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Gainesville Florida Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Monday, June 23, 2014

New Law Paves the Way for Greater Elder Abuse Prosecution

With the Governor’s signature making it official last Friday, Florida's senior citizens now have a new and effective tool to fight elder exploitation. The nationally groundbreaking legislation, which was the centerpiece of the legislative agenda this year for the Florida Bar's Elder Law Section, makes it easier for law enforcement to prosecute those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens by providing additional protections and harsher penalties.

Working with, Adult Protective Services, state law enforcement, prosecutors and State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, the Elder Law Section constructed legislation that includes:

  • A "presumption of exploitation" when a predator takes advantage of an elderly or disabled victim in certain circumstances.
  • Deleting a requirement that the property of an elderly person or disabled adult be obtained by deception or intimidation in order to constitute exploitation.
  • Decreasing the property threshold values for exploitation.
  • Creating criminal penalties for those who exploit through joint accounts that were intended for convenience.
  • Creating a constitutionally sound hearsay exception for victims, to allow an out of court statement by an elderly person or disabled adult to be admissible in certain circumstances.

This is long-awaited and critical law that is terrific news for our elder population.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Upcoming Savvy Caregiver Training

The Savvy Caregiver Training Program is a great service for family caregivers and others who regularly assist individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. This free and unique, six-week program helps people understand how to treat and care for their loved ones with these diseases. The program provides participants with the knowledge they need in order to confidently care for loved ones and handle the stress that goes along with it.

The class meets two hours a week for six consecutive weeks. The participants will learn about the inevitable progression of Alzheimer’s and how to offer support through the different stages. These efforts will also be linked to those affected by dementia. By the end of the six weeks, caregivers will gain the confidence and knowledge to master their caregiving skills.

The dates and locations of the training are as follows:

  • Wednesdays 1-3 p.m. beginning June 25, 2014 in Ocala
  • Wednesdays 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. beginning September 3rd, 2014 in Starke
  • Thursdays 1-3 p.m. beginning September 4th, 2014 in Gainesville
  • Mondays 1-3 p.m. beginning September 8th, 2014 in Trenton (at Ayers Rehab)

Class size is limited to 15. Register by calling Tom Rinkoski at (352) 378-6649 extension 126, or via email to rinkoskit@agingresources.org.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Understanding Estate Planning

There are many misconceptions when it comes to estate planning. Many people believe that it is unnecessary to plan at a young age, that they do not need to review their old plans, or even that they do not have to plan at all because their spouse has done so already. All of these ideas behind estate planning are false.

It is always a good time to plan ahead or review old plans. The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils formed the NAEPC with the intentions of educating the public about the importance of estate planning. It is important that people understand what estate planning is, why it is so important, and what to look for in a professional team when choosing assistance.

The NAEPC’s goal is to educate the public and correct many common misconceptions about estate planning. They emphasize the need to have a qualified team of professionals to assist with the process of estate planning.

If you seek advice and guidance with regard to your estate planning needs, contact me or please view the NAEPC website.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

We Received Super Lawyer Designation

Super Lawyers, a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement, added Sam W. Boone, Jr. P.A. to that list for 2014.

It is an honor for which we are very proud, and it demonstrates the trust and faith our clients have had in us for more than 30 years and our knowledge in the specialized areas of elder law, estate planning and estate administration.

The Super Lawyers selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

Super Lawyers is designed to create a credible and comprehensive listing of attorneys that can be used when consumers search for legal counseling. The selection process is extensive and detailed and receiving the achievement is a high honor.

We are honored and humbled to not only be recognized, but to also be the only firm in our area to be recognized in our practice areas.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Medicare Covers Dementia Screening, But be Careful About the Screening?

Medicare covers a variety of medical services for the elderly, but with something as common and severe as dementia, one would think that screening services are detailed and accurate. According to recent research this is not the case at all.

Screening for dementia allows patients to recognize the problem at its early signs and effectively take preventative and treatment actions after diagnosis. In order for this to be the case, screenings must be detailed and should essentially leave the patient with more answers rather than more questions.

For the elderly, risk of dementia increases with age and could lead to conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are ways of treating it before it gets out of hand.

Medicare covers dementia screenings, but these screenings consist of about 30 basic questions that can easily be completed in about 10 minutes. According to the U.S Preventative Services Task Force, a group of medical experts, this simple test gives off insufficient results because the test shows indications of latter signs of dementia rather than early signs.

The recommendations for people who want to be tested for early signs of dementia is to undergo the initial screening that is covered by Medicare and then later on have regular follow-up assessments in order to see how the problem is developing.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Law in the Library Presents Estate Planning Basics

It was a great opportunity Monday night to speak at the Law in the Library session on Elder Law: Protecting Yourself and Your Assets, and now I get to do it again.

I have been asked to do another presentation this coming Monday, May 19 at 11 a.m. at the Millhopper Library Branch. This time the subject is Estate Planning Basics. My presentation will likely include address titling assets, protections given to homestead property, elective share for a disinherited spouse, wills versus trusts, consequences of not having a will, and probate. 

While I am replacing one of my colleagues this coming Monday, it’s no coincidence that I should be talking about both these subjects. So much of the time, complications occur related to legal issues regarding older members of the family because the necessary estate planning was not done earlier. 

This event, free and open to anyone, will take place at the Millhopper Library Branch, 3145 NW 43rd St. If you or family members are dealing with some of these issues, please join us. The talk is presented by the Alachua County Library District and the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Law in the Library Presents Elder Law: Protecting Yourself and Your Assets

I will be participating Monday night at 6 p.m. as part of the Law in the Library session on Elder Law: Protecting Yourself and Your Assets. The talk is presented by the Alachua County Library District and the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association.

With May being is National Elder Law this is the perfect time to bring attention to this specialized legal advice about aging-related issues. Among the topics we will discuss are Medicaid qualification, the importance of an estate plan and probate, overview of the Affordable Care Act and fraud against the elderly.

Elder Law is extremely complicated, and the hope is that we can spend some time clarifying some of that for local residents. Elder Law involves representing, counseling and assisting seniors, people with disabilities and their families in connection with a variety of legal issues, from estate planning to long-term care issues.

This event, free and open to anyone, will take place at the Headquarters Library, 401 E. University Ave, on May 12 at 6 p.m. If you or family members are dealing with some of these issues, please join us.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Hybrid Long-Term Care Policies May Be the Answer

New hybrid long-term care policies may be the answer for people wrestling with the issues related to traditional policies for these services.

Among the most significant and attractive features of the new policies is their greater affordability. In fact, it may be possible for you to convert an already existing annuity or life insurance policy to a new policy with a long-term care rider without any additional expense.

Long-term care has become a critical need, and it has staggering costs. According to the 2014 Genworth Cost of Care survey, the median annual cost for a private room in a nursing home in Florida is now $91,615.00, and a semi-private room is not much better at $83,950.00. Long-term care insurance may be the best answer if you don’t want to wipe out all your savings.

The other option is to simply assume you won’t need long-term care. But the odds are against you. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has determined that someone turning 65 today has an almost 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years. Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.3 years). One-third of today's 65-year-olds may never need long-term-care support, but one fifth will need it for longer than five years.

With traditional long-term-care policies you pay an annual premium, either in a lump sum or in installments, and you continue to pay the premiums to keep the policy in force until you either file a claim (assuming you have a waiver of premium clause in the policy), or until you pass away. If you fail to pay premiums, the policy is forfeited. There are no refunds. You receive no benefit from the premiums you already paid. The insurance company can raise premiums at any time by seeking approval from the State Insurance Commissioner.

The new hybrid policies fall into two types: annuity-type policies and life insurance policies with a long-term-care rider.

All the annuity-type policies and most of the life insurance-type policies call for a single lump-sum payment when you take it out. You do not have to pay anything beyond that. The premium and benefits are fixed and can never be altered by the insurance company. If you never file a claim, depending on the policy, you may be entitled to a return of most of the premium on an annuity-type policy, or a death benefit greater than the premium on a life insurance-type policy. If you wish to cancel a policy of either type, you may be entitled to a substantial return.

Also, if you have an existing life insurance policy or annuity, you may be able to exchange it for a hybrid policy tax-free, without having to pay anything for an additional benefit. You will have to pass a physical exam. The life insurance policy may offer a lower death benefit than the existing policy, but a substantial long-term care benefit.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Do-It-Yourself Wills

If you’re considering creating a do-it-yourself will to save a few bucks, please think again. The result may be anguish and conflict for your family. And the money you save may just be gobbled up in lawyer and court fees.

A recent case heard by the Florida Supreme Court, Aldrich v. Basile, demonstrates the disadvantages of do-it-yourself estate planning.

Florida resident Ann Aldrich wrote her will using an E-Z Legal Form in 2004. She wrote in the will that at her death, her possessions were to go to her sister, Mary Jane Eaton. If her sister predeceased her, those assets were to go to her brother, James Michael Aldrich. Her will also had a hand-written list of specific assets – several bank accounts, her home and its contents, an IRA, a vehicle and a life insurance policy. The will was properly signed and witnessed.

But she did not state what should happen to any assets she acquired after the execution of her will. In other words, there was no residuary clause. That’s probably because the form did not have a pre-printed residuary clause or guidance for including one.

Eaton died in 2007, predeceasing Aldrich and leaving her a Fidelity account and property in Putnam County. Since this happened after Aldrich wrote her will, these assets were not included. To try and fix it, Aldrich hand wrote an addendum to her will in 2008 reiterating that all her worldly possessions now go to her brother. Unfortunately the note did not conform to the requirements of Florida law because there were no impartial witnesses. The only witness who signed the note was Sandra Schuh, daughter of James Aldrich.

The result was a family dispute that naturally ended up in court and ultimately making its way to the Florida Supreme Court. James, the brother, argued that all of his late sister's assets should go to him. But two nieces (the daughters of another of Aldrich's deceased siblings) argued that the assets Aldrich inherited from Eaton should pass according to Florida intestacy law since (1) her will neither mentioned those assets nor contained a residuary clause and (2) Aldrich's addendum was legally invalid. Therefore, they argued, as constitutional heirs at law they were entitled to a piece of the assets Aldrich had inherited when Eaton passed away.

Ultimately the court decided in favor of the nieces, concluding that the assets Aldrich inherited from Eaton could not pass under Aldrich's will, although the judges pointed out that it all could have been avoided if the will was done properly and effectively in the first place. Good advice.


Monday, April 21, 2014

City and County Issuing Proclamations for Elder Law Month

May is Elder Law Month and in recognition of that, the Alachua County and City of Gainesville commissions will be issuing proclamations. I will be receiving the proclamation, along with Shannon Miller. The county is issuing its proclamation Tuesday at 5 p.m., and the city is doing its on May 1.

While it may be fitting that Shannon and I receive the proclamations, since I am the immediate past president and Shannon is the current president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys (AFELA), it is much more important that the issue of elder law be recognized here and in communities across the country.

Elder law is one of the most complex areas of the legal system, and our seniors and their families are often lost in that system. As elder law attorneys, we focus on the legal needs of the elderly, protecting them and their families.

If nothing else happens because of this recognition by the city and county, residents of this community should, at the very least, take the appropriate steps to protect our seniors. If you look through my website, you will see a great deal of information about how you can do just that.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Are You a Caregiver?

Not sure if you’re a caregiver? If you help care for a family member, friend or neighbor of any age, you are probably a caregiver. While some caregivers are paid professionals, many are family members who simply find themselves in a position where they are left to care for loved ones.  Their job is demanding and includes food shopping and cooking, house cleaning, giving medicine, helping with bathing and dressing, paying bills and providing emotional support.

Approximately 65.7 million people are considered caregivers in the United States – around 29% of the population. Of that number, 43.5 million adult family caregivers tend to someone over the age of 50, and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Caregiver services were valued at $450 billion in 2009 – up from $375 billion in 2007.  Although caregiving services have substantial economic value, unpaid family caregivers will probably continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in America.

Unfortunately, 70% of working caregivers suffer from work-related difficulties.  Many caregivers are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many deal with enormous stress. In numerous cases, caregivers must make various sacrifices in order to take care of their loved ones.

  • 69% have to rearrange their work schedule, decrease their hours or take an unpaid leave in order to meet their caregiving responsibilities.
  • 5% turned down a promotion
  • 4% chose early retirement
  • 6% gave up working entirely

Caregivers can also suffer loss of wages, health insurance and other job benefits, retirement saving or investing and Social Security benefits. Around 10 million caregivers above the age of 50 who take care of their parents lose an estimated $3 trillion from lost wages, pensions, retirement funds and benefits.  The 2008 economic recession worsened matters for many caregivers.

Unfortunately, women caregivers in this group tend to see worse monetary losses than their male counterparts. They are more likely than men to have made alternative work arrangements, take a less-demanding job or give up work entirely in order to care for their parents.


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