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Estate Planning with a Family That is Blended

Couples often bring children into a marriage from a prior marriage or union and then have children together. This is often referred to as a blended family. Blended families highlight the need for careful estate planning to make sure the needs of each spouse are met, as well as the needs of each parents’ children.

If one spouse is significantly younger, this sometimes means that the older spouse’s children are close in age to the younger.  There can also be sibling rivalry between children of a parent and stepchildren. These relationships can cause more than friction between the stepparent and stepchildren.

Most parents want to ensure that their assets will pass to their children and/or grandchildren, and maybe not their stepchildren.  However, without careful estate planning, there is no guarantee that their children will inherit their assets.  In fact, if the couple creates identical wills such that their assets pass to the survivor of them, there is a significant likelihood their children will be disinherited.

This is because all of their assets will pass to the surviving spouse to do with as he or she pleases. This can result in the surviving spouse excluding the stepchildren, who then receive nothing.

Poor planning can lead to a race for survival between spouses. A will can be changed at any time; therefore, a surviving spouse could change his will after the death of the first spouse, leaving nothing for the first spouse’s children.

Another common occurrence is for each spouse to name the other as a beneficiary on accounts or pieces of real property. Doing so will not allow the bank account, piece of property or other type of asset to pass to anyone else, regardless of what their estate planning documents provide.

A trust, however, can allow a spouse/parent to “rule from the grave.” At the death of the first spouse half of the trust assets can be locked down. With this type of planning, each spouse can have the assurance that their share of the trust assets (or one half) will pass to their children, grandchildren or any other person they wish. The remaining assets are used for the surviving spouse and will then pass as that spouse wishes.

We help families of all types plan so that their savings, home and other property passes the way they intend. This involves getting to know you and your family and having a complete understanding of each spouse’s wishes. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please contact our office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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A Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prevalent among aging Americans, and there are more aging Americans than ever before. Alzheimer’s disease has three typical biomarkers: plaques of beta-amyloid protein, tangles of tau protein, and loss of connections in the synapses that communicate information between brain cells. Now a simple blood test may be able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s years before any symptoms, like memory and thinking decline, become apparent. The test involves the identification of changes in levels of NfL a neurofilament light chain protein found in the brain. This protein is part of the internal skeleton and resides inside neurons and brain cells, but when damaged or dying NfL leaks into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), it becomes circulated into the bloodstream.  CSF provides essential mechanical and immunological protection to the brain inside of the skull.

Prior testing to determine elevated levels of NfL in the cerebrospinal fluid involved a lumbar puncture or a spinal tap which is a procedure many people are reluctant to undergo. Still, this raised level of NfL is a reliable indicator that brain damage has occurred and that the person is at an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s presymptomatic stages. Testing of NfL “…could be,” says co-first study author Stephanie A. Schultz, who is a graduate student at Washington University, “a good preclinical biomarker to identify those who will go on to develop clinical symptoms.”

Recent data from the National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s disease fact sheet estimates Alzheimer’s may rank as the third leading cause of death for older people following heart disease and cancer. It is also the most common form of dementia among seniors aged 65 or more. A simple blood test can detect the future state of you and Alzheimer’s, but do you want to know? Currently, there is no cure for the disease, and depending on the levels of optimism an individual displays, knowing their NfL status could be a blessing or a curse.

The blood test gives pre-diagnosis years ahead of the onset of symptoms. There is a percentage of seniors who would find this information disheartening and feel burdensome and full of worry for what is about to come. These individuals can receive protection from knowing at their request if the information would make them fearful and angst-ridden. Other seniors might want to have a pre-diagnosis to relish the time that they have left with full faculties. They may want to get their affairs in order, handling day to day living choices and extension of life choices when they are no longer mentally competent to do so. Many components divide the two camps of thought; wanting or not wanting to know. Family structure, faith, financial independence, education level, and general health and well-being typically play a factor in the decision.

What of the family who may want or may need to know of the future advent of Alzheimer’s to plan for the care of their spouse or parent? As a spouse and as a child, it is crucial that medical directives be in place for when their loved one can no longer make a sound decision but can be comforted by the fact that they participated in the planning years before. A spouse must prepare when their loved one enters a full-time care facility, they may no longer recall their marriage and their spouse and unknowingly, may strike up a “relationship” with another resident. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor encountered this with her husband and famously became involved in raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018 and retired from public life.

Outside of the emotional realm of not having an Alzheimer’s stricken spouse or parent recognize who you are there is a substantial financial component to caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s. For practical and economic reasons, a family should be able to establish the biomarker for a loved one’s likelihood to develop the disease through this simple blood test. To that end, health information is private and protected by law. To ascertain your spouse or parents’ risk of Alzheimer’s requires conversation, acceptance of the blood test, and careful planning with elder counsel for proper legal documentation.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Using Others to Determine Where to Live

While aging in place is very popular among the baby boomer generation, about one-third of those retirees would choose to live elsewhere. The family remains the most significant factor when deciding where retirees live, followed by the general livability of an area and desirable weather conditions. The decision about where to live should be a high priority as you approach retirement age. According to www.AgeFriendly.com, two out of three retirees feel they did not do the necessary in-depth research when determining where to live out their retirement years. Three out of four of the same group of retirees indicated that an online tool such as Age Friendly Advisor (a section of www.AgeFriendly.com) would be handy to determine what a location is really like from its current residents. This online crowdsourcing site designed for those aged 50 or more allows the user to tap into advice about good cities to live in, get care, and even get a retirement job to improve and enhance the quality of life.

This user review approach is similar to other sites where consumers can give product reviews and read opinions about the product before purchasing. This approach provides an “upvote” function that allows easier navigation of the more popular and valuable topics addressed. Age Friendly Advisor answers questions for three distinct purposes: everyday living, working and volunteering, and caregiving. The living section helps older adults connect with available resources, engage with one another and communicate with their city or town. The working and volunteering section connect the user to a list of age-friendly employers and businesses including customer/employee reviews and job listings. The caregiving section is for those who opt to age in place while staying connected to their communities. The cities and towns support of the elderly community are assessed and rated by Age Friendly Advisor. As a location becomes responsive to their older citizens, the steps taken to improve their support is recognized.

This website is part of a larger corporate entity known as Age Friendly Ventures, and the use of and information from their websites are free. Age Friendly Ventures operates other retirement friendly sites such as RetirementJobs.com and MatureCaregivers.com. The sites are all geared toward persons age 50 or more and support the mission to fight ageism and provide resources for a successful aging experience. “When managed well, user-contributed reviews reveal an extraordinary wisdom of the crowd,” Age Friendly Ventures founder and CEO Tim Driver said in a statement. “Just as consumers read and give product reviews on Amazon and restaurant and hotel ratings on Yelp and TripAdvisor, Americans can now go to agefriendly.com to read and publish crowd sourced reviews tackling complicated topics around aging.”

Age Friendly Ventures and their subsidiary websites currently enjoy the support of at least one major senior living operator and other corporate entities. More will surely follow as these websites gain traction on influencing the process of and choices about aging. Sponsorship and brand exposure to the baby boomer (and older) community while providing them with a reliable and free set of information services is destined to become more popular as the corporate world chases retirees’ purchasing power and retirement dollars. Finding trusted information about health and wellness, lifestyle and retirement options with the bonus of user reviews can help a senior successfully navigate the many options available to them and make an informed decision.

Gathering trusted peer-reviewed information from sites like agefriendly.com is one of the first steps to take in your plan for successful aging. Your choice may lead you to a new state or just a new town. Wherever it takes you, a trusted elder law attorney can help you review your plan and make any necessary adjustments.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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How Coronavirus Affects Seniors

We are living in confusing and scary times. The senior population has been identified as the most at-risk demographic for COVID-19. Information coming out about COVID-19 is very fluid, which can also contribute to overall stress. Thankfully there are ways to try and manage stress and stay as healthy as possible during this time thanks to advice from several federal agencies monitoring the situation and the impact of COVID-19 on the senior population. This article highlights some of the advice provided from those agencies monitoring this situation closely.

For those living in a nursing home or long-term care living facility, new protocols have been established by the federal government to curb the spread of Coronavirus. A new preparedness checklist is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It includes staff education and training for the rapid identification and management of ill residents, as well as an increase in supplies and resources. There are also restrictions on all visitation, excepting some circumstances like an end of life situation.  Other restrictions have been placed on volunteers and non-essential health care personnel, and the cancellation of all group activities and communal dining.

Before the identification and dissemination of information about Coronavirus, the CDC had identified the 2019-2020 flu season as being particularly challenging. Now many seniors wonder whether they have a different type of flu, allergies, or are experiencing the Coronavirus. Not knowing is particularly frightening since seniors have been identified as the demographic with the highest mortality rate. The CDC has a straightforward checklist of symptoms of respiratory infection, including COVID-19: fever, cough, and shortness of breath

Because other types of flu have similar symptoms and there is no Coronavirus vaccine, and its test is in very short supply, many older adults will only be able to treat their symptoms without full knowledge as to the contagion.

One their website under “How to Prepare” the CDC provides information on protecting yourself, your family, your home, and managing anxiety and stress. According to the CDC, there are some things that seniors can do whether or not they are in a facility or living at home that can help reduce their risk of catching the Coronavirus or any other virus for that matter in this bad flu season. The first line of defense sounds counterintuitive to a global pandemic, but it is crucial, stay calm and try to relax.

Getting quality sleep during this outbreak will allow your body the time it needs to restore immunity responses to contagions. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Staying calm, getting restful sleep, and remaining hydrated will allow your body’s natural defense mechanisms to protect itself.

Have someone near you help you stock up on supplies. Stay in your home as much as possible. If the weather permits, open a window for fresh air. If you have a home with a porch or patio, take in some sun for vitamin D. You want your immune system to be as robust as possible. Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others. If it is not necessary, don’t go out in public, avoid crowds, stay away from anyone who is sick, and wash your hands often. Cancel any cruise or non-essential air travel and do not use public transportation.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has posted a list of disinfectants for use against the Coronavirus. Proper disinfecting of often-used surfaces is critical as this particular Coronavirus can live for long periods, up to 72 hours on some surfaces. As of now, the EPA reports no detection of COVID-19 in drinking water supplies and believes the risk to the water supply is low based on current evidence.

The CDC is reporting that seniors with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and should take extra precautions about self-isolating. Those seniors with these conditions in a nursing home or long-term care facility will be triaged according to CDC guidelines for best practices with the elderly who are the highest risk.

If you feel worried and panic is taking over your rational responses, seek a loved one or trusted friend to guide you through the steps you can take. There is a great deal that is unknown about the Coronavirus, but there is a great deal known about what you can do as an individual senior to combat the threat and remain healthy.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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What Everyone Should Know About ABLE Accounts

Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014. This created tax advantaged accounts for people with disabilities. These accounts grow and are tax free. The money in the accounts can be used for qualifying expenses. Before the passing of the ABLE Act in 2014, if a person with disabilities had more than $2000 in their name, they would lose Medicaid coverage or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). ABLE accounts allow people with disabilities to have more than the $2000 in their name within the guidelines without losing these benefits.

In order to qualify for an ABLE account, the beneficiary must have become blind or disabled before the age of 26. When opening an account, a person with disabilities may or may not be asked to provide documentation if they are not already receiving Medicaid coverage or SSI.  In order to self-certify, the person with the disability will just need documentation from the doctor. Those already receiving Medicaid coverage or SSI should not have to provide documentation in order to open an account.

The ABLE account limit is $14,000 per year. This keeps the account from incurring the gift tax. ABLE accounts cannot grow above $100,000 without affecting other benefits. If the account grows above $100,000, Social Security payments are suspended until the account falls below the $100,000. These accounts are administered at the state level, but this does not mean that the account must be acquired in the home state. It is beneficial to investigate and find the account that best fits the needs of the disabled person. Fees are one consideration. Another is how the funds are accessed. If immediate access is necessary, an account that offers a debit card option may be important. This is something that must be explored individually. An elder law attorney and financial planner can be helpful in deciding which plan best meets an individual’s needs.

Funds in the ABLE account can, according to the ABLE Act, be used for “qualified disability expenses.” It further defines qualified disability expenses as “expenses related to the eligible individual’s blindness or disability which are made for the benefit of an eligible individual who is the designated beneficiary.” ABLE accounts can be used to pay for housing, transportation, assistive technology, support services, health, prevention and wellness, employment training, education, funeral and burial expenses, among others. It is important for a disabled person to speak with an expert, in order to take advantage of the full benefit of the account, as many people may be unaware of expenses the account can cover.

It is recommended that receipts and records for the expenses paid for with an ABLE account are kept as a record for the account. The IRS is responsible for regulating the accounts. Having records of the expenses the account was used for is very helpful in case of an audit. It may also be beneficial to keep a record of how each expense is related to the disability. Taking these measures will provide documentation if any expense covered by the ABLE account is ever questioned or if the account is audited.

ABLE accounts can benefit many Americans with disabilities. Many people continue to choose special needs trusts and other financial options. There is no limitation for one or the other. For those who can afford both, this may be an option to explore. The benefits of both outweigh one or the other. ABLE accounts are just one tool for those planning for the future of people with disabilities.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Addressing Abuse in Senior Living Facilities

If you have an elderly family member or friend living in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, it is imperative to stay attuned to the signs of abuse to your loved one. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports the most common types of abuse include physical (29%), psychological (21%), gross neglect (14%), financial exploitation (14%), and sexual abuse (7%). While the facility’s staff perpetrates the majority of these abuse cases, 22 percent of cases are a result of resident on resident abuse. However, these statistics reveal only part of the story.

While abuse of senior residents is not the norm, according to McKnight’s Senior Living, it is a persistent and pervasive problem. Federal and State lawmakers are emphasizing the role of regulations and public policy to identify and decrease the abuse of residents while continuing to improve care quality. Once a comprehensive set of US standards for care are established, facility owners and employers will have to adhere to best practices to be in compliance and eliminate resident abuse.

Besides elder abuse being a persistent and systemic problem, it is also an under-reported one. Because it is under-reported, statistical data integrity is suspect. Typically, the resident who encounters abuse is 65 years or more, and the vast majority of those who are especially at risk exhibit moderate cognitive impairment or are living with dementia. Because of their medical conditions, these seniors are often unable to communicate about or report the abuse they experience, and so it continues unabated and without consequence.

To address the abuse problem requires a multi-pronged strategy. Raising awareness of abuse and educating family members, caregivers, and their teams, and managers to look for signs of abuse every day with every resident is crucial. Knowing the signs of neglect and abuse include skin tears, multiple fractures or long bone fractures as well as a resident’s inability to explain bruises. Bruising of the chest, breasts or genital regions, a sexually transmitted disease, bloody discharge, and unusually stained underwear are signs of sexual abuse. Medical neglect or abuse manifests itself both physically and psychologically. Symptoms include a resident’s poor hygiene, unintended weight loss, and dehydration. Other symptoms are marked by suspicious wounds, and poor case management of medical conditions, unmonitored prescription medications, depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal.

Certification and licensing verification, as well as criminal background checks, should be mandatory before hiring employees or volunteers to work with residents. Those individuals found guilty of any form of abuse or who have disciplinary action against their professional license should not be considered for hire. All qualified new hires should be trained on the facility’s abuse prevention policy before working with residents, and continuing education about abuse should be mandatory.

Training should encompass all aspects of potential resident abuse, mistreatment, and neglect for all staff and volunteers. Topics to cover should consist of ways to identify those residents at risk, recognizing the signs of abuse, how to properly report the violation without fear of reprisal, and understanding the Resident Bill of Rights. Staff should be trained on how to respond appropriately to difficult resident behaviors and recognize symptoms of caregiver burnout in themselves or other staff members.

Prevention policy should cover a range of procedures. Before a resident moves in, there should be an assessment made about their potential vulnerabilities. Continuing evaluations and documentation of any resident changes should be routine. Appraisals should include a review of the facility’s physical environment, number of residents, and requirements as to the risks of guarding against admitting a predatory offender as a resident. All of these preventative strategies are guided by specific Federal, State, and statutory requirements.

Reporting and response time are critical when abuse is alleged particularly in the case of serious bodily injury. Generally, most State laws and statutory requirements deem that within two hours of such an abuse a report must be filed. If abuse is not alleged and there is no evident serious bodily harm, the general rule is that it should be written up within 24 hours. Reports are filed with the facility’s executive director, state authorities, and law enforcement. Families should always be notified of allegations of or signs of abuse.

By employing these prevention techniques, focusing on policies and procedures as well as ongoing educational training, senior care residences can become a living environment where resident abuse is an unlikely event. Managing abuse risk is a significant factor in successful senior living. If your loved one is in a senior living facility, be sure to understand their vulnerabilities and the policies and procedures in place to prevent abuse.

If you have questions or would like to talk about your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Medicare Covering New Health Technologies

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that it has increased access to Medicare telehealth services. This means that Medicare beneficiaries can receive more benefits from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility.

The terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” refer to the ability to exchange medical information from one site to another through electronic communication to improve a patient’s health.  With the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases, there is the urgency to expand the use of technology to help people who need routine care. Telehealth will keep vulnerable beneficiaries and those with mild symptoms in their home, but with access to the care they need by phone and video rather than requiring an office visit.

Prior to this change, Medicare would only pay for telehealth on a limited basis, and only for persons in a designated rural area. Now Medicare beneficiaries will be able to receive the following services through telehealth: common office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings. This will help keep more of the at-risk population (Medicare beneficiaries) able to visit with a doctor from home, rather than traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital which puts the beneficiary and others at risk. Telehealth visits will be treated the same as regular, in-person visits and will be paid by Medicare at the same rates.

These changes go into effect for services starting March 6, 2020 and will continue for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. For more information, view the fact sheet prepared by CMS.

Better access to telehealth is a big step in getting Medicare beneficiaries appropriate care in the least restrictive way.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno, Nevada office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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VA Pension Qualification for Non-Disabled Veterans

It is a challenge to keep up with US Military benefits as they are always changing, and many veterans miss out on what can be life-changing aid. Many wartime veterans receive a disability pension due to injury. But did you know that wartime veterans age 65 or more may qualify for a VA Pension without being disabled? The Veteran’s Administration qualifications for this type of VA Pension include:

  • Your military service discharge is deemed anything other than dishonorable conditions,
  • Your service was 90 or more active duty days with at minimum one day of service during a period of wartime.
  • You are age 65 years or older,
  • Your countable family income is below a threshold set every year by law.

2020 Family Income Limits (Effective December 1, 2019)

If you are a…Your yearly income must be less than…*
Veteran with no dependents$13,752*
Veteran with a spouse or a child$18,008**
Housebound veteran with no dependents$16,805
Housebound veteran with one dependent$21,063
Veteran who needs aid and attendance and has no dependents$22,939
Veteran who needs aid and attendance (A/A) and has one dependent$27,195
Two veterans married to each other$18,008
Add for each additional child to any category above$2,351
*Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit (for example, welfare benefits, some wages earned by dependent children, and Supplemental Security Income. It is also important to note that your medical-related expenses are considered when determining your yearly family income. *To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $687 ** To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $900

The financial information chart above, published by military.com, is commensurate with the numbers posted on the Veteran’s Administration website.  Be aware; there is a look-back period that will determine if you have transferred assets in the three years previous to filing your claim. There would be a penalty period rate of $2,266 if you did move assets for less than fair market value during this period.

The VA will pay a qualified veteran the difference between personal countable family income and the yearly income limit category into which they fall. Payments are made in 12 equal installments per month and rounded down to the nearest dollar. As an example, a single veteran with a $5,000 annual income qualifies for an annual limit of $13,752. Subtracting that veteran’s income from the income limit yields an annual pension rate of $8,752, which translates into a VA monthly pension check of $729.33 or $729.00 rounded down to the nearest dollar value.

The VA website recognizes the following wartime periods that determine if your service was during an eligible wartime period:

  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

In addition to VA pension, wartime Veterans may also qualify for an additional allowance called Aid and Attendance. To qualify medically for VA Aid and Attendance, one of the following must be true:

  • Another person is required for you to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and feeding, or
  • You spend a large portion, or all of your day in bed due to illness, or
  • Due to a loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability you are a patient in a nursing home, or
  • Your eyesight is severely limited (wearing glasses or contacts your eyesight is 5/200 or less in both eyes or your concentric contraction visual field is 5 degrees or less)

There are similar benefits available to surviving spouses of wartime Veterans. If you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a wartime Veteran, we can help you determine whether you could qualify for pension benefits.

While eligible veterans or surviving spouses can apply for benefits on their own through the www.va.gov  website, it is advisable to seek the advice of counsel before applying. There may be planning options available to avoid a penalty period and speed up the qualification process.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno, Nevada office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Holding Title to Property

For many people, real property, including their home, is a big part of their overall net worth.  How the home and other pieces of real property is titled deserves careful consideration. Real estate constitutes the land and any structure, including vegetation, livestock, crops, and other natural resources that sit on the land under the state’s law. Real estate can be commercial or residentially owned. Ultimately how you hold a property title has far-reaching consequences for liability, and when it comes time for sale or the bequeathing of it as an inheritable asset.

The title is a reference to the document that lists the legal owner(s) of a piece of property and can depict ownership of both personal and real property. Real estate titles are regarded as real property as it is a tangible asset. The title for real property, by law, must be transferred if the asset is sold or inherited and must be clear for the title transfer to take place. A clear title is free of liens or any other encumbrance posing a threat to proper ownership. The most common types of real estate titles are joint tenancy, tenancy in common, tenants by the entirety, sole ownership, and community property. Less common property ownership titles are corporate, partnership, and trust ownership.

Individual name or sole ownership allows for a single person to hold title, even if you are married. If the person becomes mentally or physically incapacitated due to injury or illness, a spouse or family member typically will need to conduct business with regards to your property. Your family member will not be able to do business transactions like refinancing or changing lines of credit, and they will be unable to act until a court appoints someone to act on your behalf. Many people assume if they have a will it will address the problem, yet a will does not go into effect until after you die and is not in effect if you become incapacitated.

Joint tenants (some may have rights of survivorship) occur when two or more people hold the title to real estate jointly. This type of title is widespread among but not exclusive to married couples. Unmarried couples may also hold joint tenant title as can parents and their adult children. It is a fair, uncomplicated, and free way to hold the title. In the case of a couple, the death of one automatically transfers full ownership to the surviving owner without probate. However, probate is more than likely just to be postponed. In the event the surviving owner dies without adding another owner, or if both owners die at the same time, probate is almost certain to occur before the property can go to the heirs.

Being a co-owner means that to sell, refinance, or take any action to the property, both owners must agree to the business action. If there is disagreement or in the event your co-owner becomes incapacitated, the court will become involved to resolve the disagreement or to protect the interest of the one who has become incapacitated. Court involvement will occur even in the event the incapacitated owner is your spouse. Joint tenants also expose the property to both of the co-owners obligations and debts. If a creditor successfully sues your co-owner, you could lose your home. In the case a co-owner is not a spouse, there can be income tax or gift tax problems. A will does not control any jointly owned assets, and you may mistakenly disinherit your family when your co-owner inherits your share, particularly in the case of second marriages with children from a previous union.

Tenants in common (TIC) allows for two or more people to hold title to real estate with equal rights during their lifetime to enjoy the property. A tenant in common title creates shares of ownership, and those shares will be distributed as directed in a will upon an owner’s death. In the absence of a will, the property goes to the heirs of the owner. As a tenant in common individually holds title for a respective part of the property, they are at liberty to dispose of said owned property or encumber it at will. Owners of their respective shares are permitted to use their portion of the property as collateral or in financial transactions. They may also be sued or have creditors place liens on only their portion of the property.

Tenants by entirety (TBE) are only permissible if the owners are legally married. This title, for purposes of ownership, treats the couple as one person for legal action and interpretation. Upon the death of one person, the TBE title is transferred in its entirety to the other spouse. This is advantageous as no legal action is necessary upon the death of one’s spouse. It does not require a will and probate is unnecessary.

Community property is only in effect in nine states (AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, and WI) and is a form of joint ownership between spouses commonly referred to as community property. When you die, your share of the community property is automatically transferred to your surviving spouse unless your will provides otherwise. Both tenants, by the entirety and community property titles, can find the remaining owner with several new co-owners, who, upon their death, can have their heirs inherit the property. Also, issues of incapacity and lawsuits are magnified if several property owners are trying to reach a consensus about the sale of the property or other business actions.

Corporate ownership allows a legal entity, a company owned by shareholders, to hold title to property. Partnership Owners can own real estate as a partnership. This title constitutes two or more people who transact business for profit as co-owners. There are also limited partnerships where an investor has limited liability because they do not make management decisions regarding business transactions of the property. In the case of limited liability, a singular general partner will typically be responsible for making business decisions on behalf of the identified limited partners.

Trust ownership, most often in the format of a revocable living trust, is a legal entity that owns the real property, which is managed by a founding or designated trustee on behalf of all trust beneficiaries. In the event you become incapacitated, your named successor trustee can seamlessly take control of your trust without court interference. A successor trustee is legally obligated to follow the instructions put forth in your trust. If you recover from incapacitation, you resume control of your trust. If you were to die, the property would be distributed according to your trust instructions and without probate. Holding real estate in trust ownership has challenges regarding benefits that surround financial and legal liability, managerial influence, and tax considerations. A real estate trust document can provide significant advantages to property owners but only if created by competent legal staff who take into account the complexities surrounding the trust and its interaction with the liabilities listed.

Methods of holding and owning title to real estate property are determined by state law and, as such, must be considered when researching and determining the best method to acquire and hold title to real property where you live. Depending on the complexity of your situation, assessing the best way to title your real estate may require professional real estate, legal and tax guidance.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno, Nevada office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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More Seniors Continuing Care at Home

Decades ago in America, it was prevalent that extended family members lived near to one another, providing a system of general support and care for the family young and old. Now many families live far out of reach from the daily lives of their elderly parents save for the internet and internet of things allowing for digital contact. Even those living near to their aging parents are generally immersed in a world where work and nuclear family commitments preclude them from having the time to devote to their parents. So the advent of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) began to meet the living needs of these seniors. A community that allows for stages of aging with minimal disruption to the resident is a great way to offset the adult child’s responsibility of daily care to a parent but still ensuring best practices for the parent’s health and well being.

Problems arose when joining a CCRC became prohibitively expensive for many in the baby boomer generation. Expensive entrance fees, monthly fees, and increases in pricing over time made the possibility to live in a CCRC financially untenable for many senior Americans. Financially, many baby boomers are dealing with the fall out of poor retirement planning and the possibility of substantial reductions in future social security benefits due to projected government trust insolvencies in 2034. These boomers are also contending with underfunded or collapsed private pensions and a federal actuary for cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) that does not adequately address aging Americans expenditure categories. What to do? The obvious solution for those seniors who are able-bodied and healthy enough is to age in place. In this scenario, who is day to day going to be looking after mom and dad? Who will create the plan for the senior’s health and well being, and how is that best facilitated?

At the outset, aging in place tends to require more communication oversight and remote troubleshooting of basic problems by family members. In time, the issues change; they become more severe and health-driven, and have far more dire consequences than the need to hire a gardener, house cleaner, or part-time home health aide.

The operators of life plan communities are closely watching this aging in place trend and are assessing the upside of participating in the emerging “continuing care at home” (CCaH) market. The model is beyond its conceptual phase in several communities. There are now many proposals to bring CCaH businesses to a neighborhood near you. However, this consumer solution and business opportunity have some downsides to consider beyond the actuarial and financial risks. A lack of regulations, standards, and best practices is of significant concern.

Using remote monitoring and communications through internet devices and technology as oversight to track a CCaH member’s health and well being are remarkable tools. Still, the tools proper, secure, and safe deployment in a private home setting can be challenging for this new business opportunity that lacks protocols. Operators will have to ensure that all of the data being transmitted via technology has adequate cybersecurity and that it protects against breaches of the system. Regulation compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and data privacy laws are a significant concern, as is resident user capability, data integrity, redundancy of system capability, and backups in the event of power or internet outages.

There are also care management risks to contend with as there is no real substitute for the daily “eyes on” human observations of an in-home resident. Technology-driven care is primarily a series of alerts triggered when some event occurs that is outside of the resident’s everyday norms. Artificially intelligent systems will someday be predictive enough to replace a set of human senses monitoring a patient in the home, and it will come with many complications as to how best to regulate the AI option. For effective care management today, there may be a need to include on sight protocol reviews and updates at standard intervals for which no regulations to follow yet exist.

There are level-of-care transition risks for which standards must also be set. At what point does a CCaH have the legal authority to transition an unwilling resident to a higher level of care, removing them from their home? Should this authority remain at a business contract level or solely at the discretion of the person’s wishes, documented health directives, power of medical attorney authority, or family member? If the senior chooses to remain in their home, and they encounter an adverse health event because it is the CCaH facility legally responsible? Can the business legally remove a contract of care for the individual if they refuse to respond to the facility’s recommendation to seek a higher level of care at a health facility?

The CCaH model of care is a promising and less expensive alternative to more traditional life plan communities and other models for senior living. Because the at-home model is so new, technology-dependent, and without much of a blueprint for operational standards, both operators and aging in place residents must be mindful of the possible risks that can occur.

Appropriate government regulations and protocols are in development to mitigate problems as future proposals continue to come forward to meet the demand of this new senior living model.

We help families figure out how to age in place and how to pay for care without depleting their savings or losing their homes.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno, Nevada office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.