Tips on How Seniors Can Prepare for Hurricane Flooding

Tips on How Seniors Can Prepare for Hurricane Flooding

Hurricanes are massive storms with winds that can reach upwards of 150 miles per hour, spawn tornadoes, create storm surges along coastal areas, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

Perhaps the deadliest hurricane complication is flooding. Floods can affect anyone, anywhere and at any time. They can also happen quickly and be all-encompassing that there is literally no place to run. Flooding, for example, caused incalculable losses to property and human lives during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. 

If you are a senior or having an aging parent living in Florida, safety during storm season should be a top priority. Bear in mind, flooding concerns are not limited only to Florida seniors living at home. Even for seniors who are now living in long-term care facilities or independent living, understanding the crisis plan for storm season is critical. You do not want to wait for a storm to determine how to make your home safe or to know how a facility will operate in a crisis.

Click here to download our resource guide in this important topic and continue reading for tips for seniors after a hurricane passes.

We want you to develop your own plan to ensure you or your senior loved ones are safe. Let us share a few key tips to help you, and especially your aging parents living in Florida, to be prepared for hurricane-related weather conditions. 

Ways to Prepare Before a Potential Flood

  • Make copies of all important personal and legal documents. Put the originals in a safe place away from the home – like a safe deposit box – and the copies in the home within a waterproof container. Talk to the attorney you work with about the documents you should take with you should evacuation be necessary.
  • Take photos of valuable possessions – like jewelry, art and furniture – and compile receipts. Place the photos and receipts with other important documents. Putting these photos on a USB thumb drive would take up the least amount of space but be sure to take it during evacuation.
  • Review the flood insurance policy and make sure you understand it. Call the insurance agent to verify you are sufficiently covered.
  • Take inventory of the medication supply. Do you or your aging parents have enough to get through a storm if roads are impassable to get to a pharmacy? Talk to your doctor to ensure you have what you need.
  • Where will you or your aging parents evacuate to or be evacuated to? Learn this early. You do not want to be evacuated to a shelter that will not be able to provide for necessary health care.

What to Know While Flooding is Occurring

  • Store a radio with extra batteries in order to receive weather and safety updates in case electrical power is out.
  • Keep away from power lines and electrical wiring. Electrocution is one of the main causes of death during flooding.
  • Do not drive through a flooded area. Water is incredibly powerful. Only two feet of moving flood water can sweep away an average car. Surprisingly, more people drown in their cars than anywhere else during flooding.
  • Do not walk through flooded areas. It can take as little as six-inches of water to knock someone down.
  • Commit to communicate with family and loved ones as much as possible during this time.

After the Flood is Over

  • Remember, just because the water is gone, doesn’t mean that danger has passed.
  • If evacuated, do not return to your home until local authorities have declared it is safe to do so.
  • Determine if structural damage has occurred before entering your home. A partial collapse could be fatal.
  • Wear gloves, protective clothing, eye protection and boots to clean and disinfect your home.
  • Check for local announcements about the water supply. Do not assume it is safe to drink.

These are just a few of the tips we have to keep you or your aging parents safe during storm season. We know this article may have raised more questions than it answered. Do not wait to ask us.  Let us help you ensure you have the Florida planning you need to stay safe during storm season and well into the future.

Medicare, Medicaid and Long-Term Care– What Will They Pay?

Medicare, Medicaid and Long-Term Care– What Will They Pay?

They sound alike, but they aren’t. Medicaid and Medicare are quite different programs. Everyone who is age 65 and over (some younger) that receives Social Security benefits also receives Medicare.

Medicaid, on the other hand, is a program that helps pay for long-term care for individuals with limited income and assets. To be eligible for Medicaid, you must meet the program’s income and asset guidelines.

Also, unlike Medicare, which is federal, Medicaid is a joint state-federal program. Each state operates its own Medicaid system, but this system must conform to federal guidelines

The biggest difference between Medicare and Medicaid is that Medicaid covers the cost of a nursing home (and some homecare or assisted living), while Medicare, for the most part, does not. Medicare fully covers 20 days of rehabilitative care in a “skilled nursing” facility that follows a stay of three or more days in a hospital. But for days 21 through 100, you will have a co-payment of $167.50, unless you have a supplemental policy. And if you stop making “progress,” Medicare will stop paying.

When it comes to long-term care, Medicaid has become the long-term care insurance of the middle class. Lacking access to alternatives such as paying privately or being covered by a long-term care insurance policy, most people pay out of their own pockets for long-term care until they become eligible for Medicaid. But that could have been avoided had they planned.

The best results happen when someone plans at least 5 years before they need Medicaid. But even those that plan at the last-minute benefit significantly. Contact our office to schedule an appointment if you want to start planning for your future.

Ways You Can Prepare for Alzheimer’s Disease

Ways You Can Prepare for Alzheimer’s Disease

There is a lot more to Alzheimer’s Disease than just forgetfulness. It’s actually the sixth leading cause of death in the United States annually, with more than 5 million people currently living with the disease.

Nearly every American family has been touched.

While there is currently no cure, there is much you can do to be prepared should you or someone you love be affected.

The first step is awareness. This is where the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes into play. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain activities are thought to contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, such as lack of exercise, high blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes, poor diet and lack of social engagement. These are things you can proactively address, or not do as the case may be, to help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other risk factors, are largely out of your control. Understanding them, however, can help you be prepared for the future. In fact, the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increasing age. The vast majority of people with the disease are age sixty-five or older. One in nine seniors in their sixties and seventies have Alzheimer’s, and nearly one-third of all people age 85 or older have the disease.

Family history and genetics are other major contributors. Those who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are much more likely to develop it themselves. New research suggests a strong link between serious head injuries and the future risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, especially when head trauma occurs repeatedly over time. Buckling your seatbelt, wearing a helmet when engaged in sports, and fall-proofing your home, or the home of a loved one, are simple preventative measures.

Should you or someone you know be diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s, an important area to get acquainted with is medical treatments. There are both drug and non-drug treatments available to help with cognitive and behavioral symptoms of the disease. Knowing your options ahead of time can prepare you to make choices that can alter the course of the disease and improve quality of life.

What is most important, however, is to plan as soon as possible. This includes not only your Florida estate planning but your long-term care planning. You need to be thinking about the future for yourself and your loved ones well before any illnesses should occur and how you will be able to afford future care needs. While we do help families at all stages of their lives and diagnoses, the sooner we plan the more options can be available. Does this blog raise more questions than it answers? Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our office to discuss what you need right now.

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.