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Elder Living

Options for Senior Living Depend on the Level of Care Needed

As we grow older, senior living options vary widely based on what level of care is required. Available options are tied to the resources a senior has to cover living costs, and vary widely in cost, assistance, and care provided. In addition to budget considerations, seniors must also realistically consider the needs they have and what senior living option best fits those needs.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes, or skilled nursing facilities, are one option for senior living. These facilities are for seniors who can no longer live independently. They provide care for seniors with illnesses or mental conditions that cause them to require monitoring and medical care on a full-time basis. For example, many nursing home patients have dementia, are confined to a wheelchair, or spend most of their time in bed. Their conditions require that medical attention be available around the clock.

Nursing homes also provide the option for short-term care, where patients come and stay for a limited time after major medical events such as strokes or heart attacks. In these facilities, the residents generally live in semi-private rooms and all meals are provided. Medicare may help cover the cost of skilled nursing facilities, assuming the resident meets certain financial requirements. Long-term care insurance may also pay for nursing home care.  Otherwise, a nursing home resident pays privately, which can often bring financial hardship to the family. As a result, many families work with an elder law attorney to discuss care options as well as payment options for that care.

Assisted Living Facilities

Another option for senior living is assisted living facilities. These facilities are ideal for seniors who are still independent but may need some assistance with activities of daily living, as well as meals, cleaning, or other daily self-care tasks. These facilities usually offer a more private living conditions. Since residents may be fairly independent, assisted living facilities are an appealing option because they often offer a variety of activities and opportunities for seniors to interact with one another and to stay active. Assisted living facilities are generally paid for privately with a few exceptions, including long-term care insurance or partial assistance from Medicaid.

Independent Living Communities

An independent living community is another viable option for senior living. These communities are for independent, active seniors who enjoy the idea of living in a community. Independent living communities are much like living in a condo or as a part of a community with an HOA. Often maintenance, housekeeping, and landscaping are part of what is included with living in these retirement communities.  Many seniors choose this type of community when they are no longer able or no longer wish to maintain a home. The housing options for independent living communities range from detached homes to apartments. Another benefit of retirement communities is the wide range of amenities and activities available. Seniors are often lonely and living among other seniors can provide friendship and companionship. Residents in independent living communities pay privately, and the cost varies from one community to another.

Memory Care

Memory care facilities provide a more specialized senior living option for seniors who have serious cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. These facilities are much like assisted living facilities but cater to cognitive impairments. They may even be a specialized part of an existing assisted living facility. The staff at memory care facilities have specialized training that helps them better assist residents with cognitive impairments. They are often planned intuitively to help patients who may become easily disoriented. These facilities also give extra consideration to security for residents who may wander due to their cognitive impairment. If a senior needs this kind of care, it is important to plan and look for facilities that provide it ahead of time.

Senior living options vary greatly in care and cost. It is important that seniors have conversations with their families about the needs they have or may have in the future, as well as the cost of the type of care they wish to have. The earlier the planning begins, the better off the senior and the family will be when the time comes to seek alternative living options. This planning should be a part of the overall legal and financial plan of the senior.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

Why Estate Planning Is Important to Younger Adults

Most young adults don’t consider estate planning a priority. Young adults in their twenties and thirties often think they don’t own enough to constitute an estate. However, an estate is the total of all you own – money, investments, real estate, vehicles, business interests, digital assets (including cryptocurrency), and other personal belongings. No matter how much or minor, you own your possessions need to go somewhere after you die. You may not think you will die young, but if the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that life is uncertain. It is a myth that estate planning is just for the rich and the old.

What legal documents constitute an estate plan?

Some documents may vary depending on your wealth or financial structure; however, everyone should have a will. At the time of your death, everything you own becomes your estate. Your estate will go through a probate process where the court will determine what happens to you everything you own that doesn’t have a co-owner or beneficiary. Because the probate court will inventory your assets and notify and pay creditors, your will is a public record. If you have a will, the probate court will use it as a guide. In the absence of a will (dying intestate), the court will use state intestacy laws to determine who inherits your assets.

What does a will establish in an estate plan?

A will designates two critical things. The first is the naming of your executor. An executor is responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will, making payments on any outstanding debts, distributing assets to named heirs, and filing your final taxes. Second, if you have dependents, your will names the guardian and backup guardian to provide care for them. The naming of an executor and guardian for a dependent can only happen in a will.

The value of establishing an advance healthcare directive for young adults

All young adults should have an advance healthcare directive, also known as a medical directive or living will, which includes a durable healthcare power of attorney. These legal documents specify your healthcare wishes if you are permanently incapacitated or for end-of-life healthcare and designate who will make those decisions on your behalf according to your instructions. In addition, it is imperative to include a HIPAA privacy authorization form for your durable healthcare power of attorney or trustee. The form permits medical and healthcare professionals to disclose pertinent health information and medical records to your healthcare proxy.

While it may be uncomfortable to contemplate being unable to make decisions for yourself as a young adult, accidental injuries, heart disease, cancer, and strokes, to name a few, are becoming all too prevalent in young American adults. Making plans while you are competent and able is a prudent course of action and can bring you a sense of calm, knowing you have confronted the possibility and have a plan in place.

The value of a revocable living trust for young adults

Some young adults will have enough assets, real estate, or business interests to make a revocable living trust worthwhile. This trust type avoids the probate process, ensuring privacy. There is no limit to the number of times you can amend a living trust. You may change asset distribution or add assets as you acquire more throughout your life. An estate planning attorney can help you determine if your financial situation and age warrant the setting up of this type of trust.

You probably have more assets than you realize. To assess your situation, inventory all of your belongings which typically includes but is not limited to:

  • All bank accounts in your name and their approximate balances
  • All investments you own
  • Any property or real estate you own
  • Any retirement plans you have, including pensions
  • Any insurance policies you carry
  • Any retirement plans, including pensions, you own
  • Businesses you own, whether in part or whole
  • Valuable personal property such as your grandmother’s wedding ring, a collection of trading cards, or a grandfather clock
  • Digital assets such as cryptocurrency, income-generating online storefronts, influencer accounts, or income-producing subscription accounts like TwitchTV
  • Include all email accounts, login URL’s including user names and passwords where you receive critical communications
  • All outstanding debts

Once you realize the scope of your belongings and assets, you can begin formulating your estate plan. First, consider who you want to receive your possessions and think about secondary beneficiaries, especially over time, as early estate planning requires frequent reviews and updates in the event of deaths, marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child.

Once you have an inventory and have begun thinking about who should handle things upon your passing and who you want as beneficiaries, it’s time to sit down with an estate planning attorney. Working with an estate planning attorney is easier than ever now, as COVID-19 increases the use of video and smartphone conferencing that streamlines legal planning. Estate planning attorneys like us can create a plan that best suits your situation, even if you aren’t sure what to do. Proper legal documents can save your loved ones from an expensive probate trial should someone contest your will. Even as a young adult, it is best to start planning now, even if it is just with some primary documents.

We would be happy to discuss your needs in a confidential setting that you are comfortable with – by video, over the phone, or in person. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

A Guide for Completing Your Estate Plan

As you may expect, the older population far outpace the younger counterparts in estate planning, however, 19 percent of those over age 72 and 42 percent of those between 53 and 71, according to survey data — lack any type of estate plan.

Although managing these details can seem daunting, and even depressing, the task becomes far less unpleasant with proper understanding and planning. Estate planning is essential for seniors and for their family members to be prepared in the event of a loved one’s illness or passing.

If you or an aging loved one have been putting off estate planning, start with the basics and learn why it’s important take the focus off of the negative and shift it to the positive benefits.

Understanding the meaning of “estate”

In addition to the fear factor of planning for illness and death, many seniors dismiss its importance because they don’t understand what “estate” means, or they believe it applies only to those with significant wealth. In reality, an estate includes anything a person owns — homes or other properties, bank accounts, automobiles and additional assets, and ownership of any licenses or patents. 

A person’s estate also includes any liabilities such as mortgages. These debts will need to be settled before loved ones or beneficiaries receive any compensation or death benefits. An estate plan encompasses more than distributing assets and settling debts, however. It also outlines decisions about healthcare and other key things.

The estate plan’s role in self-advocacy

Estate plans help seniors establish important guidelines that allow them to advocate for themselves. This is essential for seniors who wish to retain their independence and protect their assets. In addition to creating wills and other important documents, an estate plan allows seniors to have a say in the quality of their long-term care — whether at home or in an assisted living facility — and to qualify for associated government benefits to help pay for that care. It also helps them to protect their life savings and outline their wishes should they become incapacitated. 

Elder law attorneys can help clients develop strategies to enable seniors to better advocate for themselves in these scenarios.

What’s included in an estate plan?

A properly executed estate plan typically includes a Last Will and Testament, Living Will, and Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney. Let’s take a look at what each of these things is and the purposes they serve:

  • Last Will and Testament: Allows a person to determine who will inherit assets and appoint an executor who will make sure wishes are carried out.
  • Living Will: Allows a person to choose the type of care he or she wants should they become hospitalized and/or incapable of making decisions independently. A Living Will would, for example, outline a person’s wishes about certain medical treatments, such as blood transfusions, or whether or not they wish to be resuscitated.
  • Medical Power of Attorney: Appoints someone — generally a spouse or family member — to make decisions on a person’s behalf about medical care and treatment.
  • Financial Power of Attorney: Appoints someone — also typically a spouse or family member — who can make financial decisions on a person’s behalf. This includes allowing access to bank accounts to ensure bills and mortgages continue to get paid in the event of illness or incapacitation.

Establishing Trusts

Estate planning also includes provisions for developing Trusts. Trusts allow seniors to set aside money for specific people or charities while avoiding the long, drawn-out process of probate. This allows heirs and beneficiaries to receive intended inheritances much more quickly.

While many trusts are revocable, meaning the senior can change or terminate the trust at any time, irrevocable trusts are often used to protect the assets of a senior. Whether an irrevocable trust is right for your situation depends on a number of factors, including your health, what type of care you wish to receive and how you will pay for any care you may need in the future.

If you or your loved one has been avoiding this important planning measure, now is the time to begin. Being proactive increases options and makes the process far less stressful than trying to initiate planning or make important decisions during a health crisis or death. 

Cost is another reason seniors often cite for avoiding planning. However, elder law attorneys can tailor plans to specific needs, making them more affordable. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Healthcare

Tips for Understanding Medicare

Navigating Medicare can sometimes seem like going through a maze. On the one hand, Medicare is obviously a good resource because it provides medical benefits to seniors who are often on a fixed income. On the other hand, however, navigating the ins and outs of Medicare can be seriously confusing, causing many to give up in exasperation. If you are a senior and in need of medical care do not despair—there are numerous resources available to help you navigate the complicated details and minutiae of Medicare.

  • Consider hiring a qualified local elder law attorney sooner than later. Their professional knowledge of the ins and outs of the Medicare system combined with their experience working with senior citizens allows you to get the help and coverage you need as quickly as possible.
  • There are multiple websites you should check out. Medicare.gov, the official site of Medicare should be a starting point, as it provides numerous facts on the program and allows you to search for providers. The Social Security Administration website also has information on Medicare eligibility and enrollment. These are just two, but you can perform an Internet search on Medicare information and you will receive a list of several sites to review.
  • If you are uncomfortable working with computers it would be in your best interests to ask a friend or relative to help you because some of the information on the internet is very valuable. However, for those who would rather talk to a person, you may call 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) for more information.
  • Another great resource is the American Association for Retired Persons, commonly known as AARP. AARP is a well-established advocate for senior citizens in the United States. The organization offers helpful, reliable resources such as Information-packed webinars featuring experts who can break down some of the Medicare facts that applicants need to know.
  • There also may be support available at the state level like State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or SHIPs. These programs offer free counseling for seniors who receive Medicare. Medicare applicants and their loved ones should visit shiptacenter.org for more information.

But if you want to save yourself hours of confusing computer research and potential headaches, the best idea is to speak with an experienced local elder law attorney before the Medicare application process even begins. A good elder law attorney can assist you with the complex process, ensuring that you get the benefits you are entitled to more quickly. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Estate Planning

Estate Planning Tips to Keep Your Plan Current

Studies have found that over 64% of Americans don’t have an estate plan. Many Americans over the age of 65 believe they lack the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement and are not knowledgeable about basic retirement tools, like 401ks. If you don’t have a proper plan in place, or if your plan is decades old, don’t hesitate to contact a local estate planning attorney to start the process of protecting your loved ones’ futures. Here are a few quick estate planning tips that will help you learn more about this important area of law.

It is not only for the rich and famous.

Many Americans equate estate planning with large complicated assets and estate tax loopholes. This could not be further from reality. And while it’s true that the estate tax won’t impact the vast majority of us, you still need a comprehensive plan in place. Estate planning encompasses so much more than taxation issues or complex wealth.

If you die with no estate plan, the state steps in.

The problem with the lack of an estate plan occurs when the state’s “intestacy” laws kick in and dictate how your assets are split up and passed on to your heirs. Creating an estate plan is the only sure method to make sure that your specific wishes are carried out. With no strategy, your kids might be in limbo or worse yet, in conflict. Proper preparation can also protect your family from lenders and lawsuits. No family wants to deal with debt collectors and mounting bills when they are mourning the loss of a loved one.

Your estate plan makes sure that your charities get the donations you intended to make.

An estate plan enables you to donate to a charity with confidence. Do you wish for part of your real property, personal property, or assets to go to a favorite charity? If that’s the case, the only real way to be charitable in passing is with an estate plan.  And, in case you do have worries about taxation, charitable estate planning could yield you tax breaks that you otherwise may not qualify for.

Estate plans are a must for unreliable relatives.

Sometimes, adult children aren’t as stable or responsible as you would wish. If you are concerned about your kids having total control over their inheritance, then you may even leave the funds in a trust, which allows somebody else (the trustee) to make decisions regarding how the money is utilized. This can shield your children from blowing through their inheritance as a result of bad decision-making, substance abuse issues, or just plain excess spending.

For unconventional families, estate planning is a non-negotiable

Estate preparation is vital for unconventional families. If you are part of a non-traditional or blended family, you will need an estate plan to ensure that your assets are distributed to those you consider your closest relatives. Or, if you are in a relationship aside from a conventional marriage union, your estate would skip your partner and pass to your parents or some other blood relations unless you have an established estate plan. Making certain that this does not occur is reason enough to hire an experienced estate planning attorney. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Healthcare

Department of Veterans Affairs Nursing Homes’ Nationwide Rankings

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a ranking of 133 VA nursing homes in an effort to further transparency within the organization. The 5-star ranking system helps veterans and their families to locate the best facility possible in their area. The posted performance ratings are slated to be updated annually and include the names of the nursing homes associated with the VA system, one to five-star ratings for quality of the environment, care, and staff based on unannounced on-site surveys at each facility from which an over all-star ranking is assessed for each facility based on the criteria scores.

The mandate for more transparency regarding veteran care began with other internal statistics that are now publically published including:

The VA is the first hospital system nationwide to publish these statistics. “Now that VA has made a commitment to reporting accurate quality and comparative data on its nursing homes, we are pleased to begin adding that important information to our transparency portfolio for the benefit of Veterans in making their health care choices,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke.

Of the 133 nursing homes ranked, 34 earned an overall 5-star ranking. 73 nursing care facilities experienced no relevant change in quality. One nursing home dropped from a 5 to a 4-star ranking but still retains a reputation for quality VA care. The acting VA Secretary is determined to use best practices to lift the 11 worst scoring; one-star rated nursing homes to viability and overall drive improvements across the VA nursing home system.

The ranking system used within the VA system was designed to allow valuable comparisons to the already existing 5-star ranking system by the Centers for Medicare (CMS), a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The VA nursing home interactive map helps you identify your best options. Then you can compare those options against Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare searches.

Overall the data shows that the VA nursing home system ranks very close to private sector nursing homes, even though the VA nursing homes on average care for sicker patients than those in private care facilities. Of the 15,487 nursing homes ranked by CMS, almost 29 percent had 5-star rankings, compared to about 26 percent of VA nursing homes. However, the VA had only an 8 percent one-star ranking compared to 13 percent for CMS-ranked private care facilities. It should be noted that because the VA does not turn away eligible veterans and they typically come with more complex medical conditions it is more difficult for the VA nursing home system to achieve higher rankings. Of course, these are just statistics, and while they help with the overview of options, this is a veteran’s story of care; it’s a story about people who served this country.

VA nursing home patients tend to have more numerous and challenging medical conditions than their private-sector counterparts patients. Residents in a VA nursing home have conditions rarely seen in private nursing homes including higher incidents of prostate obstruction, spinal cord injury, mental illness, homelessness, PTSD, and combat injury. While a private sector facility can selectively admit patients, the VA will not refuse service to an eligible veteran no matter their condition.

Transparency of VA nursing home care and ranking systems that allow comparison to private care facilities can significantly help you or a veteran you love get the proper nursing home care required. There is a lot of information to understand how your specific military service record ranks you within the VA health care system in general and then explicitly applying those conditions to an adequately ranked nursing facility. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Healthcare

Divorce and the Effects on Medicaid

Every so often, marriage comes later in life as it did for Wanda and Harry. This was their second marriage, and both had children from the prior marriages. The couple wanted their children to inherit from their respective parents, so Harry and Wanda signed a prenuptial agreement to keep their property clearly separated.

Unfortunately, Harry was then diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Medical bills piled up, his condition worsened, and soon Wanda was no longer able to care for him at home. But the cost of nursing-home care was formidable.

The Medicaid program is designed to help pay for that staggering cost. However, before a couple can be eligible, the rules require that the assets of both spouses are counted to pay for the care of one, even if only one spouse needs the care. Prenuptial agreements do not matter. The Medicaid rules count the assets of both spouses together. Wanda would be permitted to keep some of her property for her own use – but this would not be enough for her to maintain her standard of living, pay for her retirement, and still leave enough for Wanda’s children to inherit.

Wanda heard that divorce might solve this dilemma. The couple’s assets would get separated in the divorce proceedings and, after that, only the property designated as Harry’s would be applied to the cost of his care. He would spend that down, Medicaid would then step in, and Wanda’s share would remain her own.

But Wanda didn’t like the idea of a divorce that would be only “on paper,” because she had no intention of deserting Harry in his time of need. Harry’s children weren’t happy, either. And if the divorce was going to work as intended, the couple should probably consult not just one but three professionals – an elder law attorney, a financial planner, and a divorce lawyer.

But this plan would involve expense, possible family unrest, and uncertainty as to whether a court would approve the plan. The divorce strategy comes with significant downsides.

Early planning is best, to consult an elder law attorney at least five years before the need for Medicaid arrives. If that is not possible, an experienced elder law attorney can find other, less-fraught ways than divorce.

Early planning if possible, though, is always best. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Estate Planning

Estate Planning for the LGBTQIA+ Community

To protect our loved ones and our assets, estate planning is important to any individual regardless of orientation. In the LGBTQIA+ community, estate planning can legally protect against discrimination even if others are reluctant to recognize your relationship and your desire to permit your partner to make decisions for your care should you become unable to. Estate planning can also create mechanisms that financially provide for your partner as well.

How Obergefell v. Hodges Impacted Same-Sex Couples

In 2015 the case of Obergefell v. Hodges made it a fundamental constitutional right to marry, including same-sex couples. The US Supreme Court’s decision to recognize same-sex marriages opens up many previously unavailable legal tools and tax savings that had only been available to “traditional” legally recognized marriages. The Supreme Court ruling further stated that a valid same-sex marriage in one state must be recognized in all states. Note that non-marriage alternatives will not result in the federal government’s recognition of the relationship.

These alternatives include adults in domestic partnerships and civil unions, which are federally not legally recognized as marriage. However, these couples can still receive partnership decision-making privileges and benefits. To do so requires a different type of planning. However, your partnership is characterized, creating a legal framework to protect yourself and your partner is possible.

A married same-sex couple with proper estate planning will receive all state and federal benefits of marriage. Federal benefits include the unlimited marital deduction for federal estate and gift taxes. An unmarried same-sex couple who cannot receive these marital tax benefits can still ensure their partner will receive the legal right to inherit each other’s assets with other legal mechanisms. They will also be able to make health care decisions for one another; however, the legal framework will differ from the legally married couple.

Revocable Living Trust for the LGBTQIA+ Community

In either marriage or a cohabitation arrangement, a revocable living trust permits the couple to nominate each other as trustees, allowing the spouse or partner to manage their loved one’s financial affairs if they become incapacitated. A durable financial power of attorney is another solution to manage the affairs of a loved one if they become incapacitated. The rules and requirements of a durable financial power of attorney vary from state to state, so it is necessary to review and reconfigure this document if you relocate.  In either an LGBTQIA+ marital or cohabitation living arrangement, a health care power of attorney allows you to appoint your partner to make health care decisions on your behalf should the need arise.

Advance Healthcare Directive for the LGBTQIA+ Community

It is imperative to include a HIPAA privacy authorization form for your health care power of attorney or trustee. The form permits medical and healthcare professionals to disclose pertinent health information and medical records to a partner. A durable health care power of attorney can prevent biological family attempts to interfere with a spouse or partner’s ability to make medical decisions for their loved one.  A legally binding durable health care power of attorney can prevent family interference, no matter how well-intentioned it might be.

The Importance of a Will for the  LGBTQIA+ Community with Minor Children

Should a same-sex couple have children, where at least one parent is non-biological, a will is a legal tool to address guardianship of minor children. Your will is the only place to define guardianship of children and name an executor. Many custody battles over LGBTQIA+ parents’ non-biological children occur among families after the biological parent’s death or incapacity.

It is essential to address any previous LGBTQIA+ committed relationship structures before finalizing your estate plan to tie up any loose ends. If you were in a legal union before marriage was an option, you are subject to the patchwork of prior state laws that can have unintended consequences for new estate planning. Before 2015 some same-sex couples married in states that recognized their marriage only to move to states that did not. Believing that their nuptials were non-binding in the states that did not recognize same-sex marriage, these couples may have split up without ever legally dissolving their marriage. Some states even automatically converted registered civil unions or domestic partnerships into legal marriages. The fallout is there are now LGBTQIA+ people who are married and unaware that they are open to the possibility of future claims against their estate from a previous marriage. All previous domestic partnerships, civil unions, or other legal arrangements must be untangled and resolved to protect against these possibilities.

In general, studies find that the LGBTQIA+ community tends to lag behind others in having a will and revocable living trust. These documents are significant for non-married LGBTQ+ people in a seriously committed relationship. State laws will default to granting rights to biological family members absent legal documents to the contrary.

Specific issues unique to the LGBTQIA+ community can potentially make planning more complex. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss how you can properly document your wishes regarding the inheritance of your property, who can make decisions for you if you’re unable to, and who would care for your children should the need arise.  If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

How Does Estate Planning Work?

The law describes estate planning as a legal document summarizing the property a person owns and how to distribute these assets when deceased. Property ownership includes individual as well as jointly owned bank accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, real estate, jewelry, vehicles, your online digital footprint, and even pets. Short of being utterly destitute, you have an estate, and planning for it helps to protect yourself, your family, and your loved ones.

According to Caring.com, fewer Americans than ever are engaging in estate planning. The number of adults who have a will or other types of estate planning documents has fallen nearly 25 percent since 2017. Astonishingly, the demographic of older and middle-aged adults are less likely to have wills and estate plan documents at roughly the same 25 percent rate. Additionally, a growing number of Americans lack the resources and knowledge as to how to get a will. Overall, the prevalence of estate planning documents since 2017 has shown a decrease of almost 25 percent.

In their annual survey, Caring.com posed the question to its participants as to why they have put off having estate planning documents, and increasingly people cite a lack of education or the perceived cost of estate planning as the most significant reason. Yet 60 percent of the same respondents think planning their estate is either somewhat or very important. Data shows that as a person’s income increases, their likelihood of having estate planning documents like a will, living trust, or advanced health care directives also increases. Still, the number of people with said documents continues to decrease, even in higher-income groups.

In 2020, study participants in the highest income group show a decrease of 26 percent regarding estate planning documents. Even those Americans with the resources to create a will feel it is something they can put off until later in life, which has disastrous consequences for their loved ones in the case of unexpected death.

caring.com

Estate planning is the process of outlining specific instructions as to how you want your money, and other property dispersed upon your death. It includes decisions about your medical care and final arrangements as well. Wills, trusts, and advanced medical directives are the three primary estate planning documents you need to understand and put into place as soon as possible.

A will instructs how to divide up assets, debt, personal property, and more. A will can cover all of your estate planning needs, however; it does come with a few limitations. First, a court process called probate must be started upon death. During this sometimes lengthy process, a judge oversees the transfer of ownership of your property according to your will. Once a probate is opened, the will becomes public knowledge, as well as the property that the deceased owns. For those who wish to avoid court or who wish to keep their affairs private, a living trust may be the best option.

A living trust takes effect at the moment it is enacted while your will only become effective upon your death. Planning with a living trust can more expensive, but it provides the advantage of avoiding probate court and keeps all of your information (and your beneficiaries’ information) private. Further, a living trust can provide for the management of your assets should you become disabled.

An advanced health care directive, like a living trust, is designed to take effect during your lifetime. This directive stipulates your end of life wishes as well as what should happen if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions about your medical care.  

A durable power of attorney covers who will make financial decisions for you if you are unable to. You can specify more than one agent, and you can be very specific about what that agent can do on your behalf, including management of online accounts.

If you are ready to discuss your planning needs, we would be honored to help. If you have an existing plan, we would be happy to review that plan to make sure it still works for you given your current health and financial circumstances. We look forward to hearing from you! Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Elder Living

Important Considerations Before Turning 65

In order to make the most of your estate and government benefits, several factors need to be addressed before turning 65 years old. Overall, the most crucial thing to do before turning 65 is to invest your time wisely crafting the best approach possible for your health and financial security well-being. 

Can you afford to retire? Are you married? Estimate your total annual spending, including a cushion for periodic or unforeseen expenses like home repairs or dental work. Total all of your potential retirement-income sources and understand the tax implications associated with their spending. Run through several scenarios where you change what year you claim social security benefits to see if you should defer collecting it to a later age. Be realistic and start adhering to a modest budget today. Very few Americans can withdraw a lot from personal savings and investments without risking running out of money too soon. As you start to gather your assessments in general about how you view your retirement, find a qualified retirement planning expert that can help you with projections that are based on realistic assumptions.

Familiarize yourself with Medicare and its associated program variations. If you are retiring, you will approach Medicare differently than if you continue to work and have health care available through your employer. If you no longer will have health care through an employer, learn about Medigap supplemental insurance policies as Medicare will not cover all of your health care. Health insurance becomes quite complicated and varies widely depending on your overall health and personal financial situation. The National Council on Aging (NCOA), in partnership with private companies Aon Retiree Health Exchange™ and Via Benefits™, provides a checklist and timeline that can guide you through the process of enrolling in Medicare and assessing how you will cover the cost of prescription medication. If your income is low, you may qualify to enroll in Medicaid, which covers more expenses than Medicare. If you have already begun to take your social security benefits, then you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare. A packet entitled “Welcome to Medicare” will be sent to your address three months before turning 65. There are essential actions to take, and deadlines associated with this packet so read through the material carefully and meet those deadlines.

There are resources available to help you understand what your options are and the best way for you to proceed. As you approach the age of 65 many private insurance companies will lobby for your insurance dollars that will be spent on supplemental insurance. Finding a retirement planning company with insurance brokers that can sell you policies from many different insurance companies is more advantageous than locking into a group that will only sell plans that are associated with their company. A reputable insurance broker should not charge for helping you to assess your situation as they make commissions from the insurance company providing the policy to you. Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) online where you can plug in the name of an insurance group or retirement counselor and find out how long they have been in business, their accreditation, BBB rating, and customer reviews and complaints.

If you are over the age of 50, you can contribute an extra 1,000 dollars annually to your IRAs and an additional 6,000 dollars to 401(k)s up until the age of 65, according to Kiplinger. If you are still working, this is an excellent way to boost your retirement spending money. Before 65, you need to explore the option of a long-term care insurance policy, which helps to pay for any assisted living care needs you may require in the future. Long-term care policies can be expensive. If you do not enroll in a long-term care plan before the age of 65, the policies will become practically unaffordable.

Before turning 65, you should also come to terms with your will, advance medical directives, trusts, and the difficult conversation with your spouse or children about your end-of-life wishes and any funeral arrangements. Take heart, turning 65 is far from a death sentence as many Americans are living long and active lives well beyond the age of 65; however, meeting with an elder counsel attorney can save you and your heirs plenty of money and heartache. Do not wait until an adverse medical event forces your family or loved one to act on your behalf financially or medically. Decisions made under duress do not provide the best outcomes. Beyond your will, power of attorney, and power of medical attorney, consider a dementia directive as well. Projections for the aging US population indicate an ever-increasing number of seniors who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Your elder counsel attorney can guide you through your options. Some states even have working templates for dementia directives. As you age, you can review your legal strategies from time to time and make adjustments as you deem necessary. It isn’t easy to discuss your end-of-life scenario, but once you have had the discussions and put proper legal documents into place, you can move forward with a sense of relief. It is freeing to make decisions and act on your future behalf, knowing you can always revisit your choices.

Now for the fun stuff, get excited about the senior discount. While it is true that there are discounts available as early as 55 and 62, nothing beats the senior discount at age 65. You can check off that bucket list of yours with deals on restaurant meals and travel excursions, clubs, retail stores, hotels, cinemas, smartphone plans, AARP membership discounts, and more. If you do not see an offering for a 65 senior discount posted, by all means, ask.

Beyond Medicare eligibility, you can get a one-time free physical exam if you have Medicare Part B insurance coverage. Gyms and community programs offer discounted or free physical fitness programs so that you can keep yourself moving and as healthy as possible. If you have Medicare, check out your eligibility for SilverSneakers for a 65+ fitness program. Your local senior center can keep you socially active and connected to people your age. Making friends and enjoying the simple act of conversation is known to have many benefits for your cognition and staves off isolation and depression issues.

If you retire from your job at 65, you can finally begin to collect on your pension plan or 401(k). That in itself is worth a celebration after many decades of hard work. You might also opt to collect your social security benefits, but it is generally advisable to wait until you reach full retirement age.

Homestead benefits and property tax exemptions are considerable benefits for those who already own or plan to own a home or property. Benefits vary by state, so you will need to see what you can qualify for where you live. Your local comptrollers’ office can provide information about offers regarding homestead benefits. For property tax exemptions, you must contact your local comptroller or tax assessor’s office for exemption information.

There is a lot to discover, learn, and know about how to proceed in life at age 65 and beyond. With Social Security benefit determinations, health insurance policies, and legal documents in order, you can begin to enjoy being 65. Start your education about being 65 or older today. Stay vibrant and healthy and enjoy those things you dreamed of doing when you were your younger self. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.