Time & Life Update Newsletter

February 2015 Newsletter

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Feb 27, 2015 11:24:00 AM

Medicaid is About More than Just the Finances

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Something we always seem to need to remind clients of when we talk about Medicaid eligibility is that Medicaid isn’t just about the finances.  Meeting the income and asset limits are not the only requirements when applying, applicants also need to be medically eligible for Medicaid assistance.

What does that mean?  It means an applicant must establish the need for nursing home level care, needing assistance with the activities of daily living.  It’s one of the reasons why the planning that we do is so vital.  If you run out of money before your health is bad enough to require long-term care, you won’t be able to get MassHealth to help you.  Unfortunately it is an all too common scenario, one which we were reminded of last week.

We received a call from Jane regarding her dad, Donnie, who has been living with Jane for the last several years.  Donnie is bipolar but he functions well when he takes his medications.   It often is a struggle, however, to get him to take that medication.  Jane works during the day so she can’t always at home to monitor her dad.

Jane explained that her dad becomes somewhat agitated and occasionally wanders when he hasn’t taken his medication.  When I asked about his ability to walk, eat, bath, dress and toilet on his own, Jane replied that this isn’t Donnie’s problem.

Jane called because she wants to move her father to an assisted living facility, feeling that he now needs more supervision than she can provide on her own.  Donnie has only a few thousand dollars to his name, and he is planning to apply for Medicaid to pay for his care.

There are several problems with Jane’s plan.  She hasn’t even begun to look at facilities but when she does, she will likely find the choices very limited since it is not easy to get into a facility on Medicaid right away.  Most assisted living facilities try to use their Medicaid “slots” for their longtime residents who have spent down assets while at their facility.  Although there are a few that will take a person on Medicaid right away, none happen to be in Jane’s immediate area.

I told Jane the best solution for now is to hire someone to come to her home for a few hours a day when she is at work to keep an eye on Donnie.  The cost won’t be covered by Medicaid, but that’s one of the reasons that getting government benefits is so tricky.  The rules are complicated and the government – not you – decides whether it will provide you with assistance.  And in Jane and Donnie’s case, the answer is “not yet”.  The’ll have to go it alone for now.

Click Here to Download the Senior & Boomers Guide to Health Care Reform & Avoiding  Nursing Home Poverty

 


Don’t Forget About Rover

Who Will Care For Your Pets When You’re Gone?

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If you have a dog, cat or other pet, you know that the unconditional love and affection our pets devote to us improve the quality of our lives in ways nothing else can. This is why they deserve our respect and dedication even after we pass away or become incapacitated.

Unfortunately, if a pet owner becomes unable to care for his or her pets, they often end up living on the street. Thousands of pets are orphaned every year in the United States. To prevent your pets from adding to this sad statistic, you need to plan now for their care in the future.

One way to do this is to include your pets in your estate plan. This can be as simple as incorporating provisions for them into your Will or Living Trust. A Durable General Power of Attorney will allow an agent of your choosing to spend funds that have been allocated to your pets as he or she sees fit in the best interest of your pets.

The income is made available as ongoing Trust funds or as a gift given directly to the agent.
The first, and often easiest, way to make sure your pets are cared for is to include a request that your pets be placed with a willing friend or family member. This is done in the same way you would appoint a guardian for a child. In addition, most states allow for money from your estate plan to be set aside for the benefit of pets so that there is minimal, if any, expense for your pets’ caretaker.

Another option is to appoint a Trustee to care for your pets. This Trustee can either keep the pets in his or her own home or find someone else with a suitable, loving home to serve as caretaker. This type of “Pet Trust” also provides the Trustee with funds to be used for the pets’ benefit.

If a suitable Trustee is not available, you may want to research local animal shelters and adoption centers. If sufficient funds are allocated for the care of the pet, some locations will accept pets that are donated through Trusts and care for them until a devoted home can be found for them.

Considering Pet Insurance?
You may have noticed that in recent years veterinary science has advanced by leaps and bounds. Veterinarians today offer treatments that were unheard of only a few years ago. Treatments, such as organ transplants, once only used on humans are now available for pets. Veterinarians also have access to more advanced technology that can detect problems that, in the past, would have gone untreated. For pet owners, this means higher costs per visit and possibly expensive procedures.

Pet insurance can help you cover these new costs. It is best used to protect against unseen catastrophic expenses, not procedures you can easily pay for on your own. Pet insurance allows you to worry about your pet’s health and not how you are going to pay for it.

Some good advice when looking for pet insurance is to shop around and find the policy that best fits your needs. Remember to not only pay attention to the monthly or annual cost, but to note the differences in deductibles, co-pays and caps, which may limit payouts by incident, annually or the animal’s lifetime. Make sure that you understand the exclusions. The conditions most likely to afflict your pet are often the ones most likely to be excluded from your policy.

A few things to consider:

  • It is possible to spend more money on your pet if you have insurance than if you did not have insurance.
  • One alternative to pet insurance is to put the money you would spend on premiums into a savings account.
  • Dogs tend to wind up in the veterinarian’s office twice as often as cats.
  • Purebreds tend to have more hereditary weaknesses than the average pound puppy or cat.
  • Free-running animals have more accidents and contract more illnesses than pets that are kept under control.


Regardless of whether you decide to get pet insurance or not, it is always a good idea to think about the future. Put yourself at ease and know that you will be able to take care of your pet no matter what happens.

 

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: long term care, Medicaid, MassHealth, Nursing Homes, family, trusts, caregiver, insurance, medicaid qualification, 2015, trustee

The Top Ten Mistakes in Estate Planning for 2012

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Jan 24, 2012 2:42:00 PM

We enter 2012 with a roller coaster economy, elections, and changes in tax law as well as, medical and nursing home costs going skyward. All these changes together with the Baby Boomers retiring in record numbers and Alzheimer's disease at almost epidemic proportions, updating and maintaining your estate and asset protection plan is an absolute necessity.

In order to help families manage these changes and uncertainties, the Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates has provided the top 10 mistakes to avoid in estate and asset protection planning for 2012. For more information on how best to protect your life savings and eliminate these and other mistakes, attend one of our Trust, Estate & Asset Protection workshops by calling 800-964-4295 (24/7) or by registering online.

Mistake No. 1: Failing to Update and Maintain Your Estate & Asset Protection Plan

Statistics show that 86% of all trusts don't work often because the trusts were not maintained and updated to reflect current circumstances. Planning is an ongoing process because of the changes in our lives and the law. An estate plan should be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure it is protecting you and your family. That is why we created the 19-Point Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Review to help you discover where problems may exist in your planning and the opportunities you have to fix the problems before it’s too late. For more information on how you can review your own planning, refer to our 19-Point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Guide, which is available on our website at www.DSullivan.com.

We also offer existing clients a Lifetime Protection Program to make sure their planning stays on track for the years ahead.

Mistake No. 2: Not Planning to Avoid Probate

"I have a Will...I'm all set"...

A will alone does not avoid the probate process; actually, it guarantees it. In Massachusetts, the probate process takes a minimum of 1 year; it is also public, so family and financial matters become public record. Probate can be avoided by executing and funding a trust. Trusts are extremely flexible estate planning documents that should be considered as part of your estate plan.  Trusts can also provide disability planning where a will cannot.

Mistake No. 3: Not Coordinating Your Assets to Your Trust(s)

Not coordinating investments and other assets to a trust means that probate will not be avoided. Probate is the process by which assets of a deceased person are passed to those who will inherit them. The probate public process can take up to one year and can be very expensive. By properly coordinating your assets to your trust, you can avoid probate and save your family time and money.  For many who have created a trust, they miss the critical step of properly coordinating their home and investments to their trust.

Mistake No. 4: Not Reviewing Your IRAs and Investments To Make Sure They Are Safe and Productive for You Based on Your Age and Objectives

Whether you are growing your savings to fund your retirement or are in retirement, it is important to manage your investments and minimize your investment risk.  With the current economic climate you want to make sure now more than ever that you have an investment program designed especially with your goals and safety in mind.

For more information on trust and investment management, please call our office 781-237-2815 to request a copy of our DVD series, "Safe Investing for Seniors," which we provide as part of our educational series for members of the Lifetime Protection Program.


Mistake No. 5 Not Planning for Disability

If you become disabled, what will happen to your family? Who will make your financial decisions? If the proper disability documents are not part of your estate plan, your family may be forced to go to court to appoint a guardian or conservator just to be able to participate in your health care and financial decisions. If you have executed the proper documents years ago but have not updated them, your family could still be forced into court. Many of the top hospitals in Massachusetts do not accept disability documents that are more than 1 year old. The most effective way to avoid these issues is to plan ahead with a trust that will provide for your family financially if you are disabled and to have current disability documents.

Mistake No. 6: Not Planning to Avoid State and Federal Estate Taxes

A trust is an effective way of doubling the amounts that a married couple can pass tax-free to their children and grandchildren. The federal estate tax-free amounts are constantly changing. The exemption amount is scheduled to drop to $1 million per person in 2013, unless it is changed before then. It is important to consider how the growth of your assets over time will effect your tax situation. The state of Massachusetts also imposes a separate estate tax on all estates over $1 million. Therefore, for both federal and Massachusetts purposes it is important to utilize the tax-free amounts, up to $2 million for a married couple, but it is not automatic. Your planning should address both state and federal estate taxes, which can be substantial.

Mistake No. 7: Not Considering the Potential “Double Taxation” on Retirement Benefits

Taxes on IRAs and other retirement benefits can be as high as 70% before your children or grandchildren can collect a cent. This is because IRAs and other retirement benefits are taxed once as part of your taxable estate and again as income when the money comes out of the fund. By planning to avoid this “double taxation” you can stretch out and protect your IRA and retirement benefits, create tax savings, and increase the growth of the fund.

Mistake No 8: Not Planning to Avoid the Cost of Nursing Home Care

One out of every three people over 65 and one of every two people over 80 will need nursing home care for some period of time. Increasing health care and nursing home costs are one of the greatest threats to a comfortable retirement. In Massachusetts, nursing home care costs range from $12,000-$15,000 per month, $144,000-$180,000 per year. Because long-term care is so expensive, many families have elected to execute a Protective Trust to keep their life savings from the reach of a nursing home and protected for the spouse so they avoid nursing home poverty.  For additional reports and guides on avoiding nursing home poverty, please visit our website www.DSullivan.com.

Mistake No. 9: Believing Estate Planning is for The Elderly

No one can predict what will happen or when, and as the saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Not executing basic estate planning documents can cost your loved ones time and money. To take the first step in protecting you and your family visit www.DSullivan.com and register for a free educational workshophosted by the estate planning and asset professionals at Dennis Sullivan & Associates. Upcoming workshops will take place at 10AM and 2PM on Thursday, February 2; and Friday, February 17. Check our website for future dates and times as well as helpful educational reports, guides, videos and other resources such as CDs and DVDs.

Mistake No. 10: Not Planning to Protect Children and Grandchildren's Inheritances

Any significant gift or inheritance raises the question of whether the recipient will be able to have full enjoyment after the transfer, given considerations relating to potential creditors, divorce, or lawsuits against a beneficiary. Is the beneficiary able to handle investment and spending decisions, and will the beneficiary be subject to pressure from a spouse or other individual to place the assets into joint names, to make gifts that they might not otherwise want to make, or to make high-risk investments or loans?

If it has been a while since you’ve created your estate plan or even if it has only been a couple of years, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out if your plan is going to protect you and them when you need it.  Eliminate ALL these above-mentioned, common mistakes and misconceptions by scheduling a Trust, Estate & Asset Protection review based on our unique, 19-point review process to make sure you have protected your home, spouse, life savings and legacy for 2012 and beyond.

For additional educational information call us at (781)-237-2815, to request our latest DVD on "Life-Care Planning and Safe Investing for Seniors", register online or call 800-964-4295 (24/7) to attend a Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Workshop where the 19 Point Self Guided Trust, Estate and Asset Protection review process will be discussed.  We are hosting educational workshops on the following dates:

 

            Thursday, February 2 @ 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

            Friday, February 17 @ 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  

            Thursday, March 1 @ 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

 

We look forward to hearing from you. 

 


Tags: Protective Trusts, Alzheimer's Disease, asset protection, Estate Planning, Lifetime Protection Program, Mistakes, Nursing Homes, probate

Medicare vs. Medicaid and The Rise of Alzheimer's Disease

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on May 4, 2011 5:40:00 PM

Do you know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?  For ANY senior it is vital to know the difference.  Your future may depend on it, particularly with the new statistics regarding Alzheimer's Disease and other incurable, long-term care illnesses.

According to the World Alzheimer Report 2010, Alzheimer's Disease is taking a terrible toll on the world – not to mention on individual families and their life savings.  With no cure on the horizon, the problem is only expected to get worse.

According to Dr. Daisy Acosta of Alzheimer’s Disease International, “This is a wake-up call that Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century.”

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What’s even worse is that dementia is on the rise, and in the US almost half the seniors over age 80 have this tragic disease.  For more information about what you can do to make your life as a caregiver better today, read our free Alzheimer's Resource Guide, or call our office for options about how to pay for care.

So what does this have to do with Medicare & Medicaid?

Medicare provides health care benefits for people over 65, the blind, and the disabled; while Medicaid provides medical benefits for the poor.

Medicare is mainly a type of public health insurance for those age 65 and older. It is their primary health insurance coverage. Many seniors do not realize that Medicare does not pay for long-term care.  Actually, it is excluded! The confusion is easy to understand because Medicare does pay for rehabilitation. So, if a senior citizen is enrolled in the traditional Medicare plan and is hospitalized for a stay of at least three days, and is then admitted into a skilled nursing facility, Medicare may pay - for a short while. But once those Medicare benefits hit 100 consecutive days, you've hit the maximum.

In some cases, Medicare may not even cover the full 100 days. There must be some actual improvement in your condition, otherwise Medicare will decide that it is a long-term care need, and they'll cut you off. Medicare really only cares about you if you can get better. Since diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's have no known cure today, rehabilitation is not possible, so Medicare will not pay for nursing home care if you have Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid will pay for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or dementia-related diseases or a decline in functioning due to the aging process. You must, however, exhaust all your resources (including your spouse's as well) first before you will be eligible.  Medicaid, however, is paid for by both federal and state funds but is "administered" on a state level. The federal government covers between 50-80% of the program costs within the state, and the state pays the rest. Therefore, rules can vary from state to state (even county to county) rather dramatically.  Also, the law enables you to take steps to protect your home, life-savings and spouse so they are not impoverished if you go to a nursing home.

So, as you can see, Medicare is health insurance, and Medicaid is public long-term care coverage, but often there are stages in between that require examination and discussion.  For more information, download our free elder guide The Massachusetts Elder Guide to Medicaid, Nursing Homes and Asset Protection or watch Dennis Sullivan being interviewed about how to avoid nursing home poverty on the national talk show, "Ask The Lawyer."

To learn more about your options, call us at (781) 237-2815; (800) 964-4295 (24/7) or register online to attend one of our free workshops.  You need to be informed about your particular situation and for that you’ll need some honest, legal strategies to protect yourself, your spouse, and your hard-earned assets for the future. 

Tags: Nursing Home Costs, Alzheimer's Disease, asset protection, long term care, Medicare, Medicaid, MassHealth, Nursing Home Guide, Nursing Homes