Archive for the ‘Long Term Care’ Category

Age-Related Financial and Planning Milestones that People Will Encounter in their Sixties

Friday, March 28th, 2014

As one nears retirement age, a number of important financial planning milestones begin to approach. It can be difficult to keep them all straight. Here is a timeline of what happens when:

  • At age 59 1/2, people can begin to make withdrawals from 401(k)s, traditional IRAs and similar retirement savings accounts, without an additional tax penalty of 10 percent. (Withdrawals are still taxed as income in any case.) Of course, just because one can begin to make withdrawals at this age does not mean one necessarily should.
  • At age 60, if one’s spouse has died, then one can begin to collect a Social Security survivor benefit. This is also true if an ex-spouse has died, if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the survivor did not remarry.
  • Upon reaching age 62, people can take the option of early Social Security retirement benefits. Keep in mind that starting one’s benefits early results in lower payments, and it is usually better to wait a few years to receive a larger benefit. If one is eligible for a pension, these benefits also often kick in at this age.
  • At age 65, one becomes eligible for Medicare. There is a seven-month window around one’s 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare benefits and avoid a surcharge.
  •  Age 66, for most baby boomers, is full retirement age for the purposes of Social Security retirement benefits. Additionally, at this age, someone who chose early benefits can now suspend benefits in order to build up delayed retirement credits.
  •  Upon reaching age 70, there is no further advantage to delaying taking Social Security retirement benefits. People who wait until this age to begin receiving benefits maximize their monthly payments.
  • At age 70 1/2, required minimum distributions begin for 401(k)s and IRAs. A certain amount must be withdrawn from these accounts each year, based on the total value of all such accounts.

By paying close attention to these milestones, one can complete a more precise budget, an important part of retirement planning.

 

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Further Thoughts on Long-Term Care Insurance

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Our recent post (see below) entitled, “Is Long-Term Care Insurance Worth the Cost?” has generated a lot of discussion.

We’d like to clarify a few points:

  • Long Term Care (LTC) insurance pays for expenses associated with chronic illnesses, such as home care, assisted living and nursing homes. On a long-term basis, these expenses are not covered by Medicare, which covers mainly short term rehabilitation.
  • In many cases, long-term care insurance enables policy holders to protect their financial assets.
  • Premiums for LTC insurance are based on a variety of factors, including the person’s age, health, medical history and policy benefits.  The earlier you buy, the less expensive the policy will be.

Whether and when a particular individual should purchase a LTC policy is a complex issue and the answer to the question posed in the original post can differ by individual, age, family situation, income and assets.  There really is no bright line test. LTC insurance should be considered by all as part of the estate planning process.

Before purchasing a LTC  policy:

  • Familiarize yourself with the benefits as well as the limitations
  • Have a thorough understanding of your financial situation and goals

Work with a reputable agent who specializes in LTC insurance.  In addition, speak to an elder law attorney and discuss the terms of the policy, the costs, the associated benefits as well as the financial strength of the insurer.

 

Is Long-Term Care Insurance Worth the Cost?

As the cost of a nursing home stay has increased, so has the cost of long-term care insurance, causing many seniors to reassess the value of such insurance.

Many people’s financial planning for retirement includes a combination of Social Security retirement benefits, other sources of income such as a pension, and savings and investments. On the expenses side, many costs are stable and predictable, with one serious risk being the need for nursing care for a long period of time. Since the annual cost of care in an Alzheimer’s unit can reach $100,000 or more, it is no wonder that many consider long-term care insurance. However, it is important to think about whether such protection is right for you.

First, keep in mind that many nursing home stays are not covered by such policies. Most long-term care policies do not cover the first 90 days, and two-thirds of nursing home stays are for less than 90 days, so insurance will not help at all in these cases. In the case of an extended stay, many policies will cover only a certain dollar amount and only for the period of time covered, often three years.

For many seniors entering a nursing home for an indefinite stay, Medicare will provide for the cost, with assets being used to offset the cost until they are exhausted, when Medicaid will kick in. Therefore, for a single person with no heirs, long-term care insurance may not be necessary. For a married couple, if one spouse requires an extended stay in a nursing home, the healthy spouse may keep the house, one vehicle, and assets of about $116,000 (the amount varies by state), and still qualify for Medicaid for the nursing home expenses.

One view is that long-term care insurance may be unnecessary either if a couple’s assets are less than $116,000 exclusive of the home and one vehicle, such that they will be eligible for Medicaid, or if assets are above about $700,000, in which case the couple can probably self-fund a nursing home stay. Within that window between roughly $116,000 and $700,000, long-term care insurance may be useful.

 

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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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NY Connects: Long Term Care

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Choosing the right long term care services and supports can be difficult. If you are looking for long term care in New York State, you should be aware of NY Connects: Choices for Long Term Care. This is a free, state-funded service that can provide you with personalized information over the telephone about options such as assisted living residences, nursing homes, senior centers, adult day care, home care, hospice care, transportation, paying for medicine, and many other similar concerns.

Speaking with a NY Connects counselor can be very helpful if you know you need assistance but are not sure what kind of help is available or which long term care option is best for your situation.

The service is available whether you are eligible for a government program, using insurance, or paying for services yourself. Calls are confidential and are answered by trained specialists. Help is available in several different language, and TTY is available for the hearing impaired.

In Westchester County, NY Connects Can be reached at 914-813-6300. More information is available at www.nyconnects.ny.gov.

 

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Leaving Unequal Inheritances to Children Can Cause Problems

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Many people creating or updating an estate plan are blessed with children and grandchildren, and enough assets to leave them a significant inheritance. However, deciding how to provide for future generations can lead to conflict, and much of that conflict stems from unequal treatment of children, whether it is intended or not. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid.

In some families, especially in previous generations, it was common to treat sons and daughters differently in regards to inheritances. A family business might be left to sons, while another asset such as a trust may have been created to provide for daughters. Needless to say, this can cause resentment and disputes. In modern times, such gender distinctions are less common. However, parents creating an estate plan often still choose to treat some children differently.

Parents sometimes consider providing for their adult children differently based on each child’s family income and assets. While this may seem like fairness, it is likely to cause resentment. It is, of course, one’s right to distribute one’s assets according to one’s wishes. However, parents may want to consider simply dividing their assets equally among their children. This simple solution can head off arguments and hurt feelings.

Distribution of assets to one’s children and grandchildren during one’s lifetime may be unequal for valid reasons. Paying for college may entail a greater cost for one child than for another. Helping to provide for grandchildren may mean that one’s adult children with more children of their own receive more help. These matters are best approached with openness and an attempt at fairness, keeping in mind individual circumstances.

When it comes to planning one’s estate, there may be a temptation to either mirror those inequalities by leaving more to adult children with more children of their own, or to make up for them by leaving something additional to one’s other children. However, the best approach may be the simplest: dividing one’s estate equally among one’s adult children, and providing that in the case of an adult child who has passed away, that any grandchildren receive that child’s share of the estate.

Passing on a family business may seem like a special case, but it need not be. If one or more adult child has had a special role in a family business, then that role will likely continue. Ownership of a family business may still be passed on to all adult children equally, with a child who has worked in the business continuing to be compensated for his or her work. Alternatively, a child who works in the business can receive ownership shares during the parents’ lifetime, so that the remaining family shares are distributed equally upon the parents’ death.

Passing on an inheritance to one’s children should be a cause for celebration rather than disputes. Making distributions as equal as possible is one way to keep it that way.

 

 

Different Types of Assisted Living Facilities Meet Different Needs

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Assisted living facilities are residences for senior citizens where help is provided with daily living activities, as needed. This can include making doctor’s appointments and taking medication, as well as bathing, dressing and grooming. Meals and housekeeping are also provided at such facilities. In the state of New York, all types of assisted living residences are licensed as adult care facilities by the Department of Health. However, there are different types of adult care facilities, which may also be called enriched housing programs or adult homes.

First, all adult care facilities are distinguished from nursing homes in that they are for people who do not need round-the-clock medical services or skilled nursing. People who need for medical staff to be present on a continuous basis are better served by a nursing home.

The two kinds of adult care facilities in New York, enriched housing programs and adult homes, both offer long-term care in a residential setting, including meals, laundry, housekeeping, supervision and assistance with personal care and medication. One major difference is that the law has stricter supervision requirements for adult homes, although a number of enriched housing programs may offer the same level of supervision. In addition, enriched housing programs usually provide apartment-style residences, while adult homes generally provide private rooms or two-person rooms.

The same types of service provided in enriched housing programs and adult homes may also be provided by assisted living residences and assisted living programs. In order to refer to themselves as providing “assisted living,” these facilities must meet additional requirements of providing certain disclosures and rights for residents. The goal of assisted living facilities is to provide the care necessary to allow individuals to live as independently as possible, emphasizing personal dignity and freedom of choice.

Finally, an assisted living residence that offers aging-in-place services and obtains additional certification may be designated an enhanced assisted living residence. A special needs assisted living residence is an assisted living residence that provides specialized care and meets additional certification requirements.

For more information, refer to the New York State Department of Health’s website on assisted living, available at http://www.health.ny.gov/facilities/assisted_living.

 

New Program Enlists Doormen to Watch for Elder Abuse

Friday, December 13th, 2013

A new program in New York City is training doormen who work in apartment buildings to watch for elder abuse.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention, part of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, developed the program, which offers free training for doormen, porters, concierges and other building staff, at the building where they work.

Joy Solomon, the director of the Weinberg Center, said that many elderly people who were being abused did not come forward on their own, so advocates realized they would have to reach out to others who might be likely to spot the signs of abuse. The center has already helped to educate people such as estate lawyers, speech therapists, and those who deliver hot meals to seniors. Now building staff are being enlisted to help as well.

Many buildings in the city have a growing population of elderly residents. An analysis of census data by Queens College found that by 2040, an estimated 21 percent of adults in New York City will be age 60 or older, an increase from 17 percent in 2010.

At a training she led recently, Ms. Solomon told of an elderly resident of an Upper East Side apartment building, who was taken advantage of by a woman. Building staff witnessed the woman removing valuables from the man’s apartment, but did not step forward, perhaps because they did not want to overstep their bounds. Solomon said that when a staff member knows that something is wrong, it is important to take action. Several older apartment building residents said they would much prefer that building staff say something about a situation that does not appear right, rather than staying quiet out of a fear of prying into someone else’s business.

For elderly residents who do not have frequent visits from friends and family, a doorman may be the first person to notice an injury, signs of confusion, or other evidence that the person needs help.

Solomon said that the training would be provided initially to buildings with large populations of older people, but would eventually be available to anyone requesting it.

 

Sharing Caregiving Responsibilities Among Siblings

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Caring for an elderly parent in declining health is a big responsibility, and one that can have a significant effect on the caregiver’s financial and emotional well-being. Having a sibling to share in that responsibility can make things easier, but it can also lead to conflict and resentment. It is important to understand the issues that may arise when two or more adult siblings are caring for an elderly parent, and the best ways to resolve problems.

One question that usually comes up at the outset is who will be the primary caregiver. If only one sibling lives close to the parent who needs care, that is often the deciding factor. When two or more siblings live close by, then the decision often depends on work schedules. If none of the siblings live close to the parent or have time available, then the question becomes how to divide the expense of hiring an in-home health aide or perhaps an assisted living facility, depending on the circumstances.

Good communication is probably the most important factor in making these decisions. Ideally, responsibilities will be divided in whatever way feels fair to everyone involved, and arriving at the best outcome depends on communication. Siblings should be encouraged to share exactly what they feel they should contribute and why. Factors such as an individual’s family income or work schedule are legitimate concerns that may play into decision-making. Feelings about this should be stated plainly so that later resentments can be avoided. Siblings should try their best not to let old sibling rivalries get in the way. Adult siblings caring for an elderly parent are taking on new roles, and they are best served by not replaying old ones.

In addition to family income and work schedules, siblings should consider each other’s particular skills. If one sibling is a more frugal money manager, it may make sense for him or her to hold the power of attorney for the parent. Someone with experience as a caregiver may do the best job handling day-to-day care. One fact that should not be forgotten is that caregiving is valuable and important work. Siblings who are not involved with day-to-day care may not be aware of just how much work is involved. The caregiving sibling should not be afraid to speak up and share with the others how much time goes into giving care for their parent. It can be easy for a sibling that is contributing more time or contributing more money to feel that his or her contribution is unfair or is going unrecognized. Full and frank discussion is the best solution.

Finally, as with most things, careful planning will save a lot of headaches. Just as mom or dad’s schedule of doctor’s appointments and daily medications needs to be kept track of, so should the finances be kept in careful order. An estate planning attorney or financial adviser can be invaluable in preparing a budget that accounts for the cost of different types of care that may be needed.

Estate Planning & Elder Law: What You Should Be Aware of If You Live in New York and Florida

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Many New Yorkers retire in Florida, and many others choose to spend the winter months there while maintaining a residence in New York. As part-time New Yorkers and part-time Floridians, retirees have the best of both worlds. But living in two different states can present certain complications when it comes to estate planning and elder law.

One important consideration is where your legal residence will be, which can be important for purposes of estate taxes. Where you spend the most time may not be as important as where you are registered to vote, what state issued your driver’s license, and what address you list on tax documents.

Your will and any trusts should be tied to the state where you are a legal resident. However, if you own real estate in another state, you should have your estate planning attorney make sure that you do not need additional documents to transfer the property when you die or to manage it if you become incapacitated.

It is also important to make sure that documents such as a living will and health care power of attorney are valid in both states. If you happen to be traveling through another state and are hospitalized, out-of-state documents will probably not cause a problem. But if you spend a significant amount of time in another state, it is advisable to be sure that such documents comply with the laws of both states. If you spend a good deal of time in a state far away from close family members, then you may also want to consider naming a local family member or trusted friend in health documents, so that someone can get to a hospital quickly in the event of an emergency.

Littman Krooks is well-positioned to help you with these matters. Because so many of our clients live both in New York and Florida, we have partnered with Solkoff Legal, P.A. a leading Florida elder law firm, to offer superior estate planning and elder law services to residents of both states. Contact us for more information. Click here to read more about our alliance with Solkoff Legal.

 

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

 

Milestones That Can Turn YOU Into A Caregiver (When Occasional Help Becomes Full-Time Assistance)

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

In a third of all American homes, someone is providing care for a loved one. When a son or daughter is caring for an elderly parent, occasional help with some tasks can move rather quickly into regularly providing care for such essential daily activities as eating, bathing and dressing. The speed of the transition can sometimes be overwhelming for the person providing the care. It is important to recognize specific milestones that can mark the transition to full-time care, so that the caregiver is prepared and so that everyone involved can more easily recognize when help is needed.

Physical challenges are one such milestone. When a person is unable to walk without assistance, the need for full-time care quickly arises. Depending on the circumstances, it may not be safe for a particular caregiver to provide the lifting support necessary to help an older loved one in and out of chairs, automobiles and bed. Incontinence issues are another physical challenge that are often a tipping point for families to recognize that caregiving has become a full-time job and that help may be needed.

Behavioral and cognitive issues are another challenge that can quickly increase in significance. If an older loved one has symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, the assistance he or she needs may be minor at first, but may progress quickly. If an elderly parent becomes prone to wandering or exhibits the aggressive behavior sometimes found in Alzheimer’s patients, this can be a turning point in the need for full-time care.

The needs of each individual and the way that each family provides care depend on individual circumstances, but it is important to recognize when the need for a little help has become the need for full-time care.

 

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