We often find that adult children and their aging parents will come to our office and present to us, their newly recommended estate planning attorney, a last will and testament that is at least twenty years old. This estate planning document nominates a brother or a sister as a guardian for the minor children. It also provides for the assets to be distributed on death to a bank trust company that is to retain the assets in trust until the children have attained age 21.
One of the problems with this estate plan, which needs updating, is that the youngest of the children is now age 25 and the eldest is age 35. In addition, the bank nominated in the last will and testament to serve as the trustee is no longer in business. Further, if there was a trust agreement, it was never funded.
In this scenario, we are fortunate that the parents lived these many years and it was not necessary to use the estate plan, or even fund the trust. In situations like this, one of the ways we can help the parents is by drafting a new estate plan that corrects these issues. For example, the new trust agreement could dispense with the need for a guardian of minor children and name a trust company now in existence to serve as the trustee.
The parents, however, have aged to the point that a new estate plan alone is not sufficient for them. The parents need their own updated advanced directives in the event of a disability. Therefore, the parents will also need to consider signing, at a minimum, durable powers of attorney, health care surrogate designations, and living wills.
Further, they need to consider long-term care planning.
An estate plan alone will not be sufficient to help them be able to afford the high cost of long-term care in an assisted living facility with memory care or a skilled nursing home. Medicare is also not able to help with the cost of the daily custodial care. The parents need an estate plan but also an elder care plan that can help them plan for how they will be able to afford long-term care and not lose their lifetime of savings.
We work with parents and adult children each day to tackle this difficult issue.
The key is to not put off this type of planning as time is of the essence. If you have questions on this or any issue, we encourage you to contact us to schedule a meeting.
As we look to care for our parents and grandparents as they age in Florida, we need to think about their current and potential long-term care needs. How will they be able to find good care should they need it? Where should they look for help? What is available in our community? How will they be able to afford the care they need should the time come?
Unfortunately, many Florida seniors do not begin to plan for the high cost of long-term care until it is too late. For a myriad of reasons, they did not plan forward to think about what they may need both now and for a future that includes an increased need for long-term care assistance. Most of us today simply cannot afford the additional thousands of dollars per month it would cost to have support from home healthcare or a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility without rethinking our finances and looking for help from public benefits.
While many Florida seniors turn to Medicaid and other local community programs for assistance, for Florida veterans, there are additional benefits available. They range from health care and funeral assistance to disability support and pension assistance. For many veterans the available benefits remain unused and hard to obtain due to the qualification that is required to gain access to them.
Perhaps the most beneficial program for the Florida senior veteran in need of long-term care assistance is the VA Pension program.
The VA Pension program is in no way tied to a service-connected disability.
In fact, the health care disability standard associated at the basic level is met simply by being over age 65. This a monthly, tax-free benefit that can increase based on the health care needs of the veteran.
The rules changed substantially for this program on October 18, 2018. This program is not an automatic benefit for wartime veterans and their dependents. They must prove, first, that the veteran served for at least 90 days of active service with one day during a period of war. Second, he or she must prove that he or she was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Now, to access this program, the new rules created a few more qualifications. For example, there is an asset limit for the veteran’s countable resources. Prior to the rule changes, there was no set amount in place. This year the veteran may have $126,240, excluding exempt assets, and this amount will change each year.
Further, through these rules the Department of Veterans Affairs created a “look-back” period. A “look-back” period is a period of time during which the Department may review assets to determine if the veteran has made gifts of his or her resources. A similar set up currently exists for the Florida Medicaid program. The “look-back” period will be for thirty-six months. If the VA determines this occurred the veteran may face a disqualification period.
These are just a few ways the VA Pension program has changed.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and encourage you to schedule a meeting with us to get the answers you need for yourself and your loved ones.
Choosing to visit your aging parent during the holidays can be a great gift from you to them. It is during these visits, however, that you may learn that your parents are not physically or mentally able to care for themselves as well as in the past. You may determine during your visit that your aging parents are having significant problems dealing with activities of daily living and may need more help in the home.
We know how difficult this realization can be for you and your parents. As you face these challenges together, it is important for you to determine what strategies may best provide the support they need. Let us share seven tips for talking to your aging parents this holiday season that we share with our clients, friends, family, and local professionals in our community.
Are they having issues driving? As we age, driving becomes more difficult. It is not just the physical act of driving, but also, response times and observations. Be sure to let your parents drive you both short and long distances to determine how they are managing this task.
How is their day-to-day health? Observe your parents throughout your visit, taking time to see how they are doing throughout the day. Are mornings easier? Do they go to sleep after dinner? How quickly can they move between tasks?
Can they easily prepare meals? If your parents offer to prepare a meal, let them. Although many families go out to eat during visits or an adult child cooks, ask your parents to help. Be on the lookout for whether or not your parents have a hard time remembering frequently used recipes, where ingredients are placed, or remembering to turn off kitchen appliances, such as the oven.
How many medicines are they taking? Medicines increase for many Older Americans. Ask them to share their medication list and schedule for taking prescriptions. Are there duplications? Can your parents tell you why they take specific medicines? Is anything expired? Do they need help opening bottles? There are many pharmacies now that will organize medications by day and time. Talk to your parents about this type of service and if it would be beneficial.
What is the state of their house? If you can, stay at least one night in the home as you may not be able to observe the state of the house in a quick visit. Is it clean? It it well-maintained? Do your parents need help with organization or clutter?
Is their estate planning up to date? Ask your parents about their estate planning. The documents within their planning, such as the durable power of attorney, will be necessary in a crisis should you need to make decisions for them. What documents do they have included in their estate plan? Who is their decision maker? Is there an attorney you may talk to in a crisis?
Have they created a plan for long-term care? It is never too early to plan for long-term care. Ask your parents what plans they have created so far. Although this can be a difficult conversation to have, it is never too early to talk to them about what they want so you can both be prepared for the future.
We want you to know that we are here to help you answer these questions. We can work with your aging parents and you both now and in the new year. Do not wait to contact us to ask us your questions.
‘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.
Long-Term Care Asset Protection planning is a difficult and confusing process. Families make many mistakes when planning, usually, because they were given bad information from well-meaning loved ones, friends, and non-attorney professionals.
Thinking it’s too late to plan. It’s rarely too late to take planning steps, even after a senior has started receiving care at home, in an assisted living community, or a nursing home.
Giving away assets to children. First, it’s your money (or your house, or both). Take care of yourself first. When a child dies, becomes incapacitated, is sued, or gets divorced, they can no longer give money back to you when you need it. There are other ways to protect your money and remain in control of it.
Ignoring important permissible strategies created by Congress. There are many strategies authorized by Congress that people simply don’t know about. Unfortunately, space doesn’t allow me to explain.
Failing to plan for the spouse of a care recipient. If the spouse of a care recipient dies first, then the government benefits received by the care recipient are put in jeopardy. This can be avoided.
Applying for Government Benefits too late. This happens a lot. The family innocently uses funds to pay for long-term care that the government can’t count, so they lose tens of thousands of dollars. Know when to apply for benefits.
Not getting expert help. Long-Term Care Asset Protection Planning is a complicated field. Tens of thousands of dollars are at stake, sometimes more. It’s penny wise and pound foolish not to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable elder care attorney.
If you have any questions regarding this article, don’t hesitate to contact our office.
One of the greatest fears faced by aging Americans is that they may need a lot of care at home, in an assisted living or in a nursing home. This not only means a great loss of independence; it comes at a tremendous financial price. Nursing homes in Volusia and Flagler County cost over $100,000 a year.
Most people tragically end up paying for elder care out of their life’s savings until they are broke. Then they apply for Medicaid to pick up the cost. The advantage of paying privately is that you eliminate or postpone dealing with Florida’s bureaucracy–an often difficult, confusing, frustrating, and time-consuming process. The disadvantage of paying privately is that it’s expensive. People of ordinary means could lose everything that they have scrimped and saved to the nursing home.
Careful planning, though, especially in advance of an unanticipated need for care, can help protect your hard-earned savings, whether for yourself, your spouse, or your children. This is done by taking steps to make sure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled under the Medicare, Medicaid, and Veteran’s Administration programs.
Those that plan when they are not in immediate need of long-term care usually protect all of their life’s savings and quickly qualify for Medicaid benefits. Those that wait until they are facing long-term care costs might protect some of their life’s savings, but others may not be able to save anything. Don’t hesitate to contact our office with any questions you may have.