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Dianne & Greg’s Foundational Estate Planning Appointment…

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Foundational Estate Planning Appointment. Dianne and I were practicing for a presentation and it turned out to be a great example of a foundational planning appointment.
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Memory Care Innovations

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Within the next 20 years, the need for memory care housing options will become more necessary than ever. In 2016 alone, more than 2.5 million Baby Boomers turned 70 years old, the youngest boomers hitting age 52. With advancing age comes an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Recent estimates state that the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease could potentially triple from the 5 million sufferers in 2013 to around 14 million by the year 2050. By the year 1976, Alzheimer’s disease was officially identified as the most common cause of dementia. In most cases in the past, people living with Alzheimer’s disease would stay in a typical nursing home or assisted living community, receiving the same basic care as other residents. However, because so much more is being discovered about the disease in recent years, the way we think about caring for people with dementia is changing.

Some of the most recent innovations in memory care include:

Alternative Therapies
Music, art, and even pet therapy are often provided to residents with dementia as a way to stimulate memory, cognitive skills, and communication. In addition, these therapies can help improve residents’ physical and social skills, as well as reduce their stress and ease aggressive behaviors.

Dementia Staging
Dementia staging refers to the ability to understand exactly what stage of the disease a person is in to help provide the correct level of care needed. This person-centered approach sees each individual as unique and focuses on what they can do, rather than what their limitations may be.

Specialized Technology
As smartphone and computer technology advances, so does technology for dementia sufferers. GPS tracking devices for those who are at risk of wandering, emergency response devices to detect warning signs of illness or a fall, and the use tablets to play brain games or keep in touch with distant relatives, technology makes memory care today more efficient and streamlined. Technology is also beneficial for the person with memory care issues as it allows their cognitive abilities to continue functioning at a high level.

Unique Housing Designs
While many senior living communities have a special area designated for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, some communities today go above and beyond, providing just one floor to these residents. Intimate homes are offered that house up to 10 residents with a staff that specializes in memory care. These types of environments nurture a familial experience and build deep relationships between the residents and the caregiving team. The residents are allowed to maintain their own personal routines and are encouraged to continue to pursue their interests.

Dining Experience
In a central dining area setting, everyone sits around a single table for meals. The seniors are encouraged to engage in conversation and develop friendships.

Colors and Patterns
Because people see more yellow as they get older, gray was often chosen as the common denominator for institutional living. Instead, using green or yellow paint enhances colors as visualized by seniors. Coral blended with a bit of yellow makes a nice combination and engages the senses.

Memory Recall
Nostalgia-evoking displays throughout the halls, such as workbench stations or wooden coat racks draped with glamorous dresses from a distant era, are meant to stir residents’ memories. Personal touches like family photo cases near the entrances of their rooms brighten otherwise unremarkable hallways.

As research continues for this disease, more and more innovative ideas are uncovered that can help seniors with memory care issues and can help care givers of those individuals.

If you would like more information about caring for a loved one who suffers from memory issues, contact our office for an appointment today.

Greg McIntyre

greg@mcelderlaw.com

Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street

Shelby, NC 28150

704–259–7040

Elder Law Report: Best Laid College Planning…

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Elder Law Report: Best Laid College Planning… Hayden’s in Shelby while Greg is in Alabama with his son, Jordan, who is visiting for possible college next year. Greg stresses over the prospect. Have you planned for kids, grandkids to go to college? How will they pay for it? Can your legacy help? Greg talks Trust Planning and more in this interstate episode.
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Changes to Social Security in 2018

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Related image There is good news! Social Security payments will increase by 2% in 2018. The bad news? It’s not enough to keep up with inflation.

Many senior citizens will be happy to learn that the amount of money they will receive in their social security checks will increase two percent in 2018. This averages about $27.38 per month, or $329 per year under a new Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). “It will help them make ends meet,” says Erin Parrish of AARP Minnesota, pointing to an example of how the modes increase may allow a person to purchase a month’s worth of medication.

Unfortunately, this modest increase in benefits, the largest since 2012, still does not allow many seniors to keep up with the ever-rising costs of medical care. As the age of retirement has continued to rise, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has continued to warn that the present rate of depletion of social security funding will result in the fund being empty by 2034.

Other changes to social security in 2018 include a slightly higher tax cap. At present, Americans in the workforce who pay social security taxes give up 6.2% of their pay to Social Security if they make up to $127,200. That cap will slightly increase to $128,700 in 2018.

The SSA has announced that the maximum possible benefits that a person can receive increased from $2,687 per month to $2,788 per month, or $33,456 per year. Additionally, seniors who continue to work while receiving Social Security can earn up to $17,040 without being penalized. This is a modest increase from $16,920 in 2017. Likewise, disability payments will increase in 2018 by $10 per month.

One of the biggest changes to Social Security is that it no longer mails paper statements. Beneficiaries in 2018 are now required to have an online account at ssa.gov. This development may be quite irksome for senior citizens who are not tech-savvy. To make matters more complicated, the SSA will require two-step verification for security purposes which will likely require more than one pin or password to access an account. While security is always a concern, some seniors may wish to have a trustworthy friend or relative walk them through the procedure the first few times.

So, there are some modest increases coming to various aspects of social security benefits in 2018 that will be welcome for millions of Americans. What has long been “the bedrock of American financial security” will continue to be so for the short term but what happens after 2034? With the social security predicted to be depleted, what will our seniors do then?

The aging population needs to take steps today to ensure their financial security. Look at alternative means for future income such as safe investments and early planning. They should take these actions while they are still working. Go one step further and work with an elder law attorney to create a strategy that will help protect assets and allocate funds for long term care. It’s crucial to plan as early as possible, contact our office today for an appointment.

Greg McIntyre

greg@mcelderlaw.com

Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street

Shelby, NC 28150

704–259–7040

Elder Law Report: Hometown Heroes… So proud of our new book about Veteran Heroes next door!

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Elder Law Report: Hometown Heroes… So proud of our new book about Veteran Heroes next door! Due out this month. Also discussing Veterans Pension Benefits!
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ALERT: Effective January 1, 2018 – Chapter 32A Power of Attorney Statutes No Longer Valid! Now 32C.

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I just received this email from Lawyers Mutual warning me of the statutory change in NC. The email read as follows:

Effective January 1, 2018 – Chapter 32A Power of Attorney Statutes No Longer Valid

Effective January 1, 2018 the Power of Attorney statutes contained in Chapter 32A are no longer valid for new powers of attorney signed on or after that date. All POA’s that are drafted or executed on or after January 1st must be done in accordance with new NCGS Chapter 32C. Current forms should not be used and care should be taken when accepting an executed POA after January 1st to be certain it is in compliance with the new law.

Chapter 32C is based on the Uniform Power of Attorney Act and sets forth a number of changes, including a new short-form POA, a new limited POA for real estate transactions, automatic durability of POA’s under the new form, and the ability to appoint a guardian in the POA document should the principle become incompetent in the future.

Health Care POA’s are not directly affected by this change, and any POA executed on or prior to December 31, 2017 using Chapter 32A will remain valid so long as it complied with 32A when executed on or before December 31st.

Please take a few minutes to read the new Chaper 32C (Session Law 2017-153) and exercise extra caution in the coming weeks and months to ensure (1) the proper form is used based on the execution date for new POA’s, (2) a POA presented as authority for a transaction complies with the statute as it existed when the document was executed, and (3) any current clients to whom you have provided a POA form are aware that if it is executed after December 31st, a new form needs to be utilized.

For more detailed information on this change, please see the article by Janice Davies, and for a CLE on the topic you can you can attend a Video Replay on Jan 4 at the Bar Center or get training and materials on demand through the NC Bar Association.

Veterans Benefits: Aid and Attendance

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Many veterans and their spouses are eligible but do not apply for the benefit.

Aid and Attendance is for veterans, spouse of a veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran needing day-to-day care to get paid a monthly benefit.

The term applies to individuals needing the aid and attendance of another person to help with daily activities, and is paid in addition to an individual’s pension. Clearly, to receive the Aid and Attendance benefit, you must first receive a pension.

There are certain requirements to qualify. If the veteran is in assisted living or a nursing home, they automatically meet the initial requirements. After the initial qualification, further criteria still need to be met.

There are three tiers of additional aid offered to veterans and people that meet the requirements.

The Third Tier: Aid and Attendance

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the following is needed for an individual to qualify to receive Aid and Attendance:

  • The individual must prove he/she requires aid and attendance of someone to carry out basic daily functions, such as bathing and getting dressed.
  • The individual must be disabled to the point of being bedridden.
  • The individual must be admitted to a nursing home because they cannot provide basic care for himself/herself.
  • The individual must record an eyesight of 5/200 or below in both eyes.

 

The maximum amount individuals will receive once qualified for Aid and Attendance differs on a case-by-case basis. Below are the current maximum monthly benefit amounts as of 2018:

The Asset Level Threshold for Aid and Attendance qualification. The threshold is accepted as being below $80,000, but we believe it’s around $20,000. However, there are ways to position assets and still qualify for Aid and Attendance.

One day of war time duty

If you’re a veteran, and have served ninety days of active duty, one day beginning or ending during a period of War, you may be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefit.

Here is a link to all war time events the Veterans Administration has designated for A&A benefits: http://www.veteranaid.org/docs/Periods_of_War.pdf

Example: I would qualify because I was in the military during the window for the Gulf War. It also qualifies my spouse. Even if I passed away, she’d be eligible for that benefit through me.

Check to see if you qualify for this beneficial program. Eligibility must be proven by filing the Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation.

This requires:

  • A copy of DD-214 or separation papers
  • Medical Evaluation from a physician
  • Current medical issues
  • Net worth limitations
  • Net income
  • Out-of-pocket Medical Expenses.

To qualify (financially), an applicant must have on average less than $80,000 in assets, excluding their home and vehicles.

Checklist for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits:

  • Veteran? Spouse of Veteran? Spouse of deceased veteran?
  • At least 90 days of active duty service
  • At least one day of active duty service during a wartime event. Service does not have to be in a combat theater.
  • Under $20,000 in assets, excluding home.
  • A current need: At least 2 out of 6 standard ADLs impaired*:

 

Activities of Daily Living:

§ Eating?

§ Preparing Meals?

§ Walking?

§ Dressing?

§ Bathing?

§ Toileting?

* A physician must sign an FL2 form confirming current need.

Surviving Spouses

I often get questions about surviving spouses of veterans.

What happens if the veteran is of good health, yet their spouse has healthcare problems and incurs staggering medical bills?

According to veteranaid.org, the spouse of a veteran who incurs healthcare costs is eligible to receive no more than $1,176 each month. Similarly, a veteran with a sick spouse is eligible to receive no more than $1,436 each month. These figures are of January 1, 2018.

Veterans Improved Pension: Other Tiers

As mentioned, the Veterans Improved Pension program has three tiers.

The First Tier — Basic Pension for disabled veterans 65 years and up. This also extends to the surviving spouse of a veteran if he/she meets the income qualifications.

The following are the countable income requirements (as of January 1, 2015) a veteran must meet for the Basic Pension.

  • The joint countable income of a veteran and spouse must be less than the pension amount for which they are eligible. Example, a married veteran in 2017 is eligible for $25,525 in pension; if their countable income is $10,000, they are eligible for an additional $15,525 / year in pension.*

 

The Second Tier Housebound Pension. You must also qualify to be eligible for this monthly amount.

Housebound Pension recipients must prove they require assistance of another individual in their home, by having their primary physician sign that they need the help. Their day-to-day actions are not as limited as those receiving Aid and Attendance.

(*Conditions to be met for countable income for Housebound Pension are the same as above).

When speaking about countable income, it is imperative you record all your expenses. The VA discourages individuals from paying various expenses in cash, this way you maintain a paper trail and can add this to your countable income.

Here’s how to calculate Countable Income.

(See VeteranAid.org for downloadable chart)

First Step Estimate total annual income of veteran whether single or married.

What to include

  • All income including social security, pension, interest income, dividends, income from rental properties, etc.
  • CDs, annuities, stocks, bonds, savings/checking, IRAs, etc.
  • Assets owned by spouse

 

What NOT to include

  • Residence or vehicle when calculating net worth
  • Life insurance policy

 

When taken into consideration, you get the estimated annual income of the veteran.

Second Step Add all recurring healthcare expenses incurred by veteran each month. This includes:

  • Assisted Living costs
  • Nursing home costs
  • Home Care service costs
  • Health Insurance premium
  • Medicare premium
  • Monthly prescription costs

Add up these monthly costs and multiply by 12 for the annual healthcare expenses.

Third Step Subtract annual healthcare expenses from annual income.

Total annual income — (minus) Total annual healthcare expenses

= Countable Income.

This amount determines the veteran’s eligibility for one of the three tiers of the Pension program.

Proposed Changes to VA Pension Eligibility Rules

It’s a basic right to know when legislation is introduced that affects large groups.

The proposed changes to the VA Pension Eligibility were on the table January 23, 2015 by the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The VA Pension Eligibility is a needs-based program. Benefits awarded to veterans and their families provide help throughout the years.

Below are proposed changes and how they may impact you if you’re a veteran, or family member of a veteran.

Current Reading of the Law

Since 1980, the law stated that to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, a veteran must have served a minimum of 24 months. At least one of those days must be actively served during a “wartime period”. Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged do not qualify. Allowances can be made for veterans 65 years of age and older who have a permanent disability.

In terms of income, the veteran’s household income cannot exceed the amount the veteran is trying to qualify for in assistance and benefits. Much of the language regarding income is about countable income.

What Might Change

Below are some proposed changes for Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits qualifications. These changes, if imposed, make it harder for veterans to qualify, and allows them to keep and protect less money and property.

Proposed changes:

  • A clear net worth limit. The VA proposed that the net worth limit a veteran can claim when applying for the Eligibility program cannot exceed $119,220.
  • Income and net worth calculation. The Federal Register has provided an example breakdown of how calculations will be made. First, the VA will calculate income to establish the pension entitlement. They will “subtract all applicable deductible expenses to include appropriate prospective medical expenses”. When calculating the net worth, the VA will take the annual income and add it to the assets. For instance, let’s say a veteran’s net worth limit is $115,000. The annual income of the spouse is $7,000 and the total assets are $116,000. The total net worth would come to $123,000, which exceeds the net worth limit by $8,000.
  • Exempt asset. A primary residence will not be included as an asset in the calculation of net worth as long as the residence sits on an area not exceeding 2 acres. Right now, there is no limit on the acreage of the primary residence and it is exempt from the net worth calculation.

 

If you want to read the full legislation, go to FederalRegister.gov and read their article entitled “Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions for Needs-Based Benefits”.

I strongly urge you, if you are a veteran, or you are the spouse or child of one, to sift through the proposed changes to see how you might be impacted.

Should you have any questions or need would like to discuss qualification for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Greg McIntyre

V.A. Certified & Elder Law Attorney

McIntyre Elder Law

704–259–7040

greg@mcelderlaw.com

http://www.mcelderlaw.com

 

Last ELR of 2017! “Packing Away 2017”.

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Last ELR of 2017! “Packing Away 2017”. Greg & Hayden review an amazing year and plans for 2018 while putting away the Christmas decorations.
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Join us for our Christmas Party, Funny Wills and bit of serious planning discussion…

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Christmas Special: Join us for our Christmas Party, Funny Wills and bit of serious planning discussion on this Christmas Edition of the Elder Law Report.
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Christmas Special: Elder Law Report: Foundational Planning and Lady Bird Deeds. Hayden

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Christmas Special: Elder Law Report: Foundational Planning and Lady Bird Deeds. Hayden talk about the importance of foundations and Greg draws out how a Lady Bird Deed works. Take advantage of our Special Christmas Pricing!
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