Incorporating Veterans Benefits Into Your Estate Planning

Are you planning your estate, planning for retirement, or just planning for the future?

Have you considered all the veterans benefits you might be entitled to?

Veterans benefits are essential to estate planning, as the benefits can extend to your surviving spouse and dependents after you are gone. These benefits can strengthen your retirement plan, and help you avoid stress when it comes to living expenses and medical bills.

Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can incorporate veterans benefits into your estate planning.

Veterans Benefits Overview

The VA (The Department of Veterans Affairs) offers a variety of benefits to veterans and their families, including:

  • Death Gratuity
  • Veterans Funeral Benefits
  • Veterans Health and Dental Care
  • Pension Programs and Veterans Pensions
  • Dependency Compensation
  • Retiree Benefits
  • Tragedy Assistance Program
  • Veteran Disability Compensation
  • And a variety of survivor benefits

The VA also provides benefits to veterans’ widows, including: Surviving Family Benefits, Survivor Resources, and Survivor Support Organizations. Perhaps most importantly, the VA provides support to help the surviving widow of a qualifying veteran to take care of his or her family, including:

  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
  • Death Gratuity
  • Death Pension
  • Tricare
  • Basic Allowance for Housing
  • Household Goods Shipping and Storage
  • Veterans Burial Benefits
  • Gold Star Lapel Button
  • ServiceMembers Group Life Insurance

Pensions

The VA provides pensions to qualifying veterans to help ease the financial stress of daily life. Military Benefits explains the pensions you might be entitled to. In addition to a monthly pension, you may be entitled to the “Aid and Attendance” benefit if you require the aid of another person to perform activities of daily living, if you are blind or have specific visual impairments, or you are a patient in a nursing home because of physical and/or mental incapacity.

Life Insurance

According to Military One Source, service members are entitled to life insurance through ServiceMembers’ Group Life Insurance. Depending on the benefit amount you want to provide to your family, you can supplement your SGLI with another life insurance policy. If you die because of an injury or illness incurred or aggravated during your service, your survivors may be entitled to benefits from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some benefits are automatic, but your family must apply for others, which is important to remember while planning your estate.

Burial and Funeral Expenses

The VA pays up to $2,000.00 for burial expenses for service-related deaths on or after September 11, 2001. Some or all of the cost for transportation of the deceased may be reimbursed if the veteran is buried in a Veterans’ National Cemetery.

For non-service-related deaths, the VA  pays up to $300.00 for burial and funeral expenses and a $300.00 plot-interment allowance for deaths on or after December 1, 2001.  Some or all of the costs for transportation of the remains from a Veterans Affairs nursing home or hospital to a cemetery may be reimbursed.

Veterans and their spouses are entitled to a plot at a National Cemetery and arrangements can be made for a color guard or burial with honors if the veteran is eligible.  However, veterans are not required to be buried in a National Cemetery.  Veterans may be buried in a location of their choice and their estates may still receive allowances for burial and funeral expenses.

Benefits for Children and Spouses

Veterans and their spouses may have unique estate planning considerations. This is especially important for veterans with children. Children of veterans are also entitled to benefits based on the military service of their parents.

Successfully claiming veterans’ benefits can be complex, but there are ways to make the process easier for your loved ones to receive benefits.

Part of your estate planning process should include supplementing your will with instructions regarding how these benefits can be accessed, along with documentation of your military service. Written instructions should outline the various benefits to which your children may be entitled, including support payments, educational opportunities, and counseling services. From there, the executor of the will or the guardian of your children can begin to do some research to determine what children are entitled to. The VA department called the Office of Survivors Assistance can help with benefit identification and coordination.

In your estate planning documents, you should also provide information on where the executor or guardian can find your records so that claims by your survivors can be processed efficiently.

An elder law attorney can help ensure that your will and other documents are prepared correctly and that the rights of your loved ones are protected.

If you have questions about how to incorporate your well-earned veterans benefits into your estate plan, we’re here to help! Contact our Stuart, FL office at 772-261-8556 or online!

Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Should You Choose a Revocable Living Trust or a Will?

One of the most important decisions in your estate planning is to decide if focusing on a will or revocable living trust is best for your situation and desires. The main difference between the two is that a revocable living trust (hereinafter RLT) can accomplish probate avoidance with respect to assets that are transferred to it prior to your death. In some estates an irrevocable trust could also be considered as part of the overall estate plan. A will can also establish a testamentary trust (which is established after your death in accordance with the terms of the will as opposed to a revocable living trust which is established during your lifetime). The decision as to whether to use a will, and RLT, or an irrevocable trust  can make a substantial difference in how you leave a legacy after you’re gone. Many people choose to include both a will and at least one trust in their estate, but you need to decide which will channel the majority of your assets.

What is a Will?

According to Investopedia, a will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children. It controls the administration and disposition of any assets titled in your name alone at the time of your death. Without a will, your wishes may not be followed after your death. To make matters worse, the lack of a will could force your heirs to spend additional time, money, and stress to settle your affairs after you’re gone.

Pros and Cons of a Will

  • A will can be used to name a guardian for your minor children in the event of your death
  • A will is at risk of requiring probate. Probate can sometimes be a fairly simple and streamlined process, but can sometimes  cause problems and inconveniences for beneficiaries and loved ones left behind that could possibly be avoided with an RLT. Either way, it costs money in terms of court costs, attorney’s fees, and possibly personal representative fees..
  • If you become disabled, whoever holds your power of attorney has to present it to financial institutions and have them accept it before your assets can be managed. If there’s no power of attorney or financial institutions won’t accept it, the courts become involves, says Forbes.
  • A will is easier for a contestant to challenge than is a trust.

What is a Trust?

A trust is an entity created to hold assets for the benefit of certain persons or entities, with a trustee managing the trust, says Law.com. There are basically two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Revocable, or living, trusts can be modified after they are created. Irrevocable trusts cannot be modified after they are created, or at least they are very difficult to modify, explains Investopedia.

Pros and Cons of a Trust

  • No one other than the beneficiaries are entitled to see your trust documents. They won’t become public record unless an heir or beneficiary files a lawsuit to challenge the validity of your trust, says The Balance.
  • A trust provides some protection in the event of disability. Unlike a will, a revocable living trust can prepare your estate in the event you become mentally incapacitated, not just when you die. Your successor trustee can also step in if you become mentally incompetent to the point where you can no longer handle your own affairs. Your trust documents can specify how it should be determined that you are indeed mentally incompetent, such as by certification by your own physician or by a team of physicians who must all concur. Your property would not transfer to your beneficiaries if this happens, as it would at your death. Your successor trustee would simply manage your finances and property for you because you’re unable to do so, explains The Balance. An RLT, however, unlike the common understanding, provides no protection of your assets from creditors, taxing authorities, or your future medical or long-term care expenses. An irrevocable trust might be able to answer this deficiency.
  • A living trust at least theoretically provides for a smoother transition of management and ownership of property. Initially, you serve as trustee and manage the property. If you become disabled or pass away, the successor, trustee, or trustees appointed by you will automatically take over management of the property. After you pass away, the trust property is managed and distributed according to the terms of the trust. The courts aren’t normally involved, says Forbes.
  • A trust allows you to leave property for the benefit of young children. By law, minors can’t own property. However, a testamentary trust for the benefit of minor children can be established under your will When leaving property to a minor using a living trust, the trustee manages the property until the child reaches an age determined by you, according to LegalZoom.

Get Started on Your Legacy Today!

You don’t have to necessarily choose between a trust or a will. Forbes notes that most estate plans have both a will and one or more trusts. The decision is usually more about which one is more important than the other and will serve as the foundation of the estate plan with the majority of the estate passing through it. If you’re trying to decide how to best move forward with your estate planning, we’re here to help. The decision largely depends on your personal concerns and goals. Let’s talk.

 

Contact our Fort Pierce office at 


772-828-2588 or online.

Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

How to Choose a Trustee for Your Estate

If you’ve been thinking about estate planning for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard that you need a trustee. Keep reading to understand how to get started.

What Exactly is a Trustee and What Do They Do?

The main functions of a trustee are recordkeeping, trust administration, and investment management, according to Fidelity.

How to Choose Your Trustee – What to Look For

The name says it all: a trustee should be trustworthy. According to The Balance, the three questions you should ask about potential trustees are:

  1. Is the person capable, qualified, and willing to serve as trustee?
  2. Will naming this particular person as trustee hurt family relationships or cause problems down the line?
  3. Does the trustee offer continuity and protection against malfeasance?

According to Everplans, additional characteristics to look for include:

  • Attention to detail
  • An understanding of his or her duties, and a commitment to taking those duties seriously
  • An understanding of finances and perhaps investing, accounting, or law
  • Good communication skills
  • Morals and values that you agree with

Finally, AARP recommends considering the age and health of your trustee. Make sure that there’s a good chance that person will be around to administer your estate. Even if your trustee is young and in excellent health, you’ll need to consider a backup.

The Pros and Cons of a Professional Trustee vs. a Family Member

It’s normal to consider loved ones as potential trustees. But it’s important to consider the pros and cons of choosing family or friends, as outlined by experts at Forbes.

  • The Pros of Choosing a Loved One
    • They are going to be most familiar with you and your family
    • they will understand your family’s dynamics
    • Family members often do not charge a trustee fee (although they are usually entitled to take a fee), professional trustees tend to be more expensive.
    • A drawback to a professional trust company is that they may be hard to remove or become inflexible. They also may be tightfisted in making distributions if it will reduce the assets under management that they are investing. These concerns can be addressed by giving a neutral third party, such as a trusted family member or advisor, the ability to remove and replace the trustee, recommends Forbes.
  • The Cons of Choosing a Loved One
    • Your family may be better served with a professional trustee or trust company that has expertise with trust administration.
    • If a family member does or does not take a fee, it could lead to resentment. Being a trustee can be a lot of work. If a family member agrees to work without a fee, they might end up resenting that later. On the other side, if the trustee does take a fee, your beneficiaries might resent this! Another disadvantage is that your family member may be too close to the family and may get caught up in the drama.
    • Family members can sometimes get on a power trip and enjoy being in control of your beneficiary’s finances.
    • You may want someone with a little more distance who will see your beneficiaries with a fresh set of eyes and treat them equally, says Forbes.
    • Trust companies bring structure and oversight to the trust administration, including a trust department that oversees the administration. This service comes at a cost, but in many instances it will be money well spent. Professionals tend to make the tough decisions more easily and tell beneficiaries “no” when appropriate. Forbes recommends using a trust company when the beneficiaries do not get along, when there is a problem beneficiary, or when you are dealing with large sums of money.

Can’t Decide on a Trustee?

If you can’t decide on a trustee, consider co-trustees. Why not appoint a family member and a professional trust company? This will give you the benefit of both the professional expertise and emotional distance, while also having someone who really understands your family. Forbes also recommends building flexibility into the plan. You can structure your documents in such a way that gives others, such as your spouse, the ability to remove and replace the trustee. You also may be able to remove and replace the trustee during your lifetime.  You can also let someone else decide if you are really at a loss. You can plan your estate so that your beneficiaries will choose the trustee after your death. Or, you can let your attorney choose the trustee down the road.

Whichever route you choose, don’t procrastinate on planning your estate. The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm can help you make the hard decisions and leave the legacy you want for your loved ones. Contact our Okeechobee office at 
863-261-8603 or online to get started!

Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

How to Include Long-Term Flexibility in Your Trust

Planning for the unknown is important in many areas of life – and planning your trust is no different. When planning all areas of your estate – it’s essential to think about the unexpected happening. By intentionally including long-term flexibility in your trust, you can ensure that your desires and intentions are carried out after you are gone – no matter what happens!

Changing times, circumstances and tax laws are inevitable, and building maximum flexibility into your trust documents ensures that your trust can adapt down the road in ways that you would be proud of!

Possible changes in tax laws are perhaps the most universal variables in estate planning. While the current Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA or Act) benefits many high net worth individuals and families, the Act is complex and many of its provisions expire at the end of 2025. Because tax law is an important facet of estate planning, it’s important to make sure that all the elements of your estate (such as trusts) can adapt effectively to changing tax laws. Otherwise, your beneficiaries and other loved ones could face challenges you never intended for them.

And tax laws aren’t the only variable – people and family circumstances can change too. You want to consider that in your trust planning, otherwise your assets and legacy could be misused or be passed down to someone other than your intended beneficiaries.

So, what’s the secret to a flexible trust?

According to retirement experts at Forbes, three key considerations can help you ensure that your trust can be adapted as both your circumstances and tax legislation evolve. Keep reading to understand how to implement those key elements into your trust!

Trustee Discretion:

There’s a growing trend towards drafting trusts that are fully discretionary, meaning no beneficiary is entitled to any distributions. Instead, the beneficiaries must wait for the trustee to exercise its distribution powers. Discretionary trusts can be helpful when beneficiaries have the potential to erode trust assets due to, among other reasons, irresponsible behavior or poor money management skills, says Forbes. When trustees are given discretion, beneficiaries have no property interest in the trust, only “mere expectancy.” The trustee decides if, when and how much to distribute to the trust beneficiaries. In a fully discretionary trust, the trustee has no decision-making restrictions. Therefore, when drafting trust documents for a discretionary trust, it’s important to build in certain standards by which the trustee must abide.

Decanting:

And no, we’re not talking about wine here! In estate planning, decanting is a term used to describe a flexibility tactic that allows for the distribution of assets from an old trust into a new one. The reason for this is that in some cases, a new trust might better reflect changing family circumstances, more favorable terms, or broader investment parameters. Decanting can address an existing irrevocable trust with terms that are incorrect, inappropriate or insufficient to accomplish the grantor’s intentions. However, decanting is not legal in all 50 states. Fortunately, Florida is one of the states that currently allows decanting in trust planning. Learn more by talking to an estate planning attorney today!

Trust Protector:

Another popular strategy for building flexibility into trusts is establishing a trust protector. A trust protector is a person who has powers over the trust but is not the trustee. A protector is typically named to provide supervision over a trust that will be in effect for a long time. The longer a trust will be in effect, the more susceptible that trust is to changing circumstances.

Trust protectors are practical for addressing issues and solving problems that were not or could not have been anticipated at the time of the trust’s creation. After all, you can’t know the future! Trust protectors have the power to remove or replace trustees, change beneficiaries, veto investment decisions, change administrative provisions, and change trust situs as appropriate.

Building flexibility into trust documents is essential now more than ever if you want your trust to adapt to changing circumstances. Without the proper provisions, court involvement may be necessary to make amendments to an existing trust. These legal processes can become expensive and time consuming for your loved ones, but you can save them the headache by thinking ahead when developing estate planning documents.  By working now to incorporate flexibility that accommodates an ever-changing future, you will be maximizing your legacy for your beneficiaries and loved ones.

At The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm we help you set up a trust that will stand the test of changing times and changing families. Contact our Vero Beach office at 772-410-5156 or online to get started on flexible trust planning.

Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Common Muscle Relaxant Creates Health Scare for Kidney Patients

According to a new study reported in a recent article by HealthDay, a commonly prescribed muscle relaxant known as baclofen could potentially leave elderly kidney patients so disoriented that they land in the hospital.

Senior researcher Dr. Amit Garg warns that this muscle relaxant can result in “acute stroke-like symptoms, even though it’s not a stroke.” The professor of nephrology at Western University in Ontario, Canada went on to say it can result in “dementia-like symptoms.”

HealthDay reported that 1 in 25 people with low kidney function who were prescribed high doses of baclofen were admitted to a hospital for severe confusion. To get an idea of just how many people that is, only one in 500 kidney patients not prescribed baclofen were hospitalized for confusion.

Dr. Garg said these findings “highlight a potential risk associated with these drugs that hasn’t been fully appreciated.”

If you are getting older you might be at risk, since kidney function often declines age. Or if you have elderly loved ones, you might need to alert them.

Baclofen is typically prescribed to people suffering from muscle spasms. Doctors hand out more than 8 million prescriptions of baclofen every year. It’s critical to note that even seniors aware of the risk of baclofen might not be aware that it’s being prescribed to them. Baclofen is sold under numerous different brand names, including Lioresal, Gablofen, and Kemstro, reports HealthDay.

The drug leaves the body when the kidneys filter it out of a person’s blood, Dr. Garg explains, which means that if “someone’s kidney function isn’t working very well…the drug is accumulating in the system.”

Garg and other doctors have started noticing that kidney patients on baclofen sometimes became disoriented and dazed.

For example, nephrologist Dr. Holly Koncicki remembers some dialysis patients showing up with noticeably clouded mental capacity, often “with confusion or being very sleepy and lethargic.” said Dr. Koncicki, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.

In the study reported by HealthDay, 30 prior case reports linked baclofen to problems with brain function. Patients were at greatest risk of hospitalization for confusion if their kidney function was very impaired and they had been prescribed a high dose of baclofen, more than 20 milligrams (mg) per day.

But even patients with kidney function as high as 60% had an increased risk of confusion when prescribed high doses of baclofen, the findings showed. Kidney patients prescribed baclofen at 20 mg/day or higher had nearly 20 times the relative risk of being hospitalized for an altered mental state, compared with patients not taking the drug, the researchers found. Doses lower than 20 mg/day were associated with a nearly sixfold increase in kidney patients’ risk of hospitalization.

How Can You Avoid These Health Risks?

About 1 in 5 older adults live with kidney function of less than 60%, says HealthDay. If you’re a senior, you could be in danger of the medications containing baclofen!

  • If you have impaired kidney function, find out if your medications contain baclofen. Doctors warn that “older patients with impaired kidney function…should be cautious [regarding] use of this medication.”
  • If your medications contain baclofen, ask your doctor right away about the possible mental side effects, Koncicki and Garg said. Don’t stop taking your medications without a doctor’s approval. Patients “should feel empowered to ask questions about the risks and benefits of medications,” Koncicki said, “and side effects to watch out for so they can make an informed decision about whether a medication is right for them.” Dr. Teresa Murray Amato, director of geriatric emergency medicine at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y., agreed. “All patients should speak to their doctors regarding side effects of all medications,” Murray Amato said. “For patients over 65, make sure you understand your kidney function and ask about potential renal dosing on all medications. If you are on baclofen now, make sure you contact your health care provider so that you can have an expedited conversation.”

One Way to Make Your Life Easier

Do you ever feel frustrated by health concerns like this? After all, there are enough problems in life without common medications posing dangers to your health! Sometimes life becomes overwhelming and you need to be able to focus all your time and energy on your family, your health, and things that bring you peace and happiness.

If the legal matters that come with getting older feel like one more burden in life, we’re here to lighten the load! Estate planning? Setting up trusts? Medicaid? Our elder law team has you covered! Make life a little less stressful. Contact our Port St. Lucie office at 772-878-7271 or online. Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

New Ratings Help Seniors Steer Clear of Nursing Homes Connected to Abuse

Are you a family member looking for a nursing home that will ensure your loved one’s needs are met? Quality of life and high standards of wellbeing are understandably part of your deciding factor when choosing a nursing home in the Stuart, Florida area.

Nursing homes can be a perfect fit for seniors who need medical care that family members or other caretakers can’t provide. Nursing homes are the obvious choice for aging individuals who are at higher risk of requiring emergency medical care or special medical equipment.

The Dark Connection of Nursing Homes to Abuse

Unfortunately, there is a dark and tragic side to nursing homes in the United States. According to Nursing Home Abuse Justice, as many as 5,000,000 elders are abused each year. One study reported that as many as 24.3% of residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in a nursing home. Another study estimates only 1 in 14 incidents of elder abuse are formally reported. The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study suggests this number is even more severe, with only 1 in 25 cases of abuse reported. It is estimated that these figures are low, as many elder abuse victims are unable or unwilling to report their abuse. Data from Adult Protective Services (APS) indicates a rising number of reported abuses in recent years. Elder abuse comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial, and it is not always obvious. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 5% to 10% of self-reported elder abuses are physical, 60% are verbal and 14% are neglect, reports Nursing Home Abuse Justice.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Loved One From Abuse?

Of course, as a concerned family member, you want to do everything in your power to ensure your loved one doesn’t suffer nursing home abuse. Choosing a nursing home might already seem overwhelming, and the statistics around nursing home abuse might make it even more stressful. Thankfully, now there’s a new way to steer clear of nursing homes where abuse has been reported.

On October 7, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced changes to Nursing Home Compare that make it easier for residents and families to identify facilities with a history of resident abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Starting on October 23rd 2019, consumers can look for a new icon (a red circle with a hand — located to the right) on a facility’s Nursing Home Compare profile to see if that facility has been cited for either or both of the following deficiencies:

  1. A harm-level (scope and severity level G or higher) abuse citation on the most recent standard survey cycle or complaint survey within the past 12 months.
  2. An abuse citation where residents were found to be potentially harmed (scope and severity level D or higher) on the most recent standard survey cycle or complaint survey within the past 12 months and on the previous standard survey cycle or complaint survey in the prior 12 months, according to the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Additionally, revisions to the Five Star Technical Users’ Guide reveal that facilities meeting either of these criteria will have their health inspection rating capped at a maximum of two stars. Also,  if a facility has been given the abuse icon, the best overall quality rating that a facility can receive is four stars.

These changes have come after increased concern and awareness of nursing home resident abuse. For more information about addressing resident abuse, as well as resources for tracking and reporting abuse, please see LTCCC’s Abuse, Neglect, and Crime Reporting Center.

How Else Can You Help Your Aging Loved One?

This new and improved rating system on Nursing Home Compare can help you be more informed and confident when deciding on the best nursing home for your parent, grandparent, or other aging loved one. However, there are many other ways that you can assist seniors in your life with critical decisions. Aging individuals face a multitude of decisions that need to be made regarding estate planning, healthcare power of attorney, Medicaid, financial power of attorney, and more! Additionally, your loved one might not be aware of veteran’s benefits they are missing out on. When it comes to the decisions that will determine future wellbeing for the whole family, we are the Treasure Coast’s elder law firm you can trust. Whatever your legal issue or question is, we are dedicated to helping you achieve peace of mind and a legacy the whole family can be proud of. Start by contacting our Stuart, Florida office today at 772-261-8556 or with an online message. Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

As an Unpaid Family Caregiver, Do You Ever Feel Like You Need Help Too?

If you are a caregiver to a loved one, you understand the sacrifice it can be sometimes. Even tasks done out of love can feel tiring and overwhelming. And while you can hopefully see some of the fruits of your hard work, you might not know just how invaluable you are. When we consider the overall value that volunteer caregivers to seniors bring to American society, the facts are almost staggering. Family caregivers are some of the most unrecognized heroes of our society.

The Impressive Contribution of Unpaid Family Caregivers

According to a recent AARP report, the work done by volunteers giving care to elderly Americans is worth billions.

Approximately 41 million unpaid family caregivers provided an estimated 34 billion hours of care  — worth a staggering $470 billion — to their parents, spouses, partners, and friends in 2017, according to the AARP report.

Now while that number sounds impressive on its own, it becomes even more impressive when you consider that it’s more than the annual cost of all out-of-pocket spending on U.S. health care ($366 billion in 2017), and also exceeds the total spending from all sources of paid caregiving ($366 billion in 2016) and the total combined value added to the U.S. economy by the education and arts/entertainment sectors ($460 billion in 2017).

That helps put the economic value of family caregivers in perspective.

The report reveals some other very interesting and probably surprising facts about family care providers in the US. Breaking the assumed stereotypes, 1 in 4 of unpaid family caregivers are millennials. 40% are men, and about 40% represent multicultural communities.

Unpaid family caregivers’ jobs are more impressive than just helping around the house and providing companionship. It’s common for unpaid family caregivers to pay for the care themselves (an average of $7,000, from a 2016 statistic). It’s also becoming more normal for these caregivers to carry out increasingly complex responsibilities such as giving injections and tending to wounds, says the report from AARP. In addition, about 60% of these unpaid caregivers are also fitting a paid job into their schedule. That’s a lot!

While the impressiveness of unpaid family caregivers continues to increase, there are other changes that are concerning. The report also explores the growing scope and complexity of caregiving, including an aging population, more family caregivers in the paid workforce, and the increasing amount of medical and nursing tasks entering the home. Statistics and studies show that while in 2010 there were 7.1 potential family caregivers available to care for everyone over age 80, by 2030 there might be only 4.1 potential caregivers for every person over age 80.

Reports like this one by AARP make it clear that even with the hard work and dedication of individuals caring for loved ones, the need for more family caregivers is increasing. It’s more important than ever to find a sustainable way for seniors to continue receiving the home care they need and deserve.

Are You an Unpaid Family Caregiver? Here’s How We Can Help You

As an unpaid family caregiver, you are already doing impressive and invaluable work. Do you feel like you’re the one who needs help sometimes? That’s what we’re here for. We are passionate about helping elderly people and those who care for and love them in the Fort Pierce area and beyond. As mentioned in the study by AARP, family caregivers have a lot of responsibility. Simply helping with household tasks would be a big job in itself! But usually, as a caregiver, you have more responsibility than that. Does your parent, grandparent, or other senior loved one need help with legal matters such as creating a will, updating or adjusting a will, setting up a trust, or planning out other areas of their estate? Do they have questions about power of attorney or appointing someone to handle their legal and healthcare decisions? Do you have questions about helping your loved one qualify for Medicaid benefits? As a truly caring elder law firm, we’re here to answer your questions and take a load off your shoulders. You don’t have to do everything on your own! We can help with the legal issues while you spend more time with the person you love! With a dedicated, experienced team and offices located in Fort Pierce and throughout the surrounding area, we can make caring for your loved one as stress-free as possible. With our comprehensive legacy planning services, we’re here to make the future seem a little less overwhelming and a little more certain. Give us a call today at our Fort Pierce office at 

772-828-2588, or send a message online. Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did You Know That Hearing Aids May Help Delay Dementia?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the effects that time has on our bodies? Whether you are entering into your senior years, or you are the child of aging parents, you’ve probably wished you could stop some of the heartbreaking and life-altering results of aging.

Perhaps one of the most tragic conditions that affects many elderly people is dementia. According to the Washington Post, 10% of all Americans who are 65 or older suffer from some form of dementia.

Dementia can have devastating effects on families. According to MayoClinic, a dementia diagnosis can trigger a range of emotions — including anger, fear, frustration and sadness. Dementia can cause confusion and conflict around decisions regarding treatment, care, living arrangements, finances, and end-of-life care.

While there are promising advances in medical research, there is still no “cure” for dementia. However, a new study suggests a small and relatively step that we can take that might help delay dementia diagnoses and the overwhelming life changes that come with them.

According to Reuters, a new U.S. study suggests that hearing aids may actually delay some of the mental and physical forms of health decline associated with hearing loss. According to Reuters, past research has linked prolonged sensory deprivation – such as loss of hearing – with social isolation and cognitive decline (such as dementia). Hearing loss has also been tied to depression, anxiety, and balance trouble with increased risk of falls.

In an interview with Reuters, lead author Dr. Elham Mahmoudi of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor said that the “prevalence of hearing loss is estimated to increase as our population grows older, and we know there are strong associations between uncorrected hearing loss and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.” Mahmoudi and his team have made observations studying 114,862 people age 66 and older who struggle with hearing loss.

According to the study reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, among people who’d been diagnosed with hearing loss, those who used hearing aids were up to 18% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia, depression or fall-related injuries over the next three years, compared to people not using the devices.

More than 27 million older Americans live with hearing loss, reports Reuters, but unfortunately, only 12.3% of those with a formal diagnosis get hearing aids.

While everyone in the above study had health insurance, hearing aids are typically only partly covered by insurance, or not covered at all. This leads to the cost falling on the individual, a burden many families can’t afford to carry. On average, hearing aids cost between $2,000 and $7,000. “We not only need to advocate for insurance coverage for hearing aids, but also educate the public about the risks of uncorrected hearing loss,” Mahmoudi said to Reuters.

Hearing aids are expensive, Dr. Linda McEvoy of the University of California, San Diego told Reuters, but “the costs of the conditions they could prevent or delay are substantially more expensive.”

What’s Next for You and Your Loved Ones?

Getting a hearing aid for yourself or a loved one is a fairly straightforward step towards a better quality of life. With the high cost of hearing aids, you might want to look into how Medicaid could cover the payment. Yet as we age, there are seemingly endless steps that need to be taken. Even before you reach your senior years, you’ll want to secure a detailed and well-constructed legal will in your estate planning. You’ll want to name your beneficiaries who will receive your estate when you pass on. You’ll want to secure the best possible medical care and living arrangements. All of this is a lot of work that requires legal knowledge and clear information. To make matters more complicated, sometimes legal issues arise that threaten the success of carrying out your desires for this season of your life and for your estate and loved ones after you are gone.

As a compassionate and efficient elder law firm, we are here to help make the legal matters of this stage of your life as simple and stress-free as possible. Whether you want help planning your estate, applying for Medicaid, or understanding your veteran’s benefits, we are your reliable legal team! Or maybe your loved one has recently passed away and you need caring, understanding assistance with the probate process? We’re here for that too. With offices across the Treasure Coast of Florida, and a reputation for outstanding service, we are your solution for convenient and competent legal care. Are you facing a legal question or challenge in Vero Beach, Florida? Contact our Vero Beach office at 772-410-5156 or by messaging us online. Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

What is a Living Will and How Does It Work?

Also called an advance directive, a living will is a legal document that lets individuals state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions, according to AllLaw.

The document can either take effect as soon as it’s signed or only when it’s determined by a doctor that the person can no longer communicate his or her wishes about treatment. Even if it takes effect immediately, doctors will rely on personal communication, not a document, as long as possible. A living will can be revoked at any time, according to AllLaw.

According to Everplans, a living will is only used if you are deemed incapacitated and incompetent by at least one doctor. If you are merely incapacitated but likely to recover, your living will won’t go into effect (though your can act on your behalf). So long as you are mentally competent and can speak on your own behalf, your living will won’t be used.

What is an Agent or Health Care Surrogate?

Living wills are often used with a document called a Health Care Surrogate Designation or durable power of attorney (DPOA) for healthcare. A HEALTH CARE SURROGATE DESIGNATION appoints someone to carry out the wishes about healthcare decisions generally, including an appropriate circumstances, end-of-life treatment, that are written down in an appropriate advanced directive. The person named is called the “agent,” or “healthcare surrogate,” says AllLaw.

According to Nolo, the health care surrogate designation or medical power of attorney form for Florida gives your agent the authority to make all health care decisions for you unless you specifically place limits on that authority in the document, including permission to:

  • Consent or refuse consent to any medical treatment that affects physical or mental health
  • Hire or fire medical personnel
  • Make decisions about the best medical facilities for you
  • Visit you in the hospital or other facility even when other visitors are restricted
  • Gain access to medical records and other personal information, and
  • Get court authorization, if required to obtain or withhold medical treatment, if for any reason a hospital or doctor does not honor your living will or the authority of your health care agent.

What Does a Living Will Cover?

A living will addresses many of the medical procedures common in life-threatening situations, such as:

  • Resuscitation via electric shock
  • Ventilation
  • Dialysis
  • Pain medication throughout final hours

Normally, you can extend the living will to cover situations where there is no brain activity or where doctors expect you to remain unconscious for the rest of your life, even if a terminal illness or life-threatening injury isn’t present, says Investopedia.

A Living Will vs. a Last Will and Testament

In contrast to a regular “last will and testament,” which only becomes legally binding at death, a living will ends upon death, explains AllLaw. The exception is that some living wills include decisions about organ donation or autopsy.

How to Create a Living Will

According to MayoClinic, a living will must be in writing. You can find the form for making a living will in Florida at the Florida Health Finder. Review your living will with your doctor and your health care agent to be sure you have filled out forms correctly. When you have completed your documents, you need to:

  • Keep the originals in a safe but easily accessible place.
  • Give a copy to your doctor and your health care agent (your proxy).
  • Record who has your advance directives.
  • Talk to family members and loved ones about your living will. By giving loved ones a clear understanding of your preferences, you can help them avoid conflict and guilt later on.
  • Carry a wallet-sized card that indicates you have advance directives, identifies your health care agent and states where a copy of your directives can be found.
  • Bring a copy when you travel. (To facilitate this we email copies of executed documents to our clients contemporaneously with the execution of the documents, so clients would always have a copy of the executed document available on their computer or accessible from their personal device.

You can change your directives at any time. If you make changes, you must create a new form, distribute new copies and destroy all old copies.

Consider reviewing your directives and creating new ones in the following situations:

  • A diagnosis that is terminal or significantly life-altering. Discuss with your doctor the kind of treatment and care decisions that might be made during the expected course of the disease.
  • When you marry, divorce, become separated or are widowed, you may need to select a new health care agent.
  • About every 10 years. Review your directives from now and then to ensure they reflect your current desires.

Because accidents and unexpected illnesses can happen at any time, experts at Forbes push for all adults to have a living will.

Now is the time to make your desires legally binding. If you have questions about making a living will in Florida, don’t hesitate to contact our Port St. Lucie office at 772-878-7271 or online. Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Transportation for elderly men and women

Older adults often struggle once they get behind the wheel of a car. Despite their best efforts, they can have slower reflexes, impaired vision and confusion as part of the natural aging process. But the problem is, that can put themselves and others at risk for harm.

In 2009, there were 33 million licensed drivers were over age 65 – a 20 percent increase from 1999. And by the year 2030, 70 million Americans in the U.S. will be over age 65 – and 85 to 90 percent of them will be licensed to drive. In 2014, nearly 5,709 senior drivers were killed and 221,000 were injured in traffic crashes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that people older than 70 drive less than half as many miles annually as drivers who are middle-aged. Some drive only during the day. Others drive but stay close to home.

While it might seem safer to keep people at home, research shows that seniors who are no longer able to drive attend fewer medical appointments, go shopping and out for meals less often, and reduce the frequency of their visits to friends and family compared to drivers of the same age. That can lead to health problems, isolation and feelings of loneliness and sadness.

There are options. For instance,  Medicaid will cover non-emergency medical transportation, such as trips to the doctor for a scheduled appointment. Medicare will only cover emergency medical trips, like to the emergency room after a fall.

The Older Americans Act  allocates funds to states to provide alternative transportation for seniors. Local jurisdictions are by law required to help.

Lyft and Uber have programs especially for seniors. Lyft’s operator service for older people is available to GreatCall members, and Uber’s operator service through 24Hr Home Care, named RideWith24, is available to the public via a toll-free number.

Taxis are readily available in most cities and towns.

Public transportation is the most affordable form, with buses or the subway often costing as little as a few dollars at most, with many offering senior and low-income discounts.

Family and friends also are only a phone call away.

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.