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Better Senior Fall Prevention Programs Through Technology

Better Senior Fall Prevention Programs Through Technology

One of the most common injury producers are seniors experiencing accidental falls. Debilitating injuries range from short-term sprains, bumps, and bruises to fractures and head traumas which may require hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of five falls causes a serious injury and that each year 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries with 800,000 of those requiring hospitalization. Death rates due to an accidental fall as the underlying cause are on the rise.

 

Technology is providing various ways to combat the problem using balance games fitness programs, diagnosis of potential weak areas of balance and gait, and wearable sensor monitors and boards that measure progress in real time providing feedback as to how well the senior is faring in their overall physical stability.

Nintendo Wii Fit U combined with the Wii balance board was not designed with seniors specifically in mind however several games have been optimized for the needs of seniors and their workouts. One of the great features is that all you need is a TV and the Wii console game system. There is no need for the senior to leave their home and the games do not require a lot of physical space. The balance board allows the game to track your movements and weight distribution, recognizing problems with your form or stance. Immediate feedback enables correction as issues arise. Using the Wii Fit can reduce falls and improve balance in seniors and its fun. Wii Fit U and other game console platforms such as the Microsoft Xbox One with Kinect and Sony PlayStation can provide in-home exercise for seniors that can help avert balance issues and ensuing fall injury. The Wii Fit U, however, is better suited to senior exercise needs and monitoring of progress. 

SmartBalance technology by HUR was specifically designed for older adults who experience balance issues and although there are games that are played the user is on a static sensor platform with grab bars, much like a treadmill minus the rotating belt. This technology is best for seniors who have more significant challenges in mobility. The stabilization games are interactive and fun while they help to build core strength and muscle memory. A unique design is available that allows a wheelchair platform access so the user can train without leaving their chair. Test results can be compared to normative data, and progress tracking is visual, intuitive, and motivational as customization of training and comparisons of previous balance tests provide progress assessment which helps to motivate the user.

QTUG, technology created by Kinesis Health Technologies of Ireland, can provide gate and mobility assessment and fall prevention data in as little as five minutes. Mobility parameters divide into five functional categories that include walking, variability, symmetry, transfers, and turning. The user wears inertial sensors that actively and accurately measure gait and mobility as they engage in simple tasks such as rising from a chair, walking 10 feet and turning to sit in a chair again. Results of the tests are delivered to a mobile device like a smartphone via Bluetooth technology, and the senior or care provider can check the score that rates the seniors fall risk as well as their mobility and frailty. This QTUG technology can export all patient results in an Excel format as well as create a comprehensive fall risk and mobility report for each test in a PDF format. All of the resulting data can be uploaded to the cloud for medical interpretation, recommendation or referral. The testing results are automatically backed up, secure and HIPAA compliant.

Older adults and seniors need to be very mindful about their balance and mobility. Catastrophic medical issues can occur with the simplest of falls and sometimes precipitate an earlier than anticipated death. Technology is at the forefront of detailed, individualized diagnoses and corrective exercise programs that when implemented can help prevent accidental falls. To find out which technology best suits your fitness level and needs, speak to trusted counsel who can point you in the right direction to help keep you secure in your physical movement. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.  Call us at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com.

Do I Need a Trust?

Do I Need a Trust?

This is a common question we hear. Read on for information to help figure out whether you need a trust and, if so, what kind fits your specific situation.

For example, maybe you have a disabled child and you want a trust to permit that child to inherit without losing government benefits. Maybe your own or your spouse’s health is heading into difficulties, and you can foresee eventually needing long-term care benefits. Trusts can avoid an expensive, public, and lengthy probate process before your beneficiaries can inherit after you pass. Or, you might be in the classic “trust fund” situation, where you’re concerned that your children won’t be able to manage money wisely.

All these are excellent reasons to consider a trust. But what kind of trust? A quick count shows there are at least thirteen different varieties. Which one is best suited to your needs? Call us. 

Here’s the basic idea behind trusts, to help you understand why you might or might not need one.

 

What is a Trust?

Think of a trust like a treasure chest. You originally bought property or earned money in your own name. You then transfer those assets into the trust’s name – into your treasure chest, in other words. The trust treasure chest becomes a legal entity separate from you, which now holds your property in its, and no longer in your, name.

Then you identify people who will occupy the three roles involved in managing trust property. First, you are the grantor, or settlor, or trustmaker – all those words mean the same thing, the “you” in this case. Second, you appoint a trustee. That person or entity is responsible for managing trust assets and following directions contained in the trust document. Third, you decide whom you want to receive trust assets – your beneficiary or beneficiaries, in other words. 

In legal terms, a trust is a fiduciary agreement among you the original property-owner, your trustee, and your beneficiary. The trust document contains instructions for what you want done with trust property, both for how you want it invested and, also, for how you want trust assets to be distributed when you pass. Trusts are, thus, a highly efficient hybrid between a power of attorney, an asset-management vehicle, and a last will and testament, all rolled into one legal entity and document.

There are two basic kinds of trusts to understand, before they split off into their thirteen-or-more different flavors: revocable or irrevocable trusts.

 

The Revocable Trust

A revocable trust can be thought of like the treasure chest with the open lid. As grantor/settlor/trustmaker of a revocable trust, you can get at trust assets freely.

You yourself can also occupy all three roles in a revocable trust – grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. If need be, you can also tinker with trust terms, by freely amending them to change the directions, beneficiaries, or trustees. Or, you can revoke the whole thing. Before that point, though, the trust document will be there to take care of everything you want it to.

If you should meet with an accident and lose capacity, the terms of your trust will designate a person to step in on your behalf and, thus, avoid the need to go to court to get a guardian for you. The trust will also direct who inherits, thus keeping your affairs private and out of probate court. This feature is especially important if you (formerly) and then the trust (after you created it) owns real property in various states. The savings in court costs in that situation could be significant.

 

The Irrevocable Trust

This is the trust for you if you’re seeing the need for Medicaid long-term care benefits in your future, or you work in a field where suits are common, such as owning a small business or in the construction industry.

The disadvantage to an irrevocable trust, however, is that you will be sacrificing all or almost all control over trust assets, unlike in the revocable-trust situation. Once an irrevocable trust is established, you as grantor/settlor/trustmaker cannot directly alter the terms and, generally speaking, your access to trust money is restricted or entirely precluded – as is required in order to enjoy the potent benefits of this kind of trust.

Think of an irrevocable trust as being like the treasure chest with the locked lid. Your trustee – who generally cannot be you – is the one with the key. You yourself can no longer reach your assets. This relinquishment of control is necessary to shelter your assets from creditors, or to protect your assets when entitlement to government benefits would otherwise require you to spend almost all you own first.

There are ways to draft an irrevocable trust carefully, so you can still exert your will over how assets are to be used. Just as in the revocable situation, you can impose conditions that must be met before a beneficiary can receive funds. You can designate how trust income is to be used for specific purposes like college tuition, business start-up, or travel. You can also authorize a person or entity as “trust protector,” who can alter trust language, correct drafting errors, or create a new similar trust if the law changes.

And there you have the basics. Now you’re ready to decide whether you need a credit shelter trust, or a charitable trust, or a qualified terminable interest trust, or a blind trust, or – just come see us to figure out all the rest!

 

Trust Caveats

Some sophisticated trusts do convey tax benefits, but, for the most part, IRS considers revocable trusts to be invisible. You as grantor/settlor/trustmaker will still pay tax on the revocable-trust income, albeit at your individual rate and not at the prohibitive trust rate.

As for estate taxes, trusts have no effect – but, at least regarding federal estate taxes, those are currently moot for most people. They are not incurred until the value of the estate exceeds $11.4 million as of 2019. Some states do impose estate and/or inheritance taxes; for those states, please consult this website:

https://taxfoundation.org/does-your-state-have-estate-or-inheritance-tax/

Also, keep in mind that revocable trusts provide no protection against creditors. If you lose a legal action, a judge can force you to change the beneficiary of your trust to the winner. Irrevocable trusts are free from that kind of interference.

Still, irrevocable trusts must be established long before you run into that kind of trouble. If you create such a trust while credit problems are looming or have already arrived, you risk that your trust will be undone as a fraudulent conveyance.

 

Trust Your Attorney

Consult lawyers like us, who have experience and expertise in the trusts and estates area. Custom-constructing a treasure chest to fit your specific needs is a job for our specific skills.  Let us know if we can help by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

Modernizing Medicare to Leverage the Latest Technologies

Modernizing Medicare to Take Advantage of the Latest Technologies

Many seniors who are financially stable and 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.

Medicare’s modest step forward in the proposed approval for funding and use of technology, specifically remote monitors for at home Medicare recipients to track blood pressure and other vital signs, is on a slow trajectory. There are two important limitations associated with the proposals. The first is a constraint on the devices eligible for use and the second is there is no provision for Medicare recipients who do not use home health agencies. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will also not directly reimburse home care companies but allow for the expense to be considered when setting overall reimbursement rates. In other words, the bureaucratic acceptance and ability to merge even the most basic of medical technology tools into the mainstream is cumbersome at best.  

While it has not been proven that these monitoring devices improve health outcomes (and may explain why CMS is moving so cautiously), the advocates for the technology make the case that the tools allow the elderly, frailer individuals the ability to continue living at home rather than moving to an assisted living or nursing facility. There is less financial strain on CMS outlays when older adults age in place. Currently, the CMS proposal only allows for technology that monitors and collects physiological data which typically includes blood pressure, glucose monitoring, and electrocardiogram (ECG). All of this data is digitally stored and can be transmitted by the patient and the caregiver. However, this sort of monitoring is currently happening, and what CMS has come up with is merely a payment change and exclusion of those Medicare recipients not associated with home health agencies. Not exactly a significant foray into at home medical technology. Technology can streamline and make effective the remote monitoring process however it becomes less effective when government policy continues to add layers of bureaucracy and exclusions that make the adaptation to remote monitoring technologies at home needlessly complicated. 

What happens to the latest tech tools that can detect how well a senior is moving around their own home, forgotten to turn off the stove, or a senior who is unable to swallow a pill or answer a phone? For the many chronically ill seniors who are regularly monitored and have stabilized prescription medical approaches for their condition, it might be far more advantageous to approve of technologies that can prevent a house fire or data analytics that can be predictive about the increased risk of an unintended fall. Mobility trackers and smart home devices are as important as at home biometric devices for the senior who is choosing to age in place. 

Given that technology will have to be the offset for the growing shortage of personal care workers and their associated expense, remote monitoring will become pervasive in the care of the elderly with chronic conditions. However if the senior does not have financial stability, and many of them do not, how will the costs for these home technologies be addressed?

What are the benefits of the changes CMS has made to the Home Health Prospective Payment System (PPS)? The belief is as put forward by Seema Verma, “The redesign of the home health payment system encourages value over volume and removes incentives to provide unnecessary care.” What this means is if a Medicare recipient uses a home health agency then the remote monitoring tools become an allowable cost on the Medicare report form. The expectation is to use home health agencies as the vehicle to foster the adoption of emerging technologies which is all in support of advancing the Administration’s MyHealthEData initiative. These benefits are doubtful to keep pace with market-driven forces for innovation in the field of at home biomedical devices because healthcare is taking up an increasing share of the US economy. The CMS Office of the Actuary projects that by the year 2026 one in every five dollars in America will be spent on healthcare. 

Another benefit CMS has put into place is the release of the Blue Button 2.0 application programming interface (API). Blue Button is a digital platform that is now the standard for Medicare beneficiaries to receive claims data in a digital format so it can then be securely and privately used in applications (apps) developed by third parties. This platform standardization by CMS is encouraging software developers to leverage its digital architectural design for claims data from Blue Button 2.0.

CMS has taken some cautious steps to ensure that certain Medicare beneficiaries will be able to take advantage of and be reimbursed for the advances in the technologies for home health care. The US healthcare spending is forecast for continued growth reaching over $1 trillion by 2026. There is not a lot of time to get this right. Large government agencies move far more slowly than agile, market-driven technology companies. Thankfully technology developers and CMS are both starting to find ways to blend effectively and efficiently for the benefit of Medicare recipients, but it is a long road ahead.  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

The Truth About Social Security Myths

The Truth About Social Security Myths

According to NerdWallet, more than half of Americans apply for social security before reaching their full retirement age, and more than 30 percent of those apply for benefits at 62 years of age. Americans file early for benefits even though researchers claim it would be better to wait to claim their social security benefits. It DOES matter when you opt-in to take your social security benefit. Between the age of 62 and full retirement, your benefits increase by about 7 percent each year and additionally 8 percent each year between your full retirement age and 70. These percentages reflect an actuary adjustment to ensure those Americans who opt for a larger check for shorter periods do not receive less than those receiving smaller checks for more extended periods.

Currently, full retirement age is 66 for those born before 1960 and 67 for those born after that. Social security benefits will max out at age 70 and by waiting that long your checks could be 24 to 32 percent more than what you would receive at full retirement age and a whopping 76 percent larger than what you would receive at 62. However, statistics show that only about 1 in 25 applicants will wait to collect benefits at the age of 70 when monthly benefits hit their peak. Economic hardship for some seniors clearly defines part of the trend in early benefit assumption, but what of those who have retirement planning in place?

Currently, low-interest rates and survivor benefit rules coupled with longer life expectancies generally mean most retirees would benefit by delaying their benefits as long as possible. Those destined to become super-seniors, living well into their 90s and 100s, can quickly run out of savings and may end up depending entirely on their social security benefits check. Having delayed taking social security provides maximum benefits for these super-seniors. Additionally, this older age group typically has qualities in common like a strong work ethic, positive outlook, close bonds with family, and a tendency to be religious. These traits factor into a purposeful life so that even on limited social security benefits when combined with the help of their family and community systems, they can still make ends meet. 

At the other end of the spectrum are those Americans who feel, or know, they will have shorter life term expectancy. The Stanford Center on Longevityhowever, reports that most people underestimate how long they will live. Today a 65-year-old man can expect to reach 84 years of age while a woman of the same age will probably reach 86.5 years. Studies by the Society of Actuaries are reporting life expectancies for those currently in their mid-50s (one in two women and one in three men) will live into their 90s. The cautionary tale is even if you project that you may not live long, you might indeed. It is best to anticipate being around and making financial decisions about social security benefits that reflect a longer life.

Claiming benefits early to invest the money does not mean you will come out ahead and may put you significantly behind. There is no guaranteed investment product with a return as high as delaying your application for social security benefits. Claiming benefits early can also shortchange your spouse. A married couple will lose one of their checks when the first spouse dies. The loss of a check can create a severe drop in income even if the survivor receives the larger of the two checks. This benefit loss should incentivize the higher earner of the couple, with the larger check, to delay taking their benefit so that the survivor spouse benefit is more substantial. 

You do not need to claim your social security benefit as soon as you stop working. Most financial planners will suggest tapping into other sources of income like a retirement fund or additional savings that allows your social security benefit to grow. Just delaying your benefits from age 62 to 66 can translate in a sustainable annual increase of 33 percent, so even a four-year delay can provide substantial returns. 

What about 2035 and the projected insolvency to fund social security benefits? If Congress does not act, the social security system will only be able to pay out 77 to 80 percent of the benefits promised. While this is not good, social security is not going bankrupt. The funding mechanisms must, however, get straightened out by politicians who want your vote to keep them in office. The silver tsunami of voters ensures that Congressional leaders and policymakers cannot overlook the senior demographic, which is critical to their re-election.

Each person’s or couple’s situation is different; their savings, assets, debt, work history, and retirement planning all vary widely. Additionally, according to Barrons.com, every state has a distinct annual spending threshold recommended for a comfortable retirement. To learn your best options and create your plan for a successful financial retirement, including when to take your social security benefit, talk to elder counsel. The social security benefit structure and rules are changing, change with it to maximize your benefits. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com. We are here to help.

Staying Mentally Sharp

Staying Mentally Sharp

Age comes with wisdom. Unfortunately, it also comes with some forgetfulness. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep the brain sharp, small daily habits which can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. 

Exercise is one such daily habit. It increases blood flow, and thus oxygen to the brain; it also protects brain cells against destructive chemicals in the environment. Exercise also supports the production of new brain cells. Furthermore, research in the 2000s showed a relationship between cardiovascular risk factors and Alzheimer’s. Anything which can impair blood flow can cause strokes leading to cognitive decline, otherwise known as vascular dementia. The same activities that one would consider as beneficial to the heart, such as regular exercise, can therefore also be effective in protecting the brain. And, of course, there are other benefits to exercising regularly: it helps with energy levels, decreases anxiety and depression, and can help with sleep.

Sleep is another factor to maintaining a healthy mind. But as many as half of adults 60 and older are affected by insomnia, which can result in memory loss, depression, and other symptoms. It’s important, then, to pay attention to sleep hygiene and sleep schedules to ensure sufficient duration and quality. If it takes more than 45 minutes to fall asleep, or you have trouble staying asleep, it may be worth looking into treatment.

Eating well is another way to protect the mind. It’s important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. The USDA and the HHS describe two eating plans: the USDA food patterns or the DASH Eating Plan. Foods like nuts, fish, and wine have also been linked to a healthy brain.

Art, music, reading, writing, learning, and puzzles… these are also good for keeping the brain sharp. Art has been used as an Alzheimer’s treatment and to restore memory; and arts maintain and improve dexterity and fine motor skills! Adult coloring books have become popular in recent years, and can be found in many stores and online; watercolors and pastels are also relaxing. Meanwhile, music has been linked to improved memory and cognition, and can both elevate your mood and lower blood pressure. Learning and intellectual challenges like puzzles exercise the brain and improve its capacity. Mental exercise is thought to maintain and stimulate brain cells. This includes pursuit of hobby, learning new skills, using brain training apps, or taking on other new kinds of projects at work.

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What is a Continuing Care Retirement Community?

What is a Continuing Care Retirement Community?

There are three distinct living phases associated with a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). The first is independent living when a resident enters into the community with few if any disabilities requiring limited assistance. In this phase of independent living, community residents typically take advantage of the broad range of social, physical, and intellectual offerings. The second phase is assisted living, which includes long-term personal senior care support services that include help with activities of daily living like medication management, bathing, meals, dressing, and transportation. The third phase is nursing home care, also known as a skilled nursing facility. This third phase addresses a resident’s requirement for 24-hour monitoring and medical assistance in the case of serious injury or severe illness. Nursing home care locations within the CCRC are usually located near an associated hospital if the need arises for acute care or hospitalization. The linked three phases of a CCRC provide a continuum of care so that a resident can spend the rest of their days moving between the levels of care as needed. 

These residencies are also referred to as life plan communities, active adult community homes, and lifetime communities. CCRC’s vary from state to state and have no licensing by one oversight entity. There is no reliable data as to how many seniors are living in CCRC’s, but it is evident that continuing care within one inclusive community is gaining popularity. One way to distinguish a well maintained and safe CCRC is through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). This organization is America’s only accrediting body for these types of communities and is an independent, non-profit organization focusing on advancing the quality of services to meet the residents’ needs and provide the best possible outcome. The Continuing Care Accreditation Commission, also known as CARF-CCAC, is a valuable reference when researching a move into a CCRC.

Opting to live in a CCRC is a costly senior housing option and requires due diligence and careful financial planning optimizing the experience. Payment plan specifics are different at each CCRC; however, an entrance fee is required. These entrance fees can be as little as $10,000 and as expensive as $500,000. Most CCRC’s do not allow ownership of the residence; however, a monthly maintenance fee requires additional monies ranging between $200 and $2,000. The residence is just one part of the contract negotiation. Health care coverage and costs are typically broken down into three fee schedule options. The first is an extensive contract, which is the most expensive. It provides the resident with unlimited access to healthcare with little or no monthly maintenance fee increases. The second is a modified contract which offers a resident unlimited access to healthcare, but health care is paid for as needed, and monthly maintenance fee increases offset this pay for health care as needed approach. The third is a fee-for-service contract, and while it seems like a conservative spending approach if the aging resident eventually requires extensive healthcare, it is costly. This fee schedule option allows residents to pay for all health care costs separately.

Websites that offer advice on senior living options like aPlaceforMom suggest that the admission agreement for a CCRC should cover 

  • The three residence phases
  • Fee schedule options
  • Health care coverage
  • Cancellations and refunds
  • Services
  • Insurance requirements
  • Conditions for transfer within the community to other levels of care
  • What the CCRC’s responsibility is if a resident becomes unable to pay fees.

Contract review by a trusted lawyer or financial advisor is of the utmost importance. Contracts should include a clause that addresses refunds in the event a resident leaves the CCRC and, like the fee for service health care options, most CCRC’s have multiple agreement choices that offer varying degrees of refundability. In the past, most continuing care retirement communities were non-profit organizations, but today, many CCRC’s are a for-profit business. Check into the possibility that the business entity of your retirement living arrangement may one day be sold and understand how that would affect a residential contract.

It is essential to ask relevant questions when researching a particular continuing care retirement community, such as:

  • What if assisted living and nursing home facilities that are part of the CCRC are full when I need them?
  • Is there a reciprocal agreement between the CCRC and nearby communities?
  • What type of background checks are done for staff members?
  • What is the staff-to-patient ratio in each phase of living?
  • How can a resident participate in the organization’s decision making? 
  • What type of memory impairment (or dementia) services are available?

The above questions are good starting points to learn everything possible about a particular CCRC. Some items will be specific to your health, financial situation, and family relationships. We often help families with determining the right type of living situation for senior family members.  If we can assist you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

What to Include in a Letter of Instruction

What to Include in a Letter of Instruction

A letter of instruction can be a beneficial piece in estate planning. It is an informal document that will give your loved ones important information about personal and financial matters after your death. Letters of instruction are not legally binding and do not replace your need for a will or a living trust, however it can be a nice complement to those documents. The informal nature allows you to create the letter on your own and change it whenever necessary. It is important to keep the letter up to date, as life circumstances change over time. Let’s look at some of the information that may be included in a letter of instruction.

1. Funeral and Burial Arrangements

The first thing you may want to include in your letter of intent is information about your funeral and burial arrangements. Be sure to include any plans you’ve already made, or what your wishes are as this can be very beneficial to grieving family members. Information about the type of funeral service you’d like, including who should officiate the service and special things to be included like music selections, can be a part of your letter of instruction. If you prefer to be cremated rather than buried, be sure to include that in your letter.

Another helpful inclusion would be a list of people you want to be contacted when you pass, and contact information if available. You may also include your wishes for donations to specific charities in your memory.

2. Financial Information

Information about your bank accounts, assets you hold title to, and other accounts can greatly help family members when trying to carry out the provisions of your estate plan. Be sure to include names and phone numbers of professionals who can help locate your accounts or who helped you plan. The location of other important documents should also be included with the letter of intent. These could include but are not limited to birth certificates, social security account information or statements, marriage license, divorce documents, and military paperwork. In addition, be sure to leave behind information related to mortgages and other debts.

3. Digital Information

These days, many of our accounts have transitioned to the digital world. Therefore, leaving behind information about your digital assets in your letter of intent becomes more important. This should include usernames and passwords for digital accounts, social media accounts, and the devices themselves. It is important not to leave family members guessing on this information.

4. Personal Items

Personal items can be a source of contention among family members when a loved one dies. A letter of intent can provide details about who will receive personal effects, including collections, important personal items, and other things that may not have monetary value, but do have sentimental value. In this section you can also include information about the care of the pets you may leave behind. This section of your letter may include personal statements about your wishes and hopes for the future and can address specific family members.

A letter of intent can be a very real source of peace and comfort to your family members in their time of grief. It can be difficult to think about getting started on a letter of this nature, as none of us like to think about our own death. However, if you consider the items to include and create a plan, a letter of intent can often write itself. Taking this step can alleviate much stress and many family squabbles about what you leave behind.

A letter of intent is an important piece of your overall estate plan and should be written with the help of an attorney to make sure the letter compliments and does not contradict your estate plan. We also offer to all of our clients their own private, secure Client Portal where they can give their loved ones access to some or all of their important documents.  If you would like help creating your estate plan or a letter of intent, please feel free to contact us by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

Does Home and Community Based Care Reduce Hospitalizations?

Does Home and Community Based Care Reduce Hospitalizations?

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) projects the number of Americans in need of long-term care (LTC) by 2020 to be roughly 12 million with nearly half those seniors exhibiting some form of dementia. According to Forbes.com, about half of all long-term care insurance claims are from policyholders living with dementia. The federally run program Medicaid is the primary financing mechanism of LTC where most of the monies are spent on institutional care settings which are ill-equipped to handle an increasingly large and longer living elderly population. Federal initiatives have been incentivizing States to utilize Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs to address the growing long-term care needs of aging Americans. This shift to home and community-based services is often seen as having an obvious benefit. HCBS is seen as an easy fix to offset the increasing demands for long-term care. Evaluation of health outcomes, social equality, and the costs of both settings is necessary to create the most beneficial and efficient systems to care for the aging.

Compounding the complexity in evaluating HCBS versus institutional long-term care is the statistical breakdown of racial and minority ethnic groups, as well as people living with dementia. Racial and minority ethnic groups and dementia sufferers as a whole use these Medicaid services more than non-minority groups. Regardless of the group, people living with dementia tend to need the highest-intensity care. While hospitalization rates for HCBS and nursing facility residents remain similar, nursing facility residents were, in general, older and sicker than their HCBS counterparts. 

If home and community-based care does not lessen rates of hospitalizations and may create potential implications for inequality in access to high-quality nursing care facilities, policymakers may need to reconsider the full costs and benefits of shifting care. In nursing facilities, even elderly, dual-eligible Medicaid beneficiaries who tend to be older and have more chronic health conditions are not more likely to require hospitalization than those in home and community-based care. Therefore, since sicker nursing facility residents with more serious health issues and their home care counterparts have similar hospitalization rates, it would seem that HCBS is not lowering the rates of hospitalizations. 

McKnight’s.com reports a group of researchers at the University of Chicago are citing why hospitalization rates do not decline under home and community-based care. The majority of home care residents receive help at the hands of untrained caregivers in non-facility settings. Even with appropriate tools available untrained caregiving leads to more undesirable health outcomes. Unsurprisingly, patients living with dementia, who generally require the most intense care, had higher hospitalization rates due in part to living in an unsecured facility and the inability for a caregiver to provide non-stop oversight which is a hallmark need of a person living with dementia.  

Medicaid long-term care expenditure is reflecting this shift to home and community-based care, with nearly 60 percent of spending for HCBS. Because hospitalization rates do not substantially decline and inequitable health care for minorities increases while the majority of the budget is expended in the HCBS program it is time to rethink the quality of care and health outcomes and efficiencies of the program. Skilled nursing providers in a facility setting provide better care for all regardless of level and type of sickness, and racial and ethnic groups.

Education and expertise in industries, whether medical, legal, or health care occurs because each field requires a unique skill set to drive optimal outcomes. Understanding how long-term care needs affect an individual’s retirement plan under Medicaid or dual-eligible status Medicare/Medicaid, is pertinent for both positive health outcomes and financial well-being. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your needs and how to plan for long term care by calling us at 1.800.660.7546 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

Protecting your child’s inheritance

Protecting Your Child’s Inheritance

Estate planning for the future inheritance of your children and grandchildren should include protective measures to keep assets from disappearing or being claimed by a creditor. A simple way to achieve inheritance protection is through a trust. A trust can pass your wealth bypassing probate. This allows specific trust provisions to ensure the money left to a beneficiary is neither squandered or through ill-advised spending or divorce action of the beneficiary.

Divorce is one of the primary obstacles to contend with when trying to minimize issues of wealth transfer and preservation. High divorce rates, especially among aging Americans, can make an inherited trust vulnerable if the property becomes commingled with the marital estate. Single and married children, as well as grandchildren of inherited wealth, should always maintain inherited assets and property as a separate entity whether as a trust or direct individual inheritance. Before any marriage, a pre-nuptial agreement should be signed to protect previously inherited wealth and the potential of future inheritance.

 

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Whether your child or grandchild inherits an existing trust or establishes their trust after a direct bequeath, the terms of the trust can limit the potential problem of future loss of inherited monies or assets due to the possibility of lawsuits and creditor claims. A properly drafted trust can protect assets from legal action in the event your child is sued. A trust also protects the trust maker and the beneficiaries from the public process of probate. Anyone can research probate court records and determine how much your estate was worth, what you owned and how you chose to divide it.

If you believe your adult child has limited aptitude to manage money properly and might squander your grandchildren’s inheritance, then draft a will or trust that earmarks a dollar amount or percentage of the estate for those grandchildren explicitly. As an example, the will or trust can also specify that these inherited assets be allocated solely for a grandchild’s college education or wedding. 

Another financial vehicle with some overspending controls is a “stretch IRA.” This inherited individual retirement account (IRA) has a required minimum distribution (RMD) that stretches over a more extended period based on the inheritor’s life expectancy. A monitored minimum distribution will allow the principal to continue growing. In the case a child or grandchild is too young to manage the RMDs it may be in their best interest to name an institutional trustee to direct distributions. 

Whatever your intent is for your grandchildren, be sure to include a discussion with your child, expressing your resolve for your grandchildren to inherit and clearly stating them in your will. Also, speak honestly about your fears that your child may blow through their inheritance and discuss the value of limiting annual distributions to only investment income or a percentage of the trust’s value to preserve the aggregate of assets. In the event your child, who may have an addiction problem like gambling, drugs, or overspending, may require trustee oversight to temporarily end distribution of trust or IRA monies until they demonstrate wellness. At that time, the trustee may opt to restart money distributions.  

Ultimately it is best to find a trusted estate planning attorney that is well versed in the laws of your state to help you craft a comprehensive approach to the dispersion of your estate that will protect your intentions from the mal-intent of others. Whether you need a lifetime “dynasty” trust, individual trust or direct inheritance, institutional trustee, inheritable stretch IRA, or a combination of inheritance vehicles, is all dependent on your unique financial position and personal desires for your legacy’s distribution. There is great latitude when drafting the structure for the distribution of your estate, so look to creative inspiration to open up possibilities. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

Common Online Scams and How to Avoid Them

Common Online Scams and How to Avoid Them

The online world is rife with scams, and the number of people in the online world makes it a target rich environment for scammers. Seniors and near seniors should be aware of some of the more common attacks aimed to gain access to your money as well as identity. If you have social media accounts, email, or shop online, you are being targeted by scam artists. Here is what you need to know about some of the most common online scams. 

The product reads or sounds to be amazing. There are testimonials of success or satisfaction galore with the product that includes a Free Trial Offer! What can go wrong if all you do is pay a modest sum for shipping and handling? Here is what is wrong. Your payment for shipping and handling allowed them access to your credit or debit card information and buried deep in the fine print are the real terms of the deal which obligate monthly payments of some much higher monetary amount after your free trial expires. This payment has to be canceled within the stringent guidelines of the contract you agreed to by clicking a box. Read the user agreement or contract parameters before accepting the free trial. Reputable companies will allow cancellation of the advertised product however, if you cannot get out of the contract immediately cancel your card and negotiate a refund. If that doesn’t work, contact your credit card company and make an appeal for their help to gain restitution.

Always be aware of your digital surroundings as local Wi-Fi zones may leave you vulnerable to a hotspot imposter. In a coffee shop or an airport if you are logging onto free Wi-Fi or what resembles a pay service like Boingo Wireless you may be logging onto an illegitimate site designed to look like the real thing. A criminal can be hosting a false Wi-Fi site near you on a laptop. Free, unsecured sites allow for crooks like this to data mine your computer or phone for credit card, password, or banking information. The information is then typically resold to another criminal who will exploit your information for money. It can be tough to tell what a legitimate Wi-Fi spot is. One protective mechanism is to ensure you are not automatically set up for non-preferred networks. If you are not sure how to do this, ask a trusted internet savvy family member or friend. When traveling pre-purchase a credit gift card through MasterCard or Visa and use this for online purchase for access to airport Wi-Fi to protect your data and do not do banking or internet shopping from any public hot spot unless you are sure the connection is secure as it is not worth the risk.

Don’t fall for click bait. The chances of you being the winner of a contest for a free iPad or other expensive prize is likely a scam to get you to click the link provided to “learn more”. Often the connection is grabbing your IP address and adding your computer to a botnet that can be used for a multitude of nefarious purposes. Before clicking on a shortened URL typically found on Twitter and other social media that limits characters check the profile of the user promoting the link. For instance, if the user is following thousands of people, but no one follows them, it is most likely a bot set up to trap your data. 

Sometimes on a computer, a window will pop up about seemingly legitimate antivirus protection with an alert stating that your machine has been compromised with a dangerous virus, bug or malware. You are then prompted to click on a link that will scan and remove the offending virus for a fee and the promise to clean up your computer. When you click on the suggested link, the bogus company will instead install malware, or malicious software, on your computer, compromising all of your data. The front is to scare you into acting right away out of fear to protect your computer, but the opposite happens. Often the design of these pop-up windows has a look and feel that mimics reputable companies like Microsoft. If a pop-up virus warning appears, close the window without clicking on any links, and then use tools in your operating system to run a scan to check for system integrity.

If your bank sends you a text message on your cell phone stating there is a problem with your account and you need to call right away with account information it is not legitimate. Another text message might read that you have won a gift certificate to a well-known store and that all you have to do is call the toll free number and provide your credit card information is also a scam. The gift certificate scam will ask for payment information for shipping and handling to receive your winnings. This is a technique known as smishing, which stands for SMS phishing. Like its email version counterpart phishing, you will lose control of your credit card data and have to chase down fraudulent charges. A real bank and legitimate store would never ask you to reveal account information over the phone for security or to claim a prize, so don’t do it, ever. 

It is noble to be charitable, and Americans are some of the most generous people in the world. Whether in email, social media, text, or phone call do not donate sums of money to charitable causes as the charity is most likely a scam designed to gain access to your money and banking data. Many of these bogus charitable scams will use current headlines to garner your sympathy and get you to act now. Donate to real charities on their legitimate and secure websites only. Write a check to the Salvation Army or Hospice and send it to their valid mailing addresses. Do not be goaded into immediate action. Have a plan for what you choose to donate to charity and follow your plan. 

One of the cruelest scams online is the dating site or chat room scam which preys upon the lonely elderly. You might play a virtual game together online, exchange pictures, or even talk on the phone; that is the hook. You feel like you have met someone you can relate to that eases your loneliness. Typically what happens next is there is a need to wire money to escape a foreign country, an abusive parent, get medical care, or buy a plane ticket to travel to you. It isn’t true. This person isn’t the new love of your life, and you will lose your money and have your heart broken. Scam artists in online social networking specialize in luring the lonely into friendships and love affairs. Be smart about how you approach dating and social networking sites. The minute someone asks for money immediately sign off and employ these tips for keeping yourself safe from online dating scams.

Even be wary of online shopping sites like Amazon or eBay as they allow resellers access to their platforms. Just because you are on a reputable site does not mean the reseller is trustworthy. In some cases, the scammers will send a product, but it will be counterfeit. In other cases, they will post delivery to you 3 to 4 weeks from purchase date, knowing that Amazon pays sellers every two weeks. The scammer will then receive the money from the you and the legitimate company, and you will never receive anything. They have your money, and you have nothing.

The online world is always changing, and scam artists change with it because it is so lucrative. Even if 1 percent of their targeted victims fall prey to their tactics, scammers can make a lot of money. Don’t let that money be yours! Dealing with reputable companies and trustworthy information is the key to your ability to enjoy a successful aging strategy. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

84+ billion in annual tech spending for those aged 50 or older by 2030

84+ billion in annual tech spending for those aged 50 or older by 2030

It isn’t just assisted living and nursing home workers employing the latest technology to improve caregiving for elder Americans. According to an AARP Survey upwards of 84 billion dollars will be spent annually on technology products for personal self-care use by the 132 million Americans aged 50 or more by the year 2030. While 84 billion dollars is a lot of money it does not account for additional discretionary spending for technology purchases such as gifts for children or grandchildren; therefore the number of dollars spent on technology by seniors could be significantly higher than already projected. A significant portion of the personal needs purchases will be to address privacy and security issues as fewer than one in four senior adults trust online retailers, telecom service providers, and even the federal government. 

Though concerns regarding privacy are in the forefront of technology purchasing, counter-intuitively another significant portion of projected purchases will be for personal home assistants such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, which allow passive “spying” on home environments. Currently, of those Americans, aged 50 plus, one in seven owns a personal assistant and the projected sales increases in this demographic is growing at a very rapid pace. Additionally, technology products such as smartphones, smart TVs, smart cars (nearly 1 in 4 view advanced driver assistance technology like lane change monitoring, collision avoidance, automatic parking, and emergency braking as important) and virtual reality devices are also increasing as are smart environmental control devices for thermostats, lighting, refrigerator door and stove monitors, and front doorbell audio/video capabilities. 

Upwards of 23 percent of aging adults are embracing the benefits of lifelong learning through technology-enabled classrooms, certification programs or tutorials which may, in turn, lead to seniors providing more online content and blogs specifically geared for aging Americans written by aging Americans. Sixty-three percent of seniors use computers or smartphones to play games and 57 percent watch TV or movies while more than 90 percent use technology to stay in daily contact with family and friends. Already, a full 13 percent of 50 plus adults use virtual reality, and it is increasing at a healthy 4 percent a year despite it being a relatively new technology for commercial use. Current smartphone and computer device usage for those ages 50 to 64 rank the same as the average American; 83 percent employ smartphones while 91 percent use computers.

The number of new consumers in the American population is growing at less than 1 percent a year which means that the aging American market is a sweet spot of spending for corporations seeking to generate revenue. The fact that these elder Americans are online where their information can be absorbed, data mined, and target marketed will increase profits outside of the simple purchase of a technology product. Sales of technology products are now being monetized post-purchase by collecting personal data and reselling the information to advertisers, marketers, and even government agencies. 

By 2030 it is projected that there will be more than 132 million Americans aged 50 plus which is an increase of more than 17 million in that demographic. These Americans represent the bulk of purchasing power as well as the growing need to address successful aging strategies through the implementation of technology products. There are just not enough younger people to be employed in the caregiver industry to address all of the future aging needs the baby boomer generation represents.

Aging Americans can expect a lot of commercial technology products specifically tailored to their needs in the coming years because they have so much money to spend. Seniors want life-enhancing and protecting technology products, and corporations want to make money so the senior technology product market will become an increasingly important segment of the technology sector.

Technology is becoming increasingly popular as a means for providing or delivering care to seniors. We help seniors and their families plan for the possibility of needing care in the future, and would be happy to discuss how we can help you do the same by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

Long Term Care Myths

Long Term Care Myths

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, someone turning age 65 today will have a 70 percent chance of requiring some long-term care (LTC) service and support during the remainder of their life. In the case of women, the typical LTC need will last about 3.7 years compared to men who will need about 2.2 years of care. While approximately one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may not ever need long-term care 20 percent of those who do will require it for more than five years. 

The statistics are clear; older Americans should be carrying a long-term care insurance policy to protect their future but only about 7.2 million Americans 65 years or older currently own a traditional long term care policy, and this number has held steady for the last seven years. While LTC insurance is overall considered expensive and finding the right plan for you in the myriad of insurance products available can be confusing and vary from state to state. According to A Place for Mom, there are seven myths about long term care that anyone age 50 or more should understand. 

One myth is that a person has to get rid of all of their assets to receive Medicaid which will qualify them for federally available LTC benefits. In general, the rule is a person is not allowed to keep more than $2,000 in countable assets to be eligible for Medicaid. Exemptions in some states can include your home (if a spouse, minor or disabled child still lives there), assets that cannot be converted to cash, and burial plots or spaces. Also, personal property, one vehicle, and prepaid funerals generally qualify as exemptions. The Community Spouse Resource Allowance rules permit the non-applicant spouse to keep a portion of the couple’s countable assets to prevent them from becoming destitute. Before making any attempt to spend down assets to qualify for Medicaid speak to an elder law attorney as the federal five year “lookback” rules have penalties and exceptions. 

No, Medicare will not pay for long term care expenses except in the most specific and narrow of circumstances. Medicare will cover skilled in-home care from a nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist or social worker for up to 21 days if ordered by a physician. In the case of a skilled nursing facility, Medicare pays for the first 20 days with no co-pays but if the stay is between 21 to 100 days, Medicare only pays a portion, and the beneficiary must pay the balance.  

Another myth is that a person thinks they are too young to think about long term care insurance let alone the need to pay for it. The truth is that even under the age of 65 if the person has a chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure or in the event of an accident, long term in-home or residential care services may be needed. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services on average, about 8 percent of people age 40 to 50 have a disability that may require long term care services.

Relying on the hope that family will take care of a long term care need is often a myth. While many older Americans are successfully aging in place, in part due to the benefits of technology, unpaid family member caregivers and community organizations are typically not willing and available for long term, intensive caregiving. A family discussion is needed if there is an expectation that a family member is willing and able to take on a long term caregiver role. While many family members are eager to provide oversight through the use of technology, the intensive requirements of long term care are usually more than they are willing to accept.  

Most health insurance policies will not cover long term care expenses to any meaningful degree. Some plans will have minimal home care and skilled nursing benefits; however the nature of the plan is short term and is intended to produce recovery and rehabilitation while long term care is generally custodial in nature for the safety, maintenance and well being of a person with a chronic condition. Even some long term care insurance policies will not cover all long term care expenses. There are elimination periods which function as a deductible or after a policy benefit has been exhausted. Specific coverage in long term care varies widely from policy to policy.

Finally, many aging Americans feel that their retirement savings will cover the costs of their long term care. The website A Place for Mom has a financial calculator to help individuals understand their specific needs to cover long-term care costs. Currently, the average US national median long term health care cost is about $50,000 for a home health aide which is above and beyond all other living costs. In many situations, in particular with residential care, costs can run hundreds of thousands of dollars over a few short years. Unless a person is independently wealthy, most retirement savings will be spent down very quickly.

Chances are you will need long term care during your lifetime. Being educated about what is best suited to meet your personal financial and health background needs is a significant first step. Next, understand what legal options are available to help you in the event you need significant long term care and may run out of money trying to pay for it. We are here to help. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

A Closer Look at Retirement Savings Statistics

A Closer Look at Retirement Savings Statistics

It is all over the media that nearly half of Americans aged 55 and older have no retirement savings in an individual retirement account (IRA) or 401(k) according to the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO). Also, while two out of five households do have a defined benefit plan (traditional pension), a full 29 percent of older Americans have nothing saved for retirement in any of these financial retirement tools. Retirement statistics have wide-ranging implications for the economic well being of aging baby boomers. But are the numbers being interpreted accurately? Contributing Forbes Magazine writer Andrew Biggs, who works on retirement policy, public sector pay and other economic issues facing Americans, says that the claim is factually incorrect. Furthermore, he feels how the media will cover the statistics and interpreted by politicians will continue to distort the facts. 

According to FactCheck.org, the statistic the GAO uses is derived from the Federals Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. This survey excludes those Americans who only have a traditional pension. While that may seem a small exclusion, it significantly changes the retirement savings statistic and forward trends for aging Americans’ retirement economic health. When both traditional pensions and retirement accounts are included, a full 72 percent of households aged 55 or more have retirement savings. In 1989 the same analysis criteria indicated only 64 percent of households had retirement income set aside. Therefore there is a net gain over time of 8 percent since 1989 and about 24 percent better than when looking at current statistics that only include an IRA and 401(k) as retirement savings.

If the statistics look much better when traditional pensions are included, why does the Federal Reserve exclude projected pension income in retirement forecast data? Traditional employer-sponsored pensions have fallen off dramatically for several decades. More often, employers are likely to contribute to a personal employee retirement plan like a 401(k). This makes good business sense for private corporations that only have to match or contribute half of an employee’s contribution and avoids the long term financial planning for employee pensions; in particular indexed pensions which progressively increase in value in an attempt to address inflation and the cost of living. The private sector has been bailing out of the responsibility of individual retired workers pensions for some time and for viable economic reasons.

Meanwhile, America’s public sector job pensions are at risk of becoming too expensive for municipalities, states, and even the federal government to guarantee. Cuts in future public sector pension benefits have become common for civil servants, and the reason is the same as for the private sector, cost. Underfunded and unfunded pensions are becoming the norm, which calls into question the reliability of pension plans themselves.

Retirement security is a serious and significant national issue that typically does not get enough thoughtful analysis. Attention-grabbing headlines can distort truths, but even in its best light, many retiring Americans are at significant risk for economic hardship as people are living longer than ever before. It is widely recommended that a retirement plan make provisions for 30 years and with dementia cases on the rise many of those 30 years for a retiree may become very expensive if it includes dementia care. Many retirees plan to rely heavily on their social security benefits check. The notion that social security benefits will be the social safety net promised is also at risk. Much like pensions, the promise of full benefit payment is now at risk to individuals and many retirees are projected to receive only 77 percent of their promised social security benefit payments according to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) own admission. 

The truth about retirement savings is as individual as you are. These overall projections can be both frightening and distorted with regards to your personal retirement experience. If you are 55 or older and still working, you have the control to make different and better decisions. Any proactive planning for your future retirement is better than abdicating responsibility to private firms and public employment sectors who may have mismanaged your retirement savings. 

If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us by calling us at 1.800.660.7564 or be emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

Make Sure Your Wishes Are Carried Out

Make Sure Your Wishes are Carried Out

The importance of making end of life preparations cannot be stressed enough. Many put off making these plans thinking there is always time. The sad reality is that none of us are guaranteed time. Others may be bothered by the thought of death itself and allow this to paralyze them when it comes to making plans and getting their affairs in order for the end of life. However, most of these same people have wishes and thoughts about where and to whom their assets are distributed. Many of them also have ideas about what they do and do not wish to have happen when their life ends. Lack of preparation and planning means that these wishes likely will not be honored. In addition, it causes additional strain and stress on the people who are left to sort out the affairs. An example of this is the story of Debbie.

Debbie was a teacher who had been retired for several years. She was aging alone. She never married and had no family around. She did have a small circle of friends. After retirement, Debbie’s health progressively declined and she had more and more difficulty caring for herself. After a few years, Debbie passed away in her home.

Previously, she had conversations with a handful of her friends telling them her wishes for the possessions and assets she had. Because of these conversations, these friends each thought she had made the proper preparations to ensure these wishes would be followed. Unfortunately, Debbie had none of the necessary end of life documents that would allow her wishes to be followed. Her friends were left to try to piece together a puzzle that only many missing pieces. Her burial was prolonged and what she did have after paying expenses to settle the estate and bury her will not end up where Debbie wanted. This scenario can, however, be avoided.

If you or your elderly loved one have not made end of life preparations, make time to do so as quickly as possible. An elder law attorney can help guide you in what you should be doing, and can make sure the proper documents are in place to carry out your wishes regarding your health, care you want (or don’t want) to receive, and who should receive your money and possessions.

The first key document to be sure you have is a will or a living trust. A will allows you to specify where your money and possessions should go upon your passing. It also allows you to choose an executor of the estate. The executor will take care of managing the estate, paying debts, and distributing property as specified. A will only takes effect upon your death.

A living trust does everything a will can do, but also allows for you to choose someone to manage your assets if you become incapacitated because it is effective during your lifetime. A living trust also provides privacy, as it is not subject to court proceedings that become open to the public like a will is. There are numerous other advantages to a living trust that can be explored with the help of an attorney.

A living will and health care power of attorney are two additional documents that take effect while you are alive. A living will specifies your wishes for end-of-life medical care. For example, you can specify whether you want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are in a terminal state. A health care power of attorney provides for someone to make health care decisions for you, in case you aren’t able to make decisions yourself. Both of these documents outline your wishes about medical treatment and care when you can’t make them for yourself, so it’s important to seek legal guidance to make sure these documents are drafted properly.

A financial power of attorney should be in the plan as well. A financial power of attorney names an agent to handle your finances in the event you are no longer able to.  An agent can open and close bank accounts, write checks, and sell property if you choose to allow them the authority to do so. Like the health care power of attorney, the financial power of attorney should be created with legal advice to make sure your wishes regarding your finances are properly documented.

Having an estate plan is necessary for you to have a say in what happens if you become sick and cannot make decisions for yourself, and to determine what happens with your money and your belongings after death. An estate plan also helps those who are left to deal with the estate to do so in a more simple and straightforward manner.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us by calling 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

Holding a Family Caregiver Meeting

Holding a Family Caregiving Meeting

A family caregiving meeting is an essential tool when dealing with the care of an aging loved one. These meetings are beneficial for helping to keep all family members abreast of decisions that need to be made, changes in diagnosis or prognosis, and helps to ensure that all family members feel that they have a voice. Family meetings can also help to keep caregiving responsibilities from falling solely on the shoulders of one family member. In addition, family caregiving meetings can foster cooperation among family members and lessen the stress associated with caring for an aging loved one.

Who should attend a family caregiving meeting?

There are a number of people who should be included in a family caregiving meeting. First and foremost, it is important to include the aging loved one in the meeting whenever possible. This helps the aging loved one to feel that they are being heard and that their opinions and thoughts are being considered. If a spouse is living, the spouse should be included, as well as any children and possibly siblings of the aging person. Some families may choose to include other family members, but this really varies from one family to another. Anyone else involved in care for the person should also be there. This could include paid caregivers, family friends, or neighbors. Depending on family dynamics, a facilitator can be helpful in running the meeting.

When should a family have a caregiving meeting?

First it is important to note that family caregiving meetings are not a one and done event. They must occur on a regular basis. The first family meeting can occur before an aging loved one actually needs care. This can give the person who may eventually need care more say in their future care, but often times this does not occur. Most families find that the initial meeting needs to occur when an aging loved when begins to show signs of needing care or when a diagnosis is given that determines care will soon be needed. In addition, meetings should be scheduled regular to discuss changes in diagnosis, prognosis, or general needs of the loved one or the caregivers.

How can a family hold a successful caregiving meeting?

The key to having a successful caregiving meeting is cooperation. This doesn’t mean that family members will agree on everything, but it is important that all family members are respectfully heard and considered. Families must be willing to compromise and seek the best plan for their aging loved one. Additionally, a smoothly run meeting should have an agenda and families should try to stay focused on the items included on the agenda. When holding a meeting, always put things in writing and be sure that all those involved get a copy of the important information and everyone’s responsibilities.

What challenges do families face in caregiving meetings?

One of the biggest challenges to family caregiving meetings is the family’s history. All families have their own dynamics that can cause problems in a caregiving meeting. There may be members of the family who are at odds with one another. This can become an obstacle to having a successful caregiving meeting. The role that each family member plays can be a challenge. Some members may be overbearing and demand control, while others are peacemakers and do not feel free to share their thoughts. Another challenge is that some family members may be in denial of the severity of an aging loved one’s needs. This may make it difficult to get a consensus for care.

Family caregiving meetings are beneficial and necessary when an aging loved one can no longer care for themselves. These meetings can help to divide the responsibilities of caregiving and reduce stress placed on the family members. It is important that families remember that the meetings are for the care of their loved one and cooperate with one another to help the process to run more smoothly and successfully.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us at 1.800.660.7564 or by emailing us at info@covertlaw.com.

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Covert | Law

Your Plan. Your Family. Their Future.

- - We Take Care of Families: Today - Tomorrow - Forever - -

NEIL R. COVERT, Attorney at Law

Clearwater - Sarasota - Fort Myers - Naples

1.800.660.7564

email: info@covertlaw.com

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