Is your family getting the VA support they deserve?

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Individuals who have risked their lives to serve and protect the United States of America and its citizens are entitled to a variety of benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Eligibility requirements vary for these benefits, but many veterans (and their family caregivers) are able to receive some level of coverage, financial assistance or support. This guide will help direct veterans and their family members to VA programs that may assist in paying for or providing long-term care, burials, pensions, and other benefits.

Get Your FREE Veterans Benefits Guide from AgingCare: Click Here

This guide includes the most up‑to‑date information on getting VA benefits.
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AgingCare.com is the go-to destination for family caregivers, providing trusted information, practical answers to real-life questions, and ongoing support. Our mission is to help families prepare for and navigate the care of an elderly loved one. AgingCare.com has been recognized in both national and local media as an expert resource on elder care. AgingCare.com is paid by our participating providers, so we are able to offer you a completely cost-free service with no hidden fees.

Free Downloads: Easy to read elder guides for families and seniors.

Probate, Estate Planning, Healthcare Proxies, Medicaid Planning, etc. Get informed and find many of the answers to your existing questions in these guides. Download and save as reference for free.

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Nursing Home Agreements: 

Estate Planning for a Single Person

Single person

If you are single, you may not think you need to plan your estate, but single people are in as much need of a plan as anyone else. Estate planning not only involves determining where your assets will go when you die — it also helps you plan for what will happen should you become incapacitated, perhaps as the result of a stroke, dementia, or injury. If you don’t make a plan, you will have no say in what happens to you or your assets.

Without a properly executed will in place when you die, your estate will be distributed according to state law. If you are single, most states provide that your estate will go to your children, parents, or other living relatives. If you have absolutely no living relatives, then your estate will go to the state. This may not be what you want to have happen to your assets. You may have charities, close friends, or particular relatives that you want to provide for after your death.

If you become incapacitated without any planning, a court will have to determine who will have the authority to handle your finances and make health care decisions for you. The court may not choose the person you would have chosen. In addition, going to court to set up a guardianship is time-consuming and expensive. With proper planning, you can execute a power of attorney and a health care proxy, which gives the people you choose the authority to act on your behalf, as well as an advance directive giving instructions on what type of care you would like. The power of attorney can also dictate exactly what powers the individual has.

Single individuals who are divorced need to make especially certain that the beneficiary designations on their IRAs, life insurance policies, and relevant bank accounts are up to date. If you don’t, your ex-spouse could get the funds. And for single people of means, opportunities to avoid state or federal estate taxes can be more limited than for married couples, although advance planning can close the gap.

In short, proper planning is a good idea for everyone. Contact your attorney or call me for a free consultation to help you create an estate plan.

Brian A. Raphan, 212-268-8200

For more information on estate planning, click here. 

To download a FREE GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING, click here.

Can I Give My Kids $14,000 a Year?

If you have it to give, you certainly can, but there may be consequences should you apply for Medicaid long-term care coverage within five years after each gift.

medicaid planning

The $14,000 figure is the amount of the current gift tax exclusion (for 2014 and 2015), meaning that any person who gives away $14,000 or less to any one individual does not have to report the gift to the IRS, and you can give this amount to as many people as you like.  If you give away more than $14,000 to any one person (other than your spouse), you will have to file a gift tax return.  However, this does not necessarily mean you’ll pay a gift tax.  You’ll have to pay a tax only if your reportable gifts total more than $5.43 million (2015 figure) during your lifetime.

Many people believe that if they give away an amount equal to the current $14,000 annual gift tax exclusion, this gift will be exempted from Medicaid’s five-year look-back at transfers that could trigger a waiting period for benefits.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The gift tax exclusion is an IRS rule, and this IRS rule has nothing to do with Medicaid’s asset transfer rules. While the $14,000 that you gave to your grandchild this year will be exempt from any gift tax, Medicaid will still count it as a transfer that could make you ineligible for nursing home benefits for a certain amount of time should you apply for them within the next five years.  You may be able to argue that the gift was not made to qualify you for Medicaid, but proving that is an uphill battle.

If you think there is a chance you will need Medicaid coverage of long-term care in the foreseeable future, see your elder law attorney before starting a gifting plan.

For more on Medicaid’s asset transfer rules, click here.

Regards,

Brian A. Raphan

The Law Offices of Brian A. Raphan, P.C.  7 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001  212-268-8200 

http://www.RaphanLaw.com

Legal DIY Web Sites Are No Match for a Pro, Consumer Reports Concludes

After road testing three leading Web sites that help you create your own will, power of attorney, and other important legal documents, Consumer Reports has concluded that none of the will-writing products is likely to entirely meet your needs unless those needs are extremely simple.

Consumer Reports

The independent non-profit testing agency evaluated three online services: LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer. Using online worksheets or downloads, researchers created a will, a car bill of sale for a seller, a home lease for a small landlord, and a promissory note. They then asked three law professors — including Gerry W. Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law, who specializes in estates and trusts — to review in a blind test the processes and resulting documents.

In his evaluation of the will-making programs, Prof. Beyer said that two of them could create good simple wills but he found deficiencies in all three, including features that could lead a user to add clauses that contradict other parts of the will.

Consumer Reports’ verdict?   “Using any of the three services is generally better than drafting the documents yourself without legal training or not having them at all. But unless your needs are simple—say, you want to leave your entire estate to your spouse—none of the will-writing products is likely to entirely meet your needs. And in some cases, the other documents aren’t specific enough or contain language that could lead to ‘an unintended result,’ in [a professor’s] words,”

An article on the study, titled “Legal DIY websites are no match for a pro,” appeared in Consumer Reports.  To read it, click here.

Consumer Reports’ findings accord with ElderLawAnswers’ own evaluation of online estate planning programs. For their White Paper on these programs, click here.

For a FREE DOWNLOAD : GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING click here.

What Happens to a Medicaid Recipient If the Spouse at Home Dies First?

Senior Couple Square

When one spouse is in a nursing home and applying for Medicaid, planning has to take into account the possibility that the spouse who is not in the nursing home (called the “community spouse”) may pass away first. This is because the community spouse’s death may make the spouse in the nursing home ineligible for Medicaid.

In order to qualify for Medicaid, a nursing home resident can have only a limited number of assets. Careful planning can allow the resident’s spouse to maintain some assets. However, if that community spouse passes away first and leaves those assets to the nursing home resident, the resident suddenly would be over Medicaid’s asset limit.

While the community spouse can write a will that disinherits the Medicaid resident, most states have laws that allow spouses to claim a portion of their deceased spouse’s estate regardless of what the will says. This is called the elective or statutory share. The amount the spouse can claim varies from state to state.

A spouse can disclaim his or her elective share, but if a Medicaid recipient disclaims the inheritance, it is considered an uncompensated transfer of assets and the recipient may receive a period of Medicaid ineligibility. To avoid this, the community spouse will most likely need a will that addresses this issue. One option is for the community spouse to create a will that leaves the nursing home spouse exactly the amount of the elective share. Another option may be to create a special trust that contains the elective share. You should talk to your elder law attorney to determine the best course of action for you and your spouse.

For more information about Medicaid, including a FREE GUIDE to Medicaid’s Asset Transfer Rulesclick here.

This month we are offering AARP members discounted rates and free initial phone consultation to help determine if you can benefit from medicaid planning. Email: medicaid@RaphanLaw.com

Regards, Brian

Three Reasons Why Joint Accounts May Be a Poor Estate Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Brian

Can you sue for Bedsores or Pressure Sores?

bedsore lawyer

Bedsores should not happen while in a nursing home or hospital. Often they are due to neglect and negligence.

Bedsores, Pressure Sores or Decubitis Ulcers are not the fault of the patient. At a hospital or nursing home there are federal laws in place to protect patients and assure they get the proper care. When these standards of care are not used sores can develop. Simple duties like turning an immobile patent frequently to relieve pressure, proper cleaning an hygiene are sometimes not provided. If a sore develops the patient has now become a victim. The sores can cause extreme pain and suffering and unfortunately even death. You can sue. And you have every right to do so and get financial compensation. Depending on the case, monetary awards can be in the millions. Below are some of the different types of lawsuits relating to sores.

Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice cases arise when a health care practitioner departs from the accepted standard of care in the medical community. In more simple terms, when a hospital, doctor, nurse, practitioner commits a serious error in his/her care and treatment, which results in further injury to the patient. Some common examples are failing to diagnose the bedsore; failing to report bedsores or pressure sores; failing to admit a patient into the hospital for bedsores when necessary; and failing to perform a medical procedure or provide treatment for bedsores that was otherwise indicated.

FREE BEDSORE FACTS BOOKLET>

Nursing Home Liability

The elderly population frequently suffers due to serious neglect once they become patients or residents in nursing homes or any long term care facility.  Some critical issues relating to sores are: over or improper medication; lack of supervision; inadequate wound care leading to infections; not reporting the issue in a timely manner and overall neglect.

The severe injuries that patients experience along with the constant pain and suffering associated with bedsores are often the result of preventable situations. In our experience in handling these types of cases we have found frequent examples of poor care planning; lack of stimulation; failures to turn and position patients; failure to provided adequate pressure relief devices to patients; and unbelievably, failure to change adult diapers and failure to provide sufficient quantities of food and water. As a result of neglect in Nursing Homes, the illnesses range from severe infections and amputations, to dehydration and, unfortunately, death. Bedsores and pressure sores often lead to further infections and illnesses.

Hospital Negligence

At one time or another we all go to hospitals. While patients there, we have the right to expect quality medical care and treatment.  The unfortunate reality is that there are often tragic outcomes that are the result of medical malpractice which should never occur. This is especially true with bedsores.

Hospital Negligence occurs when there are “departures in the standards of good and accepted medical practices” that one should be able to expect in the local medical community given the current state of medical treatment and technology. These departures in the standard of care can stem from negligent treatment on the part of Doctors, Surgeons, Specialists, Lab Technicians, Physician Assistants, Nurses, Nurses Aides, Therapists, Administrators, Pharmacists and any other member of the Hospital Staff whose conduct, actions, or inaction, causes injuries and suffering that should not have occurred.

Some examples of Hospital Negligence include failure to provide proper medication or medical devices; failure to provide proper monitoring and supervision; failure to order consultations to other medical specialists; failure to diagnose bedsores in a timely fashion; failure to prevent infection and amputation; failure to turn and position the patient resulting in pressure sores, bedsores or decubitus ulcers; failure to perform a medical procedure or surgery properly; failure to warn patient of risks of a surgery or medical procedure; failure to keep family members informed regarding medical decision making; and failure to provide safe and proper discharge instructions.

Wrongful Death

This type of lawsuit occurs when a spouse or close relative has a right to recover when a loved one dies due to the sores or a medical complication that was related to the sores. Recovery is from the at-fault or negligent party. Recovery can include loss of income, services, comfort and society. New York has a very restrictive and complicated wrongful death statute. Our knowledgeable lawyers take you through it one step at a time. We understand that dealing with the loss of a loved one is not easy, so we are extremely sensitive when dealing with family members. Unfortunately, left untreated or not treated in time, bedsores can rapidly progress from stage 1-4 and lead to further complications often resulting in a wrongful death.

If you or someone you know is a victim of bedsores, the first thing to do is get the stage of the sore identified and immediate and proper medical attention. If you think you have a lawsuit then contact me on how to proceed. You can also begin an evaluation online by clicking here. We can even help you get better medical attention at the same time. Feel free to email about these matters at bedsores@RaphanLaw.com

Regards, Brian

New: Visiting Lawyer Services for Elder New Yorkers

Visiting Lawyer Services

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

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

Visiting Lawyer Services

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

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

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

http://www.VisitingLawyerServices.com

info@raphanlaw.com

Free Download: 2014 Benefits Guide for Seniors: NYC

NYC Department of Aging, senior citizens, aarp
Free download. NYC Department of Aging resources. Free benefits guide for senior citizens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For 2014, this guide from NYY.gov  is a helpful resource for benefits available to senior citizens of New York.

Table of contents include:

Social Security 1

Supplemental Security Income 2

Veterans Benefits 3

New York Prescription Saver Card 3

Public Assistance 4

Medicare 5

Medicare Savings Program 6

Medicare Part D 7

Affordable Care Act 7

Medicaid 8

Food Stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance 9 Program SNAP)

Reduced Fare 10 Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) 11

Senior Citizen Homeowners Exemption (SCHE) 12

Real Property Tax Credit (IT-214) 13

Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) 14

Heating Equipment Repair or Replacement 15

Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) 15

New York State School Tax Relief Program (STAR) 16 

Regards, Brian

info@raphanlaw.com