How Do We Protect Seniors During National Elder Law Month?

How Do We Protect Seniors During National Elder Law Month?

Each month, many of us worry how to best ensure that our older parents who live alone in Florida are safe. This starts with making sure that our senior loved one has the Florida estate and long-term care planning he or she needs to protect him or herself now, and well into the future.

 

While for many of us it is enough to have basic estate planning in place, this is not the case for Older Americans living in Florida. “Older Americans” are the generation of individuals who are over 60 years of age. These seniors especially need to prepare for a time when they may need long-term care assistance outside the home.The cost of long-term care continues to rise and Florida seniors are at risk of losing all of their assets if they do not plan ahead for long-term care.

 

The rising cost of long-term care is just one type of protection that Florida seniors need. Today, the scams that target Older Americans continue to be on the rise. Each month, there are new scams that emerge that specifically target elders. Let us help you protect yourself and the seniors you love by sharing several of the most common scams with you.

 

1. Medicare scams. No matter what month of the year it is, Medicare scammers continue to target Older Americans. These scammers have a variety of ways to interact with their intended senior victims. Discussions of copayments, coverage, and medication, are just the beginning. They reach out to seniors in numerous ways including through the mail and phone scams. As a senior, be wary of any call or piece of mail you receive claiming to be from Medicare.

 

2. Hurricane insurance companies. Insurance scams are especially on the rise in Florida. In the wake of recent hurricanes, seniors not only need to watch out for false construction repair companies but also for companies trying to sell them fraudulent insurance policies. Although hurricane insurance can have a significant value for you and your senior loved ones, before providing any financial information to a policy that you believe would help you, do your research. Investigate to make sure that the company is a real company and is not attempting to scam you.

 

3. Jury Duty Scams. Recently, more and more jury duty scams are on the rise. This type of scam focuses on telling seniors that they have to call in and report for mandatory jury duty. This phone number, may try to extort money from the senior or obtain access to private information. This scam may also track the senior’s phone number and collect any data that he or she may give. Be extremely suspicious of any piece of mail that you receive and call your local courthouse before responding or taking any action.

 

Do not wait to take action to protect your aging parents from threats like these listed in this article. Seniors need more protection. Do not wait to contact us and let our form protect you and the Older Americans you love most.

Do You Know How to Preserve Public Benefits for a Loved One with Autism?

Do You Know How to Preserve Public Benefits for a Loved One with Autism?

Ensuring your loved one with autism’s elder care needs are provided for in the event you are no longer here, is a critical planning step. You need to create the special needs planning that will ensure he or she is not only protected but will not lose access to vitally important government benefits. For programs such as Florida Medicaid, there are strict income and asset requirements that must be adhered to in order to remain qualified.

 

We work with Florida seniors and their loved ones on these very issues every day.  It is important for you to put special needs planning in place to ensure that your autistic loved one can be taken care of when you are no longer able to assume the responsibility. Without special needs planning in place, your loved one could lose the benefits he or she relies on.

 

If you are creating a long-term care plan for someone with autism, let us share a few questions you can ask.

 

1. Will I still be the disabled person’s decision maker once he or she becomes an adult?

No. Just like any other adult, people with autism become legal adults when they reach the age of majority. Even someone will severe developmental, cognitive and/or mental health disabilities is able to make legal decisions at this age.

 

2. Should I become the guardian of my child with autism?

Yes. Guardianship of a developmentally disabled person, however, is different from a guardianship that is needed for reasons of incapacity later in life.

 

3. What should I do first?

Start by assessing which areas of your child’s life he or she can maintain control over. This may include medical, educational, financial or vocational decisions. The key is that he or she remain safe at all times and not be a danger to himself, herself or others. What your child cannot handle independently could be put under your authority through the Florida guardian advocacy process.

 

4. Is an attorney necessary for this process?

An attorney is extremely helpful during this process although you can represent yourself pro se. Your attorney will have specific experience with these matters and the challenges you face. He or she can help answer questions and provide guidance on how to navigate this legal landscape.

 

5. Do I name another guardian in case something happens to me?

Speak with your attorney about this as soon as possible. You do want to plan ahead for when you could pass away or no longer be able to handle the responsibility of caring for your loved one with special needs.

 

6. Are there any government assistance benefits that can help my loved one in the future?

Yes. We help seniors and their loved ones gain access to programs such as Florida Medicaid. Both Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two examples of government assistance.

 

7. Is there another way to ensure my loved one is financially stable?

A special needs trust can be established through which you can leave money to your disabled loved one. This type of trusts protects the money of a third-party so the disabled individual may still qualify for government benefits. Depending on where the funds for the trust originate from, there are different special needs trust available. Your attorney will help you determine which trust is right for you.

 

Creating a plan for a loved one with autism is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure his or her future. Remember, ensuring continued access to Florida Medicaid and other government programs is critical. Do not hesitate to schedule a meeting with a member of our legal team to discuss this further!  

 

When It Comes to Elder Care Law What Is The Difference Between Will and Trust Planning?

When It Comes to Elder Care Law What Is The Difference Between Will and Trust Planning?

When deciding between a trust agreement and a last will and testament, there are many things to consider. You need the right plan in place for you and your loved ones. When it comes to elder care law, what is the difference between will and trust planning?

 

The first, and arguably most important, is that wills do not offer the complete coverage you need in Florida. This is a key difference between will and trust planning. A will, on its own, cannot be your financial, legal and medical plan. It is only used when you pass away and does nothing to protect you from the high costs of long-term care or the guardianship court. A trust agreement, however, can offer more comprehensive planning in Florida.

 

Together, you and your elder care attorney can create a plan to meet your specific needs. We know it can be challenging to understand the difference between will and trust planning. Let us share a few critical reasons why you need a trust agreement instead of a will to protect your elder care needs.

 

1.  Stay out of probate court. When you place your assets in a trust, you do not own them – your trust does. This is a key difference between will and trust planning documents. Your trust is seen by the eyes of the court as a “legal person.” You control the assets as if they are yours throughout your lifetime. When you die, only your assets go through probate. Since your assets are placed in a trust and you legally do not own the trust property, it doesn’t have to go through probate.

 

2.  Trusts are completely private. A trust agreement is a private document. Unlike a will, which becomes public through the Florida private process, a trust ensures your privacy. If you want to make an important legal decision but want it to remain private, such as disinheriting a child, this may be the planning choice you want to use.

 

3.  Trust agreements are quicker than probate. In probate, you are subject to the court’s timeline. This can be a process that lasts months or years. Timing is a main difference between will and trust planning. Because trust agreements are managed by an attorney and not subject to probate, the trust administration process can be much quicker.

 

4. Trusts allow you to protect your assets. While a will simply lays out instructions for your assets and beneficiaries once you pass away, a trust agreement allows you to maintain control of your assets. This can include protecting your assets from the high cost of long-term care. Specific trusts can be created to reach very specific goals. Do not wait to discuss this with your attorney.

 

5. Trusts can take the place of a durable power of attorney. If you become incapacitated, your trustee can manage your assets in trust without court supervision. In this capacity, having a trust can take the place of your durable power of attorney. This a yet another main difference between will and trust planning that is a key consideration for you.

 

Most people assume creating a will is enough to protect themselves and their family members but this is far from the truth. Our goal in this article is to share the difference between will and trust planning. We know you may have many more questions and want you to contact our office to let us help you protect your future!

 

Why You Need to Plan for Your Elder Care Law Needs Early

Why You Need to Plan for Your Elder Care Law Needs Early

Many seniors do not have elder care planning of any kind. Unfortunately, this means they are not prepared for a sudden crisis. This crisis could be a healthcare diagnosis, a car accident or a rapid decline in cognitive abilities. Most of the elder care planning you need as you age may only be completed when you have capacity. You risk losing the right to make choices you want if you have not planned for incapacity.

 

When you have not provided legal authority to another person, such as in your Florida durable power of attorney and Florida health care surrogate documents, there is no one who can step in and make your decisions for you should you be incapacitated. Through these estate planning tools your agent is given the legal authority to act as you would in specific instances. For example, if you were in a car accident and were unable to pay your bills each month, your agent would be able to do so.  Further, if you were to suddenly need long-term care such as in the skilled nursing facility, your agent would have the authority to to hire an attorney to assist him or her with this planning.

 

Unfortunately, when you do not plan ahead, and create the elder care planning documents you need, no one will have this authority. In the event of a crisis where you can go longer make decisions and have not created the documents to support you, your family may need to hire an attorney to start the Florida guardianship process. In the absence of legal planning, the guardianship process exists to first determine that you are truly incapacitated and then to select the right guardian to make decisions for you for the rest of your life.

 

While, at first glance, this may not seem to be the worst alternative, there can be significant downsides to the guardianship process. Let us share a few considerations with you.

 

1. The guardianship process is expensive. Your family will need to hire an attorney to represent them and a second attorney will also be appointed by the state to represent your interests. There will be court costs, medical examiners costs, and additional costs during the initial phase of this guardianship. This will quickly add up to thousands of dollars that could have been avoided by having Florida advance directives in most situations.

 

2. The lack of ability to plan for long-term care. Under almost every circumstance, you will no longer be able to plan to protect your life savings from the high cost of long-term care once you are under guardianship. Instead, the planning alternatives that work under your durable power of attorney, are no longer possible. Your family will have to spend your assets and income on the skilled nursing facility you need until they are depleted.

 

3. Increased family conflict and stress. Unfortunately, in the absence of choosing a decision maker early, your family may fight over who should be your guardian. We have seen countless arguments between spouses, children, and loved ones who each hire attorneys to fight over who should be the decision maker for a loved one. During stressful times like this, most of our loved ones will not be thinking clearly and will be unable to make rational decisions with regard to our care. Not only does this cause long-lasting friction for your family, it also incurs more costs with each person‘s attorney’s fees.

 

These are just a few of the reasons why it is crucial that guardianship not be your elder care planning choice. When you plan early and well, you can avoid scenarios where you will be forced to use your entire life savings to pay for your long term care needs. Don’t wait to talk to a member of our legal planning team about the help you and and your loved ones need.

How Could “Gray Divorce” Impact Your Elder Care Planning?

How Could “Gray Divorce” Impact Your Elder Care Planning?

There is no question that getting a divorce is a stressful and tense time period. Emotions are heightened as paperwork begins to pile up, meetings with attorneys become more frequent and discussions between ex-spouses become argumentative or sad. Did you know, however, that “gray divorces” or divorces that occur much later than life continue to be on the rise?

 

The Pew Research Institute reports that “among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s. In 2015, for every 1,000 married persons ages 50 and older, 10 divorced – up from five in 1990, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau. Among those ages 65 and older, the divorce rate has roughly tripled since 1990, reaching six people per 1,000 married persons in 2015.” Does a divorce at 65 years of age more significantly impact an individual than when he or she is younger? What is the impact on elder care law planning?

 

It is crucial to plan for your elder care needs whether you are married or divorced. For divorced spouses, however, examining how your needs will be met in the future is critical. Revising your estate plan after divorce is an essential part of the process and the first step in preparing yourself for the future. For most seniors on a fixed income, it is important for you to not only plan for your estate but for your potential long-term care needs as well. Let us share a few tips on how to plan forward in light of divorce.

 

1. Your last will and testament may no longer reflect your wishes.

 

After divorce in Florida, any provisions in your last will and testament related to your ex-spouse will become invalidated. Under the law, your will treats your spouse as having died at the time of the divorce. This may or may not reflect your wishes. In order to decrease any confusion, new estate planning documents such as a last will and testament or a revocable trust agreement should be created and executed.

 

2. Change your durable power of attorney as soon as possible.

 

In many marriages, spouses act as each other’s agent under their durable power of attorney. That means, if one spouse becomes incapacitated, the other spouse can legally make decisions for him or her. Similar to the last will and testament, the former spouses are treated as having predeceased one another. This is a document that must be updated as soon as possible as to prevent a lapse of person with decision making authority.

 

3. Plan forward with your elder care attorney for long-term care.

 

There are more options available for married individuals than for single individuals when it comes to long-term care planning. Many of the remaining strategies require a minimum of sixty months to be in effect before the benefits can be received by the individual. There is no guarantee that any of us will be able to avoid the need for long-term care in the future. It is critical to plan early to know how you will be able to afford this care by yourself without spending all of your hard earned money on a nursing home.

 

Divorce is never easy. It can become more complicated later in life. It is important to adjust all legal documents and your long-term care planning to reflect this new life change. Do not wait to talk to us about what you need moving forward from this difficult time.

 

 

 

What Seniors Need to Know About Health Care When Traveling

What Seniors Need to Know About Health Care When Traveling

Research tells us that more retirees are traveling than ever before. The AARP shares in the 2017 Travel Research Survey that “most Boomers (99%) will take at least one leisure trip in 2017, with an average of five or more trips expected throughout the year.” There continues to be a steady trend that Baby Boomers and older age groups will travel abroad as well, as opposed to staying in the continental United States. How much do you really know, however, about health care when traveling?

 

Both retirement and travel should be fun! The key to you and your senior loved ones having fun, however, is preparation. Unfortunately, a healthcare crisis can happen at any time. In most instances, traditional Medicare will not pay for your health care needs overseas. Let us share our insights with you on how to best protect yourself as a senior when you travel overseas.

 

1. Carefully review your health care coverage before you travel.

 

Traditional Medicare only provides healthcare coverage in the United States and its territories. Therefore, if you’re traveling to tropical destinations such as Puerto Rico, Guam, or the Virgin Islands, Medicare coverage will basically be the same. If you’re traveling outside the United States, however, you may not have any healthcare coverage. Before you leave, it is critical to read through your Medicare plan policy to know what is covered and what is not.

 

2. Travel with enough medicine to be covered for a longer duration of time.

 

Most Americans today take at least one prescription medicine. When packing for a trip, it may seem logical to pack just enough medicine to cover the duration of the trip. Best practice when traveling, however, is to pack enough medicine for at least one week beyond your scheduled travel days. You never know when airlines, cruise ships or your travel plans can be significantly delayed or how difficult it will be to have your emergency medicine order shipped to you.

 

3. Purchase a travel health care insurance policy.

 

One of the best ways to protect yourself while traveling is to purchase a travel health care insurance policy. Travel health care insurance policies are designed to provide for a gap in your existing coverage. Foreign doctors, hospitals and expedited medicine shipments can all be a part of the coverage. Be sure to read the policy before purchasing it and make sure none of the activities you are considering taking part in are excluded from coverage.

 

4. Look into emergency evacuation coverage.

 

In extreme medical situations, you may need to be transported back to the United States by ambulance. This can be extremely costly and not covered in any way by your health care plan. You may want to consider foreign transport or ambulance insurance when you are traveling abroad to make sure every contingency is covered. 

 

Whether you are traveling abroad or staying close to home, when it comes to elder care planning preparation is key! Don’t wait to speak with a member of our legal team about the planning you and your loved ones need today.