Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Could Heirs Use a Conservatorship to Take Away Parents' Property?


“Seniors need to be aware that their children, siblings, and other heirs can sometimes try to use such a health condition as a way to gain legal control over their property,” pennyborn.com cautions. “Seniors should be aware that they are vulnerable to involuntary conservatorships, guardianships, and related types of actions”. .

In “Guardianship in the U.S.: Protection or Exploitation?” author Emily Gurnon tells the sad-but-all-too-true story of Ginger Franklin, who, in 2008, had fallen down the stairs of her  Nashville-area townhouse, had been taken to the hospital with a severe brain injury. Since Franklin had not designated anyone to make decisions for her if she became incapacitated, her nearest relative, an aunt, was advised to petition the court for a guardian. The county appointed a lawyer as the guardian, and that person placed Franklin in a group home for seriously mentally ill adults.

When Franklin recovered and returned home seven weeks after the accident, the guardian informed her that she no longer had a home.  The court had granted permission for the guardian to sell her home and its contents. The owners of the group home forced her to work for no pay, while paying monthly rent and attorney fees to the guardian.
 
Finally, with the help of an advocate and media attention, Franklin fought the guardianship in court, winning her freedom in 2010 after two long years of having no legal rights. She now lives independently in the Nashville area and has sued the guardian.
In most circumstances, pennyborn continues, it is possible to avoid a conservatorship by granting a durable financial power of attorney to someone you trust while you still have capacity. You can also place assets into a living trust, appointing a successor trustee to manage the trust assets in the event of your incapacity.

At Geyer Law, the goal of each of our elder law attorneys is to accomplish your objectives and provide for your family in the best way possible, including keeping control of your assets in your own hands as long as you are able to make decisions.

Nobody wants to think that their heirs will not respect their wishes, but you need to take steps to protect your own interests and keep you in charge of your own finances. Proper estate planning is designed to do just that. At the same time, good planning is designed to spare your loved ones expense, delay, and frustration if you become disabled.



- by Rebecca W. Geyer




Wednesday, October 24, 2018

October is National Bullying Prevention Month: What Seniors and Caregivers Need to Know

 

October is a time for raking leaves and Halloween costumes.  It’s also National Bullying Prevention Month.

Bullying is defined by StopBullying.gov as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Types of bullying include:
  • Verbal (teasing, name-calling, taunting, threats)
  • Social (spreading rumors, shaming, leaving someone out of a game or activity)
  • Physical (hitting, kicking, pinching, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking things)
As elder care attorneys, at Geyer Law we’re concerned about bullying victims who have long ago left the school playground and who are now “aging in place” at home or in senior living facililties. As we specialize in helping elders and their families with special needs planning, guardianships, and veterans aid benefits, we are all too often made aware of three different forms of senior “bullying”:

1. Elder abuse by caretakers and family members
The Administration on Aging defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult”.

2.  Bullying by peers in senior living facilities
People may develop destructive bullying behaviors as an adjustment mechanism during times of transition, Cyndy Marsh writes in the Caregiver Training Blog, and bullying among seniors can take some of the same forms as childhood bullying:
  • gossiping or whispering when someone enters a room
  • insults
  • belittling jokes
  • spreading rumors
  • bossy behavior
  • enforcing artificial seating arrangements
  • making fun of physical or mental disabilities
  • offensive gestures of facial expressions
  • invading one’s personal space
  • racial slurs
  • physical abuse
If the behavior continues, it is important for adult children to reach out to the administrator or nursing staff, requesting that an assessment be conducted to determine if the bully has a medical condition (dementia and certain prescription medications) that are triggering the bullying behavior.  Insist that a protocol be put in place to address the situation.

On the other hand, as Lifecare Innovations points out, when residents complain to family members about the bullying behaviors of other residents, family members will sometimes attempt to correct the behavior themselves by approaching the offending resident. These scenarios can escalate and cause a bad situation to grow far worse.

Existing studies suggest about one in five seniors encounters bullying, Social work professor Robin Bonifas at Arizona State University sees bullying as an outgrowth of:

a. frustrations characteristic in communal settings
b. issues unique to getting older

3.  Adult children overstepping their boundaries.
In dealing with aging parents, It’s imperative that adult children not attempt to force their will on their parents, and that they ”pick their battles” by focusing on only the important things.  In “Are You Bullying Your Aging Parents?”, Linda Bernstein names five key issues adult children and parents fight about include:
  1. driving
  2. finances
  3. home safety
  4. doctors, treatments, and medication
  5. end-of-life planning

Aging individuals, their children, and their caregivers can all be overwhelmed by the physical toll of aging and the burden of finding resources to address long-term care needs. At our elder law firm, we try to go beyond the traditional legal issues and by advice, referral, and direct assistance do our best to help clients address the problems brought on by aging.

Let’s all do our best to observe bullying prevention month – all year round!



- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team





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