One of the most costly mistakes people can make, especially as they get older, is not having a comprehensive estate plan. For those who do have one, failing to regularly update it can be just as costly. Without a legally sound plan, there is no guarantee that your wishes will be honored and your property will go to the people you love or the organizations you support.
There is no better time to address this issue than at the start of a new year. Significant life changes or new tax laws, for example, may have occurred in the preceding calendar year or since your last update. Addressing your estate plan at the beginning of a new year offers the chance to get a jump start on the year to come.
One of the most common reasons to update an existing plan is marriage. Did you, your children or another family member named in your estate planning documents get married since your plan was created or last updated? An estate planning attorney could help you determine how that might affect your will, trust, beneficiary designations, insurance policies or other important estate documents.
Marriage changes family structure, and estate documents need to reflect those changes. For instance, if you were recently married, designating your spouse as a beneficiary to your property, or perhaps naming him or her as a personal representative to your will, would be something to handle right away. In the case of a living will, your new spouse should be made aware in writing of your health care wishes in the event you become terminally ill. A power of attorney document also could be crafted to give your spouse the ability to make decisions on your behalf relating to financial, legal and health care matters.
Estate planning is just the first part of the equation. You and your new spouse need to discuss your long-term care future. What you may not know is that when it comes to being able to afford the high cost of long-term care, you need to give your new spouse the ability to plan and work with an elder care attorney in the event of a crisis.
If the marriage is not your first, an additional set of considerations may apply. A review of previous estate documents would be required to understand how any prior arrangements would impact your plans moving forward. For instance, if you were contractually obligated through a previous divorce to keep your ex-spouse as beneficiary to a retirement account, you may not be able to update the beneficiary designation to your current spouse. Doing so could inadvertently cause a series of avoidable problems.
In any case, consulting with your estate planning attorney can provide the most efficient path to creating an overall estate plan that confidently meets your needs. We encourage you to ask us your questions. Do not wait to schedule a meeting to create the right estate plan for you now and in the new year.
While many of us consider November and Thanksgiving the season of giving back, did you know that November is also National Family Caregivers Month? This is a great time to show your appreciation and gratitude to the caregiver in your life. Whether your caregiver is a hired professional that is considered part of the family or an unpaid family member who sacrifices his or her time to care for your loved one, being a caregiver is one of the most selfless roles there is.
Caregiving is a full-time profession that goes further than a typical nine-to-five job. Being a caregiver is a 24-hour, 7 days a week commitment that follows the caregiver home each day. Many caregivers share that because of the intense nature of the position, they frequently neglect to take care of their own health and well-being. This is why we want to share with you four ways to say thank you to the caregiver in your life this National Family Caregivers Month and into the remainder of the holiday season.
- Educate yourself about caregiver health.
Caregivers spend so much time taking care of your loved one, they sometimes neglect to take care of themselves. Becoming familiar with signs that your caregiver is overwhelmed and may be in need of some time off is one way that you can show your appreciation for your caregiver.
- Encourage respite breaks.
Respite care is an effective way of allowing the caregiver in your life to take a well-earned break. These programs provide a place where your senior loved one can go and interact with other seniors in a supervised facility, so you know they are still being watched over and their needs taken care of.
- Propose counseling or support groups.
Sometimes, the best gift is just having somebody to talk to. Your loved one’s caregiver may not feel like they can openly discuss their frustrations or feelings with you. Encouraging him or her to attend one-on-one counseling or a caregiver support group can provide an outlet for the caregiver to discuss their feelings and receive advice from people who can relate.
- Purchase a small gift.
You do not need to spend a lot of money to give your caregiver a meaningful gift. Purchasing a gift card to his or her favorite coffee shop for an afternoon pick-me-up, or offering to take the caregiver out to lunch can help put a smile on his or her face.
Above all, remember to say thank you to the caregiver in your life. A simple thank you can be especially meaningful and shows the caregiver that you recognize and appreciate the work he or she is performing. Do not hesitate to contact our office if you would like some more ideas on how to say show your appreciation to your caregiver this holiday season.
‘Tis Better to Give than Receive, but … It’s the giving season. Whichever holiday you celebrate, most enjoy showing their affection by giving gifts to loved ones. For larger families, these gifts can amount to a lot of money each year.
And that’s wonderful, but if you might need to apply for Medicaid long-term care benefits, you need to be careful. Giving away money or property can jeopardize your eligibility. Here’s why you need to speak with an experienced elder care/elder law attorney about gifting.
If you give assets away to someone other than your spouse within five years before applying for long-term Medicaid, you might be ineligible for benefits. Medicaid pays for some or all your care at home, in an Assisted Living Community, or in a Nursing Home.
The length of time you’ll be ineligible depends upon how much you give away. Even small gifts affect eligibility. The 2017 IRS rules allow gifts up to $14,000 a year, but Medicaid rules allow the government to deny benefits anyway.
And there is no exception for gifts to charities. So, gifts for holidays, weddings, birthdays, and graduations could all cause ineligibility. If you buy something for a friend or relative, this could also result in a denial.
If you face this problem, you can overcome it, but you’ll need help. To overcome a denial, you’ll have to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the purpose of the gift had nothing to do with becoming eligible for Medicaid. “Clear and Convincing” is almost the same as “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
So, before giving away assets or property, check with your elder law attorney to ensure that it won’t affect your Medicaid eligibility. Contact us today with any questions you may have.
We know that Florida seniors often find themselves in a difficult situation. As their health care and living expenses increase, their ability to work and generate income decreases. It is an unsettling scenario, but one that the Veterans Administration may be able to help with for those eligible for VA pensions.
A VA pension is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to low-income wartime vets who are either age 65 or older, disabled, living in nursing homes, receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. An additional, and under-used, type of pension benefit that all impacted veterans should be aware of is called Aid and Attendance. This is available for veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans whose unreimbursed medical expenses exceed their monthly income. The purpose is to provide financial assistance for those who need help performing activities of daily living.
If you are not sure if you or your loved one qualifies, consider contacting an accredited VA attorney to help determine your eligibility or for information about how to access the VA Pension with the Aid and Attendance benefit. Remember, veterans whose income is above the limit for a VA pension also may qualify if they have large medical expenses that are not reimbursable. Your VA accredited attorney can discuss with you options to become eligible or how to find the long-term care support you need.
Aid and Attendance support is available for vets who served at least 90 days, with at least one day during wartime. It is not reserved for those with service-related disabilities. Veterans, and their surviving spouses, are eligible if they meet the above criteria and if they need aid from another person to help them perform basic living activities, such as:
- Assistance with personal care needs, like bathing, dressing and using the bathroom.
- Living in a nursing home.
- Are mentally or physically incapacitated.
- If they are bedridden.
- Suffer from extremely poor eyesight.
A second long-term care benefit tied to the VA Pension program is known as the Housebound Allowance. This underused pension feature offers an additional monthly monetary benefit for veterans who are significantly restricted to their homes because of a permanent disability. Eligibility rules may require a written statement from a doctor describing a qualifying vet’s needs and limitations and you will want to discuss this with your VA accredited attorney as well.
Finally, Aid and Attendance and Housebound Allowance benefits are paid on top of monthly pension payments. This means that they increase the overall pension amount, making people who are not normally eligible for a basic VA pension due to excessive income potentially eligible for these long-term care items.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers for you. We encourage you to ask us your questions this Veterans Day or, at any time, schedule a consultation with attorney Scott Selis to get the elder care support you need.
Original Medicare coverage, also known as Medicare Parts A and B, is reserved for what’s considered “medically necessary” health care. In other words, care that’s required to diagnose or treat an illness or condition. What this means is that, unfortunately, dental and vision care does not fall into Medicare’s medically necessary framework.
So are seniors just out of luck? Not at all!
There are two main ways to obtain important dental and vision coverage. One is through Medicare Advantage, or Part C. Another is through supplemental coverage.
Medicare Advantage is an alternative to Original Medicare, with approved coverage plans being administered through private insurance companies. While these plans must offer the same basic hospital and medical services coverage as Parts A and B, they can also offer more options on top, such as prescription drug coverage, and dental and vision benefits.
Keep in mind that Advantage plans’ costs and coverage features may depend on where you live and what plan you choose. They may also require a monthly premium.
Medicare supplemental insurance, sometimes called Medigap, is another avenue to secure dental and vision coverage. It helps pay for items Original Medicare does not cover. This can include deductibles, copays and coinsurance for doctors’ visits, hospital stays, and other medical services. It is also issued by private insurance companies.
While Medigap itself may not provide dental and vision coverage, certain insurers can offer their Medicare supplemental insurance customers additional options for dental and vision care, or discount programs to help save money on dental and vision costs. Supplemental insurance plans can also depend on where you live, although unlike Medicare Advantage, coverage is standardized by the federal government.
One of the best ways to explore supplemental insurance offerings in your area is to log on to Medicare “Medigap Policy Search” webpage and type in your zip code. The site provides plan details from insurance companies.
The online Medicare “Plan Finder” tool is also a great way to search for the right Medicare supplemental insurance plan. It also offers search assistance for Medicare Advantage plans.
For most people, and especially for senior citizens, dental and vision coverage is just too important not to have. Exploring Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement insurance options can help you get the services you want and need. Do you not wait to find the answers you need during this Medicare Open Enrollment Period, which will end on December 7th of this year.
We know that this article may raise more questions than it answers for you. Do not wait to contact our office and schedule meeting with Attorney Scott Selis.