Estate Planning Blog Articles

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How to Manage Aging Parent’s Finances

A day will come when age begins to catch up with your parents and they will need help with their finances. Even if your parents don’t want to feel dependent, when you think they need your assistance, you can approach the issue with sensitivity and extend your support for the management of their finances, says Real Daily’s recent article entitled “5 Tips to Manage an Aging Parent’s Finances.” Here are some tips:

  1. Start the conversation early. Your parents may not need your help with the handling of their financial matters right away. However, it is smart to begin the conversation early. Approach the issue of who will manage the financial responsibilities when they’re no longer able to do it. Parents should select a trusted family member by providing their advance written consent. This will let you to talk about your parents’ financial issues with financial advisors, doctors and Medicare representatives and carry out timely financial planning.
  2. Create a list of all pertinent legal and financial documents. Prepare a list of your parents’ important contacts, bank account details and locations of any stored documents, like wills, property deeds, insurance policies and birth certificates. Make certain all information and documentation is accurate and up to date. If information needs to be modified because of a change of circumstances, this is time to apprise them of it and help them do what’s needed.
  3. Consider executing a power of attorney. A competent adult can sign a power of attorney to authorize another person to make decisions on their behalf. A power of attorney for a specific purpose may cover medical, financial, or other decisions, and it may be designed to give limited or more sweeping powers. When your parents sign a power of attorney with you named as their attorney in fact, it will legally empower you to make key decisions when they can’t. An elder law attorney can help you draft an appropriate power of attorney according to your situation.
  4. Document your actions and keep others in the know. Transparent communication will help you avoid misunderstandings or controversy within your family. Keep your parents, siblings and any other loved ones involved with your family informed about your actions. No matter how noble your intentions may be, if others are kept in the dark, it can raise questions about your motives. Managing the finances of aging parents is a lot of work, and you can ask for the support of family members or at least keep the lines of communication open.
  5. Don’ comingle your finances with your parents’ plans. While it may look to be a convenient or cost-effective thing to do, it’s never a good idea to combine your parents’ finances with your own. Keep them separate. Using your parents’ money for your purposes or your own money to help them out is usually a slippery slope that should be avoided. Don’t forget about your own financial goals and retirement savings while you focus on helping your parents.

Reference: Real Daily (Sep. 9, 2022) “5 Tips to Manage an Aging Parent’s Finances”

Scammers Try to Take Senior for a Ride

An 80-year-old woman figured out she was being scammed before going to the bank, after receiving an email from fraudsters who hired an Uber to take her there.

However, the story is a stark reminder of the extent to which thieves will go to scam the elderly, says Krebs on Security’s recent article entitled “Scammers Sent Uber to Take Elderly Lady to the Bank.”

Travis Hardaway said his mother last month replied to an email she received regarding an appliance installation from BestBuy. He said the timing of the scam email couldn’t have been worse, since his mom’s dishwasher had just died. She’d paid to have a new one delivered and installed.

“I think that’s where she got confused, because she thought the email was about her dishwasher installation,” Hardaway said.

Hardaway said his mom initiated a call to the phone number listed in the phony BestBuy email. The scammers told her she owed $160 for the installation, which seemed about right. However, they then asked her to install remote administration software on her computer, so that they could control the machine from afar and assist her in making the payment.

After she logged into her bank and savings accounts with scammers watching her screen, the fraudster on the phone claimed that instead of pulling $160 out of her account, they accidentally transferred $160,000 to her account. They said they needed her help to make sure the money was “returned.”

“They took control of her screen and said they had accidentally transferred $160,000 into her account,” Hardaway said. “The person on the phone told her he was going to lose his job over this transfer error, that he didn’t know what to do. So, they sent her some information about where to wire the money and asked her to go to the bank. However, she told them, ‘I don’t drive,’ and they told her, “No problem, we’re sending an Uber to come help you to the bank.’”

Her son was out of town when this happened. Thankfully, his mom eventually grew exasperated and gave up trying to help the scammers.

“They told her they were sending an Uber to pick her up and that it was on its way,” Hardaway said. “I don’t know if the Uber ever got there. However, my mom went over to the neighbor’s house and they saw it for what it was — a scam.”

Hardaway said he has since wiped her computer, reinstalled the operating system and changed her passwords. However, he says the incident has left his mom rattled.

“She’s really second-guessing herself now,” Hardaway said. “She’s not computer-savvy, and just moved down here from Boston during COVID to be near us, but she’s living by herself and feeling isolated and vulnerable, and stuff like this doesn’t help.”

According to the FBI, seniors are often the targets of scams because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home and have good credit—all of which make them attractive to scammers.

“Additionally, seniors may be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be too ashamed of having been scammed,” the FBI warned in May. “They might also be concerned that their relatives will lose confidence in their abilities to manage their own financial affairs. And when an elderly victim does report a crime, they may be unable to supply detailed information to investigators.”

Reference: Krebs on Security (Aug. 4, 2022) “Scammers Sent Uber to Take Elderly Lady to the Bank”

Wayward Senior Tracked by Bluetooth Technology

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office recently received a report of a missing adult in the Hernando Beach area.

According to the agency, the elderly man, who suffers from dementia, was reported missing by his wife at about 7:30 in the morning.

Units were dispatched within minutes, reports WTSP.com, in the article entitled “’Technology is one of the best tools…’: Missing elderly man found through Bluetooth tracking device.”

The sheriff’s office said this wasn’t the first time the man has been reported missing.

This time, his wife was prepared: she attached a Bluetooth tracking device to her husband’s belt.

Bluetooth is a type of wireless technology that allows the exchange of data between different devices, such as two cellphones.

Because she planted the device, she was able to give deputies a location to where to find her husband.

Law enforcement was able to locate the man by 7:54 a.m.

He was returned safely home to his family.

“With the high heat index this time of year and the multiple access points to water in the area, we are thankful for this assistance of technology in order to locate this individual within 18 minutes,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a statement.

The sheriff’s office says tracking devices like the one used in this incident can give families peace of mind when caring for a senior with mental health issues, by being able to monitor their location.

“Whether it is a child with special needs or a senior who is forgetful, there are usually warning signs that a person is prone to wandering,” Sheriff Al Nienhuis said in a statement.

“Technology is one of the best tools family members can use to alert them when that individual has unexpectedly left the house.”

“It also provides invaluable tools to increase the likelihood the person will be returned safely. We strongly encourage families to research what technology is right for their situation.”

Reference: WTSP.com (August 8, 2022) “’Technology is one of the best tools…’: Missing elderly man found through Bluetooth tracking device”

What’s Going on with Marvel Comics Creator Stan Lee’s Estate?

According to a court document filed recently, comic book icon Stan Lee’s estate moved to dismiss claims against Lee’s former business manager, Jerardo “Jerry” Olivarez. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The settlement doesn’t include claims against Lee’s former attorney, Uvi Litvak.

The Hollywood Reporter’s recent article entitled “Stan Lee’s Estate Settles Elder Abuse Suit Against Ex-Business Manager” explains that the four-year legal saga, sparked by The Hollywood Reporter‘s investigation detailing accusations of elder abuse, centers on a fight over Lee’s estate. The battle includes his daughter, J.C., and people who allegedly manipulated her in efforts to exploit her famous father. Lee accused J.C., his only child and heir to his estate, of verbally abusing him.

J.C.’s outbursts turned physical at some points in conflicts over money, reports say.

The executive vice president and publisher of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee sued Olivarez and Litvak in 2018, calling them “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” seeking to take advantage of him following the death of his wife, Joan Lee. Olivarez joined Stan’s inner circle as a consultant to J.C. and Joan’s various business endeavors before ending up with power of attorney over Lee after Joan’s death. He was given the title of “senior adviser,” handling caregiving duties for Lee.

“Jerry Olivarez and JC Lee, Stan and Joan Lee’s only daughter and Trustee of the Lee Family Trust, are happy to announce the resolution of their Court dispute,” said Olivarez’s attorney Donald Randolph in a statement. “The genesis of this dispute was the unfortunate manipulation of Stan Lee and his family undertaken by certain individuals — not named in the lawsuit — which was intended to unfairly malign Jerry Olivarez. These individuals exerted undue influence on the Lee family to accuse Jerry Olivarez of harmful acts which he did not do.”

According to the complaint, Olivarez fired Stan Lee’s banker of 26 years along with his lawyers and transferred roughly $4.6 million out of his bank account without authorization. After convincing Lee to sign a power of attorney to give him authority, Olivarez allegedly appointed his own lawyer, Livtak, as Lee’s lawyer without disclosing the conflict of interest.

Prior to his death, Lee alleged fraud, financial abuse of an elder and misappropriation of name and likeness, among other claims.

“Olivarez abused his relationship of trust with Lee and JC Lee, knowledge of Lee’s and JC Lee’s confidential business and estate planning operations, and ability to mislead Lee due to his advanced age all in a covert and intentional effort to dupe Lee into a host of schemes and financial missteps that benefited Olivarez and disenfranchised Lee,” reads the complaint.

Reference: The Hollywood Reporter (July 27, 2022) “Stan Lee’s Estate Settles Elder Abuse Suit Against Ex-Business Manager”

Why Does Government Deny Social Security Disability Benefits

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “3 Main Reasons Why the Government Denies Social Security Disability Benefits” says three main issues are the primary contributors to the high denial rates and prolonged appeals process:

  1. Applicants fail to satisfy work history requirements. Anyone who pays FICA payroll taxes long enough, is typically insured for SSDI. However, that doesn’t mean they’re eligible for benefits. To meet the SSA definition of disability, one must have physical or mental impairments that prevent them from being unable to perform any substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least 12 months or have a terminal diagnosis. SGA encompasses work performed for pay or profit, and for 2022, the monthly benefit one would receive after qualification is set at $1,350 a month, or $2,260 if you are blind.
  2. Applicants provide incomplete documentation. Detailed medical evidence is required to document a disability and its impact on the person’s ability to perform SGA—it’s a crucial part of the SSDI application. This should include diagnoses, medical tests and results, treatment history, prescription drugs, surgeries, ER and doctor visits and other relevant medical details to show not just that you have a problem, but also that you’ve been receiving regular medical treatment for your issue. This, along with details about how a disability influences your activities of daily living, is especially significant if you have an invisible disability, such as mental disorders, neurological conditions or cognitive dysfunctions caused by injury or disease. Regular monthly treatments and drug therapies with specialists and mental health professionals are an important part of your claim.
  3. Applicants not knowing they have the right to an SSDI representative. The SSA doesn’t tell initial applicants they have the right to retain a representative to assist them. As a result, most people try to navigate the complicated program on their own. You need an advocate to tell the story of your disability and its impact on you and your family. Less than 30% of applicants have an SSDI representative to help them apply. Those individuals are 23% more likely to get their application approved. It also means getting benefits in six months compared with a year or two!

Representatives are taking on more SSDI cases resulting from long COVID symptoms that have exacerbated physical and mental impairments. Long COVID may affect up to 30% of COVID patients, or an estimated 25 million people in the United States, especially those with respiratory disease, diabetes and cognitive issues.

Reference: Kiplinger (July 16, 2022) “3 Main Reasons Why the Government Denies Social Security Disability Benefits”

Why Is Medicare Enrollment Confusing?

Seniors enrolling in Medicare experience a process with many challenges. People also have significant gaps in knowledge of plan components and are overwhelmed. This causes them to enroll in plans that fail to best reflect and support their evolving healthcare needs.

Markets Insider’s recent article entitled “New Report Reveals Significant Gaps in Medicare Knowledge Among Older Adults” reports that such issues may jeopardize the ability of seniors to make the best choices for their unique health and wellness needs. Moreover, the results may worsen as they age. That’s what the findings are in a new report, Hidden Crisis: The Medicare Enrollment Maze, issued by national healthcare consultancy Sage Growth Partners. The report is based on a survey of 1,142 individuals ages 64 and older.

The report explores the significant effect of widespread confusion and overwhelming enrollment challenges on the elderly and the entire healthcare system. There were roughly 64 million Americans enrolling in Medicare in 2021 and the U.S. Census Bureau projects more than 73 million Americans will enroll by 2030. Many think the negative effects will only get worse.

“This report shows the striking level of confusion surrounding Medicare enrollment for all ages. While there may be many better plan options, very few enrollees have the necessary knowledge to choose them,” said Dan D’Orazio, Sage Growth Partners CEO. “The level of satisfaction with shopping for Medicare plans lies below the cellar-dwellers of industry satisfaction, such as cable tv providers and internet shopping. This is very troubling considering what is at stake for older adults and their clinical and financial health.”

The report’s key findings include the following:

  • Only 20% of Medicare-eligible individuals have a solid understanding of Original Medicare, and less than a third (31%) have a good understanding of Medicare Advantage.
  • 63% say they’re “overwhelmed” by Medicare advertising, with just 31% of respondents who “strongly agree” that they can make effective selection decisions.
  • Over half (58%) stay in their current Medicare plan each year and don’t review their plan options and enroll in the best plan for their evolving needs.

“This report confirms that most older adults find Medicare enrollment confusing and lack adequate resources or support to choose the best plan,” said Dave Francis, CEO of Healthpilot. “Enrolling in Medicare is a pivotal time for millions and the Medicare marketplace is ripe for transformation. I believe that it is possible to make health care better for individuals aged 64 and older throughout the country, but we need dynamic platforms and sincere actions to make this happen.”

Reference: Markets Insider (July 12, 2022) “New Report Reveals Significant Gaps in Medicare Knowledge Among Older Adults”

How Can I Save on Medicare Drugs?

New research by the Senior Citizens League shows comparing plans also works for Medicare Part D plans, which cover prescription drugs for those with Medicare health insurance. The advocacy group found that the price of a particular drug can vary by hundreds or even thousands of dollars from one Medicare Part D plan to another. So, shopping around for the best plan could save you hundreds, says Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Medicare Drug Costs.”

The best time to do comparison shopping is during the annual Medicare open enrollment period that starts October 15 and ends on December 7.

The Senior Citizens League’s analysis identified several reasons for which drug prices can vary so much for Medicare recipients, including the fact that most people on Medicare rarely shop around during open enrollment. each Part D plan also has its own formulary, a list of prescription drugs that a plan covers. The federal government, which runs the Medicare program, doesn’t negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare recipients. Each private insurance company that offers Medicare drug coverage does its own negotiating.

There are two main types of Medicare health insurance: Original Medicare, which is offered directly by the federal government, and Medicare Advantage plans, which are offered by private insurers that contract with the federal government’s Medicare program. Note that original Medicare doesn’t include prescription drug coverage. Seniors on Original Medicare who want drug coverage must buy a separate Medicare Part D plan from a private insurer.

Here’s a checklist for the process:

  1. Review your current coverage. Look at the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) that you get from your Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan. This will include changes to your current plan that take effect in the new year, if you stay on that plan.
  2. Do an inventory of your prescriptions. Make a list of all prescription meds you take. For each drug, include the name, dose, quantity taken per day and quantity required per month. You’ll need it to compare drug plans. It is also handy to take with you on each visit to your physician.
  3. Consider getting help. Medicare recipients have access to free, one-on-one Medicare insurance counseling from State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs). To find the SHIP for your state, visit the national SHIP website.
  4. Narrow down your options. When you know what your Medicare Part D plan or your Medicare Advantage plan will cover next year, and you have a detailed list of your medications, compare that coverage with other drug plans to determine if they’d provide better or cheaper drug coverage. To compare plans, use the Medicare Plan Finder feature at Medicare.gov, the federal government’s official Medicare website.

If you choose to switch to a new plan, go through the Medicare website rather than the insurer.

Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 11, 2019) “How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Medicare Drug Costs”

Can My Pet Help Me in Old Age?

Seniors who own a pet may slow their rate of cognitive decline, according to a preliminary study recently presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “Sharp Mind in Old Age? Thank Your Pet” reports that the positive effect appears to be particularly pronounced for those who own a pet for at least five years.

The study looked at data from 1,369 older adults with an average age of 65.

All had normal cognitive skills at the outset of the study. Of the adults in the study, 53% owned pets, with 32% having had their pet for five years or longer.

After examining cognitive test data, the researchers found that after six years, long-term pet owners had a cognitive composite score that was 1.2 points higher compared than those who did not own pets.

In a press release, study author Dr. Tiffany Braley of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor remarked that the positive impact of pets may stem in part from the animals’ ability to reduce our levels of stress:

“As stress can negatively affect cognitive function, the potential stress-buffering effects of pet ownership could provide a plausible reason for our findings. A companion animal can also increase physical activity, which could benefit cognitive health.”

However, Braley — who also is a member of the American Academy of Neurology — said more research is needed to both confirm the results and identify underlying mechanisms that may be responsible for the link.

Earlier studies have found that the presence of pets can help reduce their owners’ levels of stress and even lower their blood pressure.

Reference: : Money Talks News (May 5, 2022) “Sharp Mind in Old Age? Thank Your Pet”

State Bolsters Nursing Home Oversight

The New York State Assembly recently gave final legislative approval in a unanimous vote to a bill requiring the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) to publicize, as part of its annual reports, the kinds and patterns of complaints received by its regional offices and the number of ombudsman visits to each long-term care facility.

Harlem World Magazine’s recent article entitled “NYS Lawmakers Move To Strengthen Nursing Home Oversight From Care, To Complaints And More” reports that the New York State Senate passed the companion bill on May 24 with a strong, bipartisan vote.

The move follows a $2.5 million increase in state funding in the 2022 state budget for the federally-required program – more than doubling its previous state-funded budget.

LTCOP has lagged in other states’ programs, while more than 15,000 people have died in New York nursing homes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This bill would arm policymakers with the information they need to ensure the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is as effective as possible in advocating for and speaking on behalf of our society’s most vulnerable population: nursing home residents,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel.

“After over 15,000 deaths in New York nursing homes and counting since the start of the pandemic, we need a strong advocate. AARP New York thanks Senator Rachel May and Assembly Member Sarah Clark for steering this bill through their respective houses, and we strongly urge Governor Kathy Hochul to sign it into law.”

The New York Ombudsman Program is an advocate and resource for seniors and people with disabilities who live in nursing homes, assisted living and other licensed adult care homes. Ombudsmen help residents understand and exercise their rights to good care in an environment that promotes and protects their dignity and quality of life.

The legislation was supported by the Center for Elder Law & Justice in Buffalo, New York.

Although LTCOP can’t sanction long-term care facilities, it’s the only agency authorized to visit facilities on a regular basis to observe conditions, monitor care and help residents and families resolve problems.

In addition to helping individual residents and families, LTCOP is required by federal rules to act as an independent voice for residents with respect to laws and policies that impact their care.

Reference: Harlem World Magazine (June 4, 2022) “NYS Lawmakers Move To Strengthen Nursing Home Oversight From Care, To Complaints And More”

Some Seniors Getting Estate Plans Completed More Quickly after COVID

Indiana Lawyer’s recent article entitled “New urgency: COVID prompts seniors to be more proactive with estate planning” says that, after roughly two years, many Americans appear to finally be emerging from the strictest phases of the pandemic.

As many middle-aged and young people move back into what somewhat resembles a pre-pandemic normalcy, older citizens continue to feel the heavy impact of the virus.

As COVID’s threat to the elderly quickly became apparent, some estate planning attorneys have seen a major increase in older clients scrambling to get their affairs in order.

People aged 65 and older account for nearly 75% of U.S. COVID-related deaths. More often than not, estate planning lawyers say people don’t have their end-of-life and estate planning documents together until it’s too late.

For some, estate planning is almost taboo in the sense that if someone gets their affairs taken care of, older generations tend to think they’ll die the next day. As if, “I’m going to have an impending death sometime soon if I do this.”

However, by doing the estate planning, it helps that stigma to be diminished.

Some say people had to die, in order to motivate people to do what they needed to do.

However, more people seem willing to get up and get an estate plan because of COVID.

Visit an estate planning attorney and set up your plan right away. Ask about the basic documents:

  • A will
  • Powers of Attorney
  • A Living Will
  • An Advance Medical Directive; and perhaps
  • A Revocable Living Trust

Everyone’s situation is different, so you should sit down with an experienced attorney who can customize an estate plan to your family and situation.

Reference: Indiana Lawyer (May 25, 2022) “New urgency: COVID prompts seniors to be more proactive with estate planning”