Florida Elder Law Blog - ElderLawAssociates.com
Florida Elder Law Blog - A blog by Elder Law Associates, South Florida's premier elder law attorneys, who handle elder law, medicaid planning, guardianships and much, much more.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Florida Elder Law: Protect Yourself from Financial Exploitation
Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of another individual’s resources for personal profit or gain. This type of exploitation encompasses a broad range of conduct, from deception to intimidation. If you think you've been exploited, please contact a qualified Florida Elder Law Attorney.
Ways to Prevent Exploitation: Stay Socially Active
Social isolation increases your risk of becoming a victim of abuse. Become familiar with the many programs in your community designed to bring people together and to help elderly people and their families.
Get to Know Your Banker, Attorney, and Financial Consultant
Establish relationships with the professionals who handle your money. They can help detect changes in your financial activity that may signal a problem.
Don’t Give Away Property
Before you enter into an agreement for lifelong care, discuss the arrangement with a trusted friend or advisor. Document the agreement and specify the compensation, if there is any, paid to the caregiver. If there is someone helping you with your personal finances, get a trusted third party to review your bank statement.
Understand What You Are Signing
Before you assign a power of attorney, be sure you understand the scope of the agreement and the authority you are giving to your agent. Know the person to whom you are giving this authority. Also, specify the compensation, if any, to be paid to your agent.
Be Cautious of Joint Accounts
Both parties are equal owners of the account and both have equal access to the funds in the account.
Document Financial Arrangements
By putting financial arrangements in writing, you not only protect yourself but you also reduce the likelihood of legal proceedings. Put all financial instructions in writing and be specific. Keep complete financial records of all transactions. Put all financial documents in a safe place.
Ask For Help
Financial matters can be confusing. If you have questions or need assistance, ask for help from your bank, a trusted family member, clergy member, social worker or other professional.
Other helpful tips include:
· Use Direct Deposit for your checks.
· Don’t sign blank checks allowing another person to fill in the amount.
· Don’t leave money or valuables in plain view.
· Don’t sign anything you don’t understand.
· Protect your money. The bank may be able to protect your money by arranging your accounts to control access to your funds.
· Be aware of scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
· Don’t give anyone your ATM PIN number, and cancel your ATM card immediately if it is stolen.
· Check your bank statements carefully for unauthorized withdrawals.
· Be cautious of joint accounts.
· Build good relationships with your professionals who handle your money.
To report Elder Financial Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation, please call the Adult Protective Services Abuse Hotline at (800) 962-2873.
Labels: Florida Elder Care, florida elder law, Florida Elder Law Attorney
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Florida Elder Law: Planning for Your Elder Years
If we were to ask an older person what his or her most important concerns for aging are, we would probably get a variety of different answers. According to surveys frequently conducted among the elderly, the most likely answers we would receive would include the following three principal concerns or life wishes:
1. Remaining independent in the home without intervention
2. Maintaining good health and receiving adequate health care
3. Having enough money for everyday needs and not outliving
assets and income
To address these concerns or wishes and maintain the quality of life wanted in the elder years, it simply takes a little preplanning.
Few people do this kind of planning.
It is human nature not to worry about an event until it happens. We may prepare financially for unexpected financial disasters by covering our homes, automobiles and health with insurance policies.
However, no other life event can be as devastating to an elderly person’s lifestyle, finances and security as needing long term care. It drastically alters or completely eliminates the three principal lifestyle wishes listed above.
The majority of the American public does not plan for this crisis of needing eldercare. The lack of planning also has an adverse effect on the older person's family, with sacrifices made in time, money, and family lifestyles.
Because of changing demographics and potential changes in government funding, the current generation needs to plan for long term care before the elder years are upon them.
Let us look at some facts.
The population of the "very old,"--older than age 85--is the
fastest growing group in America. This population is at
highest risk for needing care. (Statistical abstract of the United States,
Medical science is preventing early sudden deaths, which
means living longer with impaired health and greater risk of
needing long term care.
The Alzheimer's Association estimates the risk of
Alzheimer's or dementia beyond age 85 to be about 46% of
It is estimated that 6 out of 10 people will need long term
care sometime during their lifetime.
Children are moving far away from parents or parents move
away during retirement making long distance care giving
difficult or impossible.
Government programs--already stretched thin for long term
care services--will experience even greater stress on
available funds in the future.
One of the important things for planning is how to maintain your lifestyle as you age. You may be healthy enough to stay in your own home with help provided for the following activities of daily living:
maintaining a home,
This type of care at home is non-medical and must be provided free of charge by family, friends, or volunteers or the care must be paid for out-of-pocket by the family.
Government programs, in most cases, will not pay for this kind of care. It is estimated that 80% of all long term care is non-medical, with 90% of that care provided in the home. It is most likely that your long term care will begin with home care.
It is wise to plan now how you will pay for care when it is needed. In evaluating your future income you may find it necessary to add some resources such as long term care Insurance to pay for assisted living or nursing home costs. Long term care insurance must be purchased while you are younger and healthy. Failing health, stroke or other aging issues will not allow you to qualify for this insurance.
A reverse mortgage will also help pay for home care if staying in your home is an option.
Consider where you may want to live in your elder years. Many assisted living facilities offer complete care alternatives with a nursing home wing if needed. Senior retirement communities also offer many amenities with some including home care options.
Now is the time to do estate planning. A professional estate planner will give you direction on how best to protect your assets for future needs and for Medicaid planning.
Do your paper work. Now is the time to create your trusts, will, medical directives in a living will and any other documents you want noted for future use. Gather Insurance policies and bank records where they can be found by family members in case you are not able to get them yourself.
We don’t like to think of our elder years in terms of health problems, but a sudden stroke, heart failure or onset of dementia could make it impossible to carry out our own wishes if preparation was not made ahead of time.
The process of long term care planning involves the following four
1. Knowledge and preparation are the keys to success.
2. Having funds to pay for care expands the choices for care settings and providers.
3. Using professional help relieves stress, reduces conflict, and saves time and money.
4. Success is assured through a written plan accepted by all parties involved.
As always, before making any plans, please consult a qualified Florida Elder Law Attorney.
Labels: Florida Elder Care, florida elder law, Florida Elder Law Attorney
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Florida Elder Law: Long-Term Care Hybrid Products Give Buyers More Options
With many people unwilling to purchase long-term care insurance policies due to the cost, insurers are rolling out new products that combine long-term care insurance with either a life insurance policy or an annuity. These new products have been on the market for awhile, but they are gaining in popularity due to a law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010, making distributions from life insurance and annuities tax free when used to pay nursing home costs.
Even though long-term care costs continue to rise, long-term care insurance has not become widespread. Long-term care insurance is expensive and many people do not want to pay premiums for something they might not need. A hybrid product has the benefit of combining two products into one. If you don't use the long-term care insurance, you can still benefit from the life insurance or the annuity.
The products vary in the details, but the general idea of a hybrid life insurance policy is to allow a buyer to purchase a cash-value life insurance policy and to use a portion of that policy for long-term care benefits, if necessary, and keep the rest as a death benefit that will be paid to the purchaser's beneficiary. If long-term care benefits are used, the death benefit may be reduced.
Hybrid annuity products also vary significantly, but in general they allow a buyer to purchase a fixed deferred annuity with a long-term-care rider attached. The annuity may pay out for a specific number of years or for life. For example, a purchaser could deposit $150,000 into an annuity. The annuity would provide approximately $4,700 a month of long-term care benefits for 36 months. For an additional cost, the purchaser could get the $4,700 monthly benefit for life.
While a two-for-one product may seem attractive, these products are not for everyone. For one thing, you may have less flexibility with a combined product than you would with a stand-alone product. Hybrid products may not cover home care or include inflation protection, for example. In addition, hybrid products may not offer enough long-term care coverage for what you need. It is impossible to predict exact coverage needs, but click here for more information on how to figure out how much insurance to purchase. A hybrid product is likely less expensive than purchasing two separate products, but it is often more expensive than purchasing a stand-alone long-term care insurance policy.
As with any major purchase, you need to evaluate it carefully before purchasing. Before deciding what to buy, get advice from an impartial investment advisor, not a sales agent who makes a commission off the sale of policies.
For more information on long-term care insurance, click here.
For an article on hybrid long-term care insurance policies from MarketWatch, click here.
Labels: Florida Elder Care, Florida Elder Law Attorney, Florida Estate Planning
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Florida Elder Care: PreNeed (Pre-Paid) Funeral and Burial Plans
Advantages and Disadvantages of Prepaid Plans
One way to plan in advance for the end of one's life is to sign a formal contract called a "preneed funeral plan." With this plan, money to pay for a funeral and/or burial is held in a trust, in an escrow account or paid through an insurance policy on the life of the person desiring the plan. Parts of or all of the funeral service and burial are designed in advance and pre-funded in advance and the family has little to do but show up.
This type of planning has become very popular in recent years. A survey conducted by the AARP in 1999, found that two out of five people over age 50 had been approached to pre-purchase funerals and burial goods and services. An AARP survey in 1998 indicates that 32% of all Americans over age 50, roughly 21 million people, have prepaid some or all of their funeral and or burial expenses (but not necessarily through a formal preneed plan). Breaking that down; about 25% of the over age 50 population have prepaid for their burials (cemetery plot, mausoleum or niche), 18% have prepaid for headstones, urns, caskets , grave liners or vaults, opening and closing of graves and so on and 13% have prepaid for goods or services from a funeral home or funeral director. The same survey indicates that over $25 billion is being held in preneed trust funds. Roughly another $25 billion is waiting to be paid out in life insurance benefits. Prepaid or preneed funerals and burials are big business.
Funerals and burials funded privately by the family, or paid from an individual life insurance policy and arranged informally through a funeral home or funeral director are generally not subject to state regulation. Any formal arrangement through a second party or involving a contract is subject to regulation in all states. Each state has adopted different rules as to who can sell these plans, what the plans can provide, what contract provisions must be, how the plan is to be funded and what recourse purchasers might have in the event of fraud or default. All states call these regulated plans "preneed" funeral and burial arrangements.
Here are some advantages as to why one would want to buy a preneed plan for funeral and burial services and goods.
It provides peace of mind knowing these arrangements have been made in advance.
It avoids the burden on family members to make decisions when they are most vulnerable to manipulation.
It allows one to virtually control from the grave by determining in advance the funeral products, funeral services, burial products and burial services that one would prefer having for final arrangements.
It helps the family to avoid taking loans, arranging finance plans, raiding savings or selling assets to pay for a funeral and burial.
It guarantees (for many contracts) that if products and services currently purchased are not available in the future, equivalent substitutes will be provided at no additional cost.
It locks in guaranteed prices (available with some contracts) forever.
It allows for inflation in future costs (for those contracts that do not guarantee prices) by investing money in an interest-bearing account or buying life insurance that increases in value over time.
Depending on the contract, it may allow for transfer to another funeral home or for partial or full refund.
Unfortunately, there are also problems with prepaid, preplanned final arrangements.
With some trust fund and insurance funding options there may be no refund if someone wants to cancel the plan in the future.
If a purchaser moves to another state there may be no transfer options or there may be different rules governing the funding option.
In some contracts, interest earnings on investments resulting in excess money not needed for the plan may be retained by the funeral home or funeral director.
On installment plans interest may be charged but not credited to the account.
In certain insurance funded contracts, the ownership or death benefit may be irrevocably assigned to the contract holder (funeral home), preventing the purchaser from enjoying ownership rights in the policy.
In certain insurance funded contracts, a growth in the death benefit over time that exceeds the cost of the preneed plan services and goods may be pocketed by the contract holder (funeral home) instead of being refunded.
If the contract provider goes out of business or fails to secure 100% of the funds for future payment, there may be no recourse to get all of the money back that was put in.
If certain services or goods that were purchased initially are not available in the future, but more expensive versions might be, the family may be forced to pay extra for those items.
In certain insurance funded plans, if the insured dies too soon, there may have been a waiting period in which few or no benefits are paid at death, thus forcing the family to pay out of pocket for the funeral.
Certain unscrupulous providers may have failed to provide an itemized list of services and goods or failed to identify properly, specific services and goods, thus allowing the provider in the future to substitute less expensive items or to leave out services and goods that were originally anticipated in the agreement.
What Services and Goods Can Be Prepaid?
All states allow for prepaid plans for funeral services and merchandise. This would include such things as picking up the body, embalming and restoration, rooms or chapel for viewing and funeral services, casket, vault or grave liner, transportation, permits, death certificates, obituaries and so forth. Almost all states allow for prepaid burial services and merchandise as well. Only about six states do not allow it. Burial services and merchandise might include opening and closing the grave, grave markers, vaults or grave liners, mausoleums or niches. Cemetery plots are excluded from prepaid plans in all states.
The AARP has excellent information for consumers on planning for funerals. Quoting from the AARP:
"Most states have a licensing board that regulates the funeral industry. You may contact the board in your state for information or help. If you want additional information about making funeral arrangements and the options available, you may want to contact interested business, professional and consumer groups."
Labels: Florida Elder Care, Florida Elder Law Attorney
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