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retirement planning york pa

Retirement planning with long-term care


Qualified retirement plans (IRAs, 402(k)s, 403(b)s and the like) are a great way for families to be able to grow their wealth for the future and do so tax-deferred. There are numerous research articles that have proven that the tax deferral is extremely impactful when it comes to being able to accumulate wealth for a family.

Unfortunately, we often see clients who have spent their entire lives accumulating their retirement accounts but are now faced with the reality of long-term care costs.  Families of those who are going or have gone into a nursing home quickly discover that retirement plans such IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s are countable resources when it comes to long-term care and Medicaid planning. Although many states allow different ways to protect retirement plans, currently Pennsylvania is not one of them.

One of the more difficult conversations that we have to have with financial professionals who represent our clients is that when a loved one enters a nursing home the only way to be able to protect assets for the spouse or for the family is to liquidate a retirement account.  Obviously, liquidation of a retirement account is not an ideal situation because not only will it trigger immediate tax consequences, but there are also other unintended consequences such as potential increases in Medicare premiums, etc.

Of all of the things that we do at Bellomo and Associates, the concept of a retirement plan and crisis planning is probably the most difficult and toughest conversation we need to have.  It does not make logical sense to liquidate a retirement account and trigger tax consequences and other consequences that are unintended, but if a person will likely remain in a nursing home for an extended period of time, it is often the only way to preserve that asset to ensure that it is there for the spouse or loved ones.

When this conversation comes up, we often talk to the family and to the advisor about not making an emotional decision but rather a decision based on data. Certainly, there is no way to know how long a loved one will live in a nursing home, but depending on the diagnosis and prognosis for the person, we can often make an educated guess.  If it is expected that the person will live for several months to several years, we often end up liquidating the retirement account because then we are able to protect either 100% of the assets for the spouse or 50% for the family members. 

These calculations are done not only by our office but also by the accountants and financial advisors who work with our families. We are very lucky to work with many competent professionals, and often are able to take a very difficult conversation and make it simple.  Although not ideal, preserving those assets for the family and for the future is often better than trying to save a few tax dollars in the short-term and losing it all in the long term.

If you or your family member is faced with this difficult decision, please contact your professionals immediately to help guide you through that conversation.

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long term care planning york pa

The Five Must-Knows of Long-Term Care Planning

Long-term care is often a very overwhelming and scary time of a person’s life.  Having specialized in helping families through this tumultuous process for over 15 years, I have learned several things that I pass on to clients on a daily basis.  I call them the Five Must-Knows of Long-Term Care Planning, and they are as follows:

  1.    It is never too late.
  2.    Preplanning is always better than crisis planning.
  3.    Long-term care is a team sport.
  4.    You must work with a qualified professional.
  5.    It is stressful, but planning is worth it.
  1.  It Is Never Too Late.  The one thing that I cannot stress enough is that, even if a loved one is in a nursing home or is going to need skilled-level care in his or her own home, options are still available.  Pennsylvania is a very generous state when it comes to allowing individuals to protect assets for families in crisis, to the tune of 100% for a spouse who is at home or 50% for a single widow or widower family member.  We often hear, “Well, we weren’t able to do anything ahead of time and our loved one already needs skilled-level care, so, therefore it’s too late.” It is essential to understand that it is never too late and that you should seek professional advice immediately.
  1. Preplanning is Always Better.  Although it is never too late, preplanning is much less expensive, and also much less stressful.  Although things can still be done in crisis, it is a very emotional time for a family, and asset protection can be very expensive.  In a perfect world, the planning would be done five years before an individual needs skilled-level care in a nursing home or in his or her own home.  I realize that timing is not something that anyone can control, but, certainly, the earlier, the better.
  1. Long-Term Care Planning is a Team Sport.  In our weekly workshops, we stress to our families that we want them to include their team, which often consists of other family members, financial professionals, accountants, and other important key people.  This can be a very stressful time and, oftentimes, very technical and important decisions have to be made. I never recommend going alone down this path, as having your family members and your other professionals there with you will provide not only peace of mind but also support and great advice.  Therefore, when you start thinking about long-term care planning, always remember it is a team sport, and the better the team, the better the decisions.
  1. You must work with a qualified professional. Asset protection planning and Medicaid planning are two very technical areas of the law. Most estate planning attorneys do not understand the intricacies of Medicaid and asset protection. I recently received a call from a client who was going to use another elder law attorney and I told him to ask the individual how many asset protection trusts Medicaid files that they did in the past month. I told the client that we did 10 asset protection trusts the month before and had 60 active Medicaid files. When the client called me back, she was laughing because she said that the individual told her that they hadn’t done any of either but that didn’t mean that they were not an elder law attorney. It is very easy to make a major mistake in these areas and causes major tax, financial, and other losses to a family. Be sure to use a firm that has a certified elder law attorney to make sure that the person knows the intricacies of the law.
  1. It is stressful but planning is worth it. Pre-planning is the best planning because it is done ahead of time without a lot of stress and it is much less expensive. However, even crisis planning is worth it. For a single individual or a widow or widower, if he or she is in a nursing home we can still protect 50% of their assets for a loved one. If there is a spouse, we are able to protect 100% of all assets, and qualify the person for Medicaid so that the state is paying for his or her nursing home stay. Sure, the process of collecting the required information, such as five years of bank and financial statements, and getting through the process is stressful and overwhelming, but the end result is well worth it.

Remember these five tips to protect your family and your assets. If you need further information, please come to one of our workshops or call the office.

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estate planning attorney york PA

Grief: Coping with the loss of a loved one

Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. When we lose a spouse, sibling, or parent, our grief can be particularly intense. Sadly, loss is a natural part of life, but we can still be overcome by shock and confusion, leading to prolonged periods of sadness or depression. The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process in order to overcome these feelings and continue to embrace the time you had with your loved one.

Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Research shows that most people can recover from a loss on their own through the passage of time if they have social support and healthy habits. It may take months or a year or longer to come to terms with a loss. There is no “normal” time period for someone to grieve. Don’t expect to pass through phases of grief either, as new research suggests that most people do not go through stages as progressive steps.

If your relationship with the deceased was difficult, this will also add another dimension to the grieving process. It may take some time and thought before you are able to look back on the relationship and adjust to the loss.

Human beings are naturally resilient, considering most of us can endure loss and then continue on with our own lives. But some people may struggle with grief for longer periods of time and feel unable to carry out daily activities. Those with severe grief may be experiencing complicated grief. These individuals could benefit from the help of a psychologist or another licensed mental health professional who specializes in grief counseling.

Mourning the loss of a close friend or relative takes time, but research tells us that it can also be the catalyst for a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life.

Grieving individuals may find it useful to use some of the following strategies to help come to terms with loss:

  • Talk about the death of your loved one with friends and colleagues in order to understand what happened and remember your friend or family member. Denying the death is an easy way to isolate yourself, and will frustrate your support system in the process.
  • Accept your feelings. People experience all kinds of emotions after the death of someone close. Sadness, anger, frustration and even exhaustion are all normal.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest helps us get through each day and move forward.
  • Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Helping others has the added benefit of making you feel better as well. Sharing stories of the deceased can help everyone cope.
  • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved one. Possibilities include donating to a favorite charity of the deceased, framing photos of fun times, passing on a family name to a baby or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you to honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed by your emotions, it may be helpful to talk with a mental health professional who can help you cope with your feelings and find ways to get back on track.

Psychologists and mental health professionals are trained to help people better handle the fear, guilt or anxiety that can be associated with the death of a loved one, and can help people build resilience and develop strategies to get through their sadness. Mental health professionals often use a variety of treatment modalities to help with grieving. A commonly used treatment is psychotherapy to assist people to improve their lives by better coping with grief.

If you need help the next steps to take when a loved one passes away, click here and download our FREE guide.

This article was adapted from a March 2011 post by Katherine C. Nordal, PhD on the APA’s Your Mind Your Body Blog.

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Grandparenting – Part 1

We have a grandson who will soon be 4. He lives less than a mile from us, so we spend at least 1 afternoon/evening a week with him. No matter what mood I am in, even a good one, he always makes it better. He is the most interesting person I know.

He soaks up everything, doesn’t forget anything (except occasionally to clean up), and has a vivid imagination. Each week, our house becomes haunted and has ghosts and dinosaurs and pirates running through it. We have treasure hunts, which consist of him taking a bunch of pennies, which become chocolate coins. They get well hidden (mostly dropped at various points on the bedroom carpet), and lest I can’t find them, he goes ahead of me to help me find them. Still, Mom-Mom and I (Pop-Pop) find chocolate coins throughout the room for the next couple of days.

He is obsessed with, of all things, yard work and construction equipment. Weather permitting, we are out in the yard, where he uses his leaf blower and weed whacker (2 sticks which he found in the yard, but which are now kept in the same place every week so he can find and use them). He also loves the sandbox I built for him, and we get out the sandbox toys, including the usual and a couple of pieces of heavy equipment. Every time he wants me to build sand castles, and every time he promises he won’t destroy them, and every time he destroys them as soon as they are built!

What I like best of all is the way he likes to play with me. I pick him up on the way home from work, so when we get home we always go up to my bedroom so I can change my clothes. Our game consists of him having me lie on the bed, usually under the covers, so I can hide with the stuffed animals from our various home invaders. Who could ask for a better game than that?

He also likes to play hide and seek, but he is a very bad hider! He will hide in the closet, or more often under a blanket on the floor (who could find a blanket with a big lump under it!), and as soon as you come near, he is squirming and giggling.

His latest thing is to arrest Mom-Mom or me. Usually, Mom-Mom can get out of jail pretty quickly, because she has to make dinner. Jail is the first-floor bathroom, and he makes us sit in the dark. I now know to keep my Kindle handy, so when he takes me to jail, I just grab it and take it along for free reading time until he springs me.

Though shy, he is extremely polite, and he warms up to others quickly. In short, he is an absolute delight to be around, and the most interesting person I know.

Bill Poole

If you want to protect your family and all your loved ones, get your estate planning taken care of today.  Join us for one of our upcoming workshops.  You can discover more about them by clicking here.

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special needs planning york pa

Special needs planning


Bellomo and Associates recently did a Facebook live event for special needs families to help them understand the importance of planning for their children with special needs. It was a live two-hour presentation that also hosted a full group of people in the workshop room at Bellomo and Associates.  The event was a huge success, and we have received great feedback from the special needs community about its positive impact on the families.

We do weekly estate planning and Medicaid preparation workshops in our office, and typically do about eight workshops a month in our office, and about another two to four a month out in the community.  However, we rarely have the opportunity to do a full two-hour presentation for families, and this recent event provided that. I give presentations to groups all over the country, but I was especially excited about this event. I enjoyed the process of creating the program and completely new PowerPoint slides in order to be able to give a full two-hour presentation on the topic.  

Families with children who have special needs often do not know where to turn to receive information about public benefits and what happens if their children have too much money or if a family member wants to leave a child with special needs money upon death.  The landscape is often confusing and overwhelming. Thus, when Jessica from Easter Seals asked us to do this event, we jumped on the opportunity.

The presentation itself covers everything on the basics from powers of attorney to guardianships, as well as about how to give money to a child with special needs in a way that will not disqualify the child from government benefits. It also covers how people with special needs can have money of their own and still be able to continue benefits and also potentially continue to receive money or other inheritances and such. We received great questions from both the live audience and the Facebook live community, and have gotten great feedback since the event as well.  

Because we want other families with children with special needs to be able to benefit from this event as well, we are leaving the recording of the live event on our Facebook page so it can be watched in the future. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed presenting it.  

If you or somebody you know has a child with special needs, please watch the video, and contact us if you have any further questions. We will be happy to meet with you.  Just contact us by clicking here.

Jeffrey Bellomo, Esq.

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