research, groups like the AARP offer a place for you to identify options that may be a good fit for your parents. Further, the U.S. Administration on Aging offers a comprehensive Eldercare Locator that can help you find elder services anywhere in the country, and most of them are free.

Above all, remember that you know your parents best. If you suspect something is amiss, ask them. If you need more help, report any signs of suspected abuse immediately. Older adults often fear retaliation from their abusers and may lack the wherewithal to take appropriate actions. If you have questions on this or any Florida elder care law planning issue, do not wait to contact our office.

Your Spouse Needs a Nursing Home – Avoid this Planning Pitfall

Your Spouse Needs a Nursing Home – Avoid this Planning Pitfall

It happens a lot. One spouse goes to the nursing home and is eligible for Medicaid. So, the family doesn’t do any post-death asset protection planning. But what happens if the “well-spouse” dies first. Well, it’s a nightmare because the well-spouse’s death may make the spouse in the nursing home ineligible for Medicaid.

As a result, Medicaid Planning must consider the possibility that the well-spouse may pass away first. This is because a married couple with one spouse in the nursing home can have about $126,000 of combined countable assets, while an unmarried nursing home resident can have only $2,000 of countable assets.

And you probably can’t disinherit the ill spouse, because except in rare instances, Florida requires that a surviving spouse receive at least 30% of the deceased spouse’s assets. And if the ill spouse refuses the inheritance, they will likely be disqualified from receiving Medicaid for a period.

To avoid this trap and ensure that the widowed nursing home resident has substantially more than $2,000.00 without disqualifying them from Medicaid, thoughtful estate or government benefits planning must occur; the well-spouse needs a plan that leaves at least 30% of her/his assets to a “Special Needs Trust.” This strategy works because assets owned by a properly drafted Special Needs Trust cannot be counted against the surviving spouse’s Medicaid Eligibility.

When anyone with significantly declining health or age 70+ is considering their post-death planning, they should talk to an estate planning attorney who has experience with long-term care asset protection strategies. If you have any questions or want to start planning for your future contact our office today.

Is Your Will/Trust Done, or Done RIGHT?

Is Your Will/Trust Done, or Done RIGHT?

Most people think that filling in blanks on a Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, etc. is all that’s necessary. Although those documents are “done,” I often find that they’re not done “RIGHT.”

Common wisdom is that a Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Power of Attorney are boilerplate documents, and if you use death beneficiaries, there won’t be probate. And while that is sometimes true, there is so much more to consider.

It’s important to decide what risks you wish to avoid after your spouse and/or children receive their inheritance.

Unfortunately, most estate planning and elder law attorneys don’t help you with that, which results in high costs, delay, and plans gone astray after you pass.

For example, if your spouse remarries (and we all know that happens often), the new spouse is usually entitled to 30% of everything your spouse owned at the time s/he passed, even if the Will says otherwise.

If a child divorces after you pass, s/he could lose all or some of their inheritance. If a child runs into financial trouble after you pass, s/he could lose their entire inheritance.
Your child’s former spouse could be in control of your minor grandchild’s inheritance if your child passes away before spending his or her inheritance.

These are only a few of the risks you take when you just get your documents “done.” If you want to ensure that your planning is DONE RIGHT, then you should see an estate planning or elder law attorney that helps you understand the risks and decide what risks you want to take – and which you don’t. Don’t hesitate to contact us! We are here to help you and your family plan for the future.

5 Ways to Help Protect Your Loved Ones from Elder Abuse

5 Ways to Help Protect Your Loved Ones from Elder Abuse

On June 15, citizens worldwide will commemorate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to help bring awareness to the millions of older adults subject to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation each year. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 2.1 million older Americans are mistreated annually, and that’s just the beginning. For every case of elder abuse reported, as many as five more remain unreported.


How do we protect our Florida loved ones from becoming the next unsuspecting victim of elder abuse? We want to share with you some simple steps that you can take to help protect your loved ones from harm.


1. Be proactive. Even if your loved one is in good health, being prepared in the event of an emergency will provide you both with some comfort. Encourage your loved one to establish an agent through his or her Durable Power of Attorney, designate a health care surrogate, and create a living will or a trust before an emergency occurs or his or her mental capacity diminishes. Work with your loved one and his or her attorney now to plan for any long-term care decisions that may need to be made in the future. These crucial legal decisions can help protect your loved one’s assets and simplify any future legal needs.


2. Stay informed.  Make a point to visit your loved one often. By keeping in regular contact, you will recognize changes in behavior and have an opportunity to step in and take over affairs if necessary. Be involved, ask direct questions, and pay attention. Asking simple questions – for example, did you make this transaction? Or how did you get that bruise? – may reveal underlying issues and provide your loved one with a reliable outlet to express his or her concerns.


3. Know the signs. Elder care abuse typically begins with isolation. It’s crucial to have access to your loved one at any time of day or night. Not being allowed to meet with your loved one alone, unexplained signs of injury, or your loved one being taken to multiple medical facilities for treatment may signal that abuse is occurring. Keep in mind that abuse is not always physical. Neglect, emotional abuse, and financial exploitation are all forms of elder care abuse.


4. Check-in regularly, even from afar. If you live in a different state from your aging parent, you may not be immediately available to address any sudden changes in his or her health or daily needs. Many long-distance caregivers seek help from geriatric case managers and elder care law attorneys to oversee the day-to-day financial, medical, and long-term care concerns of their loved ones. Establishing a local support system is crucial. In addition to your elder care attorney,  recruit the help of local neighbors, family, and friends to check in on your loved one every day or two. If the time comes that a caring neighbor isn’t enough, you may wish to consider long-term care options to ensure your loved one is receiving more assistance than can reasonably be provided at home and we can guide you through this process.


5. Know when to take further action. Remember, at all times we are a resource for you. Further, if you suspect your loved one is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911 or report the suspected abuse. If you don’t believe the danger is immediate but suspect abuse is occurring, voice your concerns to adult protective services, the state ombudsman, or involve the local police department. When it comes to protecting your loved one, no measure is too extreme.


Does this article raise more questions than it answers for you? We know how to plan for the elder care law needs of you and your Florida loved ones. Do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a meeting about your planning needs.