Archive for the ‘LGBT’ Category

LGBT Issues in Retirement – SAGE – Hilary Meyer & Catherine Thurston

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Bernard A. Krooks discusses LGBT Issues in Retirement with Hilary Meyer, Director of National Programs, and Catherine Thurston, Senior Director, Services and Training of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) on his first podcast of Peace of Mind with Bernie the Attorney for 2015.

 

 

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How Divorce and Remarriage Affect Social Security Retirement Benefits

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

People considering divorce as their 10-year wedding anniversary approaches should know that delaying the split until after the decade mark can result in higher Social Security retirement benefits for a spouse with a lower earning record.

Taking the example of a divorced couple where the ex-husband had a higher earnings record, if the couple was married for 10 years or more, then the ex-wife can receive higher benefits based on his record, provided she is age 62 or older and has not remarried.

Even if the ex-husband has not applied for retirement benefits, the ex-wife may receive benefits based on his record, provided they have been divorced for more than two years. If the woman remarries, then she would no longer be able to collect the benefits unless the later marriage ends.lawyer-or-notary-with-cl

Recent years have seen a rise in both marriages and divorces later in life, and statistics suggest that divorcing couples may take retirement benefits into account, as there is a measurable increase in divorce after the 10-year mark. As might be expected, the effect is most pronounced for couples nearing retirement age. A recent study found that for people 55 and older, there is an 11.7 percent increase in the likelihood of divorce at about the decade mark. For couples age 35 to 55, that drops to a 6 percent increase in likelihood of divorce at 10 years, and for people under age 35, there is almost no effect.

Other researchers are skeptical that many people take retirement benefits into account in their divorce decisions, pointing to studies that show that only 13 percent of people are very knowledgeable about how Social Security benefits are calculated.

Whether divorcing couples currently consider retirement benefits in timing their divorce, many advisers agree that they should. Divorcing just short of the 10-year mark could result in thousands of dollars in lost benefits, so it may be worthwhile for some to delay the process.

Financial considerations are often part of making decisions about divorce, so it is important to be aware of how Social Security benefits can be affected.

 

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Procrastination & Debt Have Serious Effects on Estate Planning

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Proper retirement and estate planning is the key to having the resources to enjoy one’s golden years and leave a legacy to one’s heirs. Two of the biggest obstacles to avoid on the way to these goals are procrastinating about saving for retirement, and accumulating unmanageable debt.

It may be understandable that retirement is the last thing on young people’s minds, but it is also regrettable, because the earlier one begins to save for retirement, the easier it is to build a comfortable nest egg. Someone who saves $100 per month beginning at age 25 will have saved over $300,000 by age 67, assuming a rate of return on investment of 7 percent. Saving the same amount of money per month but not starting to save until age 40 would result in savings of less than $100,000.

The Social Security system is more stable than some critics would lead one to believe, but Social Security retirement benefits provide only a safety net, not enough to retire in comfort. Employer pensions are very nearly a thing of the past. Much of the responsibility of providing for one’s retirement is up to the individual. A 401(k) plan, especially with an employer contribution, can be a tremendous help, and can motivate even young workers to save. The key is to avoid procrastination in saving for retirement.

Debt is the other major issue that can adversely impact retirement planning and estate planning. With too much debt, many older Americans find they cannot afford to retire, much less leave a substantial estate to their heirs. To get control of debt, it is important to focus on paying down high-interest debt first, such as credit cards.

Debt – even a healthy, manageable amount – can affect estate planning in less obvious ways as well. For instance, if you are planning to provide for some heirs through a trust and others through a will, you should be aware that debts must be paid from your estate and consider how that will affect your bequests.

 

For more information about our legal services, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.

 

 

Demand for Caregivers Increases

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A new study by the Pew Research Center and the California HealthCare Foundation found that the number of adult caregivers of family members has increased from 30 percent to 39 percent in the past year. The sluggish economy, an aging population and an increase in chronic illnesses all have contributed to an increased need for caregivers in the home. And more than ever, those family caregivers are turning to the internet for support and information.

Grandm_GranddThe U.S. population in 2000 included approximately 12 percent of adults 65 years and older; by 2020, adults 65 and older are expected to make up at least 19 percent of the population. The increased “graying” of the country means that more comprehensive services for elders and their caregivers, both professionals and family members, are an ongoing concern. Most of the adults who are caring for a family member – two-thirds – are either caring for a parent or a parent-in-law, researchers say. Caregivers typically are doing everything from managing finances to shuttling the elderly parent to medical appointments, and more.

Another cause for concern is that more seniors than ever before are living with complex chronic medical conditions, and living longer. Seniors are relying on family members to help with their medical issues, in large part due to the sluggish U.S. economy. More households are attempting to manage their care with limited funds and resources and caregivers are turning to the internet for information on illnesses, symptoms, medications and treatment. The study found that more than 70 percent of caregivers surveyed reported that they research issues online. Information on medical issues and the support of social media have never been more important to caregivers, researchers say.

But the Internet is only one resource, and not as comprehensive as many caregivers need. According to a 2012 estimate by the AARP, 50 percent of caregivers for the elderly are delivering complex medical and nursing care in their own homes.

The bottom line? The U.S. health care system and the social system are both struggling to keep up with the demand for elder care. For now, that need is still being met primarily at home.

 

 

Visit www.elderlawnewyork.com for more information.

 

How Nursing Facilities Can Be Welcoming to LGBT Residents

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Nursing homes have always had lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender residents, but they have not always felt comfortable identifying as such, for fear of how staff or other residents might react. It is important for nursing facilities to be open and welcoming to LGBT residents, and to this end the Alzheimer’s Association has published a guide for long-term care facilities welcoming LGBT residents. The guide is also useful for LGBT elders and their families considering a nursing facility, to determine how welcoming it will be.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a facility should first of all assume that there are LGBT residents, and not assume that staff can identify them. LGBT residents cannot necessarily be identified by external characteristics and they may have past life experiences such as being in a heterosexual marriage or having children that do not fit common assumptions about LGBT people.

The association also recommends that nursing home staff ask residents about their sexual orientation in a safe and confidential way, in the same way that any other factual though potentially sensitive question would be asked. However, if the resident appears uncomfortable, the matter should not be pushed, and staff should remember that sexual orientation is just one aspect of a person’s identity.

The association recommends – and LGBT elders should look for – signs of welcoming in a long-term care facility. A facility can show that LGBT elders are welcome by prominently posting its non-discrimination policy, including same-sex couples in marketing materials, and including LGBT-inclusive images or messages in the lobby and other public areas. Forms should include relationship options such as “significant other” and “partner.” Staff should be trained on how to recognize and address the needs of LGBT residents.

When nursing facilities take these steps, it will be apparent to LGBT elders and their families that the facility is welcoming to them.

 

For more information about our elder law services, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.

LGBT Retirees Have Additional Estate Planning Concerns

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Members of the LGBT community tend to save more money for retirement than the population as a whole.  But LGBT seniors planning for retirement also face unique concerns.

According to experts, people in the LGBT community tend to be higher earners, and have smaller families, some with no children.  While lower family expenses may make it easier to plan for retirement, LGBT couples without children may also have to plan for additional caregiver costs as they approach retirement age.

Although same-sex couples may now marry in New York, the federal government does not yet recognize those marriages, and this creates complications for LGBT couples in terms of tax and estate planning.

As one example, estate taxes in 2013 will revert to a $1 million exclusion.  When a heterosexual spouse passes away, his or her assets over $1 million can usually pass to the surviving spouse without being subject to the tax, but this federal right does not apply to LGBT couples, married or not.

Social Security is another concern for LGBT couples, as spousal benefits are not provided to same-sex partners.  In addition, federal pension plans do not provide for spousal benefits.  LGBT couples must also be careful when moving property into joint ownership, as this can result in a large gift tax.

With careful estate planning, there are solutions to many of these issues.  LGBT couples planning for retirement would be advised to seek the counsel of a qualified estate planning attorney familiar with the unique needs of the LGBT community.

For more information about our estate planning and elder law services, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.

Assistance is Available for Struggling Seniors

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Seniors face many issues relating to housing, hunger, income, abuse and isolation. In the State of New York, The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is accountable for developing and overseeing programs that provide aid and support those that are eligible and need assistance. The programs mentioned below compliment the primary government benefits programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for seniors and people with special needs.

  • Energy Assistance: The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is a federally-funded program to assist people with low incomes with their energy expenses, including heating bills and some energy-related home repairs (HEAP can help those who are meet eligibility requirements pay for any of the following: electricity, propane, natural gas, wood, oil, kerosene, coal or any other heating fuel). In order to qualify for HEAP in New York State, you must need help with your energy bills and meet an income requirement.  A single person must have an annual income of less than $24,360.  Applications can be made at any social services office. To locate a social services office in your area, click here.
  • Housing Assistance: The Bureau of Housing and Support Services (BHSS) concentrate solely on the problems revolving around the homeless, at-risk, and low-income households in New York State. The Homeless Housing and Assistance program supplies capital grants and loans to not-for-profit corporations, charitable and religious organizations, municipalities and public corporations to acquire, construct or rehabilitate housing for persons who are homeless and are unable to secure adequate housing without special assistance.
  • Telephone Assistance: Low-income seniors may also qualify for assistance with their telephone bills.  The Lifeline program provides federal assistance for low-income older adults, for one telephone per household.  The program is available for landlines or cell phones, and you can apply directly through your telephone service provider. To be eligible, consumers must have an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in a qualifying state, Federal or Tribal assistance program.
  • Food Assistance: The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) provides an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which can be used just like a debit card to purchase groceries at participating supermarkets and other retail food stores.  The program is available to people with low incomes, particularly seniors, and you can apply in person at your local social services office, or online at myBenefits.ny.gov. To find out if you are eligible for SNAP, click here.

To read a full list of supplemental benefit programs offered by the State of New York, visit:  http://otda.ny.gov/workingfamilies/. For more information about our elder law services, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.

Married LGBT Couples in New York Should Be Aware of Tax Issues

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Every couple planning a life together should make sure their financial and legal house is in order, but same-sex couples have additional concerns.  Even in New York, and other states where same-sex marriage is legal, there are issues that LGBT couples should be aware of.

One concern is paying taxes.  Previously, the state of New York recognized gay marriages performed in other states, but that recognition did not extend to tax matters.  Now, with gay marriage legal in New York, taxes are a bit more complicated.  Same-sex married couples in New York must now maintain two separate tax identities.

When it comes to state income taxes, same-sex married couples in the state of New York must now file their state taxes using a married filing status, and file their federal income taxes on an individual basis.  Unfortunately, this will result in an additional burden of time, as two separate tax returns will now be necessary.  Married LGBT New Yorkers will have to file their federal tax return as if they were not married, but will still have to complete a return using married status in order to calculate their state income tax.  If the couple is using an accountant, the additional time unfortunately results in additional costs as well.

LGBT couples who wed at any time in 2011 will be considered to have been married for the whole year, for tax purposes, so 2011 state returns will need to be filed as married.

To learn more about our legal services, visit www.littmankrooks.com.

What Do LGBT Couples Need to Know About Power of Attorney?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

LGBT couples need to be aware of the legal documents that can protect them in the event of a medical emergency.  Unlike heterosexual married couples, whose rights to visitation and to make medical decisions are unquestioned, LGBT couples – and unmarried heterosexual couples – are not afforded the same rights.  This is why it is essential for couples to understand the importance of power of attorney and living wills.

Many LGBT couples want the right to visit their loved one in the hospital, and want their loved one to have the right to make critical healthcare decisions.  The solution is a living will with healthcare power of attorney.

A living will is a document stating an individual’s wishes in the event of a medical emergency resulting in incapacitation.  A living will explains what procedures one does and does not want in an end-of-life medical situation.  It can contain directions concerning artificial resuscitation, pain medicine and life support procedures.

A healthcare power of attorney document is a way for an individual to appoint another to make those medical decisions.  It has the effect of giving LGBT couples the decision-making rights that are already afforded to heterosexual married couples.

Even gay and lesbian couples who are married in their state need to consider a living will with healthcare power of attorney.  Though a couple may live in a state that recognizes gay marriage, these documents may be of crucial importance when traveling out of state.

What documents are important for LGBT couples:

  • A living will states a person’s wishes in the event of a life-threatening medical emergency
  • A healthcare power of attorney assigns healthcare decision-making power to a particular person

For assistance with questions regarding our legal services, visit our website at http://www.littmankrooks.com/

National Resource Center on LGBT Aging Website Launches Legal Support Resources

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011


This week’s guest blogger, Hilary Meyer, is the Director at the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging

In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a landmark grant to establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging — the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Last week, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging released a variety of new legal and financial resources on the website, providing critical legal information and tips to older LGBT adults, and seeks to inform aging services providers and LGBT organizations of LGBT elders’ legal needs. New resources include:

  • An interactive state-by-state map designed to direct LGBT older adults to legal resources specific to the state they live in
  • Informative articles on the legal documents every LGBT older adult should have, such as wills, advance directives, financial power of attorney, and more
  • Videos that clearly illustrate the legal and financial issues unique to LGBT older adults
  • Publications to help LGBT elders get a jumpstart on legal and financial planning  and
  • Various multimedia resources explaining Social Security and its importance to LGBT older people.

The website materials are designed to encourage older adults to draft the legal documents needed, especially because end-of-life issues can be of special concern for the LGBT population. Namely, if someone becomes incapacitated without the proper legal documents in place, or if the person dies intestate, the majority of states give decision-making authority and inheritance to the next-of-kin— either a legally recognized spouse or blood relative. Because so few states legally recognize same-sex relationships, this could result in surviving LGBT partners or other loved ones being unable to carry out end-of-life decisions, funeral and burial wishes, being shut out of an inheritance, forfeiture of a family home, and other unintended consequences.

The legal support section is one in a series of interactive, multimedia resources that the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging will unveil over the next year. These online resources will span the many issues affecting LGBT older adults —from housing and HIV/AIDS, to retirement and healthcare access and more.

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is a project of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) in partnership with 10 LGBT and aging organizations nationwide, including the American Society on Aging; CenterLink (the national association of LGBT community centers); FORGE Transgender Aging Network; GRIOT Circle; Hunter College; The LGBT Aging Project; the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a); the National Institute of Senior Centers (National Council on Aging); Openhouse and PHI (a national training expert).