OC Elder Law Blog

Veterans to Receive Better Access to Mental Health Services

Silhouette of Man SalutingIn a collaborative effort, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Cohens Veterans Network (CVN) have recently announced a program with the aim of increasing accessibility of mental health resources for veterans.

In recent years, we’ve seen dozens of celebrities, athletes, and public figures come forward to open up about their mental health in an effort to remove the stigma, while also encouraging people to seek help when they need it.

Now that it is becoming more socially acceptable to speak about mental health issues publicly, we are starting to see meaningful benefits for our veterans.

VA & CVN Partnership

With the disturbing rise in veteran suicide rates and cases of veterans suffering from PTSD, partners VA and CVN have teamed up to tackle the issues in a three-pronged approach.

1) Spreading awareness and working together in the establishment of mental health education programs.

2) Determining the best locations for the establishment of Cohen Clinics in regions where veterans are thought to be underserved.

3) Working together to share educational resources developed by VA with health care providers.

What Exactly is PTSD?

When individuals are faced with stressful or traumatic situations, there are two basic nervous system responses. The first is known as Mobilization, or ‘fight or flight’. When a dangerous or disturbing combat situation presents itself, an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure will rise. Muscles tighten to elevate strength and reaction time.

The next reactionary process is called Immobilization, and this occurs when danger is no longer a threat. At this time, heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle responses should return to normal. PTSD occurs when immobilization does not occur. In these instances, individuals who have suffered too much exposure to traumatic situations or have simply seen too much find their nervous systems stuck in the mobilization stage and are unable to return to a state of physical and mental balance.

Recovering from PTSD

Regardless of how these proposed changes, initiatives, and resources manifest themselves, the need for change is clear. Veterans suffering from PTSD exhibit a wide range of symptoms that differ from case to case. Some of the most common symptoms include recurrent reminders of the traumatic events, often in the form of nightmares, negative thoughts, and flashbacks. Avoidance of reminders is also common as individuals remove themselves from family and friends in the attempt to distance themselves from reminders of what they have seen, who they feel they have become, and who they used to be. Negative thoughts and moods can be prevalent as the exposure to negative events and memories can taint feelings of self-worth and cement feelings of guilt and shame. Sufferers of PTSD also can seem jumpy and unable to relax; this is understood as the inability to shake the mobilization response to trauma as anger, recklessness, and sleep difficulties can become more and more prevalent.

PTSD can be difficult to treat as symptoms can arise instantly or years down the road. Initiatives like those launched by the Veterans Affairs and Cohens Veterans Network work to help veterans in the struggle to leave the war zone behind and move forward in a way that protects and promotes their mental health.

OC Elder Law’s Role

As a 12 year veteran of the Navy, OC Elder Law’s founder, Marty Burbank is committed to helping veterans. For years, Marty has volunteered his time and legal expertise to a pro bono legal clinic specifically for veterans, and as an organization, OC Elder Law is committed to helping former servicemen maximize their veterans benefits.

If there is a topic relating to veterans that you feel needs more public awareness, please feel to reach out to us at info@ocelderlaw.com

Tax Tips for Senior Citizens

seniors laughing paying billsOur estate planning attorneys can tell you firsthand that not many senior citizens are aware of the key tax deductions and credits that are available to them each year. As a result, this group of individuals ends up passing up the opportunity to keep more money in their pockets. With a little bit of smart tax planning, you can pay significantly less in taxes in the years following your retirement. If you are 65 years or older, here is a guide detailing some of the senior tax benefits you can take advantage of to retain more of your retirement income.

Medical expenses

Most senior citizens can attest that healthcare costs do account for the largest share of expenses in the years following retirement. Healthcare premiums, drug prescriptions, and other related costs can easily take up 30% of your total income. The good news is that a bunch of these expenses are tax deductible.

However, even if an out of pocket expense is tax deductible, it does not necessarily mean you can automatically deduct it from your taxable income. Only expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) can be deducted.

Capitalize on standard deductions

A Standard deduction seeks to slash the amount of income of which an individual is taxed and it normally varies depending on an applicant’s filing status. Individuals who are of age 65 and over are entitled to enjoy a higher standard deduction on their incomes. Note that you cannot claim the deduction if you itemize deductions. If you are at least 65 and single, your deduction is worth up to $1,300 on top of the standard while for married couples it is $1,600 for both you and your better half.

Make contributions to your retirement fund

Yes, this is probably one of the best tax breaks available for seniors. Actually, the law stipulates that adults over 50 can contribute higher amounts to their retirement funds compared to people under 50. For example, married couples over 50 can set aside up to $12,000 to tax-deferred retirement accounts such as IRA or 401(k) and have this amount deducted from their taxable income.

Investment-related expenses

When we attain senior citizenship status, the goal is always to reap income from investments we made during our working years. Such income could be in the form of interests, dividends and capital gains on investments. Accounting fees, consultation fees, subscription to investment newsletters are all expenses that can be classified as itemized deductions (As long as they exceed 2 percent of your AGI).

Know when and how to withdraw from IRAs

It is important to strategically plan the manner in which you will withdraw from your social security. Spending your retirement funds the wrong way can translate to you paying thousands more in taxes every year. This situation mostly occurs to retirees who have no pension and whose retirement income solely comes from IRA and social security. Luckily, an expert retirement planner can help you work out a strategy that will get the most out of your after-tax income.

As estate planning attorneys, we see a lot of senior citizens who struggle to make ends meet. That’s precisely why we use our blog to inform the senior community about how to make their dollars stretch so that they can enjoy their golden years comfortable without having to worry about finances. If you have a topic you would like us to cover on our blog, email us today at info@ocelderlaw.com!

The Risks of DIY Estate Planning

elderly man on a laptop In recent years websites and online services have enabled people to craft their own estate planning documents; such as trusts, wills, and powers of attorney. While the cost for most of these services is relatively inexpensive, there are many pitfalls to be aware of when it comes to using the DIY approach.

Our Orange County estate planning attorneys put together a list of a few of the risks involved with a do-it-yourself estate plan:

Leaving Behind a Mess

If your estate isn’t planned for appropriately, you run the risk of leaving a nightmare of fees, taxes, paperwork and legal proceedings for your loved ones. We have seen countless cases where an individual composes their own will, thinking that all of their wishes will be known and executed appropriately upon their death, but in reality they have left an arduous maze of legal action that could potentially cost thousands of dollars, and take years to resolve.

Consulting with an estate planning attorney will ensure that your wishes are

Fully Understanding the Implications

When handling your own estate planning, you run the risk of inadvertently giving someone more power than you want them to have.

This can be particularly dangerous when creating a power of attorney document. A durable power of attorney essentially gives a third-party the ability to control your finances in the case that you become incapacitated. It’s crucial that you understand all of the legal rights and responsibilities you are entrusting to another person, before you sign these documents. If this person isn’t properly vetted, then this person can take advantage of your investment portfolio and money, opening the possibility of fraud, identity theft, and shopping of sensitive information.

Additionally, you can inadvertently invite legal trouble. The everyday person will inevitably make mistakes in drafting a will, or even a trust. This is because not many people can fully conceptualize what they own and what they do not own, which can create blind spots. You will also need to factor in peripheral family members like siblings, stepparents, and children. The simple task of estate planning suddenly becomes a compound machine requiring expertise and the know-how of an experienced estate planning lawyer. Online websites like LegalZoom can be beneficial to become familiar with the process. But ultimately you will want to gain access to an independent attorney for advice before finalizing your plans.

It’s vital to remember that without an estate planning attorney reviewing your planning documents, you may not get when you think you’re getting. Just one piece of inaccurate information or an outdated certificate can undo the whole process.

Medicaid and Estate Planning.

When it comes to long-term care and estate planning, professional help may be required, especially since long-term care costs and the limits of Medicaid are different on a state-by-state basis.

One major mistake is failing to understand the Community Spouse Resource Allowance or “CSRA,” which is a significant type of protection for spouses. The states consider some forms of capital exempt, effecting your qualification for Medicaid. For example, a married couple’s furnishings, residence, or even medical equipment can be deemed exempt.

Nonexempt items include certificates of deposits, money saved, and mutual funds. For these items, applicants may keep 50% as a form of community spouse resource allowance. This allowance enables a spouse living at home the opportunity to save a set amount and not spend it down for a spouse seeking to qualify for Medicaid. It’s important to note that this allowance is determined on the value of nonexempt assets owned by the couple. An area where couples may go wrong is acquiring exempt-assets prior to admission, especially when they anticipate Medicaid application. This type of thinking backfires and can be costly.



Elder Abuse In Assisted Living Facilities

Nurse Yelling at SeniorA recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that at least 26 states cannot account for the critical incidents in assisted living facilities, including physical and sexual elder abuse. In the report, huge gaps have been found in the regulation of the facilities, a shortfall that has put a huge number of elderly people at risk.

Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

A shocking revelation in the human rights watch report shows that at least 179,000 seniors living in the nursing facilities receive anti-psychotic medicines even with the absence of a psychiatric diagnosis.

Researchers say that the medication is administered to suppress behaviors and make the aged more controllable. In fact, while these facilities are cheaper than nursing homes, watchdogs say they cannot tell how much care is provided. In the GAO report, at least $ 10 billion is spent in assisted living services, with an average of about $ 30,000 per head every year.

Each state is expected to account for elder abuse cases, including unexplained deaths, neglect, and exploitation. However, the Government Accountability Office found that most states could not explain how the funds were used. Only 22 states accounted for potential or actual harm.

GOA finds Gaps in the Report

Medicaid agencies in each state are expected to monitor potential or actual harm incidents among the elderly. Unfortunately most failed to give a report of the incidents due to inadequate tracking systems and lack of clear guidance on what constituted elder abuse. The report concludes that the Medicaid service centers have not provided clear guidelines to states.

More so, the centers have failed to critically monitor how funds are dispensed for assisted living. As such, the report concludes that the federal healthcare agency is not in a position to protect the welfare of Medicaid beneficiaries or control elder abuse. The report shows that the federal government has full details of how funds are used in nursing homes offering Medicaid services, but little about Medicaid beneficiaries in the assisted living facilities are known.

According to the report, with scrutiny and proper management, assisted living could save a lot of money for Medicaid given that it is cheaper than home care. In 1987, a law was adopted by Congress to strengthen the protection rights of nursing homes. However, there is no scrutiny in assisted living facilities since Congress has yet to establish standards for the facilities.

These are the findings that prompted GAO to insist that the federal government officials monitor the facilities to ensure residents are protected. An annual reporting of critical incidents was also recommended. The trump government plans to clarify elder abuse report requirements.

As estate planning attorneys, we are committed to fighting against elder abuse in its many forms. If you or a loved one is experiencing elder abuse, please call the Adult Protective Services and Elder Abuse Hotline. (800) 222-8000

New Drug Treatment May Be The Answer To Hearing Loss

Doctor examining a patient's earWith about 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, scientists have been working for years on ways to provide treatment, and we recently learned that there may be hope on the horizon. Researchers have found that the effects of hearing loss can be mitigated by stimulating the growth of cochlear hair.

The Cochlear Hair Cells

Every person is born with approximately 15,000 sensory hair cells in each inner ear. These hair cells are responsible for detecting sound waves from the surroundings and converting them into signals that the brain can interpret. This is how humans are able to hear and distinguish music, speech, and ambient noises, among other sounds. Over time, these cells deteriorate due to many factors, including exposure to noise. However, these hair cells do not grow back, meaning that any damage the hairs suffer is permanent.

With every cell that dies, an individual’s sense of hearing diminishes. Consequently, the longer a person lives, the more exposure the ear gets to risk factors and the more the cochlear hair cells die, which is why many senior citizens seem to have trouble hearing. The new study of hearing loss treatment focuses on regenerating about 2,000 more hair cells. This research is the work of Boston researchers, including Jeffrey Karp, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s otolaryngology professor, Albert Edge and a research team from MIT.

The Science of it

The basis of the research into hair regeneration stemmed from the question of why it is possible for animals to grow back their hair cells but not humans. They turned to the intestines, which carry the most regenerative tissues in the human biological system. The cells in the lining of the intestines can grow back every four days. In 2013, the research team discovered that by exposing immature intestinal cells to particular molecules, they could grow them back and differentiate them. What they did was to separate the part of the intestinal cells that was responsible for the rapid regrowth and use it to create the molecules that could control the process. It was during this experiment that the researchers realized that the support cells in the cochlea shared some similarities with the intestinal cells and in theory, the same approach could trigger regeneration.

To test the ability of cochlear hair cells to regrow, they used a lab-grown inner ear from a mouse. They applied the same molecules that stimulate rapid multiplication of hair cells and had great success. These molecules work on the Wnt pathway, but they had to use other molecules to trigger the Notch pathway to ensure that regeneration does not happen too fast. The team got about 2,000 immature hair cells that turned into mature cells after differentiation. Compared to previous experiments that have been used to stimulate regeneration, this approach produces 60 times more progenitor cells.

A patient would need an injection in the middle ear to administer the drugs that trigger regrowth and from there, they would travel to the cochlea. Injections into the middle ear are not uncommon especially when treating ear infections with antibiotics. For this reason, if successful, this treatment will just be a standard outpatient procedure. The team of Boston researchers has formed Frequency Therapeutics, a company that is working on delivering the treatment option for clinical use. In a matter of months, it is expected that the team will begin its clinical trials on humans. The scientists working on this treatment options anticipate that it will pave the way for other experts in the field of hearing loss to pursue other techniques.

Our estate planning attorneys are committed to keeping the senior citizens of our community informed about news stories that could potentially improve their lives! Whether it relates to estate planning best practices, new medical research, or financial news, we urge our readers to reach out to us if there is a topic you would like covered for one of our upcoming blog posts. You can reach us at info@ocelderlaw.com

Tips For Seniors This Flu Season

Pharmacist helps a sick manThanks to some impressive advances in modern medicine, people are living longer now than ever before. Unfortunately, seniors are more prone to infectious disease than younger adults. This is why it’s paramount for people in their latter years to take progressive steps to remain healthy, because waiting to be reactive can have disastrous consequences.

Hand Washing & Face Touching

The vast majority of diseases are caused by viruses and bacteria that manage to enter the body. Most of these invaders will be dealt with by the immune system before you ever display a symptom. However, the best way to avoid an illness is to take preventive steps against the spread of these microscopic menaces.

While it may sound obvious — consistent hand washing is one of the best ways to combat the flu. As we go about our day to day lives in public, we touch a lot of surfaces. Door handles, gas pumps, shopping carts etc. All of these surfaces have germs on them that are transferred to your hands, and can then infect you if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

Your first line of defense against the flu is consistent hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.

Be Proactive With Probiotics

Just as there are bad bacteria that an make you sick, there are also good bacteria that can keep you well. Recent evidence suggests that a diet rich in probiotics may actually help to reduce the risk of contracting the flu.

Recently, a study that involved 326 children was conducted and those who were given probiotic supplements experienced fewer fevers and less coughing and nasal congestion. This might be because good bacteria in the body do more than just promote a healthy digestive tract. They also promote good health in the respiratory system and the skin which is the first line of defense against illness.

It should be noted that the use of probiotics to prevent the flu is still the subject of much debate. However, there’s an extremely powerful tool that can be used to combat the flu, and there’s no debate about its effect.

Avoid Antibiotics if You Already Have the Flu

Most people are aware that antibiotics are largely responsible for the prolonged lifespans of modern people. However, antibiotics fend off bacteria, and the flu is a virus. Taking antibiotics after you already have the flu can actually do more harm that good, so they should be avoided by senior citizens who are already displaying symptoms. Instead, you should ask your doctor about antivirals which are only available by prescription. These drugs are considered to be the second line of defense against the flu after a flu shot.

Flu Shot

While it’s too late to get a flu shot to be protected for the 2018 flu season, doctors recommend that seniors get the flu vaccine every year. This is the most important step that senior citizens can take to prevent catching the flu. The CDC estimates that senior citizens comprise between 71 and 85% of all flu related deaths. Some people incorrectly assume that the flu shot can have adverse effect by making the virus more resilient. However, the vaccine is updated annually to accommodate for new more resilient strains. The only negative effect of getting the flu shot is the minute pain associated with the needle’s prick. Therefore, all senior citizens should get a flu shot annually to prevent complications and hospital visits.

The Flu shot is a vaccine and like all vaccines it works by introducing some of the disease into your system. This causes your body to develop antibodies that help to fend off the flu. Antibodies are the reason why you can only contract certain diseases like the 24 hour flu once in life.

After your body has made the proper antibody to deal with a particular disease, it can easily eradicate that condition before you display any symptoms. Essentially, you don’t get sick from the flu after the flu shot, because you’ve already “had” it. This is similar to someone who has already had chickenpox being immune to the disease. It’ not that the virus can’t enter the body, it’s just eradicated by antibodies before you ever display a symptom.

At OC Elder Law, our estate planning attorneys in Corona, Fullerton, and Newport Beach are committed to helping the seniors in our community! If you have a topic pertaining to senior’s interest that you’d like us to feature in our blog, email us at info@ocelderlaw.com.

Top Spots In The U.S. For Seniors To Retire

Seniors on beachWhen seniors begin to contemplate retirement, the thought process eventually turns to the question of relocation. It’s common for retirees to have a “target city” in mind when the day comes to close up shop.

Hundreds of organizations like banks, real estate companies, travel agencies, and econometric agencies annually draw up their own lists of the best places for seniors facing retirement. When factors like tax rates, safety, natural beauty, and outdoor activities are added to the mix, the top retirement locations in the U.S. seem to repeat in each year’s listings.

The five U.S. cities that rank as favorites for retiring seniors are:

Reno, Nevada
Reno is not what most people think it is. Many U.S. residents tend to view Reno as a city full of casinos that plays second-fiddle to Las Vegas. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth! Reno offers symphony orchestras, Broadway shows, hiking, skiing, and of course gambling for those who so desire. But for retirees, the benefits are even greater. Low taxes, top-notch health facilities and low crime are three components of Reno’s recent surge of popularity among seniors ready for retirement.

Hollywood, Florida
Hollywood has something that most other cities don’t: an old-world “feel” left over from its heady beginnings in the early part of the last century. Retirees like the fact that there’s no state income tax, but primarily are attracted to the city for its quaint beach houses and small-city ambiance. Art attractions abound, and the scenery is among Florida’s best. The top factor mentioned by retirees, however, is the city’s affordable lifestyle. Real estate, retail, and most other expense categories rank among the nation’s lowest in Hollywood, Florida.

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga is one of the newer entrants on the top five lists, but has several key demographic factors to recommend it. First, the city’s crime rate is low and getting lower, thanks to new police department efforts backed by voters and city hall. Chattanooga is conveniently positioned on the river gorge, which has led visitors to dub it the nation’s “scenic city.” A host of factors are retiree-friendly, like the low estate tax rate, available and affordable housing, and a bevy of cultural attractions.

Spokane, Washington
With a medical hub smack in the center of the city, Spokane has been a favorite for retirees for more than a decade. The city planners have put a major emphasis on developing green spaces and boosting the arts. Those attitudes, along with very low property taxes, no state income tax, and cultural activities throughout the year, are the social magnet that seems to draw and keep retired U.S. residents from all over the country. Seniors who want to take advantage of the city’s educational institutions can find hundreds of free or low-cost courses at Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga. Golf, skiing, hiking, nature or fitness walking, and bicycling are just a few of the outdoor activities that the city’s retired citizens enjoy year-round.

Iowa City, Iowa
The University of Iowa plays a large role in Iowa City’s cultural and educational life. Low crime, a wide variety of outdoor fun and a very diverse arts community are just a few of the factors that play into Iowa City’s new status as a top-level destination for retirees from all over the U.S. Affordable homes and reasonable tax rates are often mentioned by locals as things they appreciate about the city.

While no list can take everyone’s tastes into account, the five cities listed above offer a wide variety of sports activities, cultural attractions, outdoor excitement, and access to high-quality health care.

Importance Of Revising An Estate Plan

man reviewing estate planHaving an estate plan is not an indication that the future of your loved ones is forever protected. As time goes by, there will undoubtedly be changes in your personal and financial situations. As such, periodic revision of your estate is essential to ensure your current needs and goals are reflected. For example, revision is necessary under the following circumstances:


The provisions of your will are not automatically adjusted by marriage or re-marriage. Therefore, provisions will not necessarily be made for your new spouse. Marriage provides each spouse with certain rights; however, your estate plan should be changed to ensure your new goals are reflected.


While you are married, it is highly likely that your estate plan would include providing for your spouse. This desire typically ends after a divorce; therefore, your estate plan should be adjusted as well.


If a significant inheritance is received by either you or your spouse, this could provide new opportunities for creditor protection or lower taxes. The boosted estate value could also inspire changes in how your assets will be allocated.

These are just a few of the personal and financial circumstances that require regular revision of your estate plan with an estate planning attorney in Corona.

Illness or Injury

If a serious illness befalls you or a loved one, you should think about adjusting your estate plan to highlight their amplified needs.

What Should be Covered by a Comprehensive Revised Estate Plan

• Make effective plans for circumstances like entering a nursing home and for Medicaid impacting your financial needs.
• Appoint a designee to manage your affairs in the event of incapacitation, disability or your passing.
• Protect children from prior marriages in the event you die before your current spouse.
• Avoid probate before and after you pass away. The costs associated with probate can be considerable and the probate process can be quite time-consuming.
• Safeguard assets inherited by your beneficiaries from claims against them such as lawsuits and divorces.
• Make provision for children or grandchildren who are in special circumstances or have special needs.
• Make sure that a particular portion of the estate is left to charities, grandchildren or other organizations or individuals besides your direct heirs.
• Address the needs of each child, if required.
• Protect a part of your estate if you die and the remaining spouse marries again.
• Devise a family estate plan for blended families that will provide for all children based on your intentions and desires.
• Make provision for the education of your offspring; for instance, many plans stipulate that a part of the inheritance must be utilized to defray costs of college tuition.

If significant financial or personal changes come about, your estate plan should be revised with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning lawyer to ensure incorporation of those changes. If there has been no change in your personal situation, you still need to periodically conduct a revision with your lawyer. This time should be spent evaluating how state or federal laws will impact the provisions of your plan.

Life is dynamic and full of changes and as such, your estate plan should be revised, whenever necessary, to reflect those changes.

A Quick Look At Digital Estate Planning

woman on bed with laptopEstate planning has come a long way since the days of the guys in pinstripe suits and gold pocket watches. In a world that has become more digitally-oriented, it is important to take this factor into account when doing some pre-planning for the inevitable end of the line.

Digital estate planning is something that more Americans are becoming aware of due to the fact that an increasing amount of personal and business assets are now held in virtual formats rather than paper. When one thinks about the implications of this in terms of needing to have a clear picture of an estate’s true holdings, it is easy to see why even the best planned estate that was laid out a decade or so in the past is now seriously obsolete and in need of major upgrades.

Since everyone has online accounts of one form or another, and all of them are protected by differing passwords due to their varying password requirements, the estate planning game has changed.

It’s important to note that having access, and having legal permission are two separate issues. A modern digital estate plan therefore needs to designate not only all of the online components, but also extend legal permission to some chosen person to get into those accounts and perhaps make changes—such as altering passwords to prevent other parties who may have had some informal sort of access while the decedent was still alive.

It is also important to consider the possibility of having what are in effect both a personal, and a professional executor. One may not want certain people to be looking into a lifetime of unguarded social media and e-mail posts even though they are well-qualified to handle all of the financial aspects of the situation.

Any one who is interested in getting their affairs organized should certainly proceed in a rational progression of events. The first necessity is to accumulate all of your data into a single place where it can be quickly and easily located upon passing away. Don’t forget to set up at least one backup location, as well as building a final fail-safe in the form of assembling hard copies that can be used to reconstruct the estate in the event of some form of digital failure taking place. This information must be kept updated diligently, or else it will not be of much more use than doing nothing at all.

The next step is one of empowerment. Many digital assets are very fast-paced in nature. As a result, an executor needs to be properly designated and provided with all of the information that will allow them to take charge immediately. This can help prevent catastrophic losses while information is being assembled. The old phrase “Internet Time” is not heard much anymore but it is very valid in this case. Blink and you’re dead—or at least the value of your estate might be. Make sure your executor can keep their eyes on the objective.

The final step is to provide crystal clear guidance. The purpose of an executor is to carry out your final wishes, so far as is legally or humanly possible. They can’t do much if they don’t know what those wishes are. So remember that the key to any estate, digital or otherwise, is to concentrate, designate, and clearly instruct.

We understand that rapid advancements in technology have made things more difficult and confusing for some folks. We urge you to contact one of our estate planning attorneys in Corona, or Orange County for further information on making arrangements for your digital assets.

Major Estate Tax Reform Approaches Completion

Capitol BuildingPolicy and politics are frequently adversarial even though they are supposed to be allies. It is certainly the case when one looks at the current deliberations on the proposed repeal of the estate tax. This repeal has been a sturdy plank in Republican Party platforms for many years and, in truth, the estate tax has been whittled away for more than four decades to the point where the current plan is estimated to only encompass some 5,500 households in 2017, down from about 140,000 in 1977.

While one might wonder what all the fuss is about over such a small number of taxpayers, the problem is that previous alterations to the estate tax structure mean that the remainder are all extremely wealthy taxpayers holding a substantial amount of wealth. In short, the decision to entirely abolish or just change the threshold on the estate tax involves a lot of tax revenue that will have to be replaced in some other fashion.

With Congressional and Senate Democrats reduced to jeering spectators on enactment of this issue, the battle is largely between the competing visions of the Republican caucus in the Senate and its counterpart in the House. The House version of the tax reform package opts for a total and final repeal of the estate tax while the Senate plan is for raising the threshold at which the tax kicks in from $11 million to $22 million per couple, thus leaving the door open to future tinkering– which is the primary objection emanating from certain segments of the House membership.

These are people who are not as worried about the money as they are about the ideological connotations of the exercise. Yet that ideological purity to what has long been announced as bedrock Republican principles makes many others uneasy at the potential political dangers that come from being charged with taxing the little guy in order to provide yet another advantage to the rich.

Given the need to reconcile the two competing proposals, it seems likely that the tactically-smarter Senate version is likely to prevail over the ideologically-purer House plan. The Republicans have struggled to establish a balance point that will hopefully please their donors, appease their base, and fight off the budgetary shortfall the plan creates in some way that does not risk their own personal popularity back home. Meanwhile, the Democratic members in opposition are taking careful notes as to who voted for what and curating soundbites for use in the 2018 round of election commercials.

What is really getting lost in all of this political maneuvering on both sides is any sense of what is truly good for the country. As far as our estate planning attorneys in Orange County can tell, all factions on all sides seem bent on using the estate tax issue against their political foes even at the expense of inflicting damage on a great many of their constituents.

The Republican leadership hopes to get this issue behind them and move on to more popular items on the agenda in time for the 2018 campaign season. On the other hand, Democratic chances of making gains rest upon the hope that the public will not be amused by GOP calculations about whether it is good to give a tax cut to all of the richest families in America or just to a portion of them.

It is clearly in their own interest to keep reminding the American people of this. By extrapolation, it also means that they will be in favor of obstructing any more popular measures in the current Congress so as to hang this one significant reform firmly around the necks of their political opponents in a way that the voters cannot mistake and will not forget.

Light Therapy – A Potential New Treatment Option For Alzheimer’s Disease

A microscopeBeyond destroying brain cells and robbing patients of their identity, thinking abilities and memories, Alzheimer’s disease kills more people than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Worse still, the Alzheimer’s Association says that deaths attributed to this disease have increased nearly 90% since 2000. This means that Alzheimer’s disease is increasingly wreaking havoc on families across America, as well as the country’s healthcare system, with senior citizens being particularly vulnerable to the disease. Unfortunately, there is currently no effective cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led by Prof. Li-Huei Tsai have made a remarkable breakthrough in understanding the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, albeit in mice models of the disease (5XFAD mice). Using unique visual simulation, Prof. Li-Huei Tsai and her team were able to reduce toxic beta-amyloid and gamma levels in mice subjects. Below is some more information on this potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

An Overview of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to recent research, Alzheimer’s disease occurs when a type of potentially toxic protein called amyloid beta destroys brain cells, leading to a decrease in brain gamma rhythm in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is crucial to memory formation and retrival. Brain gamma waves usually oscillate with a frequency of between 25 and 100 Hz. However, their optimum amplitude is 40 Hz. Amyloid beta protein lowers this frequency by preventing proper neuron synchronization in the brain, leading to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, high levels of amyloid beta eventually form plaques that kill neurons in the hippocampus, causing memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Although Alzheimer’s disease affects all age groups, it mainly affects the elderly.

Prof. Tsai’s Light Therapy Research

The accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain causes Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers. This means that, to prevent or cure the disease, physicians would need to cut the levels of amyloid beta protein in a patient’s brain. Fortunately, Prof. Tsai and her team were able to do that in mice models of the disease using a treatment approach that relies on a biological technique called optogenetics, which involves the use of light to manipulate cells in living tissues. In this particular study, the researchers were able to cut the amyloid beta levels in the brains of genetically engineered Alzheimer’s mice (5XFAD mice) by nearly half simply by exposing the mice to LED lights that flickered with a frequency of 40 Hz.

The light stimulation caused the mice to produce microglia cells, thereby boosting their brain immune systems. The microglia cells enabled the mice to clear the amyloid beta protein from their brains, restoring their gamma rhythms to optimum levels. It is important to note that the duration of light stimulated varied depending on the severity of the disease. Specifically, mice in the early stages of the disease showed significant improvements after only one hour of light stimulation, but the effects of the treatment wore off within 24 hours. Older mice with toxic levels of amyloid beta plaques, on the other hand, require several days of light treatment to show similar results.

The researchers also noted that, in addition to lowering the levels of amyloid beta protein in the brain, gamma oscillations also reduce the levels of abnormally modified Tau protein, another hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other Studies on Light Therapy on Humans

Prof. Tsai is now among a number of researchers whose studies into light therapy for Alzheimer’s disease have produced positive findings. Other studies on this topic that have produced positive results include a study by Burns and Byrne, which is published in the British Medical Journal, and a 2008 study by a Dutch research group.

Our estate planning attorneys watch closely for any breakthroughs that will help to combat this devastating disease. If you have come across articles regarding new research or treatment methods, please feel free to forward them to info@ocelderlaw.com so that we can feature them in our blog and help raise awareness.


How to Boost Your Social Security Benefits

social security cardSocial Security checks and benefits are paid out in monthly dividends to retired workers who have contributed to the Social Security system. Social Security checks are available to qualified individuals who are also permanently disabled or are determined by a criteria issued by the Social Security Administration.

Depending on the level of income, these benefits may be taxable. Social Security is actually a face lift to the old Survivors and Disability Insurance. Former President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935, with the law taking several amendments throughout its lifetime, with it now encompassing several social insurances and social welfare programs, including Social Security benefits entitled to retired citizens.

For those who are interested in the estimation of their Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration has an online tool that allows workers to estimate their total benefits. The tool is best suited for workers, the elderly, and not for those who are currently receiving Social Security checks or are the beneficiaries of Medicare. This approximation tool can help those who are reaching retirement age and are looking to strategize.

Boosting Social Security Checks

Obtaining and securing your Social Security checks is complex. It’s essential that you do not take this decision lightly, as it can impact your golden years, post-retirement. Certain strategies can help maximize savings, and there are also many common pitfalls that some may fall for.

Note that each year that you defer your Social Security benefits past the typical retirement age, the benefits will increase roughly 8%, until the age of 70. This process is called “delayed retirement credits.” In the case of a spousal death, the surviving member can take their own benefit, or that of the deceased partner. So if there is a scenario where the breadwinner passes and claims early, then they have effectively shortchanged the benefits that will be allocated to the surviving member.

It’s important to maximize the Social Security benefits over both spouses’ lives. The File and Suspend strategy can help boost your Social Security checks. With this strategy, the breadwinner plans to delay the benefits until the age of 70. Once they are eligible to secure Social Security benefits — which is roughly around 66 years of age — they will go and suspend it. This way the benefit amount keeps increasing thanks to delayed retirement credits. But since he made the initial claim to start the benefits, the spouse that is currently in the retirement age can register a “restricted” application to declare spousal benefits. Spousal benefits are up to 50% of the other spouse’s monthly benefit. When enacted correctly, the File and Suspend strategy can help a couple secure an additional $60,000.

When the breadwinner reaches the full retirement age, they can inform the Social Security that rather than registering for benefits, they would like to restrict his benefits to his wife’s record. If there’s a change of heart, the breadwinner can switch over to their own benefit anytime. That couple could receive an additional $42,000 from the breadwinner actually claiming spousal benefits. It’s important to note that if you are going to use this strategy to boost Social Security checks and associated benefits, that the partner who registers a restricted application must be in retirement age — they cannot do so earlier in their working years.

Strategic planning and avoiding to claim benefits early can help extend its service to you during your golden years. Social Security aspects are coming from a limited pool, and strategic planning has become something only savvy retirees have done, to something that has become a necessity.

Sleep Apnea Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease

Tired man in bedSleep Apnea

A number of studies have found a link between sleep apnea, and the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder characterized by breathing problems during the sleep cycle. Those who have sleep apnea experience an airway collapse during sleep that will often awake the sufferer. Persons with this condition are therefore likely to suffer from disturbed sleeping patterns, lack of sleep, and poor sleep quality.

Sleep apnea occurrs in around 34% of men and 17% of women in the country. However, medical specialists say that the number could be higher, since a majority of cases of sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.

The Link to Alzheimer’s

At least three studies conducted in Wheaton College in Illinois all found significant links between breathing disorders like sleep apnea and the presence of biomarkers linked to Alzheimer’s.

These studies have shown that adults, especially senior citizens with sleep apnea, exhibit higher levels of amyloid beta which is the primary component of the amyloid plaque that characterize Alzheimer’s Disease.

The study published in the American Journal revealed that older people with obstructive sleep apnea have higher levels of amyloid beta. Dr. Richard S. Ororio, senior author of the study, said that sleep disturbances encourage the buildup of amyloid deposits and hasten cognitive decline among older patients and people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. However, the determination of the specific cause is hard to prove, since both conditions arise out of similar risk factors and can also be found in the same patient.

Study Details

The study looked into the association between the severity of sleep apnea and changes in Alzheimer’s markers or whether the amyloid deposits increased over time in elderly patients with sleep apnea. It covered 208 participants from 55 to 90 year old. All participants had normal cognition according to the results of standardized tests and evaluations. None of them had related medical conditions such as depression or any cognitive disorder.

Amyloid beta measurements were taken through lumbar puncture samples subjected to positron emission tomography to measure the levels of amyloid beta in each participant.

Results of the Study

The results showed that those who experienced more incidence of sleep apnea through their normal sleeping periods have increased levels of amyloid beta. This finding was confirmed by PET scans. This could be supported by past research that show how the brain clears up deposits of amyloid plaque during deep sleep. Sleep disruption due to sleep apnea may impede this process, contributing to the buildup of plaque in the brain. According to Dr. Ronald Peterson of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, recent research has shown that people who were repeatedly jolted awake during the night showed rapid increases in amyloid levels. People who experienced sleep disruptions for several weeks also displayed increased levels of tau protein tangles, another market for Alzheimer’s disease.

Onset of Cognitive Impairment

While studies show a link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s, researchers have not yet found a direct relationships between the severity of sleep apnea and the onset of cognitive impairment in patients. One theory that could explain this is that changes in amyloid levels occur in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s.

How To Interview An Estate Planning Attorney

An attorney writes in a law bookWith the help of a qualified estate planning attorney, you can make wise decisions in passing on your assets to those you love. Finding the right attorney is key to getting the professional estate planning services you need. You may need to interview various prospects to find the right candidate for the job.

Here are a few questions you can ask a potential estate planning attorney to determine if he or she is right for you.

1. Is estate planning your primary focus?

If your estate is expansive or complicated, you’ll want an attorney whose primary focus is estate planning, as he or she will have more experience in this field. When talking to an attorney, ask for a brief synopsis of his or her background and expertise. If possible, ask your attorney to provide referrals of former clients to see how they rate the attorney’s professional standard, services and work ethic.

2. Will you send me documentation to study and review?

If you’re like most people, you probably have little experience with wills, trusts and other legal documents pertaining to estate planning. As such, you may need time to review documents after they’re prepared to make sure they accurately represent your interests. A good attorney will respect your wishes and do all he or she can to ensure you’re comfortable and happy with his or her work.

3. Will you provide assistance with funding a revocable living trust?

Living trusts make it easier to pass on assets to beneficiaries without going through probate. With a revocable living trust, you can continue to benefit from your assets while you’re alive and have them transferred to your beneficiary upon your demise.

In order for these assets to be transferred properly, they need to be funded. By hiring an attorney who provides assistance with funding, you can have greater confidence that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes after your demise. Your attorney may charge more for this service, but it will eliminate problems in settling your estate once you are gone.

4. Do you have an official updating and maintenance program?

Some estate planning attorneys are more thorough in their job than others. In addition to drafting your legal documents, they will provide annual or semiannual reviews of your documents to see if modifications are needed to accommodate changes in estate planning laws or your personal situation. Updating and maintenance services may cost a little extra but they will ensure your estate is in order upon your demise.

5. What kind of costs are involved?

It’s important that you discuss the cost of legal services up front so you can plan accordingly. Some attorneys charge a flat fee while others charge by the hour. If your attorney charges a flat fee, be sure to get a written account of what services this fee covers to avoid being hit with hidden fees and costs for “additional services” later down the line.

Some attorneys convert their flat fees into hourly rates once basic services have been completed. This could substantially increase attorney costs. When contracting an estate planning attorney, ask your attorney to specify all services that will be provided in writing along with their respective fees and costs.

Last, but not least, ask yourself if you feel comfortable working with the individual you’re considering hiring. Keep in mind you’ll be sharing confidential details about your life, finances and personal assets with the attorney you choose. By selecting an attorney you can establish a rapport with and trust, you will have greater peace that your estate will be in good hands.

If you are looking for an estate planning attorney in Orange County, Corona, or Newport Beach call OC Elder Law today to set up a consultation. (714) 525-4600

Rescue Mission to Puerto Rico

Marty Burbank and his flight crewFollowing the destruction of Hurricane Irma, our very own Marty Burbank embarked on a rescue mission to Puerto Rico where he would be picking up  evacuees, while also dropping off crucial supplies. In the following Q&A, Marty walks us through his journey to Puerto Rico.

 Q: Please explain the objective for your recent trip to Puerto Rico.

Marty Burbank: I was speaking to a group of Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) owners about conservatorships and how to avoid them. At the beginning of the meeting a woman introduced herself to me and she knew that I “help people.” She told me that her 10 month old granddaughter was in Puerto Rico and since hurricane Irma hit she had not been in communications with her son or daughter in law and was very worried about all three of them. She asked if I could help. I said I did not know how but we would do all we can to help. Initially I thought of using my own plane but it was really too small and would have to take way to many stops for fuel. I put the information my pilot friends on Facebook and a few options came up, but because of the communications issue we were not able to communicate with Tyler when they would be able to meet a plane. Eventually the worried grandmother was able to communicate but by then the planes we had lined up had already left. Then, out of the blue, my friend John C. Manly, Esq. asked if I wanted to use his King Air 350 to go get people out of Puerto Rico. He did not even know I had been working on this. So I told him I had a family in mind and loaned me his plane and pilot.

Were there any obstacles that stood in the way of you being able to carry out your mission?

Marty Burbank: It was a long trip so we needed a plane that had the range and the ability to carry a lot of weight, there was lots of thunderstorms so we also needed a plane that could fly high over most of the weather, and one with weather radar to we could pick our way through the storms we could not fly over. We had problems with communication. We could not communicate in the air and so every time we landed we would communicate with AeroBridge and the plans kept changing. Our expected mission of delivering needed generator supplies to St. Thomas was canceled because of a miscommunication about Trump’s visit and it was believed we would not be able to land in PR. But we were not affected by that so we ended up flying about 150 miles the wrong direction to pick up another load of supplies and by then we had to go direct to PR because otherwise it would be dark and there was no electricity to light the runway. When we left Florida we were to pick up our original three, there two dogs, a gentleman with dementia and his wife, a woman about to give birth and two doctors.

What condition was Puerto Rico in upon your arrival?

Marty Burbank: It was worse than I thought. It was amazing to see the destruction, but what was worse was the stories of the people trying to cope with the destruction. We spoke to people who were drinking water from puddles, and even though they tried to “filter it” it was still full of mosquito larvae. We spoke to people who had to assist neighbors who had lost loved ones dig holes to bury them in their own back yard because there was no infrastructure to deal with the bodies.

How can we help to support the people you rescued?

Marty Burbank: They are all back in the states with family but if people want to help now, they can support Giving Children Hope, givingchildrenhope.org or AeroBridge.org. Giving Children Hope helped to provide much of the supplies as well as several people who just heard about the trip and brought supplies to the airport or to my house. AeroBridge helped coordinate the pickup of additional supplies and evacuation of additional people once we got to PR.







Social Security Payments To Increase

Social Security Benefits ApplicationSenior citizens collecting social security benefits can expect an increase next year of 2%, averaging out to $27 per month for the average beneficiary. The increase is accompanied by a variety of adjustments to how much each worker contributes to the system.

The increase is a Cost Of Living Adjustment, or COLA, that is calculated using the CPI-W. The CPI-W is an estimate of the impact of inflation on the average American worker on a monthly basis. Each month in the third quarter is compared to the previous year’s third quarter to determine whether inflation makes a COLA social security increase necessary.

CPI-W did not increase from the third quarter of 2014 to that of 2015, so there was no COLA increase in 2016. It increased only slightly in 2016, producing a COLA of 0.3% for social security beneficiaries in 2017. COLA increases have varied tremendously over the life of the program, ranging from zero on three separate occasions to a high of 14.3% in 1980. The average COLA has been 3.8% since the program’s inception, but only 2.03% since 2005.

Senior citizens are getting a 2% increase in 2018 based on the CPI-W data. The cost of Medicare Part B coverage may increase based on the same inflation rates driving the increase in social security payments, however. Since this coverage is commonly deducted directly from a beneficiary’s social security check, some senior citizens may not see an increase in their income after all.

Workers will contribute a little more to their future benefits as well. They will pay a 6.2% tax on all earnings until the $128,700 threshold is reached, after which no social security tax is paid and additional income may no longer be claimed when applying for benefits. This is up from the $127,200 figure used in 2017.

Full retirement age is also increasing for individuals born in 1956 or later. Individuals born in 1955 have to wait until they are 66 years and two months old, up from the flat 66 years of age required of people born from 1947-1954. The minimum age increases by two months in each subsequent year, up to a maximum of 67 for individuals born in 1960 or later. It is possible to claim benefits before full retirement age is reached, but benefits are penalized.

Claiming benefits before full retirement age is attained also subjects beneficiaries to penalties if they are earning an income to supplement their social security payments. You may only earn an annual income of $17,040 before losing one benefit dollar for every $2 of additional income before reaching retirement age. This is actually $120 more than last year.

Individuals who have not yet reached full retirement age but will do so in 2018 may earn $45,360 before losing one benefit dollar per $3 of additional income, up $480 from the number used last year.

Social security will also have a number of enhanced security measures in 2018. Paper statements will no longer be mailed out to beneficiaries. Instead, recipients must log onto the social security website to look up information regarding their account. A two-step authentication process will also be required to access the site, adding a one-use only code sent via email or mobile phone to the username and password that were already required. Experts agree that the additional code will make it more challenging for unauthorized parties to access the information online.

In addition, new Medicare cards without social security numbers will be mailed out to all beneficiaries in 2018. The number may still appear on a variety of documents, so beneficiaries are advised to properly dispose of any such materials instead of simply throwing them out.

What You Should Know About Medicare Before Enrolling

Doctor's stethoscopeIn 2015, an advocacy group analyzed 16,000 calls and determined that senior citizens don’t understand the Medicare enrollment process. Other key areas that cause confusion: What Medicare Advantage covers and how to pay for the rising cost of Medicare Part D prescription drugs.

Here’s what you need to know before signing up for Medicare:

As a Medicare beneficiary, you have between October 15 to December 7, 2017, to review your coverage and make any changes for 2018. Any new changes in coverage made during open enrollment begin on January 1, 2018.

What Is Covered in Parts A, B, and D

• Part A covers hospital care, some types of health care, hospice care (end of life) and elderly care in a place with skilled nursing. You pay no premium for Part A if you or your spouse have worked enough to earn 40 credits towards Social Security.

• Part B will cover doctor’s services, outpatient hospital care, preventive care, and some health care at home. You must pay a monthly premium for Part B. In 2018, it is $ 134.00 for individuals with incomes less than $ 85,000 and less than $ 170,000 per couple. This premium balloons to $428.60 for incomes above $214,000.

• Part D covers prescription drugs, but you must be enrolled in the full Medicare program (A and B) to have Part D coverage. You have to pay a separate monthly premium for Part D, unless you obtain as part of the Medicare Advantage Plan. Individuals with income under $85,000 will pay the same premium for Part D as they do for their regular Medicare coverage. Incomes over $85,000 a year and those who declare taxes as couples with incomes over $170,000 persons will pay premiums on a sliding scale depending on income and tax status.

What Is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage Plans are health plan options (such as an HMO or PPO) approved by Medicare but offered by private companies. Not all Medicare Advantage Plans work the same. Therefore, it is important that you know what the coverage includes, and if it meets your needs before enrolling. Although confusing, these plans provide all covered services for Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance), and Part D (Prescriptions), however, you may still be charged co-payments at time of service. Some Medicare Advantage Plans may offer additional benefits, such as vision, hearing, dental and/or vision services, however it’s important to call the plan before signing up to find out how much you may pay, if any, for these supplemental services.

Depending on which state you reside, a half dozen private plans may be available for you to select from. These will offer you different premiums, and co-payments and varied coverage, including which drugs are covered. It is well worth reviewing all your options because choosing a plan that is right for you can save thousands of dollars a year in premiums and out-of-pocket costs, especially important for senior citizens who have started taking new medicines.

What To Watch Out For

If you are eligible but delay your enrollment, you could face penalties. In fact, if you do not enroll in Part B or D, when first eligible, you must pay a late enrollment penalty, and must continue to pay this penalty for as long as you have Part B or D. Thus, you not only face a late enrollment penalty, but you must pay that premium as long as you remain in that Medicare program. What’s worse, if you do not enroll during the open season period, you could find yourself locked out of the program until the following year. Do your shopping before it’s too late.

Consider Your Options

Look carefully all at out-of-pocket costs. Most seniors will focus solely on premiums, but those monthly costs and co-payments usually don’t change. The substantial difference is usually what’s included in the coverage.Decide what is most important to you, and remember, there is very little flexibility, unless you change your coverage, but there is no perfect plan.

What Will Become of Hugh Hefner’s Estate?

Hugh Hefner and playmatesWith the passing of 91 year old Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, many are wondering what will become of the millionaire’s estate. The situation is complicated, and many details have not yet been entered into the public record. However, we do know what will happen to some of his most iconic holdings.

Hefner was worth an estimated $50 million at the time of his death, though various sources disagree on the exact figure. He owned 35 percent of the Playboy brand and 100 percent of the associated magazine, generating a monthly income of around $300,000. Hefner was once worth over $200 million, but the declining fortunes of the magazine have hurt his bottom line in more recent years.

He also had stocks and bonds valued at around $36 million and a joint bank account with an “unnamed” person containing $6 million in assets. His current wife, 31-year old Crystal Hefner, will not inherit any of this wealth due to the terms of a prenuptial agreement she signed before her wedding. That agreement awards her $5 million and a nearly 6,000 square foot property Hefner bought for her in April of 2013. That property, including a contemporary villa overlooking the Sunset Strip, is expected to become her primary residence.

The rest of Hefner’s fortune is to be distributed to his four children, the film school at the University of Southern California, and a host of different charities. Two of his children work or have worked for Playboy Enterprises, as Christie Hefner served as the company’s CEO for 20 years while Cooper Hefner is its current Chief Operating Officer. David Hefner avoids the public eye, and Marston Hefner describes himself as a writer and gamer. The exact terms of Hefner’s will are not known at this time.

Contrary to popular belief, the famous Playboy Mansion was not owned by Hefner and has not been for a very long time. The deed to the property was transferred to Playboy Enterprises years ago. The company sold it to Daren Metropoulos, son of billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos and a businessman in his own right, for $100 million in August of 2016. As a condition of the sale, Hefner was allowed to stay there for $1 million in rent annually until his death. The property will now be available for Mr. Metropoulos to use as he sees fit. He reportedly intends to combine the estate with the 2.28 acre property he purchased from Hefner’s second wife, Kimberly Conrad, for $18 million in 2009. The two properties are adjoining, so combining them will be easier than it initially seems.

The Playboy Mansion and associated estate are worth more than Hefner was. The property’s primary dwelling is a 15,000 square foot Gothic Tudor mansion designed by famous architect Arthur Kelly in the mid 1920s. It also includes the lagoon-style pool with a cave-like grotto that became synonymous with the Playboy brand and Hefner himself. In addition, the estate includes a four bedroom guesthouse, Games House, commercial kitchen, outdoor kitchen, a tennis court, and expansive greenery including gardens and large lawns. It also includes an aviary and a display area for exotic animals, as it is one of the few private residences in Los Angeles County to have a legal zoo license. Mr. Metropoulos is expected to make extensive renovations to the property to better suit it to his needs.

The distribution of Hugh Hefner’s estate remains interesting even without the iconic Playboy Mansion. Millions of dollars are at stake, and it is likely that further details will become available with time. We’ve seen a number of cases where high profile celebrities don’t take the time to make a proper estate plan, and then their loved ones are left to pick up the pieces, and sometimes fight over what is left. Our estate planning attorneys were pleased to hear that Mr. Hefner’s estate was in order upon his passing, and we send our condolences to his children.

Protect Your Pet Via Estate Planning

woman walking dogAs a Newport Beach estate planning attorney, I can tell you that people often forget to plan for their faithful pet companions. A pet that’s been with someone for 10, 12 or 15 years can certainly be considered a member of the family. Yet pets are often forgotten or neglected in the estate planning process, leaving them “orphans” after their owner has passed on. In some cases, family members were unaware their aging parent or relative even had a pet, leaving them totally unprepared to assume that responsibility once their loved one passes on.

Pets that are left with no provision are often taken to a shelter to be put up for adoption. However, there’s no guarantee they will find a new home. For pets that have grown up together, it could be even more difficult as they may find themselves separated and living in different homes.

There have been situations where a pet owner had to be placed in the hospital and no one was available to care for their canine or feline companion. Even when relatives volunteered to take a pet, no documents had been prepared to release the pet into their custody, resulting in pets being taken to a shelter instead.

Like any other valuable property, pets should be incorporated into estate planning, or have a separate emergency plan made to provide for them in the event that pet owners are hospitalized or pass on.

When planning your future, consider how your pet will be cared for if you have an accident or pass on. Ask your estate planning attorney to create legal documents that make provision for your pet when you’re no longer capable of doing the job. Here are a few ways you can plan ahead for your pet’s care:

•Create a trust for your pet to provide finances for their care, and include detailed instruction as to how you would like them to be cared for.

•Create a legal document designating a guardian for your pet in the event you are incapacitated or pass on.

•Write a brief biography of your pet to include name, age, state of health, years of ownership and instructions for care as well as name and number of your pet’s vet to make it easier for your pet’s guardian to move forward.

•Make pet documents easily accessible to family and/or friends.

•Make sure the contact info of your pet’s guardian is within easy reach of first responders.

•Make a list of names and numbers of local animal shelters in the area in case your pet is moved to a shelter before a guardian arrives.

Losing an owner can be a traumatic experience for a pet, particularly if a pet has had the same owner for years. By including your pet in the estate planning process, you can take measures to protect your pet’s safety and comfort.

If you have a topic relating to elder law or estate planning that you would like OC Elder Law to cover in our blog, send it to us at info@ocelderlaw.com!

Financial Elder Abuse: A Growing Problem

senior citizen holding headFinancial elder abuse is fast becoming one of the most serious problems faced today by senior citizens. In broad terms, our estate planning attorneys in Orange County define financial elder abuse as fraudulent, unauthorized or even illegal exploitation of an older person. The person causing the abuse is often someone that the elder has a trusting relationship with. This trusted person then causes harm to the elder, by means of misappropriating his or her financial resources, or abusing the financial control that they have been entrusted with. Instead of handling the senior’s finances responsibly, the person bringing about the abuse uses the elder’s financial assets for their own personal gain and profit. As a result, the senior is deprived of his or her financial assets, benefits or other resources of value.

This type of abuse can come about in many ways. Whenever a caregiver has access to a senior’s resources, there is a chance that this access could be abused. Sometimes the financial abuse comes about through outright monetary theft. However, there are other subtler ways by which this abuse can take place, some of which are not immediately obvious to the elder individual or others. For example, a person might forge the senior’s signature, using it for financial transactions. Sometimes a person obtains a guardianship or power of attorney role over the senior, for the specific purpose of abusing that power. Sometimes a senior may be forced into transactions that he or she simply does not understand. Sadly, this type of abuse is often brought about by family members that the senior trusts, such as their children, grandchildren or spouse.

There are also scam tactics that are designed to be confusing to senior citizens. Shady insurance schemes, fake health care products, lottery scams, and predatory lending practices are all ways that financial elder abuse can take place.

As this type of abuse continues to grow, states are increasingly working to put laws and other protections in place. During the 2016 legislative session alone, financial elder abuse was addressed by thirty-three states, as well as the District of Columbia. In the case of some states that already had laws of this nature on the books, these existing laws were expanded and reinforced. For example, Idaho’s existing law was revised to include exploitation as part of neglect. Illinois extended the timeframe, after the act of exploitation occurs, during which prosecution can take place. New Hampshire, whose law previously used the wording “incapacitated,” changed the wording to “vulnerable” in the case of adults. Other states, such as new Jersey, established task forces against this type of abuse.

As this problem grows, elected officials have become more aware of the extent of the exploitation, neglect and abuse of elders. Bills will undoubtedly continue to be introduced in Congress, to further protect seniors against financial abuse. It is important to note that not all legislation of this kind has been introduced only within the last couple of years. However, although the problem has been recognized for some time, in recent years the efforts to protect seniors against this abuse have accelerated. Unfortunately, not all proposed legislation designed to protect seniors against financial abuse has been passed. For example, although California introduced several elder financial abuse bills during 2016, not all were signed by the governor.

There remains a lot of work to be done to further protect senior Americans from financial losses resulting from abuse. Currently, it was estimated in a recent study that elders are suffering annual losses exceeding $2.9 billion dollars, exclusively due to exploitation and financial abuse. As the “baby boomers” continue to age, it is expected that this issue will continue to grow. As such, it is important that both our federal and state governments rise to the task of protecting senior citizens from financial abuse.

Our Orange County estate planning attorneys are committed to bringing public awareness to the growing epidemic of financial elder abuse through our blog. If you see a news story about financial elder abuse that you would like us to feature, send us a link to info@ocelderlaw.com today.

Suicide Prevention Month | Help a Veteran

couple laying on American flagSeptember is suicide prevention month, and although suicide afflicts every demographic in the country, there is one group of people that are disproportionately affected; veterans.

A study that appeared in the February 2015 issue of The Annals of Epidemiology discovered that veterans took their own lives at a rate of 29.5 per 100,000, nearly twice the national suicide rate.

It is common wisdom that men who saw combat are the most at risk, but this is not actually accurate. Veterans who were never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan were 16 percent more likely to commit suicide than veterans who saw combat, according to the study cited above. Furthermore, female veterans were twice as likely to take their own lives than women who had never served. The veterans in your life may need help even if they do not fit the stereotypical mold.

How to Help

Thankfully, research suggests that you can help prevent veteran suicide by reaching out to those who may be in need. The first and perhaps most important thing you can do is learn the signs that somebody might be in trouble. If you feel that your friend may be at risk, you can point them toward valuable resources such as the Veteran Crisis Line to ensure that they get the help they need before it is too late.

You can also help by showing veterans that you value both their service and their humanity. It does not require a massive time commitment, as simple acts such as sending a quick text or emailing a friend are enough to show someone that they are cared for. These tasks take no longer than a minute, proving that everyone can help reduce the suicide rate for veterans.

If you have a little bit more time available each week, meeting with your veteran associates can be a great way to strengthen the bond between you. Consider bringing them a home-cooked meal, getting together for coffee, dropping by their place, or even having a lengthy phone conversation. Sending someone you care for a care package is also a great way to show them how much they mean to you. These simple acts take no longer than an hour and help veterans understand that they would be missed by many if they did something regrettable, encouraging them to seek help rather than make a rash decision in the moment.

There is also nothing wrong with making more of a time commitment if you can swing it. Heading to the gym together on a weekly basis can help veterans have an event to look forward to, improving their lives. You can also share an experience by trying something new together, or even volunteering for a worthy cause. The options are limitless!

You can help by volunteering to handle mundane tasks for the veterans in your life as well. Offer to babysit so that they can get a night to recharge, or run simple errands so they don’t have to worry about them. These acts may seem small, but the effect they can have on mental well being is pronounced.

The elevated veteran suicide rate is not a new phenomenon, as Vietnam-era veterans displayed elevated suicide rates only if they were wounded in battle or suffering from PTSD. These seemingly obvious risk factors are no longer the indicators they once were, so you should acknowledge the veterans in your life regularly to ensure that they do not make a life-ending mistake.

Our estate planning attorneys are committed to helping the veterans of our community. If you have a story relating to veterans that you would like us to cover on our blog, email us today at info@ocelderlaw.com

Medicare to Cover Nursing Home Care for Hurricane Victims

elderly home care nurse with patientWhen natural disasters strike, it’s important for people to come together to make sure that the elderly community is looked after. Our estate planning attorneys in Long Beach have been closely monitoring the situation with Hurricane Harvey, and we’ve recently learned that federal officials have announced that Medicare will pay the nursing home costs of Hurricane Harvey survivors in the aftermath of the storm.

Traditionally, Medicare does not pay for long term nursing home care. The program does pay for shorter term rehabilitation periods after surgical procedures or a stroke, but patients must receive hospital care for at least three days beforehand for Medicare to accept those costs.

Hurricane Harvey made meeting this requirement difficult, as many Medicare recipients were displaced by the storm. Patients in hospitals had to be evacuated, interrupting their care. Others were injured during the evacuation process and taken to a shelter instead of a hospital to recover. Still others were receiving home care, making it challenging for them to receive their vital treatments now that they cannot return home.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma issued a waiver on August 31 allowing Medicare recipients to transfer to a licensed nursing facility without first spending three or more days in the hospital. This allows them to receive the care they need without worrying about the expense. In a statement, Verma said that “CMS is committed to acting as quickly and effectively as possible” in order to ensure adequate accommodations for “our most vulnerable beneficiaries.”

The situation was bad for patients, but hospitals were struggling as well. They needed all of their beds available to treat victims requiring immediate care, so using a bed on a patient who could be adequately treated at a licensed nursing home facility represented an inefficient use of resources. According to Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association, hospitals were calling nursing homes to encourage them to waive the usual three-day waiting period in an effort to provide care to as many patients as possible.

Warren greeted news of the waiver enthusiastically, stating that it “allows… communities to make decisions in the best interests of the patients.”

The quick action of CMS in the wake of a natural disaster may have been inspired in part by the fallout from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That storm devastated an area including 24 states, stretching from the Eastern Seaboard west to Wisconsin. No Medicare waivers were issued to pay for nursing home costs after that storm, but hospitals transferred many patients anyway to treat as many victims as they could. Many of the patients could not afford treatment on their own, leading to a payment crisis that could have been avoided.

The CEO of RBC Limited Healthcare and Management Consultants in Staatsburg, N.Y., Barbara Citarella, stated that a waiver such as that issued in Texas is “very helpful” for ensuring that patients receive continuous care in the wake of a natural disaster. She also noted that many Medicare recipients receive vital outpatient services that are no longer feasible after a major storm. These patients can “deteriorate quickly” if these vital services are interrupted, practically mandating that they receive care in a professional facility for the duration.

Medicare recipients in Houston and the surrounding areas are grateful that they will receive the care they need without needing to pay out of pocket or compromising their level of care. Hospitals in the area are also elated, as they can move treated patients with the confidence that they will continue to receive the care they need.

In our role as Long Beach estate planning attorneys, we strive to keep the public informed on the issues that matter to senior citizens. If you have a topic you would like us to cover on our blog, send us an email at info@ocelderlaw.com

Three Reasons You Should Not Handle Your Own Estate Planning

a couple meeting with attorneyWith sites like LegalZoom and LegalNature that allow users to quickly download legal documentation becoming commonplace, many individuals believe that a “Do-It-Yourself” approach is the best way to handle their estate planning. The option is generally cheaper than hiring estate planning attorneys, so what could go wrong? In truth, many different things could go awry if you attempt to tackle estate planning on your own.

1. Simple Mistakes

One of the most common problems with DIY estate planning forms is the increased likelihood that an amateur makes a mistake that an estate planning lawyer would have caught. For example, the amateur may understand that they need a Power of Attorney to handle their finances in the event that they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle them on their own. They may not know that a Power of Attorney becomes null and void if they become incapacitated–the exact situation where they become necessary. You actually need a Durable Power of Attorney to ensure that your finances are handled by someone you trust, a completely different form than the one used to designate a Power of Attorney.

Another common problem is successfully creating a trust but failing to retitle assets to fund it. A trust with no retitled assets has zero value, rendering it completely useless. Your assets will end up getting distributed as if you had not created the trust in the first place and in a manner almost certainly inconsistent with your wishes.

2. Complicated Situations

Estate law is extremely complicated, a fact the examples above provide ample illustration of. If you have a large amount of assets, a confusing family history, or some other complicating factor, DIY sites generally do not provide all of the information necessary for you. The resulting documentation is often lacking as a result. Estate planning attorneys can help you navigate these more turbulent waters more successfully than you could on your own. They can also help you limit the amount of taxes ultimately taken out of your estate.

Using a estate planning attorney in Corona also reduces the chances that your estate spends a lot of time in probate, as DIY documents are statistically more likely to be flawed and therefore more likely to be legally challenged than their professionally crafted counterparts. No one benefits from delaying the distribution of your wealth, so the increased efficiency that an experienced estate planner provides is very important.

3. Potential Conflicts

It is natural to update wills and living trusts periodically, with the latest date taking precedence over the ones that came before it. If a family member would stand to benefit more from an earlier document, however, they may challenge whether the later document truly represented your wishes. This scenario almost always degenerates into a “he-said, he-said” situation that damages relationships on all sides while proving impossible to unravel in court. Documents drafted with professional help are overseen by an impartial third party, making it far easier to resolve any disputes before they cause a schism among your loved ones.

It is generally best to hire expert estate planning attorneys to ensure that your affairs are handled according to your wishes. Between the possibility of making a silly mistake, the intricacies of estate planning law, and the possibility that your family and friends will feud over your assets, it is just safer to trust an expert to handle everything correctly.

Do I Need An Estate Planning Attorney?

attorney filling out estate planFor some folks, estate planning is not a high priority. Some people don’t think they have an estate big enough to warrant an estate plan, while others simply don’t want to confront the unpleasant feelings associated with planning for their death.


Additionally, there is a contingency of people who believe that they can do their own estate planning with generic forms that they found on Google. We’ve put together the following handy guide to help you decide whether or not you should seek the services of an estate planning attorney in Corona.

What does an Estate Planning Attorney do?

Popular to common belief, there are actually many facets to estate planning. While you might think that planning your estate is simply just setting up a last will and testament, it actually scales far beyond that.

An estate planning attorney can also help develop a plan to mitigate estate taxes, form a living trust, and help to make sure that your assets are safe from the creditors of your beneficiaries after your death.

How can an estate lawyer help me?

An experienced estate planning lawyer makes sure that your will is carried out in the best possible manner.

To sum it up an estate lawyer helps you to:
• Create your last will and testament
• Draft living trusts
• Develop a comprehensive plan to avoid estate taxes
• Making arrangements in the event of your mental incapacitation
• Creating Power of attorneys and health care directives

When do you really need an estate attorney?

Experienced advice of an estate lawyer is recommended when you have more than one marriage, or you want to donate part of your assets to charity, or you want to mitigate estate tax etc.

If you have few assets, simple family dynamics and no complex financial arrangements, you can think of avoiding the services of an estate planning attorney. However, the ABA has issued a warning that do-it-yourself estate plans can be worse than actually doing nothing. It should be noted though that most estate planning attorneys in Riverside offer a free consultation that can help you determine whether or not an estate lawyer is necessary.

Do only the very rich need estate lawyers?

Even if you do not have millions, you can benefit from the advice and experience of an estate planning lawyer.

An experienced estate planning attorney stays focused, and on top of family dynamics and subtle legalities. He ensures that no problem surfaces in the carrying out of your will and last testament.

He ensures that an ex-spouse does non inherit unintended assets due to improper asset distribution timeline or there is no special needs family member losing out on government benefits due to improper paperwork.

Can a bank, brokerage firm or financial institution suffice?

A bank, brokerage firm or financial institution can only help you in planning your estate financially. They are not qualified to draft legal documents or lend you expert advice.

Estate planning has major links with Medicaid and tax planning when you are planning your financials. An experienced estate lawyer helps in drafting sound estate plans which hold legally and take into account various unexpected events.

An estate planning attorney offers great assistance in allocating your assets in complicated family and financial situations. The experience and advice which they bring to the table can help you in drafting sound wills and testaments. They also ensure that your paperwork is error free with no loss to any beneficiary regarding government taxes or creditors.

The Oldest Living Veteran is Young at Heart

American flag in front yardImagine living through World War II, having been at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked, experiencing the Civil Rights Movement, the change and turmoil of the sixties and the election of the first African American President. Now imagine still being around to talk about all the remarkable events you’ve seen. The oldest living veteran can be described as a walking archive. His name is Richard Overton, and he has seen and experienced history in ways that very few people have.

At 111, Richard Overton still enjoys a good Tampa sweet cigar–make that 12 cigars a day, and a drink of whiskey. Many well-meaning people might encourage a man of his years to give up the smokes, but Overton attributes his longevity to God and his cigars.

Born in 1906, Overton, a resident of Austin, Texas lives in the house he built 70 years ago on a street named after him. He spends most of the day sitting on his porch, listening to music and taking in all that’s going on around him–from birds chirping to neighbors passing by.

Overton was married twice and has outlived his closest relatives. Although he had no children, he has people who love him and make sure he has the resources he needs to remain in his home. In fact, with the help of his cousins who set up a GoFundMe page, Overton has around-the-clock in-home care. His caregivers make his favorite meals, including meatloaf and catfish.

On his 111th birthday, the city changed the name of the street where Overton resides to Richard Overton Avenue. That event brought out at least 200 well-wishers to his front lawn. Many of whom enjoyed having their photos taken with Overton. On that historic day, his neighbors showered Overton with tokens of love, including bottles of whiskey, coke and of course, those aromatic sweet cigars. In fact it is said that he still has several bottles of whiskey and Coke stash in various places throughout his home.

Richard Overton had the pleasure of doing something few people can claim. He met a president of the United States. Having made two trips to the White House, Overton met President Obama. During his first visit on Veterans Day in 2013, he received honors during a special ceremony. Not only has he met the president, he has met his share of professional athletes and other celebrities. In 2015, he was the subject of a documentary and at that time he was still driving, but has since ceased getting behind the wheel.

Overton had a bit of a setback when he was hospitalized for pneumonia. He received IV fluids to help him fight off a high fever and was not able to smoke during his stint in the hospital. However, being the determined one that he is, Richard Overton battled back and was able to resume his porch-sitting and being a welcome presence in his neighborhood.

Our estate planning attorneys love being able to share happy stories from our nation’s veterans. OC Elder Law specializes in helping our servicemen maximize veterans benefits. If you have a story about a veteran you would like us to feature in our blog, send us an email at info@ocelderlaw.com today!

Study Finds Link Between Dementia and Hearing Loss

doctor putting hearing aid in to patient's earYou certainly don’t need an estate planning attorney to tell you that life has many ups that are uncomfortably paired with many downs. It is hard to come face to face with some of the major issues that affect Americans such as hearing loss. This issue now affects about 48 million Americans, which is quite troubling. What is worse is that hearing loss seems to increase the chances of a person developing other serious maladies; such as dementia.

There are times when it seems like everything is against you, and this link definitely feels like one of those moments. It feels unfair to suffer from hearing loss only to turn around and deal with dementia as well. It should be noted that seniors consider dementia to be one of the more fearsome afflictions they could ever have; a survey pointed out that it is scarier to them than cancer.

Studies found the link between dementia and hearing loss, which has caused much concern, but it also tells specialists that treating hearing could prevent dementia in the future. It tells younger people to do their best to protect their hearing in order to avoid dementia or other cognitive issues in the future.
Researchers have not really found the reason this link exists though several experiments show the connection. Some do have a couple of theories. For example, hearing loss does mean that the brain will absorb less information. This could drastically cut the amount of stimulation the brain receives per day, which may have something to do with this connection. In essence, the theory is saying that the brain is like a muscle that needs flexing or it loses some of its power. Some researchers have also made similar connections to other human senses such as vision, which also seems to have a similar link to dementia.

Another possible explanation for this link may have to do with stressing the brain too much. A person with hearing loss has to force himself or herself to hear. This can create what some call a cognitive load. The brain cannot take the stress, which could end up hurting it in the long run, increasing the risk of dementia for seniors.

Of course, some say it has to do with people isolating themselves from others when they have a hard time hearing. People do not want to be with other people if hearing becomes such a big problem. It makes sense to want to isolate yourself in order to avoid the stress, but this could be a problem. Other studies show that social isolation can lead to cognitive decline.

Now, some of these theories suggest that the risk could be reversed or at least halted by simply dealing with hearing loss. Those already suffering from hearing loss may want to consider more precise hearing aids. These hearing aids may help revitalize the brain cells that have gone dormant or have shrunk due to hearing loss. A person who is dealing with hearing loss may have to do his or her best to try to talk to others more often, even if it is frustrating. This is going to take patience, but it may be worth it if it means the risk of dementia is reduced. Keep in mind that these solutions are merely based on the theories known so far, but it is important to keep up with the research to see if more concrete information is revealed regarding this link.

As estate planning attorneys we do our best to keep the public informed about issues relating to the seniors in our community. If you have a topic you would like us to cover, send us an email at info@ocelderlaw.com.


Interactive Robots for Seniors?

two artificial intelligence robotsArtificial intelligence and the elderly may seem like an unlikely pair, but tech companies are seeing a potential for AI services with seniors as the primary target market. Tech and robotics companies and even the auto industry are looking into how robots can enhance the quality of life for senior citizens, especially those who live alone and at risk for isolation, loneliness and depression. Among these companies is Israeli-based tech company Intuition Robotics which recently raised 14 million for the development of ElliQ, a social companion robot. One of their investors is Toyota, which, along with IBM, is among the largest companies investing in AI and robotics for the benefit of older users.

The idea first came to Intuition Robotics CEO Dor Skuler who noticed that his kids were more likely to send their selfies to Grandma and preferred this method of interaction than talking on the phone. In an interview with CNN Money, the CEO concluded that ElliQ will allow kids like his to have more interactions with their grandparents, and vice versa.

Aside from enhancing communication, the program is designed to assist caregivers by giving reminders for medications, doctors’ appointments, and activity schedules. The program can even give out personalized suggestions for activity to help keep seniors engaged and keep boredom at bay.

While all of these look attractive on paper, our estate planning attorneys in Corona can tell you firsthand that the elderly are generally averse to using technology of any kind around the home. To solve this problem Intuition’s research team has looked into form factors that seniors are more comfortable with. Their studies have shown that robots that look like humans might seem a bit strange for elder users, and so they have opted to design robots that do not look like humans. These robots will also be programmed to perform specific tasks, very similar to common household appliances like a refrigerator or the dishwasher. For example, ElliQ is designed to sit on a desk and it’s primary function is to facilitate communication and give reminders. It also allows quick and easy sending of texts and photos. This is in line with similar approaches done by other companies like Blue Frog Robotics which designed their robots to look like robots from pop culture such as Wall-E and Star Wars.

However, while humanoid-robots are not the best choice for elderly companions, Hasbro has stumbled on a promising strategy that involves realistic robotic pets after it noticed a surge in positive reviews for FurReal toys, robotic toys initially designed for ages 4-8. They found out that more people are buying these toys for elderly loved ones, primarily because they provided interactive companionship. These toys also required little maintenance unlike real pets, and can be used by seniors living in homes and communities that did not allow pets. Hasbro released their Joy for All Companion Pets, a cat and a Retriever in 2015 and 2016. Both pets are designed without connectivity options to the Internet and do not have screens, but instead are made to look and feel like real pets.

Outside robotics, other companies are looking into AI that can control smart environments for seniors. IBM researchers are currently doing a project that involves tracking different factors of an elderly person’s daily activities and habits to create a better understanding of a senior individual’s environment.

Artificial intelligence and robotics can offer significant improvements in the quality of life and the delivery of health services to seniors. However, for aging potential users to take full advantage of these improvements, researchers must first learn how to win this target demographic over.

As part of our work as estate planning attorneys, we feel a responsibility to keep the public informed on issues that directly relate to senior citizens and the elderly. If there’s a topic you would like us to feature in our weekly blog posts; email us at info@ocelderlaw.com today!

Congress Considering Abolishing Time Limit To Use GI Bill

silhouette of American soldiers boarding a shipLater this month, Congress is expected to consider an updated GI Bill that abolishes the time limit veterans currently have to use their educational benefits. The new bill also increases the number of veterans who qualify for educational benefits.

The current GI Bill, passed in 2008, allows post 9/11 veterans with at least three years of active duty service to receive full tuition to attend a public university, or an equivalent sum of money toward tuition at a private institution. This benefit must be used or transferred to a dependent child within 15 years or it is lost forever.

The new bill, officially named the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 after the author of the original GI Bill in 1944, abolishes the 15-year window for recruits who enlist after January 1, 2018. Veterans who enlisted before that date would still need to use their educational benefits in the 15-year time frame specified by the previous legislation.

The updated GI Bill would also expand the pool of veterans who qualify for the educational assistance program. The old law denied benefits to Purple Heart recipients who failed to hit the three-year service benchmark, even if their abbreviated service time was the direct result of active duty injury. Aleks Morosky, Legislative Director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 Purple Heart recipients were denied educational benefits for this reason. The new law would allow Purple Heart recipients to claim educational benefits reg

ardless of how much service time they completed. In addition, members of the National Guard and reservists who were involuntarily called into active service would qualify for educational benefits under the proposed legislation. The current law omits both groups.

Finally, the updated GI Bill would allow veterans to reclaim benefits lost due to factors outside of their control. For example, a veteran lost his or her education benefits if they were used on a private institution that closed before they finished their degree. The new law would allow the same individual to transfer to a different institution or even hold onto them for future use. Benefits transferred to a dependent child would also be transferable to a second child upon the first’s death, something that is not currently permissible under the 2008 law.

The new bill is expected to be introduced to the House Veterans Affairs Committee by Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, its current chair, at some point this month. Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. The bill would need to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by President Donald Trump before taking effect.

The proposed legislation enjoys strong bipartisan support, leading many to speculate that the bill will easily pass both chambers of Congress. For instance, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minnesota) praised the bill as an expansion of the “best program to ever come out of Congress.” The prospective legislation has also been universally lauded by veterans advocacy groups as a fix to the many perceived problems with the 2008 version of the bill.

In conclusion, veterans will enjoy added flexibility in when they can use their GI Bill educational benefits if the proposed bill becomes law. More veterans will also qualify to receive GI Bill benefits.

OC Elder Law is an estate planning firm in Fullerton, Long Beach and Corona, that specializes in maximizing veterans benefits. If there is a topic relating to veterans, estate planning, or elder law that you would like us to feature in our blog, send us an email at info@ocelderlaw.com.

9 Questions to Ask Before You Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

an attorney reading a law bookChoosing an estate planning attorney is a big decision. Follow these nine steps to ensure that your estate is executed the way you want it to be.

  1. How much do you charge?

Estate planning attorneys may charge a flat fee, or they may charge by the hour, so you should ask how you will be billed up front. Flat fees may not cover all of the services the attorney can provide, so be sure to inquire if any services will cost extra before you engage them.

  1. Do you have an update program?

Some estate planning attorneys complete the necessary paperwork and consider their job completed. This could turn into a problem for you if laws change before you pass away. Ask if you can be informed of any legal changes as they happen to ensure that your plan is executed correctly.

  1. How much experience do you have?

Experienced estate attorneys have an opportunity to fine tune the paperwork they provide after seeing it in action for past clients. You won’t be around to personally supervise the execution of your paperwork, so an experienced attorney is a great way to guarantee that it works as intended.

  1. Will you help me set up a revocable living trust?

Assets must be transferred to a revocable living trust before you die in order to be distributed according to your final wishes. The transfer process is actually pretty complicated, so it may be worth paying a little extra for an attorney who will guide you through every step of the process.

  1. Whom should I appoint as Power of Attorney?

Whoever you grant Power of Attorney to will have unrestricted access to your finances, so they should not have any financial troubles of their own. Ideally, your Power of Attorney will have financial management skills to keep everything in order.

  1. Are there any estate taxes to consider?

Estate taxes will vary by state, so it is best to engage a local attorney familiar with your local laws. Taxes should always be considered when deciding who to give what.

  1. Who should I appoint in my Advance Directive?

Your Advance Directive dictates who will make medical decisions on your behalf when you cannot, as well as an alternate if the first person is unavailable. Both individuals should be people you can trust to act according to your wishes.

  1. Who will get any assets I do not specify a recipient for?

In general, any property with another name on the account will go to that individual, and will not get split up between all of your beneficiaries. Otherwise, property will be split evenly between your closest living family members, even those you did not have a relationship with. If you do not want your assets distributed in this way, an estate planning attorney is your only recourse.

  1. What are the consequences of placing my child’s name on my account?

Any assets at least partially in your child’s name are fair game if they become involved in a divorce or debt settlement. If you place their name on your account, those funds could be lost to you through no fault of your own.

The attorneys at OC Elder Law try our best to keep the public informed about issues related to elder law and estate planning in Orange County, Corona and Long Beach. If you have a topic you would like us to cover in our blog, email it to us at info@ocelderlaw.com.

Proposed Medicaid Cuts

On June 22, 2017, the Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Obamacare over the last seven years, unveiled a 142-page bill that intends to redefine the government’s involvement in America’s health care sector and in effect, fulfill their promise to fix the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Written largely in secret, the legislation would scrap the minimum essential coverage (MEC), eliminate taxes on the wealthy, make massive cuts in Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. At the same time, it would allow states to drop many of the benefits mandated by Obamacare, including mental health treatment, maternity care and emergency services.

In particular, the Senate bill proposes the following amendments to Obamacare:


The legislation would retain the enhanced Medicaid expansion funding from Obamacare until 2021 and then phase out the funding over a three-year period. By comparison, the House bill, which passed in May 2017, would lend funding for this program in 2020. The longer timeframe offered by the Senate bill is likely a move to appease and compromise GOP senators who support Medicaid. However, the Senate bill would make deep funding cuts to the program and starting 2025, would base the funding allocation formula on standard inflation rather than medical inflation, which is more generous. Because of the funding cut, states will likely cut enrollment, provider payments or benefits.

Pre-existing conditions

Although the legislation would compel insurers to cover patients with pre-existing conditions, it would allow states to waive the essential health benefits. This means that, while the bill would prohibit insurers from basing their premiums on consumers’ medical history, patients with pre-existing conditions may still be unable to get comprehensive coverage because insurers may be able to create less comprehensive insurance for such patients.

The President’s Support

Although President Trump praised the bill following its unveiling, the President acknowledged that the bill would likely undergo some changes. Like Trump, GOP Sen. John McCain, who has been critical of the secrecy surrounding the creation of the legislation, was happy with the bill. According to the senator, the bill is better than Obamacare in “100 ways.”

Unhappy GOP Senators

Despite the President’s approval of the legislation, some GOP senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, were hesitant to vote for the bill due to various reasons. In a joint statement, the senators aid that, in its current form, the bill was unlikely to fulfill the Republicans’ promise to repeal Obamacare and lower the cost of health care in America. Additionally, Dean Heller, the senator of Nevada, said that he was deeply concerned about the impact of the bill on his constituents who rely on Medicaid, and that he would only vote for the bill if it is good for Nevada.

Unlike the health bill passed by the House in May 2017, which President Trump has since called “mean,” the Senate bill offers more financial incentives to low-income earners to help them afford health insurance. However, like the House bill, it would defund state mandated benefits geared towards expanding the eligibility for Medicaid, as well as create a budget for the entire Medicaid program, meaning Medicaid would no longer be an open-ended entitlement. Furthermore, the bill would eliminate virtually all the tax increases imposed by the Obamacare, which means it would lower the tax burden for the high-income earners.

As Orange County estate planning attorneys, we use our blog to keep the public informed on topics that closely impact our community’s senior citizens. Is there a topic you would like us to cover? Drop us a line at info@ocelderlaw.com!

Are Modern Seniors as Active as Teenagers?

An elderly man walks on the beachUsually when we think of teenage years, we typically think about an active lifestyle. Adolescents thrive physically because the human body reaches its peak during this phase. That being said, you would think that this teenage stage should be the most active in an individual’s life, right?

According to a recent study published in the NY Post, it looks like the inactivity of the modern teen has lead to some staggering results. It’s reported that teens today are only as active as senior citizens.

The study was conducted as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Approximately 12,529 participants whose ages ranged between 6 and 85 were involved. Researchers used specialized devices to measure the movement of subjects.

Participants wore the devices for seven consecutive days and the survey was conducted as part of two research cycles: 2003-2004 and 2005-2006.The study took into account all types of physical activity, not just exercise.

New insights

The findings, which were first published in the August issue of the Journal of Preventive Medicine show that physical activity is at its highest at the age of six. The lead author of the study, Vijay Varma stated that some of the observations contradict with the notion that physical activity gradually declines with time.

The National Institute of Aging researcher further noted that the new data revealed a sharper-than-expected decline in the period between elementary school right through to middle and high school. By the time teenagers reach the age of 19, they are activity levels become as sedentary as the seniors.

Potential causes of teen physical inactivity

Varma wonders why the decline is happening earlier. Unlike the teens, senior citizens are usually plagued by many health issues that lead to restricted movement. He believes that the trend can be attributed to social structures; they are not supporting physical activity. In addition, the researcher pointed to the modern school days, which are characterized by long classroom time and relatively short recesses.

On the other hand, early school bell times are blamed for causing sleep deprivation. According to Varma, these times are not consistent with children’s physiological requirements.

Digital devices are not helping improve levels of activity either. Several studies have shown that teenagers spend up to nine hours a day watching television or using tablets and laptops for recreation purposes. However, the actual screen times tend to change rapidly due to the introduction of new technology.

Stats review

Researchers view late teens as a “high-risk time period for physical inactivity.” The majority of kids in this age group are not getting the recommended minimum activity, which is at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous workout. Up to 50 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys in the 6 to 11 years of age range are not meeting this World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation.

Adolescents between 12 and 19 are more sedentary. Data shows that 50 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls are falling short of meeting the target. Surprisingly, twenty-somethings show higher levels of activity before slowing down again in their 30s. Varma refers to this trend as catch up period and attributes the spike in movement due to various social factors.

Levels of activity were noticeably higher early in the morning when compared to teenagers. The research study findings show that emerging adulthood creates many changes. These include increased household responsibilities, starting careers and changes to family structure.

Do you have a topic relating to senior citizens, elder law, or estate planning that you would like our attorneys to write about in our blog? Drop us a line at info@ocelderlaw.com and we’ll research the topic and blog about it!

Saving Money on Senior Living

In our experience as estate planning attorneys, we can tell you that ssenior couple on swing setenior citizens often live on a limited income after retirement, which dictates how and where they live. Oftentimes it might be in a senior’s best interest to live in a senior living facility, however, many seniors feel they are unable to afford it. What many seniors and their families may not realize is that the cost of senior living could actually be lower than remaining at home, in some cases.

Add the costs of remaining at home

What many families with senior citizens in their care fail to do prior to writing off senior living due to the high costs is add up the costs of having their loved one remain at home. Once a figure is reached, it can be compared with the cost of senior living to determine which is more costly. Here are some costs to take into consideration:

Caregiver costs

For families with senior citizens, the amount that caregivers spend in order to ensure their loved one is properly cared for can add up quickly. A survey conducted by AARP revealed that as many as three-quarters of families caring for senior citizens spend approximately $7,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses. These expenses include things like costs for in-home aide services, medical, dental, vision, and even personal care items and household expenses. By choosing for the senior loved one to move to a senior living facility, caregivers can save substantial amounts of money each year, which could be spent in a more favorable manner.

Other senior expenses

There are various other expenses that many families with senior relatives fail to consider. Transportation is a major expense. If a senior citizen still drives, then there is the cost to maintain the vehicle and possibly even a car payment. Then there is gas, vehicle repair, insurance, and registration, just to name some of the expenses related to transportation.

Not all senior citizens drive, so for the seniors who don’t, transporting them to and from the various destinations that they need to go to can be not only taxing but also time-consuming. Seniors often need to go to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, pharmacies, and possibly to community activities.

Additionally, families with senior family members need to consider the costs of outside care. The cost of having an aide come into the home when the family members aren’t able to provide care can be substantial. Just having caregiver services daily for eight hours, could add up to nearly two hundred dollars a day. For senior citizens in need of around-the-clock care, the costs will just about triple.

If after adding up all the expenses of having a senior remain at home a family member realizes that it is costlier than they originally believed, comparing it to the cost of senior living facilities might be a good idea. Costs of senior living facilities will vary, depending on the facility as well as its location.

When searching for the perfect facility that fits the senior’s budget, family members may need to shop around. It is also important to consider the possibility of a loved one having a roommate, which could cut costs in half. Another way to possibly lower the cost of a senior living facility is to inquire about paying for only the services that their relative might need. For instance, if a senior citizen doesn’t need housekeeping services, then it might be possible to find a facility that will subtract that cost from the monthly charge.

Our estate planning attorneys in Corona do our best to keep the public informed about issues that relate to the senior citizens in our community. If you have a topic relating to the elderly that you would like us to discuss in our blog, please drop us a line at info@ocelderlaw.com.

Social Security Website Defends Against Identity Theft

computer code with a lock in the middleIn our work as estate planning attorneys in Corona, we have heard from a number of senior citizens who have had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with fraud or identity theft. A recent rash of hackers accessing private information through both government and commercial websites has sparked a renewed interest in cyber security. SSA.gov, the official website of the Social Security Administration (SSA), has just added a two-step authentication process in an effort to better protect the benefits and sensitive information of social security recipients. This change went in to effect this past weekend, on June 10, 2017.

The process works by sending a code to either a user’s cell phone, or their email whenever an effort is made to access their Social Security online account. This code must then be entered on SSA.gov before any sensitive information is displayed. It is hoped that this extra layer of security will prevent data from becoming compromised even if a password is discovered by an unauthorized third party.

This is a modified version of a cyber security plan that the SSA proposed last summer, in which cell phones were the only mechanism to receive the code required to access the site. Many elderly beneficiaries opposed this system, as they claimed not to own a cell phone and would therefore be effectively locked out of their account if one was required to access it. Some may have had the option of using a relative’s phone, but that person may not have always been available when needed. The agency scrapped the plan approximately two weeks after it was announced due to this opposition.

Adding email as an option ensures seniors and others without a cell phone will be able to access their accounts, but it does have some significant drawbacks. Many individuals use the same passwords across multiple online accounts, enabling a hacker who discovered one to correctly guess the email password and access sensitive information despite the new verification process. The best way to combat this flaw is to use an email account with a password that is not shared with anything else, according to Baker & Hostetler digital media specialist Stephanie Lucas. The new verification process is also better than nothing even if it is not quite as secure as the SSA’s original proposal.

While some individuals do not have a cell phone or a computer, it is unlikely that they signed up for an SSA.gov account in the first place. SSA.gov makes it more convenient for recipients to access their benefit information and manage the bank account(s) it is deposited into, among other things. Registering for an account is not mandatory to receive benefits. This security measure will only impact the roughly 30 million social security recipients who previously registered for an online account, so there will be no change for those who still call the agency to make any changes or requests.

It is encouraging to see the SSA take an active role in protecting the identity of beneficiaries, but individuals should still be careful who they share sensitive information with. Prevention is always much more effective than trying to rectify a problem after the fact in matters of identity theft.


The Growing Trend Of Senior Prom

an elderly couple holding handsAs estate planning attorneys in Corona, it warms our hearts to see that the trend of arranging senior citizen proms is rapidly growing, and it would appear that the trend is here to stay. This senior living trend had been catching on for some time (already by 2013, the city of New Milford in New Jersey had arranged its 6th Annual Senior Citizen Prom while the year also saw the hosting of the 8th Annual Senior Citizen Prom in Beachwood, Ohio.) and has only gained in popularity and acceptance in more recent times.
Apart from the hugely encouraging responses that these events have received throughout America, what is perhaps most wonderful about the whole affair is that the events have also garnered enthusiastic and extraordinary support from members of the younger generations—those who have just already attended or are about to attend their own proms. Apart from community centers and assisted living communities, high schools as well as local youth groups all across America have been the most frequent organizers or supporting organizers of these events.

Take the case of New Dorp High School at Staten Island, for example. In February of last year, the school played the destination for the first-ever senior citizen prom in Staten Island. Even more encouraging is the example of West Orange High School in New Jersey whose students have actively participated in their local senior citizen prom events every year back from 2007. This is an overwhelmingly positive trend since it generates the occasion to bridge intergenerational gaps at the same time as it gives our teenagers a chance to mix with the elder members from the community, serve and understand them better as also to learn from their experience. On the other hand, the elders can make good of these occasions by getting to know the youngsters from up close. So, apart from all the fun involved, these prom parties also act as great platforms to build mutual understanding between different generations and thus facilitate a healthier community life overall .

And thus far these ‘senior’ senior proms have been a raging success. Most parties will follow the decorum and there will be a prom king and a prom queen at the end of the event and host of prizes to be won by the participators. It is an evening to dress up and dance and have fun and socialize, of course. Many senior citizens who are either living alone or are living in assisted communities often battle the issues of depression, loneliness or isolation. Yet, simple and fun occasions like these may often go a long way in helping them overcome the negative emotions.

Which is why perhaps the trend has caught on so fast. Apart from prom parties, many assisted living facilities as well as community centers have also arranged special ‘field trips’ and other similar events for the seniors of the community. These events are also a way to acknowledge the fact that our elders have a lot to contribute towards society and are an integral part of any community life in general. And the younger members of the society can only gain from their vast store of knowledge, experience, and wisdom.

At OC Elder Law, our estate planning lawyers do their best to keep the public informed on news and special interest stories that relate to senior citizens. If you have a story you would like to see featured on our blog, send us an email at info@OcElderLaw.com.

Estate Planning for Digital Assets

woman on a laptopSince it is associated with the harsh realities of loss and death, estate planning is an unpopular topic. All too often we hear from people who do not have an estate plan that is updated with their current goals, needs and desires.

In recent years, technology has created new challenges for estate planning. With the need for estate planning for digital assets, several existing estate plans, wills and trusts in the United States, are not equipped to handle the complete range of assets owned by individuals. Below, our estate planning attorneys in Newport Beach will examine the finer points of estate planning for digital assets.

Estate Planning for Digital Assets

Digital assets are not storage devices such as smart phones and computers — but rather the information and property that is stored online. As technology has evolved, so has the way we store and access digital property. For instance, your Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, or Instagram accounts could contain sensitive financial information, important photos and videos, or communications. Additionally, you may also own hundreds of dollars worth of digital property like movies, music and art on apps like iTunes and Google Play. Other digital assets such as BitCoin, frequent flier miles, and blog revenue all have significant financial value – and thus need to be planned for accordingly.

What Makes Estate Planning for Digital Assets so Challenging?

The laws associated with estate planning are way behind technology, resulting in many estates not being adequately prepared to handle digital assets. These digital assets are usually secured by the use of an online login and password, which is not traditionally contained in a will or trust. In order for the estate to gain access to the accounts, the individual must record the accounts and the relevant login information. In many cases, digital assets are non-transferable upon death, so the account or property cannot be left to your heirs. This stipulation is usually included in the terms of service agreement, when the account was initially set up. Since most persons do not read the agreement, they are surprised that they do not in fact own their account, but only have a lifetime lease to use the account.

Some recent state laws which have the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act as their base, allow fiduciaries to gain access to these assets, once specifically stated in the trust, power of attorney document. Many estate plans treat digital assets the same as other assets, but they need to be addressed specifically in any estate planning or advanced directive document.

Most wills and trusts require updating, so that they include explicit directions about digital assets. Additionally, folks should have detailed accounting of their online accounts and access information. If there is no comprehensive list, then it will be difficult for an estate to properly manage the accounts. Some instructions that you may leave could be the closure or deletion of their credit card or banking account, memorializing of their Facebook account, or the assigning of a business website to their heirs to ensure continuity. Although there has been gradual change in the laws that provide access to digital assets, there has to be advance planning to ensure the proper management of digital assets, and their dispersing in the case of incompetency or death. Advisers are able to add value by encouraging the discussion of the topic with their clients, ensuring that the proper documents are updated by the estate planning attorney. This will allow for the proper handling of the digital assets of the client, in the case of death or incapacity.

Estate Planning Strategies With New Laws on the Horizon

man signing documentIn recent years,  Republicans have been calling for a repeal of many aspects of the Federal estate tax system. Donald J. Trump’s election and the Republican sweep of both Houses of the Congress have made the possibility of sweeping estate tax reform very high over the coming two years. All eyes are now on potential legislation that could affect the estate and gift tax system in 2017. These factors bring to the fore the significance of being flexible as you do your estate planning and proceeding.

Here are several strategies that are worth looking into while waiting for potential Congress legislative action.

Charity Gifts

Under the existing law, charity gifts are deductible as “itemized deductions.” However, the new President wants to introduce more dramatic limits on such items. If you take your gifts to charity in 2017, you stand to benefit from a much larger tax break.Generally, you may also want to have your deductions accelerated into the current year. For the same reasons, you also ought to use the lifetime gift exemption of $5.49 million.

Installment Sales

An installment sale made in favor of a grantor trust is a financial strategy that works best with real estate that is income-producing, family business interests, or other more liquid type of investments that have growth potential in the future. Because for income tax purposes the trust acts as a “grantor trust”, it doesn’t realize capital gains tax at the transfer time.
Family Limited Partnerships

In view of the legislative uncertainty, a family limited partnership (FLP) is still a viable strategy for tax minimization. A supplementary benefit of setting up or establishing a family limited partnership and getting it funded with assets is that it affords you the opportunity for getting discounts on any wealth transfers made to family members.
Upstream Gifting

Under the existing taxation, a step-up in the cost of an asset gets granted when that person passes away. This means that the recipient family members can dispose the asset without incurring any form of capital gains tax. In case the US estate tax gets repealed, this benefit will most likely be eliminated. You may consider giving your appreciated real estate assets to a trust that has been specifically designed to allow such assets to be included as part of a less affluent estate that belongs to your parents.

Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTS)

In setting up Charitable Reminder Trusts, the trust creator retains the right to receive a fixed percentage or annuity of the trust assets yearly. At the expiration of the CRT term or when the creator passes on, the CRT assets balance pass to chosen charitable organizations that can also include a private family foundation. As the CRT period beneficiaries are non-profit organizations, the sale of any assets is not subject to capital gains.

Given these unfolding dynamics on the political-legal front, the US real estate sector, similar to other critical areas like health care has a dark cloud of uncertainty that hovers over it. All of the above strategies need to be implemented with care. But one thing is clear, big change is coming and you should plan your real estate accordingly. Until all the intentions of the new administration become very clear, many taxpayers are opting to adopt a wait-and-see attitude in regard to estate tax planning over the next couple of months.

Exercises for Aging Muscles

2 senior citizens riding bicyclesThe human body normally undergoes a number of changes as it ages. For instance, the body starts to produce less testosterone.
Since this is a steroid hormone responsible for muscle growth, the body gets weaker and weaker with time. People who are over 65 years old are usually less active and may start to lose both their balance and flexibility in addition to reduced strength. This means they may start to become dependent on other people. Fortunately, there is a way for elderly people to improve their fitness, and remain independent in every aspect of life for a long time. That is to exercise on a regular basis.

Exercises for the Elderly

It is important to note that older folks are not seeking bulging muscles or to bench hundreds of pounds of weights at the gym. They just want to maintain their muscle mass, improve their flexibility and endurance as well as maintain their balance. The exercises they perform, therefore, may not necessarily be high intensity. The CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercises per week for people who are over 65 years old. The following are some great exercises for the elderly:

i) Cycling

This can be done on a stationery bike at home or at the gym, or with a normal bicycle. The exercise should be done at least twice a week for a minimum of half an hour. While cycling at a slow to moderate pace throughout the workout session is beneficial, the best results can be obtained when periods of low intensity cycling are alternated with periods of moderate to high intensity cycling. The benefits are; improved muscle strength, improved endurance, better flexibility and improved body balance. The elderly can also burn calories and lose weight through cycling.

ii) Walking

There is a common saying that movement is life; if you stop moving, you die. This statement holds true, especially when it comes to senior citizens. When you stay in bed for more than 12 hours, sit on the couch for another 12 hours and repeat the same cycle day after day, the flexibility of your joints will reduce. Furthermore, you will also lose your balance. This means that you will become dependent on other people when you want to stand up, get out of bed or go to the bathroom. To ensure you live a healthy life, it is important you go for 15-minute walks at least twice a day; in the morning and in the afternoon. This will help to maintain your balance and improve the flexibility of your joints. These walks can also improve your strength.

iii) Swimming and Zumba

Swimming is a low-intensity exercise with lots of benefits. Ideally, you should go swimming at least twice a week. If you are tired of swimming, you may want to try zumba. These exercises are great for your strength, balance and flexibility.

The elderly should avoid high intensity exercises because their cells and tissues do not regenerate as fast as they used to. Light to moderate intensity exercises for a maximum of 30 minutes daily are enough to ensure the elderly live a healthy life.

As estate planning attorneys, we like to help out the senior citizen community whenever we can. That’s why we often blog about topics like senior discounts, arthritis, senior healthcare and more! If you have a topic relating to senior citizens that you’d like us to write about, please send us an email to info@ocelderlaw.com.


Attractions for Seniors in Corona

A woman purchasing an apple at a farmers marketThe city of Corona, California is home to a diverse community of around 160,000 residents. Situated near the Santa Ana Mountain Range, just East of Disneyland, it offers an excellent escape and an opportunity to slow down. From outdoor activities to shopping and dining, there’s plenty for visitors to enjoy, whether it’s for a few hours or a few days.

Corona is an excellent place to visit at any age! Seniors can take advantage of the discounted rates for admission at some of the attractions, while others are already budget friendly for everyone. Whether you’re seeking to soak in the soothing water of the mineral spas, sip on wine, or explore the history and culture of the region, you likely won’t be disappointed by the best attractions in Corona, California.

Here are some of the best budget friendly attractions that offer discounts to seniors:

Corona Heritage Park and Museum

The Corona Heritage Park and Museum celebrates the history and culture of the city, and includes the grounds of what was once the largest lemon ranch in the state. A small museum houses interesting historical and cultural artifacts, and visitors are welcome to enjoy a self-guided tour. Explore the grounds, which consist of 2,000 acres of lemon groves. The Company Store gift shop offers candies and collectibles, including plenty of lemon shaped trinkets and souvenirs. The museum is open to visitors Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 am to 2 pm, and admission is free. It is closed on holidays.

Glen Ivy Hot Springs

Relax and rejuvenate at Glen Ivy Hot Springs. This facility is a must visit for tourists in the area. It offers an array of spa treatments, wellness classes, massages, and access to mineral pools, mud baths, and more. The mineral springs that provide the soothing waters make this an ideal destination to unwind for an afternoon. Guests are encourages to make a reservation for a soothing massage or one of the many restorative spa treatments offered by the skilled and professional staff. Seniors age 65 and over can enjoy a 10% discount on the Taking the Waters Admission. This includes access to 19 different pools, lounge areas, the gardens, steam rooms, saunas, and much more.

Tom’s Farms

Perfect for the young and young at heart, Tom’s Farms offers up something fun for everyone. What started out as a roadside farm stand many years ago has become a premier family destination in the Riverside area, with a variety of activities that guests of all ages can enjoy. Take a ride on the old fashioned carousel or the miniature steam train, or kick back and relax with a cheese and wine tasting. Special events are held throughout the week including craft shows and live musical performances. Be sure to pick up  fresh foods in the farmers market, and sit down to an authentic Mexican meal at Senor Tom’s restaurant. Some of the activities at Tom’s Farms cost just a few dollars, while others are free to enjoy.

As estate planning attorneys in Corona, we take it upon ourselves to inform our clients, friends, and social media followers about all of the great attractions of Corona where seniors can get a deal! We hope you enjoyed our list, and urge you to stay tuned for more to come!

Is the New Healthcare Bill Bad for Seniors?

close up image of a doctor's lab coat and stethoscopeA nation is often defined by the way it takes care of its elderly citizens. Despite being opposed by numerous consumer’s groups,
hospitals, and doctors, last week the United States House of Representatives narrowly approved a new Health Care bill that will negatively affect the lives of millions of its most vulnerable people. The AARP, which has over 38 million members, says the results of this new bill will be catastrophic for all Americans, especially senior citizens.

According to the AARP the new American Health Care Act has several major flaws that will be detrimental to the elderly.

The first is that the new bill allows the imposition of an age tax. Insurance companies may now charge people aged 50-64 as much as five times the amount as younger people. It will also lessen the tax credits that help older people afford their annual coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the age tax could boost their annual premiums to $13,000. Most elderly people exist on a meager income and can’t afford that.

The bill also allows states to rely on high risk pools with massive premiums to cover those with preexisting conditions. When this method was tried before, it put such a financial strain on states that benefits had to be limited and enrollment had to be capped at a certain number of people.

Additionally, it will allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions. Currently, there are over 25 million Americans aged 50-64 with conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Under the old law, they were protected from paying higher rates than those without preexisting conditions.

Furthermore, the new legislation will endanger crucial health benefits. In certain states, insurers could opt out of many important benefits such as hospitalization, prescription drug coverage, emergency services, mental health services, preventative care and even chronic disease care.

The cost of many prescription drugs has more than doubled since 2006. This new legislation does absolutely nothing to lower the prices. It would, however, give a $200 billion present in tax breaks to drug and insurance companies who are already making a ton of money. Right now, over 17 million low income residents with some type of disability rely on Medicaid. Millions of low income seniors will be at risk of losing all access to essential long term supports and services if this bill passes.

If this Health Care bill is allowed to go through unchallenged, millions of U.S. citizens will be without any health insurance at all. The CBO predicts that up to 24 million people could lose their health insurance coverage in just ten years. As estate planning attorneys in Orange County, we can’t help but think that there are better ways to take care of our senior citizens. Under the new legislation, premiums will rise dramatically, Medicaid will be weakened, billions of dollars will be given to insurance companies, prescription drug costs will continue to rise, and millions of sick and elderly people may lose any coverage they have.

The Best Senior Discounts In Newport Beach

Newport Beach sunsetNewport Beach is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in California, if not the entire United States. Thousands of visitors from all over the world flock to Newport Beach each year for the good weather, world famous beach, fine dining and various landmarks. Senior citizens can often take advantage of discounts at many of the landmarks in Newport Beach. Below we’ll discuss a few of the best deals.

The Orange County Museum of Art

The Orange County Museum of Art is one of Newport beach’s top attractions. This museum features art from the early 20th century, contemporary art galleries, digital art installations and video art exhibitions. Seniors get a discounted admission price of just $10, and the museum is open 11am-5pm PST (Wednesday-Sunday) and 11am-8pm PST on Thursdays. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The Sherman Library & Gardens

The Sherman Library & Gardens is proud to feature a number of seasonal flower beds, fountains, patios and conservatories. These public botanical gardens cover 2.2 acres. Some of the gardens include the Fern Grotto, the Cactus and Succulent Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden and the Herb Garden. The library has a large collection of materials relating to the Pacific Southwest. Many of the events held in the gardens offer seniors free admission (event admission for others is usually $5-$10) and admission to the library is always free for seniors, although donations are accepted.

You can also become a member of the Sherman Library & Gardens for added benefits. For $40 per year seniors get a 15% discount in the Garden Shop, free admission to over 250 other botanical gardens throughout the United States, a 10% discount at the Rogers Gardens and Armstrong’s Nursery, reduced entry fees for your guests and two free guest passes.

The Pier

The Newport Pier is one of the most famous landmarks in California. Entry to the pier is free and many of the restaurants on the pier offer senior discounts. If you’re looking for fine dining, a casual and quick bite to eat, or if you want to catch your own fish while enjoying the scenery, the Newport Pier is the place to go.

The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is open every day from 7am PST until sundown. This pristine nature preserve is home to over 35,000 birds that fly over the 1,000 acre park. In addition to bird watching seniors can enjoy activities such as horseback riding, biking and hiking. The best part is that seniors can get into the Upper Newport bay Nature Preserve for absolutely free year-round.

Honorable Mention

Newport Beach has a lot more to offer senior citizens, but there just isn’t enough time to list everything in this blog. Other popular Newport beach attractions including:

-the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center
-Balboa Island, the Balboa Ferry and Balboa Village
the Environmental Nature Center
-Gondola Adventures (which features romantic sunset cruises along Newport Harbor)
-Newport Landing Whale Watching

Many of these locations offer senior discounts or completely free entry for senior citizens. For more information contact the landmarks you’re interested in directly or visit www.VisitNewportBeach.com today.

Young Teen Heartbroken That Grandma Can’t Attend Prom

close up of corsageWhen one Alabama high schooler made the decision to ask his favorite girl to prom, he thought of the most amazing person in his life–his grandma, nicknamed “Nanny.” Bryce Maine’s grandmother didn’t get the opportunity to go to her own prom when she was in high school, so the Eufala teen thought it would be a sweet gesture to take her to his. Regrettably, the school didn’t think it was so sweet, and declined to allow Bryce’s grandma to attend.

The ruling came as part of an overall rule that ensures the safety of the students during the annual dance. According to the principal, there is an upper age limit that dictates who can go to the prom each year. Unfortunately, Nanny was beyond the age guidelines. Much to the chagrin of Bryce and his followers on Facebook, Nanny would have to sit this one out.

The principal’s reasoning for the ban was simple. Because Nanny was an adult, there was a chance that she could bring alcohol and supply the students with it. The principal also said that bringing older students to prom made a mockery of the event, and would open the floodgates for other students to bring older dates. The principal did not back down, despite heavy online outcry to his decision.

This was not the first time a young person was not allowed to bring a non-student date to prom. The principal said that he had gotten other requests in the past, and had denied each one.

It seems, however, that not all high school principals share the same concern. In April 2017, Connor Campbell of Summerville, South Carolina took his 93 year old grandmother to prom. Austin Dennison of Rockford, Ohio, took his 89-year old great grandmother Dolores to prom—an event she had not been able to afford when she was in high school.

While there is some merit to the claim that older students may compromise the integrity of the event, the outrage stems from the rigidity of the rule. Bryce is not attempting to bring a college-aged adult to prom, he wants to bring his elderly grandmother. His supporters think that the principal should make the decision on a case by case basis instead of instituting wholesale rules that can’t be broken under any circumstance.

The story gained traction online and eventually made its way to the likes of CNN, Inside Edition and Fox News. The response has the public has been mixed. Some people think that the decision was outrageous, while others feel that there need to be guidelines in place to protect students. In the past, students have attempted to bring dates that were college age, with disastrous consequences.

Our estate planning attorneys in Orange County can’t help but be moved by young Bryce’s story, and we’re happy to report that there is a happy ending to this tale. Bryce decided to take Nanny out on a fancy dinner and dancing date so that she could enjoy the prom experience that she missed out on. Nanny says that she will wear her pretty dress and get a makeover for the event. And the world will be watching this sweet story unfold.

Yoga for Arthritis Pain

3 senior citizens stretching in yoga classBuilding strong muscles through yoga is one of the best ways to alleviate the symptoms that are associated with arthritis. Before you undergo a routine of regular yoga, it pays to understand how this practice can bring arthritis relief.

Yoga is an easy alternative to other forms of exercise like swimming, running and biking. It can burn calories, regulate weight and help to ward off heart disease and diabetes.

Yoga works so well because it can help to reduce inflammation, ease joint tenderness and bring down swelling. Yoga also encourages deep breathing, which improves blood flow and reduces pain. Yoga also helps to relax the body and mind, helping you to deal with the pain and manage the symptoms of your arthritis.

Why Yoga is So Effective

For many people, the pain of arthritis also causes a great deal of anxiety and stress. This stress increases the pain, leading to a cycle which is difficult to break. Living with a chronic disease is never easy, but yoga can make it more bearable through mind-relaxing exercise and deep breathing. Yoga encourages you to listen to and respect your body and to understand the messages it is sending.

Yoga is literally the most flexible form of exercise there is. If your pain is in your knees, you can focus on your upper body instead. If you have pain some days in one part of the body, and pain in another part on other days, you have the flexibility to switch up your routine depending on what is more comfortable for you at the time.

Yoga can also help to get you back on your feet after long periods of time without exercise. You can ease back in with light stretching and gentle poses.

Starting Yoga

There are certain types of yoga that are tailored for people who suffer from chronic pain. Gentle forms of yoga like Iyengar, hatha or anusara are recommended for those who are just starting out.

Avoid hot yoga and Bikram as they may be more intense and stressful on the body and worsen the condition. Before you undergo any type of exercise, it pays to consult with your rheumatologist to find out what is appropriate for your body.

You will definitely want to get started on your yoga journey with a trained instructor in an in-person environment if you are looking to fight arthritis. Most experts recommend that you avoid trying to do it yourself or with an at-home video as you’re getting started. A trained instructor can tailor the exercise to your body’s needs and adjust the poses as necessary.

The “no pain, no gain” mantra does not apply here. If you are in the middle of an arthritis flare up, it may be useful to save your workout for another day.

When it comes to finding the best exercise to alleviate the pain of arthritis, yoga tops the list. With its focus on deep breathing, mindfulness and muscle strengthening, yoga is highly recommended for pain relief.

The Shameful Epidemic Of Financial Elder Abuse

elderly man holding headThe 45 million baby boomers in the United States worked hard to prepare for lives beyond retirement. They saved money to ensure they would be able to support themselves and leave a legacy for their families. They worked and earned and were fastidious about investing their money and creating a secure nest egg. And unfortunately, that makes them targets.

Elder financial abuse is on the rise, and many seniors are robbed blind by the people they love and trust. Some of them are suffering from memory loss and dementia. Others don’t have family nearby to check on them. Greedy opportunists take advantage of this and wipe out their hard-earned money, preying on their need for companionship.

The Scam

The players are different each time, but the storyline follows a familiar pattern. A kind stranger approaches a senior at the supermarket or in a place of worship and develops a kinship with them. The senior brings them into their safe spaces—inviting these con artists into their homes. In return, they don’t receive the companionship they seek. They receive a life of financial heartbreak.

A New York City woman is just one of those con artists. Mary Evans was indicted for swindling more than $400,000 from senior men.

She “bumped into” them in grocery stores, pretending to be a friend they had met before. She worked her way into their lives and made off with more than $130,000 in cash and other items, including a Mercedes-Benz. She even pretended to be the wife of another, wiping $225,000 from his bank account.

The Epidemic of Elder Financial Abuse

Sadly, stories like these are all too common. Elder financial abuse is usually perpetrated by someone the victim knows and trusts. This person may have access to sensitive financial information and use that to his advantage. Other criminals convince the senior to sign over control of their assets, stealing the unsuspecting victim’s home and money right from under them.

Elder financial abuse statistics are inaccurate because a lot of these crimes go unreported. The seniors are often ashamed that they were taken in by the fraud. Some are embarrassed because they may have been searching for love before they ended up with the abuser. In many cases, the crime only comes to light when the person’s financial advisers review their finances.

According to Investment News (1), more than 62 percent of financial advisers have suspected that their clients have been victims of this type of elder abuse. The majority of them did not report the crime.

Adding to the problem is the fact that many Americans are living longer, which means more of them are suffering from the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. To further exacerbate the problem, many people are marrying and having children at older ages, leaving a sandwich generation of people who are too busy raising young children to care for elderly parents. The New York Cost of Exploitation Study(2) finds that victims report just 2 percent of all cases of suspected fraud.

Elder financial abuse is a serious crime. If you suspect that you or someone you love is being abused, don’t wait. Take action.

(1)”Advisers on the Front Lines Battle Against Financial Abuse of the Elderly” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170403/FEATURE/170339977/advisers-on-front-lines-in-battle-against-financial-abuse-of-the
(2) “The New York State Cost of Financial Exploitation Study,” http://www.nyselderabuse.org/documents/CostofFinancialExploitationStudyFINALMay2016.pdf

Retired Dentist in Long Beach becomes “Flower Doctor”

After his wife passed away, retired Long Beach Dentist, Doc McBride found a new way to keep himself busy, while also making a difference in his community.

Now affectionately known as “The Flower Doctor”, every week McBride picks up the flowers that Trader Joe’s was unable to sell, and delivers them to the residents of different nursing homes in Long Beach. The Flower Doctor has been on duty for two years now, and commented that seeing the smiles his flowers bring make him feel truly privileged.

Queen Mary in Long Beach Restored

close up image of the Queen Mary shipOne of Long Beach’s most recognizable landmarks, The Queen Mary, has received a massive face lift. The iconic vessel has recently been transformed into a sprawling, 65-acre resort and entertainment destination. The former cruise ship is one of the most sought after attractions in Long Beach, and features new attractions like ice climbing walls, world class shopping, five star dining and live entertainment.

If you have ever wanted to try a cruise without committing to a week at sea, the Queen Mary is just the ticket. Not long ago, this huge cruise ship, which ceased sailing decades ago, was in danger of sinking if it did not receive the proper restoration that it needed. Now, a new developer has come in and assumed a lease on the property, commencing repairs and making it a world class destination for tourists and locals alike.

Taylor Woods, principal of Urban Commons said that Queen Mary Island would provide an entertainment destination for the whole family. With a boardwalk, outdoor concert area and more than 200 hotel rooms, the complex is like a city unto itself. The design team has upgraded the ship and its plaza with contemporary features, while retaining its historical details that hearken back to its sailing heyday in the 1940s.

Visitors can now book their space on the iconic vessel and make reservations for dining and shows. Both the developers and Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia hope that the Queen Mary Island resort will bring much needed revenue to the city.

The Queen Mary is central to downtown, just steps from aquariums, museums, tours and cruise ship ports. The island is great for both adventure and relaxation. With a trampoline park, zip line, climbing wall and spa, there is definitely something for everyone right in the heart of Long Beach.

George Clooney Surprises Fan for Her 87th Birthday

Actor George Clooney and his wife AmalSome people are thrilled to get a gift, a cake or balloons for their birthday. For one senior citizen, however, this birthday was unforgettable. Pat Adams, an 87-year old resident at the Sunrise Sonning retirement home was thrilled to meet her favorite actor, George Clooney, for her birthday.

Clooney walked in with a bunch of flowers and a card for the sprightly senior, bringing a beaming smile to her face. The staff of the facility were not expecting a visit from the actor, and everyone was thrilled to receive a visit from Clooney. Mrs. Adams had written letters asking if her favorite celebrity could pay her a visit in honor of her birthday. She was shocked to see him walk through the door.

Clooney and his wife Amal have a home right outside of London, not far from the Sunrise Sonning facility. They often visit the surrounding area, stopping in at pubs and restaurants. On this day, however, Clooney made a detour and spent time visiting the elderly birthday girl, making her wish come true. Mrs. Adams describes herself as his “biggest fan,” and was thrilled by his visit.

Clooney, who is expecting a baby, dropped in unannounced. The star, who has recently played a leading role in the hit movie “Money Monster,” intentionally did not tell the staff ahead of time that he would be making an appearance, as he wanted to keep his visit low-key in order to avoid taking the focus off of Mrs. Adams.

Linda Jones, a staff person at Sunrise Sonning says that Mrs. Adams absolutely adores Clooney, and had long wished that she could meet the actor and told the staff that she would be thrilled if he stopped in for a chat. Never did she imagine that her wish would come true and that she would receive a once in a lifetime birthday gift. Mrs. Adams spent the visit chatting with the star, taking photos and enjoying the pleasant surprise.

George Clooney is known for not only his acting but also his humanitarian work. Clooney has worked with organizations to stop human rights violations in the Darfur region of Sudan, and has also made financial contributions to more than two dozen other charities that focus on protecting children and stopping human rights crimes.

Our hats are off to Mr. Clooney for taking time out of his busy schedule to make a senior citizen smile!


Senior Discounts in Long Beach

photograph of the queen mary shipLong Beach is a diverse city that has many attractions, restaurants, and fun events throughout the year. It is also one of the most culturally diverse areas of Southern California, packed with museums, educational institutions and attractions. Finding senior discounts for all that Long Beach has to offer is simple if you know where to look. Seeing as how we are estate planning attorneys in Long Beach, we wanted to give our seniors a heads up on some of the discounts they can enjoy around the city!

Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific brings the ocean indoors, with thousands of varieties of fish, sharks, seahorses and other ocean-going creatures. Enjoy viewing baby penguins, explore sea lion habitats and watch sea otters at play at this Southern California marvel. Seniors enjoy daily discounts of $3 off regular adult admission and pay only $26.95 for entry.

The Queen Mary

One of the most famous landmarks in Long Beach is of course the Queen Mary, a boutique hotel onboard a cruise ship. Your ship won’t sail from the port, but you will still get the “at sea” experience in a stateroom replete with porthole windows, all you can eat buffets and live entertainment. The Queen Mary is in the center of it all, just steps from the Aquarium of the Pacific and a short ride from breathtaking Catalina Island.

Prices vary based on your room type but senior tours of The Queen Mary are available.

The Catalina Express

Just 22 miles from the coast of Long Beach is Catalina Island. This island features watersports, boating, dining and shopping in a tropical paradise. The Catalina Express is a luxury yacht that will get you there in style in just under an hour. Schedule a round trip and enjoy a day on the island while relaxing under a warm California sun. Upgrade to the Commodore or Captain’s Lounge for priority boarding, a relaxing private space and complimentary beverage.

Pricing starts at $33.25 for seniors.

Art Theater of Long Beach

The Art Theater of Long Beach is one of the most historic theaters in the city, and shows both cult classics and independent films. The theater is located in downtown Long Beach, and is centrally located in what has been dubbed “Retro Row,” — an area packed with shopping, dining and entertainment.

Senior tickets for showings are $8.50 for evening and matinee shows.

Long Beach Segway Tours

There is no better way to see all that SoCal has to offer than through a segway tour. Cruise around on your own personal segway and view beachfront, shopping districts and outdoor dining while relaxing and taking in the warm Southern California air. A 2-hour downtown tour will show you all of the sights and sounds of the area and you can go at your own pace.

Pricing starts at $79 per tour.

Long Beach is a magnet for visitors of all ages, and you can find excellent senior discounts on tours, dining, shopping and accommodations.

Jimmy Buffet to Open Margaritaville Inspired Retirement Communities

neon margaritaville signRetirement has just gotten a lot more laid back with the new chain of active living communities inspired by Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Complete with spas, pools, fitness centers and world class shopping, these neighborhoods offer everything that you would find in an upscale, all-inclusive Caribbean resort.

Luxury is All-Inclusive

More than just a place to live, the owners of Minto Communities hope that the Margaritaville properties will be a destination. On track to open in the fall of 2017, the signature property will feature a bandshell for live entertainment events, a private beachfront club and a lap pool. The community, which is golf cart friendly, will open in Daytona Beach, Florida and hopes to welcome residents by the spring of 2018.

Margaritaville will feature some of buffet’s signature eateries and bars. The “Five O’Clock Somewhere” bar and the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” restaurants will both feature indoor and outdoor seating and the iconic menu items that made the chain famous.

Bill Bullock, Senior Vice President of Minto Communities hopes that residents will find their new community a fun way to enjoy retirement while building new social connections. The community is planned to be less “retirement home,” more “resort.”

Bullock says that the homes range in price from $200,000 to $300,000 and offer all of the amenities that residents come to expect. The community, to be named “Latitude Margaritaville,” will feature 7,000 homes and more than 200,000 square feet of retail space.

Jimmy Buffett’s empire started in Key West, Florida in 1985 when he opened his first Margaritaville store. Today, the legendary singer owns properties all over the globe, from timeshare properties to hotels, casinos and restaurants. In 2017, Buffet broke ground on Margaritaville Resort Orlando, and includes more than 300 time share units and a hotel featuring 187 rooms.

The $1 billion property hopes to attract residents who are looking for an experience like none other. With a tropical vibe, swaying palms and lively music providing the background for easy living, Margaritaville is an escape from it all. As an added bonus, residents may be in for a surprise. Bullock suggests that perhaps the legendary Jimmy Buffet may stop in for a quick concert.

Katherine Jackson Files Restraining Order in Elder Abuse Case

Katherine JacksonIt was recently reported by TMZ that a judge granted Katherine Jackson, the mother of the late Michael Jackson a restraining order against her nephew-in-law, Trent Jackson February 8. The Los Angeles judge granted the order after Mrs. Jackson alleged that Trent had been engaging in elder abuse against her by taking advantage of her financially and emotionally for several years.

Court documents state that Trent had been serving as a driver to Mrs. Jackson but was gradually able to take over her financial affairs and block her from contact with friends and family. According to the complaint, Trent screened her phone calls and restricted her from talking to friends and family, intercepted her mail and falsely reported to bank employees that he was her representative. Trent, 52, denies these allegations.

The complaint also alleges that Mrs. Jackson has to hide from Trent and that he uses bullying tactics against her. Mrs. Jackson reports hiding in the closet to talk to her children in privacy. Attorneys for Mrs. Jackson state that she is easily manipulated, and she recants her accounts of abuse whenever Adult Protective Services representatives open investigations into the elder abuse.

Mrs. Jackson also claims that Trent has wired her home with hidden video cameras and audio recording devices to ensure that she is unable to seek help. In the complaint, Mrs. Jackson states that she has to change her clothes in the closet to avoid being seen by the cameras.

Other complaints against Trent include accusations that he has used Mrs. Jacksons’ credit cards for his own personal expenses and attempted to take over legal responsibility for her businesses. He has also been accused of being emotionally abusive to Mrs. Jackson through manipulation, intimidation and threats.

Jermaine Jackson, Mrs. Jackson’s son also described an incident in which Trent threw one of the Jackson sisters against a wall, beat Jermaine’s nephew and hit Mr. Jackson. Jermaine claims that Trent has stolen more than $40,000 from the elder Mrs. Jackson.

Mrs. Jackson also alleges that Trent ignored her cries for help when she needed medical attention, preferring to treat her himself. Rebbie Jackson, Mrs. Jackson’s daughter claims that Trent blocked her number from Mrs. Jackson’s phone, restricting her ability to communicate with her mother. She also claimed that Trent attempted to have her name removed from Mrs. Jackson’s medical directives.

Trent Jackson denies that he is guilty of the elder abuse of which he is accused. He claims that the allegations are a ploy on the part of the surviving Jackson siblings to claim a larger portion of the late pop singer’s estate. He claims that the brothers and sisters want to get him out of the way so that they can pressure their mother into asking for a larger portion of the singer’s estate.

The restraining order states that Trent is stay 100 yards from Mrs. Jackson and her home at all times. This means that he will have to relinquish his current residence in the guest house on the property.

As elder law attorneys in Long Beach, Fullerton, Newport Beach, and Chino, we are greatly disturbed anytime we hear an account of elder abuse, and we urge you to call us today if you or a loved one has been victimized.

5 Tips For Managing Chronic Pain In The Elderly

diagram of human body with chronic painIt’s a sobering fact that more than fifty percent of senior citizens who live at home, and the majority that live in nursing homes experience chronic pain. This pain is often caused by long-term illness and often goes untreated. Without proper pain management, chronic pain can cause depression, loss of sleep, weight loss and social withdrawal.

When it comes to caring for the elderly, managing chronic pain is essential. From decreasing stress to increasing exercise and staying on a pain relief regimen, it pays to manage your pain and keep it at bay.

Here’s our list of 5 tips for managing chronic pain:

  1. Manage Chronic Pain

One of the best ways to manage chronic pain in the elderly is through careful use of pain relief medication. Some seniors with chronic pain often stop taking their medication because the side effects are often less than desirable. Some medications interfere with others and seniors are forced to choose which combination of medications will bring the relief they need.

  1. Work With a Doctor

Some elderly patients skip doctor’s appointments or simply stop taking their medication. Skipping doses means that the medicine doesn’t have a chance to build up in the body. This can potentially make the pain more intense. If your loved one is living with chronic pain, it is important that they take their medication as directed.

  1. Try Pain Therapies

One of the ways that the elderly manage pain is through alternative pain therapies. Acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, and light exercise have been shown helpful in managing pain.  Stress relief techniques like yoga, meditation, music therapy and hypnosis can also make dealing with the effects of chronic pain easier.

There have been studies that have shown that owning a pet can reduce stress and by extension, pain in seniors. If your senior loves animals, consider getting a dog or a cat to help with the calming process.

  1. Pay Attention to Stress Reduction

Stress can make chronic pain worse, so caregivers should take extra care to reduce stress in the elderly. This can mean adapting their surroundings in order to make home life less stressful. For seniors who are dealing with chronic pain, avoid having a lot of people and noise in the household. If they have pain in their joints, allow them to live on the ground floor of their home so that they don’t have to climb stairs. Install railings on toilets and in the bath so that seniors don’t have to bend or stoop when bathing.

  1. Enjoy a Healthy Diet

Foods that are high in sugar or salt content can cause inflammation, which makes pain worse. By eating a balanced diet, seniors can enjoy healthier lifestyles, which may in turn reduce chronic pain. A diet rich in fruits, whole grains and vegetables is one of the best defenses against painful inflammation. Avoid fried foods, those with high salt content and foods high in sugar to keep weight to a healthy level and reduce the incidences of inflammation and related pain.

Taking Control of an Elderly Relative’s Finances

Unfortunately, difficult conversations about finances, relationships, and our inevitable death are simply a part of life. However, having these somewhat troubling discussions in times of good health and happiness usually make them infinitely easier. The same goes for creating a plan to take control of an elderly relative’s finances.

With all the incredible advancements of modern technology and healthcare, in general people are living much longer lives. As parents continue to age, their children are facing the fact that they may need to step in and help with paying bills, making investments, or even arranging for long-term care services.

It’s important to remember that for a senior citizen, planning for the future involves so much more than simply dealing with finances. It’s also vital to take the time to understand your relative’s priorities when it comes to lifestyle, independence, and emergency care options in the event that their health fails. It may seem morbid, but clarifying all of these details ahead of time will prevent as much conflict and stress possible for everyone. In many cases, you may also be able to virtually eliminate the need to concern yourself with issues like guardianship proceedings or incompetency declarations.

The best and most important item to begin with is setting up a HIPAA authorization form and a Health Care Power of Attorney. The HIPAA form gives the designee permission to access important medical information, but does not grant decision making power. However, a Health Care Power of Attorney allows someone to make critical medical decisions on your loved one’s behalf in the event that they are unable to make those decisions themselves.

Next, it’s vital to begin the asset protection planning process by creating a comprehensive estate plan. An estate plan should also designate a Property Power of Attorney, which grants the chosen person the legal authority to act on your relative’s behalf when deciding what to do with homes, businesses, and other assets.

After these basic steps are taken care of, it’s a good idea to try to automate as many financial transactions as possible. Set up direct deposits and automated payments for utilities, rent, and other expenses. Compile and securely store any important documents like benefit plans, bank accounts, and insurance policies. Also, make sure to double check that there are no supplemental benefit plans or long-term care insurance that may have been forgotten.

Finally, your loved one may even qualify for several federal and state benefit programs. Explore the variety of options on benefitscheckup.org and eldercare.gov for discounts on taxes and utility bills, as well as information on local health care and social services providers.

As an estate planning lawyer that specializes in elder law, I can tell you although these conversations can be difficult, initiating them as soon as possible is always the best course of action. The plans you create will help your relative live a life that runs smoothly and is free of worry, and as time passes you will both be more confident and prepared to face any difficult situations that may arise.

Head of Veteran’s Affairs Rules out Privatization

image of American flagDavid Shulkin, who is now the Under Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to head the second largest federal department in the United States. If confirmed, the 57 year old physician would be the first non-veteran to lead the agency, and the only remaining ex-Obama administration official serving in Trump’s cabinet.

In prepared remarks he recently made to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Shulkin said, “VA is a unique national resource that is worth saving, and I am committed to doing just that. There will be far greater accountability, dramatically improved access, responsiveness and expanded care options, but the Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.”

Despite clearly ruling out privatization, Shulkin promised to push for a major overhaul of the “broken process” that has led to the massive backlog of veteran’s benefits claims and appeals currently weighing down the department. He doubled down on his promise by saying, “If confirmed, I intend to build a system that puts veterans first and allows them to get the best possible health care, wherever it may be.”

Shulkin is currently responsible for managing a system that oversees 9 million veterans in over 1,700 facilities, and was also given the daunting task of improving wait times for medical care after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. In his prepared testimony, Shulkin acknowledged that the scandal had drastically decreased veterans’ confidence in the department, as veterans waited months for care or even passed away while some VA employees falsified internal documentation to cover up the delays.

Shulkin also did not rule out closing underused VA facilities in an attempt to reign in the budget, and said he may explore new partnerships to avoid building new medical centers that were too expensive or slow to become established.

In response to the estimated 20 veterans who commit suicide each day, Shulkin also cited Obama administration efforts to combat these statistics by hiring more mental health professionals to work in the department. In fact, the VA currently has over 45,000 job openings, most of which are within the department’s health care system. However, due to the current federal hiring freeze, he could not specify what staffing plans he intends to make for the department.

Overall, Shulkin is supported by several of the largest veterans’ organizations, as many of them also oppose greater privatization of the department. Shulkin has repeatedly testified on his unwavering commitment to making necessary changes to the department in order to regain the trust of veterans and their families, and even encouraged the panel to hold him accountable and replace him if he was not successful in fulfilling his promises.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has advanced the nomination of David Shulkin to be VA secretary with overwhelming support and a vote of 15 to 0. Since Shulkin’s nomination has yet to draw any significant opposition, many lawyers, veteran’s groups, and congressional lawmakers believe that the Senate will easily be able to confirm him sometime in the next week.

3 Reasons Why You Need an Estate Plan

estate plan with fountain pen laying on topUnfortunately, it’s very common for people to decide to meet with an estate planning lawyer only after seeing the trouble caused after a loved one’s failure to create an estate plan. Having a plan in place ahead of time can make difficult situations much less painful for everyone involved.

So why is it that so many people still avoid creating an estate plan? Aside from the obviously morbid and sometimes unsettling discussions the process requires, many assume that estate planning is too time-consuming and/or expensive. However, setting up an estate plan isn’t quite as complicated as it may seem. Estate planning might be as simple as adding a new beneficiary to your insurance policies, and other assets, or drafting wills and trusts to ensure that all of your last wishes are carried out appropriately.

For those who don’t already have a plan in place, we’ve put together a short list of some of the reasons why asset protection planning is so crucial for you and your loved ones.

1. Protecting Beneficiaries:

Protecting minor beneficiaries is one of the most important reasons that people should consider establishing an estate plan. Every state has laws that require an appointed guardian or conservator to manage a minor’s needs until they become a legal adult at age 18 or 21, depending on the state in which the minor lives.

Folks often assume that their family members will handle their affairs appropriately according to wishes that have been verbally communicated. Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way in times of distress. Taking the time now to designate a trustee for your minor beneficiaries will help prevent disagreements among family members and unnecessary legal expenses after your death.

A comprehensive estate plan will also help protect any of your adult beneficiaries from making poor financial decisions and avoid problems with creditors or overbearing partners that you fear may waste the inheritance or take it in a divorce.

2. Reducing Estate Taxes:

Estate plans are also a great way for people to help curb the loss of value in one’s assets to state and/or federal inheritance or estate taxes. Married couples can reduce and even potentially eliminate estate taxes through basic financial planning strategies and by setting up trusts as a part of their wills. Additionally, an estate planning lawyer can advise both married couples and individuals on a variety of advanced estate planning techniques to minimize or completely eradicate a potentially hefty estate tax bill.

3. Avoiding Probate:

Avoiding probate is definitely one of the most common reasons why people decide to take the time to create a solid estate plan. Without one, the fates of your assets and your loved ones will most likely be decided by attorneys or state and/or federal officials that don’t know you or your family. Probate court is expensive, painfully public, and can delay the transfer of inheritance for several months or longer at a time when your heirs need it most. While most people have never even dealt with probate, several horror stories highlighted in the media has made it common knowledge that we want to avoid it at all costs.

Loneliness in Senior Citizens May Lead to Health Trouble

elderly man sits alone on benchStrong social connections are a vital part of life for most people but, as our estate planning attorneys have seen firsthand, as we age our relationships usually end up changing or disappearing altogether. Unfortunately, a lack of connections to friends, family, and the outside world can cause major problems for senior citizens.

A recently published NPR article highlights the concerns that geriatricians and social service providers across the country have about the impact of loneliness among the elderly. Their worries have real merit, as evidence from several studies show links between emotional isolation in senior citizens to physical inactivity and poor sleep, which can eventually lead to more serious health problems. Even worse, according to the AARP website, the health threat of loneliness and isolation in senior citizens is almost equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Indeed, the article states that studies show that elderly people who feel lonely are at greater risk of high blood pressure, poor immune function, memory loss, strokes, and heart disease. One such study from 2012 showed that 43 percent of people over 60 report feeling lonely. The study also found that senior citizens who felt lonely and isolated had a higher risk of death, even if they didn’t live alone or hadn’t been diagnosed with depression or Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Carla Perissinotto, a UCSF researcher and geriatrician who authored the study said, “If someone reports feeling lonely, they are more likely to lose their independence and are at greater risk of dying solely from being lonely.”

There are several hurdles in helping the elderly overcome loneliness, but one of the most challenging remains safe and reliable transportation options.  Once seniors lose the ability to drive, affordable and accessible transportation can be very difficult to find, and those with fragile health conditions or are nervous to leave the house alone end up just staying inside.

Fortunately, there are more efforts being made to help build new social connections and reduce isolation for elderly Americans without them having to take on the risk and burden of traveling outside. These efforts include roommate matching services in various states, non-profit organizations that partner volunteers with senior citizens for visits and check-ins, and call-in hotlines to simply allow users to chat and share their feelings.

The AARP Foundation also recently launched a nationwide online network titled Connect2Affect that allows seniors to learn about the risks of isolation, do a loneliness self-assessment test, and reach out to peers that also feel disconnected.

Although there isn’t much research done about the effectiveness of the outreach programs yet, the AARP, the Gerontological Society of America, and other organizations are hoping to create more awareness and understanding of these issues in the meantime. As chief medical officer of AARP Services Dr. Charlotte Yeh said, “Loneliness is a huge issue we don’t talk enough about.”

As estate planning attorneys that work with senior citizens on a daily basis, we hope that this information can help you or your family member understand the risks of isolation and loneliness, as well as the benefits of building more social connections.

Federal Programs to Help Caregivers for the Elderly

daughter and mother sitting on benchAs estate planning attorneys, we know it can be very overwhelming for family members to care for their aging parents or spouse. Between dealing with health issues, grappling with medical insurance and complex financial concerns, it’s understandable that so many people struggle with finding the appropriate elder care. Luckily, there are several federal programs that have been developed to support family caregivers, and a recently published article on the AARP website details the government assistance options that are currently available.

Before researching these programs, we recommend starting a file with useful documents about your parent or spouse’s finances, work history, military background, and overall health. This information will be helpful for you to determine which federal programs you may be able to receive support from. The National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp program is also another great resource that will ask a few simple questions to help you find appropriate benefits.

Most senior citizens aged 65 or older already have or qualify for health coverage through Medicare, so it’s important for caregivers to understand how Medicare works. The Medicare website clarifies everything, from hospital stays to prescription drugs and medical insurance plans. You’ll also find sections that explain billing terms, which procedures are covered, finding caregiver and financial support services, and information on how to care for someone with a disability or chronic condition.

Medicaid is another health care program for low-income Americans, and is also the nation’s largest payer of nursing homes and independent living services. It is funded by both the federal government and states, so seniors must meet certain eligibility criteria in their state to be entitled to Medicaid benefits. If they do, several states have participant-directed care programs that allow family members to be paid as family caregivers.

If your parent has limited resources and is 65 or older or blind or disabled, they may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income, as well as Extra Help with prescription drug costs through Social Security. If you are a caregiver near retirement age, you may also consider claiming Social Security benefits. However, our estate planning attorneys suggest that you consider speaking to a financial professional before deciding to do so. As Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging explains, deciding when to claim benefits is “the most important financial decision [most Americans] will ever make.”

The Department of Veteran Affairs also offers information on several veterans benefits and assistance programs to help low-income veterans and family caregivers. One such program, entitled Aid and Attendance, pays qualifying veterans and surviving spouses who need help with daily living activities like eating, dressing, and bathing. Veteran’s benefits planning services are also available through the Veteran-Directed Care program, and gives veterans of all ages the power to hire family members as caregivers and enjoy an at home long-term care plan.

Although in many cases these federal assistance programs do not provide financial aid, they offer a valuable resource for elderly Americans and their caregivers to connect to the information and services that can provide seniors with a higher quality of life.

Further Cuts to Social Security Could Be Ahead

scissors cutting a piece of paper with the word "budget" on itFor many Americans, the bulk of retirement planning revolves around expectations of their future Social Security benefits. However, our estate planning attorneys have seen firsthand that the reality of these benefits isn’t always exactly what people expect; due to changes in government policy.

Texas Rep. Sam Johnson, chair of the Social Security subcommittee, hopes to preserve the program while improving retirement security with a piece of recently introduced legislation that would significantly cut Social Security benefits.

Upon introducing the bill, entitled the Social Security Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 6489), Chairman Johnson stated, “For years I’ve talked about the need to fix Social Security so that our children and grandchildren can count on it to be there for them…My commonsense plan is the start of a fact-based conversation about how we do just that.”

The Social Security Board of Trustees has already warned lawmakers that the program is on course to fail. Indeed, this year’s Trustees Report predicted that workers would face a 21% cut in benefits starting in 2034 if Congress did nothing to reform the program.

For most workers, the reform bill would considerably cut Social Security benefits. In fact, a letter from Social Security’s Office of the Actuary showed that workers making around $50,000 annually would see benefit checks reduced by between 11% and 35%. Virtually every income bracket, besides the very bottom, would see a reduction. The plan would also completely eliminate costs of living adjustments (COLA) for retirees earning more than $85,000.

The Social Security Reform Act of 2016 hopes to ensure Social Security will be there when Americans need it by modernizing the benefits calculation process and using a more accurate measure of inflation for the annual Cost of Living Adjustment. The bill also updates the full retirement age at which workers can claim benefits from 67 to 69 years old to better reflect Americans’ longer life expectancy, while still maintaining the age for early retirement.

Chairman Johnson’s bill also proposed raising the minimum benefit for those who earned less and limiting the size of benefits for spouses and children of higher-income earners. After eliminating the Retirement Earnings Test, workers would also have flexibility in choosing whether to receive benefits without a penalty while they are working or delay retirement and wait to receive benefits. Saving for retirement would also be encouraged by phasing out Social Security’s tax on benefits for workers who stop working due to a disability.

Opponents to Chairman Johnson’s bill prefer strategies such as increasing taxes above the Social Security cap or raising the Social Security tax itself. There is also a bipartisan effort to enact a payroll tax to help keep Social Security funded. Congress will deliberate and vote on Johnson’s proposal in 2017.

Regardless of the outcome of Chairman Johnson’s bill, retirement planning can be a confusing and intimidating process. However, our estate planning attorneys in Long Beach, Orange County, Corona, Palm Desert and Palm Springs are always available to help navigate your family to peace of mind.

How To Recognize and Prevent Phone Scams Against Seniors

scam artist stealing from seniorIn the past few years, we’ve seen a growing number of convincing telephone scams that target the elderly. As elder law and estate planning attorneys that work with senior citizens every day, we hope that by providing information about some common scams, we can prevent you or your elderly family members from being taken advantage of. Here’s our list of the most common telephone scams that target seniors:

The Grandparents Scam

Of course, scams happen every day, but con artists predictably bolster their efforts and take advantage of people’s generosity during the holiday season. For example, one common ploy known as the “grandparent scam” includes a desperate sob story about a relative in trouble who needs money to be able to get home for the holidays.  In many cases, these defrauders may even search the internet looking for information that helps to convince the victims to trust the caller and give out cash.

The IRS Scam

Another one of the most common and intimidating ploys used against the elderly is known simply as the IRS scam. The caller threatens the victim with being arrested for unpaid taxes or a fake debt unless they pay up by providing their credit card or bank routing information over the phone. In some cases, the scammers even change the caller ID information or give out fake badge numbers to convince victims that the call is legitimate.

The Holiday Donation Scam

Even worse are the pitches that request year-end, tax-deductible holiday donations to impostor charities or fundraising events. The scammers pander to sympathetic seniors with pleas to help those in need over the holidays before convincing the victims to provide their credit card information or even social security numbers over the phone.

Our Advice

The best advice that we can give to help you ensure that you or your elderly family members don’t fall victim to holiday scams is to do your research. Before offering your help to anyone claiming to be connected to you, verify the emergency or request with a call to a trusted family member first, and never conduct a financial transaction with a caller who insists on secrecy. If you or your senior relative receives a call about making a charitable donation over the holidays, make sure to verify the number of the organization independently and ask for detailed information about the charity before sending money.

Finally, if you receive a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent without receiving a mailed letter first, hang up immediately. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, threaten legal action if you refuse to pay, or require you to use a specific payment method for any debts. If you did receive a letter from the IRS stating that you owe taxes, call the agency directly at 1-800-829-1040 for more information.

Our estate planning attorneys in Corona, Orange County, and Long Beach have seen multiple seniors fall victim to these scams, and we are committed to bringing awareness to these issues to prevent any further fraud victims.


Bring Hope to a Homebound Senior Through our Holiday Gift Program



  • Donors receive a clear vinyl Holiday Gift Bag provided by SeniorServ to fill with gifts.
  • Each bag contains:
    • Donation envelope for a Holiday Meal
    • Suggested Shopping List


  • Purchase a variety of items from the shopping list


  • Include a Holiday Meal donation inside the envelop


  • Purchase a Holiday Gift Card: $25 prepaid Debit card, Target or Walmart card

Return the bag and/or meal donation by December 7, 2016 to:

OC Elder Law

619 N. Harbor Blvd.

Fullerton, CA 92832



OC Elder Law will give the donations to SeniorServ, who will distribute all Gift Bags & Gift Cards to seniors served by their Meals on Wheels Program.  Thank you!!



What Can Seniors Expect From a Trump Presidency?

trump-and-senior-citizensWith the recent election of Donald Trump, along with continued Republican majorities in the House and Senate, our estate planning attorneys predict that we might see some cuts to federal programs that benefit senior citizens in the near future.

According to the Tax Policy Center, President-elect Trump has proposed a $6.2 trillion tax cut—one of the largest in modern US history. The question is: Where will the money come from, and how will it affect seniors?

Over the course of his campaign, Mr. Trump has promised to leave Social Security and Medicare as is. However, our estate planning  attorneys believe that programs like Medicaid and other senior services funded through the Older Americans Act could begin to feel the pressure of the cuts.

Regardless, over the last several years funding for most of these programs has remained constant even though the number of people using benefits has grown. As a result, budget cuts may make a significant impact on current or new beneficiaries and will undoubtedly keep elder law attorneys across the country very busy.

As a more specific response to our previous query, President-elect Trump has endorsed a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cap federal spending for Medicaid while calling for cost savings in the Medicare drug program.

Repealing the controversial ACA, referred to commonly as “Obamacare,” is one of Trump’s first top priorities once he arrives in the Oval Office. While most of the current debate on the ACA highlights increasing premiums, the law also includes important changes in the way health care is delivered under Medicare. These changes will be especially important for seniors who are suffering from multiple chronic conditions. If the new administration follows through with repealing the ACA, many of those impactful reforms will also be lost.

Medicaid, which provides long-term support and services to millions of seniors, may also experience some changes. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is among many who support Trump in his plan to limit the federal contribution to Medicaid, which is also funded in part by the states. In turn, Medicaid will have a lower amount of money available to reimburse nursing homes and other providers, inevitably reducing their care capacity.

Finally, capping the government’s share of Medicare and Social Security has been discussed by Ryan and other members of congress for years. Doing so would likely lead to huge jumps in premiums for seniors and/or limit their benefits. Again, President-elect Trump said he would oppose such changes, but many believe he may consider accepting further changes endorsed by Congress.

There is no way to know exactly how much, or when President-elect Trump and Congress may enact any changes to these programs, but considering Trump’s campaign promises, older adults and their families should be prepared to make adjustments.

Since 2002, our estate planning attorneys in Orange County have focused on all aspects of elder law, including long-term care and Medi-Cal planning. If you or a family member is in need of assistance in any of these areas, please contact us today.

OC Elder Law Featured in Forbes

In this month’s issue of Forbes, OC Elder Law is featured as a California Leader in Law! In the article we were able to tell Forbes about our commitment to serving seniors and the variety of services that we provide to families to help provide them ease of mind. Put best by Managing Partner Joshua D. Ramirez “OC Elder Law is dedicated to developing a plan for how families are going to take care of themselves now and how they’ll handle things if a crisis occurs in the family or if they suffer a disability. They know who will be able to make decisions for them and what will happen, so they don’t have to worry.” No need to worry if you don’t have a subscription to Forbes, we’ve included a copy of our article below. Enjoy!

OC Elder Law in Forbes

Estate Planning Checklist


In my time as an estate planning attorney in Orange County, I’ve discovered that many people do not develop a necessary estate plan simply because they think it is too complicated. This is an understandable perception, and some of the topics may be uncomfortable or even painful to talk about to the full extent necessary. However, avoiding these critical discussions can make things much more difficult for you and your family in the long run.

Of course, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when addressing the topic of wills and trusts, especially if you don’t really know where to get started. However, this process is not as challenging as you may think! Just like planning for many other future goals, all it takes to be successful is an organized strategy that breaks the entire process down into a simple step by step checklist.

Conveniently, Go Banking Rates recently laid out a simple 10-step plan to help you identify goals and kick start your estate planning process:

  1. Appoint a general power of attorney so someone you trust can manage your financial and legal decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so. OC Elder Law’s document library can assist you in this process.
  2. Designate a durable healthcare power of attorney for medical decisions as well so someone can help you take care of your medical needs and enact an end-of-life care plan if necessary.
  3. Create a living will so doctors and hospitals will have on record what medical procedures and/or care you want to receive if you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions.
  4. Write out a complete will to ensure all of your final wishes will be carried out in the manner you see fit. This includes naming a guardian for any children and bequeathing any financial assets.
  5. Draft a living trust so your property does not have to go through the expensive and lengthy probate process and can instead be directly given to your heirs. However, to make the trust effective you must go through the process of actually transferring your assets to it, which may not be right for everyone.
  6. Write out funeral or memorial instructions for your final burial wishes. This should be in a separate document to ensure that your instructions are addressed in a timely manner, as opposed to being lost in the inevitable drawn-out shuffle of sorting through a will.
  7. List all of your accounts and important legal documents such as bank accounts and insurance policies. Also, make copies of estate planning documents, deeds, and titles for cars or other property. Store them in a secure place so family members can access your information easily if something happens to you.
  8. Plan for your pets to be cared for by someone you trust after you pass away. It’s also a good idea to choose back-up beneficiaries in case your first choice is for some reason unable to do so.
  9. Organize digital accounts for social media profiles and various digital information to ensure someone can access your digital accounts after your pass away.
  10. Review your plan every year to make sure it is comprehensive, up to date, and will still work with any future changes to laws around estate taxes and other estate planning issues.

Don’t leave your estate plan to chance! Contact us today to engage with an experienced estate planning attorney in Orange County that will guide you through each step of the process. You’ll be relieved that you did!

Click here for your free printable estate planning check list: Download Estate Planning Checklist.pdf (304.2K)


Joint Wills: Are they Right For You?

joint-wills-in-orange-countyIt goes without saying that a last will and testament is an extremely important and personal document, and is designed to lay out the details of someone’s intentions regarding the handling of their property and assets after they die. Failing to create a will can have many unintended consequences, in some cases with the deceased’s property passing to unintended beneficiaries or getting tied up in probate court.

When deciding how to create personal wills and trusts, some couples and/or individuals may decide to create their wills together. These types of wills are called “joint wills”, and in the event of one person’s death the surviving party inherits the entirety of the deceased’s property and assets. The joint will also dictates what happens to the property when the second party dies.

At the fundamental level, this estate planning strategy makes sense for many people. For example, instead of writing and paying for two separate wills, many married couples will choose to simply create a joint will that covers both individuals. Usually the terms of a joint will are relatively simple; both spouses agree that the assets of the first person to pass away will go to the surviving spouse, and when the second spouse passes away the remaining assets are split between the couple’s children (if any). Of course, there are complex situations to address in some cases, but joint wills usually follow this pattern.

However, preventing the surviving spouse to change the terms of a will can have a negative impact on that individual and their remaining family members.

One major caveat to consider is that circumstances often change after the first spouse passes away. The surviving spouse may live many years longer and decides that they may want to divide his or her estate differently after they go through inevitable changes in their personal lives. For instance, the surviving spouse may unexpectedly fall into a new meaningful relationship and remarry, and may even have more children with their new spouse, complicating the issue of how to split the remaining assets of the original will.

Additionally, many people are interested in joint wills because they assume that it costs less to create one will instead of two. However, when a will is drafted for two people, the estate planning attorney must still render advice regarding two estates, so the cost savings from utilizing a joint will is likely to be minimal. Even further, any money you may save by using a joint will may be outweighed by the problems that may arise with your estate years later.

In any case, before deciding to create a joint will, consult with an estate planning attorney to clarify the process and ensure that you have all the information you need to make the best decision for you and your family.

If you are seeking an experienced estate planning attorney in Orange County to help you create a will or comprehensive estate plan, please contact our offices to set up a consultation today! We look forward to hearing from you!

Social Security Benefits Increase in 2017

Social Security Administration BuildingOver the past year, the inflation index that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) has
increased. Consequently, the SSA recently announced that Social Security benefits (including SSI benefits) will increase automatically in 2017 by a small margin of 0.3 percent.

As an estate planning attorney, I am often surprised to learn how many of my clients currently receiving Social Security benefits don’t fully understand how the COLA is determined each year, or indeed how it affects them. In the simplest terms, inflation is the basic determining factor in Social Security cost-of-living adjustments. If and when prices increase, Social Security and SSI benefits are also bumped up to ensure that beneficiaries are able to maintain their purchasing power.

More specifically, cost of living adjustments depend on an index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This index tracks average prices for daily expenses that directly affect workers and retirees, such as clothing, food, housing, transportation, and medical care.

Although the CPI-W is updated monthly, annual COLA increases are determined by changes in the CPI-W during the one year period ending in the third quarter of the calendar year before the new COLA takes effect. For example, the 2017 COLA is based on inflation data for the year ending in the third quarter of 2016. It’s also important to remember that even if the CPI-W decreases, benefit payments to retirees cannot be cut. In the case of deflation, Social Security stipends for that year will simply remain the same as the year before.

Currently, the average retired worker receives monthly Social Security benefits of $1,355. With the 2017 COLA increasing by 0.3 percent, beneficiaries should expect an increase of about $4 monthly or about $48 per year. According to the SSA, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients currently receive an average of $540 in benefits per month, which will increase by about $1.60 in 2017. The updated COLA benefits will take effect between December 2016 and January 2017.

The Social Security Administration also announced that the maximum taxable earnings amount for benefits will increase by 7.3 percent, bumping the current maximum from $118,500 to $127,200. As a result of this increase and the 2017 COLA, the maximum possible Social Security benefit will also increase from $2,639 to $2,687. SSI payments will also be increasing by $2 for individuals and $3 for couples to a total of $735 per month.

Obviously, this isn’t exactly a major increase in benefits, and in fact is the smallest COLA percentage increase since the system was first developed in 1975. However, since last year there was no COLA for beneficiaries because there was zero inflation, the increase in benefits for 2017 is a step in a positive direction for the U.S. economy and retiree benefits.

OC Elder Law is a leading authority in all aspects of elder law and estate planning, including the drafting of wills and trusts. Our estate planning attorneys are proud to serve clients in Corona, Fullerton, Long Beach, Palm Desert and Palm Springs.

Estate Tax

estate-taxOn the issue of estate tax plans in this election year, the views that both candidates hold could not be more opposite. Donald Trump wants to completely repeal the estate tax, while Hillary Clinton is in favor of hiking the estate tax up to an astonishing 65%; a move which many have argued aims to resonate with supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders.

The current laws, which were finalized in 2013, require estates worth more than $5.45 million per person or $10.9 million for a mar
ried couple to pay 40% in taxes, while anything less is considered exempt.

Secretary Clinton has previously agreed with The Sensible Estate Tax Act of 2016, which would shave the estate tax minimum from $5.45 million down to $3.5 million, while adding a 5% increase on the current tax rate of 40%. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the proposal would raise $161 billion over the next ten years. However, Mrs. Clinton now wants to apply a 50% tax rate to estates worth over $10 million per person, 55% for estates exceeding $50 million, and 65% for estates beyond $500 million.

As one might expect, many estate planning attorneys have said that these enormous estates have the means to find ways around many of the rules in order to reduce the impact of tax liabilities on their estates. However, with the new stricter administrative guidelines that makes discounts rarer and worth less than before, that may not always be the case.

Avoiding the estate tax requires an in-depth process of pre-planning with an experienced estate planning attorney, and can be rather expensive to do correctly. Consequently, some people argue that Mrs. Clinton’s proposed estate tax hikes may be a bitter pill to swallow for some Americans after already paying income taxes for decades.

Further, not long ago President Obama proposed to completely eliminate basis step up, arguing that allowing it for income tax purposes on death was a huge loophole in the tax code. Essentially, a “stepped-up basis” on inherited assets means that the value of an asset “steps up” to the current value when inherited, no matter what the original buyer paid for it. Under current law, no capital gains tax is due on the increase in value of an asset from the time it was purchased until when it was passed on to an heir.

In combination with individual state estate taxes, the President’s proposal could yield some of the highest estate tax rates in the world, but would primarily affect households with very high incomes and could also generate billions of dollars in revenue. However, many Republican members of Congress argue that small business owners could be particularly affected since it’s difficult for many family businesses to stay afloat after the death of a key figure. Of course, these circumstances are quite varied.

It remains to be seen whether Secretary Clinton’s 50% to 65% estate tax rate proposals or Trump’s repeal of the estate tax helps either of them to secure more votes. Regardless, proponents of the estate tax argue that it helps to stop the rich from getting richer, but opponents claim that since income taxes must be paid on earnings that eventually make up the estate’s value it takes too much away from hard working Americans.

“House of Memories” Connects Alzheimer’s Patients to Their Pasts

house-of-memoriesA living history museum in Aarhus, Denmark has conjured up an incredible exhibit that stands out from the usual blacksmith shops. Tucked away in one corner of Den Gamle By (The Old Town) Museum is an entire apartment transported straight out of the 1950’s, affectionately referred to as the “House of Memories.”

This exhibit is not usually open to the public, and further is not aimed at the typical audience of children that were sent to the museum to learn about generations that came before them. Instead, the House of Memories is intended for visitors living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Residents from local nursing homes and other Alzheimer’s patients are greeted at the front door by a young woman in 1950’s apparel, who welcomes them inside while staying in character of a mid-century housewife. The hostess leads guests around the small apartment while pointing out and using vintage items, and encourages her audience’s participation. The museum interpreter, aka hostess, asks the guests open ended questions for more information on the items, as if she were a student in a classroom and all the museum visitors were her teachers.

Curator Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen furnished this apartment exhibit with unbelievable attention to detail. Everything in it is authentic 1950’s, whether it’s the coffee in the pantry, the furniture in the dining room, or even the electrical outlets. She even referenced home décor magazines to ensure paintings were hung at the proper height and era-appropriate houseplants were featured. As she says, “It’s a totality of sights and touch and smell which, in our experience, brings out their own memories.”

Dorthe Bentsen, who holds a doctorate in psychology and heads the Center on Autobiographical Memory Research at Aarhus University, agrees that there’s definitely science at play here. She says that for Alzheimer’s patients, memories from their teens and 20s – a period known as the “reminiscence bump”—are the best preserved. Although researchers don’t know exactly why this is the case, they also say it’s a fact that this “bump” exists. For many of the visitors, that period happens to fall in the 1950s.

Henning Lindberg, the man who came up with the House of Memories idea, says he’s witnessed dramatic transformations in the visitors as they explore, such as people talking for the first time in years or even forgetting to use their canes! Word about the effects of the exhibit on Alzheimer’s patients is spreading, and in fact there are already several other museums in Europe trying out the innovative model.

Lindberg says the main challenge for many of the institutions is the role of museum interpreter changing from explainer to listener, or even caregiver. For example, as our elder law attorneys know well, people with dementia sometimes become emotional and cry over seemingly insignificant things. Treating the sometimes fragile visitors with compassion and dignity is the museum’s main goal, and soon the House of Memories will be getting an upgrade to the 1960’s to provide even more people with this type of comfort.

At OC Elder Law, we know that deciding on senior housing and long term care options can be confusing and overwhelming. Our expert elder law attorneys are here to help you with personalized estate planning services and give you and your loved ones peace of mind. Contact us for a consultation today!

New Medicare Law to Help Close Nursing Home Cost Loophole

calculatingOver the years, our Elder Law Attorneys in Orange County and Corona have worked with several seniors who experienced urgent medical problems that sent them to the hospital. In
many such cases, after being kept at the hospital under observation for several days, a doctor recommends a short stay in a nursing home for rehabilitation.

Most of these patients assume that their Medicare coverage will pay for those unexpected nursing home costs. Unfortunately, thousands of seniors in this same situation are returning home to staggering bills for the entire amount of their nursing home stay. Due to a loophole in Medicare’s reimbursement policies, if patients are never formally admitted as an inpatient at the hospital, Medicare can decline to pay for any of their subsequent rehabilitative care.

But why aren’t patients being formally admitted to the hospital if they stay overnight and receive treatment? In many cases, hospitals are hesitant to admit Medicare patients for fear of being penalized by Medicare for unnecessary admissions. Instead, patients are kept in the hospital under “observation”; a distinction that makes a huge difference if that Medicare patient is later admitted to a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation.

Medicare typically covers up to 100 days of rehabilitative care in a nursing home after surgery or other qualifying medical procedures. However, unless a patient has been formally admitted into a hospital for at least three days before being moved to a nursing home, Medicare will not cover the cost of the stay.

Time spent under observation does not count toward the three days, even though the patient may receive extensive treatment, including tests and medications ordered by a doctor. This leaves many patients without insurance coverage for their nursing home care, leading to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.

To help solve this problem, Congress passed The NOTICE Act with broad bipartisan support last year. The new law requires hospitals to notify patients that they have been placed under “observation status”, and that they may incur major out-of-pocket costs if they stay more than 24 hours without being formally admitted.

The purpose of the new Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice (MOON) is to provide transparency for patients who are unaware of their status and what that can mean for subsequent Medicare reimbursement. Also, the NOTICE Act will give patients the opportunity to speak with their doctors and request that they be formally admitted to the hospital, if that is indeed their wishes.

Several members of Congress, along with private citizens and elder law attorneys, are hoping to completely fix the problem by passing legislation that allows time spent in a hospital under observation to count the same as time spent formally admitted to a hospital for reimbursement purposes.

As Judith A. Stein, Executive Director of the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy stated, “The new law is an important first step, but Congress and the administration need to do more to protect beneficiaries.”

Social Security Pays Over $100,000 in Benefits Owed to Homeless Woman

moneyFor over a decade, Wanda Witter lived on the streets of Washington D.C while waging a battle to prove that the Social Security Administration owed her more than $100,000. Before
becoming homeless and unemployed, she had worked as a machinist in New York. After losing that job, she obtained her certificate at a paralegal school and moved to the District of Columbia in search of work, but was unable to find any gainful employment.

Despite her challenges, Witter’s previous employment made her eligible for Social Security benefits. In 2006, when she finally applied for them, Witter noticed problems with her benefit checks. They ranged from between $300 to $900 a month, and outside of the inconsistencies she (correctly) calculated that the amounts were too small.

Instead of cashing the checks, Witter sent them back to the Social Security Administration. When later asked why she chose to return the checks considering her situation, she explained, If I just cashed them, who would believe me that they were wrong?”

Eventually, after sending several checks back as “Void” and without a fixed address or bank account due to her homelessness, the checks stopped coming altogether.

Broke and jobless, Wanda Witter roamed the streets of our nation’s capital with three suitcases stuffed full of Social Security paperwork that proved that the government agency owed her more than $100,000. For years, she slept in homeless shelters and on the streets, calling Social Security’s toll-free number, sending letters, and visiting with several homeless assistance offices. Unfortunately, no matter where she turned, Witter was always dismissed as a crazy homeless person that needed a mental health counselor, and not an estate planning attorney.

Luckily, in late 2015 Witter met a social worker who took the time to review the neatly organized paperwork she had been carrying around for all those years. The social worker saw that her Social Security payments were indeed inaccurate, and connected Witter to an attorney at the AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly.

That attorney came to the same conclusion as Witter’s social worker, and was able to help her receive regular benefits of $1,464 a month, as well as a check for $99,999 as payment for the amount she was previously owed. This is the largest amount that the Social Security Administration can cut to get her the money quickly, but her new attorney believes that once all the paperwork is done, even more back payments will be coming to Witter soon.

As an experienced estate planning attorney in Corona, I can tell you that the Social Security Administration has been over burdened with massive budget cuts and hiring freezes for the last few years, making professional help in solving cases like Witter’s extremely important. If you believe that there may be problems with your Social Security benefits, make sure you contact an attorney immediately to help you handle your case.

At OC Elder Law, our experienced estate planning attorneys are here to help you with all aspects of elder law, including wills and trusts, veteran’s benefits, and Medi-Cal planning. Allow us to navigate you and your family to peace of mind by contacting us to request a consultation today.

Elderly Man Victimized by Thieving Spouse

old-manIn Montogomery County Alabama, an 81-year-old man who had once analyzed missile systems for the Air Force was faced with a unique crisis. His wife, whom he had wed only a few days prior, was being questioned by authorities who suspected that she was stealing his money.

That woman is Phanta Daramy, a nursing aide who had approached the man at a local grocery store only two weeks before detectives knocked on his door. She wasted no time in befriending the victim, and within just seven days had begun banking with him and married him.  At the time of the interview with authorities in the victim’s home, she had already stolen more than $50,000.

Some of the stolen money had been spent on jewelry, and authorities said Daramy also tried to steal an additional $80,000 from the victim but was blocked from the transaction by banking officials. Luckily, the victim’s savings of at least $150,000 hadn’t been touched, and will be kept safe by the victim’s lawyer who is now also serving as his financial guardian. The victim has also since been moved to an assisted living facility.

In May, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Anne K. Albright ordered Daramy to repay over $65,000 to the victim and sentenced her to two years in prison. During the court proceedings, Daramy declared her innocence by saying “Your honor, I have never stolen a dime from no one, ever.” She told the judge she loved her husband and said “I know and believe my husband” loves her in return.

Despite these claims, Daramy was convicted of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, exploitation of a vulnerable adult older than 68, and a theft scheme of more than $10,000.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this unique case is the speed and boldness in which Daramy successfully targeted and stole from her new husband. These events paint a vivid picture of just how aggressively thieves have begun to target the elderly. Unfortunately, as elder law attorneys we’ve seen many similar cases in which older people have been easily victimized because they are not only confused but living alone and craving company.

In this case, the victim had been diagnosed with dementia and depression due to the recent passing of his first wife, to whom he was married for more than 50 years. Elder abuse takes many forms, and unfortunately cases of financial abuse of this nature have become more commonplace as the average age of the U.S. population continues to increase.

Bob Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition stated, “It’s all about vulnerability, and that’s why we’re so concerned about the isolation of older people.”  Indeed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 46 percent of women and 23 percent of men aged 75 years or older lived alone.

As experienced estate planning attorneys in Corona and Orange County, we are committed to protecting seniors in all aspects of life. Whether you need assistance in obtaining remedies for elder abuse or writing out your will and trust, OC Elder Law is here to help. Contact us to request a consultation today!

5 Celebrities Who Died Without Estate Plans

As estate planning attorneys in Corona and Orange County, we have worked with countless family members of people that passed away unexpectedly and intestate, or without a valid will or estate plan. We’ve seen firsthand the challenges that family members go through in not only handling their grief, but the deceased’s remaining assets when no probate avoidance planning has been done.

With Prince’s recent unexpected passing and the subsequent estate controversy all over the news, the general public is also getting a closer look at exactly what happens when a celebrity, or anyone for that matter, dies without having created a will. Prince, however, is not the first star to lack an estate plan at the time of their death.

We’ve compiled a short list of celebrities who did not have wills or trusts when they passed away, and the various problems the lack of planning caused for their heirs.

  • Jimi Hendrix – The legendary rock star’s entire estate went to his father, Al, who in turn left the nearly $74 million fortune to his own adopted daughter and completely cut his biological son out of the estate. Unsurprisingly, the son filed a lawsuit and he and Al’s daughter have faced off in court over the estate several times.
  • Billie Holiday – When the American jazz singer passed away in 1959 she was practically broke. Although she only had a few hundred dollars to her name when she died, her entire estate became the property of her estranged husband, entitling him to receive royalties from her work.
  • Bob Marley – The popular reggae singer passed away in 1981 after an eight-month battle with cancer, leaving behind a widow and nine children. In this case, although the conversation and process may be a bit morbid, any estate planning lawyer would advise terminally ill patients without a will to create one in preparation for the worst case scenario. After his death, the Marley family engaged in a series of bitter lawsuits over the $30 million estate that Bob left behind.
  • Amy Winehouse – The Grammy Award Winning star unexpectedly died at age 27, leaving behind an estate worth several million dollars and six music companies. Amy’s estate was handed over to her parents. Less than two years later, the music company assets were failing and her parents were forced to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to cover the cost of dealing with her financial affairs.
  • Tupac – After the rap star was gunned down at only 25 years old, his mother and estranged father engaged in a string of lawsuits and fights over royalties and his remaining estate. Since Tupac’s parents were not married, his father was only entitled to a share of the estate if he could prove that he had provided financial support. Tupac’s mother set up a trust to protect her son’s legacy, worth an estimated $40-50 million, earning around $1 million per year.

Our professional estate planning attorneys in Corona and Orange County have handled the planning of several multi-million dollar estates for clients all across California. Let us provide you and your family with the peace of mind that comes with personalized estate planning with our team of elder law experts. Contact us today to get started!

Have Questions?

If you have a question, a comment, or simply want to have a conversation and explore how we can help, we'd love to hear from you.