Gather Information Before You Need It!

When faced with a medical crisis, no one wants to look for insurance cards, estate planning documents, or phone numbers; our focus needs to be on our loved one in need.

Therefore, it is never too early to make a list of all the information you may need should a crisis arise, and make sure it is easily available. This rule should be in place for you and your parents.

When making your list, include at a minimum the following:

  • Copies of the front and back of insurance cards, prescription cards, and IDs (driver’s license, military ID, etc.)
  • The names and contact information for doctors and specialists
  • Basic medical history, such as medical conditions, previous surgeries, allergies
  • A current list of medications with dosages and frequency they are taken (e.g. once a day)
  • The location of estate planning documents, including Living Will, health care and financial Powers of Attorney
  • A listing of financial accounts and safe deposit boxes, and institutions where they’re held

For your parents’ information, ask them with whom they want you to share this information, as they may not want everyone in the family to have this private, sensitive information. However, it should be available to more than one person, in case that one person is not immediately available when a crisis hits.

Then, make sure the designated people have copies of the information, or know where to get hold of it quickly, and they understand its purpose.

And of course, keep the list up to date!  

We would love it if you would join us for one of our FREE educational workshops on estate planning and/or asset protection planning.  Just click here to RSVP and we’ll see you there!


What Happens To My Estate Assets When I Die?

Many people wrongly believe that if they die without a Will, then the state gets to keep their estate assets. Although that is not true, without a Will the state does decide who gets your estate assets.

There are a series of laws in Pennsylvania which determine the order of intestate succession (“intestate” simply means “dying without a Will”). There are special rules for how much a spouse inherits if there is no Will, which is dependent on whether or not there are children, and if they are children of the surviving spouse. (It should be noted that a spouse can also elect a portion of his or her deceased spouse’s estate even if the deceased person disinherited the spouse, but those rules are unique to spouses, and do not apply to other beneficiaries.)

However, children have no automatic right in the law to inherit from their parent; thus, although one cannot totally disinherit a spouse, one can disinherit a child or grandchild if circumstances warrant it, but only if one has a Will which does so.

In the event that one dies without a Will, the state’s rulebook for who inherits after a surviving spouse is, in this order: Issue (children, grandchildren, etc.) of the decedent; then the decedent’s parents; then the decedent’s siblings or their issue (nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, etc.); the decedent’s grandparents; then the decedent’s uncles, aunts, and their children and grandchildren; and, finally, and only if none of those relatives can be found, the assets go to the state. The law also outlines somewhat complex rules on how the estate is divided within each of those groups, and circumstances in which certain of those parties can be excluded by law from inheriting.  

How do you avoid your estate assets being distributed to people whom you may not want to receive them? Simple – have a Will; that way you control who gets your “stuff”. The law states that the intestate rules only apply if the deceased person had no Will, or if an asset was not disposed of by the Will.

If one has a Will, then his or her assets go to those named in the Will.

It is important to note that these rules only apply to assets which pass through a person’s estate, which are known as “probate assets”. As a generalization, probate assets are assets which the deceased owned in whole or in part in his or her own name. They do not include assets for which one is a joint owner with another, or for which one has designated a beneficiary, such as life insurance, certain types of investment assets, IRAs, 401(k)s, and other qualified retirement plans.

Those all pass to the named beneficiaries; because they are not probate assets, they are not subject to intestate succession.

What is the lesson to be learned? Make a Will, and keep it current, and make sure you have named beneficiaries where appropriate!

Once you have a Will in place, or have named beneficiaries, review those periodically to assure that they reflect your current wishes. That way, you are always sure that, when your time comes to pass on, your hard-earned assets will only go to those whom you want to receive them.

If you want to learn more about estate planning and wills in general, consider joining us at one of our upcoming workshops.  You can find out more by clicking here.


Finding Inner Peace

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Inner peace refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy, and the opposite of being stressed or anxious.

Each of us strives for peace in our own way. What is peaceful for one person may be stressful for another. This point is illustrated by the following story:

“There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace.

Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

“One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky full of fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

“The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

“But when the king looked closely, he saw a tiny bush growing in a crack in the wall. In the bush, a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the middle of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on the nest – in perfect peace.

“The king chose the second picture.” Author unknown

Lasting inner peace isn’t something that just randomly happens to us. And it doesn’t always look like we think it should. It is something we need to work at and often create. We need to choose peace, because it may not choose us.

I wish you peace in all you do.   

 “Your inner peace is the greatest and most valuable treasure that you can discover.” Akin Olokun

Portions of this blog are adapted from a blog by Chris Cade.com.

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“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet

Adversity is a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. Sometimes, adversity is very serious, like an illness or job loss. Sometimes adversity is more manageable, like your child’s school grades or the last electric bill. In any case, adversity is really what you make of it and how you choose to address it.

Here are some ideas to help overcome adversity:

  1. Have the right mindset. Your thoughts are essential; they frame the triumphs or tragedies of your life. . . .
  2. Stop making excuses. Excuses are the lies we tell ourselves when we’re too afraid of the future. . . .
  3. Have faith. . . in your beliefs and in yourself.
  4. Don’t take “no” for an answer. . . .
  5. Let each success energize you.
  6. Be resilient . . . Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress – it means “bouncing back” from difficult times.

If we keep our challenges in perspective, it may help us overcome them.

As Dolly Parton, the legendary singer and business woman says, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

Always remember:

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

Jimmy Dean

Portions of this blog were adapted from the Help Center at the American Psychological Association.


The Top Eight Mistakes People Make With Medicaid Qualification

The eight biggest mistakes people make in attempting to qualify for Medicaid for long-term skilled nursing care are:

  1. Thinking it’s too late. It is almost never too late to take planning steps, even after a senior has moved to a nursing home.
  2. Giving away assets too early. First, it’s your money, your house, or both. Make sure to take care of yourself first. Don’t put your security at risk by putting it in the hands of your children. Sudden transfers done without careful planning can cause significant tax and Medicaid issues as well.
  3. Ignoring important “safe harbors” created by Congress. Certain transfers are permitted by the law without jeopardizing Medicaid eligibility. These include: transfers to:  one’s spouse; disabled children; caretaker children; a “pay-back” trust if under 65; a pooled disability trust at any age.
  4. Failing to take advantage of protections for the spouse of a nursing home resident. These protections include petitioning for an increased community spouse resource allowance, in some instances petitioning for an increased income allowance, and/or establishing an estate plan which includes provisions to protect both spouses in the event a spouse predeceases the nursing home resident, or in the event the other spouse also needs long-term care.
  5. Applying for Medicaid too early. This can result in a delay in getting benefits, and in some instances a longer ineligibility period.
  6. Applying for Medicaid too late. This can mean the loss of many months of eligibility, and of the assets which were spent to pay out-of-pocket for those months of care (in York County, nursing home care costs between $10,000 and $12,000 a month).
  7. Confusion about Medicaid Estate Recovery. Estate recovery is the process by which the State recovers certain Medicaid benefits paid on behalf of a Medicaid enrollee after he or she passes away. In Pennsylvania, Medicaid can only recover from the decedent’s probate estate (not from anything passing by beneficiary designation, such as IRAs, life insurance, jointly owned property, and such). This even can include property which is exempt as long as the surviving spouse is alive.
  8. Not getting expert help. This is a complicated field that most people only have to navigate once in their lives. Tens of thousands of dollars are at stake (remember, nursing home care costs between $10,000 and $12,000 a month). But don’t worry – we’ve got your back. A qualified elder law attorney can help you through this maze of rules and regulations and maximize the protection of your assets, in some cases to the point of preserving nearly all of them for you and your family. It’s penny wise and dollar foolish not to consult with people who specialize in guiding clients through the process – qualified elder law attorneys well-versed in the Medicaid rules.

If you have questions about Medicaid planning consider joining us for one of our upcoming workshops.  Just click here to RSVP.

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