Articles Tagged with Elder Law Retirement Planning

Stern judge wagging fingerAlthough many people feel frustrated by elder guardianship systems designed to protect adults no longer able to fend for themselves, what’s even sadder are the many instances where it turns out that the elder guardianship system is doing its job properly –and strangers have no choice except to step in and make decisions that families and friends simply cannot.

Elder guardianship can be complicated. Many question if our elderly loved ones are getting the proper care they deserve in those situations.

The (Sarasota, FL) Herald-Tribune, in a recent article titled “The takeaway lesson on elder guardianship,”says that one woman contacted the newspaper writer from an assisted-living facility, saying she had been incarcerated against her will. She moved to be closer to her son, but her daughter in Arizona had her under guardianship, which permitted limited contact with her son.

Signing documentAccounting for the possibility of your own and your loved one’s eventual mental incapacity is a key part of any estate plan. If your loved one appears to be showing signs of diminishing mental acuity, ask if he or she has the proper documents in place. If so, find out who his or her agent(s) are so that you can alert them.

What if you or a loved one develops dementia? If you didn’t have the mental capacity to take care of yourself or your finances at some point, what would happen? You need to be prepared.

A recent articlein Physician’s Monthly Digest, titled “Dealing With a Loved One’s Cognitive Decline Is Simpler with Right Legal Documents in Place,”says that a healthcare proxy and a durable power of attorney are key legal documents to have before there are any signs of mental incapacitation. The documents allow you to designate another person to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf once you are unable to do so. This can be your spouse, an adult child, a friend, or a trusted adviser. Without a power of attorney, your spouse will need a court order to access any non-joint accounts that you have.

MP900402619Arlene Germain, president of Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said the new rules, once implemented, could substantially improve the lives of nursing home residents. But, she said, “strong oversight and greater nursing home participation are critical to ensure that the law’s benefits are meaningful and widespread.”

The process for dementia care compliance checks in Massachusetts has been slow, as the state handed out its dementia special care checklist for inspectors in December—almost six months after the rules were adopted.

The Boston Globe article, titled Dementia care lacks oversight in Mass., data show,” says that despite the delays, state regulators are not conducting spot checks for compliance—they’re already just too busy with routine monitoring of more than 400 nursing homes. However, the state health department recently announced that its inspectors would now review dementia care during their annual visits to each facility. But this means some nursing homes may not be subject to these compliance checks for months.

Man golfingYou wouldn't play golf without a full set of clubs. Don't go into retirement without a fully equipped retirement toolbox. Retirement brings the freedom to explore a new stage of life. But for many, after years of working for others, it also means assuming responsibility for generating a paycheck for decades. Having a few basic resources at hand can make it easier to navigate the challenges that come with retirement.

A recent Wall Street Journal article, titled "Have the Right Tools for Retirement," says you need a full set of golf clubs to play the game as intended. Similarly, you need a full set of retirement tools to ensure that you are planning wisely. These should include all of the following:

  • a realistic budget and an efficient plan for withdrawing money from savings;

MP900407501Lillian Palermo tried to prepare for the worst possibilities of aging. An insurance executive with a Ph.D. in psychology and a love of ballroom dancing, she arranged for her power of attorney and health care proxy to go to her husband, Dino, eight years her junior, if she became incapacitated. And in her 80s, she ended up in a nursing home as dementia, falls and surgical complications took their toll. He sings her favorite songs, feeds her home-cooked Italian food, and pays a private aide to be there when he cannot. But one day last summer, after her husband disputed nursing home bills that had suddenly doubled Mrs. Palermo's copays, and complained about inexperienced employees who dropped his wife on the floor, Mr. Palermo was shocked to find a six-page legal document waiting on her bed. It was a guardianship petition filed by the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, asking the court to give a stranger full legal power over Mrs. Palermo, now 90, and complete control of her money.

A New York Times article titled "To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients" states that few people are aware that a nursing home can do this. Guardianship cases are usually confidential, but the Palermo's situation isn't uncommon.

More than 12 percent of guardianship cases are brought by nursing homes. Many of these may have been brought as a means of bill collection, which was never intended when the New York legislature enacted the guardianship statute. Some courts have ruled that this legal tactic by nursing homes is an abuse of the law, but these petitions—even if unsuccessful—make families spend time and money in costly legal ordeals.

Women swimmingWhen asked about long-term care insurance, one senior said, "I've thought about it. I don't think it's worthwhile to buy at my age." She's 83. "I've thought about it but I really haven't looked into it," another woman said. Others simply don't want to talk about it. But a don't-ask-don't-tell attitude toward paying for long-term care isn't an effective strategy for the 75 million baby boomers, the oldest of whom will start hitting age 70 in 2016.

A recent article in the Memphis Daily News, titled "OK, Baby Boomers: Time for Some Hard Decisions," reminds us that care for seniors can come from family members or from outside services such as adult day care, assisted living centers, home-care services and nursing homes. These services often include assistance with daily activities, home health care, respite care, hospice care, adult day care, care in a nursing home, and care in an assisted living facility.

People pay for long-term care by using personal resources, long-term care insurance, and Medicaid if they qualify. Medicare, Medicare supplement insurance, and private health insurance typically don't pay for long-term care. Individuals may also look to other resources such as veterans' benefits, Social Security, community services, and family caregivers.

Concerned elderOne attorney calls it the "Get out of Dodge plan"—the best way to keep your assets intact before applying for Medicaid to cover nursing home costs. New Jersey is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to permitting residents to preserve assets for their benefit while Medicaid pays for nursing home care. In the Garden State, there are steps that should be taken before applying for Medicaid, the government insurance program for people of all ages who are too poor to afford health care including long-stay nursing home care. Nursing homes can cost $120,000 a year in New Jersey, sometimes more.

Even though Medicaid is a federal program that's regulated by each state, the way in which the money is distributed can vary. Restrictive states are siding with protecting public money over letting individuals and their spouses keep assets, the Asbury Park Press article titled "Protecting assets: Three things to know before Medicaid" explains. So your retirement strategy can be quite different based upon your state of residence. Not everyone can Get Out of Dodge, meaning not everyone can move into a second home in Florida.

But do-it-yourself planning may not be the way to go. Elder law and Medicaid planning is constantly changing, and your assets can easily be wiped out by nursing home costs without careful planning. For example, when a husband places his wife in a nursing home, their home may be excluded from assets that must be spent for nursing home care before Medicaid pays for it. So the husband is still able to live there. However, if the husband dies before the wife enters the nursing home, it gets complicated: the house could be lost to the nursing home for the cost of her care.

Bigstock-Doctor-with-female-patient-21258332Consulting financial and tax advisers as part of planning the retirement process is essential to get the health-care piece covered. Enjoying truly golden retirement years means a lot of different things to different people, but it should include planning for long-term health care now so we obtain the end-of-life care we desire without becoming a burden on our children or the state.

According to a recent article in, titled Consider health care when retirement planning,” long-term health care may be a considerable expense during our retirement years, with most of this spent during the last three years of life.

Health care spending has outpaced inflation over the past decade—from a 6percent increase to just 2.5 percent for core inflation.

MP900402619This year, two legislators who pressed for reform in 2014 are back with new bills they believe have stronger chances of success, as the excesses possible within Florida's guardianship system become more widely known.

A recent article in The Herald Tribune, titled “Legislation aims to curb abuses in guardianship system,” reports that two of Florida’s legislators are addressing the excesses possible within Florida's guardianship system. Florida law has a list of 14 rights that an elder may surrender as a result of the guardianship process. These include the rights to marry, vote, manage finances, determine where to live and accept medical care.

The Florida bill includes these types of actions:

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