What You Need to Know About Nursing Care and Aging

So, what do nursing homes have to do with estate planning? When most people think about estate planning, they almost exclusively think of a Last Will & Testament, but a Will only works AFTER you pass away. A Will sets out what will happen, who’s in charge, and where your assets will go AFTER your death. Around the office, we refer to this as “death planning” because the plan you make goes into effect after you’re gone.

Because people are living longer, a new aspect of estate planning has emerged over the last decade. And this new type of planning is just as important as the traditional “death planning.” We call this form of planning, “Life Care Planning,” because it addresses the type of care you may need toward the end of your life.

It is difficult to face, but statistics tell us that 70% of people who reach the age of 70 will need some sort of long-term care (like a nursing home). The need for long-term care happens because of stroke, dementia or any number of health problems. When serious health issues crop up, you and your family will come face to face with the following questions:

  • How do we pay for good care?
  • How do we keep peace in the family during this extremely stressful time?
  • How do we protect our loved one’s life savings if the average cost of a nursing home in Central Illinois is $78,000/year?
  • How can we take maximum advantage of the help available to pay for good care?

The Basics of Needing Assistance as You Age

When it comes to needing assistance as you age, there are basically three choices:

  1. Stay at home with help. Many prefer to stay in their own home and hire someone to help with light housekeeping, meal preparation, bathing assistance or the activities of daily living (ADLs). However, in-home medical help can quickly become too expensive for most families.
  2. Move to an assisted living facility. At an assisted living facility, you have your own living space, meals provided in a common dining area, and social activities. In addition, they can help with care needs such as bathing and medication. In order to be in assisted living, one generally needs to be mobile (able to get to the dining room, get in and out of bed, etc.).
  3. Enter nursing home care. Most of us would like to avoid this option, but it is often a reality as medical complications from aging begin to stack up. In addition to meals and social activities, nursing homes provide around-the-clock-care, administer medications, offer rehabilitation (in the form of Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy), etc.

Our Elder Care Advisors are a great resource for families during this stressful time of life. We also offer a free 1.5 hour workshop titled, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind. At this workshop, you’ll learn about effective planning during the five stages of life, as well as clear next steps to guide your planning and create an aging roadmap. Check on upcoming dates for this free workshop. Call 217-726-9200 to RSVP.

why you need long-term care planning

Why You Need Long-term Care Planning

Finding good care as you age has always been stressful. And thanks to the rising costs of long-term care in the U.S., the last decade of life is now more stressful than ever. Long-term care planning (or Life Care Planning) can help make sure you get good care, help find ways to pay for the care and decrease stress so you can enjoy time with your loved ones.

Attorney David Edwards shares some of his thoughts on why you need long-term care planning.

If you or someone you know could benefit from long-term care planning, we encourage you to attend one of our upcoming workshops entitled, “Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind.” See the upcoming dates here. At this 1.5 hour workshop you’ll learn why planning must include both estate planning (death planning) and LIFE planning, the five life stages to plan for, and which stage you or your loved one are in, plus clear next steps to guide you and create an aging roadmap. Call 217-726-9200 to RSVP.

Veterans Aid & Attendance: A Little Known Way to Pay for Care as You Age

Many people are surprised to find out they qualify for aging veterans’ benefits without having a service-related disability. The VA offers benefits that can be used by a Veteran or their surviving spouse to help with costs for in-home medical care, assisted living facilities and even nursing homes. Yet, these are one of the least known benefits for long-term care. According to the VA, 72% of those eligible don’t end up using these benefits they earned in service to their country.

What You Need to Know

In order to qualify, you (or your spouse) need to have served at least 90 days with 1 day of service occurring during these wartime periods:

  • WWII: December 7, 1941- December 31, 1946
  • Korea: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam: August 5, 1964 (or Feburary 28, 1961 for those “in country”) – May 7, 1975
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – date determined by Congress

VA Benefits FAQ

Do I need an attorney to apply for benefits? I was told I could apply on my own with the VA.

You do not have to have an attorney help you plan for VA benefits. However, many families try to apply on their own and then are denied or stuck in bureaucracy for up to 2 years. An elder law attorney accredited with the VA can help families plan ahead BEFORE applying so you can get the maximum benefits and get it as quickly as possible.

I was told that it is illegal for an attorney to charge for preparing a VA application. So, how can an attorney help? 

It is true that the application must be done free of charge. However, BEFORE you file the application, an experienced attorney can help make sure all your ducks are in a row so you will qualify for the maximum benefit. Planning before the application is the key to making sure everything works properly.

Do VA benefits cover in-home care benefits? 

This is one of the greatest things about VA benefits! It can help pay for in-home care–even care provided by a family member other than a spouse. Many people think they can’t afford it and are overjoyed to hear how they can qualify for help at home.

Don’t I have too many assets to qualify for aid and attendance benefits? 

There are asset limits, but also many planning options available. Through legal planning, such as a Veterans Asset Protection Trust, you can rearrange your finances in order to qualify.

What are the pitfalls of applying for VA benefits?

Sometimes people rearrange their finances to qualify for VA benefits, but later need more care and then need to apply for Medicaid benefits. An experienced elder law attorney can help think ahead to keep your plan flexible if you need more care later.

Isn’t it overwhelming to go through the application process?

It can be. Some families try it on their own and get denied. Others get caught in the endless bureaucracy. Other families intend to apply, but the process is so daunting that they never proceed, losing months or years of benefits. By working with an accredited VA and elder law attorney, you can plan ahead, make sure you get the benefits quickly, and avoid a lot of stress.

Applying for Veterans Benefits Can Be Complicated… We Can Help

When applying for VA benefits and paying for long-term care, there is a lot to consider. Experienced elder law attorneys work with families facing the challenges of aging everyday. They work to find solutions that will ease the strain and bring financial and emotional relief.

If you need to speak with someone right away about your current situation, feel free to call or email Edwards Group LLC. One of our Client Coordinators will be happy to help you by phone at 217-726-9200 or email at info@EdwardsGroupLLC.com.

Losing a Spouse Changes Everything: 5 Things to Think About

Suddenly, She Was Gone

Recently, I (David) was in the airport, waiting on a flight when a fellow passenger opened up and told me his story.

After being married for over 50 years, he had recently lost his wife. She was having a routine heart procedure and things went wrong. Suddenly, she was gone, totally unexpected.

He said it has really thrown him for a loop. Life is ALL different now. Even his schedule is hard. They always used to go out to eat every Friday night. He does it alone now that she’s gone. They always ran errands on Saturdays and relaxed on Sunday. He still finds himself keeping that same schedule, missing her as he goes along.

Even his relationship with his kids has changed. His wife had always been the more talkative one, and the kids tended to talk more with her. Now with Mom gone, they are all having to learn how to talk to each other more and differently.

“My kids don’t know what to do with me!” he said. One child had a house with a special space just for Mom to use after Dad died. NO ONE had thought about Mom dying first and what would happen if it did.

Planning Ahead

Losing a spouse is a big blow. One you never get over. It can feel overwhelming.

But good planning can ease some of the stress and give your family a road map to follow. It won’t help with the Friday night date nights, but it will bring you peace of mind and help the survivor who, all alone, is faced with important financial decisions.

Here are five things to think about with it comes to effective planning:

  1. If your spouse dies, will you live in the same place or move?
  2. Suppose you are caring for your spouse who is in poor health. What if you’re no longer around? Where will he get the care he needs?
  3. If you handle most of the financial matters, will your spouse be able to take that over, or will she need some help?
  4. Where will the survivor get wise advice? Who will be their sounding board? Do you have trusted relationships with your financial advisor and attorney?
  5. If your spouse dies, how will your income change? Will your pension or social security go down?

We have walked with many families who have planned ahead for their spouse, as well as spouses trying to deal with the current or unexpected loss of a loved one. We know how tough it is. By having a clear picture of the options and the right questions to ask, your plan can protect the surviving spouse and ease the stress after your death.

At our free workshop, “Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind” you’ll learn why planning must include both estate planning (death planning) and LIFE planning, along with the 5 life stages to plan for and which stage you’re in, plus clear next steps to guide your planning. Please give us a call at 217-726-9200 with any questions you may have or to RSVP for an upcoming workshop.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Edwards Group Team

Join Benefits Coordinator, Melissa Coulter, on the Edwards Group team at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s September 24, 2016 at Springfield’s South Wind Park.

As a part of the team at Edwards Group, we help people everyday who have loved ones facing the challenges presented by Alzheimer’s or one of the other 70 forms of dementia. We are all too familiar with this disease and the stress it places on caregivers, family members and loved ones.

Did you know:

  • more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s?
  • 1 in 3 seniors die from Alzheimer’s or another related dementia?
  • Alzheimer’s kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined?

I have experienced this disease in my own family, and others on our Edwards Group team have been affected by this terrible disease. It is a matter dear to our hearts.

This year I chose to volunteer on the Alzheimer’s Association WALK committee to help bring greater awareness to the community. The Alzheimer’s Walk is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Alzheimer’s Association – a group that works tirelessly to eradicate the disease, help those who are touched by it, and increase brain health.

I’m sharing this with you because we’d like to welcome you to join our team at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 24, 2016, at Springfield’s South Wind Park.

We walk to honor our own family members, but also those clients who currently have a loved one facing this very issue, or are struggling with some form of dementia themselves. We also walk with hope for the future — that our children and grandchildren will not be affected by this debilitating and deadly disease.

3 Ways to Get Involved and Spread the Word

1.Find out more. You, your family and friends are welcome to join us at South Wind Park for the New Team Kick-off event July 18 from 4-6 pm. Please RSVP to Tina Arnold via email if you will be joining us.

2. Start your own team. We welcome you to join the effort and help fight this terrible disease by starting a team in honor of a loved one. You can simply sign up here.

3. Join our team! To join the Edwards Group team and walk with us, click this link. Despite the serious cause for the walk, many teams have a really fun time during the walk.

I hope you will follow in our footsteps and join us for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s — together working towards a future without this terrible disease.

Please call me at 217-726-9200 or email me with any questions. I hope to see you at the walk!

 

Introducing: Edwards Group LLC Youtube Channel

Scheduling an initial meeting or attending a workshop can be a great way to learn about the legal tools available to you. But with the hectic nature of everyday life, watching a YouTube video can be a quicker and more efficient way to access basic estate planning information. Edwards Group is launching a YouTube Channel to help you accomplish your estate planning goals, regardless of how busy your everyday life is. Please click on the topics below to learn more from the Edwards Group’s Youtube Channel:

What is a trust?

What types of trusts are available to me? 

How can I find and pay for a good nursing home?

What is an Elder Law Attorney?

 What can I expect during the estate planning process?

What is life-care planning?

Why You Need Long-term Care Planning

One of the most important things an estate planning/elder law attorney can help you accomplish is taking good care of your loved ones as they age. Good elder law attorneys will also help find ways to pay for care. David Edwards, Estate Planning Attorney at Edwards Group LLC, explains how long-term care planning can help you accomplish these goals in the video below:

Scheduling an appointment or attending a workshop will help you learn more about the legal tools available to you. Your initial meeting with Edwards Group will last about 45 minutes. During that time you’ll talk with David to decide if he can be of any help to you and your family. Please contact Tarina at Tarina@EdwardsGroupLL.com to schedule an appointment today.

nursing home medicaid planning

Help for Caregivers, Our Thankless Heroes

Caring for an aging loved one is an incredibly difficult job that is often thankless. 

Virtually everyone will need some help as they age, and most of us will resist that help as long as possible. Combine this with the love and concern that most children feel towards their parents and it can be tricky for everyone involved.

In a 2004 study from the State University of New York at Albany, researchers found that aging parents had strong desires for both autonomy and connection with their children. But researchers also found that while aging adults hoped their children would be available to help, they were quite annoyed if children actually stepped in to help. This help was often viewed as “overprotective” by the aging parent. As a way of dealing with their ambivalent feelings, the aging adults often minimized the help they received from their kids, ignored or resisted help, and often withheld information from their children to maintain independence and boundaries.

The bottom line? It’s hard to be an aging parent and it’s hard to be the adult child of an aging parent. We see this everyday in our practice, and that is part of the reason we’ve designated part of our team as Elder Care Advisors.

Seniors May Not Say It Often, But They Are Grateful for Children Who Help

Our Senior Asset Coordinator, Laura Peffley, was recently reading a book which reminded her of how thankless it is to be a caregiver. Yet, it can also be very rewarding to care for a loved one as they age. Here is an excerpt from Marguerite Noble’s book, Filaree: A Novel of American Life: 

“‘No, Mary Belle. I’m the one who is cantankerous. You put up with a lot from me. The other children bring me fine presents on Mother’s Day. Things I can’t wear. Don’t want ’em. Don’t need ’em. Don’t like ’em. Just put them all away in the dresser drawer. On Easter they send me flowers I cain’t smell. You gotta water the flowers and wash out the vases.’

The old woman continued, her voice low and gentle. ‘They bring their passel of younguns for a five-minute visit on Sunday afternoon. they kiss me and cain’t wait to git away. Then they feel good ’cause they came to pay their respects to their ma. But you are the one who takes care of this crochety old woman. Cookin’ for her. Dressin’ her. Listenin’ to her complaints and her ailments…Daughter, you are all right.'”

While it is one of our greatest pleasure to get to know our clients’ families and help facilitate the aging process, there are resources that can make the process of aging and caregiving a little easier to navigate.

Help for Caregivers

Edwards Group’s Elder Care Advisors help families navigate the challenges of aging and the long-term care system serving as guides, encouragers, counselors, resource gatherers, and advocates along the journey. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to find out more.

AARP has a wealth of caregiving resources, including a Caregiving Planning Guide that helps families talk through the goals and needs with their aging loved one.

The local Area Agency on Aging provides resources unique to Illinois and the Springfield area.

Other websites like AgingCare.com and the Family Caregiver Alliance provide support for caregivers.

Feel free to click on the links above for more specifics, and contact us with helpful caregiving resources we may have overlooked.

(Video) What is an elder law attorney?

As people live longer and longer, it is more and more important to have an experienced elder law attorney on your side. If you have a loved one who is aging, or are concerned about the issues of aging for yourself or a spouse, please read on to find out what elder law attorneys do and how to choose a good one…

Elder law attorneys work with families to solve problems related to aging. They meet with, and help, clients reach goals related to finances and healthcare. They often collaborate with other professionals such as financial advisors, life insurance professionals and tax professionals to ensure an effective comprehensive plan for clients.

In addition to general estate planning, elder law attorneys should have expertise in helping plan for incapacity (due to things like a stroke) or long-term care needs. When it comes to long-term care planning, elder law attorneys coordinate private and public resources to ensure the client’s right to quality care.

Founding attorney, David Edwards, explains a little about elder law attorneys in the short video above.

How do you choose a good elder law attorney?

Because elder law is a specialized field, it is important to ask some specific questions of any elder law attorney you are considering working with. It is important that you feel you can trust the attorney and his/her staff, otherwise you may not end up with effective solutions for your goals.

5 Questions to Ask an Elder Law Attorney

  1. How many Medicaid applications have you processed? Was the firm able to protect assets in most of these cases? Have you ever been turned down for an application?
  2. Are you accredited with the VA? As with many government programs, there are fairly strict standards that protect citizens from those looking to take advantage of seniors or Veterans. In order to be involved with a VA application, an attorney must be accredited by the VA. Read more about aging VA benefits here.
  3. Have you done VA apps for in-home care, assisted living and nursing home care? Each one is slightly different. Experience matters when it comes to the type of app your family might need.
  4. Do you have staff solely focused on helping families with long-term care issues? Helping families apply for public programs to offset the skyrocketing costs of long-term care is a very involved process. It’s probably no surprise that the bureaucracy of the process can be overwhelming (and tricky) for those who are not experienced with it. Mistakes during the process are very costly – emotionally and financially.
  5. Does the firm have free information to help families get started? This is a big decision.  Like we said above, you must be sure you can trust the attorney you choose to work with. Taking advantage of free educational materials is a great way to get to know the attorney. It’s also important to get to know his staff along with the general feel and philosophy of the firm. Not every family is a good fit for every attorney. It is a very personal decision.

You can read more about choosing an elder law attorney at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ website. Or, be sure to take a look at these additional articles on our website:

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

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

Not Your Best Option: Life Estate Deeds

So, what are life estates or life estate deeds?

Sometimes, instead of using a trust, people will use a life estate deed to try and protect a house or farmland. This means they deed the land to their kids but reserve the right to still use the house or the farm as long as they are living. Because all of the instructions are contained in the deed itself, it can sound like a nice, simple solution. Life estates can seem like a cheaper and easier alternative to a trust…

But life estate deeds do not always work as advertised.

A Life Estate Case Study

The house had been put into a life estate a while back. The mom was now in a situation where she needed more care and was going to a nursing home. The family wanted to sell the house, but if they sold the house, then a percentage of the house would be considered an asset for the purposes of Medicaid. Even with good legal planning, some of the funds would have to be spent on nursing home costs, and the ultimate goal of planning is to protect your hard-earned money and assets (like your house) that you hoped could be a legacy for your family someday.We recently had a situation here at the office that is a good example of why life estates are generally not a good option.

4 Reasons Life Estates Don’t Work

1. They don’t protect ALL the value. People are surprised by how much of the value of their house or property is still considered theirs if they need Medicaid. This is all governed by a Medicaid table. (See it here.) So, what are the exact problems with life estates and why don’t life estate deeds “work”?

Here’s how that works: if someone is 65-years-old, Medicaid says that almost 68% of the house is still considered yours. At age 70, 60.5% is yours. At age 80, 43.66% of the value of the house still counts as yours. 

So what does this mean? It means that if you are 70-years-old, have a stroke and need to go to a nursing home, when your house is sold then 60.5% of the house sale money stays in your name and is exposed to long term care costs. This is true even if it has been more than 5 years since the deed was done.

2. You don’t own or fully control your house or property anymore. If something unexpected happens and you “need” to sell the property, you can’t without getting the kids to sign off on it, because they actually own the property. You don’t own it anymore (even though you have the right to use it for the rest of your life).

3. You can’t change who gets it after you are gone. With a deed, it’s a done deal. The house goes to your kids at your death — no matter what. There is no way to change it. So, if your child dies before you do, you can’t reconsider who the house or property goes to. It will go through his or her estate and be completely out of your control (even though you have the right to use it for the rest of your life).

4. Life estate deeds could prevent you from getting VA benefits. The VA sees things differently and assumes that any income interest or life estate you might have are entirely yours (and therefore counted as an asset). Depending on the situation, this could cause you to be denied VA benefits. For instance, farmland with a life estate would typically prevent VA benefits without further planning.

 What’s the Solution?

In contrast to the above issues with life estates, nest egg trusts can effectively address all of these issues:

• They can protect 100% of the value once 5 years has passed.

• You can be the trustee of the trust where your farm or home is kept, which means you can sell the property, buy a different house if you want, etc.

• You can reserve a rewrite power (called a “power of appointment”) so you can change who gets it at death. That way, if circumstances change, you can respond to them appropriately.

• A trust can be set up to allow VA benefits or be adjusted later to qualify for VA benefits.

Trusts are one of the best tools that we have in our legal toolbox to help clients, and our firm is one of the best at setting them up. If you are considering a life estate deed, please give us a call first to see if there are better options available for your unique situation.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about estate planning or elder law, Medicaid planning, long-term care planning or Veterans benefits, please give us a call at 217-726-9200. We’d be more than happy to speak with you!

 

hospice

5 Misconceptions About Hospice

Many people are afraid of hospice. This fear comes from a misunderstanding of the services hospice can provide. Last week we talked about the basics of hospice and why it is one the most positive ways to approach the end of life. This week we tackle some of the big misconceptions about hospice.

5 Misconceptions About Hospice

1) Doesn’t saying “yes” to hospice mean you’re “giving up”? No, hospice does not require that you give up hope. Yet, many people see it that way. Hospice is a way to deal with the transition of death on your own terms, generally in your own home. Most people arrive at hospice too late, making the process harder, not easier, on their family.
2) Won’t my doctor know when it’s time and recommend hospice? Not necessarily. Doctors are trained to heal. They don’t want to “give up” either. Because of that, it’s important to understand what hospice is, and how it can help, if you or a loved one has a terminal illness or advanced disease. Again, most people get hospice care too late, which robs them and their family of quality time together in their last days/months.
3) Will hospice provide 24/7 continuous care? No, you need to have a dedicated caregiver. In the beginning, you will receive more visits from hospice staff, then it will drop off a bit. Towards the end, the visits will pick up again, but hospice is not around-the-clock nursing care. If you or your loved one needs that, and your family cannot arrange for a dedicated caregiver, then you need to consider other options.
4) Do I have to use my hospital’s hospice program? No, you have a choice about what hospice to use.​ You do not have to use the hospital’s service. Again, it’s important to plan ahead if at all possible. Some hospices are better than others. This is not a decision you should make without doing some research.
5) Aren’t all hospices non-profit organizations derived from a religious affiliation? 75% of hospices in the US are now for-profit organizations, according to a Washington Post article from 2014This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean consumers have to be careful when choosing which agency to use. The hospice industry has much less oversight than nursing homes or other healthcare providers, which places the burden of oversight on families who are already in a very stressful situation.

All in All, Hospice Is a Very Good Thing

Most people, if given the choice, would rather die peacefully at home instead of experiencing a series of acute hospital stays or ER visits for the last few months of their life. Yet that’s what many people inadvertently do because they don’t understand hospice.

Hospice gives patients and families great comfort in a time of great stress. It shouldn’t be done at the last minute when it is too late to provide meaningful moments between the patient and family. Good hospice care can help facilitate the tension of such a big transition while making more meaningful moments possible. Because of the spiritual care and social workers, hospice is an amazing support system for those dealing with the hardest, and ultimate, transition in life.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about estate planning, elder law, Medicaid planning, long-term care planning, Veterans benefits or end-of-life documents, please give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are more than happy to speak with you!