Have you all heard about the moving scam that is happening country-wide? Many of these scams are directed towards the elderly who require more assistance with moving and, therefore, feel they have no other choice than to give more money to make sure their homes are moved. This particular scam involves holding people's valuables hostage, asking for more and more money before delivering. Some people have lost thousands of dollars and after months of waiting, still do not have their personal property back.
While it has been going on for many years, it seems the conditions of both the pandemic and the booming real estate market have made for the perfect storm.
Just in the past two months we know two personal stories of this happening.
Is That Even a Thing?!
If you live in the Sarasota area, you may be familiar with the local legend of Leona Helmsley, an American Businesswoman who famously willed her dog, Trouble, a $12 million trust fund. The matter spent years in court and ultimately the trust for the dog ended up getting $2 million to go towards taking care of him.
This is obviously a very extreme case!
But it is NOT extreme to make a plan for your pets in the event of your incapacity or death. Florida shelters are notoriously over-run with pets who have been abandoned when their owner has become incapacitated or passed away.
A little recommended reading from your friendly neighborhood Estate Planning and Probate Law Firm!
This book keeps coming up with clients, so we decided to do a quick post on it!
So many of our clients are freshly retired, embarking on a new phase of life where they have more time to adventure. Staying mobile is not only crucial to aging gracefully, but essential for playing!
In this book, Katy Bowman gives us simple exercises to keep moving or, if you have been sidelined by injury or illness, to start moving again.
Happy Reading, Walking, Hiking, Swimming, Biking, Golfing, Pickle Balling...Adventuring!
An important part of relocating to another state, that most people forget, is making sure your Estate Plan is updated. State-by-state differences in matters around tax, inheritance, marital property and more make a thorough review imperative. Florida Homestead Laws, for example, often mean out-of-state wills are no longer the most efficient or effective.
If you are in need of an Estate Plan refresh, Cuturic Law can help. We will review your old plan, guide you through your options, and help you decide on the best fit for your needs.
And if you have pets, we can make sure they are included in your Estate Planning documents! As Birdie and Otto here like to say: No Pets Left Behind!
If you are in the market for special needs housing, it is essential that you consider some important factors. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website lists state, local government, and other organizations that can help you. At the federal level, the agency also provides information about HUD's Section 504 regulations that define federal financial assistance, in particular, Section 811 outlines its program for Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities. It is important to research what assistance is available before contacting a realtor.
Once you have a strategy in place to utilize available programs to minimize costs, it is time to think about the housing location. Is the special needs individual employed or a student? Can they drive a car or do they need to be near public transportation to get to work or school? If the individual is a K-12 student, pay particular attention to school and after-school programs. Research what is available as many schools have programs for children with special needs that are offered outside of the standard school zoning in some neighborhoods. Also, take into account the proximity of hospitals and doctors. Consider the location of shopping (food and otherwise), dining and entertainment. Be sure to note whether there are any restrictions regarding support animals (if relevant to you or your loved one).
Once the location list is narrowed down talk to others who have faced the same housing challenges; whether it is a support group, school parent message boards, housing assistance advocacy group, or online forum you can save a lot of time and money by learning from others who have gone before you. In these discussions ask a lot of follow-up questions. Dialing into the details can help save you from missteps in your process.
Once you have identified a general location that meets some of the criteria above, it is time to canvas the availability of appropriate homes. When thinking about the layout and design of a home consider the rambler or ranch style house. They have a long low profile, very few stairs to navigate (if any), and have minimal exterior and interior decoration. These rambler attributes make the home reasonably easy to modify.
If mobility is an issue, look for a house with smooth floorings such as hardwood floors or laminate flooring. Smooth surfaces provide easier access to shower and bathroom areas. Also, check to see that the doorways in the home are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Assess how many modifications would be required to address your or your loved one’s needs while remaining within a budget. Grab bars, ramps, and other similar amenities are reasonably simple to add, and some states, cities, and counties will help pay for the modifications.
Not only are there federal, state, and local agencies to help you meet the requirements of a special needs home, there are also lenders and realtors who specialize in financing and purchasing this type of home. A good lender and realty agent will be familiar with the agencies and government programs that can help their client get approved for a loan and maneuver the housing marketplace for the right fit.
Realtor.com, Zillow, Homesnap, and Redfin are just a few of the online options to explore real estate from your home or mobile device. Just plug in an address of a home in the area that meets your criteria and you will get stats on that home as well as an aerial map of the neighborhood that allows you to click on and get information about homes that are not currently on the market but maybe soon.
Realize this process takes time. Identify a strong, competent real estate agent who understands your special needs parameters and is willing to put forth the time to find the right housing solution for you. Also, speak with a trusted attorney to ensure you have maximized all potential program benefits available to you. Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you will make in your life. Buying a home that accommodates special needs adds a layer of complexity that should be well thought out before hiring a realtor.
If you have questions or would like to discuss your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our office at 1 (941) 441-9193.
Imagine a pair of aging parents who are farmers. They are getting on in years and are considering moving into a smaller place. One of the daughters and her husband help run the farm, but the rest of the siblings have moved away and they aren’t interested in returning. It’s now time to think about how the farm legacy should be worked out.
The first order of business is to plan the finances so the parents can enjoy a comfortable standard of living in their later years. They may need long-term care in the future, so they should consult an elder-law attorney about how to plan most effectively. If they don’t plan, they could lose the farm later to a lien, to reimburse the government if they end up needing Medicaid assistance.
Long distance caregiving is described as giving care to a person who lives more than an hour away by The National Institute on Aging (NIA). This type of caregiving takes many forms – from arranging for in-home care, money management, bill paying, and information coordinator. You may also provide respite care for a primary caregiver, conduct safety reviews, create emergency plans, or any combination of these tasks. Legal publisher Nolo cites more than seven million adults in the US acting as long-distance caregivers for elderly parents or relatives.
The greatest success in long distance caregiving happens when there is a foundation of planning and preparation. If there is a primary caregiver for your parent, ask how you can be most useful. Also, talk to friends who provide care to see if they have helpful suggestions. You will need to identify local resources that can help provide care for your parent. Local providers can include Meals-on-Wheels, senior centers, elder transportation, and more. The National Institute on Aging offers several good websites to use as a starting point. It is best to visit your parent before planning to assess their current living situation, identify their health issues, and gather important information.
Things to consider as you go through each room of the home, the garage, and the yard include:
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) may decrease your SSA benefit if you receive a pension from an employer that did not pay social security payroll taxes. How can you know if this is your situation? Your social security statement does not reflect any reduction in benefits because of the WEP. The SSA will wait until you file to collect benefits to tell you what your reduction is in the event you qualify for both social security and a non-covered pension. Without the ability to accurately calculate your social security benefits in advance, your retirement planning becomes challenging. However, you do not have to wait until you file for Social Security to understand if a reduction in benefits will apply to you.
At some point in time, you are likely to be asked to be power of attorney for an elderly or ill loved one. Your person may be planning for when they might become unable to take care of their affairs. For example, they might become disabled or incapacitated, and they would need a trusted person to step in and manage for them. This is also necessary if the person is writing a will, and his or her estate must go through the probate process.
If you are named as a guardian, executor of a person’s will, trustee, or power of attorney, the law calls you a “fiduciary.” You must act in the best interests of the person who has named you – “selflessly,” in other words. You must act loyally and in good faith.
It is most common for parents to divide inheritance of property or money to be divided equally among the children. But sometimes, parents intentionally choose to not leave anything to a child, and the reasons for doing so may vary. One reason could be that a child who is more financially successful than the others and the parent doesn’t feel it’s necessary to leave anything. Another reason may be a desire to prevent a child with special needs from losing government benefits. Or a parent may not want to leave an inheritance to an irresponsible or drug-dependent child for fear the inheritance will be wasted.
The Effects of Disinheriting a Child
Regardless of the reason, disinheriting a child can negatively affect that child’s relationship with his or her siblings. The courts are full of siblings who sue each other over inheritances but even if they don’t sue, it is highly unlikely they will be a close family unit. Money aside, there is symbolic meaning to receiving something from a parent’s estate.
The risk for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia diseases increases significantly once you reach 65 or older, which includes much of the baby boomer generation today. By the year 2030, the 65 plus age segment of the population will increase substantially, accounting for over 20 percent of the American people. In the absence of a cure, the number of cases of Alzheimer's disease will increase. Projections that these Americans will survive well into their eighties, nineties, and beyond will dramatically increase. These longer life expectancies are due to continuing medical advancements in conjunction with improved social and environmental conditions.
There are different benefits of using a will and a trust for estate planning purposes. Each state has specific laws and regulations governing these legal documents. You can have both a will and a trust; however, the information in each should compliment the other. As a standalone, it is not accurate to say one is better than the other. The better choice for you, or a blend of both documents, depends on your assets and life circumstances. Begin by assessing your situation, goals, and needs, and understanding what wills and trusts do to guide your decision making. Then, along with an attorney, you will be able to identify the solution that best suits and protects your family.
At its most basic level, a will allows you to appoint an executor for your estate, name guardians for your children and pets, designate where your assets go, and specify final wishes and arrangements. A will is only enacted upon your death. It has some limitations regarding the distribution of assets, and wills are also subject to a probate process (which occurs in court and is overseen by a judge) and, as such, are part of public records.
It was the holidays, and Mabel always got a lot of joy out of generosity, but Mabel’s children were concerned that Mabel would need long-term nursing-home care in the near future. Her children had heard that people in Mabel’s circumstances should not give gifts because the risk of losing her Medicaid Eligibility.
The concern is real. For Medicaid to cover the huge expense of nursing-home care, Mabel would have to show that she owned nothing more than around $2,000. And she must also show that she had not given away money or assets over the prior five years (2.5 years in California). That Medicaid rule – the “look-back period” or the “transfer penalty” – would charge Mabel dearly for her generosity. Depending on the size and number of the gifts, the penalty could be substantial.
A trust was created by your friend Rose and she has appointed you as the trustee. You want to help, but you’re concerned about all that responsibility. You would be managing Rose’s property for her and for others whom she names as beneficiaries. You might be paying her bills and taxes, overseeing bank accounts, making investments, collecting rent or unpaid debts, getting insurance if needed, and doing whatever else the trust directs you to do. People named as trustees are considered in law as “fiduciaries.” “Fiduciary” stems from the Latin for “trust.” To merit that trust, you must act in Rose’s best interests, to the highest ethical standards of good faith and honesty.
It is a lot of responsibility, but the government is here to help. The Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) has issued a guide: “Managing Someone Else’s Money: Help for Trustees Under a Revocable Trust.” Download your free guide here.
Having family present in the life of a senior citizen can have numerous benefits on their mental and physical health. Family creates a consistent social network and connection that directly impacts the senior's overall quality of life. Prioritizing family relationships provides continuity as a senior experiences changes in their social network. Friends may change, become ill and unavailable, or even pass away, but family is multi-generational and, as such, has an enduring presence for an aging family member. The stability of family relations, even with the ups and downs of disputes, is a familiar source of social and emotional grounding, as well as practical help. A study by the United Health Group reports more than half of older Americans will cite faith or spirituality, and a loving family as the top reasons they have a positive outlook. That positive outlook brings tremendous benefits to a senior’s health and well being.
Whether you are the heir of the probate estate or the Personal Representative, knowing the lawyer’s role is one of the first steps you should take at the beginning of the probate process.
One of the biggest sources of conflict in probating the estate is understanding the role of the lawyer hired by the Personal Representative of a probate estate. Many Personal Representatives do not understand the probate process and leave the tasks up to the lawyer. The heirs of the estate may hear only from the lawyer or may hear the Personal Representative say, “This is what the lawyer says we have to do.” This often raises the question, does the lawyer owe a fiduciary duty to the heirs of the estate since the Personal Representative owes a fiduciary duty to the heirs?
The answer to that question depends on the state in which the estate is being probated. To be clear, this question is specifically about whether a lawyer owes the heirs of a probate estate a fiduciary duty, and not whether a lawyer owes a fiduciary duty in other contexts, such as to the beneficiaries of a trust when hired by a trustee, or a ward when hired by a guardian or conservator. The answer varies depending on each different circumstance.
As much as you want to and as hard as you try, you might not be able to take care of your ill spouse at home anymore. At this emotionally difficult time, the last thing you need is the stress of not knowing where to find the money to pay for the steep costs of institutional care.
Advance planning is a must. As as soon as you can – ideally at least five years before serious health problems arise – take advantage of many elder attorneys’ willingness to talk with you for free, or for a modest initial-consultation charge.
Although it can be convenient to have your child named on your bank account to pay bills when you’re sick or away, adding a child’s name to a bank account may have unintended consequences for both you and the child.
Many financially stable seniors who are choosing to age in place, already have a “smart” home employing the sorts of technology that can prolong their independent living circumstances. Family caregivers are freer to move about their daily lives knowing they can check remotely on their loved one and that the loved one has a set of controls at their disposal to monitor their environment. Some of these seniors are also tracked directly by medical staff that can assess if any of the patient's medical vital signs are outside of a safe range. While corporate competition for senior market dollars has made many of these devices within reasonable price points, Medicare is attempting to catch up to the market demand for the use of these products and include them as refundable medical expenses. Private enterprise and public policy are not in synch.
Often times, spouses will bring children into a marriage from a prior marriage or union and then also have children together. This is generally referred to as a blended family. Blended families highlight the need for careful estate planning to make sure the needs of each spouse are met, as well as the needs of each parents' children.
When your son or daughter turns 18 (in most states), it might be hard to imagine that little child who once needed you for everything has now become – overnight – an adult. Now your child is free to vote, marry, apply for a credit card, make medical and financial decisions, sign contracts, and live independently. No wonder the law calls this coming of age “emancipation.”
But if your adult child is hurt in an accident and needs somebody to make critical medical decisions, you cannot be the one to do that without your child having named you as power of attorney, even if you’re still paying for your child’s health insurance. If that child is so injured that a guardian is needed, you would not automatically be that person. Court proceedings would be required and those are expensive and time-consuming. A health care power of attorney would avoid that headache and would give you the standing you need, in one efficient document.
As your parents' age, it is important that you have conversations with them about their changing life situation. Make sure it is clear to them the conversation comes from a place of love and concern, and that you want to find out what you need to know to make sure their wishes are honored, and their autonomy and quality of life is maintained.
The COVID-19 pandemic's heavy toll on older Americans highlights the need to strengthen the nation's safety net for people in need of long-term services and supports, according to an Oregon Health & Science University researcher in a new report published by Milbank Quarterly.
The report proposes a system of universal coverage to support the long-term care of all older Americans.
"This approach would protect against financial catastrophe and end the current system that is based on the need to be financially destitute in order to access coverage via Medicaid," the authors write. "Such an approach would benefit both individuals and families and would also create a far more stable and more generous funding stream to providers."
Link to article
Link to report
The coronavirus has left many both confused and anxious. While we can’t predict when something like COVID-19 might strike, we can take steps to prepare for an unexpected crisis to help reduce the stress on ourselves and family members.
"A growing body of research suggests that dance, notably the tango, can improve balance, strength and walking ability in people with neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as multiple sclerosis and stroke.
“People who dance do better over the long term,” said Dr. Joy Antonelle de Marcaida, medical director of Hartford Hospital‘s Movement Disorders Center in Vernon."
The information on this website is for education purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. An attorney consultation is necessary for you to receive advice regarding your particular situation.