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Gainesville Florida Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Speaking at the Law in the Library Series

I will have the opportunity again next week to participate in the Law and the Library series. I will be speaking with Shannon Miller on Elder Law: Protecting Yourself and Your Assets, on Monday, Nov.10, 6 p.m. at Headquarters Library, 401 E. University Avenue.

I will be focusing on the importance of a proper estate for the elderly to provide for an orderly transition of assets at death, the prevention of guardianship and to minimize possible exploitation. We will also include a brief overview of the Veterans Administration’s Enhanced Pension (Aid and Attendance), Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBA) and Medicaid Eligibility.

As always, this presentation is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. I look forward to seeing many of you there.


Friday, October 24, 2014

National Special Needs Law Month

October has been designated National Special Needs Law Month by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).  By educating people with special needs, their families and caregivers about legal rights and needs, Special Needs Law attorneys attempt to contribute as much as possible to their communities.

The goal of the NAELA is to establish members as leading providers in legal advocacy, guidance, and services to enhance the lives of those with disabilities.  By participating in Special Needs Law Month and reaching out to your clients, you can help spread the NAELA’s mission.

I encourage you to recognize National Special Needs Laws Month by writing or reviewing your living will or healthcare proxy information.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Delaying Social Security Collection can help ensure Financial Security

Some of the biggest financial risks that retirees face include longevity, markets and inflation.  Deciding when to begin collecting Social Security can affect all of these, and delaying collection can help ensure financial security.

The longer a retiree waits to claim Social Security, the greater the monthly payment will be. However, only 5% of retirees wait until age 67 or older to claim their benefits, meaning many retirees miss out on an effective strategy to improve their retirement security.  

Waiting to claim Social Security can be beneficial to singles and married couples alike.  The monthly benefits assured to the higher-income earner in the marriage is paid as long as either spouse is alive, meaning the payments continue throughout the lives of both spouses.  


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Annual Enrollment for Medicare Plans

Starting today and running through Dec. 7, Medicare beneficiaries who want to change their prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan for 2015 can do just that. The Annual Coordinated Election Period (ACEP) allows you to update or change your current respective plans. This is for Part D prescription drug plans and Part C Medicare Advantage plans.

Throughout this open enrollment process, you can either enroll in a Part D plan or adjust your current one. Additionally, beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan can revert back to traditional Medicare or change their existing plan. Those without a Medicare Advantage plan can enroll during the ACEP. Changes made before Dec. 7 are effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Even if you are satisfied with your current plans, we recommend you review your options for the coming year. Your Part D or MA plan may have changed various features like coverage or provider networks. You can visit the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov for complete information on 2015 plans.

Review any changes you are considering with your current provider to ensure coverage under the new plan. Keep in mind that missing the Dec. 7 deadline could result in lack of coverage and/or a financial penalty. Adjusting your current plans or enrolling in new ones should not be put off.

 

 


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Choosing a nursing home: Why consumers need to look beyond Medicare ratings

Choosing a nursing home can be a daunting task.  There are a lot of factors to consider when making a decision that will impact such a large part of your life.

Unfortunately, referring to Medicare reviews on various nursing homes might not be adequate enough. Recently, The New York Times published an investigative report that found Medicare’s tool used to compare nursing homes relies heavily on self-reported data by facilities themselves and is therefore mostly unreliable.

Keeping this in mind, it is important that consumers do not rely solely on Medicare’s rating system. Medicare mostly rates safety, not general quality.  Here are examples of two key components in the rating system that can be oversimplified and consequently flawed:

  1. Staffing: Patient/staff ratios can be helpful, but are not always an ample statistic when standing alone.  While Medicare only provides this ratio, several other key factors are being overlooked: staff morale, turnover or training.
  2. Falls: Oftentimes, a nursing home with fewer reported falls is considered a better choice than one with more.  However, it’s easy to skew these statistics since nursing homes might restrict residents’ freedom in order to restrict the risk of falling. Seniors might prefer a facility with a higher fall rate than one that keeps patients from moving at all.

As you can see, there’s more to these Medicare reviews than meets the eye.  Oftentimes, its reviews and the statistics offered are not enough to make a sufficient judgment on a facility.

Beyond the Medicare rating system, seniors and consumers can do some investigating of their own. Talk to residents of the nursing homes you’re considering and their families; visit the facilities in person; talk to the nurses and aides who provide the hands-on care; check the local ombudsman office for complaints. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Financial Exploitation is the Most Common Form of Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, financial exploitation of older adults is a serious and all-too-common problem. We actually wrote about it previously in a two-part series in the Caregiver Chronicle in March and May of this year.

Aug. 6 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine revealed some troubling statistics about the abuse of senior citizens.

Researchers interviewed more than 4,000 adults over the age of 60 living in New York. They found:

  • As many as one in 20 older adults in the U.S. may be financially exploited.
  • Most older adults have had their money or property stolen or used improperly at some point.
  • Roughly 80 percent of those interviewed had money or property stolen or misused over the past year.
  • Victims’ children were responsible for the financial abuse about 60 percent of the time, with neighbors and friends being responsible 17 percent of the time and paid home aides 15 percent of the time.
  • Often, victims were living in large households without their spouse.
  • Those needing the most help maintaining their independence were particularly at risk for financial abuse.

 

There are many ways the elderly can be financially exploited. In some cases, older people were forced or tricked into giving up their rights or property; others were forced or misled into signing or making changed to a legal document. This financial abuse of older Americans can have negative consequences that extend beyond an individual case.

“In addition to robbing older adults of resources, dignity and quality of life, it is likely costing our society dearly in the form of entitlement encumbrances, health care and other costs,” said Janey Peterson of Weill Cornell Medical College in a journal news release.

Since financial exploitation and abuse is the most common form of elder abuse, these disturbing figures need to serve as a wake up call for doctors, policy makers and caregivers, the study concluded. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Retirement saving linked to better wealth and health

A new study suggests that people who save for retirement are more likely to pay closer attention to their health.  Lamar Pierce, an associate professor at Washington University, and Timothy Gubler, a doctoral candidate, conducted the study which attributes the findings to a concept called time discounting.

Time discounting refers to a person’s tendency to value smaller immediate rewards over future desired results.  People who prefer large future rewards to small immediate rewards are more likely to save for retirement and ultimately improve their health using tools such as blood and cholesterol tests.

 “Employees who saved for the future by contributing to a 401(k) showed improvements in their abnormal blood-test results and health behaviors approximately 27% more often than non-contributors did,” Pierce and Gubler stated in the study.

The retirement contribution patterns and future health improvements studied were highly correlated, but not causal.  This means that saving money for retirement will not miraculously improve your health, but that people who are likely to save money are also likely to take good care of their health.

Essentially, it is important to remind investors that they should be proactive in regards to both their future financial stability and their health.

 


Sunday, August 10, 2014

New regulations make longevity insurance more attractive

Longevity insurance guarantees income in senior citizens’ later years.  New IRS regulations effective July 1 have made it even more sensible to consider this kind of insurance in order to provide peace of mind for aging adults.

The new regulations allow a deferred income annuity to be purchased with funds from an IRA, 401K or other qualified plan while excluding the funds in the annuity for the purpose of determining Required Minimum Distributions.  Purchasers must begin drawing on the annuity before age 85; up to 25% of the funds in the qualified plan or $125,000 (whichever is less) may be placed in the annuity.

This form of longevity insurance can be helpful to both singles and married couples since when a spouse passes away the survivor loses the deceased’s Social Security check and oftentimes their pension. It’s also beneficial from an estate planning perspective since the annuity comes with a return of premium feature.  Initial investment can be passed on to heirs if there are premiums paid but not yet received when a purchaser passes away.

Because the regulations are new, insurance companies are working to provide the opportunity for customers to invest in this deferred income annuity. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Savvy Caregiver Classes

I can’t say enough about how valuable these Savvy Caregiver classes are for our community. There are new classes coming up for family and friends, as well as one for professional caregivers. I urge you to consider attending if you are caring for friends or family members or anticipate doing it soon.

A new Savvy Caregiver Training in Gainesville starts on Thursday, Sept. 4 at the offices of Elder Options (100 SW 75th Street, Gainesville). This is a free, six-week training for persons who are caregivers for family members and friends with any kind of dementia. Tell your friends. 

Savvy Caregiver Training for paid caregivers is scheduled for Friday Aug.15 & 22. It is a 12-hour, two-day training from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm. It will be held at Elder Options, (100 SW 75th, Suite #301, Gainesville).  At the end of these 12 hours each participant will received a certificate they can use to obtain credits toward required dementia training in their organizations. It is open to all home health aides, CNA’s, nurses, therapists, social workers or any other who work with persons with dementias. The instructor has a DOEA license for ALF certification.   

Savvy Caregiver Training

Savvy Caregiver Professional Training


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Evolving long-term care options

Over the last 20 years, long-term care options for senior citizens and how to fund them have changed drastically. Baby boomers (and the generations that follow) will need to plan their long-term care differently than their parents before them due to factors like longer life spans, the uncertainty of future entitlement benefits and rapidly rising medical costs.

Fortunately, aging adults have choices when it comes to planning for long-term care. You can earmark savings for long-term medical expenses, rely on entitlement benefits, depend on your family or consider long-term-care insurance.

Many retirees with long-term needs want to rely on their family for support—as their own parents may have.  However, it is important that clients are aware that this option may come with immense emotional, physical and financial stress on family members.

Alternatively, an entire insurance industry has been developed around retiring baby boomers to fit the needs of the aging population, giving clients options beyond family for their long-term care. 

Unlike many policies in the past that directly paid a nursing facility, many current policies pay the benefit to the insured. In fact, half of benefits paid by private insurers for long-term care are not specifically for nursing homes but for in-home or assisted-living care instead.

Many policies can pay a benefit up to the daily or monthly maximum. The amount can be paid to the insured that would then pay the care provider, or the insured can arrange for the care provider to bill the insurance company directly. There is also the option of advanced benefit riders, which are fairly inexpensive additions to a life insurance policy that allow the death benefit to be paid in advance of death if the funds are needed for long-term care.

While it’s difficult to predict what kind of long-term care you might need, clients need to know that a plan for the future is necessary.  Although many people think “it won’t happen to me,” 70% of people over the age of 65 will need some time of long-term assistance during their retirement. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Physicians Order for Life Sustaining Treatment

In the most recent Caregiver Chronicle I wrote an article on the POLST program  and how it’s going to help people with their end of life planning. Sometimes people are put in situations where they can’t make their own decisions and the families’ decisions are not always what the person at risk actually wants. In order to put a stop to this new developments to the POLST program have been implemented.

The main purpose of the POLST program is for family members and elders are on the same page in the case an emergency was to occur. It is simply an approach to end of life planning based on conversations with everyone involved in a persons life. Once this is done, wishes are documented and in the end honored which leaves no room for error when end of life planning is needed.

During the past year, the FSU Center for Innovative Collaboration in Medicine and Law has been working on a project funded by a grant from the Retirement Research Foundation, administered through the Oregon Health & Sciences University.  The purpose of this project was to produce a set of materials that medical schools and law schools in Florida could use, if they wish, in teaching their students about POLST.  We have now completed this project and sent the teaching materials to every medical school, law school, nursing school, and social work school in Florida.  We also are pleased to make these Florida POLST teaching materials available to you and the public, by posting the materials on the center website where these materials are the first item listed under the heading “POLST Information and Further Reading.”

 


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