6 Things To Do BEFORE Your Parents Go To a Nursing Home

Taking care of these 6 things will save you time, money and heartache.

The decision to go into long-term care is rarely an easy one, but there are several things you can do to make sure the transition is a little easier:

1. See if your parent or loved one qualifies for additional financial benefits to help pay for their care. You may be surprised that, with good legal planning, your parents may qualify for benefits to help pay for care. Those benefits will help with the mounting costs of a nursing home, which now average over $200 a day. Every family should get a review by an experienced elder law attorney before giving up on the prospect of additional benefits. Many families miss out on benefits for which they could qualify, because they wrongly assume “nothing can be done now.”

2. Discuss end-of-life options. This is never an easy conversation, but it is vitally important! Just this week I heard of a situation where the elderly mother had to be placed on a ventilator because she had not prepared end of life documents. 7 of her 8 children agreed to take her off (because of a conversation she had had with one of the adult children), but the eighth adult child certainly made it more difficult for her mother and her siblings by refusing. Click here for practical ways to start this conversation and the types of thing you need to find out from the discussion.

3. Choose a facility that offers options for the future. Nobody likes to move, but think about how that must feel when you’re 85? By choosing a facility that offers a range of care, you may minimize having to move your parents as their health declines. Because we help people with these issues all the time, we know quite a bit about local facilities and enjoy being a resource for our clients as they are making these difficult decisions. Give us a call if you have questions about local facilities.

4. Know who can make important decisions. Once your parents move into a facility, it is best if they legally designate “helpers” to make decisions if the time comes that they can’t. A power of attorney is an important legal document that authorizes someone to represent or act on your behalf. They will need two different power of attorney documents: one for medical decisions (like in #2 above) and another for financial decisions.

5. Don’t take valuables into the facility. Your mom might really take comfort in having things like her jewelry with her, but if that jewelry is very sentimental or valuable, you should never let it go to the nursing home with her. It is far too easy for valuable things to disappear in long-term care environments.

6. Talk to your parents about important things like family history before it’s too late. While it is really important to take care of financial and legal responsibilities as your parents age, there are some things that will be lost forever once your parent is gone. Now is a good time to talk to them about things you’ve always wanted to know, but never asked – family recipes and the stories behind those recipes, or stories of your family’s immigration to this country and where those ancestors are buried. While these things may not have financial value, most people agree that things like this are irreplaceable. Check out our infographic on 10 Non-financial Planning Issues here.

As always, we hope that you’ve found this list to be a valuable resource. At Edwards Group we truly desire to help make this stressful time a little less stressful. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call today at 217-726-9200 and we’d be happy to help.

reverse mortgage

Are Reverse Mortgages EVER Okay?

Reverse mortgages should only be used as a last resort.

You know the old saying, “If it seems to good to be true, then it probably is.” Well, it seems that saying could easily apply to the reverse mortgage industry. Because of that, if you are considering one, you need to proceed with extreme caution.

Being able to borrow against the value of your home can seem like a really good idea at the time, but when it comes time to repay the loan (because that’s what this is after all), it can create real problems for your heirs or even yourself if you end up having to move out of your house unexpectedly.

As chronicled in this article from the New York Times, many lending companies are not behaving on the up and up when it comes to repayment of reverse mortgages. These shady practices create a lot of extra stress (emotional, financial and otherwise) on those left behind. After reading the full article, one has to wonder, “Is a reverse mortgage EVER a good idea?”

They can be. According to the website, eldercarelinkreverse mortgages can be a good idea when:

  • you own your home free and clear or have a low mortgage balance.
  • if you’re over 70.
  • if you need extra money for medical costs or other bills.
  • if you want to use the proceeds to downsize to a smaller home.

But sometimes, reverse mortgages can be a bad idea. This is especially true if:

  • your home lost a lot of equity in the housing downturn.
  • you aren’t that old.
  • the mortgage lender pressures you and also asks you to buy annuities or expensive financial services.
  • you plan to move in a few years.
  • you want to leave the home as an inheritance.

Bottom line from Dave: In most cases reverse mortgages should only be used as a last resort! The costs of these loans make them a very expensive way to get funds. A home equity line of credit should be considered before a reverse mortgage. And you should definitely get advice from an experienced elder law attorney before doing so. It’s possible that other benefits such as VA or Medicaid could be a better option for care than a reverse mortgage. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 if you have questions about this topic.

Updated Dollar Amounts in 2015

Social Security and VA pension numbers will change in 2015, with Medicaid numbers staying the same in Illinois. Here’s what you can expect:

VA Pensions and Social Security will increase by 1.7% in 2015

Effective December 31, 2014 (but not seen in your checks until Feb. 1, 2015) the social security benefit and VA pensions will increase by 1.7%. The new numbers for the VA are as follows:

Veteran – Aid & Attendance – $1788/mo (up from $1759)

Veteran w/1 Dependent – Aid & Attendance – $2120/mo (up from $2085)

Widow – Aid & Attendance – $1149/mo (up from $1130)

Medicaid Restrictions for 2015

The Individual Resource Allowance is $2000

The Community Spouse Resource Allowance is $109,560

The Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance is $2739

In 2015, if you are in a full time nursing facility and Medicaid is paying for your care, you will still only be allowed to keep $30/mo as an allowance for extras.

Confused?

If none of this makes sense to you, and you have a loved one who is facing long-term care, please give us a call right away. There is help for the skyrocketing costs of long-term care. There are ways to make sure your loved one gets the best care possible, but it takes expert planning, an understanding of the complicated laws and a familiarity with the government systems that need to be navigated. Our team is very experienced with VA and Medicaid applications. We save families tons of time, money and stress everyday by walking them through the process. Tarina would be happy to speak with you about your situation to see what the best first step might be. And you will never be pressured.

david edwards estate planning elder law

Long-term Care Planning and Why It Matters: 6 Goals of Planning

I know from experience that everyone who comes into our office has goals and expectations that they bring along with them. But did you know that we have goals for each of our clients as well?

Some people see long-term care planning as a shady way to get around having to pay for care as one ages. I can assure you that nothing we do when it comes to long-term care planning is shady. We truly care about helping people during one of the most difficult times in their life.

Here are 6 goals we have for every client who comes through the door and needs help with long-term care planning:

  1. Make sure they get good care when it’s needed. Aging in America is expensive, and we’ve all heard horror stories about nursing homes. (Or, sadly, experienced them firsthand with aging grandparents or parents.) Nobody wants to be neglected or mistreated as they age. By planning ahead, we can help make sure that the best possible care is available when the time comes.
  2. Make sure the right people are in charge. As one ages, there may come a time when someone else will need to make financial and medical decisions (because of stroke or dementia). We help our clients think through who might be best for that role. Read more about how to choose good helpers here.
  3. Maximize legally available benefits such as VA and MedicaidIt never ceases to amaze me how many people do not realize they are eligible for benefits, either from serving in the military (or being married to someone who served) or by paying taxes most of their life. Because we do this everyday, we know what help is out there. Long-term care is outrageously expensive. Maximizing available benefits is a must.
  4. Get the benefits as quickly as possible. We often help clients get benefits quicker than they otherwise would without us. With good Medicaid planning, we can protect assets and start nursing home benefits months or even years quicker than without planning. With the VA, our clients often get approvals in weeks, whereas some families trying it alone are stuck months or even years in endless bureaucracy. Quicker benefit approval means thousands of dollars more that will be available to pay for care.
  5. Protect assets if we can. Under Medicaid guidelines, a person is only allowed to keep $1 per day! That is not enough for extras that your loved one, or you, might need as you age. By protecting assets, we can make sure there is money for extras that otherwise couldn’t be afforded.
  6. Make things easier on your family or power of attorney. Dealing with a sick or aging loved one is incredibly stressful. We see it everyday. But families don’t need to go it alone. There are many things we can do to help ease the burden so your loved ones can enjoy their final years with you instead of having to stress about how to find care, how to pay for care, etc.

To read more about long-term care planning, check out this article: 8 Keys to Effective Long-Term Planning. In addition, you may want to consider attending our next workshop, “Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind.”

14 Home Healthcare Mistakes to Avoid

Did you know that elder law and estate planning attorneys can help when it comes to in-home care? We actually have quite a few tools that we can use to help make good decisions and safeguard against risks. The following is a list of 14 things to watch out for when deciding whether or not to have home healthcare:

1. Inattentive caregivers without proper supervision. Who can check up on what’s going on at the house? It can be family who’s close by or even a hired “watchdog.” Either way, it’s important that there is some oversight happening.

2. Hiring caregivers on your own without thinking of all the management, tax and liability issues. While hiring someone on your own may seem like a good way to get quality care, there is a business side to things that you may not really want to deal with.

3. Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits only cover medical expenses, not household help. If all you need is help around the house now, then it is too soon to seek VA benefits for care.

4. Gifting to kids, when it is actually payment for care, may jeopardize future Medicaid options. Most people are aware that qualifying for Medicaid can be tricky. When the time comes for Medicaid, you want to be sure it’s available to you.

5. Mixing up your finances and bills (accounts, income, credit cards) with your child’s finances and bills can lead to problems.

6. Wearing down your spouse or kids if they are the caregivers. Caring for a loved one can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Are your loved ones able to handle the responsibility and physical demands?

7. Theft by caregivers. Sadly, this is all too common — which is why No. 1 is so important. Read more about the most common types of elder fraud here.

8. “Under the table” cash payments can cause a lot of problems down the road. They can jeopardize future Medicaid benefits, aren’t deductible as medical expenses and expose you to the possibility of an IRS audit for lack of payroll tax withholding.

9. Lack of liability insurance for the actions of caregivers. If, for example, there is a car accident involving the caregiver while on the job, lack of liability insurance could jeopardize your financial security.

10. Doing finances on your own if you are too sick to give it proper attention can lead to a greater risk of falling for scams, misuse of funds by others or unpaid bills.

11. A child who is “helping” but ends up using your money unwisely for their own purposes. Sadly, this is fairly common. Before allowing a child to help, consider that child’s personality and their track record of responsibility.

12. A “moocher” relative offers to live with you, but in reality is not much help. Just like No. 4 above, before hiring a relative to help, take into consideration why they would be a good caregiver. Don’t just give them the job because they’re related to you.

13. One child does all the caregiving, but is not paid for it — and this is perceived as unfair, which causes problems.

14. One child is getting paid for providing care, but siblings think that is unfair — and that causes problems among your children.

There is a lot to keep in mind when considering home healthcare, but we help guide people in these decisions every day — weighing the pros and cons. Be sure to check out our post, 9 Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You With In-Home Care for more information. If you need to speak to someone right away about your current situation, our Elder Care Advisors are the first line of help when it comes to most elder issues. We would be more than happy to speak with you at 217-726-9200.

 

 

myths about retirement

3 Myths About Retirement That’ll Cost You Money

Many people plan for retirement, but there are expensive surprises that can crop up around healthcare and derail your plans. Read on for 3 surprises about retirement that can cost you lots of money.

3 Myths About Retirement That Will Cost You Money

1. You’ll retire at 70. 22% of workers say they’ll wait until 70 to retire, but only 9% of retirees actually retired at that age according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Think about your friends and family. At what age did they retire? This is probably a more accurate picture of what the reality will be for you.

2. It’ll be all fun and games. I was recently talking with one of our staff who has a lot of experience in long-term care facilities. She said something very poignant, “Everybody plans and thinks about retirement, but you can’t just plan for retirement. You have to plan for your health.” There will come a time (generally after the age of 75) where the traveling will wind down and your health issues will increase. Will you be ready for that? You can find a great clearing house of information on this topic at the University of Minnesota Extension site, in addition to the information on our own website under Costs of Aging.

3. Medicare covers everything. Many people assume that once they are 65 Medicare will take care of all their health needs. Generally, Medicare will only cover 48% of costs, and Medicare DOES NOT cover long-term nursing care. That leaves a lot of expensive medical care and deductibles to be paid for out of your own pocket. Read more about Medicare and Medicaid here.

Life Care Planning Can Address These Issues

Life Care Planning can help address several of these myths, making you better prepared to deal with the reality of retirement.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is Life Care Planning?”

Life Care Planning is a fairly new concept in the estate planning field that came about because people are living a lot longer these days. Estate planning attorneys realized that planning didn’t just need to be “death planning” anymore, that there is a lot that can be done within the law to make the last decades of life a little easier and less stressful.

Life Care Planning can help you and/or your loved ones get the best possible care during their last decade of life and find the best way to pay for it. Good, holistic planning also looks ahead to the various stages that your family may go through during the aging process. Each stage has its own unique goals, pitfalls, concerns, and challenges. Some families may skip certain stages; others may move forward and then go back to a prior stage as healthcare improves or declines.

No matter what your journey holds, your planning should start now by determining where you (or your loved ones) are in the planning stages, while also looking to where they might be in the coming months or years.

Here are the 5 stages of Life Care Planning.

Which stage are you or your parents in right now?

Stage #1: Healthy, but let’s look ahead for the maximum benefit.

The situation: More than 5 years until care will be needed. (This is where Life Care Planning can do the most good.)

The person is still living at home, drives, travels, handles finances, volunteers, maybe even works part-time. Hopefully it will be 10-15 years or more until care is needed.

Actions: Update the estate plan, will, and powers of attorney. Review asset titling and beneficiary designations. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection.  Also, consider a revocable living trust.

Stage #2: Not as young as I used to be.

The situation: May need care or assistance within the next 5 years.

The person continues to drive, shop, and pay bills. But he or she is starting to lean on the family more for help or decisions. Increased health issues may even mean time in the hospital.

Actions: Update the estate plan, will, and powers of attorney. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection. However, beware of care needs coming more quickly than expected, which will change the legal and financial options.

Stage #3: Needing more and more help.

The situation: Needs help with meals and housework.

The senior’s memory is not what it used to be. You notice increased reliance on the family at home, or the person may be in an independent living facility with their own apartment and meals provided. The person may not drive or drives only during the day or on short trips.

Actions: Plan for looming care needs. May qualify for Veterans benefits now or, if not now, may qualify soon. Important to plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later.

Stage #4: Declining, but still at home OR declining but in assisted living.

The situation: Needs medical care at their own home or may be living with family. A lot of times the person has become too much for the family to handle themselves. At this point they may be in and out of the hospital.

The elderly person needs substantial assistance at home or in assisted living. They no longer drive. They need daily assistance that may include dressing, getting up, eating, using the bathroom, bathing. May need help during the day or maybe 24 hours a day. Leans on family for most, or all, legal or financial decisions.

Actions: Plan for looming care needs. Make sure finances are managed well, bills are paid on time, and help them avoid being taking advantage of by others financially. If the person is a veteran, they will probably qualify for Veterans benefits with proper planning. It’s important to plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later. Consider a financial plan, whether income will cover monthly expenses, and how long assets will last.

Stage #5: In crisis, either in the hospital or nursing home.

The situation: The person is in the hospital, rehab, or a nursing home. It is expected they will not be able to return home or to an assisted living facility. The next option is a skilled nursing facility.

Actions: Need immediate planning help to maximize Veterans or Medicaid benefits and protect assets. It is rarely “too late” to do anything.

Planning for retirement can be fun if you only think of the ideal situation. But reality may prove otherwise when it comes to unexpected hospitalizations or illnesses. However, by planning for reality and the challenges of retirement, you can make sure that you can still accomplish your goals, whether they be maintaining independence, passing property down to your children or preserving assets for charitable giving. If you’d like to learn more about Life Care Planning, our workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind, is the perfect way to do that. At this 1.5-hour workshop you’ll discover:

  • planning must include both death planning (estate planning) and LIFE planning
  • the 5 life stages of planning and which stage you’re in
  • 9 easy to understand keys to aging with peace of mind
  • clear next steps to guide your planning and create an aging roadmap
  • simple planning steps to take on your own, plus options for additional guidance from Edwards Group’s experienced team

Call us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop today!

gamble estate plan

Do You Like to Gamble? Advice for Those Who Haven’t Planned Yet

Michelle and I don’t gamble very often. But when we do, watch out!

A few years go, the kids went to the grandparents’ and we spent the weekend in St. Louis. We were staying near Laclede’s Landing at a new hotel near the Lumiere Place Casino. The evening after we checked in, we headed out to do some serious gambling.

We stopped at the penny slots and started playing. About 10 minutes later, we hit a big jackpot! Being up all of $12, we decided to quit while we were ahead.

Do you enjoy gambling? We find that most of our clients don’t like to roll the dice about their planning. Instead, they want to tie it down so they can have real peace of mind.

Not planning ahead to protect your family and your assets is gambling.

What will happen if you die suddenly? What will happen if you need long term care?

Leaving things to chance is a gamble and the losses can be HUGE.

4 Reasons to Plan Ahead

With good planning, you can have real peace of mind and not gamble that these vitally important things will just work out. By planning ahead, you can avoid these 4 hardships:

1. Stress. You wouldn’t purposefully place extra stress on your spouse or your kids, would you? But a lack of planning on your part can do just that, leaving everyone to wonder, “What should we do? Who do we contact?” Good planning makes it easier on your loved ones by providing a clear plan.

2. Delay. Messy estate plans take longer to wrap up, causing the stress and extra work of an estate to drag on and on. Good planning helps things get wrapped up as quickly as possible.

3. Conflict. Lack of planning can lead to arguments in the family. Arguments between siblings, between the step-mom and step-kids, between nieces and nephews. Good planning will make it easier on the family, making less to fight about and less stress that can lead to conflict.

4. Loss of life savings. Lack of planning can result in the loss of your wealth — to the nursing home, to probate expenses, to taxes, to creditors or to wild spending by your heirs. Good planning will protect what you have worked so hard for.

If you’re interested in learning more about effective planning, check out one of our upcoming workshops. They are a free and no pressure way to get started! And, as always, if you have any questions at all or are unsure of what your next step should be, give us a call at 217-726-9200. We would be more than happy to chat with you.

Get comfortable — no high-pressure sales tactics here

I remember a phone call I had with a company who sells software to law firms. Their product seemed like something that might be helpful, and I was interested to learn more. I spent an hour on the phone with this guy and things looked good — until the salesman ruined it.

In the last 5 minutes he got really pushy. I told him to give us a couple weeks to think about how this would fit with our firm and then check back with us. But he wouldn’t let it go. I’m sure he was following some sales training tactics he had been taught. Those tactics completely backfired.

I don’t want to be pushed into something I’m not sure about. I like to have time to think things over before I spend money. And I think most everybody feels that same way.

Nobody wants to be pressured into buying something they don’t really want or need.

And that’s one thing you’ll find about Edwards Group if you get to know us — I’m not a very “good” salesman. And I don’t want to be.

Why?

Because I don’t really want to sell you anything. What I want to do is educate you about the ways we can help your family.

We do things a little differently around here. Not everyone is a good fit to work with our firm. That’s why we focus so much of our attention and effort on making sure you’re educated about your options and the way things work before any payment is ever exchanged.

Because I’m not a good salesman, you don’t have to worry about being put in an uncomfortable situation or being coerced into agreeing to something that isn’t a good fit for your family.

Because I’m not a good salesman, you can be sure that if you decide to work with us, we’ll form a great team who can work together to protect your family.

And because of that, you don’t have to worry about wasting your hard-earned money on a plan that doesn’t fit your family or was designed with another family in mind. Each of our plans are designed in collaboration with you, with the unique needs of your family as the guiding force in the process.

We understand that meeting with a lawyer can be intimidating. That’s another part of the reason we’ve designed our process the way we have. We don’t mind if you take a little time to get to know us first.

Our free, no pressure workshops are a great way to learn more about the planning needs your family may have. Attending a workshop is also a great way to get to know our firm better.

Not ready to talk to a person yet? We have put a lot of our time into developing a website that contains helpful information about all aspects of planning. You’ll find hundreds of articles about estate planning, trusts, Veterans benefits, Medicaid and Medicare on our website. Feel free to use the search button to quickly get to what you need.

No matter what, I hope that you will take the time to learn about ways to protect your family and your assets. The other side of our practice involves helping people who didn’t plan properly clean up the mess that’s left behind. My sincere desire would be for every family to have effective planning strategies in place and for no family to have to experience the effects of bad planning. Take a step in the right direction today by attending a workshop, giving us a call, or signing up for our weekly email newsletter.

in-home caregiver agreement

9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help With In-Home Care

Because of the popularity of this post, we created a handout to go with it. Download the handout now.

Navigating the challenges of in-home care can be a little easier with an experienced guide by your side.

Here are 9 ways an elder law attorney can help:

 

1. Set up caregiver agreements and in-home caregivers.

There are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for with in-home care. As elder law attorneys, we are familiar with all these pitfalls and help people plan for, and avoid, these pitfalls everyday. One of the best ways to do this is through the use of a caregiver agreement.

2. Analyze how long your funds will last.

Because elder law attorneys do this sort of thing all the time, we are very familiar with what aging costs, the resources available to fund it, and how best to use the tools available to get good care for as long as possible.

3. Set up trusts for protection.

Years ago trusts were only thought of for the very rich, but that is no longer the case. These days, trusts are one of the most powerful tools in our legal toolbox. They can be used to help qualify for VA or Medicaid benefits, which translates to more resources to pay for care for you or your loved ones.

4. Draft powers of attorney or revocable living trusts.

These powerful and necessary documents help guide decisions during a disability – that time when we need to take away your checkbook because of a stroke or dementia. These legal tools help preserve dignity and quality of life. They also help you to stay in control as long as possible.

5. Help you qualify for VA benefits.

VA planning can be complicated, but qualifying for benefits can really make it worthwhile. Many people don’t realize they are eligible for in-home benefits through the VA, or how to prepare legally and financially to get the maximum benefit as soon as possible. We help families every month to qualify for VA benefits. We know the ins and outs of getting you qualified for the benefits you earned in service to your country. Learn more about that here.

6. Give feedback on care options.

Like I’ve said before, many people go to friends for advice on these issues, but chances are your friends have only dealt with these issues once or twice. We work in this field everyday which means we are very familiar with, not only legal issues surrounding in-home care, but other issues like which facilities and companies are the best to work with — and we’d love to be your resource in situations like this.

7. Plan for potential nursing home costs.

While everyone wants to stay in their own home as long as possible, the reality these days is that most people will spend some time in a nursing facility. Planning ahead now can help you be prepared for later. Suddenly being surprised by the need for Medicaid is not the kind of surprise you want.

8. Understand tax implications.

Sometimes good planning for long term care requires rearranging your finances. With IRAs and annuities, those changes could result in income tax. Working with your accountant, we help you understand the tax impact of long term care planning options.

9. Preserve your wishes upon death.

Sometimes, as we age, our current reality can jeopardize any plans we might have  for the future. Consulting with an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney can help maximize benefits now, providing good care during life, without jeopardizing your wishes for the future after you are gone.

Download the handout now

There is a lot to keep in mind when considering home healthcare, but we help guide people in these decisions everyday, weighing the pros and cons. If you need to speak to someone right away about your current situation, we would be more than happy to talk with you at 217-726-9200.

Our Elder Care Advisors help families everyday to navigate this stressful time of life.

Keep learning: 7 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Even if Your Loved One is Already in a Nursing Facility

The Difference Between Medicaid and Medicare for Seniors

Medicaid and Medicare are two different programs (but with a similar name). Medicaid may help with nursing home costs, as we discussed in a previous case study. Medicare is health insurance that helps seniors pay for doctors, hospital stays and prescriptions. So, does Medicare help with nursing home costs?

Check out these facts:

  1. The maximum number of days Medicare will help is 100.
  2. After 20 days, Medicare requires you to pay a co-payment.
  3. Medicare only kicks in if you have a hospital stay prior to the nursing home stay.
  4. If you’re not able to make progress in rehab, then Medicare can stop paying prior to 100 days.
  5. After 200 days, or after rehab is done, Medicare will pay nothing toward your long term care. Medicare is still available to pay doctor visits, etc. but will not provide help for ongoing nursing home costs beyond the 100 days.

Read more about how we helped one family with nursing home asset protection HERE, and download the full Nursing Home Case Study.

Want to read more about the 100 day Medicare benefits? Check out this link.