Kent Larsson writes about the proper use of wills, advance directives, trusts, and other estate planning tools, and how how they play a vital role in you receiving proper medical care and helping you to preserve and pass on your assets to your loved ones.
Some people who did not sign up for Medicare on time because of confusion with Obamacare, will not be penalized.
The government has relaxed its penalties for not signing up for Medicare on time for some recipients, according to NPR in "Feds to Waive Penalties for Some Who Signed up Late for Medicare."
When it comes to the federal government and Medicare, it has been required that eligible people either sign up at the right time or they face stiff penalties, if they attempt to sign up later.
However, it has been determined that people who purchased their health insurance through Obamacare’s (Affordable Care Act) marketplaces were not made aware that they needed to sign up for Medicare, when they became eligible.
When looking at the marketplace website, it appeared they were doing everything properly as long as they continued to purchase insurance on the marketplace. They have been granted a waiver of the penalties.
People affected will need to apply for the waiver. They only have until Sept. 30, 2017 to do so.
This waiver is only being granted to those who continued to purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but it is an important step for many elderly people.
Reference: NPR (June 6, 2017) "Feds to Waive Penalties for Some Who Signed up Late for Medicare."
When wealth is passed down through the family, it often is gone by the second generation. However, it doesn’t have to be.
Because wealth often dissipates by the second generation, it is important to make sure you are one of the exceptions that preserves the wealth, according to Financial Advisor in "These 5 Mistakes Destroy Generational Wealth."
Things to avoid if generational wealth comes your way include:
• Do not spend recklessly as soon as you get an inheritance. Buying all of your dream items, is not a good idea immediately after receiving an inheritance.
• Do not think you can handle the assets without receiving proper financial advice.
• Take your time to make a plan about what to do with the money. There is no need to act right away.
• Make sure that you are not paralyzed by all of your investment options. You should not act right away in a rush, but you do need to act eventually.
• Avoid giving to every friend or family member with a hand out, at your expense.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances, including generational wealth.
Reference: Financial Advisor (May 23, 2017) "These 5 Mistakes Destroy Generational Wealth."
It can be difficult to protect your assets in our litigious society. However, the use of good estate planning tools can make it easier.
It is extremely important for the wealthy to protect their assets from potential creditors, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "Asset Protection Measures."
Protecting assets from potential creditors is not an inherently difficult task. Estate planning attorneys have many ways to assist clients in doing that.
A trust is typically the best option for doing this. However, there are other ways to protect assets, including utilizing retirement accounts and college savings plans.
As a last resort, insurance can be purchased to protect against creditors.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in setting up an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and protects your assets.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (May 31, 2017) "Asset Protection Measures."
America’s seniors may be pinched by a reduction in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Much of the media coverage on the reduction in the food stamp program in President Trump’s proposed budget is focused on new additional work requirements that are being proposed. However, it could have a major impact on the elderly, according to CNBC in "Trump's plan to slash food stamp assistance would be a major setback for these retailers."
The budget proposed drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly referred to as food stamps.
Millions of American seniors rely on receiving food stamps to make ends meet every month. Since many of them are unable to go back to work, they do not have an obvious way to make up the difference, should they lose their assistance.
To be fair, the Trump administration is expecting the states to make up the difference from federal cuts. That might happen, but it will be a state by state battle to see that it does.
Reference: CNBC (June 2, 2017) "Trump's plan to slash food stamp assistance would be a major setback for these retailers."
Seniors may receive some welcome news that the amount of their Social Security checks may increase.
The methods used by the federal government to determine the cost of living adjustments for Social Security are not an accurate reflection of the purchasing power of recipients. However, that may soon change, according to Barron's in "Big Social Security Bump Could Be Coming."
Early signs indicate that a benefit increase of 2.1% is coming next year.
That is good news for seniors who have seen their benefit dollars pay for fewer and fewer of their expenses.
The bad news is what that might mean for the health of the Social Security system itself. It needs to be adjusted to make sure the Social Security Trust Fund does not run out of money in the next couple of decades, which would result in automatic steep benefit cuts.
Benefit increases are only expected for now.
Reference: Barron's (June 6, 2017) "Big Social Security Bump Could Be Coming."
“Many Americans confess that they are confused when faced with the myriad Medicare choices available to them. Others are simply not planning, nor saving enough to meet the challenge of health care costs in old age. In response, a whole new industry has sprung up nationwide.”
A recent iberkshires.com post, entitled “The Independent Investor: Elder Care in an Age of Confusion,” explains that it's called "life care planning." This is a corollary discipline for those attorneys who are practicing elder law. Elder law attorneys are, in effect, advocates for the elderly and their families. They handle a wide range of legal issues commonly experienced by seniors. Some of the issues deal with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, retirement, long-term care insurance and nursing home care costs. These lawyers can also draft wills and trusts, help families with special needs children, handle probate proceedings and issues, along with a host of other estate planning matters.
The concept of life care planning focuses on the level of care that’s required when someone becomes disabled or reaches a certain age. Life care planners identify the level of care the person needs, finds the appropriate care givers and then maps out the necessary private and public resources necessary to help pay for these expenses.
Realistically, when an individual reaches a certain age—or his or her health issues become more severe—someone has to monitor his or her well-being and anticipate the next level of care required. In many cases, those responsibilities are thrust upon a family member. But most of them are not equipped to make the proper, necessary medical and financial decisions. As a result, our loved ones don't get the care they need or, if they do, they pay an excessive amount from the family savings for it.
Life care planners are involved throughout the process. They help make those decisions for you and anticipate what will be needed in the future. These professionals will adjust your life care plan accordingly and find the best methods to pay for it.
Some elder law attorneys work with registered nurses and public benefits coordinators either “on staff” or on call. These attorneys also provide life care planning, such as sorting through benefits for those who are veterans and might qualify for aid.
Elder care can impact an entire family and future generations. If just one member of a family develops a debilitating illness, has a lengthy hospital stay, enters a nursing home or requires 24-hour nursing care, then life savings can evaporate in just a few years.
Speak with a qualified elder law attorney and address what could be one of the biggest risks to your retirement and well-being: a lack of planning in elder care and estate planning.
Reference: iberkshires.com (June 1, 2017) “The Independent Investor: Elder Care in an Age of Confusion”
Staying where you are comfortable and having family and friends nearby, can be an excellent retirement plan.
If you are considering remaining in your home when you retire, it might be a good idea to look at your home from a different point of view, according to The New York Times in "Planning to Age in Place? Find a Contractor Now."
Most homes are not designed and built with the elderly in mind. If nothing else, most homes have far too many stairs that are frequently difficult for elderly people to navigate.
Older homes can be even worse.
For example, many older homes have smaller doorways. Consequently, someone in a wheelchair cannot comfortably get through such doorways, if they can at all.
There are all sorts of things you might not even think about, that can make a home a bad place for an elderly person to live. Therefore, if you would like to stay in your home in your later years, you might want to plan for that now.
Reference: New York Times (May 19, 2017) "Planning to Age in Place? Find a Contractor Now."
A few hours of walking each week may increase brain activity.
A recent study shows there is help for people who are in the early stages of vascular dementia, according to The New York Times in "A 1-Hour Walk, 3 Times a Week, Has Benefits for Dementia."
A six-month study found that vascular dementia patients who took one hour walks, three times a week had better brain activity than a control group that did not go on walks. Even relatively mild exercise was beneficial.
This suggests that elderly dementia patients who go on walks, while in the early stages of the disease, could see the disease progress at a slower rate than they would if they did not go on walks.
This study will need to be confirmed by further research and it does not offer a cure for vascular dementia. However, anything that helps slow the disease, by even a little bit, is of great benefit to patients.
In case you were wondering, earlier research revealed that taking walks also helps people in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
Reference: New York Times (May 24, 2017) "A 1-Hour Walk, 3 Times a Week, Has Benefits for Dementia."
It might be a good idea to take a look at the estate plan, rather than just takes someone’s word for it.
Darryl White, the son of entertainer Barry White who passed away in 2003, has filed a suit against the estate and is demanding to see the will to know what it is he should be receiving, according to TMZ in "Barry White's Son Sues My Dad's Widow Can't Get Enough of His Dough."
Darryl claims that when his father passed away, his widow told Darryl that she would make sure he got his fair share of the estate, as long as he agreed not to challenge the estate. For his part, Darryl claims he never even saw his father's will to know what he was supposed to receive.
He received regular payments until 2015, when they suddenly stopped. He believes the money is now being wasted by his stepmother.
In one sense, this is not an unusual story.
It is very common for children to have fights with a step-parent over an estate. On the other hand, this is an extremely unusual story.
It is not at all common for a child to trust the step-parent enough to agree to her terms, without at least seeing the estate plan and knowing what the child is supposed to inherit.
Reference: TMZ (May 24, 2017) "Barry White's Son Sues My Dad's Widow Can't Get Enough of His Dough."
An estate can become complex, when a person passes away and leaves debt.
Most people have not gotten rid of their debt entirely when they pass away, according to Market Watch in "What happens to your debt when you die?"
Approximately 73% of people in the U.S. pass away while still in debt. The average amount of debt is $61,554, but that average goes down to $12,875, if mortgage debt is not included.
Because you are likely to pass away while still in debt, it is important to understand what will happen to that debt, to make sure it is not a burden on your family.
If it is debt that you alone are responsible for, then your estate will pay the debt out of any available funds before any assets are distributed to your heirs. If you estate does not have enough assets to cover your entire debt, then most types of debt die with you.
However, there are exceptions.
For example, any family member who still lives in a house with a mortgage would be responsible for the mortgage payments, if he or she wishes to stay in the home.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that meets your unique circumstances, including not passing on debt to your family.
Reference: Market Watch (May 29, 2017) "What happens to your debt when you die?"