OC Elder Law Blog

What Does “Micro Estate Planning” Mean?

Happy Parents with 2 childrenOne aspect of estate planning is organizing your financial and personal assets for distribution to family and friends after you’re gone. Preparing an estate plan in advance helps to reduce taxes on your estate, eliminates the need for probate, facilitates distribution of your financial assets and enables you to share your wealth with loved ones as you see fit.

Another aspect of estate planning deals with legal guardianship of minor children. Whether you’re a couple with minor children, or a single parent, your plan should include designating a legal guardian for your kids in the event of your unexpected demise. If a car accident or plane crash were to take your lives, your children will have someone to care for them until they are grown. Funds from your estate can be allocated to covering living expenses for your children until they reach adulthood.

The sooner you put plans in place for your estate, the better. Getting this done early gives you peace of mind that your loved ones will be provided for after you’re gone. You’ll be glad you planned ahead when the time comes.

Micro Estate Planning Explained

Micro estate planning plays an important role in the estate planning process in relation to the care of minor children, as it covers the interim period immediately following your demise. In the event both you and your spouse were to unexpectedly pass on, who would take immediate responsibility for your children until they can be placed in the care of their legal guardian?

Your guardian may live in another city or state, causing a delay of hours or even days before they can assume custody of your kids. They may need to wait until the court releases your children into their care. In the meantime, your children may be placed under the care of child protective services — people they don’t know or may not trust — until your guardian can take over. Your young children won’t understand why they’re being taken from their home and being placed in stranger’s care.

Through micro estate planning, you can provide for your children’s immediate care upon your unexpected demise. You can specify in your will who you want the authorities to call in the event of a tragedy that takes your lives. You may want your children to stay with close friends, people they know and love, until their situation can be worked out. Being with people they know and trust can help reduce the trauma of your children’s loss.

Your estate planning attorney can help you draw up the appropriate legal documents to ensure that authorities will know who to call and where to take your children for short term custody if a tragedy takes your life. You can even give a copy to your short term guardian(s) to present to authorities if the need arises.

Micro estate planning will protect your children’s interests by placing them in loving, trustworthy hands when they need it most.

 

What Young Adults Should Know About Estate Planning

young couple working on documentWhen you hear the term ‘estate planning’, most people think it implies end-of-life planning, but legally, that is not the case. When a person reaches 18 years of age, they are considered an adult under the eyes of the law. Consulting with an estate planning attorney in Orange County or Corona is the ideal way to get things in place and decide which documents are most relevant for you and your family.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney means that you can appoint a trusted individual, like a family member, to make important financial decisions on your behalf. This is activated when you are unable to make your own decisions. The person appointed to act on your behalf is known as ‘attorney in fact’, and that person can handle financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so, like if you are away at college or traveling. This is an important document to have in place as for some legal issues, time is of the essence, and if you are not available for whatever reason, a trusted individual like a parent, can act on your behalf and in your best interest.

A Living Will

Also known as a health care directive, a living will allows you to document your wishes regarding medical intervention if you are unable to communicate them yourself at the time. This applies to issues like artificial life support, or cases of coma, or vegetative states. This is an important document to have in place to ensure that your wishes as to what you consider living are followed through, even if you can’t communicate them.

Health Care Power of Attorney

With this document, you can allow a trusted individual to make important health-related decisions on your behalf. In these instances, the ‘attorney in fact’, has the power to make crucial decisions based on your wishes that you have communicated to them. These types of emotional circumstances include life support and life-ending scenarios.

From a parent’s perspective, if a child is in an accident while away at college and is unresponsive and kept alive via respirator, if the parent has been appointed as their child’s ‘health proxy’, they have the rights to pertinent information about their child’s health, as well as important end-of-life or medical-intervention decisions.

Obviously, this is an important aspect of estate planning for young people as without it, geography and legal red tape can prevent an important person in your life, such as your parents, from having the power to represent your wishes.

While no one really wants to entertain the possibility of situations like these happening, the reality is that they do happen. Having documents like a financial power of attorney, a living will, and health care power of attorney drawn up before you depart on your next stage of life as a student or adult is a mature and responsible step to take. Not only can these documents protect your own wishes, they also can save your loved ones a lot of added time, money, and stress during already potentially devastating times.

Avoiding Estate Planning Scams

a salesman and elderly coupleWhen it comes to estate planning, there’s definitely a great deal of confusion and misinformation. This is one of the bigger decisions you’ll make and your  getting it right is key to making sure that you leave your loved ones and your assets protected. One thing is clear, it’s important to make sure that you have a will or trust in place, regardless of your age. These documents can help make your final wishes clear and will help protect your interests once you’re gone. In the event of an untimely death, you’ll want to make sure that your loved ones receive certain items or that you are able to provide the financial help a spouse, child, or other loved one might need after your passing.

While it’s recommended that all adults have some type of plan in place, it’s also important to make sure that you know how to avoid some of the most common estate planning scams. There are individuals who seem intent on preying on seniors and other vulnerable adults. Even if you think that you would never fall for one of these scams, it’s important to know what to look out for and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Unfortunately, it’s often the elderly who are targeted by these scammers, especially if they have diminished cognitive abilities or don’t have close relatives to act as a second set of eyes for them. Scams targeting the elderly often revolve around having them sign a power of attorney, giving someone else control over their property, or it could be as straightforward as having the elderly sign their property over to someone who doesn’t have their best interest in mind.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

One of the most recent scams come from what is referred to as “trust mills.” These establishments offer a one-size-fits-all solution by using scare tactics to push an expensive “living trust kit” on people. These cookie-cutter-solutions are not efficient, and in most instances will not hold up legally. Trusts and wills are complex legal documents that need to be customized to the individual with special care. We don’t recommend buying software, or prepackaged documents to fill out.

Avoiding Estate Planning Scams

Finding a reputable estate planning lawyer is really the only way to avoid getting scammed. We don’t recommend using software, or prepackaged documents to plan your estate. Ask friends and family if they can refer an attorney to you that handled their will or trust.

If you can’t get a referral, use review sites like Yelp or Avvo to find an estate planning attorney with a high rating and a good reputation who will be able to properly advise you on these matters.

 

 

 

What Anthony Bourdain’s Estate Plan Teaches Us About Estate Planning

Anthony Bourdain Anthony Bourdain’s estate plan has become a public matter due to his celebrity status, and can be used as a learning opportunity. His estate plan offers practical insights that can be used when developing your own estate plan.

While some folks might question how Bourdain was worth “only” $1.21 million at the time of his death, that figure still places him among the wealthiest three percent of Americans. If his estate plan was centered on stock, bonds, and other “rich people” financial instruments, his wishes would not carry much value to a general audience.

However, Bourdain did two things in specific that set a good example for others. First, he left nearly his entire estate to his 11-year old daughter.

That may seem like an obvious thing to do, but many individuals fail to realize that they still need to have a proper estate plan in place in order to ensure their wishes are carried out correctly. The ultimate purpose of any estate plan is to protect the interests of those you love, and you’re not doing that unless they’re mentioned by name in your will or trust.

According to Caring.com, 60 percent of Americans don’t have an estate plan at all. This opens up a gray area that can lead to your assets getting distributed in a manner you may not expect.

Worse, the same source noted that 64 percent of Gen Xers and 78 percent of Millenials have yet to engage in any estate planning at all, even though they have reached a child-rearing age. Should something unforeseen happen to them, their children may not inherit everything that they should.

The other interesting thing Bourdain did is to leave his frequent flyer miles to his estranged wife. Bourdain traveled a lot for his job, especially to film his “Parts Unknown” TV show. As a result, he would have accumulated more miles than the average person by a significant margin.

Yet frequent flyer miles, rewards points, and other perks are often neglected in estate planning. Considering that it has become nearly impossible to shop without hearing a sales pitch for some type of rewards system, there is real value in this category. For example, 68 percent of American adults have at least one credit card that earns travel rewards according to Nerd Wallet.

Part of the reason that these assets are often neglected is that they cannot be exchanged through a simple beneficiary designation form.

Instead, each airline has its own policies on what can be inherited and by whom. They can do this because every rewards program is essentially a contract between a consumer and a company.

Some estate planning attorneys in Chino might not know the specific rules every different airline utilizes, so they group these assets under the “Tangible” category in the formal estate plans that they draw up.

Bourdain has the advantage of a celebrity status, so any airline that failed to honor his wishes would likely face a substantial PR backlash. Therefore, it is probable that his wishes will be honored even if the airline(s) in question would not do so otherwise.

That said, regular people may be able to mimic the strategy to an extent by sharing their story with the local media in their area. It’s unlikely to receive the amount of coverage Bourdain’s estate plan has, but may generate enough buzz to get you what you want.

Bourdain also documented his estate plan in his formal will and named a specific agent to ensure its execution. Both are “estate planning best practices” that everybody should follow his example on.

In summation, Anthony Bourdain’s estate plan illustrates several practices that may be utilized by the public at large. The purpose of an estate plan is to protect your loved ones, so make sure that yours does so. Rewards points and frequent flyer miles are assets, so make sure they are accounted for. Finally, include your estate plan in your will and talk to your estate planning lawyer about naming a specific agent to bring it to fruition.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Social Security Survivor Benefits

elderly couple looking at billsOur estate planning attorneys receive a lot of questions regarding social security survivor benefits. To shed some light on the process, we’ve put together the following guide.

If a person with social security benefits dies, leaving behind a surviving spouse or dependent child, the person left behind is entitled to receive two types of social security benefits: a one-time lump-sum death benefit, or a monthly survivor benefit. When it comes to later-in-life planning, knowing what you are entitled to can help ensure that you are not missing out on anything. According to the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration’s Office, more than 11,000 widows and widowers are receiving lower social security benefits than they are entitled to. Make sure you know your claim options so you don’t become one of those statistics.

Who is Entitled to Receive Survivor Benefits?

Survivor benefits are paid out to the spouse of the worker who has died. To be eligible, you will need to have been married for at least nine months. Qualified children are eligible to receive the survivor benefits as well as ex-spouses, if the marriage lasted for more than 10 years.

Two Types of Social Security Survivor Benefits: Lump Sum and Ongoing Monthly Payments

Lump Sum Death Benefit Payment

If the spouse of the worker who has died is living in the same household, they are entitled to receive a one-time payment benefit of $255. In cases where there is no spouse left behind, a dependent child, under the age of 18, can receive the lump-sum death benefit. If it has been determined that the deceased worker was currently insured, the lump-sum death payment is payable as long as at least six quarters of the workers’ earnings were covered by social security during the 13-quarter period leading up to their death.

Ongoing Monthly Death Benefit Payments

Monthly survivor benefits are paid to widows/widowers, dependents, and minor children. To qualify for ongoing monthly death payment options, Social Security will need to be notified at the time of the workers’ death. Generally, benefits start from the time the application is received, rather than the time of the individual’s death.

Spousal Death Benefit Payments

If you are the surviving spouse, you are entitled to receive 70-to-100 percent of what the deceased worker would have received when they reached their full retirement age. The deceased workers’ current spouse, aged 60 or older, is entitled to receive a lifetime monthly income in the form of social security survivor benefit, as long as they had been married for at least nine months.

For ex-spouses of the worker, if they were married for more than 10 years and remained unmarried until the age of 60, they are also eligible to receive the lifetime survivor benefit. Individuals who remarry and divorce again might also qualify.

Retirement Benefits and Survivor Benefits

If a person has their own retirement benefits, they might think they are not eligible to receive the survivor benefit as well, and this is where many people miss out. Although you can’t receive both benefits simultaneously, you can take them serially. Knowing this little tidbit of information can help increase your lifetime income substantially. The other key is to take whichever benefit is the lower one right away and switch over to the higher one when you reach full retirement age. Another piece of information that many people don’t know is that to use either of these switching strategies, you have to only apply for one benefit initially; otherwise, you might not be able to switch if you are considered to have applied for both benefits at the same time.

It is an unfortunate thing when widows, widowers, and dependent children miss out on benefits they are entitled to because they were unaware, uninformed, or make a mistake during the application process.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Social Security Survivor Benefits

elderly couple looking at billsOur estate planning attorneys receive a lot of questions regarding social security survivor benefits. To shed some light on the process, we’ve put together the following guide.

If a person with social security benefits dies, leaving behind a surviving spouse or dependent child, the person left behind is entitled to receive two types of social security benefits: a one-time lump-sum death benefit, or a monthly survivor benefit. When it comes to later-in-life planning, knowing what you are entitled to can help ensure that you are not missing out on anything. According to the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration’s Office, more than 11,000 widows and widowers are receiving lower social security benefits than they are entitled to. Make sure you know your claim options so you don’t become one of those statistics.

Who is Entitled to Receive Survivor Benefits?

Survivor benefits are paid out to the spouse of the worker who has died. To be eligible, you will need to have been married for at least nine months. Qualified children are eligible to receive the survivor benefits as well as ex-spouses, if the marriage lasted for more than 10 years.

Two Types of Social Security Survivor Benefits: Lump Sum and Ongoing Monthly Payments

Lump Sum Death Benefit Payment

If the spouse of the worker who has died is living in the same household, they are entitled to receive a one-time payment benefit of $255. In cases where there is no spouse left behind, a dependent child, under the age of 18, can receive the lump-sum death benefit. If it has been determined that the deceased worker was currently insured, the lump-sum death payment is payable as long as at least six quarters of the workers’ earnings were covered by social security during the 13-quarter period leading up to their death.

Ongoing Monthly Death Benefit Payments

Monthly survivor benefits are paid to widows/widowers, dependents, and minor children. To qualify for ongoing monthly death payment options, Social Security will need to be notified at the time of the workers’ death. Generally, benefits start from the time the application is received, rather than the time of the individual’s death.

Spousal Death Benefit Payments

If you are the surviving spouse, you are entitled to receive 70-to-100 percent of what the deceased worker would have received when they reached their full retirement age. The deceased workers’ current spouse, aged 60 or older, is entitled to receive a lifetime monthly income in the form of social security survivor benefit, as long as they had been married for at least nine months.

For ex-spouses of the worker, if they were married for more than 10 years and remained unmarried until the age of 60, they are also eligible to receive the lifetime survivor benefit. Individuals who remarry and divorce again might also qualify.

Retirement Benefits and Survivor Benefits

If a person has their own retirement benefits, they might think they are not eligible to receive the survivor benefit as well, and this is where many people miss out. Although you can’t receive both benefits simultaneously, you can take them serially. Knowing this little tidbit of information can help increase your lifetime income substantially. The other key is to take whichever benefit is the lower one right away and switch over to the higher one when you reach full retirement age. Another piece of information that many people don’t know is that to use either of these switching strategies, you have to only apply for one benefit initially; otherwise, you might not be able to switch if you are considered to have applied for both benefits at the same time.

It is an unfortunate thing when widows, widowers, and dependent children miss out on benefits they are entitled to because they were unaware, uninformed, or make a mistake during the application process.

What Stan Lee’s Case Reveals About Estate Planning

Stan Lee laughingA lot of times when people think of estate planning, they think of what happens to a person’s assets after death. Thanks, in part, to cases like Stan Lee’s elder abuse saga, that term is evolving to include asset management later in life when a person’s faculties are called into question. Stan Lee, master of popular culture through his co-creation of legends like Spider-Man, X-Men, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four is the perfect poster-person for the issue of later-in-life estate planning.

Loss of Faculties Later in Life

While the average person is not worth over $50 million like Stan Lee, we can all learn a lesson from his story when it comes to estate planning. At the ripe age of 95, Stan Lee reportedly suffers from significant loss of vision, hearing, and memory. Reportedly, his loss of faculties have rendered him incapable of making informed decisions, and the fear is that he is unable to decipher good intentions from bad. The cold hard truth is that people who are worth over 50 million will likely face the efforts of people trying to manipulate their fortunes out from under them at one point or another.

Longevity and Estate Planning

Thanks in part to medical advancements, people are living for longer than ever before. While this seems like a purely positive advancement, it does call into question what happens when a person’s faculties fade and how they can protect themselves against potential gold diggers. This issue has given rise to the necessity of including later-life planning under the estate planning umbrella.

Pre-Emptive Measures

To prevent later-in-life cases of financial elder abuse, estate planning attorneys recommend simplifying assets, revocable trusts, and trustee selection.

Simplification of Assets

When it comes to managing your assets, especially later in life, consolidation is an excellent pre-emptive measure against people taking advantage of an individual’s loss of faculties. A financial portfolio that involves one or two accounts, as opposed to several, is much easier to manage and oversee; as such, it is less vulnerable to usurpers.

Revocable Trusts

Clients who have their assets in a revocable trust are protected against the type of financial elder abuse currently facing Stan Lee. What a revocable trust entails is the designation of a successor trustee appointed to take over asset management for an individual once that individual’s faculties and ability to make informed decisions are called into question. Generally, that diagnosis is performed by two licensed doctors writing formal letters stating that the individual in question is no longer able to manage their own financial affairs.

Trustee Selection

When it comes time to select a trustee, this is a decision that should be taken with the utmost seriousness and made under the assumption that their services will be needed in the future. The current situation facing Stan Lee is a sad one, especially as those allegedly trying to swindle him out of his fortune are individuals that are close to him. The selected trustee should be chosen out of altruism, rather than convenience. Common reasons like proximity or position within the family will often result in the wrong person being selected. Questions like “Will this person follow through with my wishes?” and “Does this person truly have my best interest at heart?” should be the ones to focus on.

It is an eye-opening circumstance when a pop-culture genius and icon like Stan Lee is faced with financial elder abuse. What we, the public, can learn from his case is that estate planning processes need to include what happens later in life, rather than solely after life ends. For those approaching their golden years, taking the aforementioned pre-emptive steps to ensuring their financial assets are secured could be an invaluable concept capable of providing powerful protection later in life. As always, we encourage you to contact an estate planning attorney in Corona, or Orange County to discuss your affairs.

How Divorce Affects Your Estate Plan

couple signing divorce papersYou don’t need an estate planning attorney to tell you that divorce is unpleasant in many ways; however, in addition to the negative emotional affects with which it is associated, divorce also impacts practical aspects of one’s life. For instance, divorce can impact an estate plan in various ways, including the following:

Wills and Heirs

Even in simple divorce cases where the sole heir was the former spouse, failure to designate a different heir results in the estate, in its entirety, reverting to the state. For this reason, both wills should be amended to reflect each party’s wishes regarding who should inherit in the event of their death.

It is particularly important to restructure the estate plan if the marriage produced children, as the latter make matters a bit more complicated than if no offspring are involved. In most cases, couples draw up a will at some point during their marriage, leaving the estate to children or grandchildren, typically in the form of a trust. Nevertheless, once the marriage is dissolved, assets change. This means that new trusts must be drawn to address the change in circumstances.

If divorced individuals do not amend the terms of their trusts in a timely manner, a former spouse may still have control over children or grandchildren’s allocated shares, thus giving that person access to funds in a manner that was not anticipated or intended. For this reason, it is essential to re-examine all potential claims to family assets, for the purpose of clarifying the grantor’s intent and keeping control of a particular trust out of the hands of a former spouse.

Living Trusts

A married couple may also place assets into living trusts to enjoy tax advantages during their marriage. As one might suspect, the court divides such shares when the marriage is dissolved. However, it is possible for the language of the document to still give a former spouse a certain level of control concerning part of the trust that would otherwise go to only one spouse. Therefore, prior to the divorce, both parties should legally divide the joint trust into two separate trusts to ensure each person can rewrite the terms of his or her trust as desired.

Life Insurance

Although it may come as a surprise, life insurance policies are frequently overlooked for quite some time after a couple divorces, unless one partner has plans to immediately remarry. Some individuals are even under the impression that the beneficiary automatically changes once the divorce is final. However, this is not the case. Rather, each couple must contact the insurance company and ask for instructions on changing the beneficiary. Otherwise, even if the couple is divorced, the former spouse can claim the full amount of the life insurance policy.

Designating a Health Care Agent

Finally, it is imperative to name a different person to act as one’s power of attorney and health care agent. If this is not done, the person’s divorced spouse may retain power to make medical decisions on behalf of his or her former husband or wife.

Ultimately, it is wise to seek the services of a qualified estate planning attorney in Corona, or Orange County who can advise you regarding how divorce affects an estate plan and how to avoid future problems by completing due diligence at the time the marriage is dissolved.

6 Things To Remember When Estate Planning

man signing contractIf you have yet to set the steps to security in motion, here are 6 things our estate planning attorneys suggest that you consider as you get started along the path to securing an estate plan that is uniquely your own.

1. Have a healthcare plan.

Are you religious? Are there any certain procedures or burial arrangements that would be offensive to you spiritually? Have you made a plan that is legally enforceable… or are you simply hoping that others follow suit with what you have written? Likewise, is there someone in your family or friend circle that you trust to make decisions for you? Knowing these things can relieve a huge burden in the future.

2. Do not ignore your family dynamics.

Even if your family has a strong bond, trust administration will bring out the worst in the best of us. This is especially true if multi people are sharing responsibility. Give this some serious thought before you seal your trust administration issue and consider leaving very specific instructions that will limit the amount of family members involved in the process.

3. Have a pet plan.

What will happen to your beloved pet when you pass on? Did you know that a pet trust is a real option? Seeing as how many people have pets that are closer than family, they are often surprised and relieved to learn that they do not have to worry about their beloved pets when they pass on.

4. Keep up with changing laws.

Tax and probate laws are constantly changing. If your plan is not up to date, it can cost you and your family a hefty amount in taxes. It can even cause you to have to deal with costly probate proceedings. Trust us when we say that no one wants that, so be sure to know your laws and keep up with them as they grow and change.

5. Make sure to include life cycle events.

Remember, your trust is basically alive. This simply means that anything that has taken place in life will need to be a portion of your estate planning at some point. Marriage and death certificates, birth certificates and even divorce certificates. Have the documents that you need to coincide with your plan. To make sure that your wishes are carried out to a tee, these need to be current.

6. Update out-of-date accounts.

Even if your estate plan is up to date, that does not mean that your financial arrangements are. You will need to be sure that everything is current. This may include a change of beneficiaries or other life cycle events.

While no one likes to think about estate planning, it is a necessary part of being an adult. Whether you’re entering your golden age, or just starting a family, our estate planning attorneys can’t stress enough how important it is to set forth a plan for your estate.

Estate planning attorney responds to “Scott’s Tots” Meme

Following our announcement last year that my wife and I would be covering college tuition for the kindergarten class of Rio Vista Elementary School, we were truly overwhelmed by the amount of love and support that poured in from people around the world.

We were inundated with kind notes from folks who were moved by our gesture, and we were elated to hear that many people were inspired enough by our story to commit their own acts of kindness and generosity.

It wasn’t until very recently that it was brought to my attention that a story like ours had been featured in popular media recently. In fact, it turns out that season 6; Episode 12 of NBC’s hit sitcom “The Office”, chronicles the lead character Michael Scott making a similar pledge; and then subsequently not being able to deliver on his promise when it came time for those kids to graduate high school.

Recently I was approached by a younger colleague who asked me “are you aware that you’re a meme now?”

Naturally, my initial reaction was “…what’s a meme?”

After a brief but thorough explanation of the finer points of internet culture, he showed me this Facebook post:

Marty Burbank with students

I couldn’t help but laugh at the comparison. But let me assure you that in the case of Rio Vista Elementary School, this will not be an occasion where life imitates art. My wife and I look forward to fulfilling our pledge, and continuing to watch this group of special young people grow in their education.

Now that this has been cleared up, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

-Wayne Gretzky

–Michael Scott

—Marty Burbank

Michael Scott Quote

Appointing The Right Trustee

Seniors with paperworkOne of the most important questions answered by the estate planning process is how to distribute your assets once you are gone. This is commonly done by having an estate planning attorney draw up a trust that holds your assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries. A trustee must be named to manage these assets, and selecting the right one is of the utmost importance.

Put simply, a trustee is the individual, corporation, or board who holds legal title to the assets placed in trust. They approve or deny each request made by a beneficiary, and write a check whenever the use of trust funds is approved. The trustee is also responsible for managing the assets in the trust, keeping accurate tabs on income, expenses, assets, and liabilities as needed.

It’s a very important job, so there are some legal restrictions on who may take it on. A trustee must be at least 18 years of age and capable of managing their own financial affairs. Almost everyone meets this minimum requirement, but you should look for more when naming a trustee.

The Traits to Look For in a Trustee

The most important thing is for the trustee to be trustworthy enough to act in accordance with your wishes for the benefit of the beneficiaries. You are handing your trustee the keys to a vault filled with valuable assets, so anybody who may abuse the position cannot be considered.

Next, your trustee needs personal experience managing the types of assets in your trust. Estate tax returns will be an issue if the trust is funded at your death, so experience with those is a plus. Likewise, Special Needs Trusts should be managed by somebody with an intimate knowledge of federal benefit programs.

A good trustee must also be organized. There is a lot of record keeping associated with trusts, including a thorough listing of all income, liabilities, assets, and expenses. These are subject to governmental review, making mistakes a potentially disastrous proposition.

The role of trustee may last for decades, making a healthy person capable of doing it for a long time the ideal candidate.

Finally, prudence is demanded of any good trustee. They are responsible for the investment decisions that drive the value of the estate, so a detail-oriented, rational thinker needs to be at the helm.

Personal or Professional?

Although your estate planning lawyer can help you form the trust, choosing the trustee is really a decision that should be made by you and your closest group of supporters. Many individuals choose a family friend to act as trustee, citing their familiarity with the family’s needs as an advantage over a professional service. Trustworthiness may also be less of an issue with somebody you know. However, this arrangement is likely to fundamentally alter the relationship between the family friend and the beneficiaries. The trustee may also allow attachment to the beneficiaries to guide their choices, acting in a manner that is not really in the beneficiary’s best interest.

A professional trustee is more likely to have the time and expertise required to manage the trust properly. They are also less likely to allow personal attachment to influence their decisions, saying “no” when needed. However, they may not have the same understanding of your wishes and needs a trusted friend does. Some opt to appoint a personal trustee and hire a professional one to act in concert for the best of both worlds.

Parting Thoughts

If you have more than one beneficiary for your trust, it pays to explain your wishes to your trustee(s) and beneficiaries before you pass on so that there are no surprises later. It may seem awkward in the moment, but really serves to maintain family harmony once funds get disbursed.

You can also change your trustee at will if your trust allows it. Otherwise, you may file a legal motion to make a change. Poor investment decisions, excessive fees, and distributions may all be adequate grounds to make a change.

Our estate planning attorneys in Corona, Fullerton, and Newport Beach know that choosing a trustee isn’t an easy process, but we hope that the tips above will make it easier for you to choose.

The Growing Cost of Long-Term Medical Care for Seniors

Grandparents holding babiesIt’s more important now than ever to plan appropriately for long term medical care. We know that it’s not a pleasant thing to have to think about or plan for, but a little planning now can save you from big problems in the future.

Certainly you don’t need an estate planning attorney to tell you that long-term care does not come cheap. Without prior planning or comprehensive medical coverage, the costs of an extended stay in long-term care can be financially devastating.

If you are approaching retirement age or are simply thinking ahead in terms of potential health care costs down the road, there are steps you can take to ensure you will have the money you need when you most need it.

Financial Planning for the Future

While it is impossible to know how much you will need to spend on health care after retirement, there are things you can do today to mitigate the risks of being left short of funds for medical care in the future. While the cost of medical care fluctuates, there are current averages that can help you predict the potential costs you could face down the road. Some of the projected figures might be surprising. HealthView Services calculates that a 65-year-old man will spend approximately $190,000 on medical care during retirement. An average 65-year-old woman is predicted to spend approximately $214,000, as women tend to live longer. These estimates are alarming to some, and they don’t even include long-term care price tags. Keeping these numbers in mind, however, does provide a ballpark figure to aim for when saving for senior medical care.

Insurance

While surveys suggest that not enough people actually worry about long-term care, those who do should consider purchasing long-term care insurance while at a young age. Premiums purchased in your 50s and 60s are likely to be much lower, as well as easier to get approval on. Current estimates report that 70 percent of seniors, 65 and over, will at some point need some form of long-term care. This is an important statistic to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase long-term care insurance.

Social Security Changes

Historically, social security payments don’t always accurately account for the cost of living and inflation, which is why many question how much help it will actually provide during their retirement years. Some people actually worry that Social Security will simply run dry, but as it is funded mainly by payroll taxes, any existing workforce ensures the existence of Social Security.

The program is currently falling short, however, to the tune of benefits being cut by as much as 23 percent by 2034. As that estimate is for 16 years down the road, there is plenty of time for things to change or for lawmakers to instigate a positive amendment.

When it comes to the growing cost of long-term medical care for senior citizens, the answer is to plan ahead. Don’t make the mistake many make of assuming they won’t need any type of long-term medical care; instead, plan for the possibility, because statistics show that most people will need it at some point in their lives.

As estate planning attorneys in Corona and Orange County, we do our best to keep the public informed on issues that directly impact seniors. If you have a topic you would like us to cover on our estate planning blog, drop us a line at info@ocelderlaw.com.

Estate Planning & The New Tax Laws

Estate Planning Attorney Making CalculationsThe Tax Cuts And Jobs Act, signed on December 22, 2017, made the most significant changes to the United States tax code in recent memory. Notably, the Act doubled the base tax exemption on estate taxes, GST (Generation-Skipping Transfer) taxes, and gift taxes until 2025.

All three of the above exemptions have increased from a base amount of $5,000,000 to a base amount of $10,000,000, starting on January 1, 2018. They are currently set to revert to the previous base of $5 million starting in 2025, but future Congressional action could either move that date up, or abolish it entirely.

The actual amount of the exemption is indexed for inflation, producing a final exemption amount of $11,180,000 for 2018. Married couples may combine their exemptions for a total amount of $22,360,000. This is a significant change that should be accounted for by all estate planning attorneys.

For example, many existing estate planning documents include formula clauses, or language specifying that children receive the maximum allowed tax-exempt portion of an estate before the surviving spouse receives the rest. The new law dramatically increases how much the children receive in this scenario, potentially disinheriting a surviving spouse entirely.

That is not the intended end goal of most estate planning arrangements, so all formula clauses should be carefully reviewed with this new legislation in mind.

Likewise, the increase in the maximum tax-exempt estate amount may make it beneficial for some individuals to reword their existing estate planning documentation to focus on income tax savings instead of estate taxes. The particulars involved are complex, so it is best to consult your estate planning professional for advice on your specific circumstances.

Now may also be the time if an estate is considering making a large gift to another person or organization. Most experts agree that estates will not be charged additional gift taxes retroactively if the figure reverts to $5 million in the future, but it is worth noting that neither the IRS or the United States Government have issued official confirmation that this will be the case.

The new law has no impact on estate tax rates paid by estates in excess of the new maximum. The top marginal tax rate will remain 40 percent for estate taxes, gift taxes, and GST taxes.

Similarly, Portability is unaffected by the new law. Portability allows a surviving spouse to use any remaining estate or gift tax exemptions the deceased had not yet used.

The law does not cover the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion, but separate legislation is increasing it from $14,000 in 2017 to $15,000 in 2018. This is the maximum value of a gift before the giver begins to incur gift tax penalties.

The Act has several tax implications outside of the realm of estate planning as well. Business partners, limited liability corporation members, shareholders in S corporations, and sole proprietors may now claim a “Pass-through” deduction of up to 20 percent on their Qualified Business Income (QBI). QBI is defined as the difference between business income and any other business deductions claimed.

QBI does not include compensation received from a business, and it is calculated separately for each applicable entity if an individual is involved with more than one.

The full 20 percent deduction is available to individuals with annual QBI of $157,500 or less ($315,000 or less if a married couple is filing jointly). The deduction is gradually phased out as income exceeds that figure, disappearing entirely at the $207,500 ($415,000 if filing jointly) benchmark. There are additional reductions as well, so it is best to consult a tax professional with any questions.

In addition, 529 Plans originally intended to fund college or university tuition may now be used on private, religious, or public elementary or secondary schooling. The amount is capped at $10,000 per beneficiary per year for non-college uses.

Finally, the Kiddie Tax (or taxes incurred by minors on unearned income) will now match the rates charged trusts and estates on amounts in excess of $2,100. This is typically higher than the rates paid by the child’s parents, which was used previously.

In conclusion, the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act Of 2017 has left our estate planning lawyers with a lot to catch up with.

Estate Planning With Cryptocurrencies

BitcoinThe fluctuating prices of cryptocurrencies is a frequent topic of discussion, but how they figure into estate planning is often ignored. Digital currencies are anonymous, meaning that they do not have a listed beneficiary like most asset management accounts do. There is also no central “Bitcoin Bank” for executors or trustees to contact for further information, meaning that the information provided to heirs is literally all they will have to work with when attempting to claim their inheritance.

The first thing to remember is that estate planning is absolutely essential when considering cryptocurrency. If the owner of a Bitcoin account dies without sharing their private key with anyone, their holdings become completely inaccessible. This means that the funds within it have effectively died with their original owner. Anybody interested in including crypto assets as part of their estate for their heirs needs to be proactive about making arrangements according to their wishes.

This does not mean sharing a private key with the world. Instead, the holder of cryptocurrencies should write it down and place it somewhere secure, such as a safe or digital archive site. This arrangement makes the private key public only when necessary, giving the cryptocurrency trader privacy in the meantime.

Estate planners should also consider the tax implications of digital holdings. The IRS currently considers Bitcoin and other virtual currencies as property, just like a car or house. As such, the estate may be subject to capital gains taxes if its crypto holdings increase in value. The initial purchase price is irrelevant in these circumstances, as only the current market price and the currency’s value on the original holder’s date of death are included in the calculation.

Some states have a “Prudent Investor Act” requiring trustees and executors to diversify any significant investment, language that may be taken to include cryptocurrency holdings. If the owner of a cryptocurrency legacy wishes to pass it on in its current form, it is necessary to specifically absolve whoever is managing the estate of any liability should the “investment” go sideways.

There are additional steps that may be taken to ensure the successful transfer of digital assets. For example, all cryptocurrency holders should make a complete inventory of where their digital holdings are hosted as part of their estate planning. Some coins are stored on the exchanges or used to purchase them, such as Coinbase or Bitstamp. Any exchanges used should be written out on paper so that relevant heirs know where to look.

Alternatively, tokens may be stored within an online “wallet”. Heirs need to know the name of any wallets that may have coins and where the backups for those wallets are located to have any realistic chance of claiming their inheritance.

Finally, any devices (laptops, smartphones, etc.) used to access cryptocurrencies may have private keys saved on them. Anybody with access to these devices could take the crypto without authorization, so heirs need to protect them until the estate has been settled.

Cryptocurrencies have added a new dimension to estate planning that must be considered in all relevant circumstances.

Faith And Frenzy: Sister Jean Delores Schmidt

Basketball HoopEvery now and again, a human interest story comes along in the news that sticks out from the rest. These stories are a refreshing change from the sad news that daily grips the world in various forms. Sister Jean Delores Schmidt is just one of those stories. A unique and dedicated 98-year-old nun, Schmidt has become a figurehead for a treasured American pastime: basketball. As the nation is gripped by the basketball frenzy known as ‘March Madness’, Schmidt spiritually supports her team, the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, as their chaplain for the past 25 years. Not only does she bring her spiritual brand of support to the players, she has also become known as the team’s lucky charm and trusted advisor.

March Madness

From about the second week of March to early April, March Madness brings the basketball fervor to a fever pitch as a series of tournaments are played to name the national college basketball champions. These single-elimination tournaments determine the championship team as they need to win six games in a row. The high-stakes intensity is fervent as one loss sends a team home. Before each game, the team’s coach, Porter Moser, and Sister Schmidt impart their words of support and encouragement to their team.

Sister Jean Delores Schmidt

Prior to becoming the team chaplain in 1994, the 98-year-old Sister Schmidt was an elementary school teacher, a campus minister, and an academic advisor. She had played basketball in high school and has been a life-long fan. Schmidt has found the ultimate way of combining her religious fervor with the two things she loves the most: supporting the spirituality of young people and basketball. Always an intense fan, Schmidt’s role as the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers team chaplain has recently moved her into the forefront of the nation’s basketball community, and with the current success of her team, her story has stolen the hearts of readers, viewers, and basketball fans alike.

The Loyola University Chicago Ramblers

Currently, Schmidt’s beloved team is the 11th-seeded team in March Madness, and for the first time in 55 years, they have secured themselves a place in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s basketball tourney.

Schmidt became somewhat of a spiritual sensation after an interview with TruTV helped spread this inspirational senior story. During the interview, Schmidt recounted how she spoke to her team on Saturday before they went out on the court to gain a one-point victory over Tennessee.

Guiding Words

Schmidt is at every game on the sidelines, in the locker room, and in the hearts of the players. She helps prep the players before their games by reminding them how they can help spread the word within the game. She gushes over her players’ humble and loyal attitude as they don’t care who gets the baskets as long as it’s their team!

Her prayers form a unique blend of Christian faith and basketball acumen. She is known to pray for refs to make the right calls and blend prayers with scouting reports. She is also admired for her steadfast knowledge of the game. On her very first day, she is said to have created a complete scouting report for Coach Porter Moser, and this young lady knows her brackets.

Sister Jean Delores Schmidt exemplifies the passion of the human spirit. She has dedicated her life to spreading the values of spirituality, faith, hard work, and of course love of the game. As the team chaplain of the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, her prayers, guidance, and support could just lead the team to the end of the March Madness championships.

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:

Marriage

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.

Divorce

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.

Inheritance

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:

Medicaid

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 mo