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The Hardest Question: Who Draws the Line?

The Hardest Question: Who Draws the Line?

In this Covid-19 epidemic, a wrenching question especially demands an answer: if you or someone you love is taken down into life-threatening illness, how far would you want extreme life-prolonging measures to be tried?

For us who are particularly vulnerable – seniors, those with compromised immune systems, those already struggling with medical conditions – this question is particularly stark. Many people are familiar with DNR orders, “do not resuscitate.” These are intended for cardiac arrest. The threats posed by the current virus, though, more often implicate breathing problems. The longer time spent on a ventilator, the greater the chances of permanent damage, disability or death .

Many are dying alone, without their loved ones present. The New York Times recently reported on a particularly heartbreaking case

Most people over sixty with a serious illness say they would prefer to be kept in comfort at the end, even if that care shortens life. But where to draw the line? How much time alive would you be willing to sacrifice, to decline aggressive treatment and possibly die sooner? The need to provide at least some answers is important not just for you. Clinicians and caregivers need guidance, too. 

2017 study showed that approximately two-thirds of Americans had neglected to provide prior guidance by creating advance health-care directives like health care powers of attorney and living wills. Back then, most of us could not have imagined being in an epidemic like the one now.

Even if you or your loved ones have already done the responsible thing and created advance directives, now is the time to review those documents to make sure they reflect what you want under current conditions. 

Health-care providers are ethically obligated to do everything feasible to keep us alive. If we have no advance directives in place, the system will take over – and families can end up in long-lasting anguish for having had to be the ones to make the final call. Don’t let that happen. Think through the question for yourself and talk with a person whom you trust to make that decision for you if need be. Call us for your advance health-care directives – and may you and yours not need them for a good long while.  Simply give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com. if you have any questions.

Your Digital Footprint is Growing – Have You Planned Accordingly?

Your Digital Footprint is Growing – Have You Planned Accordingly?

There are very few individuals without a digital footprint anymore. From social networks like Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitch.tv and Twitter, blogs and licensed domain names, email, music, photos, seller accounts on eBay, Amazon, or Itsy, gaming accounts, even your financial, utility, and medical accounts are all part of your digital footprint. When most of us created these accounts, we blithely accepted the End User License Agreement (EULA) without much thought to when we would no longer be around to manage their content and activity. However, a EULA designates in detail the rights and restrictions that apply when using the software known as terms of service (TOS). Most EULA’s are a standard form of contract, a contract of adhesion, which is known to exploit unequal power relationships. A user has no option to negotiate the terms of a EULA if they want to use the software.

When you create your will and its associated documents like a durable power of attorney (in the event you become incapacitated) it is prudent to include digital assets and a designation for someone to access your online accounts and manage their activity. Without specific instructions, most of your online accounts will not pass through the typical estate planning devices like trusts and wills because they are not your property. Still, they are very representative of your being. Since most TOS are non-transferable, you will likely be unable to transfer the “ownership” of your online accounts legally. However, you can still plan for how they should be handled when you die.

In terms of Facebook and other social network platforms, each company has its policy regarding the account of the deceased. Facebook, for example, will permit your account to be placed in a “memorial” status so that it can be viewed, and loved ones can leave memorial messages. Other social networking sites will delete or deactivate your account. If the social network is not appraised of your death, the company won’t know for a while, allowing someone to make changes to your account after your death, perhaps even posting a final status or update of your choosing. Though this is in opposition to most social networking platform policies, it is difficult for online companies to know about and monitor user activity in the event of death.

Your executor should inform readers of a blog or other licensed domain names you maintained while alive. A licensed domain name should be transferred or ended as continued licensing payment makes no sense. The content of these sites should be removed or archived. If you belong to online communities such as a book group or community list serve, you may also choose to leave a final message or have your executor notify the group of your passing.

If you store movies, music, photos, eBooks, or other digital online files, your executor should have access to the files and carry out your wishes as to what to do with them. If you do not leave access to your online accounts, they will eventually become disabled due to inactivity, and no one will have access to the files. In the event you own the data, i.e., personal photos, you can use your will or living trust to leave them to a loved one or a friend. You will have to leave detailed descriptions (My trip to Paris) for photos. As far as purchased online music or eBooks it is not the same as owning a physical CD or book. Software or digital content does not permit acquisition of ownership rights. This means the money you paid for the online content was more of a subscription service solely for your use and not transferable upon your death. Your virtual music and film library will die with you.

If you are an online seller on eBay, Amazon, Itsy, or the like, leave specific instructions about what to do with your online store. You may leave all profits that continue to come in and the stock items you sell through your will or living trust. When the company knows of your death, your executor will have no power over the account itself, but you can make provisions for the profit and stock items to be bequeathed. If you want someone to take over your online store after you die, you will need to reference the TOS of the company. Most do not allow accounts to transfer; however, the new “owner” can open a new account and reimagine your storefront.

Financial, utility, and medical accounts should all be addressed very clearly in your digital will. Leave instructions as to what website, username, and password are for each account. Also, leave written instructions about what to do with each of them. Regarding your financial accounts, their contents will be addressed in your will or trust, but your executor will have to access these accounts to wrap up your estate. These accounts include checking and savings accounts, mortgage, life insurance, and retirement accounts, as well as phone, cable, gas, and electric bills, tax preparation services, medical accounts, and more.

Your online presence requires digital legacy planning. Take a good look at all of your online accounts and be sure to leave reliable access to them and instructions for your executor. We can help you with this process, and with drafting appropriate planning documents to deal with these assets.  We also have a Client Portal for all of our clients, and this Client Portal permits our clients to encrypt and store logins, passwords, etc. for ease of access for their children and their other estate planning “helpers” they may have.  If you are interested in learning more about your digital footprint or our Client Portal, please contact us at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com. 

Staying Mentally Sound During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Staying Mentally Sound During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many of us are facing unprecedented challenges during this coronavirus crisis in America, and it has increased anxiety and fear levels in all of us. The reactive part of your brain called the amygdala, a human physiological response when faced with fear, takes control of your actions, and you enter what is known as the fight-flight-freeze response. This stress response induces your body to produce a steroid called cortisol to handle the feelings of fear. Unfortunately, cortisol has another effect on your physiology; it weakens your immune system. This effect makes you more vulnerable at a time when you need strength. 

No matter what your challenges are during this pandemic, there is one thing you can bring to the crisis from which all other problems can be better solved, overcome your fear with mental toughness. Being afraid can quite literally make you more susceptible to becoming sick. As such, the proper precautions like getting adequate rest, staying hydrated, and social distancing should have an additional component, help your brain to feel safe to maximize your physical health.

Some of the techniques you can employ include shifting your focus to those things you are grateful for, like a roof over your head, food in your refrigerator, your health. Consider all of the things you have that others may not; the things we all may typically take for granted. If you can’t find gratitude about your circumstances, think of those people working on the front lines in this continuing pandemic and be grateful it is not you. Finding something to be grateful for will immediately get you out of the fight-flight response.

Begin to practice empathy. Look at the time you spend with your loved ones at home as a gift and not a jail sentence. Embrace being with them, laugh, tell them you appreciate them because when you spread joy to others, it will boost their immune system as well. It turns out that being positive is healthy and contagious.  We all have a rare opportunity to forge better, more loving relationships with our immediate family, or if you live alone, take the time to recharge and re-center yourself. Take full advantage of this moment and choose positive behaviors. Extend your empathy to those who are feeling ill if possible, through video chat, phone calls, texts, or prayer. This moment is so much bigger than just ourselves.

Turn off the news and turn on personal growth and connection. News reports are full of data, some of which are not accurate. Being addicted to the 24/7 news cycle breeds uncertainty and fear as it touts mostly negative statistics and woeful stories of the moment. The basics about this pandemic are well documented at this point. Practice proper hygiene, particularly with your hands, avoid touching your face, avoid large gatherings, and implement social distance but do not do this out of fear, do it as an act of service. Flip how your brain associates your daily choices by knowing that your actions are preventing the potential deaths of others.

Find something in media or on television that brings a smile to your face or makes you laugh. Break out the board games, cards, art projects, or walk outside (distant from others!) and get some sun. Sun provides vitamin D for your system, which also boosts your immune system. Whatever you choose, staying active and busy in a positive way will lessen any concern or fears that you are experiencing about the pandemic.

These points of view may all may read as cliché, but in 2009 Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone conducted a study consisting of two groups of people learning to play a simple piano melody. For five days, one group practiced the melody for two hours a day while the other group, over the same time, sat in front of the keyboard, imagining they were playing the melody. Dr. Pascual-Leone mapped the brain activity of the study participants before, during, and after the experiment, and the results were surprising. Both groups experienced the same brain changes. What this means is the brain does not differentiate between imagination and reality. What this also means is you have a choice, a choice to be riddled with anxiety, worry, and uncertainty or the opportunity to be courageous, bold, and confident by simply imagining those feelings. How you feel is a choice. 

In simple terms, when you have a thought, your brain sends a pulse of electrical activity at the same moment. This electrical activity stimulates a release of neuropeptides that communicate with your body to produce a feeling. So truly, your thoughts create feelings. Activate your brain’s natural superpowers and boost your immune system by redirecting your brain’s thought patterns. Remind yourself daily to think positive thoughts, be grateful, and practice empathy which will give you the mental toughness to endure what still lies ahead.

We are open for business and would be happy to discuss any concerns you have. The pandemic we are living through has opened everyone’s eyes to the importance of having healthcare documents, as well as other planning documents like a will or trust. If you’d like to discuss your particular needs, please contact us – we’d be happy to help.  Just call us at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com.  Stay safe.  Stay healthy.  

Helping Seniors Avoid Loneliness While Maintaining Social Distance

Helping Seniors Avoid Loneliness While Maintaining Social Distance

The medically recommended protocols for social distancing and government mandates that restrict large gatherings of Americans to slow the spread of the coronavirus are minimizing our abilities to interact with each other. This isolation holds especially true for those seniors who live alone or in long term health care facilities. Human beings are, by nature, designed for close contact and social interaction. Maintaining human connection, whether it be family or casual acquaintances, can help boost immunity, combat anxiety and stress, and can even lower health risks that are exacerbated by stress like heart attacks and hypertension.  

The Association of Health Care Journalists reports that it is critical for older adults’ wellbeing to maintain social ties. Those seniors who experience loneliness and social isolation are more likely to develop dementia, more likely to fall, have an increase in hospital readmissions, and an increase in mortality. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care facilities and hospitals across the country have put a pause on in-person visitation. This separation will protect the most vulnerable populations, such as older adults and those individuals with chronic health conditions.

To help your loved ones in a facility or living on their own during this challenging time of COVID-19 Right at Home, a leader in the in-home senior care industry, has some ideas to stay connected to those you love who are isolated during this outbreak. 

  • Set up phone dates. Scheduling a regular call at a prescribed time and date brings you closer through conversation and also gives a senior something to look forward to experiencing. Do not over-promise. It is better to have two calls a week that you always attend rather than to miss a promised chat session because you overscheduled your time. 
  • Write letters to each other. Getting postal mail is fun for all ages, especially when it is a letter, filled with memories of shared times. Include self-addressed stamped envelopes back and forth to encourage continuing the exchange. Lonely seniors will usually re-read these notes and treasure them.
  • Set up chatty technology. Whether it’s a tablet, home device, or smartphone, you can use your digital device to use apps like Facebook Messenger, Alexa, FaceTime, Skype, and more to videoconference with your senior. If your senior needs some technical help, most health care workers will be able to help get them started as you will not be permitted to be onsite.
  • Virtually watch movies together. If you and your senior have a desktop computer or laptop that uses the Chrome browser, Netflix Party will synchronize video playback and add group chat capability to your chosen show or movie. It’s like having a long-distance movie night or tv watching party.
  • Attend online events and activities. Participating online is a big deal when faced with isolation. There are thousands of people online who have similar interests as you. Meetup.com is a free membership group that has 24 separate categories, like dance, language, and culture, photography, family, tech, health and wellness, music, and more. All of these categories host multiple online events in which your senior can participate.
  • Attend virtual religious services. Faith is so important right now, especially for some seniors. If your loved one has a worship service they used to attend, see if they are now providing their services online. Many houses of worship have Facebook pages where a service is a click away. It will lift your senior’s spirits immensely to see and listen to their familiar pastor, rabbi, or priest.
  • Make use of the public library online. More than ever, libraries are offering their services for things like movies, e-books, and audiobooks.
  • Stay physically active. Log into a virtual exercise class online. Most of the classes are free, and they are found everywhere on YouTube. Just be sure to search for an exercise class that is appropriate for your age and physical abilities. As with any new exercise regime, always consult your doctor first.
  • Get outdoors, even for 5 minutes. If at all possible to do safely, step outside on the porch, patio, or balcony and encourage your loved one to do the same. Take in some sunshine and fresh air, take a deep breath and see the bigger picture of life.

Prolonged loneliness can bring about depression and even dementia. However, social distancing does not have to bring about social disconnection. Employ some of these ideas in the world of your senior to protect them from isolation during this pandemic. It is crucial to your loved one’s wellbeing to have direction and routine, hope, and human connection. 

We are also using video technology for our meetings so we can continue to help with planning needs of our community. If you have questions about what you read or would like to discuss planning for 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. We would be honored to help.

Telehealth Replaces Many In-Person Medical Appointments

Telehealth Replaces Many In-Person Medical Appointments

Through the use of videoconferencing over wireless devices and remote health tech monitoring, telehealth can connect patients to vital health care services. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA)fully 76 percent of US hospitals are using some form of telehealth for their patient groups. 

 

 

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has freed up some regulations that previously stifled telehealth practices by increasing Medicare coverage allowances as well as permitting doctors to practice over state lines, further increasing telehealth demand. This unprecedented surge in patients is stressing major telehealth providers’ technical infrastructure as well as the availability of physicians, physician assistants, and registered nurses who can deliver accredited virtual care. Huge backlogs are becoming the norm as telehealth ready hospitals and other facilities scramble to meet the demand.

Addressing the incoming demand is not that easy as major health systems like the Cleveland Clinic are experiencing a fifteen-fold increase in telehealth visits per week, and that number is likely to increase.  For those lacking standard internet connectivity, doctors are expanding phone consultations and recording videos as telehealth services increase asynchronous connection capability to address rural patients lacking reliable broadband capability for health services during this pandemic. The Cleveland Clinic also has a health bot (an automated online interactive chat window) COVID-19 risk assessment available on its home page where you can follow the prompts to determine your risk level for coronavirus based on your given answers. The University of Pennsylvania (Penn Medicine) is receiving virtual health care requests faster than clinicians can respond to them even though the hospital’s daily consultations have gone from 6 to 60 online appointments. Hospitals across the country are experiencing a similar explosion in the number of telehealth requests.

Many Americans do not seem to be fully satisfied with gathering their information about COVID-19 on websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Instead, they are opting for more personalized contact via a telehealth provider, which may be decreasing fear levels more than providing additional insights as medical personnel uses the guidelines established by these reliable health organizations.

The telehealth service sector is hoping that the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the value of remote health services resulting in an enduring shift to its delivery mechanism in the future. Even when stretched beyond full capacity, telehealth allows the pooling of health care resources and delivery of them to where they are most needed. Though not currently operating to its full potential, telehealth during the time of the coronavirus pandemic remains one of the safest ways to receive medical attention and advice. 

We encourage you to reach out to your medical provider to determine whether telehealth is an option should you need medical attention. It is a much safer way to talk to a health care specialist and determine what type of treatment you may need.

We are also available for online meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you would like to set up a meeting, simply visit our website for information on how we can connect, or call us at 1.800.660.7564 and email us at info@covertlaw.com.

Americans of All Ages are Creating Their Wills During COVID 19 Pandemic

Americans of All Ages are Creating Their Wills During COVID 19 Pandemic

There has been an explosion in the numbers of Americans rushing to make their will online. Understandably, the coronavirus pandemic has created the scramble to set up wills and end-of-life-directives. However, online do it yourself (DIY) wills are often deemed invalid as they do not comply with all of the legal requirements of your state. According to Caring.com, the prevalence of will and estate planning has been on the decline since 2017 but this trend is quickly reversing itself with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.  


So, who needs a will? Ask yourself if you care who gets your property or money if you die? If you have minor children, do you care who will act as their legal guardian? The answer is anyone married, anyone with children or anyone with assets needs a properly executed will. Wills are governed by state law. Your will should reflect your wishes in the language and format required by the state in which you live for it to be valid. 

Many law offices are turning to teleconference with their clients to address social distancing protocols while still providing legal services such as writing a will. Businesses like Zoom are experiencing a quadrupling of daily users. Part of this significant increase includes hosting secure attorney/client meetings for will preparations. The importance of an attorney guiding you through the process of creating a will cannot be understated as they understand the nuances of how things need to be written. Once your will is complete, it must be correctly notarized as mistakes made in the will-signing process can potentially invalidate your will. Your attorney will guide you through the signing process, and could involve signing during a video conference. 

Beyond the creation of a will, many Americans are increasingly concerned about their powers of attorneys, health care surrogates, living wills, and end of life directives. These “life documents,” as they are active while you are alive, are equally as important as your will. Named executors, successors, beneficiaries, power of attorneys should have several back-up representatives as the mortality rate due to the coronavirus remains unknown.

According to research in a recent New York Times report, health care workers are more likely to contract COVID 19 than the average person. During this pandemic, many doctors and other medical professionals are rushing to have their wills drawn up. In addition to doctors, anyone on the front lines in the fight against COVID 19, from hospital custodians to nurses to EMS responders, should either make a will or review and possibly update their existing one. However, the truth is no matter what your profession or likelihood of contracting this virus, you should have a properly executed will during this time of considerable uncertainty.

There are few things you can act on during the COVID 19 pandemic that can bring you assurance and a sense of relief. The legal creation of your will or living trust and life-directives (Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, HIPAA Authorization, Medical Emergency Card for your wallet) are actions you can take that protects you and your family. We can help. Call us at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com to schedule a phone or video conference and we’ll get this importance process started for you.

Senior Living Workforce Issues During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Senior Living Workforce Issues During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Fears that provisions in a coronavirus-related relief action by the US government could have severely curtailed the workforce in senior assisted living, independent living, memory care, and continuing care retirement communities provide a cautionary tale. The bill, HR 6201, is a multi-billion dollar aid package known as Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill has recently been signed into law by the US President. Influential leaders, CEOs, and corporate Presidents in the senior care and housing industry addressed facility workforce concerns directly to the House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) before the passing of H.R.6201.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Law expands unemployment and Medicaid benefits, provides for free coronavirus testing, and mandates paid sick leave and childcare. Now that schools have closed throughout the country for an indefinite time, the fear is that many senior care workers will, unsurprisingly, put their family before their healthcare worker employment. A reprieve of sorts was added before the law being enacted, which states that only certain employees can qualify for paid sick leave.  Because of these loopholes, healthcare workers like first responders, and hospital and nursing home staff are ineligible for paid sick leave per the Families First Coronavirus Response Law (FFCRL) amid fears of staffing shortages among medical providers.

Healthcare worker exemption from some FFCRL benefits is a relief to the senior housing industry but by no means mitigates other workforce challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. The pervasiveness of this contagion means that healthcare workers will be exposed to, and some will fall ill with full-blown coronavirus symptoms and illness. Obviously, in these cases, the healthcare worker will be removed from the senior living facility for quarantine and recovery and to protect the facility’s residents and staff. One coronavirus confirmed healthcare worker begins a domino effect within a facility. Regular operations become short-staffed, and operators face the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols that co-workers must also face quarantine.

Beyond coronavirus exposure, symptoms, and the diagnosed virus itself, there is the problem of how healthcare workers respond in a pandemic. The non-stop news and social media coverage of the coronavirus has put many Americans on edge, including health care workers. In a crisis, some people respond logically and calmly, while others may become fearful of their own circumstances and respond emotionally. Most healthcare workers would put their own family’s health needs and care before any employment, and in a free society, there is nothing to compel them to stay in a job if they choose to tend first to their own family.

If your loved one is in a senior living facility, what can you do to mitigate the negative consequences of workforce disruption due to the coronavirus? In the short term, if you are able and your senior is well enough, you can put them under your care. Beyond family care, unless you have the resources for private pay at any cost, you, like the rest of us, are in the system and have to wait out the virus and its effects. There is no guarantee moving forward how the coronavirus will play out in senior living communities, America, and around the world. 

One of the few things you do have control over is to assure your loved one has proper legal documents for end of life decisions. Take the time to review them to ensure they are in order. A do not resuscitate order (DNR), durable medical power of attorney, and end of life wishes should be on file with your loved ones living facility and the local hospital. Additional legal copies of these documents should remain in your car or on your person in the event a facility is unable to locate the paperwork. Preparing for the worst-case scenario is a harsh reality; however, it could make the difference between chaotic suffering and a peaceful passing.

We’re here to help with appropriate documents for you and your loved ones – or just to answer any questions you may have.  We’re all in this together. Give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com.

Stay healthy.

Understanding the Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Seniors

Understanding the Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Seniors

We are living in confusing and scary times.  The senior population has been identified as the most at-risk demographic for COVID-19.  Information coming out about COVID-19 is very fluid, which can also contribute to overall stress.  Thankfully there are ways to try and manage stress and stay as healthy as possible during this time thanks to advice from several federal agencies monitoring the situation and the impact of COVID-19 on the senior population.  This article highlights some of the advice provided from those agencies monitoring this situation closely.

For those living in a nursing home or long-term care living facility, new protocols have been established by  the federal government to curb the spread of Coronavirus.  A new preparedness checklist is available from the CDC here.  It includes staff education and training for the rapid identification and management of ill residents, as well as an increase in supplies and resources. There are also restrictions on all visitation, excepting some circumstances like an end of life situation.  Other restrictions have been placed on volunteers and non-essential health care personnel, and the cancellation of all group activities and communal dining.

Before the identification and dissemination of information about Coronavirus, the CDC had identified the 2019-2020 flu season as being particularly challenging. Now many seniors wonder whether they have a different type of flu, allergies, or are experiencing the Coronavirus. Not knowing is particularly frightening since seniors have been identified as the demographic with the highest mortality rate. The CDC has a straightforward checklist of symptoms of respiratory infection, including COVID-19: 

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Because other types of flu have similar symptoms and there is no Coronavirus vaccine, and its test is in very short supply, many older adults will only be able to treat their symptoms without full knowledge as to the contagion.

One their website under “How to Prepare” the CDC provides information on protecting yourself, your family, your home, and managing anxiety and stress. According to the CDC, there are some things that seniors can do whether or not they are in a facility or living at home that can help reduce their risk of catching the Coronavirus or any other virus for that matter in this bad flu season. The first line of defense sounds counterintuitive to a global pandemic, but it is crucial, stay calm and try to relax. 

Getting quality sleep during this outbreak will allow your body the time it needs to restore immunity responses to contagions. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Staying calm, getting restful sleep, and remaining hydrated will allow your body’s natural defense mechanisms to protect itself.

Have someone near you help you stock up on supplies. Stay in your home as much as possible. If the weather permits, open a window for fresh air. If you have a home with a porch or patio, take in some sun for vitamin D. You want your immune system to be as robust as possible. Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others. If it is not necessary, don’t go out in public, avoid crowds, stay away from anyone who is sick, and wash your hands often. Cancel any cruise or non-essential air travel and do not use public transportation.

The CDC (List of Disinfectants) has posted a list of disinfectants for use against the Coronavirus. Proper disinfecting of often-used surfaces is critical as this particular Coronavirus can live for long periods, up to 72 hours on some surfaces. As of now, the EPA reports no detection of COVID-19 in drinking water supplies and believes the risk to the water supply is low based on current evidence. 

The CDC is reporting that seniors with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and should take extra precautions about self-isolating. Those seniors with these conditions in a nursing home or long term care facility will be triaged according to CDC guidelines for best practices with the elderly who are the highest risk.

If you feel worried and panic is taking over your rational responses, seek a loved one or trusted friend to guide you through the steps you can take. There is a great deal that is unknown about the Coronavirus, but there is a great deal known about what you can do as an individual senior to combat the threat and remain healthy. 

We would be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you have as we continue to understand the impact of COVID-19 on our country.  Give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com. 

How to Talk to Kids About Their Inheritance

How to Talk to Your Kids About Their Inheritance

 

Many parents are uncomfortable talking to their kids about their wealth.  Talking about how much money or property you have is usually viewed as taboo.  Asking someone else about what they have is often considered impolite. But failing to talk to kids about how much they may inherit could leave them unprepared to handle even a modest amount, and often results in the money being squandered quickly.

Many who have substantial wealth are concerned that if their children know the extent of their wealth, this will take away any motivation for the children to be productive and involved citizens. Parents with substantial wealth often want their children to learn how to live in the world as “normal” people, and to be productive and successful in their own right. Some may go so far as to hide their wealth to encourage their children to work and build their own wealth.

But the degree of wealth is relative. Even those who are not as wealthy may not want their children to know how much they have. With the rising costs of health care, they are concerned that all of their savings will be needed for retirement, medical expenses, and long term care. If this becomes a reality their kids would not receive an inheritance they may have been counting on.

Failing to prepare children for what they may inherit can hinder their ability to handle money wisely. Many find they suddenly feel separated from their friends, isolated, even confused about how to handle relationships. Others will be wasteful and spend their new found money irresponsibly. Those who inherit even a modest amount are likely to be just as irresponsible; stories of inheritances being squandered on an expensive sports car, lavish vacations, and fast living are all too common.

Experts agree it is important to talk to children about money and wealth during their adult years to help them learn how to be better stewards of wealth. This doesn’t mean parents have to take a show their children all of their bank accounts, business interests and other evidence of wealth. Instead, experts suggest talking to children about their values, the opportunities money can provide and what you as parents want to accomplish with the money you have. Most parents want their children to think about helping others, and many want to encourage entrepreneurship. It can be helpful to give children a small amount of money at a young age to teach them how to save and invest, spend wisely, and to show them the importance of supporting charities. 

One of the most effective ways to teach children about values and spending and investing money is to be an example. Parents need to let their children see them using their money in ways that reinforce their values. Some parents show how they value family relationships by spending their money on family vacations or buying a second home where the entire family can gather for summers and holidays. Others involve their children in choosing charities to support and provide children their own money to donate. If your children see you living your values, chances are they will adopt similar values as well.

We help families determine how to leave money to children in a beneficial way, how to plan for unexpected health care issues, and how to make sure appropriate people are named to step in and help if needed. We welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your planning needs.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring In-Home Health Care Services

Questions to Ask Before Hiring In-Home Health Care Services

There is a wide range of home health care services available from daily household tasks to medical care. Before identifying a health care service for information, get a clear idea of what you are in the market for, be it recovery from surgery or long-term care for a chronic illness. The first step is to determine what you need help with and how often you need that help. Then assess your budget to provide home health care services. Get the specific information together about the types of insurance you will be relying on for payment. Determine what your loved one’s comfort level is with the process. A non-compliant recipient of care is going to make for misery all around. Have open and non-threatening discussions with your loved one and listen to their concerns. They may give you refined information about what type of individual to look for in a home health aide such as a non-smoker, early riser, card player, fastidiously neat person, an aide with experience with a specific chronic disease, or a multi-lingual aide.

Once you have identified your needs, though they may change or need to be scaled back, the search for a provider begins. The Mayo Clinic recommends finding a qualified home care service agency. Only deal with properly licensed agencies. Most states require agencies to be licensed and regularly reviewed, so check with your state health department. Be sure the agency is Medicare-certified for federal health and safety requirements. If it is not, inquire as to why. Ask about employee screening and if the agency is willing to provide references and follow up on them. Request a list of the doctors, hospital discharge planners, and other medical and administrative workers who have experience with the agency.

The individual home health aide should have proper credentials. Check to see that they are appropriately licensed by directly checking with the licensing body itself. Does the aide have a track record, and can they provide references from at least two employers? Follow up on any references given. Also, check with your loved one’s medical team to see if they have specific individuals who would be qualified and a good fit as your home health aide. Check for the quality characteristics of the agency. How do they monitor and train caregivers? Are caregivers licensed, accredited, and insured through the agency and proper licensing bodies? Is continuing education provided to health aides? Does the overall attitude of your potential home health aide have a positive attitude and display patience? Can scheduled hours be consistent with the patient’s needs? Will the same aide reliably and routinely show up?

Once you have a few qualified home health care options available, it is time to identify which agencies are affordable to your budget in the area of your loved one. It makes no sense to learn about specific services that you cannot afford, so pricing is one of the first considerations beyond qualifications. Ask the agency how it handles billing and expenses and get literature that explains services and fees. What levels of care do they provide? It is important to get detailed, written information as to all of the costs associated with home care services. If it is not in writing, be wary and walk away.  

Does the agency allow for fees to be covered by health insurance or Medicare? Talk with the agency’s billing personnel to ensure that your health insurance is accepted and be sure to understand the criteria that Medicare requires. Do not forget to ask about financial assistance or payment plans and again request that all the information is in writing. Once you understand the payment set-up, reconfirm what services are included in those fees. Often the sales pitch in the front office does not map out to the details of fee-for-service in the accounting department.

How much will the aide charge for providing home health services, and what services are included? Does this information mirror the data provided by the agency? Inquire about sick days and check for any scheduled vacations that might impact continuing service to your loved one. Who is responsible for payroll, social security, and other taxes associated with the aide? Does your aide receive standard holidays off as defined by federal guidelines; are they paid holidays, and who pays?

Before an aide enters into your loved one’s home, there should be a written care plan that includes details about medical equipment, specific care needs, and the responsibilities of the aide and the agency. This plan is usually in the form of a 3-ring binder where an aide denotes hours of care provided and can reference doctor input, which should be frequently updated. Also in the book should be a list of responsibilities and rights for everyone involved, which is often referred to as the patient’s bill of rights. This document varies widely, but Medicare.gov provides a detailed example of what they include. 

Inquire if the agency will continue to work directly with you and other family members after the aide is identified and hired for service. What is the process for elevating concerns and complaints? If there are problems, what is the protocol to resolve them? What are the emergency plans in the event of power failure or a natural disaster that can create safety hazards, particularly with medical equipment? What are the response times during a medical emergency? Is your aide instructed to dial 911 first? Check for a back-up plan in the event the home health aide has an emergency come up or has car trouble, or inclement weather precludes them from showing up.

According to Homecare.com, the average agency health care worker has between 1 to 2 years of experience, so implement the 3 R’s and get resumes, references, and reviews. Ensure the credentialing process through your identified agency includes home health aide social security number and trace verification. Be sure it checks federal and state criminal records, sex offender registry, and valid driver’s license check through the licensing department in your state. The aide’s license and credential verification need to be vetted. Finally, there should be contact with the Fraud and Abuse Control Information Systems (FACIS), which checks for wrong actions by individuals and agencies in the health care field.

To hire the best home health care services possible for your loved one do your research thoroughly before moving forward. Once you are engaging agencies and individual aides ask questions, get literature, take notes and then follow up on references, license verifications and credentialing. The research and care you put into the process upfront can stave off unwanted complaints or problems with your home health aide selection. You will create the best outcome for the patient by identifying the most qualified and affordable candidate for your situation.

We help families create comprehensive estate plans for anyone who may need long term care. We discuss care needs, how care will be paid for, who will make decisions, and much more. Give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com – we’d be happy to help your family plan for the future.

Telehealth and mHealth Technology is Revolutionizing At-Home Medical Care

Telehealth and mHealth Technology is Revolutionizing At-Home Medical Care

The silver tsunami of Americans aging into 65 or more years puts additional strain on an already overtaxed US health care system which is running low on doctors, nurses, and caregivers. The surge in baby boomer seniors and near-seniors has put a focus on Telehealth and mHealth technology platforms which provide solutions that improve senior care monitoring, coordination, and management while aging in place. Telehealth is the distribution of health-related services and information by way of electronic information and telecommunication technologies while mHealth is its mobile counterpart. Both platforms allow long-distance patient/clinician contact and care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions. The benefits of these technologies are particularly significant for seniors living in rural areas where medical facilities can be far from home. 

According to two statistics reported by AARP, there will be an increase of about 7 percent of the senior population who by 2050 will require additional caregiving and support due to chronic disease. The study also cites, “The number of people 65 and older in the United States is expected to increase to 55 million in 2020; to some 70 million by 2030, and 88.5 million, or 20 percent of the population by 2050. (Put yet another way, between 2006 and 2030, the U.S. population of adults aged 65+ will nearly double from 37 million to 71.5 million people.)” These statistics highlight the need for medical home-based technology because aging in place has become a ‘movement’ and is the best hope to meet the increasing senior demographic in the United States.

These medical technology platforms require reliable and robust internet connectivity which are readily available in urban and suburban areas but can be a challenge to provide in rural locations. It is possible to meet the need of internet availability in much the same way that the US created the Rural Electrification Act (REA) of 1936. The REA US-backed federal loans provided for installation and electric distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas. Today, the funding mechanism for remote internet service provisions can be similarly funded and not require a point to point wiring but rather wireless cellular towers. Additionally, assessing the amount of federal money paid out for 911 calls for seniors who wind up in the hospital after a fall could provide savings that could be redirected to a rural internet provisional act. Statistics show that over three months the average medical cost incurred by each accidental senior fall is about $35,000. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that falls account for more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually and the number of hospitalizations is over 800,000. Multiplying $35,000 by 800,000 hospitalizations is $28 billion annually. Even a portion of that dollar amount would go a long way to helping rural seniors get reliable, affordable internet access.

Telehealth and mHealth platforms are integral to the success of aging Americans. All of the technology tools like laptops, remote control devices, and voice-activated personal assistants are also reliant on reliable internet connectivity. The integration of all of these tools to provide a quick link to a senior’s care team, whether that is their primary care physician, home health aide, wearable medical devices, family member or the neighbor next door is essential in the prevention of hospitalizations. The money that can potentially be saved has prompted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the American Medical Association (AMA) to expand reimbursement policy for remote patient monitoring programs through new Current Procedural Technology (CPT) codes. 

These remote monitoring medical platforms are readily available to put in place and become mainstream solutions to the aging US demographic. For those seniors who can age in place, these technologies are invaluable. The same monitoring tools can also reduce strain on doctors, nurses, and care staff at retirement communities, senior living facilities, long term care centers, and skilled nursing facilities. Mobile carts, video communication links, and connected devices at a facility can connect remotely with a doctor or specialist reducing the need for emergency medical services (EMS) or transport to a hospital. 

Telehealth and mHealth technology can create a medical care platform for seniors that enable them to live safely and comfortably at home. We help seniors and their families create comprehensive plans that cover long term care needs, how to pay for care, and how to choose appropriate people to help seniors make important decisions. We would welcome the opportunity to help you and your loved ones.  Just give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com.

Passing on Family Values as Part of an Inheritance

Passing on Family Values as Part of an Inheritance

Successfully addressing and legally formalizing inheritance of family values and assets can be challenging, especially if parents wait too long to begin instilling family values. Undoubtedly the best time to teach and empower your children as eventual inheritors of your family legacy is during childhood, then continuing throughout adulthood. Waiting until your later stages in life to discuss family values as a guide to handling inherited worth is often ill-received as grown adult children prefer not to feel parented anymore, particularly when they are raising children of their own.  

There is value in the spiritual, intellectual, and human capital of rising generations, and it is incumbent upon older generations to embrace this notion and work with their heirs rather than dictating to them their ideas about how to facilitate better outcomes. While the directions taken by newer generations will likely differ and can sometimes be downright frightening than that of their elders, there can still be a deep sense of service and responsibility to family values and stewardship of inherited wealth. Allow your children to exert their influence over the family enterprise early on in life and make adjustments that create synergy, connection, and like-mindedness.

If this description of a somewhat ideal family system does not resemble yours, take heart. Most families do not conform to perfect standards of interaction. The more affluent a family is, the higher the failure rate to disperse assets without severe fallout. The Williams Group conducted a 20-year study and determined there is a 70 percent failure rate that includes rapid asset depletion and disintegration of family relationships during and after inheritance. Establishing inheritable trusts can provide real benefits. Benefits include avoiding probate, reducing time to handle estate matters, privacy protection, the elimination or reduction of the estate tax, and can be effective pre-nuptial planning. A parent who wants to control outcomes should focus on these benefits of the trust instead of trying to legislate their future adult children’s behavior.

It is imperative not to allow your values and legacy to become weaponized within the family system. A sure-fire way to inspire conflict is via “dead hand control,” meaning trying to control lives from the grave. Most often, if you put excessive trust restraints on adult children, they will act accordingly to your perception that they are not adult enough to handle wealth. Instead, consider enrolling them in a few classes about managing wealth. Spark an interest in them to learn how you have created wealth, the mechanisms you used, and what their future endeavors may look like long after you are gone. Formally educate your children about finances, the earlier the better, and instead of talking about who gets what the conversation can shift to the mechanics of managing wealth. This tactic resets the context of the issue and aligns purpose and intended long term outcomes.

Estate planners try to encourage trust choices that lead to flexibility. If a beneficiary is genuinely incapable of making the right decisions, a trustee can be appointed to make distributions in the beneficiary’s best interest. This trustee discretionary power of money management can help a well-funded trust survive for generations. 

You can also write a letter of wishes or provide a statement of intent to your children. Though these are not legally binding, it gives you a platform to remind them of family values and your desire for these values to be maintained for future family generations. This type of letter is an opportunity for you to convey your vision for how your wealth can bring growth and chance for fulfillment to beneficiaries.

Prosperity should positively shape lives. Family trust beneficiaries hopefully already have a self-driven life that includes purpose, responsible behavior, and a basic understanding of personal finance. If you worry your children may squander inheritable assets, create the opportunity for them to succeed through classes that teach them about managing legacy family values and wealth. Address your concerns legally and directly through a detailed trust that can help but not overly constrain them to achieve what you envision they can become. Start an honest conversation early on, but remember it is never too late to make good choices and create positive family value influences for the coming generations. 

If you are interested in establishing a trust to pass wealth on to your children, we can help. We can also guide families on how to pass on family values in a meaningful way. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.  Just give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com.

Choosing a Wearable Medical Alert System

Choosing a Wearable Medical Alert System

You or a loved one recently had a stroke and is returning home after a long stay in the hospital and in-patient rehabilitation. The care providers assure you that you will be fine returning home, but you still worry. How can you make sure your parent is safe at home?

A medical alert system is a device that can connect the user with help when activated, either at the press of a button or if a fall is detected. These devices can be life-saving in case of emergency, and can give seniors independence, and their loved ones peace of mind. One might assume that a smartphone or digital assistant is sufficient, but unlike cell phones, medical alert systems stay on your body so that you always have access to it, and unlike Alexa and Google home, medical alerts can call 911. So if you do decide to buy a medical alert system, you’re going to want to choose a quality system; since you rely on them in times of emergency, you want to know it will work. But how do you choose? 

Consumer Reports suggests answering three questions before choosing a medical system. The first is, do you want a home-based or mobile system? The answer depends on your lifestyle and preferences. The second question is, should your system be monitored or not? Consumer Reports only recommends monitored systems, which means that the call button connects you with someone at a 24/7 dispatching center, rather than automatically dialing a friend or family member from a programmed emergency call list. And finally, should you add a fall-detection feature? It’s a relatively inexpensive add-on ($15 or under per month), but the technology may not be perfect; it may register something as a fall that isn’t, such as stumbling or dropping your phone.

With these choices in mind, one might look at the systems Consumer Reports recommends, or those on The Senior List has a Recommended list. The Senior List makes its recommendations based on four criteria: (1) works as advertised or better, (2) customer service, (3) pricing, and (4) easy to cancel contracts. For 2020, their top 9 medical alert systems were Bay Alarm Medical, MobileHelp, Medical Guardian, Philips Lifeline, LifeFone, LifeStation, ResponseNow, QMedic, and Alert1. Consumer Reports also recommends Bay Alarm, LifeStation, Medical Guardian, MobileHelp, and Philips Lifeline, but they also recommend GreatCall Lively Mobile, Life Alert, Medical Alert, and Rescue Alert.

Bay Alarm is ranked best overall, at $19.95-$29.95 monthly cost (the lowest on this list!) and no equipment fees, with landline and cellular in-home options, a mobile option with 4G LTE coverage, and an in-car medical alert, among other features. The equipment is easy to install and its range of products are appropriate for various situations without being overwhelming. They don’t require long-term contracts, and they allow you to try it for 30-days risk-free. 

MobileHelp is also consistently high quality, in terms of both equipment and customer service. They offer cellular in-home medical alert systems, mobile and GPS systems, and even jewelry or smartwatches. They offer extras like fall detection, medication reminders, and vital sign monitoring. Costs start at $19.95 monthly (with a one-time $49.95 fee for the in-home system, unless you choose an annual plan, in which case that fee is waived). They also have a deal to buy two systems, which is good for couples. They don’t require long-term contracts, and they offer flexible pricing plans.

Finally, before making your purchase, check return policies carefully, especially if you have hearing loss. Read more about The Senior List’s top medical alert systems, including the Medical Guardian, Philips Lifeline, LifeFone, LifeStation, ResponseNow, QMedic, and Alert1, here. Consumer Reports also covered medical alert systems, available here.

If you or a loved one is living at home with care, it is important to consult with an elder law professional to make sure a proper plan is in place that covers your loved one’s care needs and financial needs. We help families plan for the possibility of a loved one needing significant care and would be happy to talk to you about your particular situation.  Just give us a call at 1.800.6605.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com.

New Drug Therapy Gives Hope to Alzheimer’s Prevention

New Drug Therapy Gives Hope to Alzheimer’s Prevention

Researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University recently announced that pharmacological “chaperone therapy” can prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in mice. Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that currently has no cure. Abnormal clumps (amyloid-beta plaques) and tangled fiber bundles (neurofibrillary or tau tangles) create brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Loss of connections between neurons that transmit messages to different parts of the brain, and brain to organs and muscles in the body, are compromised. 

A simple example to help imagine the disease is to think of a wadded up ball of pieces of tape stuck together. Excessive amounts of proteins in the brain begin to lose shape and, like a tape ball, stick, and clump together. This clumping stops the transport of the excess proteins to “recycling sites” within the cells. Trapped in the wrong cellular compartment, they accumulate and eventually bog down cellular mechanisms creating significant disruptions. 

To keep the brain’s molecular machinery capable of doing its job sorting through proteins, identifying defective ones, and removing or stabilizing them, scientists developed small drug molecules known as pharmacological chaperones. These chaperones may fulfill a critical role in the prevention of and therapy for Alzheimer’s. The Temple University study cites the journal, Molecular Neurodegeneration, showing that a chaperone drug can productively disrupt the abnormal brain processes that damage neurons and fuel memory loss that ultimately gives rise to Alzheimer’s in animals prone to developing it.

This particular chaperone drug can restore appropriate levels of the sorting molecule called VPS35, permitting the continued moving of proteins out of endosomes, which can be thought of like the sorting stations or recycling sites for damaged proteins allowing for normal cell functioning. Dr. Praticò and colleagues at Temple University who previously had identified how VPS35 actively clears the brain of the harmful proteins amyloid beta and tau most recently have determined that in Alzheimer’s disease, VPS35 levels were significantly reduced. Non-efficient processing of these damaging proteins led to the clumps, or deposits, that interrupt neuron activity, thus contributing to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. 

Testing the effects of this pharmacological chaperone on young mice that are engineered to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they age allowed the scientists to check for effects on memory and learning as the mice grew older. The treated animals had far better memory and behaved like normal aging mice when compared to untreated mice that readily progressed into Alzheimer’s symptoms, creating a practical technique of Alzheimer’s disease modification for the first time. The test results were confirmed when researchers examined the neurons from the treated mice that had significantly decreased tau tangles and amyloid-beta plaques. Further analysis showed VPS35 levels to be restored, and neuron synapses were fully functional thanks to the chaperone therapy. 

“Relative to other therapies under development for Alzheimer’s disease, pharmacological chaperones are inexpensive, and some of these drugs have already been approved for the treatment of other diseases,” Dr. Praticòsaid. “Additionally, these drugs do not block an enzyme or a receptor but target a cellular mechanism, which means that there is a much lower potential for side effects. All these factors add to the appeal of pursuing pharmacological chaperone drugs as novel Alzheimer’s treatments.”

Before moving to clinical trials in humans, Dr. Praticò and his colleagues will first investigate the effects of this pharmacological chaperone therapy in older mice as their first study was a preventative investigation. Testing older mice exhibiting Alzheimer’s symptoms can identify if the treatment can work for patients already diagnosed with AD. 

These studies conducted at Temple University and partially funded by the National Institutes of Health grants bring hope to the millions of people who already have Alzheimer’s disease and to the tens of millions who are projected to get the disease. Finding relatively inexpensive prevention and treatment techniques of the illness can bring about amazing changes not only to patients and their families but can lessen the increasing cost burden for caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s.

We help families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s. We can help create a legal plan that will help protect a loved one’s savings and their home in the event extensive long term care is required. If you would like to learn more, please give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com.

Ways to Hold Title to Property

Ways to Hold Title to Property
For many people, real property, including their home, is a big part of their overall net worth. How the home and other pieces of real property is titled deserves careful consideration. Real estate constitutes the land and any structure, including vegetation, livestock, crops, and other natural resources that sit on the land under the state’s law. Real estate can be commercial or residentially owned. Ultimately how you hold a property title has far-reaching consequences for liability, and when it comes time for sale or the bequeathing of it as an inheritable asset.

The title is a reference to the document that lists the legal owner(s) of a piece of property and can depict ownership of both personal and real property. Real estate titles are regarded as real property as it is a tangible asset. The title for real property, by law, must be transferred if the asset is sold or inherited and must be clear for the title transfer to take place. A clear title is free of liens or any other encumbrance posing a threat to proper ownership. The most common types of real estate titles are joint tenancy, tenancy in common, tenants by the entirety, sole ownership, and community property. Less common property ownership titles are corporate, partnership, and trust ownership.

Individual name or sole ownership allows for a single person to hold title, even if you are married. If the person becomes mentally or physically incapacitated due to injury or illness, a spouse or family member typically will need to conduct business with regards to your property. Your family member will not be able to do business transactions like refinancing or changing lines of credit, and they will be unable to act until a court appoints someone to act on your behalf. Many people assume if they have a will it will address the problem, yet a will does not go into effect until after you die and is not in effect if you become incapacitated. 

Joint tenants (some may have rights of survivorship) occur when two or more people hold the title to real estate jointly. This type of title is widespread among but not exclusive to married couples. Unmarried couples may also hold joint tenant title as can parents and their adult children. It is a fair, uncomplicated, and free way to hold the title. In the case of a couple, the death of one automatically transfers full ownership to the surviving owner without probate. However, probate is more than likely just to be postponed. In the event the surviving owner dies without adding another owner, or if both owners die at the same time, probate is almost certain to occur before the property can go to the heirs. 

Being a co-owner means that to sell, refinance, or take any action to the property, both owners must agree to the business action. If there is disagreement or in the event your co-owner becomes incapacitated, the court will become involved to resolve the disagreement or to protect the interest of the one who has become incapacitated. Court involvement will occur even in the event the incapacitated owner is your spouse. Joint tenants also expose the property to both of the co-owners obligations and debts. If a creditor successfully sues your co-owner, you could lose your home. In the case a co-owner is not a spouse, there can be income tax or gift tax problems. A will does not control any jointly owned assets, and you may mistakenly disinherit your family when your co-owner inherits your share, particularly in the case of second marriages with children from a previous union.

Tenants in common (TIC) allows for two or more people to hold title to real estate with equal rights during their lifetime to enjoy the property. A tenant in common title creates shares of ownership, and those shares will be distributed as directed in a will upon an owner’s death. In the absence of a will, the property goes to the heirs of the owner. As a tenant in common individually holds title for a respective part of the property, they are at liberty to dispose of said owned property or encumber it at will. Owners of their respective shares are permitted to use their portion of the property as collateral or in financial transactions. They may also be sued or have creditors place liens on only their portion of the property.

Tenants by entirety (TBE) are only permissible if the owners are legally married. This title, for purposes of ownership, treats the couple as one person for legal action and interpretation. Upon the death of one person, the TBE title is transferred in its entirety to the other spouse. This is advantageous as no legal action is necessary upon the death of one’s spouse. It does not require a will and probate is unnecessary.   

Community property is only in effect in nine states (AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, and WI) and is a form of joint ownership between spouses commonly referred to as community property. When you die, your share of the community property is automatically transferred to your surviving spouse unless your will provides otherwise. Both tenants, by the entirety and community property titles, can find the remaining owner with several new co-owners, who, upon their death, can have their heirs inherit the property. Also, issues of incapacity and lawsuits are magnified if several property owners are trying to reach a consensus about the sale of the property or other business actions. 

Corporate ownership allows a legal entity, a company owned by shareholders, to hold title to property. Partnership Owners can own real estate as a partnership. This title constitutes two or more people who transact business for profit as co-owners. There are also limited partnerships where an investor has limited liability because they do not make management decisions regarding business transactions of the property. In the case of limited liability, a singular general partner will typically be responsible for making business decisions on behalf of the identified limited partners.

Trust ownership, most often in the format of a revocable living trust, is a legal entity that owns the real property, which is managed by a founding or designated trustee on behalf of all trust beneficiaries. In the event you become incapacitated, your named successor trustee can seamlessly take control of your trust without court interference. A successor trustee is legally obligated to follow the instructions put forth in your trust. If you recover from incapacitation, you resume control of your trust. If you were to die, the property would be distributed according to your trust instructions and without probate. Holding real estate in trust ownership has challenges regarding benefits that surround financial and legal liability, managerial influence, and tax considerations. A real estate trust document can provide significant advantages to property owners but only if created by competent legal staff who take into account the complexities surrounding the trust and its interaction with the liabilities listed.

Methods of holding and owning title to real estate property are determined by state law and, as such, must be considered when researching and determining the best method to acquire and hold title to real property where you live. Depending on the complexity of your situation, assessing the best way to title your real estate may require professional real estate, legal and tax guidance. We help clients determine the best way to hold title to property, and whether a trust would be beneficial. Give us a call at 1.800.660.7564 or email us at info@covertlaw.com – we would be happy to help.

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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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