The Risks of DIY Estate Planning

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

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

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