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.
Pensions used to be a main portion of the American benefits package, but times have changed.
Many companies in the U.S. did away with pension plans for their employees in the 1970s and switched to 401(k) plans, according to the Washington Post in "'I hope I can quit working in a few years': A preview of the U.S. without pensions."
401(k)s were supposed to make it easier for people to retire.
The idea was that employees could have their own investment account. They could put their money into the accounts and many employers matched the amount put in.
The system was entirely voluntary. That is where the problem came in.
Over the years, most people have not put nearly enough into their accounts. As a result, they do not have enough money to retire.
That leaves many elderly people now working long after they had hoped to leave the workforce, because Social Security does not provide enough money to live on.
Reference: Washington Post (Dec. 23, 2017) "'I hope I can quit working in a few years': A preview of the U.S. without pensions."
What is next, as Republicans look to reform programs?
It appears that Republicans may be prepared to propose cuts to some of the most popular government programs, according to Financial Advisor in "GOP Laying Groundwork To Cut Future Social Security, Medicare, Welfare Outlays."
Republicans are talking about making cuts to programs for the elderly, such as Social Security and Medicare. It is likely that any proposed cuts would be delayed and not effect current retirees. However, they will still be controversial for Americans who plan to rely on the programs in the future.
Cutting Social Security and Medicare is considered to be like touching the third rail in American politics. These are not popular proposals. Going through with this plan, guarantees that we will not be getting a relief from politics in 2018.
Reference: Financial Advisor (Dec. 6, 2017) "GOP Laying Groundwork To Cut Future Social Security, Medicare, Welfare Outlays."
Social Security benefits are important to most retirees, so make sure you get the most out of it.
Many people choose to figure out how to maximize their Social Security benefits for themselves. However, many do so to their own detriment, according to CNBC in "Bungling this retirement decision could cost you $300,000."
It has been estimated that every year, Americans receive $10 billion less in Social Security benefits, than if they maximized their benefits. Some people leave as much as $300,000 in lifetime benefits on the table, without even knowing it.
This is the result of people not choosing to retire at the right time and also not thinking about things like spousal benefits that might be a good option for them.
It is not a good idea to make Social Security decisions on your own or to rely on government employees to tell you how to get your maximum benefit.
You need to talk to experts when making these decisions.
An elder law attorney can advise you on applying for your Social Security benefits and how to get all the benefits you have earned.
Reference: CNBC (Nov. 14, 2017) "Bungling this retirement decision could cost you $300,000."
A woman in Spain was mistakenly ruled dead and now she finds herself in a nightmare. Yes, it can happen here, too!
There is a master government list in the U.S. that has your name and other identifying information on it. When you pass away, it will be recorded and your death will be noted on another master list.
Finding yourself prematurely declared dead by the government can be a very difficult problem to resolve. However, it is usually not as bad as what one woman is going through in Spain, according to Fox News in "Spanish woman wants to open up grave to prove she's alive."
The government maintains a list that records when you pass away, so the government and private businesses can know when you are eligible for services and when your eligibility ends.
Human error sometime causes problems with the list. As a result, people who are still alive are accidentally put on the master list of the deceased.
But rarely does it get as difficult as it is for Juana Escudero. She has been declared deceased for seven years because seven years ago someone with her exact same name and place of birth was recorded as deceased.
As a result, Escudero has not been eligible to receive government services, including going to a doctor for the last seven years. Her efforts to convince the government that she is alive have so far been fruitless.
She's asking the government to open the grave of the person they declared dead, so she can prove it is not her.
In the U.S. it is easier to fix these clerical errors. However, it still is not always easy, so it would probably be a good idea to get yourself an attorney.
Reference: Fox News (Sep. 27, 2017) "Spanish woman wants to open up grave to prove she's alive."
If elderly have problem handling their finances, Social Security has a helpful option.
Families sometimes have problems with elderly family members losing the ability to handle their own finances. A general durable power of attorney can help. Social Security also has a program that can help in the situation of receiving their checks, according to Forbes in "The Social Security Program For People With Dementia."
The program is the Social Security Representative Payee Program.
It allows someone else to receive the benefit checks of a Social Security payee as a representative.
It is a little known program that has been around for almost as long as Social Security itself.
For families that know about it and use the program, it can provide a great relief.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a challenge if one wants to sign up.
It requires a lot of paperwork to be submitted.
An elder law attorney can advise you, if you have any questions on the program.
Reference: Forbes (Sep. 26, 2017) "The Social Security Program For People With Dementia."
If reform does not occur by the 2030s, benefits will most likely not be stopped, but will be reduced.
Washington has known for a long time now that Social Security needs to be reformed, but it is not expected soon, according to Forbes in "When Can You Expect Social Security Reform?"
The problem is that the Republicans and Democrats are very far apart on how they would like to fix the program.
Republicans would like to raise the retirement age as part of any fix. Many of them would also like to privatize the program.
Both of those ideas are staunchly opposed by Democrats, who would instead like to find further funding, so Social Security benefits can be increased.
This stalemate is not going to end in the near future.
That means it is unlikely the parties will compromise to come up with a fix.
Do not expect them to do so, until the very last minute when a compromise must be reached or benefits will be cut automatically.
The bottom line is that if nothing is done, then sometime in the 2030s the Social Security Trust Fund will run out of money.
Reference: Forbes (August 29, 2017) "When Can You Expect Social Security Reform?"
The agency tried once before and that attempt didn’t work out so well.
The Social Security Administration is planning to try again to make its online accounts more secure by modifying its earlier attempt, according to Investment News in "Social Security Administration steps up online security."
Online information is easy to obtain from the agency by a legitimate user and it appears that it does not take very long for crooks who are digitally savvy to log in either. The agency attempted to fix this problem in 2016, by requiring a two-step verification process before account access was granted.
That was short-lived, however, as many people were unable to log in to their accounts.
In its last attempt, the agency sent users a code via cellphone to verify their accounts before they could log in. That was a problem, since many elderly people do not use cellphones.
This time around the agency will let people choose to have the code sent by cellphone or email. It is assumed that if are trying to access their Social Security accounts online, then they will almost certainly have email accounts, even if they do not have cellphones.
This change is scheduled to take effect on June 10, 2017.
An elder law attorney can help with any difficulties you may have accessing your information from the Social Security Administration.
Reference: Investment News (May 15, 2017) "Social Security Administration steps up online security."
More than half of the states in the U.S. have laws requiring adult children to provide care and support for elderly parents.
Laws have been passed in 28 states that require adult children to provide financial support for their elderly parents, if the parents are unable to pay their own bills, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "Filial-Responsibility Laws Could Cost You."
These laws were not used much in the past, because government programs for the elderly, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid provide financial support for the elderly.
Today, with people saving less and living longer, many elderly people are not able to afford the costs of their own care, which is increasing.
Nursing homes in states with filial-responsibility laws are increasingly looking to enforce them against children with parents who do not pay their bills.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (May 3, 2017) "Filial-Responsibility Laws Could Cost You."
Suggested Key Words: Estate Planning, Elder Law, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid
Americans know about Social Security and how it works, but do they really know enough?
A recent survey found that most people between the ages of 55-61 believe some myths about Social Security that should be corrected, according to CNBC in "The three biggest myths about how Social Security works."
The myths include:
• Many people think that when they become eligible for Social Security, the government will know and automatically start sending them a monthly check. That is not true. You need to apply for Social Security and you need to do so, three months before you plan to receive it.
• Another common misconception is the retirement age to receive full benefits. It depends on when you were born.
• People also believe that if an ex-spouse claims Social Security benefits under their work history, that it will decrease the amount of their benefits. This is also a myth. An ex-spouse's claim will not result in changes to any benefits that you will receive.
Reference: CNBC (April 25, 2017) "The three biggest myths about how Social Security works."