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    Patricia Tapley VA Pension Approval

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

    A “New Wave” of Lawsuits May Force Children to Pay for Elderly Parents’ Nursing Costs

    Monday, April 16th, 2012

    Many of our clients and readers are caregivers of elderly parents; they have chosen to take responsibility for their parents—whether it be physical responsibility, financial, or other. But what if instead of making that choice, you had responsibility for your aging parents thrust upon you? This is exactly the issue addressed in this recent article from Elder Law Answers.

    “John Pittas’ mother entered a nursing home for rehabilitation following a car crash. She later left the nursing home and moved to Greece, and a large portion of her bill at the nursing home went unpaid. Mr. Pittas’ mother applied to Medicaid to cover her care, but that application is still pending. Meanwhile, the nursing home sued Mr. Pittas for nearly $93,000 under the state’s filial responsibility law, which requires a child to provide support for an indigent parent. The trial court ruled in favor of the nursing home.”

    The article points out that many states still have filial responsibility laws on the books, but that those laws are rarely enforced. This ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court does not bode well for Baby-Boomers, many of whom are finding themselves caught between caring for elderly parents and for grown children who have not yet left the nest.

    Perhaps one of the most disturbing things about this case is that the nursing home was given so much leeway. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that “the law does not require [the nursing home] to consider other sources of income or to wait until Mrs. Pittas’s Medicaid claim is resolved.” This would seem to condone (if not encourage) a litigious mind-set among nursing homes. As if this weren’t bad enough, the court “also said that the nursing home had every right to choose which family members to pursue for the money owed.” If you are one of many siblings you could find yourself involved in a lawsuit merely because you live the closest, are the wealthiest, or called mom more often than your brothers or sisters.

    The best way to ensure that your family doesn’t find itself embroiled in a similar lawsuit is to ensure that you (or your elderly parents) have a plan in place to pay for long-term care. Contact our office to explore your options.

    The Pros and Cons of Long-Term Care Insurance

    Friday, April 13th, 2012

    Do you have long-term care insurance? SHOULD you have long-term care insurance? These are questions that currently plague many forty-, fifty-, and sixty-somethings, as well as some precocious thirty-somethings. We’ve been hearing and reading more and more about long-term care insurance in recent years, but we still don’t seem to have any kind of firm consensus about whether it’s a good investment—whether it’s a necessary investment—or not.

    This recent article from CBS online, entitled Why Long-Term Care Insurance Is Important, argues that “LTCI is a tool that can help preserve and protect financial assets, provide flexibility to choose the type of care, offer the ability to choose where care is received, help to ensure high-quality care, and provide financial and emotional support for the family.” This article helps readers not only understand why LTCI might be important, but what are the important questions to ask when considering whether and which long-term care insurance might benefit you and your family.

    Of course, not everyone thinks long-term care insurance is necessary. Another article, this one from the Wall Street Journal, provides both sides of the argument. The pro-LTCI writer argues that “For those who buy and keep their policy it is a no-regret proposition. No one who has paid premiums and receives their benefits from the policy regrets having paid those premiums.” You pay a small regular sum over the course of a few decades, and when the time comes you are saved from bankrupting your family by paying as much as $250 a day, often for months or more.

    The opposition writer against long-term care insurance argues that the likelihood that you’ll need to use the insurance policy is exaggerated. “It may be more useful to learn that 67% to 70% of seniors who do go into a nursing home are discharged within 90 days, and that after two years, less than 6% of those admitted will still be there.” This is important information to have, but $250/day for even 30-60 days can quickly wipe out a significant portion of a retiree’s savings.

    Whatever you choose, make sure you account for your decision in your retirement and estate plans. Talk about the decisions with your estate planner, your financial advisor, and especially with your children. Long-term care expenses can be significant, and it’s always best to be as prepared as you can possibly be.

    Talking to Your Parents About Retirement

    Monday, April 9th, 2012

    Most people consider financial matters a private affair, and only talk about it with their spouse or their financial advisor; but when it comes to retirement and long-term care Americans just can’t afford to be silent any longer. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Nearly two in five adult children financially support parents 65 or older… and 86% of millennials expect to care for an aging parent or other elderly person in the future.” This means that while we may not want to talk about finances with our parents or children, chances are we’re going to have to, and the sooner the better.

    Some parents won’t initially be comfortable talking about finances with their children, and many children will feel uncomfortable asking; but just because you have a conversation about finances doesn’t mean it has to be invasive. The article suggests starting off by asking your parents any questions you may have about getting your own retirement savings in order. “Ask your parents for advice on your own 401(k) or health-insurance plans and then ask them how they’ve handled their own. Then share any financial wisdom you have with them.”

    Another way to start off the conversation is to simply ask your parents if they have any retirement or estate planning documents, and where you should look to find them if and when the time comes. This can be an opener to asking if there’s anything in their plan that they would like you to be aware of. “These [documents] typically include a will; a living will, which spells out what life-sustaining care a person wants; a financial power of attorney, which authorizes someone to undertake certain financial activities on behalf of a parent; life-insurance policies; information on bank, brokerage other financial accounts; and contact information for any lawyer, trustee or financial adviser.”

    As more and more adult children find themselves helping their parents financially during retirement, it becomes more important than ever for those adult children to be involved in (or at least aware of) their parents retirement planning process. If you worry that your parents may need financial help in their golden years, it’s better to broach the subject sooner than later.

    Have You Seen This Person?

    Friday, March 23rd, 2012

    If you are a Caucasian woman, aged 35 or older, possibly married, very likely working full or part-time—then there is a good chance that you are also (or will soon be) serving as a caregiver for an aging parent or relative. At least this is what a recent report released by the National Alliance for Caregiving, AARP, and MetLife indicates.

    The entire report, entitled “Caregiving in the U.S., A Focused Look at Those Caring for Someone Aged 50 or Older” is 73 pages long, but you needn’t read the entire thing to get an insider’s peek at the state of caregiving today. And the report isn’t limited to caring for an aging relative; it includes statistics on those caring for special needs children, as well as family members of any age.

    Some of the more interesting statistics listed in the report are:

    * 40% of Caregivers are aged 50-64.

    * 63% of those receiving care are over the age of 75.

    * 67% of Caregivers are women.

    * 76% of Caregivers are Caucasian.

    * 89% are caring for a relative (36% of the time it is the caregiver’s mother.)

    * Over half of caregivers are employed while caregiving; and…

    * Caregivers provide an average of 19 hours of caregiving per week (in addition to their regular employment.)

    It is worthwhile to note that according to this study most of these caregivers are unpaid for the care they give, which makes sense if they are caring for a family member and are doing it voluntarily—but a full 43% said that they felt they did not have a choice to take on the role.

    Our office can’t prevent you from one day needing a caregiver (or one day having to serve as a caregiver) but we can help you plan for when that day may come. Thinking and planning ahead can keep you—and your loved ones—from ending up in a situation where you feel you have no choice.

    The High Emotional—And Financial—Cost of Alzheimer’s Disease

    Monday, March 19th, 2012

    Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects everybody it touches—husbands, wives, children and grandchildren—they all bear witness to their loved one’s slow demise.

    Sadly, emotional stress is not the only stress that accompanies Alzheimer’s disease; those loved ones serving as caretakers may carry a huge amount of financial stress as well. The cost of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient can run anywhere from $64 a day to $77,380 a year, and because Alzheimer’s disease can be such a long-lasting disease (a person can suffer from Alzheimer’s for up to 20 years) the costs of care can end up being astronomical. It’s obvious that people can’t do it alone.

    Long-term care insurance can be very helpful in paying for the costs of care necessary for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s… if your loved one has thought ahead and purchased the policy before they or their spouse began suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Some people may not have thought ahead and hope that government programs will be able to help with the high cost of care. Medicaid can be helpful … if you fall in the right category and know how to navigate the complex system. (Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of long-term care.)

    Unfortunately, learning how to navigate the system is not something you can do in an hour or two. Because your experience will depend on a number of unique factors we can’t give you an easy set of instructions to follow. The best advice we can give is to say that right now, the best way to navigate the Medicaid/Medi-Cal system is to find someone who knows the system to assist you. Most estate planning and elder law attorneys help their clients with these issues on a regular basis. If you want to ensure that you and your loved ones will be cared for no matter what the future may bring, don’t be afraid to ask your attorney for help.

    Advice for Executors: How to Manage Final Medical Expenses

    Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

    Most people die in a hospital; sometimes after a long and slow decline, sometimes after a quick and unexpected tragedy. If you are an executor of the deceased’s estate this is significant because it means that there are usually final medical bills to be paid. What most executors do not know is that these final medical bills are not necessarily just like all the other final expenses, especially when it comes to filing a final tax return for the estate; this article from SmartMoney.com explains why.

    “…When a person incurs medical expenses and dies before they are paid, the executor of the decedent’s estate can elect to treat those medical expenses as if they were paid when incurred – as long as the estate pays the expenses within one year after the date of death. In other words, this election allows those expenses to be deducted on the decedent’s final Form 1040, even though they were not paid by the date of death.”

    Many executors may not think of this because medical expenses can only be deducted if they exceed a certain percentage of the deceased’s adjusted gross income (7.5% to be exact); but health care being what it is, final medical expenses can quite often reach this point.

    This sounds easy, but be careful if the deceased’s estate exceeds the $3.5 million estate tax exemption—you may want to look into other options. The article suggests that in this case it might be beneficial to “forgo the election and count the unpaid medical expenses as liabilities on the estate tax return.”

    As the executor of an estate you may have more options than you are aware of when it comes to taxes, probate, and achieving the best results for the beneficiaries. If you are unsure about any of these—or other—issues, please contact our office, we can help advise you on all angles of the trustee or probate process.

    Estate Plan Forgery: How to Tell and What to Do

    Monday, March 12th, 2012

    The question of will forgery or undue influence of a testator is not a common question, but one that does come up periodically in an estate planner’s office. The movies have given people certain expectations when it comes to a death in the family and probating a will: a book-lined office, the entire family assembled for a formal reading of the will, shocked and angry reactions as a loved one’s fortune goes to an unknown and unlikely character…

    This Hollywood portrayal may be generally off base, but the basic premise is based on the very real feelings that come with the death of a loved one: helplessness, confusion, familial bonds, and sometimes even betrayal. A will doesn’t have to be forged for there to be strong feelings of anger or suspicion when the contents end up being different than the family was led to expect. And while forged or secret wills may not be as common as the movies would have us believe, they aren’t completely unheard of either.

    So what should you do if you suspect that the will of a loved one has been forged or tampered with? First of all, don’t try to deal with the situation alone. Dealing with the death of a loved one is stressful and emotional, and everyone—including you—is likely to be quicker than usual to react without thinking. Instead, seek the advice of a trusted third party (an estate or probate lawyer is ideal,) someone who can help you distance yourself and look at the situation objectively.

    Will forgeries are very rare, but incidents of testators (especially elderly testators) being unduly influenced by a selfishly motivated caregiver or family member are much more common. If you suspect foul play was involved in the creation of a loved one’s will, make an appointment with an estate or probate specialist. We can help you work through your suspicions in a safe environment and explore your options should you feel the need to take action.

    Providing Care for Divorced or Remarried Parents

    Friday, March 9th, 2012

    Divorce is difficult on a family no matter what the circumstances. Even when a divorce is best for all involved, there is always an amount of stress and emotional trauma involved. In fact, it has recently become apparent that the effects of divorce—stress, family upheaval, and tighter finances—can last years into the future. Our firm works frequently to help divorced or remarrying couples update their estate plans to protect their new blended families, and we often see how the effects divorce can continue to have even as much as 20 or 30 years down the road—not just on the couple but on their grown children now acting as caregivers.

    Adult children of aging parents often find themselves caring not only for mom and dad but also for stepmom, stepdad and sometimes even another stepparent from yet a third (and current) marriage. Dividing time (and often finances) between so many parents with new and special needs can quickly take its toll, as can the family politics that come with adult siblings, half siblings, and step siblings.

    With all of this complexity and intermingling family ties, it is more important than ever to have conversations about estate planning and long-term care with parents and siblings before mom and dad (and stepmom and stepdad) get to an age where they need in-home or around the clock nursing care. A good estate plan can eliminate much potential fighting and confusion by clearly defining who will be making financial decisions and who should be making health care decisions when mom or dad become incapacitated. A caregiver agreement can provide financial assistance to the one sibling who inevitably ends up shouldering most of the care giving burden.

    If you are a part of a blended family don’t wait for time to take its toll; talk to your parents and siblings now about any challenges the future may bring—and how to meet those challenges together.

    Elderly Daycare Can Help Prevent Caregiver Burnout

    Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

    Many of our clients provide care for elderly loved ones; some even providing constant, around the clock care. Care giving is a demanding, overwhelming, and often grossly underappreciated job. In addition to giving up their own time and interests, caregivers have to watch someone they love slowly regress and lose the ability to do even the most basic of tasks. Often, the senior being cared for eventually loses their ability to even recognize the people around them… including the person giving constant loving care. For all of these reasons, it’s very common for caregivers to experience depression and fatigue… caregiver burnout.

    Depression and burnout does not have to be the plight of all caregivers, especially if you know the symptoms and how to combat them. The good news is that there are many preventative strategies which are readily available… the hard part for caregivers is valuing their own time and mental health enough to take advantage of them.

    One of the best ways to avoid caregiver burnout is by making time for yourself periodically. Adult day service centers provide personal care, social activities, therapy and meals during the day while caregivers need to be away at work or even taking a much-needed break. If you have a parent who can no longer care for themselves during the day, adult day services might be a good solution for everybody involved.

    There is a saying that hardships shared are halved, and joys shared are doubled; this is as true of care giving as it is for anything else. Many caregivers are reluctant to ask for help, but sharing the burden could save you from caregiver burnout. Don’t be afraid to reach out.