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, or 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?

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.