How to sell an inherited home:

 Get good advice before putting mom and dad’s house on the market.

Via  Amy Hoak, MarketWatch.

Selling an inherited house isn’t easy.

There’s the emotional aspect of getting a loved one’s home ready for sale — which likely includes clearing out his or her belongings and depersonalizing the rooms. There’s the financial cost of making necessary updates to attract buyers. Sometimes heirs have to deal with costly liens or other hidden problems, and there may be disagreements among siblings about the sale price.

And understandably, sometimes family members drag their feet. Images of growing up in the home with Mom and Dad prevent them from springing into action. They can’t let go.

“Everyone takes their time to deal with the passing of a loved one. And you need to take the appropriate steps to learn the market, educate yourself and have a Realtor and tax attorney who are reliable — you need someone who is going to be empathic and is there to help,” said Leslie Piper, consumer housing specialist for Realtor.com and a San Francisco real-estate agent.

Get some advice

First, learn about the house’s status and verify your ownership, getting the advice of an estate attorney, said David Fairman, a real-estate agent with ERA Solutions Realty in Central Ohio.

“Depending on state law, and other factors, a License To Sell Real Estate may be required from the Probate Court,” said Sally H. Mulhern, an attorney and founder of the law firm of Mulhern & Scott, PLLC, in Portsmouth, N.H., in an email interview. “In addition, there will most likely be a ‘creditor claims’ period, which must pass before assets, including real estate, can be distributed to the heirs.”

Connect with a tax adviser to understand any tax implications of selling the home, Fairman added. Heirs should also check and see if there are any liens on the property.

In fact, in certain situations — including when there are environmental concerns or the mortgage is underwater (meaning the home is worth less than what is still owed by the borrower) — heirs may even choose not to accept the home at all, allowing it to go into foreclosure, said Kelly Zinser, a bankruptcy attorney in California and legal analyst for Avvo.com, a site that rates lawyers and connects them with consumers.

Those who don’t want the property should speak with an attorney about disclaiming it — and promptly, Mulhern said. The process will likely involve filing disclaimer paperwork, she said.

Assess the market

It might be clear that Grandma’s kitchen needs some major upgrading. But before doing any work, contact a real-estate agent to help you understand the local housing market.

“You have to figure out what the other houses on the street are selling for, and get an idea of what the house is worth before improvements are made,” Fairman said.

A real-estate agent can also provide some advice on what changes would be worthwhile to make. From a financial perspective, it’s often best to do the minimum amount of repairs required to secure a buyer — and allow them to get financing. (Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages, for example, require certain safety, soundness and security requirements for homes.) 

If the home is in very poor shape, it’s sometimes best to market it to an investor, Fairman added. Cash buyers looking for bargains are more likely to purchase a home “as is.”

In areas with a hot rental market, it may make sense to keep the property and rent it out. A local real-estate agent can help people sort through the options.

Prepare for listing

Success in selling the home — and for a desirable price — will often depend on its condition, and cleaning up the yard, painting the home’s interior and other minimal improvements will go a long way, Piper said. Upgrading flooring can also be helpful, as can minor improvements to the kitchen and baths, Fairman said.

Removing your loved one’s belongings will also make the home more appealing to the masses, both the ones who view photos online as well as those who do a walk through, Piper said. See Decluttering tips for boomers.

“Doing the cleanup is essential,” Piper said. It helps people view the home as a blank canvas.

If a home’s major mechanical systems are old, sellers might want to pay for a home warranty instead of replacing them, Fairman said. Buyers typically react positively to that incentive, he said.

Expect an emotional process

The process of selling a relative’s home is likely going to be emotional, from the sorting of the personal belongings to the finalization of the sale at the closing table. Expect that. And surround yourself with professionals who will be empathetic and helpful, Piper said.

Also, it will help to set expectations on what price you’d be willing to accept at the beginning of the process, Fairman said. That way, you can more rationally evaluate buyer offers, minimizing the chance of getting emotional over lower-priced bids. Clearly established expectations are especially important when multiple heirs are selling the home.

I hope you found this article informative!

Regards, Brian

https://twitter.com/NYCElderLawFirm

http://www.RaphanLaw.com

Senate Looks at Doctor-Dropping by Medicare Advantage Plans:

What to do when Medicare Advantage insurers drop large numbers of doctors from their plans?

medicare-pillOn Jan. 22, members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging met in Hartford, Conn., in search of an answer. UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest Medicare Advantage insurer, planned to drop its contracts with some 2,250 doctors in the state on Feb. 1, but a court has ordered the terminations delayed while the issue is being litigated.

Raymond H. Welch, a dermatologist in Rhode Island, told the committee that when Medicare Advantage plans can summarily drop providers, it leaves doctors focused on pleasing the insurer instead of advocating for their patients. “It is this perversion of the doctor-patient relationship that I fear the most,” Welch said. “It is said you cannot serve two masters. The master that physicians serve must be their patients, not UnitedHealthcare.”

But attorney Stephanie Kanwit, testifying on behalf of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s national trade association, countered that insurers need the freedom to drop doctors from their networks.

“As a direct result of the serious funding challenges facing the Medicare Advantage program,” Kanwit told the committee, “the need is greater today than ever before for innovations that deliver increased value to beneficiaries with the increasingly limited resources that are available to support the MA program.” Insurers, she said, are looking at which medical providers are most cost-effective as well as which score best on measures of quality care.

Richard D. Johnson, a retiree who lives in Bridgeport, Conn., said he was disappointed and confused when the doctor he trusted was dropped from his Medicare Advantage plan.

“I just want to see the doctor who has been taking good care of me for three years,” Johnson testified. “ I want to say that I am not just worried about myself. There are lots of other seniors who are affected by this. … When you have health problems, you want to stay with the doctors who know you personally and take excellent care of you.”

Posted on 01/27/2014 by  | Washington Watch | 

Regards,

Brian

9 (Potential) Problems with Your Trust:

All trusts should be reviewed every few years to make sure that they are up-to-date with the law and meet your goals today. Following is a checklist of trust features you can review yourself. But be aware that these only refer to revocable “living” trusts, not to irrevocable trusts.

elder law, brian raphan,

  1. Do you have the right successor trustees? Typically you will be the trustee of your own revocable trust with your spouse as co-trustee (if you’re married). Trusts should name one or more successors in the event the original trustee or trustees are unable to serve. Make sure that you still want the successors you originally named. Also, do you want them to come on and begin acting as trustee now? And if you and your spouse are co-trustees, do you want the successor or successors to step in when the first of you becomes incapacitated or passes away, or not until neither of you can serve?
  2. Who can remove trustees? You can always change the trustees of your revocable trust. But do you want your heirs to have this right after you pass away? This can often avoid problems if there are communication problems or disagreements with the trustee. On the other hand, you might want to limit this to some extent to make sure heirs aren’t just looking for a trustee to do whatever they say.
  3. Can your spouse change the ultimate distribution of trust assets after you have passed away? Many trusts give surviving spouses a so-called power of appointment to redirect trust assets at their death. This can be important to provide for flexibility to respond to changes in family circumstances. However, this usually doesn’t make sense in second marriages. In a Massachusetts court case, the second wife used her power to give everything to her children instead of to the original beneficiaries: her deceased husband’s children. Even in the case of a first marriage, removing this provision from the trust can provide protection for children and grandchildren in case the surviving spouse remarries and becomes estranged from his family.
  4. Does your trust protect your children and grandchildren from lawsuits and divorce? You have the option of drafting your trust to continue for your children’s lives to provide creditor and divorce protection.
  5. Have you funded your trust? We often see great trust documents that don’t do all that’s intended because the clients’ assets are still titled in their names. You can avoid probate and make sure that the estate tax protections in your trust operate as planned through retitling assets in the name of the trust.
  6. Who is named as beneficiary of your retirement plans and other investments? Often clients spend hours with their attorneys crafting an estate plan to match their goals and then circumvent it through naming individuals as beneficiaries of retirement plans and investment accounts. Make sure these are all coordinated.
  7. At what age will children and grandchildren receive their inheritance? Most trusts provide that funds will remain in trust until those inheriting reach a certain age, often 21 or 25. But you can set any age you choose and even permit them to withdraw a portion of the trust at set ages, say half at 25 and half at 30, or a third each at 25, 30 and 35. This doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from the trust assets in the meantime, but that distribution decisions are made by the trustees until children and grandchildren have more financial experience.
  8. Does your trust have provisions providing for maximum tax deferral if it is named the beneficiary of a retirement plan? While you may choose to have your retirement plans go directly to your heirs — and often this is the simplest approach — if they are going to your trust, it must have special provisions to stretch out the annual required distributions for as long as possible.
  9. Is your trust up-to-date for estate tax purposes? Congress and many states have changed the estate tax laws several times in recent years. If your trust is more than five years old, or if you lived in a different state when it was drafted, it should be reviewed by an estate planning attorney to make certain it is still current.

You can check many of these questions on your own. In fact, it’s a useful exercise to make sure that you understand what is in your trust. Other issues, particularly those related to tax issues, will require consulting with an estate planning professional.

This article also appears in our monthly email newsletter. View it here and subscribe for free.

Regards, Brian

http://www.RaphanLaw.com

How to Use Medicare to Pay for In-Home Care

350xIt’s not easy to get Medicare coverage for in-home care, and when you do it’s strictly limited. That said, it can be a godsend when you’re faced with a sudden medical crisis or downturn in your loved one’s condition. Medicare coverage is most common when your loved one is being discharged from the hospital or a rehabilitation facility. You’ll contract through a Medicare-certified agency for a period of skilled nursing care and therapy that’s tied to a certain period of expected recovery.

The good news is that Medicare coverage is easier to get than it used to be, and it should become easier still.
Read full article…

Is your Medicare ready for 2014?

The new year is fast approaching. Here are a few things to ask yourself to make sure you’re ready for 2014.

The Medicare Blog

The new year is fast approaching. Here are a few things to ask yourself to make sure you’re ready for 2014.

1. Do you have the right insurance card to use when you go to the doctor in 2014?
If you changed your health or drug plan during Medicare Open Enrollment and don’t get your new card or welcome packet by January 1st, contact your plan for help. If you need to fill a prescription right away, find out how to fill a prescription without your card.

If you changed from a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) back to Original Medicare, use your red, white, and blue Medicare card when you go to the doctor. Get a new card if you lost or damaged yours, or need to update your information.

2. Did you budget for next year’s Medicare Part B deductible?

Don’t…

View original post 307 more words

How will the Affordable Care Act affect Seniors…

How will the Affordable Care Act affect Seniors…

How will the ACA (Obamacare) affect senior citizens

CareGround.com: A new online resource for caregivers:

Being a caregiver not takes a lot of time and energy. And to be successful at it you need resources you can count on. With you at the center, you can more easily take control of your caregiving with the proper support in place around you. Checkout http://www.careground.com.

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CareGround provides caregivers an online database of premier service providers focused on geriatrics and dementia care. CareGround listings include physicians, elder care attorneys, trust and estate planners, CCRC’s (Continuing Care Retirement Communities), and virtually all other providers of related services.

This database is a collection of listings for elder care with search options including desired professional specialty and location. In addition, specialists in CareGround’s database are reviewed by CareGround members, so that other CareGround users can make more informed decisions regarding which service providers to utilize.

Beyond listings, CareGround delivers informative periodic newsletters, smart editorial features and a vibrant community via help forums. Searched content, community contacts and personalized notes can be saved within the member’s individual profile, referred to as ‘My CareGround’.

Membership is recommended and is entirely free.

Family Feuds Over Power of Attorney

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As part of the agingcare.com network I want to share this article about POAs written by Lori Johnston.

Squabbles over assigning Power of Attorney – who can act on your parent’s behalf – and the decisions made in that role can impact the family dynamic for years to come.

Even when mom or dad plans ahead and creates the Power of Attorney (POA) legal document before they’re impaired by a health condition, there can be ongoing strife among siblings and family members.

Sometimes the decision of who to appoint in the Power of Attorney role, from the parent’s standpoint, is cut and dry. Parents will put their faith in the oldest child, or choose one child over another based on who lives closest or whom they trust because of their skills, especially with financial decisions.

Diana Anderson, a certified elder law attorney and partner with Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks in Toms River, N.J., says clients have told her: “I’m choosing that one; the other one can’t balance their own checkbook.”

In other cases, a parent is suspicious about their child and doesn’t trust them 100 percent with their money. Sometimes if the oldest isn’t chosen, there’s emotional backlash toward parents and siblings because they are insulted by the decision.

Depending on the state, multiple people can be appointed Power of Attorney, but that can result in arguments later, if they cannot agree on a decision. Or if living in a state where there are different types of Power of Attorney, such as for healthcare and financial decisions, the duties can be separated between siblings.

“When it comes to healthcare decision-making, if the child is a nurse or doctor, that child oftentimes is named first because they’re more attuned to health care issues. If the child is a financial planner, they may be named first for financial decision making,” says Ronald Fatoullah, a certified elder law attorney and founder and managing attorney of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates.

The POA Decision Aftermath

If the appointment of POA is smooth and didn’t involve much gnashing of teeth, that doesn’t mean bickering won’t begin once the person granted POA assumes duties related to parents’ financial and medical decisions. Many times, the challenge to the POA happens after the parent passes away, Anderson says.

While the parent is still alive, a sibling may try to trump the person appointed POA by saying their parent was incapacitated when making the decision. When that happens, it can result in an expensive guardianship fight in court.

Here are other common situations seen by elder care attorneys:

  • Sibling rivalry

Ongoing sibling rivalry can chip away at the “power” that someone granted Power of Attorney holds and cause kids to argue over daily and long-term decisions. When the siblings don’t trust the person granted POA, what Anderson often sees happen is constant questioning about decisions. One or multiple siblings may appear to be always on the POA holder’s back, challenging each health care and financial decision, she says.

  • Unwilling to let go

The POA holder must act in the best interest of the person they are representing, even when it comes to making those tough health decisions. “If he or she doesn’t, that individual can be sued,” Fatoullah says.

In one case, Anderson says the sibling who was granted Power of Attorney for health care refused to comply with the mother’s living will. “Another sibling said, ‘Mom said to pull the plug,'” Anderson says. At a bedside hearing, it was determined that the POA appointee was not acting in the mother’s interests and the living will request to withdraw life support was fulfilled.

  • Financial feuds

Once siblings start to question what is happening to their inheritance, the battle over finances heads to court, and it can happen whether the parent is alive or has died.

In a frequent scenario, the person appointed POA may decide to pay themselves back for the expenses of caring for a parent, such as driving them to doctor’s appointments and buying food or medications.

“When one child spends more time taking care of a parent and feels like they should be entitled to more, they can give themselves more,” Fatoullah says.

But the other sibling doesn’t think it’s fair, saying that the POA holder is taking more than their 50-50 share of their inheritance, after their parents’ death.

Even if the decision over granting Power of Attorney isn’t emotional, things can take a turn among families when the POA starts making decisions. Attorneys say resolving sibling rivalry and creating trust among family members can help avoid family feuds over Power of Attorney and costly court battles.

WHY NOT TO USE AN ‘OFF THE SHELF’ POA>

If you have a question about how to create a POA or address a POA issue, feel free to call me.

Regards, Brian

212-268-8200

http://www.RaphanLaw.com

Quiz: Seniors, Are You Ready for Your Future?

AARP MembershipThanks to AARP you can find out if you are prepared. Whether it’s your financial future, your legal future or your health this simple quiz is very helpful. Spend a few minutes and check it out. If you find that you need any of our legal services, we gladly offer AARP discounts to members.

TAKE THE QUIZ: CLICK HERE.

Regards, Brian

http://www.RaphanLaw.com

Download a Free Guide to Medicaid’s Asset Transfer Rules:

This handy guide explains “countable assets” and “qualifying expenses” and also provides case studies as examples. Know who can give and receive and how.

medicaid planning
Plan Wisely

Lacking access to alternatives like long-term care insurance or Medicare, most people pay out of their own pockets for long-term care until they become eligible for Medicaid. Since few people have long-term care insurance or can
afford to pay the high cost of nursing home care out-of-pocket, most people eventually qualify for Medicaid. By default, it has become the primary source of
funding for nursing home care and the long-term care insurance of the middle class. Download the Free Guide by Clicking here. 

Be sure you plan accurately and wisely. Any errors can cause Medicaid to deny your claim, impose a penalty period–setting back your plans for you and your family, and cost you money. Let me know if you have any further questions. Our Free Medicaid Planning Consultation (a $450 value) ends 8/31/13.

Regards,

Brian

http://www.RaphanLaw.com