Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hip Pocket Resources for Indiana Seniors and Their Children

Kiplinger’s Retirement Report calls it “Information to Act On”; at Geyer Law, we think of them as “hip pocket” resources for seniors,. These are things you may need to know, either right now, or perhaps when life throws you or a family member a “curve ball”.
 
Just three of the resources named in the Kiplinger report include:
  1. Electronic Deposit Insurance Calculator tool at https://www.fdic.gov/edie . This tool indicates whether all of your money in different banks is covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
  2. Social Security Administration’s list of 228 medical conditions for which disability claims will be expedited. This may be found at https://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
  3. The Family Caregiver Alliance’s “Family Care Navigator”, which helps families locate government, nonprofit, and private caregiver support programs, may be found at https://www.caregiver.org/family-care-navigator.
Here are four other “hip pocket” resources named by the National Council for Aging Care:
  1. PACE® - Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly coordinate all the types of care a senior living at home might need, including medical care, personal care, rehabilitation, social interaction, medications, and transportation.  Phone number is 1 800 MEDICARE; website is https://PACE4You.org.
  2. Eldercare Locator – This is a free national service of the US Administration on Aging.  It helps find local resources such as legal, financial, caregiving, home repair, and transportation.  Phone number is 1-800-677-1116; website is https://www.eldercare.gov.
  3. Healthfinder is a service under the U.S. depart. Of Health and Human Services.  The website provides links to health-related websites, support and self-help groups, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations that assist seniors.
  4. The National Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources helps find qualified local services and professionals to modify and renovate seniors’ homes.  The website is http://homemods.org/directory/index.shtml
The attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates have themselves, over the years, served as invaluable resources for seniors and their children in many areas of need, including:
  • wills and trusts
  • advance directives
  • estate administration
  • Medicaid
  • veterans benefits
  • special needs planning
  • business services
  • guardianships
  • dispute resolution

Essentially, at Geyer Law, we’re all about things you need to know, either right now, or perhaps when life throws you or your family a “curve ball”!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team
 
 
 


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Estate Planning Attorneys Reassured by Planner's Retirement Prognosis

 
Clients can stop freaking out about having enough money in retirement, Craig Israelsen assures readers of Financial Planning.
 
At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we were happy to learn of Israelsen’s positive investment prognosis.  While we’re estate planning and elder law attorneys, not financial planners, we’re obviously concerned with our clients’ retirement security.
 
 
Since 1926, the author explains, there have been 33 distinct “client lifetimes”. By following a simple investment strategy, he says, all 33 would have been left with millions of dollars if they lived to age 95. For purposes of the analysis, several assumptions were used: 
  1. The client begins to invest for retirement at age 35, retires at age 70, and lives to age 95, meaning there is a 35-year accumulation period followed by 25 years of distributions.
  2. The client withdraws only the Required Minimum Distribution each year and nothing more, and each year’s RMD is adequate for their needs.
  3. In the accumulation period, the client saves 8% of annual income, investing it in 60% stocks, 40% fixed income.
  4. The average 35-year rolling return for this annually-rebalanced portfolio was 9.97%.
  5. The first of the 33 clients turned 35 in 1926, the last in 1958.
In the Israelsen study, the largest balance in the retirement portfolio at age 70 was $1.76 million, the smallest $860,000. Over the next 25 years, an average $236,843 was withdrawn, based on RMD guidelines.

The moral of the Israelsen study, he says, is this: A retirement portfolio that is built for growth during both the accumulation years and the distribution years can distribute far more to the retiree than its starting balance at the beginning of retirement. Your clients, Israelsen assures financial planners, will likely have enough if they budget reasonably.  All that anguishing in advance, he says, robs those clients of the joy that can accompany the new opportunities in the final chapter of their lives.

At Geyer Law, we understand the challenges, fears, and family dynamics that come into play with clients’ legal issues, and we are delighted to hear that at least some of the fear of portfolio shortcomings in retirement may be unnecessary!

- by Rebecca W. Geyer
 
 
 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Changes in Veterans' Benefits Looming October 18th


On September 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs officially published the amendments to certain regulations having to do with VA benefit claims. The VA hasn’t left beneficiaries a whole lot of time to adjust – those changes become effective on the 18th of this month!

Veteran’s Benefits are perhaps the most misunderstood and underutilized resources available to millions of veterans and their families. At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our focus is with the Veteran’s Benefits Administration. We assist wartime veterans, or surviving spouses of wartime veterans, in obtaining VA Pension Benefits. With the looming October 18th deadline, at which time important changes go into effect, our work with veterans becomes an even more urgent initiative. The new rule changges relate to standards that must be met to qualify for non-service connected pension payments.  Here’s a general summary of what’s happening:

The VA looks at three elements:

NET WORTH
Net worth includes the claimant’s or beneficiary’s assets and annual income. A Veteran’s assets include his/her own assets plus the assets of the spouse. In 2018, the top limit on net worth is $123,600.  Under the current system, that number increases by the same percentage as the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits. Net worth may be decreased in three ways: a) the assets themselves decrease b) annual income decreases c) assets and income decrease.

Under the existing rules, assets include the value of real property, not counting the primary residence or the mortgage on it.  Under the new rule, a residential lot may not exceed two acres; anything above two acres will be counted as an asset.

ASSET TRANSFERS
If the VA finds that a claimant transferred (either by selling it for less than market value or actually giving) assets to someone else in order to reduce the assets and qualify for benefits, the amount will be subject to a penalty. This includes converting assets into an annuity.

The “lookback period” will be the 36 months immediately preceding the date of the pension claim.  This does not include transfers prior to October 18, 2018, which is why the deadline is so important!
MEDICAL EXPENSES
Under the current rules, there are no definitions of deductible medical expenses for the purpose of VA pensions. The final rules expand the definition of “Activities of Daily Living” to include:

1. ambulating within the home or living area
2. instrumental activities of daily Living (shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundering, managing finances, handling medication, using the telephone, and transportation for non-medical purposes).

In-home care must be from a licensed health care provider (unless a physician has stated in writing that care can be provided by an in-home attendant.

Time is of the essence in notifying clients of these changes, cautions ElderCounsel, because all VA planning that includes transfers must be made before October 18 2018.  At Geyer Law, we’re making time to meet with every veteran and beneficiary to beat that deadline!
- by Rebecca W. Geyer





Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Long Term Care Insurance Choices - Riders and Hybrids


“Planning ahead for long-term care is important because there is a good chance you will need some long-term care services if you live beyond the age of 65,” cautions MyFederalRetirement.com. As Indiana elder attorneys, we certainly agree that long-term care planning has an important place in both retirement and estate planning, helping clients take charge of their finances and protecting both themselves and their heirs.

In particular, at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our attorneys have been paying attention to the reduced number of viable long-term care insurance choices being offered to our Indiana estate planning clients. Why?  “For aging baby boomers, planning for long-term-care costs becomes more pressing every day. But the insurance that helps cover those costs is surging in price, while the benefits are becoming skimpier.”

There are two phenomena to which we’ve been paying special attention:

1.  Living benefit riders on life insurance policies
Living benefit riders take money out of the death benefit to pay for insureds’ medical care needs while they are still alive. The payment of the death benefit is “accelerated” and paid out while the insured is still alive, typically under any of the following three circumstances:
  1. The insured has been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a 6-24 month life expectancy.
  2. The insured has a chronic illness that leaves him or him unable to perform activities of daily living (bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting, transferring).
  3. The insured has a critical illness (heart attack, stroke, cancer, renal failure, organ transplant, ALS, blindness, paralysis)
At first, investopedia.com explains, living benefit riders were offered only on cash value policies such as whole life or universal life, but they are now available in term life insurance products as well.

2.  Hybrid insurance
The hybrid insurance policy allows death benefits on life insurance to be used towards long-term care costs. These policies overcome the difficulty many clients have in paying for long-term care insurance, which they may be lucky enough to never need to use, but whose premiums are non-recoverable. With a hybrid policy, Damon Gonzales of NerdWallet.com points out:
  1. After a surrender charge period (usually 10 yrs.), you can cancel and get a refund
  2. There is a death benefit paid to heirs when you die
  3. There is a guaranteed cash value, a guaranteed death benefit, and a guaranteed amount of long- term care coverage
Along with these advantages, Nerdwallet points out three big drawbacks hybrids have:
  1. Premiums, paid over shorter periods of time than traditional long-term care premiums, can be much less affordable
  2. There is hardly any growth offered on the cash value
  3. Premiums are not tax deductible (Hybrids are not considered tax-qualified policies) 

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we offer no insurance projects or direct tax advice, working with other advisors to address insurance product choices. Long-term care insurance is just one more example of the overlap among professionals in the area of law, insurance, and tax.       
Realizing, however, just how crucially important this subject is for the long-term well-being of our clients and their family members, we at Geyer Law want to provide the most up-to-date information on the subject of long-term care.
      

      
- by Rebecca W. Geyer





Wednesday, September 19, 2018

In Buying Long Term Care Insurance, It Pays to Go for the Sweet Spot


“For aging baby boomers, planning for long-term-care costs becomes more pressing every day. But the insurance that helps cover those costs is surging in price, while the benefits are becoming skimpier,” Eleanor Laise comments in Kiplinger’s Retirement Report.

It’s true. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, the overall cost of new long-term care coverage has been jumping roughly 9% a year.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our attorneys have been paying attention to the reduced number of viable long-term care insurance choices being offered to our Indiana estate planning clients. For one thing, as Kiplinger mentions, benefits such as lifetime coverage and a 5% compound inflation benefit protection have either become unaffordable features or aren’t being offered by some insurers.

There are most definitely “sweet spots” for purchasing long-term care insurance, we concluded.  Those “sweet spots” relate to wealth, health, and age:

Age related sweet spot:

Ideally, clients purchase long-term care insurance when they are in their 50s. Not only do premiums begin to rise quickly from there, but one-quarter of applicants age 60-69 are rejected, Laise points out.

Asset-related sweet spot:
Wealthy people (Kiplinger refers to those with financial assets of $2.5 million +) may decide to forgo insurance. If they end up not incurring long term care costs, their heirs will receive more; if they do need to pay for long-term care, they can afford to do so. People with limited assets and those who cannot reasonably sustain the premium costs over decades would be better off not buying expensive policies, perhaps choosing lower benefits or limited benefit period coverage.

Health-related sweet spot:
Insurers have been tightening their underwriting standards, Laise emphasizes, so buying while you’re in good health has become even more important. Some companies have added blood tests and scrutinize family history for heart disease and dementia.

At Geyer Law, there are two phenomena we’re paying attention to - permanent life insurance with a critical care rider and hybrid insurance. In next week’s blog post, we’ll discuss the plusses and minuses of each of these approaches to long-term care insurance.  Stay tuned….
- by Rebecca W. Geyer




Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Avoid Aretha's Estate Planning Mistake


Avoid the estate planning mistakes of Aretha Franklin and Prince, advises Richard Eisenberg, writing in Forbes.com. Both these one-time blockbuster music stars died without a will or trust, Eisenberg notes, and, he warns, “Following in their footsteps could mean your loved ones won’t receive the inheritances you intended.” Problems you might cause your heirs include:
  • Disbursements could be long-delayed
  • Ugly family squabbles might ensue
  • Your estate might owe additional taxes
  • Your financial life will become a public record
  • If you have a special needs child, he or she may wind up losing government benefits
Considering the fact that Aretha Franklin knew she had pancreatic cancer, you would think she’d have considered creating a will.  At least one of her attorneys tried to get her to do exactly that, but the singer never followed through, Eisenberg relates.

What’s so all-important about having a will?
Having a will means that you, rather than your state’s laws, decide who gets your property when you die, Lawyers.com explains. Wills can:
  • distribute your property
  • name an executor
  • name guardians for children
  • forgive debts
Without a will or other estate plan, state laws known as "intestate succession laws" decide which family members will inherit your estate and in what proportion. Most people want to distribute their property differently than the state would distribute it, Lawyers.com continues. For example, many people want to leave gifts to friends, neighbors, girlfriends, boyfriends, schools, or charitable organizations – and intestate succession does not allow for any of that.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our attorneys are focused on understanding your particular goals and concerns, taking a lifetime planning approach. That means planning for each client’s’ current needs as well as for a potential disability and death.

Control is really the name of the game and the real reason for having a will. Few people have an estate worth $80 million (the estimated value of Franklin’s estate), but deciding how one’s assets are distributed is still most people’s preference. Keep in mind that settling an estate involves a lot of emotions. The slightest differences can result in hurt feelings and recriminations. A will that clearly lays out your wishes may reduce conflict and speculation over what you “would have” wanted.
- By Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Executor Shouldn't Need to Start from Scratch


When there’s a death in the family, the responsibility of settling the estate is often designated to the oldest child or to a sibling. One problem that too often arises, explains certified home inventory professional Cindy Hartman, is that, in addition to making funeral arrangements, placing the house on the market, and finalizing the financials, the executor needs to create an inventory.

The inventory consists of a list that must be submitted to the court within sixty days of the estate’s opening.  The list needs to include all financial assets as well as the contents of the home (and of any storage facilities) containing the deceased’s belongings. And not only does that inventory list need to be compiled, the executor must determine the fair market value of each item. In other words, besides gathering the estate property, paying debts and distributing assets to the decedent's heirs, the executor must also complete a court-approved inventory form.

That means that, at one of the most emotion-filled times in his or her life, the question on an executor’s mind is typically “Where do I start?” Hiring a certified home inventory professional can relieve the executor of this work, Hartman explains.

As estate planning attorneys, we at Geyer Law counsel:
  • executors
  • personal representatives
  • trustees and
  • beneficiaries,
with the goal of reducing stress and ensuring prompt resolution of the settlement and administration of estates.  We’ve found that regular communication with all parties involved goes a long way to reduce conflict and delays.

Still, it’s always better when you start things out as part of your estate planning process, rather than leaving the job to your heirs.  To start, Investopedia suggests, go through the inside and outside of your home and make a list of all items worth $100 or more. “Examples include the home itself, television sets, jewelry, collectibles, vehicles, guns, computers/laptops, lawnmower, power tools and so on,” the authors of “16 Things to Do Before You Die” advise.

Cindy Hartman has it right: Often individuals do not know where to begin when someone in their family dies. Planning before death can relieve a large portion of the burden work that falls upon the executor, although there are still tasks that will remain to be accomplished. We provide full-service estate administration services to guide families through the process from start to finish.


 - by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team