Blog Articles

We Help Individuals and Families in the Matters that Matter Most
Medicaid Planning Trust

What You Need to Know about a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT)

Moving into a nursing home can be expensive, costing you $5,000 to $10,000 a month or more. This expense can quickly wipe out your life savings. Medicaid will pick up the bill for you, if your income and assets are low enough to qualify for Medicaid benefits. The problem is you typically have to be nearly destitute, before you can qualify for Medicaid.

If you put your assets into a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, however, you might be able to qualify for Medicaid, even if your assets exceed the limit. Here is what you need to know about a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT).

Medicaid Income and Asset Limits

Eligibility for Medicaid varies by state. In general, you must have little or no income and few countable assets. Each state also has non-economic requirements, such as age, disability and household size, depending on your circumstances.

Medicaid does not count all of your assets toward the asset limit. For example, if you or your spouse live in your primary house, Medicaid considers the home an exempt asset. The value of that property does not count toward your state’s asset limit. There are limits on the amount of equity that does not count. The limits vary from state to state.

Additional examples of assets that can be exempt, include one car, term life insurance, household furnishings, clothing, wedding and engagement rings and other personal items. Medicaid does not count prepaid funeral and burial plans or life insurance policies with little cash value toward the limit.

Medicaid does count these things toward the asset limit:

  • Cash
  • Bank accounts
  • Investments
  • Vacation homes
  • Retirement accounts not yet in payout status (only in some states)

These are the general guidelines. Your state’s treatment of assets might differ.

How a MAPT Works

When you put your assets into a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT), Medicaid does not count those things toward the asset limit. You do not own those items – the trust does. Medicaid does not count an asset that does not belong to you. The trust can protect the assets for distribution one day to your beneficiaries.

Please note that a “Medicaid Asset Protection Trust” can also go by the name of “Medicaid Planning Trust,” “Home Protection Trust,” or “Medicaid Trust.” Make sure that the trust you select is Medicaid-compliant. Most revocable living trusts, family trusts, irrevocable funeral trusts, and qualifying income trusts (QITs, also called Miller trusts) are not Medicaid-compliant. They will not protect your assets, if you want to be eligible for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home.

Essential Aspects of MAPTs

MAPTs are sophisticated estate planning documents. Here are a few of the highlights of these documents:

  • You cannot create a MAPT and immediately apply for Medicaid. You will have to wait at least five years (2.5 years in California) before you apply for Medicaid, after setting up a MAPT. If you apply for Medicaid before the “look back” period expires, you could face harsh financial penalties.
  • You are the grantor of your trust. You state might use a different term, like the trust-maker or settlor. Your spouse cannot be the trustee of your MAPT, but your adult child or another relative can be.
  • The trust must be irrevocable. Once signed, you can never change or cancel the trust. You can never own those assets again. If you create a revocable trust, Medicaid will count all the assets in the trust toward the asset limit, because you still have control over the assets.
  • The trustee must follow the instructions of the trust. No funds of the trust can get used for your benefit.
  • A MAPT protects your assets from Medicaid estate recovery. Without a MAPT, after you die, the state could seek reimbursement from your estate for all the money they paid for your long-term care.
  • While a Miller trust will not protect your assets, it can protect some of your income, if your income exceeds the limit for Medicaid. Used with a MAPT, many people can qualify for Medicaid to help pay for the nursing home, even if their assets and income exceed the eligibility limits.
  • The rules for MAPTs vary from one state to the next.

The regulations are different in every state. You should talk to an elder law attorney in your area to see how your state varies from the general law of this article.

References:

American Council on Aging. “How Medicaid Planning Trusts Protect Assets and Homes from Estate Recovery.” (accessed December 19, 2019) https://www.medicaidplanningassistance.org/asset-protection-trusts/

American Council on Aging. “How to Spend Down Income and/or Assets to Become Medicaid Eligible.” (accessed December 19, 2019) https://www.medicaidplanningassistance.org/medicaid-spend-down/

Suggested Key Terms: Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, MAPT, protecting your assets to qualify for Medicaid

Understanding IRA Beneficiaries

Why are IRA Beneficiary Designations So Important?

If you decide to purchase a life insurance policy or to put some money into a new deferred annuity contract or Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you need to complete the beneficiary form.

However, Investopedia’s recent article entitled “Why Your Will Should Name Designated Beneficiaries” says that you may just name a person as a beneficiary, without fully appreciating this aspect of your estate planning.

First, it’s important to understand what generally happens to your possessions and property after you die. If you have a will, your family must still go through probate to receive what you’ve left them. If you die intestate (without a will), your possessions become part of your estate, and intestacy laws will dictate the distribution.

If you name designated beneficiaries, you list who will get the money and what percentage each will receive. Then, after you die, your beneficiaries present a death certificate to a bank and complete a form. For certain assets, there’s no probate, no court involvement and no expense.

When completing a beneficiary form, you should consider not only who will get the money in your accounts, but how they’ll get it. If you’re worried that your beneficiaries couldn’t handle a large lump-sum payment, there are other options. Most annuity and life insurance companies now have a form that allows contract owners to designate how beneficiaries receive the death benefit. Generally, they offer three payment options: (i) a lump sum; (ii) a certain period of time; and (iii) amortization over the beneficiary’s life expectancy.

You could also divide the benefit, so your beneficiaries get some as a lump sum with the rest in scheduled payouts. However, note that your IRA might not have the same type of beneficiary payout options as annuities and life insurance do. The standard beneficiary form you complete when you open the account, usually only requires that you name a primary and a secondary beneficiary.

Other than that, the custodial institution’s policy will determine how funds get paid out to your heirs.  It is, therefore, possible that your biggest financial asset will be covered only by a simple, one-page document that may not truly express your intentions about who should inherit the retirement funds or how they should get them.

Another issue is if you’re single with three grown children, and you name each one an equal beneficiary on your IRA. One of the three dies. Shortly thereafter, you die, and the custodian’s policy is that the two living children should inherit the deceased child’s share. However, that’s not what you wanted. You wanted the deceased child’s family to get their father’s share. This result could have been avoided with proper estate planning. Ask an estate planning attorney about this.

Review the IRA custodial agreements on your accounts. Make sure that you understand the agreement’s policy on areas such as stretch distributions, beneficiaries designating a beneficiary, customized beneficiary forms, trustee-to-trustee transfers, non-spouse beneficiaries moving investments after the owner’s passing and any default provisions, in case a beneficiary predeceases you and you fail to make subsequent changes.

Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “Why Your Will Should Name Designated Beneficiaries”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Intestacy, Probate Court, Inheritance, Probate Attorney, Beneficiary Designations, Life Insurance, Annuity

Prof. Jonathan Turley

Great Advice from Prof. Turley – Consider a Private Social Worker

-By Christopher Mays

If you have been following the impeachment proceedings recently you may recognize Professor Jonathan Turley. He testified before the House Judiciary Committee in both the impeachment for President Trump and President Clinton, giving his opinion on the legal technicalities involved in the process. He was also one of my professors in law school, so I occasionally peruse his blog. As it turns out, he has some very good advice when it comes to Elder Law and caring for family: consider hiring a private social worker for aging family members.

The case for a private social worker is made in an article on Professor Turley’s blog authored by Darren Smith (click here for a link to the article on Prof. Turley’s blog). Essentially the case is this. Hospitals, Nursing Facilities and Government Agencies all have their own social workers. While in each case the social worker’s job is to advocate for the patient – there is always the potential that a social worker’s ability to advocate for a patient can be influenced by the interests of their employer.

As an attorney who has helped clients with guardianship of older family members and served as a guardian for seniors – I cannot say enough good things about what social workers do. Much of my work has been with the Regional Older Adult Facilities Mental Health Support Team (RAFT) with Arlington County. RAFT social workers do a number of things to help improve the living situation for seniors, including:

  • Assessing the mental health, behavioral, and care needs of older adults.
  • Providing educational and therapeutic support to both families and patients.
  • Training staff at care facilities about the specialized needs of seniors with mental health issues
  • Medication monitoring and evaluation

Personally, I have had a number of cases where older adults have been: unable to find placements because of mental health or behavior issues; at risk from poorly managed behaviors (wandering, etc.); or faced with other significant problems. In every case where I have had social workers, like the ones from the RAFT team, assist clients – we have been able to quickly transition seniors from unstable and potentially dangerous situations to well managed, comfortable and compassionate living arrangements.

When faced with family members in difficult situations because of aging, probably the most common reaction is “What do I do?” Social workers excel at helping people answer that question and come up with a plan for moving forward.

 

Social Security Scam?

Is It a Call from Social Security or a Scam?

If you get a call allegedly from the Social Security Administration, the chances are good that it’s a scam. Prior to disclosing any information or money, there are some steps you want to take.

CNBC’s recent article entitled “Social Security scams have caused millions of dollars in losses in 2019 alone. How you can avoid becoming a victim” explains that it’s common for an unknown caller to say that your Social Security number has been suspended or canceled.

This is the latest version of a robocall scam that the IRS warned people about in early 2019.

Other criminals attempt to convince people to pay up with cash or gift cards, in order to avoid getting arrested.

In the first six months of 2019, people filed 73,000 reports about Social Security fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The losses from these calls was more than $17 million.

However, Congress is trying to stop these practices.

The House of Representatives passed a bill in early December to restrict robocalls by requiring carriers to block the numbers, without charging consumers extra money. The Senate passed a similar bill earlier this year.

Several lawmakers also asked the Social Security Administration to review scam calls purporting to come from the agency.

“While SSA has taken steps in recent months to prevent and raise public awareness about these imposter calls, we are alarmed that the scams continue to be widespread and severe,” the congressmen wrote in a letter to Andrew Saul, commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration also won’t send you an email with a “click here” link.

It is important to limit when you give out your Social Security number. You should think twice before revealing that information on healthcare forms, for example, where that information is usually unnecessary.

Reference: CNBC (Dec. 16, 2019) “Social Security scams have caused millions of dollars in losses in 2019 alone. How you can avoid becoming a victim”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Social Security, Elder Abuse, Financial Abuse

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Do Unmarried Couples Need Estate Planning?

A couple that has no intention of ever getting married should know that they won’t get the automatic rights and protections that legally wed spouses get, particularly when it comes to death. Therefore, unmarried couples must make a concerted effort to cover all the bases, says CNBC’s recent article entitled “Here’s what happens to your partner if you’re not married and you die.”

The number of unmarried couples who live together reached 18 million in 2016, a 29% increase from 14 million in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center. Among adults age 50 and older, the increase was 75% with roughly 4 million cohabiting in 2016, compared to 2.3 million in 2007.

These couples still face some key differences from their married counterparts. For example, there’s no filing federal taxes as a couple, and if an employer allows health insurance for a partner, the amount the company contributes is taxable to the employee, rather than being tax-free for a spouse.

End-of-life considerations also need attention. Unmarried couples can sign some legal documents that will dictate what happens, if one of them either becomes incapacitated or passes away, which is a type of estate plan.

If you die without a will or intestate, the state probate court will decide how your assets are distributed. A will by itself also won’t address everything. If you want to make sure your tax-advantaged retirement accounts — like your Roth IRA and 401(k) plans — go to your partner, make sure that individual is the designated beneficiary on those accounts. Even if your will says otherwise, whoever’s listed as the beneficiaries on those accounts will get the money. It’s the same for insurance policies and annuities.

If both partner’s names are on checking, savings or investment accounts, the account will pass directly to the surviving partner. However, for an account with only one partner’s name on it, ask the bank about the appropriate form to be completed, so the money is left directly to the surviving partner. This is what’s called a transfer-on-death or payable-on-death designation. Without this designation, the assets will end up in probate and distributed either in accordance with the will or intestacy state laws.

Regardless of how the mortgage is paid or whose name is on the loan, the person named on the deed is the owner. If the house in one partner’s name, it won’t automatically pass to the partner, as it would with a married couple (via joint tenancy with rights of survivorship). It would become part of the probate estate. To remedy this, you can retitle the home, so that both partners are listed as joint owners on the deed, “with rights of survivorship.” Each partner then equally owns the house and is entitled to assume full ownership upon the death of the other. Note that there could be other factors to consider before adding a partner’s name to an existing deed, such as expenses, tax implications and protection from potential creditors. Ask your estate planning or probate attorney before you make a change. A partner owning the house, could leave it to the surviving partner in the will. Remember, though, any asset passing via the will is subject to probate, which may lead to unforeseen issues.

In addition, a partner has no legal say in his or her partner’s medical treatment, if he or she is in a situation where they can’t make decisions for themselves. To give the partner that right, partners can grant each other a durable power of attorney over health care. This allows the partner to make important health-care decisions, if the one in the hospital is unable to do so. This is different from a living will, which states a person’s wishes if they are on life support or suffer from a terminal condition. This document helps guide the agent’s decision-making. If no one is named, medical personnel must follow the instructions in that document.

Likewise, partners may want to give each other durable power of attorney for finances. This would let them handle one another’s money, including accessing accounts as necessary, if the incapacitated partner could not do so.  If the partners have dependents, name a guardian for them in the will. Otherwise, that decision will be left to the courts.

Reference: CNBC (Dec. 16, 2019) “Here’s what happens to your partner if you’re not married and you die”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Capacity, Guardianship, Asset Protection, Probate Court, Inheritance, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive, Living Will, Tax Planning, Financial Planning, Probate Attorney, Intestacy, IRA, 401(k), Roth IRA, Pension, Joint Tenancy, TOD (Transfer on Death), POD (Payable on Death), Beneficiary Designations, Life Insurance, Annuity

The SECURE Act

How Does the SECURE Act Change Your Estate Plan?

The SECURE Act has made big changes to how IRA distributions occur after death. Anyone who owns an IRA, regardless of its size, needs to examine their retirement savings plan and their estate plan to see how these changes will have an impact. The article “SECURE Act New IRA Rules: Change Your Estate Plan” from Forbes explains what the changes are and the steps that need be taken.

Some of the changes include revising wills and trusts which include provisions creating conduit trusts that had been created to hold IRAs and preserve the stretch IRA benefit, while the IRA plan owner was still alive.

Existing conduit trusts may need to be modified before the owner’s death to address how the SECURE Act might undermine the intent of the trust.

Rethinking and possibly completely restructuring the planning for the IRA account may need to occur. This may mean making a charity the beneficiary of the account, and possibly using life insurance or other planning strategies to create a replacement for the value of the charitable donation.

Another alternative may be to pay the IRA balance to a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) on death that will stretch out the distributions to the beneficiary of the CRT over that beneficiary’s lifetime under the CRT rules. Paired with a life insurance trust, this might replace the assets that will ultimately pass to the charity under the CRT rules.

The biggest change in the SECURE Act being examined by estate planning and tax planning attorneys is the loss of the “stretch” IRA for beneficiaries inheriting IRAs after 2019. Most beneficiaries who inherit an IRA after 2019 will be required to completely withdraw all plan assets within ten years of the date of death.

One result of the change of this law will be to generate tax revenues. In the past, the ability to stretch an IRA out over many years, even decades, allowed families to pass wealth across generations with minimal taxes, while the IRAs continued to grow tax tree.

Another interesting change: No withdrawals need be made during that ten-year period, if that is the beneficiary’s wish. However, at the ten-year mark, ALL assets must be withdrawn, and taxes paid.

Under the prior law, the period in which the IRA assets needed to be distributed was based on whether the plan owner died before or after the RMD and the age of the beneficiary.

The deferral of withdrawals and income tax benefits encouraged many IRA owners to bequeath a large IRA balance completely to their heirs. Others, with larger IRAs, used a conduit trust to flow the RMDs to the beneficiary and protect the balance of the plan.

There are exceptions to the 10-year SECURE Act payout rule. Certain “eligible designated beneficiaries” are not required to follow the ten-year rule. They include the surviving spouse, chronically ill heirs and disabled heirs. Minor children are also considered eligible beneficiaries, but when they become legal adults, the ten year distribution rule applies to them. Therefore, by age 28 (ten years after attaining legal majority), they must take all assets from the IRA and pay the taxes as applicable.

The new law and its ramifications are under intense scrutiny by members of the estate planning and elder law bar because of these and other changes. Speak with your estate planning attorney to review your estate plan to ensure that your goals will be achieved in light of these changes.

Reference: Forbes (Dec. 25, 2019) “SECURE Act New IRA Rules: Change Your Estate Plan”

Suggested Key Terms: SECURE Act, IRA, Estate Planning Attorney, Stretch IRA, Conduit Trust, Charitable Remainder Trust, Eligible Beneficiaries, RMDs

What is Conservatorship?

What Should I Know About Conservatorships?

In Virginia a conservatorship is when a court grants a ‘conservator’ the authority to manage the finances of another. However different states may use the terms “conservatorship” and “guardianship” in slightly different ways. The conservator has legal authority over certain aspects of the ward’s life, says KAKE.com’s recent article, “What is a Conservatorship and How Does It Work?” A conservator has total authority over the relevant aspects of their ward’s life. A conservatorship is granted when the person in question no longer has the capacity to make decisions on her own behalf. These cases are almost always dealing with judgments based on mental incapacity.

The general test for a conservatorship is: (i) whether the person is capable of knowing and understanding her actions; (ii) whether she is capable of providing for her basic needs, such as food, sanitation, and shelter; and (iii) whether she could be considered a danger to herself.

Although the specifics of a conservatorship hearing vary across jurisdictions, a conservatorship must be granted by an officer or appointee of the court. Medical paperwork is typically required before a judge will grant a conservatorship. However, the potential ward must have an opportunity to be heard by the court and to present her own case, as to why a conservatorship shouldn’t be granted. In addition, a person has the right to challenge a conservatorship in court, if she disagrees with the outcome, because a conservatorship means taking many aspects of freedom from an adult. This is not taken lightly by the courts.

There are several types of conservatorships. The most common are financial, physical, full and limited. A conservatorship is built around the needs of the ward, and the judge will typically consult with medical staff and social workers. A conservatorship is based on what the court believes will best keep the ward healthy and safe.

To make certain that a conservator doesn’t use the ward’s assets for his own gain, conservators must report to the court that appointed them. They’re required to keep records of every decision they make on behalf of the ward and must periodically present this information to the court. However, depending on the state, larger or more permanent decisions may require a court order, such as the decision to place the ward in an assisted-living facility.

Conservators are entitled to receive pay. However, it’s not uncommon for those who hold conservatorships over friends or family members to decline payment.

Conservatorships are controlled by state laws. Consult with an elder law attorney about the details how it might apply to your situation.

Reference: KAKE.com (December 11, 2019) “What is a Conservatorship and How Does It Work?”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Conservatorship, Guardianship, Ward, Incapacity

Do I Owe Estate Tax?

Is There Estate Tax on the Property I Inherited?

The vast majority of those who inherit real estate don’t end up paying any taxes on the property. However, there are some instances where estate or inheritance taxes could be assessed on inherited real estate. Motley Fool’s recent article, “Do You Have to Pay Estate Tax on Real Estate You Inherit?” provides a rundown of how estate taxes work in the U.S. and what it means to you if you inherit or are gifted real estate assets.

An estate tax is a tax applied on property transfers at death. A gift tax is a tax levied on property transfers while both parties are alive. An inheritance tax is assessed on the individual who inherits the property. For real estate purposes, you should also know that this includes money and property, and real estate is valued based on the fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death.

Most Americans don’t have to worry about estate taxes because we’re allowed to exclude a certain amount of assets from our taxable estates, which is called the lifetime exemption. This amount is adjusted for inflation over time and is $11.58 million per person for 2020. Note that estate taxes aren’t paid by people who inherit the property but are paid directly by the estate before it is distributed to the heirs.

The estate and gift taxes in the U.S. are part of a unified system. The IRS allows an annual exclusion amount that exempts many gifts from any potential transfer tax taxation. In 2020, it’s $15,000 per donor, per recipient. Although money (or assets) exceeding this amount in a given year is reported as a taxable gift, doesn’t mean you’ll need to pay tax on them. However, taxable gifts do accumulate from year to year and count toward your lifetime exclusion. If you passed away in 2020, your lifetime exclusion will be $11.58 million for estate tax purposes.

If you’d given $3 million in taxable gifts during your lifetime, you’ll only be able to exclude $8.58 million of your assets from estate taxation. You’d only be required to pay any gift taxes while you’re alive, if you use up your entire lifetime exemption. If you have given away $11 million prior to 2020 and you give away another $1 million, it would trigger a taxable gift to the extent that your new gift exceeds the $11.58 million threshold.

There are a few special rules to understand, such as the fact that you can give any amount to your spouse in most cases, without any gift or estate tax. Any amount given to charity is also free of gift tax and doesn’t count toward your lifetime exemption. Higher education expenses are free of gift and estate tax consequences provided the payment is made directly to the school. Medical expense payments are free of gift and estate tax consequences, if the payment is made directly to the health care provider.

Remember that some states also have their own estate and/or inheritance taxes that you might need to consider.

States that have an estate tax include Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The states with an inheritance tax are Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Maryland has both an estate and an inheritance tax. However, there are very few situations when you would personally have to pay tax on inherited real estate.

Fortunately, Virginia does not have an estate tax.

Estate tax can be a complex issue, so speak with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Reference: Motley Fool (December 11, 2019) “Do You Have to Pay Estate Tax on Real Estate You Inherit?”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Inheritance Tax, Asset Protection, Tax Planning, Probate Attorney, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Unified Federal Estate and Gift Tax Exemption

Ready to Serve as Executor?

What Should I Know About Being an Executor?

You’re named executor because someone thinks you’d be good at collecting assets, settling debts, filing estate tax returns where necessary, distributing assets and closing the estate.

However, Investopedia’s article from last summer, “5 Surprising Hazards of Being an Executor,” explains that the person named as an executor isn’t required to accept the appointment. Prior to agreeing to act as an executor, you should know some of the hazards that can result, as well as how you can address some of these potential issues, so that being an executor can run smoothly.

  1. Conflicts with Co-Executors. Parents will frequently name more than one adult child as co-executor, so they don’t show favoritism. However, for those who are named, this may not work well because some children may live far way, making it difficult to coordinate the hands-on activities, like securing assets and selling a home. Some adult children may also not have the financial ability to deal with creditors, understand estate tax matters and perform effective accounting to satisfy beneficiaries that things have been properly handled. In addition, multiple executors mean additional paperwork. Instead, see if co-executors can agree to allow only one to serve, and the others will waive their appointment. Another option is for all of the children to decline and allow a bank’s trust department to handle the task. Employing a bank to serve instead of an individual as executor can alleviate conflicts among the children and relieves them from what could be a very difficult job.
  2. Conflicts with Heirs. It’s an executor’s job to gather the estate assets and distribute them according to the deceased person’s wishes. In some cases, heirs will land on a decedent’s home even before the funeral, taking mementos, heirlooms and other valuables. It’s best to secure the home and other assets as quickly as possible. Tell the heirs that this is the law and share information about the decedent’s wishes, which may be described in a will or listed in a separate document. This Letter of Last Instruction isn’t binding on the executor but can be a good guide for asset disbursements.
  3. Time-Consuming Responsibilities. One of the major drawbacks to be an executor is the amount of time it takes to handle responsibilities. For example, imagine the time involved in contacting various government agencies. This can include the Social Security Administration to stop Social Security benefits and, in the case of a surviving spouse, claim the $255 death benefit. However, an executor can permit an estate attorney to handle many of these matters.
  4. Personal Liability Exposure. The executor must pay taxes owed, before disbursing inheritances to heirs. However, if you pay heirs first and don’t have enough funds in the estate’s checking account to pay taxes, you’re personally liable for the taxes. Explain to heirs who are chomping at the bit to receive their inheritances that you’re not allowed to give them their share, until you’ve settled with creditors, the IRS and others with a claim against the estate. You should also be sure that you understand the extent of the funds needed to pay what’s owed.
  5. Out-of-Pocket Expenses. An executor can receive a commission for handling his duties. The amount of the commission is typically determined by the size of the estate (e.g., a percentage of assets). However, with many cases, particularly smaller estates and among families, an executor may waive any commission. You should pay the expenses of the estate from an estate checking account and record all out-of-pocket expenses, because some of these expenses may be reimbursable by the estate.

Being an executor can be a challenge, but somebody must do it. If that person’s you, be sure to know what you’re getting into before you agree to act as an executor.

Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “5 Surprising Hazards of Being an Executor”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Probate Court, Inheritance, Executor, Personal Representative, Letter of Last Instruction

Does Dad Need Caregiving Support?

How Do I Tell If Dad Needs Caregiving Support?

When you’re visiting older family members, you have a chance to judge how they’re doing in terms of health, safety, and quality of life. AARP’s recent article, “5 Signs Your Loved One May Need Caregiving Support,” advises us that any of the following five red flags may indicate that your parent needs help.

  1. Falls and safety. Look for things like unsafe indoor or outdoor stairs, especially without railings or poor lighting, along with loose rugs, clutter, or a laundry room that makes your mom or dad carry laundry baskets up and down stairs. You should evaluate fall hazards with a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS), an aging life care specialist, or a physical or occupational therapist. They can help evaluate your parent’s needs, abilities and the home environment. Consider installing safety measures, such as ramps, handrails on both sides of stairs, grab bars in the bathroom, or a walk-in shower.
  2. Unfinished business. If you see a lot of unopened mail and unpaid bills, or key financial, home or legal documents that haven’t been addressed, your mom may be cognitively, physically, or emotionally unable to handle them. You may want to help your parent simplify her affairs or engage a financial manager. You can also volunteer to assist with the more complicated matters, while she continues handling day-to-day household and personal finances. You should also be sure your parent has advanced directives and other legal documents in place, so you are able to help manage her affairs in an emergency.
  3. Auto accidents and moving violations. When you see multiple accidents—even minor fender benders—or several warnings or citations, scrapes, or dents on the car, it’s time to discuss driving. You can ride along and observe any health issues causing problems like vision, hearing or cognitive changes. You can suggest that he refresh his driving skills by taking a driver safety course, or if it’s time to stop driving, give him other viable transportation options.
  4. Isolation. Does your mom appear to be disconnected from friends, family and community? If her support system seems to be deteriorating, her physical and mental well-being are at risk. Discover with whom she regularly interacts. Ask if she feels lonely. Look for some activities she’d enjoy and help make arrangements for ongoing participation and transportation. Regular phone calls can help her connect, as well as using technology, including video chat, online communities and social media.
  5. A change in appearance. If you notice a change in your mom’s appearance, like a big gain or loss of weight, wearing the same clothes every day, or lack of personal hygiene, or if she appears sad, anxious, and distressed or has sleep issues—something is not right. Propose a complete medical and psychological evaluation to determine what’s normal for her, because there may be several reasons for these changes. Depression or anxiety may call for treatment.

Review her medications with a pharmacist and set up a pill organizer for her. Find out how she’s making or receiving meals. If appropriate, arrange for home-delivered meals, housekeeping, medication management and laundry assistance.

Tackle these conversations with love, concern, and a supportive attitude. Your objective is to help her remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible.

Reference: AARP (December 12, 2019) “5 Signs Your Loved One May Need Caregiving Support”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Elder Care

Subscribe