The Full Retirement Age Is Increasing

Full retirement age (also called “normal retirement age”) had been 65 for many years. However, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, that age gradually increases until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959.

The 1983 Social Security Amendments included a provision for raising the full retirement age beginning with people born in 1938 or later. The Congress cited improvements in the health of older people and increases in average life expectancy as primary reasons for increasing the normal retirement age. Click the image below for the “FULL RETIREMENT CALCULATOR” and get more information for the SSA.

Retirement Calculator
Full Retirement Calculator

Also, for Social Security benefits for the surviving spouse see this link: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan/survivorchartred.htm#about

Regards, Brian A. Raphan

http://www.RaphanLaw.com   info@RaphanLaw.com

2015 Spousal Impoverishment and Home Equity Figures:

Brian Raphan

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released its Spousal Impoverishment Standards for 2015.

The official spousal impoverishment allowances for 2015 are as follows (we include Medicaid’s home equity limits):

Minimum Community Spouse Resource Allowance: $23,844

Maximum Community Spouse Resource Allowance: $119,220

Maximum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance: $2,980.50

The minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance for the lower 48 states remains $1,966.25 ($2,457.50 for Alaska and $2,261.25 for Hawaii) until July 1, 2015.

Home Equity Limits:

Minimum:   $552,000

Maximum:  $828,000

For CMS’s complete chart of the 2015 SSI and Spousal Impoverishment Standards, click here.

For more information about protecting your assets click here.

Regards,

Brian A. Raphan, Esq.

5 Tips for Arranging and Paying for a Home Health Aide:

-By Emily Garnett, Associate Attorney at Brian A. Raphan, P.C.

Finding oneself or a family member in need of home care can be a tough pill to swallow. It is often difficult to accept that you or a loved one is no longer able to safely do many of the activities of daily living that you once could. At that point, it may be time to bring in a home health aide for assistance with a wide variety of activities of daily living.

1. How to Arrange Help and Payment: Many people choose to privately pay for home health aides. If you choose to go this route, you can utilize a long-term home health care program (LTHHCP). These are agencies accredited by the state that provide home health aides. They manage the staffing and payroll. However, you can also choose to select aides that are privately paid, and work outside of an LTHHCP agency. For these aides, you would have to manage staffing and payroll issues yourself, or utilize the expertise of an elder law attorney or geriatric care manager to manage these details.

Medicaid Planning

2. Using Medicaid to Pay: If you are unable to privately pay for home care, you have the option of applying for Medicaid to obtain coverage for long-term home care. It is advised that you work with an elder law attorney or other professional to facilitate this process, as it can be complicated, and the regulations are frequently changing. In order to qualify for Medicaid, the applicant must meet certain requirements for income and assets. The current Medicaid asset limit is $14,550.00, and the monthly income limit is $809.00. Unlike nursing home Medicaid, there is no look-back period for community Medicaid, meaning that Medicaid is not going to investigate past money transfers like they would for an application for nursing home coverage. There are several ways to address the income and asset limits required for Medicaid acceptance, the most common being the use of pooled trusts to shelter those funds. Pooled trusts are frequently used to meet the Medicaid spend-down, which is the requirement that an applicant reduce his or her available income so that it remains under the Medicaid limit.

3. Shelter your Income: Once an individual applies for Medicaid coverage, he or she can join a third party pooled trust to shelter the excess income and meet the spend-down. These trusts allow the individual to use the funds sheltered in the trust for personal needs outside of the Medicaid coverage, including expenses like rent, utilities, and phone bills. If this arrangement is not made, the applicant runs the risk of rejection by Medicaid or having to privately pay for some part of his or her home care each month.

4. Enrollment for Managed Long Term Care: Once you have applied for and been approved for Medicaid, you will work with your elder law attorney or specialist to enroll in a managed long-term care program (MLTC), which will provide home care services. The first step in this process is assessment by a new program, the Conflict-Free Eligibility and Enrollment Center (CFEEC), sometimes also referred to as “Maximus”. This assessment takes about two hours and provides a determination to Medicaid that the consumer is eligible for home care services. At that point, the consumer selects a managed long term care plan to enroll in. The MLTC plan then schedules a second assessment, also lasting about two hours, in which the specific care needs of the consumer are assessed. At the conclusion of this assessment, the nurse performing the assessment will submit the information to Medicaid, who will ultimately determine the number of hours of home care needed each day by the consumer. This process is very time-sensitive, so work closely with your Medicaid attorney assisting with the application process, to avoid costly and unnecessary delays.

5. Keeping Your Ongoing Benefits: Once the application process is complete, your home care will likely start on or around the first of the following month. At that point, your obligations as a consumer are to maintain the income and asset limits, including utilization of a pooled trust if needed. You will be required to annually re-certify with Medicaid that you have maintained these levels. Should you have questions at that point, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Medicaid planning attorney, rather than risk losing your Medicaid benefits. It is worth noting, however, that occasionally delays arise in various points of the application process through no fault of the attorney or applicant. Should you find yourself in such a position, understand that these issues do arise, and make sure to cooperate with your attorney or specialist’s advocacy efforts towards resolution.

Emily Garnett, Esq.

The Law Offices of Brian A. Raphan, P.C. 7 Penn Plaza, Suite 810 New York, NY 10001 T: (212) 268-8200

“Helping Senior New Yorkers for over 25 Years”

Maybe it’s time for a geriatric care manager

Geriatric care

Why do we hear so much about geriatric care management these days? It’s because there are so many benefits they can provide to seniors and care givers. Let’s first clarify the term: A professional Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) is a health and human services specialist who helps families who are caring for older relatives. The GCM is trained and experienced in any of several fields related to care management, including nursing, gerontology, social work, psychology, and logistics of health care and often finances relating to the elderly. They are trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services for the elderly and their families. Although not lawyers, they are often aware of legal issues elders may be soon facing.

The benefits to you, the child or care giver of the elder range from saving time (vetting out various needs), saving money (knowing financial pitfalls of some decisions in advance), making better care decisions (with insight from someone who has seen it all) and most importantly –reducing stress.  The stress of being alone in the decision making process, relief of now being informed about your various options and what may be right for the specific needs of the elder, ranging from doctor decisions, how to provide care, assisted living, home care and nursing care options. Doing it alone takes an enormous amount of time, energy, resources and self reliance.

According to Gladys Harris Geriatric Care Manager of The Olive Group, you may need a Geriatric Care Manager if:

•    A person has limited or no family support available

•    Family has just become involved with helping the individual and needs direction regarding available senior services

•    A person has multiple medical or psychological issues

•    A person is unable to live safely in his / her current environment

•    Family is either “burned out” or confused about care solutions

•    Family has a limited time and / or expertise in dealing with loved one’s chronic care needs

•    Family is at odds regarding care decisions

•    Individual is not pleased with current care providers and requires advocacy

•    Individual is confused regarding his / her own financial and / or legal situation

•    Family needs education and / or direction in dealing with behaviors associated with dementia

Gladys is a recommended resource of ours and helps families and elders in New Jersey. They offer a unique combination of compassion, knowledge, a ‘can-do’ attitude and a wide range of services which also include:

Solution Focused Counseling: Life transitions are a common reason for counseling. We focus on empowering individuals to find solutions in their life by figuring out what a person’s goals are, and supporting them to find ways to achieve those goals.

Care Coordination: Our holistic assessment includes a physical, psychological and social functioning evaluation of the older adult, as well as a home safety inspection. Based on the assessment, we will develop a customized client care plan to identify private and public resources available to support the older adult. We coordinate the support systems needed to keep the older adult safe and happy at home.

Wellness Monitoring: Regular visits with the older adult to help ensure that they receive the best care available. During our visits we ensure older adults are receiving help with things that they want done, computer skills, organize photos, plan family events, etc.

Accessibility Issue Resolution: Aging-in-place often requires making changes to the home to help maintain independence.  This may be de-cluttering, home improvements, home safety inspection

Relocation Services: We support families during transitions from home to another location or facility.   These services include cleaning, de-cluttering, downsizing, and setting up in the older adult’s new home.

Cost savings is also a key component to good geriatric care management. You can learn more about it and find out more about the range of services by clicking here: www.TheOliveGroup.llc.com

Regards,

Brian

Three Reasons Why Joint Accounts May Be a Poor Estate Plan

Many people, especially seniors, see joint ownership of investment and bank accounts as a cheap and easy way to avoid probate since joint property passes automatically to the joint owner at death. Joint ownership can also be an easy way to plan for incapacity since the joint owner of accounts can pay bills and manage investments if the primary owner falls ill or suffers from dementia. These are all true benefits of joint ownership, but three potential drawbacks exist as well:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.10.50 AM

  1. Risk. Joint owners of accounts have complete access and the ability to use the funds for their own purposes. Many elder law attorneys have seen children who are caring for their parents take money in payment without first making sure the amount is accepted by all the children. In addition, the funds are available to the creditors of all joint owners and could be considered as belonging to all joint owners should they apply for public benefits or financial aid.
  2. Inequity. If a senior has one or more children on certain accounts, but not all children, at her death some children may end up inheriting more than the others. While the senior may expect that all of the children will share equally, and often they do in such circumstances, there’s no guarantee. People with several children can maintain accounts with each, but they will have to constantly work to make sure the accounts are all at the same level, and there are no guarantees that this constant attention will work, especially if funds need to be drawn down to pay for care.
  3. The Unexpected. A system based on joint accounts can really fail if a child passes away before the parent. Then it may be necessary to seek conservatorship to manage the funds or they may ultimately pass to the surviving siblings with nothing or only a small portion going to the deceased child’s family. For example, a mother put her house in joint ownership with her son to avoid probate and Medicaid’s estate recovery claim. When the son died unexpectedly, the daughter-in-law was left high and dry despite having devoted the prior six years to caring for her husband’s mother.

Joint accounts do work well in two situations. First, when a senior has just one child and wants everything to go to him or her, joint accounts can be a simple way to provide for succession and asset management. It has some of the risks described above, but for many clients the risks are outweighed by the convenience of joint accounts.

Second, it can be useful to put one or more children on one’s checking account to pay customary bills and to have access to funds in the event of incapacity or death. Since these working accounts usually do not consist of the bulk of a client’s estate, the risks listed above are relatively minor.

For the rest of a senior’s assets, willstrusts and durable powers of attorney are much better planning tools. They do not put the senior’s assets at risk. They provide that the estate will be distributed as the senior wishes without constantly rejiggering account values or in the event of a child’s incapacity or death. And they provide for asset management in the event of the senior’s incapacity.

They provide that the estate will be distributed as the senior wishes without constantly rejiggering account values or in the event of a child’s incapacity or death. And they provide for asset management in the event of the senior’s incapacity.  To download a FREE GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING click here.

For more information about this article feel free to email me at info@raphanlaw.com

Regards, Brian

State Can Recover From Entire Value of Property in Which Medicaid Recipient Had Life Estate

MEDICAID RECOVERY

The Idaho Supreme Court rules that the state may recover Medicaid benefits from the entire value of a property that a Medicaid recipient transferred to his daughter while retaining a life estate for himself. In re Estate of Peterson (Idaho, No. 40615, Aug. 13, 2014).

Melvin Peterson deeded property to his daughter, retaining a life estate for himself. He then applied for Medicaid benefits. When he died, Mr. Peterson had received a total of $171,386.94 in Medicaid benefits.

The state filed a claim against the estate to recover the Medicaid benefits it paid for Mr. Peterson’s care. Under Idaho law, the state may recover any property that passes outside of probate, including any property that that the Medicaid recipient had a legal interest in that passes to a survivor through a life estate or “other arrangement.” The trial court ruled that the life estate remainder interest, but not the retained life estate, was an estate asset, and the appeals court affirmed. The estate appealed, arguing Mr. Peterson had no interest in the life estate at his death, so it could not be subject to recovery.

The Idaho Supreme Court affirms in part holding that both the life estate and the remainder interest were estate assets subject to Medicaid recovery. The court determines that Mr. Peterson’s life estate interest in the property was transferred to his daughter when he died, and under state law “when assets of a Medicaid recipient are conveyed to a survivor, heir or assign by the termination of a ‘life estate,’ the assets remain part of the recipient’s ‘estate'” for purposes of Medicaid recovery. In addition, the court rules that the remainder interest Mr. Peterson’s daughter received is also part of Mr. Peterson’s estate as an “other arrangement.”

For the full text of this decision, go to: http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/40615.pdf

The above article is an example of why you need to understand the full spectrum of Medicaid Planning options. For more information on how we can help you protect your assets for feel free to call me at 212-268-8200 or email medicaid@RaphanLaw.com

Regards, Brian

www.RaphanLaw.com

Why Irrevocable Trusts vs outright Gifting

People often wonder about the value of using irrevocable trusts in Medicaid planning. Certainly gifting of assets can be done outright, not involving an irrevocable trust. Outright gifts have the advantages of being simple to do with minimal costs involved.

Brian Raphan, P.C.

So, why complicate things with a trust? Why not just keep the planning as simple and inexpensive as possible?

The short answer is that gift transaction costs are only part of what needs to be considered. Many important benefits that can result from gifting in trust are forfeited by outright gifting. These benefits are what give value to using irrevocable trusts in Medicaid planning.

Key benefits of gifting in trust are:

  1. -Asset protection from future creditors of beneficiaries. Preservation of the exclusion of capital gain upon sale of the Settlors’ principal residence (the Settlor is the person making the trust).
  2. -Preservation of step-up of basis upon death of the trust Settlors o Ability to select whether the Settlors or the beneficiaries of the trust will be taxable as to trust income.
  3. -Ability to design who will receive the net distributable income generated in the trust.
  4. -Ability to make assets in the trust non-countable in regard to the beneficiaries’ eligibility for means-based governmental benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  5. -Ability to specify certain terms and incentives for beneficiaries’ use of trust assets.
  6. -Ability to decide (through the settlors’ other estate planning documents) which beneficiaries will receive what share, if any, of remaining trust assets after the settlers die.
  7. -Ability to determine who will receive any trust assets after the deaths of the initial beneficiaries.
  8. -Possible avoidance of need to file a federal gift tax return due to asset transfer to the trust.

If you have questions about any of the above items, please call me, Brian A. Raphan, Esq at 212-268-8200. There are additional measures available and your individual situation should be assessed before making any financial decision.

 AVVO PRO

Trusts Attorney – New York, NY.  AVVO Legal Guide Contribution

www.RaphanLaw.com  Medicaid@RaphanLaw.com

New: Visiting Lawyer Services for Elder New Yorkers

Visiting Lawyer Services

Why should the elderly that aren’t as mobile as they used to be, or live in an assisted living facility or are even at home wheelchair bound, not have easy access to the same professional legal care as others? Well, they should. And now they do.

Visiting Lawyer Services (VLS) is now available to New Yorkers that are homebound or unable to travel to a lawyer. With VLS our lawyers come to you. There’s no longer a need to coordinate aides, transfers or transportation as you won’t need it The same practice areas of elder law firm are the same available with VLS.  Most of the services that we handle in our office can be handled at your place. For example; signing of your Will, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, revising a Will, Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning or setting up a Trust. If witnesses are needed for signing documents we also arrange them to be with us as well. Other family members or loved ones may be present as well.

Visiting Lawyer Services

You remain in the comfort of your home, apartment or nursing facility and we’ll bring all the necessary documents. This has been very helpful for elder couples–as is often the case with elders, one spouse may be healthy and agile yet the other quite limited.

‘Not being burdened by travel time or hindered by physical ability also allows seniors to focus better on their legal needs. We’ve taken our hands-on approach, compassion and legal prowess to the next level’

For more information on how our Visiting Lawyer Services can help, feel free to call me at 212-268-8200. – Brian

http://www.VisitingLawyerServices.com

info@raphanlaw.com

Heir tight: The dos and don’ts of creating rock-solid trusts

Good article via Jennifer Woods at cnbc

Imagine working for decades so that one day you could pass your assets on to your children or grandchildren.

Wouldn’t you like to know that when the day comes, they won’t lose it all on bad investments or to a gold-digging spouse—or simply because they have no idea how to properly manage large sums of money?

Whether you’re bestowing assets during your lifetime or leaving them as an inheritance, creating trusts with well-thought-out terms can ensure your money lands in the right hands and isn’t squandered.

“When you write a will and leave money outright to your heirs … once it’s inherited, there are no controls on how that money is being handled, and you don’t know what will happen,” said certified financial planner Ian Weinberg, CEO of Family Wealth and Pension Management.

“Using trusts helps protect your heirs against future catastrophes—[such as] bankruptcies, money-hungry predators disguised as friends, family looking for loans or business bailouts and other financial challenges—and can also provide for certain special needs of your children or grandchildren,” he said.

Many trusts make multiple payouts over time, the hope being that spacing out distributions will prevent the beneficiary from blowing it all in one shot.

Read More Busting age-based investing myths

Russ Weiss, a certified financial planner with Marshall Financial Group, said that when it comes to setting the distribution terms with clients, “the conversations become tricky.”

In many cases, his clients use age-based payouts, in which a percentage of assets is distributed at various ages.

“The child doesn’t get it all at once,” he said. “If they are irresponsible with money, hopefully they can manage [with spread-out distributions].”

Distribution options

Payouts at 25, 30 and 35 years of age have historically been common, though experts warn that in this day and age, 25 is too young to properly manage large sums of money.

Weiss also has clients who schedule periodic payouts after the benefactor dies, so beneficiaries may get a distribution, for example, every five years following the death.

Who needs a trust?

  • Trusts are not just for the ultrarich. If your heirs stand to inherit even a few hundred thousand dollars, a trust is worth considering.
  • People with young children could benefit from a testamentary trust, established in a will and effective upon one’s death. It dictates how assets will be distributed at later dates. The drawbacks? These trusts go through probate, delaying disbursements, and the records are public.
  • Revocable trusts, or living trusts, are often a better option. You allocate, access and manage assets, and amend terms while you’re alive. When you die, the trust can convert to an irrevocable trust with unchangeable terms. Other pluses: They’re easy to set up, are flexible and protect privacy.—J.W.
  • For more info regarding the proper use of Trusts feel free to email me. Sincerely, Brian

Understanding the Differences Between a Will and a Trust

Brian Raphan

Everyone has heard the terms “will” and “trust,” but not everyone knows the differences between the two. Both are useful estate planning devices that serve different purposes, and both can work together to create a complete estate plan.

One main difference between a will and a trust is that a will goes into effect only after you die, while a trust takes effect as soon as you create it. A will is a document that directs who will receive your property at your death and it appoints a legal representative to carry out your wishes. By contrast, a trust can be used to begin distributing property before death, at death or afterwards. A trust is a legal arrangement through which one person (or an institution, such as a bank or law firm), called a “trustee,” holds legal title to property for another person, called a “beneficiary.” A trust usually has two types of beneficiaries — one set that receives income from the trust during their lives and another set that receives whatever is left over after the first set of beneficiaries dies.

A will covers any property that is only in your name when you die. It does not cover property held in joint tenancy or in a trust. A trust, on the other hand, covers only property that has been transferred to the trust. In order for property to be included in a trust, it must be put in the name of the trust.

Another difference between a will and a trust is that a will passes through probate. That means a court oversees the administration of the will and ensures the will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased wanted. A trust passes outside of probate, so a court does not need to oversee the process, which can save time and money. Unlike a will, which becomes part of the public record, a trust can remain private.

Wills and trusts each have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, a will allows you to name a guardian for children and to specify funeral arrangements, while a trust does not. On the other hand, a trust can be used to plan for disability or to provide savings on taxes. As your elder law attorney I can tell you how best to use a will and a trust in your estate plan. Feel free to email me with any questions.

Regards, Brian A. Raphan, Esq.

The Law Offices of Brian A. Raphan, P.C.

7 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001

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