cash

Large Amounts of Cash On Hand Can Spell Trouble

Cash is king… well, it used to be.

There’s nothing like cold, hard cash right? Not where estate planning is concerned. Some people have a tendency to keep large amounts of cash at home. In our experience, this is a recipe for disaster. It may work fine as long as the person is healthy. But what happens if the person has a stroke or develops dementia? What happens after their death? Where does the cash go?

In almost every situation we have seen with large amounts of cash held at home, it was a disaster when a disability happened or after the person passed away. From the cash just disappearing, to family members taking it (but you can’t prove it) or caregivers walking off with it, the situation is terrible for everyone involved. (Read 7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For here.)

The problem with cash is that your executor won’t know exactly what was there to begin with, where it went or how much went out, and nothing can be tracked about how it was spent. Plus, it’s not earning any interest sitting at home. (I know, I know, banks are paying very little interest these days!)

So, please, just beware: keeping large stashes of cash at home spells trouble for your estate plan.

If you have an aging loved one living at home and are concerned for their safety, we encourage you to give our Elder Care Advisors a call at 217-726-9200 or keep reading — 9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help With In-Home Care.

IMPORTANT info for Veterans and their Spouses

Who do you know who is a Veteran? Are they over 65 and did they serve during wartime (World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War)? If they are in need of assistance now because of declining health or aging, they may be missing out on veterans benefits they are legally entitled to.

Often, the clients we help with long term care issues are veterans. Therefore, as part of our services, we now assist families in making sure they receive all the veterans benefits they may be entitled to for long term care. These benefits are often called “Aid and Attendance” benefits and are generally for wartime veterans over age 65 who need assistance with daily living. The VA benefits may be available to help pay for in home care, assisted living or even a nursing home. (Get our handout on who qualifies and how much you can receive.)

Some families may qualify for more than $2000 per month in benefits to help offset healthcare or long term care expenses. Under the VA rules, benefits can sometimes be used to pay a family member to provide care in the home.

Many veterans are missing out on this benefit and don’t even know it. If you know a wartime veteran who is over age 65 and may need assistance, please have them call us at 217-726-9200 to schedule an appointment and discuss the situation.

Who do you call for advice on aging?

When your family hits a situation where mom, dad, grandma or grandpa can’t stay at home anymore, where do you get your advice? What if a loved one is struggling with health issues that you don’t really understand?

Many people turn to friends, neighbors or relatives who’ve dealt with it once before. Support from friends is always needed in difficult situations like this, but you may also greatly benefit from professional advice and guidance from those who understand the ins and outs of what you’re dealing with.

Edwards Group deals with the issues of aging every day, and we help guide people through the difficult process. There are many issues to consider – what type of care, which facility, how to pay for it, which legal documents you need, asset transfers, how to protect the healthy spouse still at home, and dealing with complicated benefit applications. Our elder care advisors are equipped and experienced in helping families through just about any issue they face.

There are two types of benefits in particular that can be helpful in paying for care that may be needed as a loved one ages:

 

1. VETERANS BENEFITS

Wartime veterans or their widows may qualify for benefits from the VA to help pay for care as they age. This benefit may be available to pay for in-home care, assisted living, or a nursing home.

In order to qualify for the maximum benefit, legal planning may be needed. We work with families regularly to help prepare them to qualify for the maximum benefit. A married veteran may qualify for over $2,000 per month in benefits. A widow of a veteran may qualify for over $1,100 per month in benefits.

The VA process can be complicated. Let us help your family understand the potential benefits and what planning may be needed before your application is filed.

2. MEDICAID BENEFITS

When a loved one needs nursing home care, that is one of the most stressful things a family faces. We help families every day deal with this difficult issue.

One of the biggest concerns is often “how do we pay for it?” Nursing homes are expensive, often $5,000 per month or more. For many families, that cost will eat up their savings within a short time. Medicaid benefits are one option that can be used to pay for care and protect some of your wealth. (70% of nursing home residents in the U. S. rely on Medicaid to pay their bill each month.)

If your family is faced with nursing home care and are paying out of pocket, we may be able to help. We have many legal planning tools available to maximize benefits and protect the family’s wealth, while still getting good care for the loved one. Some families are surprised that we may be able to get a loved one to qualify for Medicaid benefits sooner than expected while protecting assets in the process. (While you can apply for Medicaid benefits on your own, we don’t recommend it. Here’s why.)

CLICK HERE FOR CASE STUDY

HOW WE HELP FAMILIES FACING LONG-TERM CARE QUESTIONS

  1. We want to get families all the benefits they are entitled to. More benefits leads to more resources, and that means better care for your parent or loved one.
  2. Most parents want to leave something to their kids and grandkids. Our planning helps make sure that those who matter most to you will be taken care of when you’re gone.
  3. No parent ever dreams of using up all their savings on a nursing home stay, but it happens fast. We have legal tools and resources to help preserve assets and find other ways to fund long-term care.
  4. Parents never want to be a burden to their children. Good planning relieves your children of the stress that comes from scrambling to figure out how to pay for care you might need and the huge amount of paperwork that comes with that crisis.
  5. Planning like this isn’t greedy. It’s wise — kind of like minimizing income taxes every year through the use of an accountant. You’ve worked hard all your life. Why not protect as much as the law allows?

Chances for good planning disappear with time. The sooner you contact us, the more we can do to help. As elder law attorneys, our main goals are to:

  • Help carry out the wishes of the client.
  • Help clients access all available resources.

If you have a loved one facing changes in their living arrangements, please contact us to discuss your options. Our staff is specially trained in Medicaid and VA Benefits, both of which are important when it comes to long-term care planning.

Top 5 Posts of 2011

One of the core values here at Edwards Group is educating our clients. We strongly believe that the more informed you are, the better we can assist you in making an effective estate plan that will do exactly what it was designed to do. As such, we continually strive to give you helpful information whether it’s through our weekly e-newsletter or our website. Here’s some of our best content from the past year:

Getting Started with Funeral and Burial Wishes

Effective estate planning is about more than just financial issues. Check out this post for 4 steps to get you started and on the right track.

Ask the Attorneys: Medicaid’s Look-back Rule

Are asset gifts to spouses exempt from the 5-year “look back” for Medicaid? As with many things Medicaid, the answer’s not that simple. Read more HERE or call us for an analysis of your unique situation.

What Hollywood Can Teach Us About Estates and Trusts

If you’re like Dave, you just can’t get enough estate planning. In this article, Dave recommends movies and a TV show on the topic.

Common Obstacles to Estate Planning: Pricing

5 common ways estate planning attorneys charge for their services and how it impacts your plan.

Caring For Your Aging Parents

Did you know that 1 in 4 adult children over the age of 50 are involved in caring for adult parents? You are not alone.

If you’ve enjoyed these articles, and still want to learn more, feel free to:

  • Use our SEARCH box in the upper right corner of this site to find more articles on topics of interest to you.
  • RSVP for one of our upcoming workshops by calling (217) 726-9200.
  • Call us and schedule your free initial consultation.

 

Caring for Your Aging Parents

Are you the primary sibling who bears the burden of care for your parents?

Are you concerned about whether your parents’ finances are being handled properly?

Do you think your parents should consider alternative living arrangements (such as assisted living), but they refuse?

Are you doing your best to respect your parents’ independence and wishes but just feel overwhelmed by the responsibility?

In deciding what’s best for your parents, do you feel like you and your siblings are kids again, bickering and driving each other nuts?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone! 1 in 4 adult children over the age of 50 in America provide personal care or financial assistance to an aging parent. That’s over 10 million people, and yet, it can feel like a very lonely place to be. There are some great resources out there, like www.AgingCare.com, but it’s also nice to have someone in person with you every step of the way.

At Edwards Group, we are here to help with decisions, planning, documents, even helping families work out the hard to discuss details that are involved with aging parents. Most people deal with these issues once or twice in a lifetime. Our Elder Care Advisors help families with these issues every day. Let us help you. Just give us a call at (217) 726-9200 and ask to speak with an Elder Care Advisor today. You don’t have to be on this journey alone.

Ask the Attorneys: Medicaid’s Look-back Rule

“Are asset gifts to spouses exempt from the 5-year “look back” for Medicaid? –Charles A.

Generally speaking, assets transfers to a spouse are exempt from the 5-year look-back rule. Transferring assets from the Medicaid applicant spouse to the community spouse (the at-home spouse) is part of what we do when completing Medicaid applications for clients.

The rule specifically states that the following transfers are allowed:

  1. A transfer of homestead property to a spouse.
  2. Transfers to a community spouse where the amount transferred does not exceed the Community Spouse Asset Allowance ($109,560).
  3. A transfer of personal effects, household good and one motor vehicle, regardless of the dollar value.

These transfers do not create penalties. However, you must remember that there is an overall asset limit of $109, 560 (plus certain exemptions) in order for a married person to qualify for Medicaid. Therefore, the Medicaid applicant cannot simply transfer all of their assets to the spouse and qualify for Medicaid. The Medicaid department will factor in both spouses’ assets when determining eligibility.

Please remember that this is general advice and each situation is unique. If you have a specific scenario that you would like me to analyze, please contact me and I would be happy to look at the facts in your case. (To read more about upcoming Medicare cuts and how it may affect those in nursing care, click HERE.)

helper; trustee; executor

Every Estate Plan Needs a Good Helper

As you complete your estate plan, you will need to name various “helpers.” These are the people who will carry out your plan when the time comes. When will that time be? When you are disabled or you pass away. These helpers will be there to oversee the legal and financial issues of your estate and will also deal with your loved ones who are benefiting from the plan. You will not be there to help them or make sure they are doing it right. So, you better pick the right person now. (No pressure!) Read 3 Myths About Choosing Helpers here.

How do you pick a good helper for your plan? Here are some places to start:

1. Is the person ready to handle the job? They don’t have to be experts in law, accounting, or investments. However, they will oversee the legal, tax, and financial issues, so it’s best if they aren’t intimidated by those things. They may need to get help from lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. Will that be overwhelming for them?

2. Can you trust the person to make good decisions? Only in rare cases does someone steal money from an estate or trust. However, in many cases a person messes up because they make poor decisions, or make no decision at all (which really is a decision in and of itself). Ask yourself, “Does this person handle their own money wisely?” Do they spend it well, save themselves, and rely on professionals? Do they listen if someone gives them good advice, or are they too stubborn? Read “7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For” here.

3. Will the person be placed in a difficult family situation by becoming a helper? This can happen when a sibling has to make decisions for another sibling, or a step-child is put in charge of managing the step mother’s trust after the father’s death. Will the job duties cause conflict or even a broken relationship for the person you choose?

4. How often will the person need to be involved? For instance, if a disabled adult child stays at home after the parent’s death with local caregivers, who will oversee them if the trustee lives out of state? Would a local trustee be a good idea because they can drop in on the caregivers and address daily living details?

5. Is the person nearby? If not, does it matter? In many cases, a trustee who lives out of state may do a good job, especially if their duties are mostly big picture. You should consider whether your trustee will be needed to do things that can only be done in person, for instance – sorting personal property.

6. Should you name an individual or professional, such as a bank? In many cases, a professional trustee easily pays for itself because of proper management and smart investments. It also helps avoid problems that can occur when an unprepared family member serves as trustee.

7. Is it a good idea to name co-trustees? The good thing about having co-trustees is that they can balance each other out. There’s a checks and balances so to speak. The bad thing is that they balance each other out. If they get along, it can work great. If they can’t agree, then we have a deadlock and the possibility that the court may have to resolve the fight. In most cases, when you name 2 co-trustees, there will be one of the trustees who will tend to do more or even most of the work. If that’s the case, why not name that person as the sole trustee and avoid possible conflicts? This can also happen with co-executors — read our post about that here.

Naming a helper or trustee can be a very daunting task, but with this article, you have a good starting point of factors you should consider when selecting someone. Continue learning more with our post, “7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For” or take our quick Secret Test for Your Named Helper.

As always, we are here to help you create an effective estate plan. You don’t have to do it alone. We’ll guide you along every step of the way. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and get started today!

Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid 2011

There haven’t been many changes since last year, but our Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid for 2011 is now out. Last year’s edition was one of our most popular downloads of 2010. If you, or anyone you know may be facing a nursing home, then this guide can help you better understand the basic issues at stake. Four basic issues are addressed in our guide:

  1. Assets. What are they, how much can you have and how does it impact your eligibility for Medicaid benefits?
  2. Transfer of Assets. When should you do it, why might you need it, and other important information about how this issue affects Medicaid eligibility.
  3. Income. How much will go towards a nursing home if using Medicaid and what about the spouse who may still be at home?
  4. Spousal Protection. Medicaid law provides special protection for spouses of nursing home residents. What does that mean for the income, assets and other needs of the spouse still living at home?

Download it now:

Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid 2011

The guide is really an introduction to the topic of Medicaid Planning. If you want to know more about this important and popular topic, feel free to check out our very popular Long-term Care Essentials Workshops or contact our client coordinator at 217-726-9200 to set up your free initial consultation where we can discuss your unique situation.

Your Bucket List for Estate Planning: Why a Trust Might Be Right for You

A recent movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson inspired a lot of people to think about their bucket list – the things they would like to do before they die. While a trip around the world in a sailboat may seem a lot more exciting and glamorous than estate planning, thinking about what you want at the end of your life financially, and for those you love, can be even more important than achieving your bucket list. Join me as we explore a different kind of bucket list – one that will insure your loved ones, and the things that you’ve worked so hard for, are protected.

What is a trust?
When most people hear the word “trust,” they probably think of families like the Vanderbilts or Hiltons, but trusts are not just for the ultra wealthy. Established during the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries to protect the rights of landowners while away on their journey to the Middle East, trusts are still relevant and vitally important to the work I do everyday in helping my clients achieve their goals. You needn’t be a Rockefeller or a wealthy Englishman to benefit from the level of protection that trusts can offer in our modern life.

Why are trusts important?
I want you to think of a trust as a bucket. And what are buckets good for? They are helpful to put stuff in. When you create a trust, you are in essence creating a legal “bucket.” By placing assets like houses, vehicles, timeshares and farmland into that trust “bucket,” you are insuring that those assets will be managed according to your wishes, which will be written in the trust agreement by you and your legal advisor. Unlike a will, trusts can help protect and manage assets while you are still alive, but disabled in some regard.

How are trusts used?
So, how do you put stuff into the trust bucket? By directing assets into it, such as retitling bank or investment accounts, doing a deed to your house or farm, or changing beneficiary designations on life insurance. For everything that is in the trust bucket, you leave a set of instructions written in the trust agreement. You also name someone to carry out those instructions. That person (or bank or trust company) is called the trustee. The person you choose as trustee to manage your trust “bucket” has a fiduciary duty, which is one of the highest duties in the law, to carry out your wishes and do what is best for you – not what is best for them. They have to act in your best interest. If they don’t act properly, they can be taken to court.

The most important thing for your plan is to think about what you want to accomplish. What are your goals – for yourself and your family? Once we choose the goals (and I help clients do this nearly everyday), then we can see what tools will best accomplish those goals. A trust can often be the best tool to carry out goals such as:

  • Avoiding the delay and expense of probate court.
  • Transferring assets privately after death. (As opposed to a will, which is a public document.)
  • Protecting assets from a divorce or lawsuit.
  • Giving clear instructions for managing your money during your disability.
  • Organizing assets so someone else can help manage them.
  • Protecting assets from being used for nursing home costs.
  • Leaving money to someone who is too young or too unwise to handle it by himself or herself.
  • Avoiding estate taxes.
  • Preventing family fights regarding a family farm or business.
  • Balancing the wife and kids in a second marriage.

A trust is just one of the legal tools we at the Edwards Group use to carry out your goals and dreams. Our other tools include wills, powers of attorney, living wills, contracts, and deeds. A trust is one of the best tools we have to carry out your wishes and plan for a time when you might become incapacitated or pass away suddenly.

Remember, a trust is nothing more than a tool. It’s not a magic document. All it can do is carry out the instructions written in it. And the only assets it governs are those you actually put in the “bucket.” Call us today at 217-726-9200 to schedule an appointment and get started on your bucket list!

New Medicaid laws coming: Joshua Becker quoted in State-Journal Register today

On the front page of the Springfield State-Journal Register this morning, there is an article about the new Medicaid law changes and how they will impact families.  Joshua was quoted several times in the article and a big illustration summary of the law, states at the bottom “Source:  Joshua Becker of Edwards Group LLC”.  The reporter, Dean Olsen, came out to our office earlier this week to talk to him about the new law.

Click here to read the SJ-R article quoting Joshua Becker.