Should you sell the family home if your parents go into nursing home care?

If your parents go into a nursing home, deciding what to do with the family home can be complicated at best. You don’t want an empty house sitting around, and perhaps you don’t want to deal with renters. What’s more, you may believe your folks need the income from the house sale to help pay for their nursing home care in the long-term.

The problem is, only the person who owns the house can transfer the house to a buyer. If a parent has become incapacitated, he or she needs to have identified – through a power of attorney – someone who can act on their behalf, for the sale to take place. If the caregiver has no legal authority, then the caregiver has absolutely no right to sell the home.

Before your parents are in need of nursing home care, it’s best to have a durable power of attorney in place. In the state of Florida, a power of attorney is a legal document in which you designate someone to act on your behalf, or when you are given power of attorney to act on someone else’s behalf.  In Florida, a power of attorney must be signed before two witnesses and a notary public to be considered legally recognized under state law.

It’s different from a regular power of attorney. A regular power of attorney ends if the person it represents becomes incapacitated. That’s when a special kind of power of attorney, known as a durable power of attorney, is better. A durable power of attorney, unlike a power of attorney, is “durable,” even if a person suffers mental incapacity in the future.

A durable power of attorney is the most important estate planning document a person can have. Adult children of elderly parents need to tell their parents to include a durable power of attorney in their estate plan. A durable power of attorney can, in additional to handling all financial decisions, authorize medical care. That includes consent to proceed with or terminate all medical and surgical procedures on your behalf, including an agreement that falls under the Life-Prolonging Procedures Act of Florida.

In 2011, Florida lawmakers changed the state’s durable power of attorney law. The changes gave a durable power of attorney immediate power. Under the revised law, the durable power of attorney is signed and goes into effect immediately. There is no waiting period, including waiting until the person or loved one suffers incapacitation and cannot make financial and healthcare decisions on their own.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

One of the biggest elder scams has claimed unlikely victims

This is a topic that has been visited before, but it’s so important: Protecting yourself or a loved one from being swindled or worse. With the online dating industry toppling $2 billion annually, it’s important for older men and women to understand the risks and learn how to safeguard their finances, as well as ensure their personal safety.

Online dating can bring people together who otherwise might never meet. Today, it seems, going online for love is as common as shopping at Amazon. But as with online shopping, dating in the tech age means predators are lurking in some cases, ready to pounce when the time and victim are right. People have lost their entire nest eggs to con artists.

The statistics give an even bigger picture. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that as people have lost as much as $82 million from so-called “romance scams” online. The majority were women. Authorities said women were more likely to report the crimes, while men feel embarrassed and ashamed.

“Older people are more vulnerable and targeted more for frauds and scams. They may be more isolated and may have more financial means, so we do know scammers target older Americans,” Amy Nofziger, an expert with the AARP Fraud Watch Network, told U.S. News and World Report. One AARP member contacted the Fraud Watch Network last year after losing $300,000 from a romance-related scam.

U.S. News offered safety tips for baby boomers looking for love. Share these with your relatives before they try dating in 2017. It’s likely much different than when they tried it the first time.

  1. Watch for emails with poor spelling and grammar. If you are messaging with someone who says he or she is an American who lives in your city, but whose English appears broken, it likely because they are using an online translation service and really trying to scam you from another country.
  2. Be wary of someone who is too busy to meet in person. For thieves prowling for victims, the aim is not physical contact at all, but a virtual relationship that eventually leads to a cash transfer. If the person says he is too busy to meet up but will “someday” then it’s a sign he might not have romantic intentions.
  3. Love is wonderful, but don’t trust it if the person professes it right away. Criminals claim to be in love at a relatively early stage of communication. Women often fall victim to thieves masquerading as older, sophisticated men, while their male counterparts are wooed by younger women. These are all wolves in sheep’s clothing, and really thieves who created false identities. Their photos are never real; they are part of the attempt to take a lonely widow or widower for everything he or she is worth.
  4. If they ask you for money, it’s a scam. Period.

The bottom line is, check out the people you meet online. Be cautious. No matter how young or old you are, believe in love – but use your head.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

What to do if you suspect elder financial abuse

Elder abuse is horrific in every form it takes. Authorities have estimated that financial scams of the elderly are the crime of the future, and caregivers and family members also, unfortunately, take advantage of seniors as well. Older men and women are easy targets, since they have assets, are often incapacitated and are otherwise trusting.

What should you do if you suspect elder financial abuse? AgingCare.com outlines the process, but the bottom line is, report it. Even if you aren’t sure it’s happening, or fear retaliation.

In Florida, you are able to make a report of abuse confidentially. In any report, whether written or verbal, certain essential information must be included in order to permit law enforcement to do its job. You can talk to police confidentially, and you can even call your local Crime Stoppers chapter to ensure you remain anonymous.

According to Aging Care:

“You must name the elder whom you think is being abused, and identify the address where the elder can be found. You must name the suspected abuser, and provide that address if you have it. You are not required to give your name, but it can be helpful for you to answer law enforcement’s questions as an investigation of the suspected abuse begins. If you report abuse, the matter will likely be referred for investigation, and an experienced investigator will contact you. If you are afraid of the suspected abuser, you can remain anonymous. You will need to identify the location of any suspected actions which appear to you to be abuse, whether they are at the elder’s home, or a facility caring for the elder.”

If the person stealing is another relative, it’s painful and overwhelming. But just think about how you are protecting your loved one from financial abuse. Many seniors are incapacitated, because they suffer from dementia or another age-related issue, so they have no idea they are being swindled by someone they love and trust. Some older men and women know what is going on but are either too afraid or embarrassed to report it themselves. And others worry about getting a son, daughter, niece, nephew or friend in trouble so they simply let it go, at the risk of going broke themselves. If you see something, say something today.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Elder scams the next big financial crime

It was a story that had anything but a Hollywood ending: Eunice Bellah, the widow of the late Oscar-nominated television and art director Ross Bellah, was swindled by someone she trusted. According to news reports, Bellah’s longtime tax accountant, Aron Shalain, put her in a nursing home, took ownership of her house, and listed every one of her possessions on Craigslist before he allegedly fled the country. Her family was powerless to fight his actions, but has since sought legal action.

As Deadline reported in 2015:

“Everything” includes the mansion on Mount Olympus where Shlain’s ex-wife now lives and the expensive jewelry he says he bought her with the money he stole. Much of the rest of the money he stole was either squandered on his lavish lifestyle or lost in the stock market — or so he says.”

Financial abuse of the elderly is set to become a defining fraud of the next several decades; it’s the easiest scam out there, authorities say. Seniors have assets. And money. They usually own their homes. Combine that with issues like dementia and other health problems, and they are easy targets.

Many elderly men and women, if they even know they are being swindled, are unlikely to come forward. They are embarrassed, feel naive or stupid, and fear their adult children or other relatives will deem them unfit to do anything for themselves. Others aren’t even aware anything is wrong because those closest to them, people they love and trust, are committing the crimes. Even scammers from other countries are smart enough to manipulate an older person with the use of a family member – the Grandparent scam comes to mind – and thus they get away with it before anyone knows what is happening.

It’s hard to gauge how much money is stolen from seniors every year, because it’s so underreported.  At the low end, the elderly are taken for $2.9 billion annually, but that is likely “the tip of the iceberg,” Consumer Reports wrote.

At the high end men and women over the age of 65 lose an astonishing $36.48 billion annually in fraud by people they know and strangers on the phone. Either way, it’s a shocking, discouraging crime. Talk to a trusted elder care attorney about ways to protect yourself today.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Long-term care planning when insurance doesn’t cover

You can’t assume that Medicare or Medicaid will cover your long-term care needs as you age. Most people – one in five, many studies say – should consider a long-term care plan in the event they become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Most health insurance plans do not cover nursing home care, nor does Medicare. Medicare covers temporary skilled or rehabilitative care for those older than 65, paying for up to 100 days in a facility with stipulations.

Medicaid can help pay for nursing home care, but not all nursing homes accept it as payment. And, if you even qualify, you may not like the choice of nursing home the government will approve.

It is crucial that you have a long-term care plan in place long before you ever need such services.

A majority of people choose to begin receiving their long-term care benefits once their Medicare coverage is exhausted. Long-term care insurance is an strong choice. You can delay the start of benefits for any length of time. Many people select a five-year benefit period, since studies show the average long-term care need is 2.5 years. Regardless, you should talk to an elder care attorney to make sure your policy provides enough coverage to make your daily benefits sufficient when you need them years from now.

In addition, men and women may choose to set aside some extra money for long-term care planning in a living trust. The funds in such trusts can help pay for expenses not covered by long-term care insurance, and they can pay for caregiver expenses if a person is able to stay in the home.

There are generally two kinds of living trusts that are useful. A revocable trust and an irrevocable trust. A revocable living trust means that you amend or change the terms of the trust whenever you want. Because you have options to tweak terms of the trust, you don’t get a break from estate tax.

An irrevocable living trust, as you may have guessed, is a trust you cannot change. It is usually only done to produce tax or asset protection. Long-term care insurance trusts are typically irrevocable trusts so everyone is aware of what the money must be used for.

Contact an experienced long-term care planning attorney today.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Protecting the elderly from Facebook trolls

There is a popular film and TV show of the same name – Catfish – the highlights people who make up personas on social media in the hopes of wooing love interests. Sometimes, these online relationships go on for years, until eventually the love dissolves or the person on the other end is exposed for being someone other than who he or she claimed to be.

Elderly people are especially at risk for being fooled by someone online. Many older men and women are lonely, having lost a spouse due to death or divorce, and whose children and grandchildren are grown or busy. Social media sites like Facebook can seem like a good outlet, but it’s also a place where scammers and criminals prey on unsuspecting victims who want companionship.

According to a report on CNBC, older Americans are at risk for fraud more than other age groups. Seniors over the age of 65 are 34 percent more likely to have lost money on a financial scam than people in their 40s, the network reported, citing research by by the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation. About one in 20 elderly respondents in a large 2014 study of New Yorkers (many who retire to Florida) reported being financially exploited at some point in their later lifetime. Only one in 44 seniors report fraud or scams; most fear their children will think they are no longer capable to handle their finances.

So where does Facebook come in? A thief befriends an elderly man or women on Facebook, and starts to communicate often. The illusion of a bond ensues, with the suspect encouraging the senior to talk on the phone or text, away from the social media safeguards that protect such things from happening directly on the site.

Commonly referred to by law enforcement officials as a “sweetheart scam,” the online friend proclaims love and explains a problem he or she needs help with. As CNBC reports:

“They have lost their passport and can’t get home unless someone can give the embassy money to process their new one, or they’re on a business trip and their briefcase was stolen, or something similar.

Many single people make new year’s resolutions to find a partner…people are feeling vulnerable. They want to be in a relationship. They want to feel love. So they go online.”

One woman was swindled out of $180,000. According to the FBI, losses from sweetheart or dating scams have doubled in the past 10 years to between $15,000 and $20,000 per victim.

So what do you do? Wisebread.com offers a few tips:

  • Don’t get involved right after you are widowed or divorced
  • Don’t send money or valuables to anyone
  • Research your new friend or love interest; pay for a background check
  • Demand to meet in person at a safe, public place
  • Be wary of early “I love yous”
  • Watch his or her grammar. Bad grammar can be a sign that someone is really from in another country, whose English is a second language, and therefore is not who he or she says
  • Ask your family and friends for input.
  • Listen to your instincts. You likely know the truth deep down.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Robotic skeleton can prevent traumatic (and sometimes fatal) elderly falls

Remember the “The Bionic Woman,” or the “The Six Million Dollar Man?” Both were popular 1970s televisions shows about how science turned an ordinary woman and a disabled man, respectively, into superhumans who could do just about anything. In more modern pop culture, it’s all about “Ironman.”

Science can’t yet make us superheroes, however, it can help elderly people do more, safely. Researchers in Italy and Switzerland have developed a prototype device that can detect a slip in progress — and help its wearer avoid a fall all together. The robotics community is hailing it as a invention that could one day help millions of elderly people and amputees avoid falling and becoming injured, or even dying.

According to Science:

“The new Active Pelvis Orthosis (APO) consists of a waist brace holding motors on the hips that move lightweight carbon-fiber links connected to thigh braces. It uses an algorithm that monitors leg movement; if the legs diverge from a natural gait in a way that suggests a slip, the motors apply force to help the legs counteract the slippage.”

Unlike a brace or an exoskeleton, the prototype would kick into action only when it sensed that a person was slipping.

“It’s the first time that someone has rationally dealt with falls by having the robot collaborate with the person,” David Reinkensmeyer, a biomechanical engineer at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the research, told Science. “It’s supercool.”

Developers outfitted eight elderly adults and two above-the-knee amputees (who wore prosthetic legs) with the device. After the start of a slip, the device reacted within a third of a second, correcting a person’s gait for a quarter of a second. The researchers found that the people would have fallen otherwise. What’s more, during normal walking, the APO, which weighs about 5 kilograms, had no effect on gait.

The device doesn’t require much customization. It amplifies their leg force by 20 to 30 percent.

Consumers should be able to buy the device sometimes in the next decade. Let’s hope for sooner to prevent people from falling and really getting hurt.

Source: Sciencemag.com

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Online wills allowed in Florida

There’s really no reason not to have a will, especially in the tech age. Thanks to Florida lawmakers, a person can either write a will on on piece of scratch paper or craft an online will that is still considered legal and valid in the state. It’s best to have an estate planning attorney help you out with either, though.

Let’s look at electronic wills. The Florida Electronic Wills Act allows someone to craft a will using an internet service. With the state having the largest number of seniors and retirees in the country, the act was hailed as a way to make things easier for people to get their final affairs in order.

And it does. The law requires several steps to prevent fraud, including electronic signatures of the person whose will is being created, as well as two witnesses. Two people are required to sign a paper will under state law.

Under the Florida Electronic Wills Act, the testator and witnesses must be together when they sign. Starting next year, it can be done via Skype or FaceTime.

Here’s how it reads in statute.

“Under current law, traditional wills and living wills generally must be signed by the principal to the instrument and by witnesses. The bill allows these individuals to sign, witness, and otherwise fulfill their duties while in different locations by using video conferencing and other technology. An electronic will may be stored by a “qualified custodian,” which must be capable of storing an electronic will, and must store electronic records of electronic wills, including documents related to the execution of an electronic will. The bill substantially regulates qualified custodians and includes several consumer protections for testators who choose to employ a qualified custodian.

In addition to electronic wills executed in this state, the bill grants the courts of this state jurisdiction over electronic wills that are executed by nonresident testator’s according to the Act or according to the laws of the testator’s state. During probate proceedings, the bill expressly permits the admission to probate of the electronic will or its ‘true and correct copy.’”

Keep in mind, an internet service cannot ensure your assets and wishes are protected. Even if you choose to draft an electronic will, you should seek the advice of an experienced estate planning lawyer who will make sure you are covered, legally and personally.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Got pot? Seniors may benefit from it

Older people who use pot may have better memory and cognitive function than those who don’t, a new study shows.

German research published in Nature Medicine suggests that low doses of THC help improve brain function in elderly men and women, unlike the stereotypical youthful pot smoker whose brain seems to move at a snail’s pace.

Young mice treated with THC performed slightly worse on behavioral tests of memory and learning; they had a harder time recognizing another mouse to which they had previously been exposed.

The mature mice, though, were different. After receiving THC, the elderly animals’ performances improved to the point that they resembled those of young, untreated mice. One of the researchers called the effects “very robust, very profound.”

As Susan Weiss, director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the magazine:

“This well-designed set of experiments shows that chronic THC pretreatment appears to restore a significant level of diminished cognitive performance in older mice, while corroborating the opposite effect among young mice. While it would be tempting to presume the relevance of these findings [extends] to aging humans…further research will be critically needed.”

Researchers noticed neurons in the a brain area critical for learning and memory had sprouted more synaptic spines in the older mice who had consumed weed. Even more surprising, the older animals under THC’s influence looked similar to the young, untreated control mice.

The findings raise the intriguing possibility THC and other “cannabinoids” might act as anti-aging molecules in the brain. Research has shown the cannabinoid system develops gradually during childhood. As we age, it’s on a steady decline.

Marijuana use among seniors has skyrocketed as the drug’s stigma has dissolved with legalization in some states. One study showed that in people aged 50 to 64, marijuana use increased nearly 60 percent between 2006 and 2013. And among adults over 65, the drug’s use jumped by 250 percent.

The scientists plan to explore the potential impact of THC on older human brains with a clinical trial later this year, being one of few to focus on more aged subjects so far. Previous research with mice by the Universities of Bonn and Mainz also suggested that “the brain’s main cannabis receptor and neural pathways are closely related to brain health in later life, and seem to play a role in preventing brain degeneration when active,” according to Forbes.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Ohio bill aims to stop financial elder abuse with the help of financial officials

Ohio lawmakers are looking at a bill that would require bank employees, accountants, real estate brokers and financial advisors to report suspected elder fraud if they see it. The measure would in effect make people who work in those financial fields mandatory reporters to adult protective services officials.

As many as five million older Americans are victims of elder financial fraud. Fraud against the elderly costs seniors millions and millions every year. Many times, the suspects are family members or caregivers. However, federal and local authorities have said very few cases are reported, so that means the number of victims and amount of money lost is much higher. Either family members don’t want to turn in another family member, or an elderly person suffers from dementia and doesn’t know what is happening to them.

Nationally, broker-dealer firms reported to authorities nearly 2,300 cases of suspected senior fraud or exploitation in 2015, according to a new North American Securities Administrators Association analysis of firms. That includes relatives with unauthorized access to seniors money.

Sometimes it’s strangers; people trying to pull an IRS scam, a Grandparent scam or a prescription drug scam. But often it’s closer to home.

Under the Ohio bill, adult protective services officials could stop the transfer of money before it happens. At the same time, the bankers, financial advisors, accountants and brokers would be protected from lawsuits, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association, told the newspaper the bill was called the bill would detect fraud before it becomes a problem.

“Usually we find out way too late, and there’s just not a lot we can do,” he said. “This is the future we’ve all been talking about, when baby boomers start aging and retiring.”

The bill, if it’s approved, would provide some funding that would allow a judge in a case of elderly fraud to impose a fine of up to $50,000. The fine itself would be earmarked for adult protective services, which already is strapped.

Source: http://bit.ly/2rU7afh

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.