Estate Planning for Entrepreneurs
Estate planning for entrepreneurs should involve a comprehensive estate plan that addresses both your personal life, and the business.

Estate Planning for Entrepreneurs

Just as the entrepreneur must plan for their own personal estate to be passed onto the next generation, they must also plan for the future of their business. That is why estate planning for entrepreneurs should involve a comprehensive estate plan that addresses both your personal life, and the business, says grbj.com’s recent article “Estate planning for small businesses.” Here are the basic strategies you’ll need as a small business owner:

A will. A last will and testament allows you to name someone who will receive your assets, including your business, when you die. If you don’t have a will, you leave your heirs a series of problems, expenses and stress. In the absence of a will, everything you’ve worked to attain will be distributed depending on the laws of the state. That includes your assets and your business. It’s far better to have a will, so you make these decisions.

A Living Trust. A living trust is similar to a will in that it allows you to name who will receive your assets when you die. However, there are certain advantages to having a trust. For one thing, a trust is a private document, and assets controlled by the trust can bypass probate. Assets controlled by a will must first go through probate, which is a public proceeding. If you’ve ever had a family member die and wonder why all those companies seemed to know that your loved one had passed, it’s because they get the information that is available to the public.

Probate can be a very expensive process as well, which is why avoiding probate is important to many.

If your business is owned by a trust, the transition of ownership to your intended beneficiaries can be a much smoother process. Estate plans for entrepreneurs very often include a trust, so the business does not get caught up in probate.

A financial durable power of attorney. This is a critical document that lets you appoint an agent to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated by illness or injury. Your agent can manage your finances, pay your bills and manage the day-to-day operations of your business.

A succession plan. Here is where many estate plans for entrepreneurs fall short. It takes a long time to create a succession plan for a business. Sometimes a buy-out agreement is part of a succession plan, or a partner in the business or key employee wishes to become the new owner. If a family member wishes to take over the business, will they inherit your entire ownership interest, or will there be a payment required? Will more than one family member take over the business? If a non-family member is going to take over the business, you’ll need an agreement documenting the obligation to purchase the business and the terms of the purchase.

If you would prefer to have the business sold upon your death, you’ll need to plan for that in advance so that family members will be able to receive the best possible price.

A buy-sell agreement. If you are not the sole owner, it’s important that you have a buy-sell agreement with your partners. This agreement requires your ownership interest to be purchased by the business or other owners, if and when a triggering event occurs, like death or disability. This document must set forth how the value of ownership interest is to be determined and how it is to be paid to your family. Without this kind of document, your ownership interest in the business will pass to your spouse or other family members. If that is not your intention, you’ll need to do prior planning.

The right type of life insurance. Estate planning for entrepreneurs often includes life insurance. The death benefit may be needed to provide income to the family, until a business is sold, if that is the ultimate goal. If a family member takes over the business, proceeds from the life insurance policy may be needed to cover payroll or other expenses, until the business gets going under new leadership. Life insurance proceeds may also be used to buy out the other partners in the business.

Failing to plan through the use of basic estate planning and succession planning can create significant costs and stress. An experienced attorney with experience in estate planning for entrepreneurs can review the strategies and documents that are appropriate for your situation. You’ll want to ensure a smooth transition for your business and your family, as that too will be part of your legacy.

Reference: grbj.com (Grand Rapids Business Journal) (July 19, 2019) “Estate planning for small businesses”

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Using Pet Trusts in Estate Planning
Most of the time, we simply include provisions for pet trusts as part of our client's living trust document. In other words, the living trust provides that a trust fund will be created for the client's pets after the client passes away or becomes incapacitated.

Using Pet Trusts in Estate Planning

Estate planning helps to create a strategy for managing assets while we are living and their distribution when we pass away. That includes determining what happens to our tangible property as well as financial investments, retirement accounts, etc. In addition, an estate plan can also be used to protect the well-being of our beloved companion animals, says The Balance in the article “Estate Planning for Fido: How to Set Up a Pet Trust.”

Pet trusts were once thought of as something only for extremely wealthy or eccentric individuals, but today many ‘regular’ people use pet trusts to ensure that if they die before their pets, their pets will have a secure future.

Every state and the District of Columbia, except for Washington, now has laws governing the creation and use of pet trusts. Knowing how they work and what they can and cannot do will be helpful if you are considering having a pet trust made as part of your estate plan.

When you set up a trust, you are the “grantor.” You have the authority as creator of the trust to direct how you want the assets in the trust to be managed, for yourself and any beneficiaries of the trust. The same principal holds true for pet trusts. You set up the trust and name a trustee. The trustee oversees the money and any other assets placed in the trust for the pet’s benefit. Those funds are to be used to pay for the pet’s care and related expenses. These expenses can include:

  • Regular care by a veterinarian,
  • Emergency veterinarian care,
  • Grooming, and
  • Feeding and boarding costs.

The trust can also be used to provide directions for end of life care and treatment for pets, as well as burial or cremation arrangements you may want for your pet.

In most instances, the trust, once established, remains in place for the entire life span of the pet. That is the case with California Law. Some states, however, place a time limit on how long a pet trust can continue. For animals with very long lives, like certain birds or horses, you’ll want to be sure the pet trust will be created to last for the entire life span of your pet. In several states, the limit is 21 years.

Creating a pet trust is like creating any other type of trust. An estate planning attorney can help with drafting the documents, helping you select a trustee, and if you’re worried about your pet outliving the first trustee, naming any successor trustees.

Most of the time, we simply include provisions for pet trusts as part of our client’s living trust document. In other words, the living trust provides that a trust fund will be created for the client’s pets after the client passes away or becomes incapacitated.

Here are some things to consider when setting up the terms of your pet’s trust:

  • What’s your pet’s current standard of living and care?
  • What kind of care do you expect the pet’s new caregiver to offer?
  • Who do you want to be the pet’s caregiver, and who should be the successor caregivers?
  • How often should the caregiver report on the pet’s status to the trustee?
  • How long you expect the pet to live?
  • How likely your pet is to develop a serious illness?
  • How much money do you think your pet’s caregiver will need to cover all pet-related expenses?
  • What should happen to the money, if any remains in the pet trust, after the pet passes away?

The last item is important if you don’t want any funds to disappear. You might want to have the money split up to your beneficiaries to your will, or you may want to have it donated to charity. The pet trust needs to include a contingency plan for these scenarios.

Another point: think about when you want the trust to go into effect. You may not expect to become incapacitated, but these things do happen. Your pet trust can be designed to become effective if you become incapacitated as well as when you pass away.

Be as specific as necessary when creating the document. If there are certain types of foods that you use, list them. If there are regular routines that your pet is comfortable with and that you’d like the caregiver to continue, then detail them. The more information you can provide, the more likely it will be that your pet will continue to live as they did when you were taking care of them.

Finally, make sure that your estate planning attorney, the trustee, and the pet’s designated caregiver all have a copy of your pet trust, so they are certain to follow your wishes.

Reference: The Balance (March 27, 2019) “Estate Planning for Fido: How to Set Up a Pet Trust”

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How to Transfer Property to a Living Trust
Talk to your estate planning attorney about how to transfer property to a living trust so that your estate plan actually works as you intend.

How to Transfer Property to a Living Trust

To avoid probate and its delays and expenses, a person must take deliberate steps to transfer property to a living trust once it has been created. This includes brokerage accounts with stocks and bonds, bank accounts, shares of a closely held business, and real estate. Sometimes designating a living trust as beneficiary or contingent beneficiary of life insurance and retirement accounts is a wise move as well (depending on the circumstances).

You must transfer property to a living trust while you’re alive in order to avoid probate upon your death.

Insurance News Net recently published an article, “Funding your trust and avoiding probate,” that explains that your will probably leaves everything to your trust. However, wills must pass through probate (which is a court process that is lengthy, public, and expensive in California). As a result, proper estate planning includes a process to transfer property to a living trust after it has been signed. If the assets aren’t titled in the name of the trust, those assets will likely have to be probated, unless they are within the dollar limits of any applicable state small estate statute.

The process to transfer property to a living trust depends on the type of asset involved. Real estate is transferred to a trust by preparing and recording a new deed. Brokerage and bank accounts are re-titled into the trust through the financial institution’s change of ownership forms.

Some assets, however, should not be transferred to a living trust during your lifetime. These  assets include IRAs and your 401(k) or 403(b), and life insurance. Instead of being transferred to the trust during your lifetime, they pass directly to the beneficiaries who were designated by the owner at the time the account was started or by a subsequent change that the owner made.

In some circumstances, as noted above, the owner of those types of accounts will name their trust as the beneficiary. This can be ideal for life insurance, because the death benefits are income tax free, and the trust can provide asset protection for the death benefits if it’s drafted accordingly. That said, review the terms of the life insurance contract to be sure that if the trust is named as a primary beneficiary, that you won’t be forfeiting certain riders the policy would otherwise include.

Regarding retirement accounts such as IRAs, or your 401(k) or 403(b), there are some tax considerations to understand before naming a trust as the beneficiary. For one thing, by naming a trust instead of a spouse (if applicable) you lose the ability for the surviving spouse do do a spousal rollover. Furthermore, some trusts don’t allow the retirement account to be stretched for continued tax deferral. Therefore, make sure your living trust attorney knows the language to include in the trust document to allow for the maximum deferral of taxation under the law if you’re considering naming a trust as beneficiary of a retirement account.

If you’ve just prepared your living trust, or did so many years ago but haven’t reviewed your assets for a while, talk to your estate planning attorney about how to transfer property to a living trust so that your estate plan actually works as you intend.

Reference: Insurance News Net (June 30, 2019) “Funding your trust and avoiding probate”

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Estate Planning for Second Marriages (and Beyond)
An attorney with experience in estate planning for blended families can help document a plan that you feel great about.

Estate Planning for Second Marriages (and Beyond)

There are a number of issues in that arise for estate planning in second marriages, as discussed in the article “Estate planning documents for second marriages”. It is common to refer to such relationships as blended families, especially when children are involved on one or both sides.

Here’s an example of how important estate planning is for blended families: A couple who has children of their prior marriages get married. Twenty years later, the husband dies. He had wanted to provide for his second wife, so his will and beneficiary designations for his accounts stated that all his assets went to his wife, with the understanding that on her death, those assets would go back to his children.

What actually occurred was that his wife lived a long time after he passed, and she simply combined their assets. When she died, the money went to her children (as her will stated), and her husband’s children received nothing. The husband’s children didn’t believe that was necessarily the intention, but that sort of thing happens all the time when estate planing for second marriages is overlooked.

How could proper estate planning for blended families have prevented this? Husband could have provided in his will or trust that his inheritance would be left behind in a marital trust to hold the assets for his second wife on his death, and then, upon the wife’s passing, the assets remaining would have gone to his children. The terms of the trust document would allow the wife to use the property in the marital trust to provide for her needs to maintain her standard of living, but would prohibit the wife from transferring the assets to her children (or a new spouse, etc) either during her lifetime, or upon her death.

It’s wonderful to have a verbal agreement with your spouse about taking care of your children from a prior marriage, but if you don’t set up a formal legal plan, there’s no way to be sure that agreement will actually occur. If you document it properly in your own will or trust, however, it becomes mandatory. It’s a way to provide for your new spouse, and also protect your children. An attorney with experience in estate planning for blended families can help document a plan that you feel great about.

Another layer of protection that is available to ensure that children from a blended family receive what they are intended, is to have an independent person or entity, like a bank or a trust company, oversee the marital trust. That means the independent trustee can ensure that the use of property from that trust is truly for the surviving spouse’s needs, and not something that the first spouse to die would not have wanted the money or property to be used for.

Anyone who has been divorced needs to review their estate planning documents to ensure that they reflect their new marital status, especially when they marry again. That is also the time to review beneficiary designations that appear on insurance policies, 401(k)s, pensions, retirement accounts and investment accounts.

There’s no “set it and forget” plan for estate documents, so before you walk down the aisle a second or third time, or shortly after you do so, speak with an estate planning attorney to clarify your goals and put them into the appropriate estate planning documents.

Reference: Cleveland Jewish News (May 7, 2019) “Estate planning documents for second marriages”

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The Secret to Spousal Benefits for Social Security
Although we usually think of Social Security in terms of what a person qualifies for based on their working years, it is possible for a spouse (or former spouse in the case of divorce) to receive Social Security benefits even if they never worked themselves.

The Secret to Spousal Benefits for Social Security

Many of our estate planning clients rely on social security as part of their income.

Although we usually think of Social Security in terms of what a person qualifies for based on their working years, it is possible for a spouse (or former spouse in the case of divorce) to receive Social Security benefits even if they never worked themselves.

Whether you are married now or were married in the past, it’s likely that you are eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, as reported in the article “How to Maximize Social Security With Spousal Benefits” from U.S. News & World Report. Spouses who devote their lives to raising families and performing other tasks that are of value to society are entitled to a spousal benefit, based on their spouse’s primary insurance benefits. If you decide to take spousal benefits, the amount you receive will be determined by a few factors, including your spouse’s full benefit, when you begin payments, and your own work history.

Here’s what you can expect when applying for Social Security spousal benefits:

  • You may receive up to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefit,
  • You can apply for benefits if you have been married for at least one year.
  • If you have been divorced for at least two years, you can apply if the marriage lasted ten or more years.

You should be aware that if you start taking benefits early, it’s likely that your own benefits will be smaller than if you took them later. And if you have a work history of your own, you’ll either receive your own benefit or your spousal benefit, whichever is greater.

Want to maximize your spousal Social Security benefits? Start by learning what your benefit would be, and then look at the timing. When you decide to claim will have an impact on your benefits. You’ll need to have been married for at least one year before applying. And you also need to be at least 62 years old.

Also, your spouse must have started to apply for benefits for you to claim spousal benefits.

If you have been divorced, you must have been married to your ex for at least ten years to be eligible for a spousal benefit through your ex’s Social Security. What’s more, you will have to have been divorced for at least two years, and still be unmarried. If you are considering divorce, are near retirement and are planning on a spousal benefit, it’s a good idea to consider electing your spousal benefits before the divorce is finalized.

If there have been multiple marriages and divorces, you can choose to take the highest spousal benefit, if the other requirements have been met. Make sure to save your ex’s Social Security numbers and their dates of birth, just to make the enrollment process easier.

If you have a work history of your own, you may be eligible for a personal benefit. If this is the case, you can receive your own benefit if it is greater than the spousal benefit. Let’s say you are eligible for $1,000 as a personal benefit and $500 for a spousal benefit. The Social Security Administration will send you the higher amount of $1,000.

There’s plenty of information about spousal Social Security benefits at the Social Security Administration’s website or at your local SSA office.

Your spousal benefit will be 50% of your spouse’s benefit at their full retirement age. In 2019, the full retirement age is 66 and will rise soon to 67.

So, if you are married and your spouse is collecting $2,000 a month, your spousal benefit would be $1,000 if you wait to start payments at your own full retirement age.

Note that spousal benefits do not grow until age 70, like personal benefits. Instead, they max out at full retirement age. So, there’s no benefit to delaying a spousal benefit claim past your full retirement age.

Should you need to collect spousal benefits before your full retirement age, expect to receive a lower amount. Filing early for spousal benefits reduces your income forever, but many people file because they need the income.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (July 10, 2019) “How to Maximize Social Security With Spousal Benefits”

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Questions on Estate Planning with Real Estate
The number one question on most people’s minds when they inherit real estate is whether they will have to pay taxes on it.

Questions on Estate Planning with Real Estate

People who own real estate do their heirs a big favor by getting their estate planning in order. Having clear intentions laid out in a legal document helps to avoid disputes, and, if a living trust is used, makes transferring real estate following a death inexpensive, private, and easy (because probate is avoided).

Here are a few common questions my clients and their families often ask when discussing the concept of estate planning for the family home and other properties (rentals, vacation homes, etc).

Will There be Taxes on the Inherited Real Estate?

The number one question on most people’s minds when they inherit real estate is whether they will have to pay taxes on it. For the most part, people don’t have to pay taxes on what they inherit, unless they live in a state with an inheritance tax (California does not). There are tax forms to be filed, says the Petoskey News-Review in the article “The pros and cons of inheriting real estate,” but not every estate has to pay taxes.

The heirs have to pay taxes on any gains after the death of the decedent if and when they sell the property. The seller will have either capital gains or capital losses, depending upon the sales price of the property and it’s cost basis. Let’s discuss cost basis for a moment, because it’s the main reason that inheriting real estate is often so much better than when a person gives it away during their lifetime. Here’s why: Heirs receive a step-up in cost basis of most inherited property when someone dies. That means that, instead of paying tax on the difference between the sales price and its original purchase cost, you only pay tax on the difference between the sales price and the value of the property on the date of death of the person you inherited it from.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that Mom purchased a house for $100,000, and wrote up a living trust that gave it to her children when she died (at which time the value of the property had appreciated to $300,000). Later, the children inherit the house, and sell it for $320,000. The children only have to pay capital gains on the $20,000 (the difference between the sales price and the value of the property at Mom’s date of death).

For property that has appreciated significantly, the step-up in basis concept described above can be a huge benefit for the heirs. They avoid significant capital gains tax they would otherwise have to pay.

In order to determine the date of death value of property, estate planning attorneys recommend that people who inherit property have it appraised by an experienced real estate appraiser so they can have that information ready for any future sale.

Then, there is the subject of property taxes. That one is a bit beyond the scope of this article and deserves its own discussion. I recommend checking out this article to learn about how to pass along your property tax base to your heirs to keep their taxes as low as possible.

What if the Heirs Don’t Want to Sell Property they Inherit?

One of the biggest disagreements that families face after the death of a loved one centers on selling real estate property. Some families create irreparable harm in the course of these disagreements, which is a shame. It would be far better for the family to anticipate and talk about the property before the parents die, and then work out a plan. Good estate planning attorneys can then reflect that plan in a person’s will or trust.

Common sticking points arise when a vacation is passed down to multiple heirs. One wants to sell it, another wants to rent it out for summers and use it during winters and the third wants to move in. If they can resolve these issues with their parents, it’s less likely to come up as a divisive factor when the parents die (when emotions are running high). This gives the parents and heirs a chance to talk about what they want, and why.

What Happens to All the Possessions in the Home?

Conflicts can also arise when it’s time to clean up the house after someone inherits the property. Mom’s old lemon juicer or Dad’s favorite barbecue fork seem like small items, until they become part of family history.

The best thing for families is to address the personal property in the estate planning process. We provide our clients with a document they can fill out with their families over time, as they determine which items heirs will want or which items they may want to be sure go to certain beneficiaries.That document then becomes automatically incorporated into their will or trust because we draft the will or trust accordingly.

An good estate planning attorney can help the family work through all of these issues, and much more.

Reference: Petoskey News-Review (June 25, 2019) “The pros and cons of inheriting real estate”

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Estate Planning with Transfer on Death Accounts
Bay area estate planning attorney explains how transfer on death accounts (often called payable on death accounts) are a simple and effective way to avoid probate.

Estate Planning with Transfer on Death Accounts

Estate planning with a will (as opposed to a living trust) often carries with it the need to involve a court process called probate to transfer assets out of a deceased person’s name after they pass away. In states such as California, probate is a lengthy, public, and expensive process that most people are highly motivated to avoid.

That is why I love estate planning with transfer on death accounts as a probate avoidance tool. By changing some accounts to transfer on death (TOD), which is arranged through the financial institution itself, you can avoid some assets going through probate, says Yahoo! Finance in the article “Transfer on Death (TOD) Accounts for Estate Planning.”

These accounts are also commonly referred to as payable on death (POD) accounts. We’ll refer to them as TOD here for simplicity.

Here’s how using these accounts for estate planning works:

A TOD (or POD)  account automatically transfers the assets to a named beneficiary when the account holder dies. Let’s say you have a savings account with $100,000 in it. Your daughter is the beneficiary for the TOD account. When you die, the account transfers to her.

A more formal definition: a TOD is a provision of an account that allows the assets to pass directly to an intended beneficiary, the equivalent of a beneficiary designation. Note that the laws that govern estate planning vary from state to state, but most banks, investment accounts and even real estate deeds can become TOD property. If you own part of a TOD property, only your ownership share transfers.

TOD account holders can name multiple beneficiaries and split up assets any way they wish. You can open a TOD account to be split between two children, for instance, and they’ll each receive 50% of the holdings, when you pass.

One thing to bear in mind: the beneficiaries have no right or access to the TOD account while the owner is living. The beneficiaries can change at any time, as long as the TOD account owner is mentally competent. Just as assets in a will can’t be accessed by heirs until you die, beneficiaries on a TOD account have no rights or access to a TOD account until the original owner dies.

Simplicity is one reason why people like to use the TOD account for estate planning purposes. A TOD account usually only requires that a death certificate be sent to an agent at the account’s bank or brokerage house. The account is then re-registered in the beneficiary’s name.

To properly use these accounts for estate planning, it is important to be sure and integrate them properly so that your wishes are carried out. Here’s why: whatever your will says does not impact the TOD account. If your will instructs your executor to give all of your money to your sister, but the TOD account names your brother as a beneficiary, any money in the account is going to your brother. The TOD account assets essentially bypass the terms of a person’s will. So be sure that your TOD account beneficiaries, and the terms of your will, are in harmony with your desires.

Speak with an estate planning attorney about how a TOD account might be useful for your purposes for the specific assets you own, and in relation to any estate planning documents you currently have in place.

Reference: Yahoo! Finance (June 26, 2019) “Transfer on Death (TOD) Accounts for Estate Planning”

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How Do Living Trusts Work?
Trust documents often contain language that is difficult to understand. Let's explain what the basic terms of a trust are all about so that it actually makes sense.

How Do Living Trusts Work?

Living Trusts have become an extremely popular estate planning tool, and for good reason. After all, a properly drafted and funded living trust can avoid probate, keep your affairs private, and greatly simplify what happens when someone dies or becomes incapacitated.

The unfortunate part about living trusts is that they can sometimes feel difficult to understand and comprehend.

Forbes’s recent article, “A Beginner’s Guide To Reading A Trust,” says that as much as attorneys have tried to simplify documents, there’s still legalese hanging around that can be confusing. To help remedy that, let’s discuss a few tips in reviewing a living trust document so they make more sense.

First, familiarize yourself with the basic terms of the living trust document. Many key terms can be found on the first page or two, such as the person who created the trust. He or she is frequently referred to as the grantor or settlor. It is also important to identify the trustee, the person who will be responsible for the trust assets and administer them for the benefit of the beneficiaries. It is also important to identify any successor trustees that step in when the primary trustees can no longer act.

You should next see who the beneficiaries of the living trust are, and then look at the important provisions relating to how and when assets are to be distributed to those beneficiaries. See if the trustee is required to distribute the assets all at once to a specific beneficiary, or if she can give the money out in installments over time.

It is also important to determine if the distributions are completely left to the discretion of the trustee, so the beneficiary doesn’t have a right to demand withdrawal of the trust assets.  See if the trustee can distribute both income and principal from the trust.

The next step is to see when the living trust ends. Some trusts end when the settlors die, while others  keep property protected in trust for future generations.

Other important living trust provisions include whether the beneficiaries can remove and replace a trustee, if the trustee must provide the beneficiaries with an accounting, and whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable.

If the trust is revocable and you’re the grantor or settlor, odds are you can change most or all of its terms.

If the trust is irrevocable, you won’t be able to make any changes without jumping through several hoops, including getting consent of all of the beneficiaries of the trust, and possibly even petitioning the court.

In addition, you should review the boilerplate language, as well as the tax provisions. It is often best to have an experienced estate planning attorney make sure those provisions are up to snuff and current with the latest changes in the law.

Reference: Forbes (June 17, 2019) “A Beginner’s Guide To Reading A Trust”

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Government Programs That Pay for Caregiver Services

If you have a loved one who needs caregiver services, you might be looking for ways to help the person pay for their care. Your state might offer assistance with additional services beyond those described in this article provided by the AARP, or might not cover some of the items, but here is a general overview of some government programs that pay for caregiver services.

Short-Term Caregiver Services and Medicare

If your loved one is eligible for Medicare, he might get a limited amount of short- term care through Medicare. The requirements for these services include:

  • He is recuperating from an injury or illness.
  • His doctor expects him to return to his previous level of health.
  • He meets the Medicare eligibility criteria.
  • His doctor created a plan of care for him.
  • The services are reasonable and necessary to treat his illness or injury.
  • He only needs the services on a temporary basis.

If your loved one does not need medical treatment or needs services 24 hours a day, Medicare will not provide an aide. Medicare does not give assistance for personal services only. Help with preparing meals, dressing, bathing and similar items are personal care and not covered under Medicare in the absence of necessary medical treatment.

Long-Term Care to Stay Out of the Nursing Home

The government realized it can be far less expensive to provide services that allow a person to continue living at home, rather than pay for residence in a nursing home.

One plan (available in California and several other states) to help people remain in their home is the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). If your loved one is a Medicare or Medi-Cal/Medicaid enrollee, he can get nursing-home level care in his own home. The recipient does not have to pay a deductible or copayment for the services, medical treatment, or even prescription drugs. PACE can provide skilled nursing, hospice and an in-home caregiver. It is whatever his PACE health care team decides he needs.

The PACE requirements include:

  • Enrollment in Medi-Cal/Medicaid or Medicare
  • Being 55 years or older
  • Meeting his state’s certification rules for needing nursing home-level care
  • With PACE services, he can live safely in the community.
  • He lives in an area that PACE serves. Some states do not participate in the PACE program.

If your loved one is not on Medicare or your state does not offer the PACE program, he might qualify for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS), also called the waiver program. This program can help your loved one get a high level of care at home, so she does not have to move into a nursing home or another institutional facility.

The requirements for and services of the Medicaid waiver program vary from state to state. In general, she needs to:

  • Be enrolled in Medicaid.
  • Meet her state’s criteria for level-of-care and functional eligibility.
  • Have a plan of care from her doctor.
  • Meet the income and asset restrictions for her state.

Once she qualifies, depending on the circumstances, she can get a home health aide, skilled nursing, hospice, adult day services and personal care. Some states offer meal programs, transportation to medical care, case management and help with shopping, bill paying and other services.

Every bit helps when it comes to caring for an aging loved one, including the government programs that pay for caregiver services described here, long term care insurance, and personal savings.  It is important to remember to take it a day at a time and try not to get too concerned and stressed out in the process.

References:

AARP. “Need Help Paying for Your Loved One’s Caregiver?” (accessed June 12, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/home-care/info-2018/help-paying-for-caregiver.html?intcmp=AE-CAR-LEG-EOA2

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Estate Planning – Why We All Need It
Estate planning protects your loved ones from stress, complications, unnecessary costs, and delays about handling your affairs.

Estate Planning – Why We All Need It

Putting off estate planning is never a good idea. Life happens, and before you know it, “someday” arrives. Everyone can benefit from having a plan in place if the unexpected happens, says Forbes in the article “6 Reasons Why You Should Have An Estate Plan.” It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor—you need an estate plan. People with families who depend upon them, as well as singles who don’t, all need an estate plan.

Creating an estate plan involves planning for the disposition of your assets when you die, and in the event you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own finances and property. It protects your loved ones from stress, complications, unnecessary costs, and delays about handling your affairs.

It is important to take the time to decide how you want to take care of your family when you are gone. For those who have young children, your last will and testament is the document used to name the person (referred to as a guardian of the person) who will legally raise your children. It also lets you appoint a person (who may be the same person as the guardian of the person, although it need not be) who will look after money and property you leave behind for your children. If you don’t prepare a will, a judge must make all of these decisions with no input from you.

Without a will, a court will also decide what happens to your property. The court must follow the laws of your state, which may not be what you had in mind. Let’s say you have a brother who lives far away and from whom you are estranged. If you don’t have a will and he is your legal next-of-kin, in some states he will inherit everything you own. Yikes!

Proper estate planning should also address tax planning. Creating a plan with an experienced attorney with knowledge of tax planning will allow you to minimize your overall tax liability and make sure more of your assets are passed to the next generation, rather than the government.

In addition, your estate plan gives you the opportunity to take a long look at your life and your legacy. How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to leave behind part of your estate to a charity,  school, or facility that has been important to you or another family member? If so, planning for charitable giving should be a part of your estate plan. Fortunately, there are tax benefits to charitable giving, too.

Your estate plan can also include a letter to your loved ones explaining why you have made the decisions you have. Although, this kind of letter is typically not a legally enforceable document, it can be used to support your intentions, and even resolve potential disputes before they arise.

Note that even the best estate plan needs to be updated every few years. Tax laws have changed with the new federal tax laws that were adopted in 2017. If your plan has not been reviewed by your estate planning attorney since 2017, it’s time for a review.

Reference: Forbes (Feb 22, 2019) “6 Reasons Why You Should Have An Estate Plan.”

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