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Planning For Retirement And Enjoying The Remaining Years

When it comes to planning for retirement, the most important person may, probably, be a financial planner or someone to make sure that you have enough money to enjoy those years the way that you want to.  However, equally as important is to make sure that you have completed your estate planning at the same time.  Oftentimes people think of estate planning as a death plan, but in reality estate planning is everything before that as well.  Incapacity can hit us at any time, and it’s imperative that you have your basic estate planning documents in place so that during those wonderful years, if you were unable to do something for yourself, somebody would be authorized to do it for you.  

Some basic items that we always recommend everybody to have in place is a Financial and a Medical Power of Attorney, as well as a Living Will.  These documents will allow you to make sure that your financial and medical decisions can be made for you if you are not able to make them.  It will avoid any fights with family members or anyone who you do not want to have access to your information and will also avoid the expense and the emotional heartbreak of a guardianship proceeding.  A Living Will will allow you to make your end of life decisions if you are “end stage medical”.  This is a period in time when two qualified physicians state in writing that there is no realistic hope of recovery, that a person will always remain vegetative, comatose, permanently unconscious, terminally ill.  If two doctors state this and that there is no realistic hope of recovery, a Living Will will allow you to decide whether you want heroic and lifesaving measures or whether you want them to withdraw treatment.  The most important piece is that the individual gets to decide for themselves, so that their loved ones don’t feel as though they had to make that difficult decision to pull the plug or to play “God”.  Finally, a Last Will and Testament will allow you to make the decisions about what will happen at your death and in the future, and along with your financial planner, who assisted you in making sure that you have enough money for retirement, they will, also, ensure that the assets are designated properly to go to the correct beneficiaries.  

Enjoying your time in retirement and enjoying those wonderful years will be much better knowing that you have protected yourself in case of an unforeseen incident or accident, et cetera.  The time to plan for that is now to allow you to enjoy each and every day to its fullest and not be worried about the worse-case scenario in case you didn’t plan. Enjoy those final years!

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

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Key Documents Are Essential before Signs of Dementia

DementiaIn the beginning stages of dementia, someone who handles the family finances forgetting to pay bills is just one common warning sign. The spouse doesn’t know about it until the bank calls the house warning that the mortgage has not been paid in months and is in default. Accounting for the possibility of your own and your loved one’s eventual mental incapacity is a key part of any estate plan.

A recent articlein Physician’s Monthly Digest, titled “Dealing With a Loved One’s Cognitive Decline Is Simpler with Right Legal Documents in Place,”says that a healthcare proxy and a durable power of attorney are key legal documents to have before there are any signs of mental incapacitation. The documents allow you to designate another person to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf once you are unable to do so. This can be your spouse, an adult child, a friend, or a trusted adviser. Without a power of attorney, your spouse will need a court order to access any non-joint accounts that you have.

You should also draft a living will, or advance directive. That way your agent and your healthcare staff will have your instructions as to whether to administer life-sustaining medical treatment if you are in the late stages of dementia, terminally ill, or near death. The living will can take the burden off of your loved ones when it comes to making tough medical decisions like whether to keep you on life support or not.

You should also entrust someone else with the power to take control of your affairs with a healthcare proxy and power of attorney. These documents will only become effective when your medical staff decide you lack the wherewithal to make medical and financial decisions for yourself. The laws for these type of documents vary from state to state, so talk to an experienced elder law attorney about how it works where you live.

The original article also recommends that you make sure your loved ones not only know about these important documents, but also where you keep them. You should give copies of the executed documents to your appointed agents, and give copies of your healthcare proxy and living will to your healthcare providers. This simple step can help your doctors ensure that your wishes are respected.

Ensuring that you have the appropriate documents in place will give peace of mind to you and your loved ones. Contact an experienced elder law attorney. He or she can help you define your goals and can draft the documents accordingly.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Physician’s Monthly Digest (February 27, 2015) “Dealing With a Loved One’s Cognitive Decline Is Simpler with Right Legal Documents in Place”

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The Tough Choices in the Stories of Senior Guardianship

Guardianship-300x198One Florida journalist recently received numerous heart-breaking testimonials from individuals feeling frustrated by a system that was designed to protect adults no longer able to fend for themselves. Their stories are sad. But maybe even sadder are the many instances where it turns out that the elder guardianship system is doing its job properly. These are the scenarios where strangers have no choice except to step in and make decisions that families and friends simply cannot.

The (Sarasota, FL) Herald-Tribune, in a recent article titled “The takeaway lesson on elder guardianship,”says that one woman contacted the newspaper writer from an assisted-living facility, saying she had been incarcerated against her will. She moved to be closer to her son, but her daughter in Arizona had her under guardianship, which permitted limited contact with her son.

After the journalist spoke with both of them and read the court filings, it appeared the woman didn’t need to be locked away. She might be better off moving in with her local son and his family, who were willing to care for her. However, later it was revealed that this son was convicted of securities fraud.

Unique issues in a family can create wrinkles that are unforeseen.

Many efforts around the country are concentrated on legislative efforts to improve elder guardianship, and to ensure the process is implemented only in cases where other attempts to help have not succeeded.

It’s best to start early. Make legal plans now, so there will be no drama should you need help mentally or physically in the future. Who do you trust to take care of such matters for you?

Contact an experienced elder law attorney to help you. He or she understands these issues and can work with you and your family to find the best resolution.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The (Sarasota, FL) Herald-Tribune (February 27, 2015) “The takeaway lesson on elder guardianship”

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Medicaid Planning for Seniors

Medicaid planningMedicaid is the United States' health care safety net. It is an insurance program for low-income and needy people that provides health-related coverage for children, many seniors, and/or people who are disabled. A widespread and dangerous misconception is Medicare will cover long-term costs. In reality, Medicare benefits for long-term care are very limited. Medicare pays only for skilled care that is deemed "medically necessary," and it does not cover personal care required by most seniors with chronic, custodial care needs.

A recent article in The Victoria (TX) Advocate, titled How does Medicaid factor into financial planning?”, recommends that seniors need a strategy for paying for long-term care, should the need arise. In some instances, however, some individuals may have to rely on Medicaid if they don't have enough income to purchase long-term care insurance, the assets to pay for care themselves, or they are uninsurable.

Medicaid planning was often thought of as a viable tool for long-term planning. However, estate planning attorneys are now rethinking this strategy. Medicaid planning—which was, in essence, planning to make asset transfers, used to be the primary tool used by seniors considering long-term care costs. However, law changes and the advent of new financial products and plans will work better, they say. Medicaid "planning" is actually a misnomer as most seniors don’t plan to go on Medicaid, but rather experience an urgent care need, and there aren’t any other options. A better alternative is to obtain a long-term care insurance policy.

To qualify for Medicaid, a senior must be at what the government deems poverty level: less than $2,000 in countable assets (countable assets doesn’t include one's personal residence and this threshold varies by state) and roughly $2,000 or less in monthly income. Even if a senior is considered well off when he or she retires, medical and long-term care costs can decrease their assets to the poverty level, which means Medicaid would be an option at that point.

Some seniors will purposely transfer or retitle assets to qualify for Medicaid. This can be risky, the original article advises. There are other methods of spending down assets which can be more beneficial to the senior—like using cash assets to make substantial home improvements and repairs, adding safety features in the home should the senior become wheelchair bound.

Another risk in depending on Medicaid for long-term care is that federal law requires states to look for recovery of Medicaid benefits. The state will put in a claim against any assets that pass through probate upon the death of the recipient. This will include assets not counted during eligibility, such as the senior’s home.

Because estate and lifetime planning can be overwhelming and wrought with pitfalls, the article advises seniors to enlist the help of an estate planning attorney and, more particularly, an elder law attorney to evaluate all options available.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The Victoria (TX) Advocate (February 13, 2015) How does Medicaid factor into financial planning?

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Rules Announced for Care Facility Residents Suffering from Dementia

DementiaMassachusetts regulators appear to be falling short in ensuring that nursing homes follow rules designed to improve care for some of their most vulnerable patients, those with dementia, a Globe review shows. Nursing homes have been notably slow to implement the improvements: Some have not completed the required staff training for dementia care that is required of all nursing homes and was supposed to be finished nearly three months ago, the Globe found in a random check of about one dozen facilities. Meanwhile, at least 40 nursing homes have asked for waivers to complete other upgrades required for facilities that specifically advertise special care for dementia patients, according to state data. And six have been cited for their failures, the state said.

The Boston Globe article, titled Dementia care lacks oversight in Mass., data show,” says that despite the delays, state regulators are not conducting spot checks for compliance—they’re already just too busy with routine monitoring of more than 400 nursing homes. However, the state health department recently announced that its inspectors would now review dementia care during their annual visits to each facility. But this means some nursing homes may not be subject to these compliance checks for months.

This process has been slow, as the state handed out its dementia special care checklist for inspectors in December—almost six months after the rules were adopted.

The president of the state’s Advocates for Nursing Home Reform says the new rules, once implemented, could substantially improve the lives of nursing home residents. However, increased oversight and greater nursing home participation are crucial to ensure that the law’s benefits are meaningful. Nevertheless, nursing home administrators say they are struggling to comply with the rules due to its expense.

The Massachusetts Senior Care Association reports that many members have spent as much as $30,000 on the required staff training. Those rules—in addition to other general training requirements—are intended to close a loophole that allowed nursing homes to advertise dementia units without providing added training for their workers, specialized resident activities, or safety measures to prevent residents from wandering. Massachusetts is lagging behind the rest of the country on requiring these protections. The original article reports that a 2005 federal report noted that 44 states at that time already had requirements governing training, staffing, and security for facilities that provide specialized dementia care. Regulators believe it was important to mandate the training, as over 50% of the state’s 41,000 nursing home residents have dementia.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Boston Globe (February 9, 2015) Dementia care lacks oversight in Mass., data show

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