Three Steps To Take To Ensure Your Aging Parents’ Digital Assets Are Protected In The New Year

Three Steps To Take To Ensure Your Aging Parents’ Digital Assets Are Protected In The New Year

What is a digital asset and why would it need protection? Before you can understand how best to protect your parents’ digital assets in the new year, this can be a good question to answer. A digital asset is any type of information that you have stored online, including usernames and passwords for email and social media accounts, online banking and credit card information, and photos and videos saved on the cloud. If this information falls into the wrong hands, a tremendous amount of damage can be done. The elderly can be particularly vulnerable to phishing and other scams, which means it can be even more important to help make sure these assets are protected.  

Let us take a look at three steps to ensuring that your aging parents’ digital assets are protected.  

  1. Make a list. The first step in protecting digital assets may be identifying all of the digital assets that your parents have. This can include all email account usernames and passwords, all usernames and passwords to other websites, all online membership information, all online banking and credit card accounts, etc. 

  2. Password protect their passwords. Once a list of all digital assets has been created, it may be time to password protect that information. There are online password manager tools that you can use to keep the information secure, or you can print out a hard copy and store the information in a safe and secure place, like a fire-proof safe or security box.

  3. Consult with an attorney. A final step to ensuring that your parents’ digital assets are protected may be to consult with an estate planning or elder law attorney.  Even if your parents already have an estate plan in place, it can be important to make sure it is updated to account for their digital assets, including giving their heirs access and rights to the digital assets upon death or incapacity.

To learn more about how to protect and plan for digital assets, please reach out to our office to schedule a meeting time.

5 Tips to Use When Talking to Your Parents About Long-Term Care Over the Holidays

5 Tips to Use When Talking to Your Parents About Long-Term Care Over the Holidays

Have you considered that one of the most common side effects of aging parents seems to be an inevitable change in family dynamics? After being taken care of by your parents your entire childhood, followed by enjoying a beautiful co-existence with them as adults, it may now be time to take care of your parents. This can be a daunting task, but one thing may be certain in all of this. Planning for long-term care will likely make everything go smoother. With the holidays and family time approaching, it may be a good time to begin the conversation of long-term care planning. When talking to your parents about long-term care over the holidays, try to use these 5 tips: 

  1. Remember this is likely as challenging for them, as it is for you. As people age, there can often be a lot of fear surrounding the loss of control and independence. There may also be feelings of embarrassment with their children they always cared for now caring for them. Since you will likely have spent time thinking and preparing for the conversation, extend your parents the same courtesy by not ambushing them. Consider calling or sending an e-mail a few days before your visit, letting them know you would like to talk about their long-term care plan. 
  2. This is about their wishes too. While you may have your own ideas about what is best for your parents, allowing them to participate in the decision making process also allows them to retain their dignity. 
  3. Provide information. Your parents may want to do long-term care planning, but have found the entire process overwhelming. If you have done some research on wills, long-term care insurance, life insurance, and Medicaid planning, you may be in a good position to help them understand some of the basics.  
  4. Offer to assist. Instead of just providing information and leaving your parents to do the rest, offer to see the long-term care process through with them. For example, you can assist them in locating an elder law attorney and attend the appointments with them. 
  5. Consider another messenger. You know the old saying about lashing out at the ones you love the most. If the talk does not go as planned, consider having a more neutral party, such as their physician, broach the topic, and then, you can step in to assist. 

While discussing long-term care planning with your parents can feel uncomfortable, you can take comfort in knowing they can relax in their golden years, once they have a secure plan for long-term care. For assistance establishing a long-term care plan, please reach out to our office to schedule an appointment.

 

The Danger Of Making Holiday Gifts When It Comes To Long-Term Care Planning

The Danger Of Making Holiday Gifts When It Comes To Long-Term Care Planning

‘Tis the season to give and receive, but did you know that this can have significant consequences if you need to apply for Medicaid in the next three to five years? Can gifts impact Medicaid eligibility? Yes, this can have impacts for both the giver and receiver.

 Regarding the gift giver, it should be noted that the IRS allows a tax-free annual gift of fifteen thousand dollars per person with an unlimited amount of donees. In other words, a wealthy donor could gift away over a million tax free dollars per year by gifting a hundred different people the maximum fifteen thousand dollars.

 It can be vital, however, to understand these are tax laws and Medicaid takes a different stance on gifting in terms of Medicaid eligibility. When a person’s assets are reviewed for Medicaid eligibility, this includes a “Look-Back” period of thirty to sixty months, depending upon the state. If it is discovered that the Medicaid applicant has gifted money in order to be eligible for Medicaid, the penalty is Medicaid ineligibility. The length of time of ineligibility is determined by the amount of the gift and the average cost of a private pay nursing home in the area.

 A person deemed ineligible for Medicaid due to gift giving has some options. It is possible for the gifter to collect the gift back, or reimbursement, in order to “un-do” the penalty. Even if possession of the money makes them ineligible for Medicaid, they can spend it down by temporarily paying for long-term care or making a home modification related to their disability until they reach eligibility status. There may also be a possibility of an undue hardship waiver, if Medicaid ineligibility will cause the person to go without medical care, food or shelter.

There may also be important impacts on the gift receiver. All states have an asset limit to be Medicaid eligible and it is not very high. In fact, many states have limits falling in the range of fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars. Even a small gift can push a Medicaid recipient over the eligibility limit. Any gift received must be spent within a month in order to avoid affecting Medicaid eligibility. A Medicaid recipient has options if they receive a gift. They can pay off debt, purchase a funeral trust or a Medicaid eligible annuity. If money is received before applying for Medicaid, the money can also be spent down in a similar fashion. 

If you will be giving or receiving money or other assets this holiday season and anticipate this may impact your Medicaid eligibility or someone else’s, contact our office to discuss your options.

 

As Your Parents Age, You Need to Talk to Them About Updating Their Estate Plan

As Your Parents Age, You Need to Talk to Them About Updating Their Estate Plan

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.

5 Things Seniors Need to Know About Medical Alert Systems

5 Things Seniors Need to Know About Medical Alert Systems

Did you know that August is National MedicAlert Awareness Month? In observance of how medical alert systems have helped countless seniors survive emergency health situations, we wanted to make sure you and your loved ones were informed about this particular safety measure.

Here are five things older adults need to know about medical alert systems.

1. Options

Traditional alert systems were limited to a senior’s home. In the event of an emergency, a user would press a call button on a bracelet or necklace, which would then alert an emergency monitoring agent through a home-based central unit. The connection was facilitated through land phone line. These systems are still effective, but medical alert options have expanded in recent years to include items such as:

  • Daily electronic check-in services with live care center agents
  • Activity monitoring features like motion detectors 
  • Home security sensors for smoke, carbon monoxide, and other hazards
  • Digital medical add-ons that monitor health vitals
  • Fitness trackers on wearable alert devices that record physical health information

2. Mobile units

Technology advances have enabled medical alert systems to serve seniors at almost any location through wearable mobile devices.

Rather than rely solely on a home-based unit, mobile alert devices connect directly to emergency response centers or pre-programmed contacts by utilizing nationwide cellular networks, similar to smartphones.

3. Fashionable Choices

Medical alert devices do not have to look like standard medical equipment.

There are plenty of user-friendly, attractive accessory devices to choose from, including necklaces, bracelets, and pendants. They also come in various styles for women, men, seniors, and even children. 

4. Monitored vs. Unmonitored

Home-based and mobile alert systems can be either monitored or unmonitored, depending on a user’s needs. Monitored systems connect to a live dispatcher at an emergency control center, whereas unmonitored systems will call pre-programmed contacts, such as adult children, neighbors, or 911. 

5. Costs

The costs of medical alert systems vary based on type, service options, and features. They typically fall in the range of $30 to $90 per month. Reputable companies should offer price plans that do not involve long-term contracts and hidden fees. 

These are just a few things seniors need to know about medical alert systems. Your senior loved one’s safety is important to us. If this article raises more questions than it answers for you, we encourage you to contact our office.