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Moving On – Help for Seniors Relocating to Nursing Homes or Assisted Living Facilities

In my estate and elder law practice, I routinely provide advice to seniors and their families about the next step.  Specifically about what they will do when they need more care in their home or in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home.  

Nobody ever wants to have to be relocated as we all wish that we could just reside in our homes until we pass.  However, this is not always the case and having a plan in place, preparing you and your loved ones for what it will look like to have to move will reduce the amount of stress and burden on your family tremendously.  

The most important piece to all of this is for the entire family to be on the same page and to have open and honest conversations with each other.  All too often, families don’t have difficult conversations with the hopes that those decisions or that heartache will simply just go away if they ignore it.  

My experience is that that is never the case.  But, ultimately will only provide more heartache and more stress that could easily be avoided if the family has conversations up-front before it is necessary.  

I am always amazed at the assistance and guidance that assisted living facilities, personal care homes and nursing homes provide to their potential residents.  The number of resources and guidance that they can provide are astronomical and should definitely not be underestimated or overlooked.  

Take advantage of any and all resources that are made available.  But, if you have not yet made the final decision as to where you may want to move and cannot tap into the resources of a specific facility, there are definitely resources in and around our community that will not only assist you with preparation of your current home for sale and how to receive the highest top dollar but also what to expect when moving and what should you take or leave behind.  We found one resource here on “7 Best Moving Companies” to support you or your loved ones.  Sometimes paying for a service to take away from the overwhelm can be incredibly valuable and provide peace of mind.

Although these seem like very simple ideas and issues they really aren’t, and thinking about them in advance can save you and your family a lot of headaches.  Tap into your local resources to assist you with the move itself as well as how to get the new place put together and looking and feeling like home.  Spending a little bit of money in order to be able to get your new home feeling like your old home cannot be underestimated.  

If we can be of any assistance or answer any questions while you make decisions about long-term care, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

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Meet Dana S. Wieseman from our Probate Team

Click here to watch.

Dana was Born and raised in Central Pennsylvania. A graduate of Mechanicsburg Area high School in 1987 and Central Penn University in 1993 with a Specialized Business Degree in Legal Assistant. She has been a paralegal since 1993 and has specialized in Probate and Estate Administration since 2000 in the Harrisburg area. She furthered her career in 2020 by becoming a Certified Paralegal. Dana loves estate administration work and takes pride in the relationships that she has formed and the people she has meet over the last 18+ years. Dana is looking forward to continuing her career with Bellomo & Associates.

Dana has been married to Dave for 27 years and they have 2 wonderful kids. Megan, 25 is a teacher in Hilton Head South Carolina and Brian, 21 is in his senior year at Pitt’ and is considering law school. Now that Dana and Dave are empty nesters, you can find them on their farm in Bedford. College football is her favorite sport and has been a long time Alabama Fan. Roll Tide!

Please watch Dana’s video by clicking the picture above. If you would like to learn more about avoiding the probate process, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

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Meet Michelle Wheeler from our Probate Team

I essentially work with the executor/administrator/trustee and help them manage the assets and expenses of the decedent.  It’s like taking over a person’s financial life after they have passed.

If we need to probate, I prepare the court documents and set up the appointment to get the executor/administrator appointed.  Once that’s done there is estate/trust advertising, bank accounts to manage, securities (stocks, bonds, etc.) to sell or transfer, life insurance/annuity/retirement claim forms to file, an inheritance tax return needs to be filed 9 months from date of death (tax estimate paid within 3 months of death to get tax discount), bills to be paid, selling or transferring real estate, etc.  Once an appraisement letter is received from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for the inheritance tax (6-9 months or longer from the date the return was filed), we can make final distributions and close out the matter.  It is a lengthy and time-consuming process that can be frustrating.  I do my best to make the process as comfortable as I can.

Myths and Mysteries of the Probate Process:

  1. Even if all assets are in trust, joint name or have specific beneficiaries assigned, it’s the same process except for the estate administration. We still have to get date of death confirmation values on all assets, account for all debts and expenses paid and prepare a Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return.  Unfortunately, it is not a quick process.
  2. Depending on the company the amount of paperwork needed to transfer, sell or claim assets can be overwhelming. Please be patient.  Once all claim forms are signed and filed, it can take 10 days to a few weeks for the claim to be reviewed once it is in the company’s computer system.  This is not usually a quick process.
  3. I need the following information to start working on a file: bank statements including decedent’s date of death, current deed on all real estate, investment/brokerage statements including decedent’s date of death, life insurance/annuity/retirement paperwork, copy of most recent personal income tax return, copies of bills paid and/or checks drawn.
  4. Stock certificates should be deposited with a broker or investment service. Stock certificates are like holding cash in your hand.  If the certificate is lost, there is a lost certificate fee to get it reissued.  Please keep your investment safe.
  5. If there is only a bank account with $10,000 or less in the decedent’s name alone on a date of death, a spouse, any child, father or mother, or any sister or brother (preference in that order) can close the account with a copy of the death certificate and the invoice showing the funeral is paid in full. No probate is necessary.

If you would like to learn more about avoiding the probate process, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

 

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When Cohabitating Goes Wrong

This blog discusses cohabitating in the context of two adult individuals who live together but who are not married. They can be a partner, significant other, or simply friends. We will not be discussing the pitfalls of owning property jointly or other obvious pitfalls of cohabitation but rather we will be discussing the downfalls of not having estate planning documents to allow that significant person in your life to help make decisions.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you must be married in order to have certain rights under the context of the healthcare statute. It also requires marriage to have rights under the intestate succession statute in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, many adult individuals will decide later in life to never get married for one reason or another.

This is certainly a personal choice and preference, but if you are not legally married you will not have the ability to go into a hospital to make a decision for your partner or significant other. Without having a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place that appoints an agent your partner or significant other would have no ability or authority to make decisions for you. Instead family members, who may or may not have been involved in your life, for years would be able to come in and make those decisions.  

Often times if there is a guardianship proceeding that has to occur (because you don’t have a Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive in place), the Court will often defer to family members rather than individuals who are cohabitating with the alleged incapacitated individual. While this is certainly not set in stone, my experience personally is that the Court will defer to family and blood rather than a significant other relationship in appointing a guardian.

It is certainly a person’s choice to not get married and not to take the next step for one reason or the other, but we highly encourage those individuals to make sure that they have, at a minimum, in place a financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive and strongly suggest having a Last Will and Testament as Well so that your wishes are known and can be carried out.  This will at least save some heartache in the end.

If you would like to learn more about avoiding estate complications, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

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What is the Worst-Case Scenario if I Don’t Plan?

What is the worst-case scenario if I don’t plan?  

This is a question that was raised to me several years ago by a client, and I answered her question by walking her through what would happen if she did not have a plan, and she became incapacitated from a financial perspective as well as from a medical perspective.  I also answered the question about what would happen if she died.  My client was married with three children.  Her husband had two children of his own, and she certainly loved them and treated them like her own for all intents and purposes.  

Unfortunately, she did not see the need to do planning ahead of time, and the worst-case scenarios that I set forth to her are exactly what happened.  She became incapacitated a few years later and had a stroke. While she was in the hospital, her children and her husband were disagreeing about the healthcare decisions that should be made on her behalf.  To further complicate things, the stepchildren showed up at the hospital also arguing that they should be involved in the decision process. 

There is a healthcare statue in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that does provide the next of kin and who would make healthcare decisions, but, ultimately, the hospital did not want the husband and his children along with the stepchildren to be fighting in the hospital, so they asked them to go to a guardianship hearing and have a judge adjudicate who would be the guardian of her healthcare decisions.  There were a decent amount of assets in her name alone, and, unfortunately, the husband was not able to access them because she did not have a financial power of attorney in place.  

He went to the bank trying to explain the situation but, ultimately, was told that he had to obtain a guardianship Order from the Court in order to be able to make decisions on behalf of his wife.  The husband ended up in court fighting with his children that he had with his wife along with his children to another relationship, fighting over who should be granted guardianship of her.  He ultimately won after having to hire an attorney and spent thousands of dollars in legal fees.  

She passed away and did not have a Will in place.  I think everybody, including her and him, incorrectly believed that the husband would get 100% of the assets.  I did explain to her the worst-case scenario under the Pennsylvania Intestate Succession Statute that the husband would be forced to get the first $30,000 and then have to split the remainder with the children that he had with his wife.  Because of all of the strained relationships that occurred under the fighting that they had in the hospital and in the Courtroom, tensions were high, and they did not get along.  The husband was devastated to learn that he only got the first $30,000 and one-half of the remainder.  He asked his kids to please gift the money back so that he could have it to live the rest of his life, and they laughed in his face and kept the money that they were entitled to under the statute.  

Unfortunately, this scenario is far too common.  As an estate planning and elder law attorney, I tend to live in the worst-case scenario world because that is what typically happens.  If you plan, you avoid all of these circumstances and situations from arising.  If you do not plan and you allow yourself to be subject to the government or the state’s rulebook, it may not go the way that you want it or the way that your family wants it.  
I think often about that day where I met with her and discussed the worst-case scenario.  Clearly, I didn’t scare her enough or do enough to make her realize how devastating that could be for her family.  I am saddened over the tension in the relationship now with the entire family and know that I could’ve easily eliminated all of those fights and arguments and the need to go to Court and spend thousands of dollars of money.  My goal now is to show the worst-case scenario and hope that it hits home with at least one person who will get their planning in place ahead of time so that this does not happen to them.  

If you would like to learn more about how you can plan properly to avoid these and many other complications, please give our office a call at 717-845-5390.

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