Things for Seniors to Consider Before Remarrying

November 30th, 2016

To a young couple starting a family, marriage may seem like an obvious step. For those in their golden years, however, remarrying can involve some potential complications that they should be aware of.

Marriage later in life can complicate the estate plans of each spouse, especially if either or both of them have children from a previous marriage. Even if everything is left to the children, in the will, under the laws of New York and most other states, the spouse will be entitled to a portion of the estate. Consult with an estate planning attorney to be sure that the estate will be distributed accordingly.

Littman Krooks elder lawLong-term care plans are another possible complication. The potential cost of care in a skilled nursing facility can be difficult to plan for, since it cannot be predicted, and if it is necessary, the cost can be enormous. While some seniors may have long-term care insurance or have the means to pay for the care themselves, others will rely on Medicaid. People contemplating marriage late in life should know that the Medicaid agency will examine the finances of both spouses to determine eligibility. The non-institutionalized or “community” spouse may sign a spousal refusal, but this does not completely relieve them of liability for the cost of care.

Social Security benefits are an important part of many people’s retirement plans, and divorced or widowed spouses often receive benefits based on their ex-spouse’s record. However, remarrying will terminate the divorced spouse’s benefits, and remarrying before age 60 – or age 50 if one is disabled – will terminate survivor’s benefits. In addition, widows or widowers who receive a pension based on their late spouse’s work record may lose their pension if they remarry under certain circumstances.

 

Join us for a free workshop on estate planning, “Plan for Your Future and Avoid Guardianship” on December 7, 2016 at the Greenburgh Library from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM. Registration is required because seating is limited. For more information or to register, click here.


Learn more about our elder law, guardianship and estate planning services.

 

Nursing Home Residents Will Soon Have Greater Rights

November 22nd, 2016

Update (12/1/2016): “The rule was supposed to take effect Nov. 28, but the American Health Care Association, an industry group that represents most nursing homes in the U.S., filed a lawsuit in October to block the rule, which it called “arbitrary and capricious.” To read more, click here.

 

A rule change by a federal agency will provide nursing home residents with major new legal protections by preventing facilities from forcing disputes into arbitration.

littman krooks long-term-careThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), part of the Health and Human Services Department, issued a rule preventing nursing homes from requiring that residents resolve disputes in arbitration rather than through a lawsuit. The rule applies to all facilities that receive federal funding, protecting the rights of 1.5 million residents. The arbitration ban is one of several new nursing home regulations promulgated by CMS, including new standards for nutrition and infection control.

Many families must make the decision about a nursing home under time pressure and in emotional turmoil, and they often are not able to consider the implications of all the contract terms. Nursing home contracts often contain fine print requiring that disputes be resolved through arbitration, taking away the right to sue for elder abuse, neglect and even wrongful death.

The nursing home industry said that the rule change, “clearly exceeds the agency’s authority.” Arbitration has reduced legal costs for nursing homes, but advocates for seniors say that it has prevented residents and their families from getting justice. Officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia had urged government action, arguing that private arbitration kept patterns of abuse hidden.

The new rule goes into effect on Nov. 28. It does not apply to contracts signed prior to that date, but current nursing home residents or their families can review their contracts and attempt to renegotiate or choose to move to another facility. After Nov. 28, nursing homes may still ask for a dispute to be settled through arbitration, but residents and their families have the right to file a lawsuit instead.

 

Join us for a free workshop on estate planning, “Plan for Your Future and Avoid Guardianship” on December 7, 2016 at the Greenburgh Library from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM. Registration is required because seating is limited. For more information or to register, click here.


Learn more about our elder law, guardianship and estate planning services.

2016 Walk To End Alzheimer’s

November 1st, 2016

alz-walk-west-2016

Littman Krooks was a sponsor of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s at White Plains High School held this past September 2016. The walk, organized by the Alzheimer’s Association, the largest non-profit funder of Alzheimer’s disease research.

The organization is supported by local chapters that raise awareness and offer resources to people and their families that are impacted by the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

About 1,500 people took part in the 2016 Westchester Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The five Hudson Valley walks are expected to raise more than $1 million over the next few weeks.

 

Learn more about our elder law, guardianship and estate planning services.

Westchester to Receive $3.3 Million Grant for In-Home Senior Services

September 27th, 2016

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services will receive a $3.3 million grant for in-home services for seniors.

Gov. Cuomo said that the funding would help older New Yorkers continue to live in their homes with dignity and would improve their quality of life.

New York State’s county-based Area Agencies on Aging will receive a total of $50 million through the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program to help seniors remain in their homes and communities. The program is intended to maximize independence, providing the assistance that seniors need in order maintain a high quality of life in their communities. This may prevent the need for more expensive care, the cost of which is often borne by Medicaid.

The services are designed to help lower income seniors who may have functional impairments and need help with activities of daily living. The in-home services program provides non-medical supports such as assistance with cooking, shopping and getting bills paid.Littman Krooks Elder Law

State Senator Sue Serino, chain of the Senate Standing Committee on Aging, said that both seniors and the community at large benefit when people are able to age in place. When seniors maintain their independence costly nursing home placement is prevented. The program is expected to benefit nearly 70,000 New York seniors.

To be eligible, seniors must not be eligible for similar services such as Medicaid, must be 60 years of age or older and must be able to reside safely in the community. It is not necessary to show that there is a medical need for the services.

 

Learn more about our elder law or Medicaid Planning services. Contact us with additional questions. 


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here or sign up for our newsletter.

 

When Not to Claim an Inheritance

August 26th, 2016

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to turn down an inheritance, there are situations in which it may actually be beneficial to do so. When a person refuses to accept an inheritance, that person is said to disclaim it, and the effect is the same as if the heir had predeceased the person who died. The gift will pass on to the next person in line to receive it.

Littman Krooks elder lawOne reason to disclaim a gift is when the asset is actually undesirable, for instance a piece of real estate with a low potential sale value but high property taxes. Other gifts may come with strings attached, such as a requirement to get married or to take care of the deceased’s pet.

Another reason for disclaiming an inheritance is for the heir to avoid estate taxes while passing wealth on to his or her own heirs, who may be in a lower tax bracket.  Individuals who are already wealthy and potentially facing a significant estate tax may want to disclaim an inheritance, allowing it to pass directly to their children without it ever becoming part of their estate. This may be useful for many types of assets, but disclaiming an inherited IRA may have the additional benefit of passing the asset along to an heir who can stretch out distributions over a longer period.

Disclaiming an asset is not something to take lightly or decided upon spontaneously. Instead, disclaimers can be part of your estate planning process, undertaken only with the advice of a qualified estate planning attorney.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here or sign up for our newsletter.

Settlement Reached for Seniors Who Must Leave Assisted Living Home

July 5th, 2016

An assisted living home for seniors in New York City is closing and five residents who had refused to move will accept a $3.35 million settlement.

In March 2014, the management of a home for seniors in Brooklyn announced that the facility was closing and the residents would have to move within 90 days. Many of those affected were angry, alleging that the building owners wanted to sell to a developer. Most moved out as requested, but one group filed a lawsuit to halt the closing.

Littman Krooks Elder LawThe New York State attorney general, investigated the matter, saying that giving seniors 90 days to leave their homes was unreasonable. Some had Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia; family members worried that they would not be able to find the same level of care at another facility and that moving would be traumatic.

By November 2014, there were eight holdouts in the building, faced with empty halls and dwindling services. Now there are five, ranging in age from 91 to 101. Each of them will receive more than $500,000 in the settlement, but they must leave their apartments by the end of the summer.

Attorneys for the residents said the settlement was a victory, giving the seniors the time and money they need to find other accommodations. An attorney for the building’s owner said he was satisfied.

The lawsuit also named the New York State Health Department as a defendant, claiming that the agency did not follow federal and state rules regarding the closing of the home. A resolution to that part of the lawsuit has not been reached at the time of this writing.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here or sign up for our newsletter.

 

Medicaid Asset Transfers: What Are The Rules?

June 21st, 2016

For many families, paying for a loved one’s extended stay in a nursing home would be difficult without the help of Medicaid. However, in order to qualify for the program, a person’s income and assets must fall within certain limits.

Federal rules state that to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage, a person must have no more than $2,000 in “countable” assets. However, New York State has more generous rules, so for New York residents in 2016 the limit is $14,850 for a single person. If a married person needs nursing home care, there are protections for a spouse who remains outside. In this situation, the community spouse has a maximum threshold of &74,820 to $119,220 ($14,850 for the institutionalized person and $119,220 for that person’s spouse). Certain types of resources are exempt, such as up to $828,000 of equity in a home and one motor vehicle.

Littman Krooks Elder LawIf you have countable resources above the limits, you may be told that you need to “spend down” your assets, paying for nursing home care yourself, until you reach the resource limits, at which point Medicaid begins covering the cost. This is what happens in many cases. In other cases, a family may anticipate the need for long-term care and wish to transfer assets to the next generation ahead of time, in order to preserve the family’s resources while still qualifying for Medicaid. This is an excellent strategy, as long as the Medicaid rules are followed.

Medicaid has a five-year “look-back” period for transfers of assets. A person applying for Medicaid must disclose all financial transactions for the previous five years. During this time, any transfers of assets for less than fair market value may prevent the person from being eligible for Medicaid. (However, in New York State, the asset transfer rules do not apply for recipients of Medicaid for home care services.) In addition, invalid transfers may result in a costly penalty period during which ineligibility may continue even after assets are spent down.

To avoid ineligibility and penalties, it is important to plan ahead. Transfers made more than five years in advance are not affected by the rules. There are also important exceptions to the asset transfer rules as well as legal strategies including certain trusts that can help preserve assets while ensuring eligibility. As you can see, Medicaid planning is very complex and it is essential to have help from a qualified elder law attorney.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here or sign up for our newsletter.

Seniors & Mental Health: Is it Mental Illness or Aging?

May 22nd, 2016

Seniors are more at risk for mental illness than the general population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20 percent of people age 55 and older experience some kind of mental health concern. Not only are more seniors affected by mental illness, nearly one in three affected older adults does not receive treatment. By learning more about this often-misunderstood problem and watching for warning signs, we may be able to help elders in need get treatment.

Littman Krooks Elder LawMost people are aware that seniors are more at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairment. About 11 percent of seniors have Alzheimer’s disease, but it is crucial to understand that cognitive decline is not a normal part of aging. Therefore, changes such as increased forgetfulness, confusion or disorientation should be taken seriously. With a prompt diagnosis, seniors can benefit from treatment earlier, and any necessary changes to their living environment can be made in order to keep them safe.

Seniors are also at risk for depression and mood disorders. According to the CDC, in a 2006 survey, 10.5 percent of people age 65 and older said they had received a diagnosis of depression at some time in their lives, and 5 percent had current depression. Another 7.6 percent received a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Anxiety disorders can include a variety of problems, such as phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, including hoarding syndrome. Many seniors fail to seek treatment, in part because some people mistakenly believe that depression is a condition natural to aging.

Mental health concerns can have consequences beyond the symptoms of the condition itself. Untreated mental illness can lead to social isolation, take away from seniors’ independence, and cause physical problems and additional medical concerns. That is why it is important for seniors to take preventive measures, and for their loved ones to be aware of warning signs.

Studies have shown that preventive measures can alleviate mental health problems. The risk of depression and anxiety can be lowered as a result of better physical health. Simple exercise three times a week can be even more effective than prescription medication. Research also indicates that keeping the mind active, through social activities, games and puzzles, and communication with friends and family, can decrease the risk of mental health disorders.

Loved ones and caregivers should watch for changes that may indicate mental health concerns for seniors.

Warning signs include:

  • social withdrawal,
  • a depressed mood that lasts longer than two weeks,
  • memory loss,
  • confusion,
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt,
  • unexplained physical changes, such as in dress, weight or hygiene.

If any of these symptoms appear, discuss them with the family doctor. Treatment such as counseling or psychiatric care can help seniors get on the right track to healthy aging.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here or sign up for our newsletter.

NYC Restores Assistance For Seniors and People with Disabilities

April 21st, 2016

The New York City Department of Finance has agreed to a settlement that will reinstate or recalculate the previously frozen rent rates of widowed seniors who had been surprised by steep rent increases after the death of their spouses.

senior couple planningA 2014 rule change by the New York City Department of Finance instituted a new requirement that a spouse or disabled adult wishing to take over a Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) or Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) from a deceased head of household file an application within 60 days of the death. According to the lawsuit, households receiving the benefits were not given notice of the new rule. As a result, many recently widowed seniors were hit with alarming rent increases.

In March, a settlement was reached awarding damages and legal fees to the plaintiffs and putting an end to the 60-day deadline. The deadline for benefits takeovers is now six months after the death of the head of household or 90 days after receiving notice, whichever is later. The Finance Department also agreed to send information to tenants in seven languages. Read about SCRIE or DRIE.

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here or sign up for our newsletter.

Family History May Help Seniors

March 3rd, 2016

Seniors and their loved ones can benefit from knowing the family’s health history.

Genetics plays a role in a wide range of diseases, and being aware of the ailments that previous generations suffered from can help inform the preventative steps that should be taken to safeguard seniors’ health, as well as the care they may need as they age. Family medical history should be provided to doctors, and adult children caring for elders will want to inform themselves as well, for the saLittman Krooks Elder Lawke of their loved ones and themselves.

Family medical history can give doctors guidance in determining the causes of symptoms a patient is experiencing, and warn them when certain treatments may have an increased risk of side effects. Family history also helps in a reverse way, by assisting doctors in ruling out possible reasons for a patient’s condition.

A family history of heart problems or problems with alcohol may prompt family members to eat better or restrict their drinking. Certain types of cancer in the family may mean that family members should get more than the usual checkups. Knowing about a family history of Alzheimer’s or other dementia can help families plan for the care that seniors may need.

Delving into your family’s medical history can sometimes be troubling, but doctors say that if there is a risk factor present, it is much better to be aware of it, so that preventative measures can be taken.

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com or www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here.