Blog

Elder Living

The Benefits of Tech Apps to the Senior Population

Changes in technology are occurring continuously and it may seem hard to keep up. For many seniors, these changes can be so daunting that they tend to avoid technology altogether.

While seniors have increasingly embraced technology in recent years, data from Pew Research shows that as many as one-third of those over the age of 65 do not use the Internet, and nearly half do not have home broadband services.

Still, technology can be a key aspect of keeping seniors — who tend to spend more time alone than their younger counterparts — engaged and connected. It can also help caregivers to stay connected to their patients or loved ones.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of tech apps for the aging population.

Staying connected. Social connections are healthy for people of all ages, and this can be especially true for seniors. While there is no substitute for human interaction, technology can help to fill the gap for seniors who are away from family members or friends. Whether in person or online via video or messaging technology, social interaction can potentially lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, according to medical professionals. Apps such as Facebook and Instagram can help seniors connect with loved ones and caregivers.

Keeping active. There is no shortage of apps to help people stay active these days and seniors can certainly benefit from this technology. For those who can no longer drive or who do not have a neighborhood rec center with fitness classes, technologies such as those provided by the Nintendo Wii can help to get seniors moving wherever they are. Whether it’s tennis or yoga, these apps also offer fun activities for seniors and their loved ones or caregivers to do together.

Staying mentally sharp. Mental exercise is just as important as physical for the elderly. We’ve all heard how crossword and Sudoku puzzles can help thwart memory problems, but today there are countless other online games and mobile apps seniors can use to help stay mentally sharp. Not only can seniors do a crossword puzzle on the computer or mobile device, but they can also play solitaire, trivia, and memory games.

Managing medical records and medication. Today just about every doctor’s office offers records and correspondence online. This makes it easier for seniors to keep track of appointments and health records. There are also plenty of apps available — such as Medisafe — to help seniors keep track of medication dosing, schedules, and pharmacy refills. These types of apps help seniors make sure they don’t miss a dosage or inadvertently double up on medication if they’re having trouble keeping track due to memory problems or illness.

Keeping seniors safe at home. Most seniors want to retain their independence for as long as possible. That means remaining in their own homes as they age. By using technology they can better ensure their safety and their loved ones’ peace of mind while remaining independent.  Seniors living alone should always have some type of personal emergency response system or PERS. These are devices that help a person call for help by pushing a button, and connected mobile apps can alert family members or caregivers in the event of an emergency. These technologies activate the appropriate emergency response, helping seniors to avoid the frightening situation of trying to handle a medical or another emergency on their own and giving their loved ones peace of mind.

Managing finances and bills. Seniors are often reluctant to hand over the reins when it comes to managing their budget and finances. Maintaining that control helps instill a stronger sense of independence. Apps like Mint can help seniors manage these tasks and help ensure due dates aren’t missed or payments aren’t overlooked altogether. These apps can also help caregivers maintain a repository of their loved one’s budget and financial obligations.

While tech apps can seem daunting for seniors (48 percent of those over 65 say that they need assistance using new technologies and devices), with the proper support and training they can be a powerful tool for helping seniors maintain their health and independence.

If you’d like to learn more about empowering yourself and your loved ones with proper care and planning, our firm can help. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Estate Planning

How Do I Know if I Need a Trust?

This article will help you decide if a trust fits your particular circumstances. For example, maybe you have a disabled child and you want a trust to permit that child to inherit without losing government benefits. Maybe your own or your spouse’s health is heading into difficulties, and you can foresee eventually needing long-term care benefits. Trusts can avoid an expensive, public, and lengthy probate process before your beneficiaries can inherit after you pass. Or, you might be in the classic “trust fund” situation, where you’re concerned that your children won’t be able to manage money wisely.

All these are excellent reasons to consider a trust. But what kind of trust? A quick count shows there are at least thirteen different varieties. Which one is best suited to your needs? Call us.

Here’s the basic idea behind trusts, to help you understand why you might or might not need one.

What is a Trust?

Think of a trust like a treasure chest. You originally bought property or earned money in your own name. You then transfer those assets into the trust’s name – into your treasure chest, in other words. The trust treasure chest becomes a legal entity separate from you, which now holds your property in its, and no longer in your, name.

Then you identify people who will occupy the three roles involved in managing trust property. First, you are the grantor, or settlor, or trustmaker – all those words mean the same thing, the “you” in this case. Second, you appoint a trustee. That person or entity is responsible for managing trust assets and following directions contained in the trust document. Third, you decide whom you want to receive trust assets – your beneficiary or beneficiaries, in other words.

In legal terms, a trust is a fiduciary agreement among you the original property owner, your trustee, and your beneficiary. The trust document contains instructions for what you want to be done with trust property, both for how you want it invested and, also, for how you want trust assets to be distributed when you pass. Trusts are, thus, a highly efficient hybrid between a power of attorney, an asset-management vehicle, and a last will and testament, all rolled into one legal entity and document.

There are two basic kinds of trusts to understand before they split off into their thirteen-or-more different flavors: revocable or irrevocable trusts.

The Revocable Trust

A revocable trust can be thought of like a treasure chest with an open lid. As grantor/settlor/trustmaker of a revocable trust, you can get at trust assets freely.

You yourself can also occupy all three roles in a revocable trust – grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. If need be, you can also tinker with trust terms, by freely amending them to change the directions, beneficiaries, or trustees. Or, you can revoke the whole thing. Before that point, though, the trust document will be there to take care of everything you want it to.

If you should meet with an accident and lose capacity, the terms of your trust will designate a person to step in on your behalf and, thus, avoid the need to go to court to get a guardian for you. The trust will also direct who inherits, thus keeping your affairs private and out of probate court. This feature is especially important if you (formerly) and then the trust (after you created it) own real property in various states. The savings in court costs in that situation could be significant.

The Irrevocable Trust

This is the trust for you if you’re seeing the need for Medicaid long-term care benefits in your future, or you work in a field where suits are common, such as owning a small business or in the construction industry.

The disadvantage to an irrevocable trust, however, is that you will be sacrificing all or almost all control over trust assets, unlike in the revocable-trust situation. Once an irrevocable trust is established, you as grantor/settlor/trustmaker cannot directly alter the terms and, generally speaking, your access to trust money is restricted or entirely precluded – as is required in order to enjoy the potent benefits of this kind of trust.

Think of an irrevocable trust as being like the treasure chest with the locked lid. Your trustee – who generally cannot be you – is the one with the key. You yourself can no longer reach your assets. This relinquishment of control is necessary to shelter your assets from creditors or to protect your assets when entitlement to government benefits would otherwise require you to spend almost all you own first.

There are ways to draft an irrevocable trust carefully, so you can still exert your will over how assets are to be used. Just as in the revocable situation, you can impose conditions that must be met before a beneficiary can receive funds. You can designate how trust income is to be used for specific purposes like college tuition, business start-up, or travel. You can also authorize a person or entity as a “trust protector,” who can alter trust language, correct drafting errors, or create a new similar trust if the law changes.

And there you have the basics. Now you’re ready to decide whether you need a credit shelter trust, or a charitable trust, or a qualified terminable interest trust, or a blind trust, or – just come see us to figure out all the rest!

Trust Caveats

Some sophisticated trusts do convey tax benefits, but, for the most part, IRS considers revocable trusts to be invisible. You as grantor/settlor/trustmaker will still pay tax on the revocable-trust income, albeit at your individual rate and not at the prohibitive trust rate.

As for estate taxes, trusts have no effect – but, at least regarding federal estate taxes, those are currently moot for most people. They are not incurred until the value of the estate exceeds $11.4 million as of 2019. Some states do impose estate and/or inheritance taxes; for those states, please consult this website:

Also, keep in mind that revocable trusts provide no protection against creditors. If you lose a legal action, a judge can force you to change the beneficiary of your trust to the winner. Irrevocable trusts are free from that kind of interference.

Still, irrevocable trusts must be established long before you run into that kind of trouble. If you create such a trust while credit problems are looming or have already arrived, you risk that your trust will be undone as a fraudulent conveyance.

Trust Your Attorney

Consult lawyers like us, who have experience and expertise in the trusts and estates area. Custom-constructing a treasure chest to fit your specific needs is a job for our specific skills.

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, Elder Living

Medicare Scams and How to Avoid Them

Insurance companies are frequently subject to being scammed. Scammers frequently target government insurance like Medicare by stealing newly issued medical ID cards and then stealing identities. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that tens of billions of dollars are lost annually to these types of fraud. Additionally, medical identity theft is now a top complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission. Billing fraud is also responsible for huge losses to Medicare funds and is difficult to assess as it can be a billing error or intentional fraud.

How does this affect a senior on an individual level? Scammers typically pose as Medicare officials and ask people to pay for their new cards which in reality are free. Or they phone a potential victim with false news of a refund and ask for the person’s ID number and bank account number to deposit the refund. “Right now … everyone is being inundated with TV commercials, brochures, and other official-looking documents in the mail about all the Medicare Advantage plans. It’s so confusing, and in an environment like that, fraud is rampant,” says Micki Nozaki of the California Senior Medicare Patrol. There are more than 50 million Medicare beneficiaries who can annually opt to swap Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans which provide scammers with the opportunity to prey on vast numbers of seniors.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have a list of tips to help prevent fraud. The first and foremost is to protect your Medicare and Social Security numbers vigilantly. It suggests treating your Medicare card like you would a credit card and do not provide the number to anyone other than your doctor, or people you know should have it. Become educated about Medicare with regards to your rights and what a provider can and cannot bill to Medicare. Review your doctor bills carefully, looking for services billed for but not provided to you. Remember that nothing is free with regards to medical care; never accept offers of money or gifts of free services. Be suspicious of your provider if they tell you they know how to “bill Medicare” to pay for a procedure or a service that is not typically covered. Before leaving your pharmacy check to be sure your medication is correct, including the full amount prescribed and whether or not you received a generic or brand name medicine. If your prescription is in error report the problem to the pharmacist before leaving.

Remember Medicare will never visit, call, or email you and ask for personal information such as your Medicare number, Social Security Number, address, or bank account number. Medicare already has this information and does not need you to provide it. Even when Medicare issues new cards that no longer contain your social security number in April of 2019 you will not be required to do anything. You can assume that anyone who claims to be helping you with Medicare and asks for your personal or financial information is a scam artist so close the door, hang up the phone, or delete the email.

When it is time to compare plans be sure to meet with a trustworthy advisor. Some insurance representatives give the industry a bad name by selling you a policy or plan that does not suit your needs or your budget. Some agents go so far as to ask you to sign a release form allowing them to make decisions on your behalf. Never sign anything related to Medicare without first reading it carefully. Additionally, it is a good practice to have a family member or lawyer review the document before signing it.  The non-profit National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a free, brief assessment that allows you to compare plans online. You can also contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP is a provider of free, federally-funded Medicare counseling via a trained volunteer or staff member.

Medicare fraud wastes billions of taxpayer dollars annually. Carefully review your medical bills and have inaccuracies corrected. Guard your personal information vigilantly and be wary of people asking you to provide that information. Meet with a trusted insurance advisor or compare medical plan options using the sites listed above. If you are unsure about something call Medicare directly for clarification.

If you have questions or would like to discuss anything you’ve read, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 with any questions.

Elder Law, Elder Living

Nursing Homes and COVID-19 Deaths

Because aging Americans are more susceptible to the coronavirus, deaths in this age group are high. Although nursing home residents are less than one percent of the total US population, according to a report from the CDC, they account for more than 40 percent or approximately 45,500 of the US 115,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), asserts that nursing homes following federal infection control guidelines were largely able to contain the coronavirus.

Harvard researcher David Grabowski, a member of a nonpartisan commission, advising Congress about Medicare, states that “The federal government needs to own this issue,” about the need for federal efforts to routinely test nursing home staff and residents for COVID-19 and make more protective gear available. Grabowski agrees with other advocates for the elderly that the federal government has not provided consistent virus testing and sufficient protective equipment to nursing homes, its staff, and residents.

High Risk for Elderly Care During This Election Year

In this Presidential election year, the stakes could not be higher to garner support from older voters. Partisan overtones affect the discussion and subsequent policies to guide safer nursing home outcomes from the ravages of COVID-19. The blame game is on between political parties fighting for votes and states legally protecting health care workers and facilities from coronavirus lawsuits by residents or their families.

The Trump administration deflects accountability by criticizing nursing home facilities with low federal ratings for infection control and a handful of Democratic governors, New York in particular, who mandated that nursing homes accept recovering coronavirus patients. The number two House Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, states that this NY policy, and other states with similar policies, “ended up being a death sentence.” Verma echoes the nursing homes with low federal rating criticism, saying CMS has data equating low safety ratings with outbreaks of COVID-19. Several academic researchers dispute this data citing their research has found no such link. Amid the finger-pointing, shamefully, more vulnerable senior nursing home residents are dying because of the coronavirus.

Nursing Home Concerns During Coronavirus

In agreement with other academic researchers, Harvard’s David Grabowski opined that neither state policies nor proverbial bad apples among nursing homes were responsible for driving the coronavirus outbreaks. The reason is simply because of the virus’s nature, which can spread via individuals displaying no symptoms and do not feel unwell. The illness’s very nature indicates it is already spread throughout communities. Without routine testing, nursing home staff can unknowingly bring COVID-19 into a facility where it then spreads easily among frail residents living in tight quarters. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press quotes Grabowski, “The secret weapon behind COVID is that it spreads in the absence of any symptoms,” Grabowski told lawmakers at a recent briefing. “If COVID is in a community where staff lives, it is soon to be in the facility where they work.”

Advocacy group Justice in Aging’s long-term care expert Eric Carlson cites the lack of federal coordination as impeding the ability to identify people who are infected by and require care for the coronavirus. Other advocates agree that the White House directive for the testing of all residents and staff has had an uneven response, accounting for why some facilities suffer higher rates of infection than others. The Associated Press report from the end of May 2020 concurs with these opinions reporting “White House goal on testing nursing homes unmet.”

Meanwhile, at CMS, administrator Verma believes her agency has provided necessary safety guidelines, COVID-19 reporting requirements, and Medicare payment for testing residents since the outset of the virus. She continues that states have the money required from the federal government to support the nursing home staff’s testing. Let’s hope that is the case, as the nursing home industry reports one-time testing for every resident and staffer would cost 440 million dollars.

The coronavirus pandemic is not going to go away. New spikes of cases across the country are being reported and not even considered the “second wave” of infection that many experts anticipate. Third-ranking House Democrat Representative and chairman of a special panel on the coronavirus pandemic James Clyburn of South Carolina seems to match wisdom with temperance about the finger-pointing saying that the crisis in nursing homes should not be a partisan issue. Instead, stating, “Nursing home residents have died from the coronavirus in states governed by Republicans and Democrats, in big cities and in small towns, in rural and urban communities.” Capitol Hill law and policymakers seem to be very adept at identifying problems but slow in resolving them. In the meantime, our vulnerable senior nursing home population and their families are paying the price. We help families with loved ones in a nursing home deal with a variety of issues. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, please don’t hesitate to reach out to see how we can help. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

Silver Bills Help Seniors With Their Bill Paying Process

Silver Bills is a service that assists seniors in the process of paying their monthly bills. As many baby boomers continue to opt for aging in place, home administrative tasks can become problematic.  Family members who would like to help may live out of state or are too busy in their own careers to manage a loved one’s household bills. SilverBills has created a seamless service that will receive your bills, carefully review them, and ensure that your bills are correctly paid.

At your direction, SilverBills will mail you an enrollment packet. You will have to provide bills and one voided check to SilverBills in the envelope they provide. Once SilverBills receives the envelope they will convert your bills to “ebills”. Once enrolled in the service you will have a dedicated customer service representative that will assist you with any concerns or questions. SilverBills service will now receive, review, and ensure that your bills are paid for properly. The service guarantees that you will not incur late fees or penalties. In the event you do the service charge or late fee will be paid for by SilverBills.

No more getting to the mailbox or PO Box on a regular basis to look for bills. No more US Post Office trips to purchase stamps. No more calendaring due dates of bills and check writing. Once a month you will receive a statement showing your bills have been paid. There are no contracts; you can cancel your service at any time. SilverBills uses the same 256-bit encryption used by banks so that your transactions are secure.

Automating your bills through a bill-paying service is becoming more commonplace particularly for seniors 75 and older. It is easy for a senior to mistakenly pay a bill twice or not at all and have needed electricity or water services shut off. The ability to manage money is often one of the first skill sets that go when someone is experiencing mild cognitive impairment. By the time a person reaches their seventies, there is a 20 % chance of cognition troubles. That percentage increases to 50% in our eighties.

SilverBills is one of a growing number of daily money management companies. The services are typically expensive ($100 and up, per month) but the peace of mind a family can have knowing the day-to-day bills are being correctly handled is worth the price to many. The American Association of Daily Money Managers is an online resource that can help you find the right professional service for you or your loved one. Always ask for references and check accreditations before allowing access to your banking information and remember these bill-paying services do not act as accountants or financial advisers. They are more akin to a personal financial assistant with the added bonus of consumer advocacy; looking for bill errors and potential fraud.

There are many reasons that accurate bill-paying becomes unmanageable for seniors. SilverBills and services like them are becoming increasingly popular for proper bill payment. Talk with your family or trusted counsel to see if it is the right choice for you. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like help with your planning needs. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

Older Americans are Experiencing Higher Levels of Bankruptcy

Many retired and older Americans are filing for bankruptcy at higher rates than ever before. While medical advances are keeping seniors alive longer, the associated healthcare costs in the quest for longevity are being off-loaded onto the older individual at a time when reduced income is a hallmark of senior living.  Older Americans are increasingly filing for consumer bankruptcy. According to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, the population aged 65 or more is filing for bankruptcy at a two-fold increase, and there is nearly a five-fold increase in the percentage of seniors in the US bankruptcy system. The economic risk for seniors is running rampant, and the sad truth is currently 97 out of 100 people aged 65 and over are not able to write a check for $600 or more due to insufficient funds.

The sentiment among Americans is that their standard of living will increase at the age of retirement when it is quite the opposite. The typical retiree has set aside about $60,000 for their old age living, and more than 50% over the age of 55 have saved less them $50,000; as much as 40% of these workers have less than $25,000 set aside. The stark reality is none of these “nest eggs” are enough to see a senior through old age and the unforeseen disasters that can deplete what little has been saved.

One of the more common financial obstacles that create this bankruptcy scenario is a health issue. Medicare is not comprehensive. In the absence of a supplemental insurance plan picking up the non-Medicare funded 20 percent cost, a senior can be left with unforeseen operation and rehabilitation costs. Without full health care coverage, the cost of staying alive as a senior is practically prohibitive between prescriptions, treatments, surgeries, rehabilitation, and assisted care. The primary two options available to a senior to cover these costs of survival are credit card debt and loans.  Suddenly, at a time when most seniors should have very low monthly living costs, they find themselves back in a debt slave scenario with little or no income to address their healthcare debt. 

Many seniors have concluded that retirement is not a part of their future as they will need a viable stream of income to avoid financial disaster. While this seems reasonable, it is not a good plan to assume one will be healthy enough to work forever. As we age, there is an increased probability that working will become impossible due to unforeseen illnesses. When this happens, debts begin to mount, and bankruptcy becomes a likely result. Additionally, the era of stable pensions afforded to a long-time employee has gone by the wayside. Fewer companies even offer them anymore and those that do often modify and reduce pension benefits to meet corporate expectations of financial profits.

The cost of living rarely if ever is reduced over time and while social security benefits seem like the answer to a senior’s retirement years; these benefits seldom cover basic living expenses no matter how long an individual may have worked or how much they paid into the system. The senior who is faced with government social security benefits and very little additional income usually turn to credit cards to address the gap between low income and living expenses. This scenario takes a senior right back to debt slave mode. As many as two out of three seniors who file for bankruptcy cite credit card debt as one of the primary reasons.

Scams that target the senior population are becoming more sophisticated and prolific with the advent of technology. What used to be a “one to one” scam can now be distributed via email to thousands of targeted seniors who are online in greater numbers than ever before. Often the unsuspecting senior will make passwords or personal bank information available to what they believe is a legitimate request for information from what appears to be a valid email. Seniors can also fall prey to predatory lenders as many seniors cannot read the fine print or understand the consequences of their actions. When scam artists victimize a senior, the senior often lose a large chunk of their assets which in turn can put them in a bankruptcy scenario.

While it is impossible to know the exact future, it is possible to make reasonable plans for it. Learn the ways that you can protect yourself from becoming part of these bankruptcy statistics in your senior years. Even a modest plan is better than no plan at all. Seek the advice of trusted legal and financial professionals to help you understand what you can do to protect your future. Please feel free to contact our office today to discuss how we can help you with your planning. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Elder Living, Healthcare

Don’t Wait for a Crisis to Discuss Long-Term Care With Your Parent

It is unclear whether or not your parent has a plan in place for long-term care. It is a difficult topic to broach; no one wants to talk about death and the financial realities that come with aging.  Instead of having a proactive conversation early in a parent’s aging process, most families have a reactive discussion under high levels of stress and emotions while their parent is experiencing an adverse health event.  The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has reported that 85 percent of the time long-term care decisions are made during a medical crisis. The message is clear, be proactive and start discussing the important financial questions with your parent.

Prepare Yourself

Your parent will feel more comfortable and at ease if you have processed your feelings before talking to them.  Conduct research so that you are knowledgeable enough to present a clear and concise set of options for your parent.  Having options allows your parent and family to make decisions and feel in control of the process.  You are seeking progress, not perfection. It may not all become settled in one conversation, but the price of silence about your parent’s plan may be very costly to you.

Review Documents

Two of the most critical personal legal documents are a durable power of attorney (DPOA) and a healthcare proxy. All older adults should have these documents as it gives legal authority to a designated representative to make financial, legal, and health care decisions on your parent’s behalf. If your parent does not have a DPOA and becomes incapacitated, you will have to go to court to get appointed as your parent’s guardian which can be a complicated legal process at a time when your energy is better spent in the care and decision making for your parent. If they do not have a DPOA and health care proxy in place make arrangements for them to meet with a trusted elder law attorney to properly draft the legal documents.

Often a parent will have a will, retirement account information, and insurance policies that have not been revisited or updated in years, sometimes decades. When was the last time your parent reviewed beneficiary designations? Family circumstances change, and the birth of a child, death, or divorce can affect how your parent may want beneficiaries designated. It is best to review financial and insurance data annually with your parent and make adjustments if necessary. For example, if the parent’s children are grown it might be best to cut back on the amount of life insurance they carry to save money on annual premiums.

Long Term Care Plan

Address the issue of long-term care. According to the PBS, a full 70 percent of all seniors will need some long-term care as they age. Even if your parent is healthy today odds are they will require long-term care and the costs are staggering. Some life insurance companies will add a long-term care rider to an existing policy. Medicaid also can cover some long-term care costs, but neither standard health insurance nor Medicare will cover your parent’s long-term care expenses.

Meet the Team

Ask your parent about their financial advisors and request a brief introduction to them.  Find out who they are and how you might contact them in the event your parent is unable to do so. This information will allow you to keep an eye on your parent’s accounts and be confident the advisors are trusted, objective, and well versed in elder financial issues. Oversight by you in a slightly detached way provides your parent privacy and independence about their finances but allows you to protect them from unscrupulous advisors. 

Understand Filing System

The last thing you need to discuss is where this vital information is filed so that before a crisis hits you know where to find the important documents, online passwords, and forms of ID you will need to facilitate your parents well being. While you do not have to see all the specific contents of the information, particularly the financials, knowing where they keep the data is critical in a crisis. Remember that as your parent ages they may start to change the location of the information. Check with them a couple of times a year to ensure the information is still in the same place and physically look to be sure it is.

Discussing your parent’s strategy is best begun while they are healthy.  Proactive planning is the best way to help your family as your parents age.  Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you and your family.

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.