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Gainesville Florida Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

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.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Retirement Mistakes

If you’re getting ready for retirement and you haven’t planned for it yet, you may be in for a rude awakening. The only good news is you may not be alone. In a recent USA Today article, Matthew Shafer, economist and author of The Future of Your Wealth shared some common mistakes made by couples preparing for the next stage of life.

First, Shafer says not too feel bad because retirement is very complicated. But here are his seven big mistakes.

  1. The couple never talked about what they expected retirement to be. Besides the financial changes, retirement likely means spending a lot more time together.
  2. Couples in second and third marriages didn't think to plan for their potentially unique problems. Blended families can create significant issues.
  3. They didn't do proper financial planning. Very few retirees have a financial plan, so they don’t really know what they have and what to expect.
  4. They haven't planned for emergencies. Things may look fine at the start but an emergency can be devastating.
  5. The couple didn't consider the costs of health care or long-term care. Few people have long-term-care insurance but there is a strong likelihood they will need it.
  6. Only one partner is handling financial matters. This is all too common and an obvious and very big mistake.
  7. Do not assume that just because you're married you can automatically act for each other in business and health care decision-making. You need to make sure that the proper legal documents are completed.

Go through this list carefully to see if you’re ready for retirement. Most problems occur simply because you didn’t plan.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Have the Dreaded Talk Before It's Too Late

Seventy percent of seniors 65 or older will need long-term care service. The problems arise when the elders don’t talk to their children early and plan for a health crisis.

Many equate this conversation about long-term care with the conversation parents must have with young children about where babies come from. The similarity is that they are both conversations that are widely dreaded.

The concept of talking about aging is very difficult for the majority of people because it’s uncomfortable, it’s hard to acknowledge the facts of life and it’s hard to face losing control. It is an essential conversation though, which will encourage you to discuss the many issues and decisions that may confront you and your family in upcoming years.

It is encouraged to have this conversation with your adult children while you are still physically and mentally capable. It is important to discuss how you will pay for the help you may need, which oftentimes is extremely expensive. On average, it will cost $19 an hour for a licensed home health-care aide. Additionally, discuss where you will live if you need to move out of your home for declining health reasons. This is also a time when you should designate an individual or family member to advocate for your medical needs. While this last topic may be the hardest, it is essential you discuss any end-of-life instructions you want followed if ever faced with a sudden or serious illness.

While parents care for their children until they feel as if they are prepared to protect themselves, one day your child will mature they will become your caretakers and advocates. Prepare for this time and read more about what to discuss with your children at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/having-the-other-talk-with-your-kids--not-storks-but-aging/2014/03/27/8cc15a44-b3b1-11e3-8cb6-284052554d74_story.html


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Advantages of Setting up Your Child’s Special Needs Trust Right Now

If you have a special needs child at home you understand the importance of establishing a Special Needs Trust. But what you may not realize is that the sooner you set one up, the better. You don’t need to wait until the child is 18 years old. You also don’t need to have the funds to put in the trust upon setting one up.

Once you as the parent set up the SNT, you can name the trust as one (or sole) death beneficiary of his/her life insurance policy and other assets, such as a pension. Of course, you can also transfer funds into the trust while they are alive. You are able to name themselves as trustees, and name successor trustees for when you can no longer serve due to death or incapacity.

Other family members, such as the grandparents of that child, may also like to contribute to the child's present and future welfare and maintenance. Rather than each relative having to set up his/her own SNT for the child, the one SNT the parent creates can be the one legal depository to which everyone can contribute.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Are Two Heads Better Than One?

If you are unfit to handle your own financial affairs it is wise to have a Durable Power of Attorney. For those who are unaware of what being named Durable Power of Attorney does; it gives someone the legal authority to manage your financial affairs on your behalf. But should you choose multiple people for this task?

Say you have two or more adult children. They could serve simultaneously and to make decisions unanimously. The arrangement allows your co-agents to assist and support one another, and serves as a checks-and-balances system. This sounds like a good idea in theory.

There are a few potential downsides to having co-agents who are required to make unanimous decisions. For one, different people, regardless of family relation have different opinions, especially on a sensitive topic as money.

If you lack confidence that your children can act together, or if you believe it would be cumbersome to require them to act unanimously, you should name one person as the agent and another as the backup agent in the event the first one cannot or will not serve. 


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Seniors May Receive Financial Restitution for Telephone Scam

The Florida Attorney General's (AG) office wants your assistance in getting the word out about a recovery available to seniors financially exploited in a telephone scam.

The AG's office settled a case involving unauthorized charges to landline (home) bills by CenturyLink. More than 1,200 individuals ages 80-99 were victimized. In many instances, these consumers may not even know their telephone bills were inappropriately charged. Seniors were often billed for months, and even years, without their knowledge or consent. Claims in this scam may amount to $2.3 million.

Seniors victimized by this scam may be entitled to a refund. The average refund is estimated at $134.00 and may be as high as $700.00, depending on the circumstances. Claim forms were mailed to more than 1,700 people. However, these victims may be reluctant to file a claim or not understand 1) how they were victimized and 2) that they can financially recover some of their loss.

Details are available by clicking here or calling Citizen Services at (866) 483-0379. Please reach out to your community and family members to alert them to this scam and their possible recovery. Some suggested target sites to notify might be the following places who have contact with the elderly with landlines.


Consumers must file claims by April 12, 2014.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Savvy Caregiver Training

The Savvy Caregiver Training Program is a free and unique six-week program, designed for family caregivers who regularly assist individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Through this program, caregivers have the opportunity to learn and develop strategies they can use to accomplish their goals as caregivers, regarding their individual situation. I truly believe this in an invaluable program that offers caregivers an amazing opportunity to increase their skills. The program gathers ideas and concepts from many disciplines and presents them to the caregivers. A few benefits of completing this course are the increase in skills, knowledge, confidence, outlook and understanding as a caregiver.

The number of people with Alzheimer’s is continuing to rise each year. The families of these individuals primarily assume the care. The family members now have this unexpected profession or caring for an ill individual, and normally have no training or preparation. Savvy caregiving enables the caregiver to develop control over the situation and reduce the stress associated with this.

The classes meet for two hours each 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.

There is a range of program options in a variety of areas in North/Central Florida. Please follow the links below for exact dates, times and locations for the upcoming program start dates and for a week-to-week course description!

Savvy Caregiver Dates, Times and Locations

Week to Week Course Description

 

The Savvy Caregiver Training is offered by Elder Options, the Mid Florida Area Agency on Aging. For more information on the training, or to register for a program, contact the trainer, Tom Rinkoski, at Elder Options at 352-378-6649 or rinkoskit@agingresources.org


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

“It’s on the tip of my tongue!”

The Florida Council on Aging Board of Trustees has dedicated time each month to debunk a common myth about aging. Recently the topic for discussion was does forgetfulness mean cognitive impairment?

You have surely heard the expression “it’s on the tip of my tongue,” from an elder. Sometimes it is assumed to be associated with progressive cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. While there is a possibility of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, it is more likely that forgetting words or ideas has more to do with accumulating knowledge throughout a lifetime. It is natural for the brain to begin to slow down processing information.

I like using the analogy of a new computer to one that has been filled with completed documents and files. The newer computer runs much more efficiently than the computer with all of the data stored on it. The same goes for our brains, children soak up and react to situations much more quickly than an elderly person.

The message to take away from this is that we must not always jump to severe conclusions when an elder loved one starts to forget things. If you have any doubt about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s contact your medical professional.

For more information on the myth of forgetfulness please refer to the websites below:

http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/older.aspx

http://www.alz.org


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Myths Regarding Caregiver Stress

I came across this article on the Florida Counseling on Aging website and thought I would share it with you.  For those of you who do not know, a caregiver is anyone who provides help to someone else who is in need on a daily basis.  Informal caregiver and family caregiver are terms that refer to unpaid individuals such as family members, friends, and neighbors.  Formal caregivers are volunteers or paid care providers associated with a service system.  Many FCOA members are currently providing care for a loved one.  Let’s look at some myths as well as facts about this burgeoning caregiver population.

MYTH:  Less than 10% of American households are involved in caregiving to persons age 50 or over.

FACT:  There are approximately 22.4 million households, or 23% who are caregiving loved ones.  More than one quarter of the adult population has provided care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during the past year.

MYTH:  There are an equal number of males and females who are caregivers.

FACT:  Approximately 75% of those providing care to older family members and friends are female-most likely a daughter.

MYTH:  A caregiver spends about 5 hours a week providing care to older adults.

FACT:  Caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care to older adults.  They also spend an average of 4.5 years providing this care.

MYTH:  The average age of caregivers is 40.

FACT:  The average age of caregivers is 60 with a range from ages 19-98.  Of those working, 18% quit their jobs and another 42% reduce their work hours.  This causes great financial strain in an already stressed family system.

MYTH:  Less than 10% of caregivers are clinically depressed.

FACT:  46-59% of caregivers are clinically depressed.  Caregivers use prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, and insomnia 2 to 3 times more than the general population.

It is critical that caregivers receive support for this profound, life-changing experience.  Caregiver support groups are an excellent venue for caregivers to share their experiences and receive help and guidance as they navigate the challenges faced on a daily basis.  Alzheimer’s Resource Centers, Senior Centers, Hospice organizations, Community Mental Health Centers, Churches, as well as local psychologists and social workers are excellent resources that provide the tools necessary to assist caregivers with their caregiver journey.

FCOA would like to thank Christine Cauffield, PhD, FCOA Trustee for this Myth-Information submission.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Avoiding Estate Fights

Eighty-six percent of baby boomers and 74 percent of Americans 72 and older said keeping their family history alive through stories and keepsakes is the most important piece of their legacy. Baby boomers agree that family tradition is more important than money being left behind for them by their parents. Possessions and keepsakes are what make a family memorable and unique, not their monetary value.

Even though many agree that in order to keep their family tradition alive families must pass down mementos and personal possessions, this often causes conflict after a relative dies on who shall inherit what. Additionally, families often fail to accurately record their histories so many stories die with the elder family member.

To avoid problems, families should start talking early about which family members might life certain keepsakes. This conversation could happen while discussing an estate plan. While many parents might think it’s easiest to group keepsakes together and have your children share them, this is what causes families to split apart after a loved one dies. Another tip would be to sit with older relatives and label family photos, so future generations can understand their lineage.

Furthermore, when the estate plan is developed it should include a will, a trust, a power of attorney, a health care power of attorney and a living will. You should also create a memorandum that goes into detail on how you wish your personal possessions to be divided up. This document should be specific and may cause less conflict between family members. A common approach to this is that the oldest member in the room is allowed to pick one item in the room and this continues by age.

Although every family inevitably has favorite members, during this process you should treat all family members equally to avoid discord.

However, you will also have to choose your estate’s executor, which is ultimately giving power to one family member. This person may need to appear is court to sign documents. The executor gets complicated in the case of remarriages because a stepsibling’s actions may be questioned by the previous or later marriage. In this case, it is common to hire a corporate fiduciary as executor through your bank or trust company.

An ethical will gives you the opportunity to share family values and life stories in a one-page document, or even a bound book. These are often difficult to write, but always worth it for your family left behind.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Probate vs. Non-Probate

It is extremely important to understand the difference between probate and non-probate assets. Probate refers to the process of how a court determines how to distribute your property after you pass away. Probate assets are distributed to family members by the court, while non-probate assets are assets that go directly to your beneficiaries, bypassing the court process.

In the probate process, you must file a will and appoint and executor, collect assets, pay bills, file taxes, distribute property and file the final account. Since the probate process can be time-consuming and expensive, people often try to avoid it and have non-probate assets.

Probate assets are any assets owned only by the decedent. This can include real property, personal property, bank accounts, an interest in partnership or any life insurance policy.

Non-probate assets include property held in joint tenancy, bank or broker accounts in joint tenancy, property held in a trust, life insurance listing someone else’s name and retirement accounts.


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