Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It's Not (But Almost Is) Too Late for Your RMD

In the excitement of shopping for those special grandkid gifts, it may have slipped your mind. But please – don’t forget that December 31st deadline for making your Required Minimum Distribution from your IRA account.
How does that work, again? Well, when you save money in a retirement plan, eventually you are forced by law to start making annual withdrawals in the form of RMDs, beginning no later than your age 70 ½. Of course, you may choose to make withdrawals sooner (after your age 59 ½), but you cannot wait longer than 70 ½). The RMD requirements apply to:
  • traditional IRAs (not Roth IRAs)
  • 401(k)s
  • 403(b)s
  • pension plans
You can take more than the required minimum amount, but the government says you must take at least the RMD amount.

How are you to know what that minimum amount is? In most cases, your custodian (a bank, mutual fund company, insurance company, or brokerage firm) will calculate the RMD for you and each one will tell you what you need to withdraw for the account you have with that institution. If you have more than one account, you may choose to take enough out of just one of them, as long as you take enough to cover the RMD for all your retirement accounts.

If you just turned 70 ½ in 2016, there’s a “grace period”, and you may delay your first withdrawal until April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 70½.

What’s the “or else” associated with not taking the RMD?  If you don't take your RMD or you take too little, an IRS penalty equal to 50% of the amount not distributed may apply. What if you don’t need the money?  Have your withdrawal deposited in a “non-qualified” (non-retirement) account in your bank or brokerage account.

It happens often – we’ll be talking to clients here at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates about their estate plans and mention the RMD requirement. They will have heard about the RMD, but most don’t understand why, if they don’t want to take out money, they still have to.

Look at it this way, we explain. The IRS has been very, very patient with you, allowing your money to grow tax-free for many years in order to help fund your retirement needs. But the IRS is not willing to give you a totally “free pass” on those taxes.  You’re of an age to be retired (whether you are or not); now it’s time for us to collect at least some of those “back taxes” on the money.

Just a reminder…if you’re 70- ½ or older, it is not (but almost is) too late to take your RMD!
- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wherever Possible, Consider the Resident's Preferences

When it comes to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the old statement “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” may actually be true. The updated federal nursing home regulations issued this year are designed to protect residents of nursing homes and long term care facilities and ensure “person-centered care”.

This is the first comprehensive revision to the regulations since they were issued in 1991, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care explains. The new rules are set to be implemented in three phases. The first phase became effective last month, and the second will go into effect November 2017, the third in November 2018.

With Rebecca Geyer playing an active role in three separate legislative advisory groups, we feel proud to have played a part in the ongoing effort to provide residents of nursing homes and long term care facilities with improved care and enhanced protections.

Some of the language used in the document is very positive, showing the intention to allow nursing home residents as much independent decision-making as possible:
  •  self-determination
  •  environment
  • freedom from physical and chemical restraint
  •  quality of life
  •  dignity
 At the same time, the intent is to protect residents from
  • abuse
  • adverse events
  • exploitation
  • misappropriation of property
  • neglect
  • sexual abuse
Each resident will have the right to a resident representative.  Yet that representative will be allowed to exercise only those rights specifically delegated to him/her by the resident.
The general idea is clear: help and protect residents, but, wherever possible, consider the resident’s preferences!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Understanding Home Health Care

Home care services can offer you and your family members trained help with medical and personal care. Keep in mind, though, that home care is limited to specific tasks, cautions Next Step in Care.

Home health aides and personal care attendants primarily provide personal care, which includes assistance with:
  • eating
  • bathing
  • walking
  • dressing

Home health aides provide assistance with activities of daily living as well, including:
  • shopping
  • meal preparation
  • laundry

Home health aides are allowed to do certain health-related tasks:
  • taking patient’s temperature
  • checking blood pressure
  • changing dry dressings
  • moving arms and legs in range-of-motion exercises

Important caution: Home health aides are not supposed to provide services for a spouse or other members of the household.

Very important caution about medications: A qualified medication aide is a CNA who has completed additional training, annual in-service training, and demonstrated competency while dispensing and passing medications and or applying/administrating treatments under the direct supervision of a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse.

The Indiana State Department of Health Home Health Agency Licensing and Certification Program licenses agencies and individuals that provide:
  • nursing services
  • physical therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • speech therapy
  • medical social worker
  • home health aide other therapeutic services
to the patient at the patient's temporary or permanent residence. 

In talking with our clients at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we often find that, while the caregiver is a family member, he/she needs to call on outside professional help.
- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Why It's Important to Call Yourself a Caregiver

Big events in life are often marked by ceremonies and rituals, notes Next Step in Care. A wedding makes you a spouse. A graduation acknowledges your educational achievements. A naming ceremony celebrates the birth of a child. Even a funeral is an event, marking the loss of someone you love. “But when you become a family caregiver, there are no ceremonies or rituals.  No one congratulates you.  No one even asks if you want to become a caregiver, or tells you what it might mean.”

Are you, in fact, a caregiver?  Yes, if you:
  • take care of someone with a chronic illness or disease
  • manage someone’s medications
  • talk to doctors and nurses on someone’s behalf
  • help bathe or dress someone who is frail or disabled
  • take care of household chores and meals for someone who cannot do this alone
  • take care of someone’s bills 
Many sons, daughters, partners, or spouses don’t like saying they are caregivers, afraid that their basic relationship to the family member will mean less.  Some might feel they are not doing anything special enough to warrant a “title”.

If you’re the one taking care of someone, it’s important to actually call yourself – and to see yourself as – a caregiver, Next Step in Care advises. Why?  As a caregiver, you have the right to:
  • be given information about your family member’s condition
  • be involved in decision-making about your family member’s care
  • be trained to provide care
Next Step in Care suggests you embrace and act upon certain priorities now that you’ve become a caregiver:
  • Learn all about your family member’s condition and the treatments that have been recommended.
  • Find out what insurance pays for and what it doesn’t.  Is your family member eligible for public programs, such as Medicaid?
  • Review or create legal documents, including an advance directive and health care proxy. You may need a durable power of attorney for financial affairs.
Embracing the name “family caregiver” has become even more important in Indiana.  The CARE Act, a law that just went into effect January 1st of this year, now provides better assistance for the 1.3 million Hoosiers who care for loved ones. (The acronym CARE stands for Caregiver Advise, Record, and Enable.)

At Geyer Law, we hail this legislation as a real landmark.  The three main benefits include:
  1. When a loved one is admitted for treatment to a hospital or rehab facility, the name of his/her caregiver must be recorded.
  2. When patients are discharged to either another facility or to their home, the caregiver must be notified.
  3. The facility must provide instructions about the medical tasks the caregiver will need to perform. 
Many people say, “I’m not a caregiver, I’m a daughter, son, partner, or wife,” Next Step In Care explains. (They may be afraid that if they acknowledge their caregiving role, their basic relationship to their family member will mean less to both of them). This fear is understandable, but not realistic. You will always be a daughter, son, husband, or wife, but now you’re taking on a new, very important and very loving role – family caregiver!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nine New Strategic Partnerships for Veterans

At Geyer & Associates, where an important area of our practice is Veteran’s Benefits, we were all very thankful this Veterans’ Day to learn of the latest announcement from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA announced no fewer than nine new strategic partnerships, which are newly formed relationships between private companies and government designed to improve the lives of veterans and their families, and facilitate personal services some veterans may not be able to access on their own.
“Since we’ve named strategic partnerships as one of our five MyVA strategies,” said Secretary Robert A. McDonald, “I’m happy to report we’ve established partnerships at unprecedented rate to tackle a myriad of different Veteran needs.”

Cardinal Health “Operation: Support our Heroes” - 
Cardinal Health has pledged to donate 2,000 care packages (consisting of toiletries and other personal hygiene items), as well as other consumer health products to VA facilities for distribution to homeless Veterans. 

Downs Designs Dreams –
Downs Designs Dreams designs clothing specifically for individuals with disabilities.  To date, Downs Designs Dreams has already donated 166 pairs of jeans to Veterans through this partnership, representing an investment of $8,610.

Dream Foundation –
Dream Foundation honors Veterans by fulfilling their final dream towards the end of life. VA social work staff will coordinate referrals to support dream fulfilment for Veterans experiencing life-limited illnesses.

First Quality Enterprises –
First Quality Enterprises is teaming up with the VA to donate baby products to pregnant women Veterans through VA’s maternity care coordinators.

Hair Cuttery –
Hair Cuttery is sponsoring their annual “Share-A-Haircut” program.  For every adult haircut purchased in any Hair Cuttery salon on Veterans Day, Nov 11th, Hair Cuttery will donate 2 free haircut certificates for VA patients who may otherwise be unable to get this type of professional service.  All Hair Cuttery locations are participating and will honor the certificates through January 25, 2017.

The Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare –
This partnership builds and supports a network of current and former VA Jonas Nursing Scholars to focus on Veteran-specific healthcare needs.

NCR Corporation –

This year’s Veteran’s Day parade features NCR’s self-service kiosks in New York, N.Y. and Los Angeles, Calif., providing a point-of-service for all veterans (rural, homeless, economically disadvantaged, and medically disabled) and their spouses and dependents, via NCR’s world-class self-service technology.

Project Hero –

Through this partnership, VA Mental Health and Recreation Therapy resources will be made available to Veterans participating in Project Hero’s “Ride 2 Recovery” research programs.

United Through Reading –

UTR unites families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together. They offer an opportunity for military service members and Veterans to video record a book for children or grandchildren who are located elsewhere. The child receives a copy of the book with the video to read along.

In the last 18 months, Geyer & Associates’attorneys have learned that the VA’s partnerships and collaborations have brought in more than $300 million in investments and in-kind services to support America’s veterans. Kudos to the VA and the participating corporations, we say!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Transportation Options for Indiana Seniors

CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions is a not-for-profit agency, one of 700 Area Agencies on Aging nationwide. CICOA is not a government agency, but oversees state and federal funds and private donations to provide information, advocacy and support services for older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers.
To take advantage of CICOA transportation services in Indiana, you must:
  • Be at least 60 years old
  • Live and travel in Marion County
There are essentially four types of Way2Go services to help Indiana seniors “get where they need to go”:

1. Shuttle services:
CICOA provides scheduled shuttles from various senior apartment complexes to grocery stores, banks, shopping centers, and other locations, at a cost of $2 per consumer per round trip.

2. Discount taxi fares:
Half-price taxi fare is provided through Indianapolis Yellow Cab. The system works through coupons, which may be bought via mail, phone, or in person for up to $35 (retail value $50).

3. Door2Door:
Door2Door transportation provides rides for medical appointments, pharmacy needs and grocery shopping within Marion County. Transportation is available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. The cost is $5.00 per consumer for each roundtrip.

4. Wheelchair transportation:
Older adults who use wheelchairs can receive transportation vouchers through Indianapolis Yellow Cab for $6.00 per voucher, each good for a one-way trip for any purpose within Marion County. Drivers assist seniors from inside the doorway of their dwellings to entering and exiting the taxi, and getting inside the door at the destination.

“As parents get older, attempts to hold on to our independence can be at odds with even the most well-intentioned ‘suggestions’ from our children. We want to be cared about, but fear being cared for,” writes Clare Berman in the Atlantic, discussing “what aging parents want from their kids. “There’s a fine line between caring and controlling—but older adults and their grown children often disagree on where it is,” she remarks.

Here in Indiana, helping elderly parents connect with the CICOA Way2Go transportation options and discounts may be one way to stay within that fine line!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Post Halloween Estate Planning Horror Stories

“Tales of estate planning gone wrong makes for juicy reading and a lot of head shaking, but there are also commonsense lessons we can take from these estate planning mistakes,” writes Denver estate planning attorney Dan McKenzie.

Of course, it’s always best if we can learn from OPM (other people’s mistakes) rather than our own, and we’ve included the following post-Halloween horror stories in our Geyer Law blog with an eye towards edification rather than scare.
  • Examining the trust document of a new client, the attorney noticed that the trust was set to give $50,000 to each of two people.  The client, however, had no idea who those people were! What had happened was that an adviser unfamiliar with estate planning had cut and pasted text from a sample document, without altering the names to fit this very client.  Moral: Trust documents should be examined and updated frequently.
  • Brandon had received a multi-million dollar settlement after being in an accident. The money was held in a trust. Brandon named his wife Emily as 80% beneficiary of the trust, with remaining family members named as beneficiaries of the remaining 20%. Ten years into the marriage, Emily filed for divorce, but two days before the divorce decree was filed, Brandon became ill and died. Since, under Arizona law, the divorce was not final until the filing, Emily inherited $14.4 million dollar, while all the other family members divided $3.6 million. Moral: When filing for divorce, change your estate plan immediately.
  • When the brokerage firm asked Susan to name a beneficiary for her IRA account, she reasoned that naming her estate would make it easier for heirs to settle her affairs. The result was that, when Susan died, her IRA money was tied up in probate and eventually went towards paying off her credit card debt and “upside down” mortgage loan. None of the special “stretch” IRA tax deferral techniques could be used by Susan’s heirs, who lost out on continuing to earn compound interest for years to come.  Moral: Do not name your estate as your IRA beneficiary.
  • Harry’s combined Durable Power of Attorney and Designation of Healthcare Representative named his daughter as representative, since he was alienated from his son. The daughter took care of Harry in her home and paid for home healthcare professionals to come in. When the daughter felt it was time to move her father into a facility, the son filed a petition to be named caregiver, on condition he be paid a monthly amount equal to the home healthcare fees the daughter had been paying. There was extensive and costly litigation in the dispute between the two children. Moral: Discuss your family situation and develop a specific contingency plan.
Estate planning is not about documents,” Jeffrey Cramer reminds his clients – “It’s about results.”

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we agree. Life's journey is fraught with changes that require careful planning, we tell our clients. It’s not about documents – it’s about protecting protect the people most important to you and the assets you worked a lifetime to achieve.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Stretch IRAs Add Flexibility to an Estate Plan

Stretching is very important, Health Fitness Revolution reminds us. Stretching decreases the risk of injury, improves our energy levels, even encourages an optimistic outlook. The primary reason stretching is so vital is that it is important for flexibility.

In the financial and estate planning world, stretch IRAs can be important for flexibility as well. When an IRA is stretched, that means it can be passed from one generation to the next – and even to a third or fourth generation - while growing in a tax-free or tax-deferred environment.

How does the stretch work?
When an IRA account owner dies, the beneficiary(s) are eligible to re-title the account(s) as inherited IRA(s). Each beneficiary can then then begin taking Required Minimum Distributions based on their OWN ages, rather than having to take the entire sum all at once and paying tax on the balance.

“The stretch IRA, when implemented properly, can be one of the great vehicles for transferring wealth to your heirs, maintaining the tax-deferred status of the bulk of your account until much later,” says Jim Blankenship, writing in Forbes. Blankenship lists some common mistakes people make with stretch IRAs, including:

1.  Not properly titling the account.
The title should read “John Doe IRA (deceased Jan. 1, 2009) FBO Janie Brown”.

2.  Doing a rollover rather than a trustee-to-trustee transfer.
The beneficiary should NOT receive a payment made out in his or her own name.

3.  Neglecting timely transfer.
Funds must be transferred before the end of the year following the year of the deceased owner’s death.
4.  Failing to take RMD for the year of death.
The RMD distribution for the diseased must be taken before the amount is transferred to the inherited IRA.
5.  Missing or neglecting RMD payments.
If the beneficiary forgets to take the RMD in timely fashion, the five-year rule could kick in, meaning the entire balance would need to be distributed within five years.
6.  Not properly designating the beneficiary. 
Beneficiary must be identifiable (not “as stated in will” or “any beneficiary of the trust”).

Beneficiary designations are all about you and the things you want to accomplish in your planning.  Each situation is different, but the attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates want you to keep in mind:
  • Your estate might be your worst IRA beneficiary choice.
  • Selecting the proper IRA beneficiary designations may not be a do-it-yourself affair.
  • Stretch IRAs add flexibility to your estate plan!

- By Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Co-Signing Someone Else's Loan May Not Be the Smartest Estate Plan

“Here’s some good money advice: Don’t cosign someone else’s loan,” writes Jean Chatzky in the AARP Magazine. Chatzky cites a new survey from showing that:
  • 38% of cosigners lost money because the primary borrower defaulted
  • 28% saw their own credit score drop
  • 26% reported that their relationship with the borrower soured
What are some alternatives if you really want to help out?
  1. Help the borrower with a larger down payment on a car rather than cosigning for the financing itself.
  2. If the loan is for college, max out federal PLUS loans (where cosigners aren’t usually required) before looking at private loans. If you’re banking on being released as a co-signer after your child’s/friend’s credit situation improves, think twice, says Geoeff Williams in U.S. News. Consider this: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied to have their co-signer released from the contract were turned down.
If you’ve made the decision to co-sign despite all the cautions, Williams advises, take these steps to help yield a good outcome:
  • Set up email and text alerts to let you know when payments are due or late.
  • Arrange with the lender to be notified immediately before a default, so your credit isn’t impaired.
One mom took things a step further, Williams relates, making clear to her kids that if they missed one payment, she would have the bank repossess their cars.

At Geyer & Associates, discussions about to-dos and not-to-dos when it comes to helping adult children, including how to leave them assets as part of an inheritance, are an everyday occurrence.

“Most parents want to treat their children fairly, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they should receive equal shares of your estate,” says Reasons you may want to give more to one child than another include:
  • One earns much less money than the others 
  • One child has been taking care of you during an illness
  • One has children with special needs
If you can afford it, your estate plan can include giving children some of their inheritance now, adds, particularly if their needs are pressing now. 

Wouldn’t it be far better to give them direct help than to co-signing their loans?.

- by Cory Judd of Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Probate or Non-Probate Assets? Both May Be Included in an Estate

The executor of an estate has to write up an inventory listing all of the assets she’s dealing with in settling that person’s affairs. But that list does not necessarily include all the assets the person owned before death.  The executor is responsible for accounting for probate assets only, Alexander A. Bove, Jr., explains in The Complete Book of Wills, Estates & Trusts.

What assets are not probate assets?
  • Jointly held assets
  • Insurance proceeds payable to named beneficiaries (not to the estate itself)
  • Retirementy plans and annuities payable to named beneficiaries (not the estate itself)
  • Assets held in a trust
Remember, it is only probate property that is disposed of through a will.  In the case of jointly held assets, ownership passes automatically to the survivor.  Trusts and insurance policies typically designate who the inheritor will be, so no “settlement” process is needed.  Even if the asset is disposed of by reference in the will, if it is held jointly, title will trump the provisions of the will.

Can life insurance ever be a probate asset? Yes, Bove explains, offering two examples:
  • A life insurance policy was made payable to the estate
  • The deceased was the owner of a life insurance on someone else’s life, and that person is still living
So, if only probate property is disposed of through a will, can you plan your estate in such a way as to leave only non-probate assets?  And, if you did, of what use would a will be?
A will can have several uses, Bove points out, even if you’ve arranged to leave only non-probate assets:
  • Naming a guardian for minor children and for their assets, including given specific instructions to the guardian
  • Naming an executor for the estate
  • Authorizing an executor to carry on your business
  • Detailing your wishes for funeral arrangements
Whether assets are probate or non-probate determines whether they will be disposed of through the will.  But whether or not there is a will is a matter of which wishes it’s important to you to make known.

“In short”, Bove says, summing up the topic, “There are many things you can do, some things you may do, and a few that you must do – and can only do – in your will.”

- By Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Not So Fast!" is the Court's Message to Heirs

“The administration of an estate operates on the same principle that applied while the testator was alive: A person must first attend to his owns debts and expenses before he can give away what is left,” Alexander A. Bove, Jr., explains in The Complete Book of Wills, Estates & Trusts.

In other words, as we often explain to heirs of an estate, beneficiaries can take only what is left after the debts and expenses of the estate have been paid.

Of course, any assets (such as real estate) that have a mortgage will use the value of the asset itself to pay off the lien. But, for estate assets other than mortgaged property, the priority of paying expenses is as follows:
  1. Funeral expenses
  2. Administrative expenses (executor and attorney’s fees)
  3. Taxes (federal and state estate and income tax)
  4. Final illness expenses and all other debts
Only after these debts have been satisfied, can the distribution of inheritances happen.

Funeral expenses were put as #1 for a reason – there is an urgent need to dispose of the body with dignity. But these expenses must be reasonable in proportion to the entire estate.  Who decides on the reasonableness? Ultimately, the probate court. (Since the burial often takes place right after death and long before the will is probated, Bove explains, creditors would need to act quickly to challenge funeral expenses as excessive.)

Assuming there is plenty of money in the estate to cover all these costs, the question then is, which assets within the estate should be used to pay those expenses?  The answer is that they are paid out of the “residuary estate”, meaning cash and liquid assets not specifically designated to be given to named beneficiaries.  After the personal property is used, only then would real property be sold and the proceeds used to pay expenses.

In the meanwhile, as all the estate’s debts and expenses are being discovered and paid, what do you do with the estate’s money?  Should it be invested?  Should existing securities be sold?  At the very least, Bove advises, any cash or liquid funds should be deposited into interest-bearing bank accounts.  The executor’s first consideration must be the protection of principal.
- by  Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

To Insure or Not to Insure - That is the Questiion

Long term care is generally defined as hands-on assistance provided for an extended period of time to people who can’t take care of themselves due to a prolonged disability, illness or cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease,” AARP explains.

As elder law attorneys, needless to say, we find ourselves talking to individuals and their family members about long term care – and about its increasingly high cost. Since most seniors will require some form of long term care before death, we’re keenly aware that financial devastation can result for families who are unprepared.

When do you qualify for long term care? When a physician or other health professional certifies that you are unable to independently perform at least two Activities of Daily Living, which include:
  1. Bathing
  2. Dressing
  3. Eating
  4. Transferring (walking)
  5. Toileting (bathing and showering)
  6. Continence
Where are long term care services delivered?
  • Home care
  • Adult day care
  • Residential care in an assisted living facility
  • Residential care in a nursing home

The myth about Medicare and long term care:
Contrary to common belief, AARP explains, Medicare and other health insurance policies do not cover the cost of long term care, because that is not considered a medical expense. "Medicare will only cover skilled nursing care and therapy services following a three day in-patient hospital stay.”

The dilemma faced by the average consumer:
Not only is the cost of long term care insurance steep, the “landscape is confusing, unpredictable, and unclearly regulated,” AARP comments, going on to caution investors not to overlook reality:
  • Even if you’re lucky enough to have family members willing to care for you, they may lack proximity, time, technical expertise, or adequate health or strength of their own.
  • “Self-insuring’ through investments may not work if portfolio returns fail to keep pace with healthcare inflation. And, should an earlier-than-anticipated need arise, a Long Term Care Insurance policy takes effect immediately.
Clues to keeping long term care insurance affordable:

“If you do buy a policy, your goal is to maximize your benefits while minimizing your cost,” AARP advises, offering the following “smart buyer” tips:
  • Make sure you buy a policy that covers the types of facilities, programs and services you want and which are available in your area.
  • Make trade-offs to make the premium more affordable, including choosing a longer elimination or waiting period before coverage kicks in. (Do, however, include inflation protection, AARP advises.)
Use legal guidance to deal with issues related to long term care:
  • Veterans Aid and Attendance
  • Medicaid eligibility
  • Special Needs Planning
Long term care planning is just one part of planning for the issues faced by elders and their families. Careful planning helps protect the people most important to you and the assets they have worked a lifetime to achieve.

- by Cory Judd of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

2016 Law Helps Address the 10 Reasons Families Fight About Senior Care

Jeff Anderson, writing in, lists ten reasons families members have tended to fight among themselves about senior care issues:
  1. Siblings view parents’ needs differently
  2. Parents resist care
  3. Family members regress to earlier roles and past issues resurface
  4. One child does all the “heavy lifting”
  5. One child in control excludes others from decision making
  6. Siblings disagree on how to pay for senior care
  7. Children must often balance caregiving with raising a family
  8. When both parents need care, the physical and financial strain is immense
  9. Siblings differ on the nature of end of life care
  10. Siblings disagree on inheritances
While family dynamics will continue to be complex and delicate, Indiana’s new CARE Act, a law that went into effect January 1 of this year, can help ease part of the stress by providing advice and help to the more than a million and a half Hoosiers who care for loved ones. The goal of the law is to improve coordination and communication between family caregivers, patients, and hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.

Since the plan of care itself is not left up to the Lay Caregiver, but developed by a nurse, social worker, or licensed healthcare professional, there is less room for disagreement about the best way to help senior at home with:
  • Daily activities
  • Wound care
  • Administering medication
  • Operating medical equipment
“Know that you are not alone,” says the Care For the Family Caregiver: A Place to Start website. “Although you may feel isolated, together, family caregivers are part of a larger community.” Family caregivers are responsible for the physical, emotional, and often financial support of another person who is unable to care for him/herself due to illness, injury, or disability, explains.

Elder law involves planning for the complex health, long-term care, and other issues faced by elderly and disabled individuals and their families. Advance directives are written instruments that give others advance instructions or “directives” on how to manage your health care and finances should you become incapacitated.  

Proper estate planning includes the use of a power of attorney, an appointment of health care representative and a living will or life prolonging procedures declaration. Indiana’s CARE Act now becomes the newest tool to help parents and children avoid fighting and begin care-filled helping.

 - by  Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Elder Law: Family Caregivers Advise, Record, and Enable

Until this year, Indiana was ranked at the bottom of all states for support of family caregivers, but the CARE Act, a law that went into effect January 1, 2016, now provides better assistance for the 1.3 million Hoosiers who care for loved ones. The acronym CARE stands for Caregiver Advise, Record, and Enable.

“Caregiving is a difficult task,” says Ambre Marr, AARP state legislative director, “and this new law helps caregivers be more engaged and informed. What we're trying to do is improve coordination and communication between family caregivers, their loved ones, who are the patients, and hospitals," Marr explains.

The three main benefits of the new legislation, as our attorneys often discuss with clients of Geyer Law, include:
  1. When a loved one is admitted for treatment to a hospital or rehab facility, the name of the family caregiver must be recorded.
  2. When the patient is discharged to either another facility or released to their home, the caregiver must be notified.
  3. The hospital or rehab facility must provide in-person (or recorded) instruction about the medical tasks the caregiver will need to provide.
Who can name a Lay Caregiver?  You or your health care representative may name a friend or family member as the caregiver. The three principles underlying the new law, Marr explains, are described on the information cards that AARP distributes:
  • Designation
  • Notification
  • Explanation
The plan for at-home care is not left up to the Lay Caregiver, but is developed by a nurse, social worker, or licensed healthcare professional. The plan will help the caregiver help the patient at home with:
  • Activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, moving from bed to chair and back, toileting, taking medications, food preparation, etc.)
  • Managing wound care
  • Administering medications
  • Operating equipment
Now that House Enrolled Act No. 1265 has been passed into law, appointing a Lay Caregiver becomes an important step in preparing an estate plan, not to be confused with the Healthcare Power of Attorney, which is a legal document authorizing someone to make decisions about your healthcare when you cannot.

The idea behind the Indiana CARE ACT is to ease a patient’s transition from hospital to home, helping caregivers provide assistance to friends or family members.

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Families Face End of Year Deadline for Business Transfers

Not every family member who owns a business intends to pass that business on to other family members.  But for high-net-worth families who are over the estate tax thresholds, just a few months remain to engage in transfer planning before some new, stricter, Treasury rules go into effect.
The new rules will be relevant only for individuals with a net worth of more than $5,450,000 ($10,900,000 for couples), whose estates would be subject to federal estate tax. Family business owners whose net worth falls below this threshold won’t need to be concerned.

For those for whom the clock is truly ticking, though, what is about to end are discounts for Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs) and family Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). Under current rules, discounts in estate tax may be claimed when business interests are transferred but the receiving family members do not possess full control over the interests they receive (in terms of voting or liquidation rights.

The lack of control, the logic is, leads to a lack of marketability for minority shares in the business. “If a family member, for example, wanted to sell his or her share in a partnership that was entirely owned by other family members, the pool of buyers might well be limited to his or her relatives.  They might not have the money – or desire – to buy him out,” observes Paul Sullivan, writing in the New York Times.

The marketability discount, which has often been as high as 40%, is about to end on December 1st of this year. Even worse, the new rules, if adopted, would impose a three-year “look-back”. That would limit deathbed transfers used to create a minority interest. It’s important to remember that the type of business transfer under discussion is irrevocable, taking place while the business owner is still alive. In fact, as estate planning attorneys, we often find ourselves emphasizing to clients that tax consequences should never be the “tail wagging the dog”.

The proposed Treasury Regulations are about to go through a ninety-day public comment period, followed by a public hearing in December, and final issuance wouldn’t take effect until 30 days later. Still, precisely because the timing is beyond families’ control, tax and estate planning for family businesses should be started now.

- by  Cory Judd of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Help! I've Just Become an Heir!

“Contrary to popular belief, the estate attorney handling the estate represents only his or her client, who is the executor of that estate….” Therefore, he or she is under no obligation to provide advice to any of the heirs as to their legal rights, Inheritance Funding points out.

Ideally, before your benefactor passed away, he or she passed on wisdom about money management to you as a younger family member. But what if, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen? What do you do now?

Susan Johnston Taylor, writing in U.S. News & World Report, lists five inheritance mistakes for heirs to avoid: 
  • Spending money carelessly
  • Letting jealousy drive a rift in family relationships
  • Not getting expert advice from a qualified accountant and attorney
  • Losing other income sources (by being disqualified from government benefits)
  • Giving all the money to others
“If you get an inheritance and spend it right, it can definitely change your life and retirement for the better,” says Texas financial advisor Janet Briaud in Forbes. “The first thing to do if you get an inheritance is to step back and look at how it affects your personal balance sheet,” she adds.
Jean Setzfand, director of financial security for AARP suggests that, if you’re having or going to have a hard time making your income in retirement match your basic recurring expenses, you should consider using a portion of the inheritance to buy an immediate fixed annuity that pays you a set amount for life.

It’s fine to do what you think your folks would have wanted – as long as that’s what you want, too, and as long as it makes economic sense, observes Myra Salzer in “Living Richly”. At Geyer & Associates, we agree. And, while in many situations we are helping facilitate settlement and distribution of assets to heirs from an estate for which we helped plan, we’re also called upon by heirs who do not know where to begin. Our goals then become:
  • guiding those heirs through the process with sensitivity and empathy
  • helping heirs avoid those five inheritance mistakes!

- by Kimberly Lewis of  Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What-If Business Succession Strategies

“Indiana is a state where entrepreneurs see promising developments,” writes Adam Uziolko in Business News Daily. In fact, Indiana has more than 450,000 small businesses. Owners of closely held businesses have special needs.  The problem is, however, that too often business owners are so busy developing their business that they do not have time to address the legal issues necessary to ensure their continued success.

Nearly half of family owned businesses do not have a succession plan in place.  62% of owners surveyed said they have not made any provisions for dealing with a shareholder or key employee who becomes sick or dies. The results of that lack of planning are dramatic:
  • Only 30% of family owned businesses survive into the second generation.
  • Only 12% survive into the third generation.
At Geyer & Associates, we help clients address four basic business planning elements:

  1. Exit planning
  2. Business protection planning
  3. Business owner retirement planning
  4. Key employee planning
The main goal of the planning might be either to preserve the business or to prepare to transfer it with minimal disruption to operations.  A third very important goal might be to reduce or eliminate costly taxes.

Good “what-if” business succession planning often takes “a village”, and our attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates work closely with insurance agents, tax professionals, and investment advisors to design a complete plan for each small business. 

“What-If” is the main question underlying a formal agreement called a buy-sell. There are three basic types of buy-sell agreements:
  1. Cross-purchase buy-sell - Each owner agrees to buy out the interest of any departing or deceased owner. To fund that purchase, each owner may buy and own a life insurance policy (and possibly also a disability insurance policy) on every other owner.
  2. Entity purchase buy-sell – The business itself redeems the interest of an owner in case of death, disability, or retirement.  Typically the business pays for, owns, and is the beneficiary of life and disability insurance policies on that owner.
  3. One Way – For one-owner businesses, the agreement is established between the owner and a key employee.

The agreement sets forth the triggering event purchase price and payment terms, while insurance provides the funds to carry out the agreement.

You might say a business buy-sell asks the tough what-ifs before those tough situations arise!

- by Corrina A. Judd of  Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

When Assistance Flows Down the Generatiions

“When parents are absent or unable to raise their children, grandparents are often the ones who step in,” explains HelpGuide.org While raising a second generation brings many rewards, it also comes with many challenges, requiring adjustments in both financial and estate planning.
In the United States, family assistance typically flows down the generations, and an important type of assistance involves caring for the next generation. “We found limited evidence that grandmothers caring for grandchildren in skipped-generation households are more likely to experience negative changes in health behavior, depression, and self-rated health,”  researchers Soldo & Hill explain.

How common is it for families to be headed by one or both grandparents?  The 2010 U.S. Census counted more than 2.7 million “grandfamilies.” Reasons for the arrangement included:
  • Parent with an addiction
  • Parent with emotional problems
  • Child neglect
  • Parent in jail
  • Death of parent
  • Domestic violence in the home
  • Military deployment
“When you were making your decision to raise your grandchild, you probably didn’t think too much about the legal implications,” observes “But if your grandchildren live with you for any length of time, it’s important that you understand the laws that affect grandparents raising grandchildren.
  • Do you have physical custody with a court order or an informal arrangement?
  • Are you authorized to register the grandchildren at school?
  • Can you make medical decisions for them?
  • Can you add them to your own health insurance plan?
Consult with a tax professional who can help you claim the right credits, allowances, and deductions for the new dependents in your household, advises Kate Ashford of
“Find an attorney who specializes in family law,” she adds.

At Geyer & Associates, we know.  In all estate planning, our focus must be on planning for our clients’ current needs and planning for potential disability and death. In “grandfamily” situations, delicate and complex adjustments must be made to grandparents’ estate plan to provide for "assistance flowing down the generations”!

- by  Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Candidates' Positions on Estate Taxes


According to the Tax Foundation, tax policy is shaping up to be one of the major issues of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Let’s first review the basics of estate tax law as it now stands:

The IRS website defines the tax on estates:
“The Estate Tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death. It consists of an accounting of everything you own or have certain interests in at the date of death…..The total of all these items is your ‘Gross Estate’.  The includible property may consist of cash and securities, real estate, insurance, trusts, annuities, business interests and other assets. …Certain deductions are allowed in arriving at the ‘Taxable Estate’”, the IRS continues.

For the 2016 tax year, filing an estate tax return (Form 706) is required for estates with combined gross assets (and prior taxable gifts) of $5,450,000. Amounts that exceed that limit will be taxed at a rate of 18% - 40%.

As Selena Maranjian writes in The Motley Fool, “It’s worth taking some time to see where the presidential candidates stand on taxes – because depending on who wins, there’s a good chance your taxes will go up or down.”
Estate taxes:
  • Hillary Clinton, according to Maranjian, “would tax more estates, but only those valued at more than $3.5 million, and only on the value above $3.5 million.  That means the Clinton plan would affect more estates.
  • Donald Trump would eliminate the estate tax entirely, Maranjian reports.  “This will help wealthy people pass a lot of money on to their heirs tax-free,” she says.

Charitable contributions:
  • Hillary Clinton, explains Forbes, wants to cap all deductions, including charitable deductions, at 28%.
  • Donald Trump’s tax plan would reduce itemized deductions (including the one for charitable giving) by 3% for couples earning more than $309,900

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we often remark that life's journey is fraught with change - marriage, children, a new business, retirement, incapacity, death. These changes require careful planning to protect the people most important to you and the assets you worked a lifetime to achieve.

With the upcoming change in our country’s administration, we expect changes.  And, no matter which candidate wins the election, at Geyer & Associates we’ll continue to offer a full range of options for families as they adjust their planning to those changing circumstances.
- by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer  & Associates blog team

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Don't Wait for a Vacation or a Friend's Death to Plan Your Estate

“I’ve found that the two most common times clients revise an estate plan are when a vacation is coming up and when a friend or family member has just died or received a bad diagnosis,” writes Patricia Annino in the CPA Insider. Pointing out the obvious, Annino observes that neither of these events represents a good time to do proper planning.

 “It may be helpful for you to bring up certain key issues with clients who are on the fence about estate planning,” Annino tells accountants.  “You don’t want to have to deal with a death, a serious illness, or other unforeseen event without a proper estate plan in place,” she cautions.

Just a few of those issues to keep in mind when helping clients with their estate planning, advises the Dallas Bar Association, include:
  1. Minors do not have the legal capacity to manage property. (Assets generally should not be left directly to them unless one desires an expensive and burdensome guardianship proceeding.)
  2. Clients who own interests in S corporations and who use trusts in their wills must have special provisions to avoid jeopardizing the S corporation election.
  3. Non-probate assets are sometimes overlooked in the planning process because they don’t pass through the client’s will.  That includes IRAs, 401(k)s and other pensions, life insurance, annuities, plus POD and TOD accounts. These assets need to be properly coordinated with the client’s estate planning.
  4. In order for both spouses’ exemptions from Federal estate tax to be used without needing to include a so-called “bypass trust”, a special Form 706 must be filed to make the portability election within 9 months of the death of the first spouse to die.
When clients request an appointment at Geyer & Associates, telling us that an upcoming vacation was what motivated them to “have their will done”, we appreciate that they’re doing the right thing, even if the timing isn’t the best. And, if the fact that someone close to them has been confronted with a life-altering diagnosis has forced them to confront their own mortality, that’s a motivating factor that can launch their own estate planning process.

Certain things should be taken care of before you leave on that trip, we advise. Basic documents include:
  • A will
  • A power of attorney
  • A healthcare power of attorney
  • A living will
  • Guardian assignments for children
  • Guardian assignments for pets
When it comes to estate planning, any reason is a good reason to get started!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Estate Planning With Purpose

“The wealthy make a difference in many ways,” the U.S. Trust "Insights on Wealth and Worth 2016" survey revealed, including:
  • Donating to not-for-profit organizations
  • Volunteering time, skills, and service
  • Serving on boards
  • Considering societal and environmental impact when investing
According to U.S. Trust, the wealthy use “impact investing” because they consider their investment decisions a way to express their personal values.
“A growing body of research indicates that social screened portfolios can do every bit as well as non-screened investments,” asserts Kathy Kristof, writing in the July issue of Financial Planning magazine. (What, exactly, constitutes socially conscious investments – which might exclude alcohol, tobacco or defense stocks, or which might emphasize sustainable foods and environmentally-friendly products – might be in the eye of the beholder.) A 2015 study by Morgan Stanley, Kristof relates, found that mutual funds that screened for sustainability issues had equal or higher returns than those that didn’t, and – those funds achieved their results with less volatility.

At Geyer & Associates, we’ve found, investors who have firm opinions about which policies and practices have a positive or negative effect on society and who have worked on building investments that align with their personal values, have a strong interest in passing those values along to the next generation.

We agree with what Richard B. Schneider, writing in Legal Resources, has to say: “Not only can you leave a legacy of your actions, since those certainly speak louder than words, but you can incorporate those values into your estate plan itself.”

One way to pass along values is through what is called an ethical will. The purpose of an ethical will isn’t to serve as a legal document, but “to bequeath the intangibles – lessons learned by the grantor over a lifetime, personal history, and wishes for the family’s future.”

- by  Corinna A Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer  & Associates

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Toxic Succession Plans

It’s really too bad. The relationships among family members may have been very loving and congenial. The estate plan may have been developed with the greatest care and fairness towards all heirs. But, when property passed on from one generation to the next turns out to be contaminated, that may well “poison” the entire inheritance process.
“The problem’s root,” explains Ingrid Case in Financial Planning, “is the federal Superfund law that makes current and past owners and operators jointly and individually liable for contamination.”  If there’s contamination on a property and it’s a hazardous substance, the current owner is responsible for cleaning it up.

Years ago, for example, Mr. and Mrs. Smith may have bought a property to use in their business. Unbeknownst to them, the property once held a gas station. Now, that same property has been passed down to their son John. Unfortunately, the old underground tanks are leaking, causing contamination, not only on John’s property, but on neighboring land as well.

John didn’t cause the problem, but as current owner, he’s responsible for the cleanup. John might even face lawsuits from neighbors for cleanup costs, health problems, and diminished property values.

Financial Planning quotes Kevin J. Daehnke, an attorney in Newport Beach, Florida, who is spearheading a campaign to raise awareness of the problem of toxic inheritances. With property passing haphazardly from generation to generation, Dehnke warns, that not only leaves heirs holding the bag for unanticipated cleanup costs, but might also leave financial service providers liable.

At Geyer & Associates, we believe a well-crafted estate plan should provide for your loved ones in an effective and efficient manner, minimizing headaches and delays. For that very reason, when we’re discussing passing land or real estate property to heirs, one important consideration is making sure the property is not contaminated, and if it is, investigating to what extent. 

Sometimes, the property has already passed to the next generation and it’s the heir asking for our help. Since the services Geyer & Associates provide include advising clients regarding the valuation and taxation of property interests, dealing with possible contamination issues is part of handling the estate.

How can owners (both clients creating an estate plan and then the heirs themselves) “vet” their property for possible contamination? Investigate the property’s history: Was it ever home to a dry cleaner, junk yard, auto shop, gas station, oil well, or mine? Are there chemical odors? Old machinery? If some of these “red flags” are present, environmental contamination remediation experts might need to be called in.

“An owner who is unsure whether a property is contaminated or how much it might cost to clean up may want to segregate the assets from the rest of the estate,” Daehnke says. Then, from the heirs’ point of view, he adds, “You can always disclaim things that someone has willed to you.”

by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How Does Dollar Cost Averaging Relate to Estate Planning?

“Lump sums can come from several different sources – a pension payout, inheritance, the sale of property or a business, or even winning the lottery,” observes financial advisor Jennifer, of Portfolio Solutions. In the debate about whether dollar cost averaging is the best way to invest (spreading out investment buys over months and years as opposed to making a one-time big contribution to a portfolio), Jennifer takes a practical stance: “You invest money as it becomes available to you,” she states.

The theory of Dollar Cost Averaging, explains long time financial planning professional Tom McAllister, “is to have an average purchase price per share that is less than the average price of the shares over time.” Aware that some investment advisors recommend the use of DCA when making a lump sum investment such as with an inheritance, McAllister says that, although on the surface this advice may seem logical and appropriate, “the answer lies in the fact that long term investors would be better off investing every dollar as soon as possible”.

Why is that so? Stock markets historically have gone up 75% of the time and down just 25% of the time.  So, McAllister concludes, “all other things being equal, using dollar cost averaging instead of making an immediate purchase with all your available investable funds actually means you are likely to buy shares at higher and higher prices as time goes by.”

For most of our clients who own large estates and who envision leaving sizeable assets to the next generation, the Dollar Cost Averaging debate might be the least of their concerns. Studies have found, reports Kiplinger, that 70% of the time, family fortunes are lost from one generation to the next, with assets totally gone 90% of the time by the third generation.

Over our years of working with our estate planning clients, Geyer & Associates has come to an important realization: estate planning is really about the next generation rather than about one’s own. That means that, along with passing on assets, estate planning is about passing on wisdom about money management to younger family members.
“Many people, when they think about estate planning, think it’s a way of giving away their stuff,” Deborah Jacobs, author of Estate Planning Smarts, remarks. As estate planning attorneys, what we realize more and more every day we help clients make decisions, is that your estate plan represents a chance for you to make a very unique and very personal sum-up statement, and to pass along your value system to your beneficiaries along with your “stuff”!

Who knows if that discussion about the pros and cons of Dollar Cost Averaging might serve as a “jumping-off place” for a discussion about handling money wisely over time…

- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Prince's Estate Poses Ongoing Estate Settlement Challenge

Two and a half months after Prince’s death, the distribution of his estate seems no clearer. The list of those claiming they deserve a share of the inheritance from late singer Prince Rogers Nelson appears to be growing by the day.

The basic problem? Prince died without a will, according to court documents filed by his sister back in April of this year.

While there’s a whole lot more to estate planning than just a will (as our attorneys at Geyer & Associates often explain), the will is the most basic testamentary document, primarily because it makes a person’s intentions clear.

A will, for example, would have designated which beneficiaries would receive a share (and how big a share) of the estate. Without the will, the laws of intestacy (lack of a will) prevail. Since Prince was a resident of Minnesota, his property will be distributed according to Minnesota state law. Had Prince been married, the spouse would have been first in line to inherit, followed by his children. But, with Prince having died unmarried and with no children, the next in line will be brothers and sisters. And, it happens that, under Minnesota law, half-siblings are treated the same as siblings when it comes to inheritances.

“Besides his one full sister, Tyka Nelson, and a half-dozen known half-siblings or their descendants,” explained USA Today, “others claiming to be half-siblings to Prince or his secret children have come forward.”

Prince’s exact net worth has yet to be made clear, but the size of the estate is probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and growing every day.  Not only did Prince own extensive real estate properties in and around Minneapolis, his millions of sound tracks, albums, and copyrights are constantly increasing in value as revenue continues to accrue from the sales of his music.

 The big issues:
  • This coming January, the estate is due to pay as much as 57% of its value in federal and state taxes.
  • The estate is not allowed to earn revenue from the marketing of Prince’s music until the heirs are named.
  • Some who are claiming to be half-siblings have named as their mutual parent different men from Prince’s know father, John Nelson (who is deceased). DNA tests may be required of these claimants.
Meanwhile, over the past couple of months, although the estate administrator examined thousands of boxes of documents in four locations, no will has been found.

Prince’s estate continues to pose an ongoing estate settlement challenge. A will would have, at the very least, helped clarify how Prince wanted his affairs handled.
- by Corrina A. Smith

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Veterans' Benefits Claims Process Can Be Fraught With Obstacles

When we’re assisting our clients who are wartime veterans or surviving spouses of wartime veterans obtain the VA benefits they deserve, we go in knowing that is no easy task.

Of course, part of the difficulty is a natural result of the sheer size of the Veterans Administration, which serves nearly 4.5 million recipients of compensation and pension benefits.  In the past four years alone, VBA has added more than one million veterans to its compensation rolls.

Similar to the process of claiming Medicaid benefits, there are many hurdles and barriers that claimants must navigate along the way of qualifying for benefits. Even with our attorneys’ years of experience and with all our special VA benefits training, it’s no simple task to help our clients streamline the very cumbersome VA benefits claims process.

Unfortunately, a number of the problems Indiana clients continue to experience in dealing with the Veterans’ Administration have do with inefficiencies in the Indianapolis VA office.

The Indianapolis VA Regional Office is located in the Minton-Capehart Federal Building in downtown Indy, employing more than 400 people to administer federal compensation, rehabilitation and employment benefits to some 500,000 recipients in our state.

A WISH-TV reporter who interviewed the assistant director of the Indianapolis VA was told that the office was working to pare down the case load backlog, with an average wait time of 93 days for responses to claims, with the average appeal taking 287 days.  If benefits are at first denied, and new evidence is presented on appeal, it can take long than 400 days, the VA admitted!.

In a 2015 report on wait times at Veterans Affairs Regional Offices, Indianapolis was listed as #8 on the Ten Worst list, with average wait time reported as 237 days.  Catherine Trombley, an employee of the VA and herself a veteran, comments sadly on the VA’s own blog: “The VA’s current appeal system is 80 years old….The current appeals system is broken and it is failing you.”

“The length of time it takes to complete a claim depends on several factors, such as the type of claim filed, complexity of your disability(ies), the number of disabilities you claim, and the availability of evidence needed to decide your claim,” explains the website of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Especially when dealing with a less-than-ideal system such as the Indianapolis VA, it helps to enlist professional assistance in navigating the qualification process.  At Geyer & Associates, we assist our clients in filing ready-to-rate claims to minimize the processing time needed for the VA to make a decision on benefits.

- by  Kimberly Lewis of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Veterans' Benefits - at Geyer Law, We Want You to Know

“We want you to know how VBA is performing on behalf of our nation’s Veterans, their families, and their survivors” is the opening sentence on the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs website. Here’s the big picture, according to the VBA:
  • VBA currently serves nearly 4.5 million Veterans who receive either compensation or pension benefits.
  • In the past four years alone, VBA has added more than one million Veterans to its compensation rolls (which is more, the website points out, than active duty Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard combined).
  • In 2015, VBA delivered more than $63.5 billion in compensation and pension benefits.
As a very important aspect of our law practice at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we assist wartime veterans and surviving spouses of wartime veterans obtain the VA benefits they deserve. As Tevye remarks ruefully in “Fiddler on the Roof”, though, “It isn’t easy!
  • Many veterans and their families are simply unaware that they could be eligible for a wide range of benefits through the United States Department of Veteran Affairs even if they did not directly retire from the military or suffer injuries in the line of duty.
  • Similar to the process of claiming Medicaid benefits, there are many hurdles and barriers along the way of qualifying for benefits under the VA programs. Experienced legal advice from professionals with special VA benefits training can help streamline the very cumbersome VA benefits claims process.
As an overview of the program, Basic Pension benefits are for wartime veterans or their surviving spouses who meet the following criteria:
  • The veteran served at least 90 days active service with at least one of those days served during a wartime period.
  • The veteran was honorably discharged.
  • The claimant has limited income and assets.
  • The claimant is over 65 or has a permanent and total disability not caused by willful misconduct.
There are two allowances that can increase the amount of the basic benefits. (An individual can qualify for either allowance, but not for both.)

1. Housebound Allowance: Claimants are unable to leave the house for employment purposes.
2. Aid & Attendance Allowance: Claimants require assistance with at least two activities of daily living or require residence in a protective environment.

Just as the VBA wants you to know how it is performing on behalf of our nation’s Veterans, their families, and their survivors, we at Geyer & Associates want you to know how to claim the benefits you may deserve.

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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wish Social Security had a Senior Citizen Inflation Rate.....

Our senior clients suffered a big disappointment in January – after years of getting a “raise” in their social security benefit, alas, there was no cost-of-living increase for 2016.
And just why was the cost-of-living adjustment withheld this time? As Jonathan Peterson writes in the AARP Bulletin, “The consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical works did not rise between the third quarter of 2014 and the third quarter of 2015.”  In fact, Peterson adds, lower gas prices pushed the index into negative territory.

“Hey!” critics are shouting.  “That’s fine for workers, but what about the effect of rising prices on retirees?”  The sample on which the measurement is based excludes families whose main source of income is Social Security or private pensions.

Older consumers spend more than younger people do, Peterson emphasizes, on three critical items:
  • Health care
  • Food
  • Housing

Older consumers spend less on:
  • Education
  • Clothes
AARP’s position is that Social Security should use an inflation index that more accurately reflects the spending patterns of older consumers.  Instead of relying on the CPI-W (the index based on wage earners and clerical workers), Social Security ought to use the experimental index CPI-E, which places more weight on healthcare and housing.

The CPI-E has increased at .2% a year faster than the CPI-W, and, had it been considered this time around, would have resulted in a .6% increase in benefits for 2016, around $100 a year for the average senior retiree.

The purpose of the COLA, the Social Security Administration explains, is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security benefits is not eroded by inflation. But, what if the definition of inflation doesn’t fit senior citizens? That, says AARP, is the question!

- by  Corinna A. Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Monday, June 27, 2016

Are Retirement Withdrawal Calculations Different for Same Sex Couples?

With the legalization of same-sex marriage, there have been many changes with regard to estate and retirement planning for same sex couples. While married couples have certain estate rights and obligations by law, unmarried individuals in committed relationships with domestic partners need to have estate planning documents that permit them to be decision makers for one another.  Without that documentation, a same-sex partner would not have any legal authority to handle finances or make medical decisions for the partner, nor, without planning, inherit from that individual.

At Geyer & Associates, our estate planning attorneys often explain that our document “tools” for same sex-couples fall into two general categories: “Lifetime documents”, which govern events during life up until the individual’s death, and “Post-life documents”, which govern what happens with the individual’s assets after death. 

Lifetime documents for same-sex couples include:
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Visitation Authorization
  • Living Will
  • Funeral Planning Declaration
  • Domestic Partnership Agreement (for unmarried couples)
At Geyer & Associates, we’ve found that in serving same-sex couples by putting “lifetime documents” in place, we create peace of mind for our clients.  This aspect of estate planning is about expressing what you want while you’re alive, both as individuals and as a couple.
Even planning how to make retirement funds last can be different for same-sex married couples as opposed to unmarried same-sex couples, according to John B. Mitchell, who writes about same sex couples in the Journal of Financial Planning.

Married same-sex couples can take advantage of spousal rollover rules for retirement plans, deferring the withdrawal of funds in the retirement account and payment of income tax on the distribution until the surviving spouse reaches 701/2.  Unmarried same-sex couples may only take advantage of inherited IRA rules for non-spouses which require distributions to be taken from retirement plans the year after the retirement plan participant dies.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, new questions are arising in financial planning discussions:

  • If women live, on average, five years longer than men, shouldn’t same sex female married couples use a lower retirement withdrawal rate in order to be sure the money lasts for life? If a male couple, shouldn’t we be able to use a higher retirement withdrawal rate?
Mitchell cites statistics for male-male, female-female, and male-female couples, with the rate of decrease in male same-sex couples’ longevity being the greatest.  However, he concludes, the differences are not large, and same sex couples can reliably use withdrawal rates recommended for heterosexual couples. 

The goal for all couples, of course, is to protect against “failure”, meaning running out of money.  The best protection is to ensure proper planning is in place which coordinates the couple’s assets with their estate planning documents.

- by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Elder Abuse Earns Headlines, Not Always Court Time

Elder abuse has changed from a subject rarely discussed to a national dilemma that gains media headlines, Jonathan Golding writes on the National Consumer Law Center website. Unfortunately, Golding notes, when an elder abuse case reaches the courtroom, a juror’s task may be particularly difficult. Given the inherent privacy and secrecy surrounding elder abuse, these cases often lack physical evidence and corroborating witnesses.

In fact, most incidents of elder abuse are never brought to the judicial system in the first place, as Lori Stiegel observes on the American Bar Association website. That’s lamentable, as courts could play a critical role in protecting victims from abuse and enabling them to recoup financial losses they have suffered.

There are numerous reasons victims of elder abuse do not seek relief or compensation, Stiegel points out, including these:
  • Not wanting to get the abuser in trouble
  • Dependence on the abuser
  • Fear of further abuse or retaliation
  • Fear of being placed in a nursing home or other institutional setting
  • Difficulty traveling to a lawyer’s office or courthouse
  • Lack of available substitute caregiver
  • Physical evidence and witnesses may be unavailable

Despite all these obstacles, there has been significant growth in case law related to elder abuse, Stiegel notes. No longer is elder abuse viewed as solely a social problem to be addressed by human-service agencies and aging organizations; we are now beginning to view abuse as a legal problem to be addressed through legal action.

This change is due to many factors, Steigel posits, including:
  • There are more older people
  • There are more incidents of elder abuse
  • Our society has become more litigious
  • Several states have enacted elder abuse statutes

According to Indiana Adult Protective Services, “There are almost one million people in Indiana aged 65 and over, and that number is growing. Each year, more than 40,000 cases of elder abuse and neglect occur in Indiana, and it is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases are reported.

“It is estimated that 80% of the care provided for the elderly is given by family members. Ironically, the abuser is often a family member who takes on the responsibility of care with the best of intentions, but due to the inevitable financial or emotional stress of the situation, loses control. National studies show that before the first abusive act, the caregiver typically has been caring for the elderly for 9 years, often with very little recognition or help.”

As elder care attorneys, we realize that long term care planning can help families cope with the many issues and questions surrounding the care of elder family members.  Planning often includes investigating:
  • The availability of veterans’ aid benefits
  • Care option in each stage of the aging process, including options under Medicaid
  • Guardianship for incapacitated/incompetent loved ones
  • Special needs planning for disabled loved ones to ensure continued receipt of government benefits
While no magic bullet exists that can address all the financial and emotional stress of elder care, advance financial and legal planning can go a long way, we believe, towards preventing elder abuse before it ever reaches a courtroom.

- by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Can Responsible Party be Held Rosponsible for the Bill?

If a son or daughter signs a nursing home admission form for a parent as “Responsible Party”, does that mean the adult child is responsible for paying the bill if the patient runs out of money? An interesting 2014 ruling in the Indiana Court of Appeals provides a partial answer to that question.

When a certain woman was being admitted to a Trilogy Health Services nursing home back in 2012, her daughter signed the papers as a “Responsible Party”. After Mom died later that year, it was discovered her estate lacked sufficient funds to pay her bills for bed hold charges and respiratory equipment she had used. Trilogy sued the daughter for repayment.  While the trial court initially ruled that the daughter was responsible to pay the nursing home from her own funds, the Court of Appeals overturned that judgment, noting that:
  • Both federal law and state regulation prohibit a nursing facility from requiring someone other than the resident to be guarantor of payment.
  • A nursing facility can require that a person with legal access to a resident’s income or assets (as power of attorney or trustee) sign a contract to provide payment from the resident’s funds.
  • The Appellate Court noted that a relative who volunteers to be a guarantor, can later be held liable.
As elder law attorneys, we always caution adult children about signing on behalf of a parent who is being admitted to a nursing home. Exactly how you sign can make a tremendous difference in liability later on.

You may mean to be signing for Mom or Dad (meaning as his or her agent under a power of attorney), but it’s crucial to avoid signing as “guarantor” of payment (meaning pledging to use one’s own assets for repayment should the parent run out of funds).

The typical nursing home admission agreement contains different signature blocks:
  1. Legal representative – this is a third party, such as an attorney-in-fact under a valid power of attorney, the resident’s conservator or guardian, or a representative payee.
  2. Responsible party - a third party who has access to and agrees to use the resident’s income and assets to pay for the resident’s care. 
  3. Guarantor - a third party who agrees to be personally liable for the resident’s liabilities.
“Reviewing and understanding a nursing home admission agreement before it’s signed can prevent unpleasant surprises down the road if the resident runs out of money to pay the nursing home bill,” says Susan T. Peterson of Bench & Bar of Minnesota. 

At Geyer & Associates, we assist families with the review of admission agreements to ensure costly mistakes are not made.

- by  Rebecca W. Geyer

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Good Estate Planning Helps Keep it All in the Family

A recent trip to the Clabber Girl museum and restaurant in Terre Haute, Indiana reminded me just how fine an example the Hulman family is of succession and estate planning gone right.

“The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 brings inevitable questions about the long-term future of the race and its famous track,” Anthony Schottle writes in the Indianapolis Business Journal. “But,” sources told IBJ, “thanks to a savvy tax-avoiding maneuver made long ago by late track owner Anton “Tony” Hulman, Jr., his grandchildren and great-grandchildren appear poised to lead the Indianapolis Motor Speedway into the next era.”

Decades ago, a highly-tax-advantaged strategy called a generation-skipping trust was set up by Tony Hulman, into which he placed his family businesses. And, while the Tax Reform Act of 1976 changed the law so that a transfer tax is imposed at least once in every generation, the measure “grandfathered” earlier trusts, which were allowed to continue under the old rules, continuing for generations of beneficiaries with estate and gift tax deferred. 

The point of generation-skipping trusts is to protect a family’s assets while they appreciate in value.  Heirs receive income in the form of dividends, but the assets themselves remain in the trust.

One source commented to IBJ’s Schottle that the Hulman generation-skipping trust should remain valid for 21 years after the death of Mari Hulman George’s last living child.

“Business succession planning should include some form of estate planning,’ writes G. Matthew Loftin of the Family Business Resource Center. Here at Geyer & Associates, we’ve often found that business owners are so busy developing their business that they do not have time to address the legal issues necessary to ensure their continued success, much less their succession planning. As we advise clients on proper organizational structure, the use of buy-sell arrangements, corporate restructuring and other planning, two goals are often:
  1. preserving the business
  2. reduction or elimination of costly taxes
Not always is the next generation interested in becoming involved in the family business, of course.  But when the next generation of family members wants to stay involved, good estate planning helps keep the business in the family!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer $ Associate blog team

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sisters Versus Daughter in Heirship Dispute

There’s nothing like a true story when it comes to teaching a lesson, we believe, and a recent case that reached the Indiana Court of Appeals is a good example.

If only the father in the story had executed a will spelling out his wishes, there probably would have been no need for a court challenge or for bitter feud that developed between his daughter and her aunts. Fact is, as we estate planning attorneys so often explain to our clients, leaving one’s affairs for others to figure out is a sure recipe for conflict and disaster.

D. was born out of wedlock, and her mother listed no father on her birth certificate. D.’s father (whom we’ll call F.) lived with her mother and eventually married. During all the years D. was growing up, Father acted like a dad, told D. she was his daughter and introduced her to others as his daughter. Eventually, Father requested to be added to her birth certificate.  Shortly thereafter, F. and D.’s mother were divorced. In 2014, F. died, leaving no will.

F.’s sisters claimed they were his next of kin, but the court ruled in favor of D. as being the direct descendant of the deceased.  The sisters appealed, but the Indiana Appellate Court upheld the ruling and D. remained the sole heir to F.’s estate.

There were various twists and turns to the case:

  • D.’s mother had another child who had also lived with D. during her mother’s marriage to F., but that son laid no claim to F.’s estate.
  • The divorce papers listed no children of the marriage.
  • Indiana Code provides that children born out of wedlock are treated as if their parents had been married.
All these complications notwithstanding, the court ruled that the daughter was F.’s only direct heir.  There is, of course, no way to know whether that’s what F. would have wanted.

A will would have ruled.  In the absence of a will, Indiana law determined the result.

- by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer $ Associate blog team

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Indiana Long Term Care Insurance Program

“Has a long term care insurance policy been put into place?” At Geyer & Associates, we know the answer to that question is going to make a big difference in our clients’ overall estate planning.  “While most Americans don’t believe they’ll need long term care,” observes AARP, “70% of those turning age 65 can expect to use some form of long term care during their lives.”

AARP lists three parties who benefit from long term care:
  1. Families who want to help protect their loved ones, lifestyle, and assets
  2. Retirees and pre-retirees wanting to preserve the money they’ve worked hard to save
  3. Individuals who many not have someone to care for them or enough assets to pay for care
As Indiana elder law attorneys, we’re proud of the fact that our state was one of the first states to create a Long Term Care Partnership program to help our residents protect their savings from the cost of long term care. And, while quite a number of insurance carriers offer long term care insurance, only a few offer policies under the Indiana Long Term Care Partnership Program.

The Partnership program was formed in 1993, with the two partners being:

1. The State of Indiana
2 Private insurance companies
Each of the parties agrees to do certain things:
  • The insurance companies agree to provide coverage for home and community-based care, including assisted living facility and nursing home care, that meets more stringent requirements of the plan.
  • The state, in turn, agrees to two things: a) guarantees that buyers will receive protection from Medicaid spend down (they can be eligible for Medicaid benefits and still keep assets) and b) allows the estate of the insured to keep assets at least equal to the amount of benefits used, without having to pay back the Medicaid dollars the insured received.
As part of our work with clients, therefore, Geyer & Associates takes note of the current Indiana Partnership policy requirements.  For 2016, for example, those are:

$115 minimum daily benefit
$336,927 total lifetime assets protection (If you are interested in preserving all your assets, your LTC policy must conform to those minimum amounts.)

Doesn’t traditional long term care (not Partnership) insurance protect assets?  Yes, in the sense that the benefits of the policy pay expenses so you don’t need to.  However, the asset protection from Medicaid spend down is available only with Partnership policies.

Indiana is in partnership with long term care!

- by  Corinna A. Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer $ Associates