My life, my memories and my garage…….

As a new year is born, so is our desire to organize our lives.  This year, my husband and I decided that we would take on the task of cleaning our garage.  And, what a task this has been!  Having no basement, we use our garage as a place to put things that we are not using, but “may use again someday.”  My husband had already cleaned out a lot of things that were fun to reminisce over, but easy to donate to a better cause.  Our old clothes that were in good condition, furniture that we no longer use, books, records, VHS tapes, etc., etc., etc.

However, in the middle of the garage sat a stack of items that he needed me to look at.  And, though he kept asking, I would not go in there and talk about getting rid of them.  In the stack were the car seat we brought our babies home in, the high chair where both of our children learned to eat, the stroller we pushed many a time through the local parks, precious dresses, ruffled outfits, bows and shoes that we could remember our children wearing to various occasions, baby toys, a pack-and-play, bottles, receiving blankets, and diaper bags.

My in-laws also parted with items this holiday.  When we all arrived on Christmas night, they asked each of their 5 children to go into the basement, where they had tables lining the walls with years of holiday decorations.  Each child picked the items that they deemed special and my mother in law (whom the grandkids call TwoMama) said she had kept her most precious items and would get rid of the rest to downsize into a smaller home.

My father-in-law (whom the grandchildren call Bubba) also promised my daughter that when he moved she could have his mother’s piano he and her great aunt learned to play.  Oh, the joy this brought to Emily and how she certainly looks forward to her first piano lesson.  I asked Bubba why they would get rid of such a beautiful heirloom, and he said, “We aren’t getting rid of it, we are giving it to our granddaughters.”

I thought a lot about what TwoMama and Bubba said, and watched them laughing with their grandchildren that night.  I went home and removed a few precious items from the boxes in the garage and told my husband he could dispose of the rest.  I had the memories and treasures I would share with my grandchildren one day.

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When is the right time to re-evaluate my estate plan?

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After creating an estate plan, we like to think that we may never have to go through that process again.  However, there are times in our lives that necessitate re-evaluating our Last Will and Testament.  Three primary examples of when to take another look at your Will are below.

You have children:  Upon the birth of their first child is most often the time people create their first Will.  Creating a Will when you have small children allows you to appoint a guardian for the children and a conservator of their money if both parents pass away.  It also allows the creation of a Trust to hold the child’s assets until the child reaches the age of majority or an age deemed appropriate by the parents.  If a couple has a subsequent child or children, it is most often not necessary to redraft the Will.  You should call your attorney to verify the validity of the Will to subsequent children.  Likewise, if you remarry you should recreate your estate plan to acknowledge your new family.

The value of your estate increases:  If you created a Will a while ago and your estate substantially increased, it is likely time to have your Will re-evaluated by an estate attorney.  There are tax shelters and trusts that can be created to protect our estates from the changing tax laws and avoid potential estate tax issues for your heirs.  A good estate attorney should be able to review your old Will and let you know if your estate had reached the point where a new, more complex, plan would better suit your needs. 

Your children are grown and you are moving into retirement:  Perhaps the most important timeto have our Wills rewritten and property reviewed by an Elder Law attorney is 

in this stage of life.  It is so important to have a solid estate plan as we move into retirement for many reasons.  As a couple reaches this stage of planning, we move from planning for our children’s care to planning for our own long term care and planning to shelter our estate from forced government benefits spend-down.  It is of crucial importance that we do this kind of planning while both spouses are alive and in good health, if at all possible.  Doing so will allow the greatest opportunity to shield the government from getting portions or all of the estates people have worked so hard to accumulate and protect.

When one spouse enters the nursing home or passes away:  When one spouse enters full time care or passes away, the remaining spouse should go to an attorney to plan for the future of that spouse’s affairs.  Doing so as quickly as possible will allow the remaining spouse the best opportunity to protect assets for his or her children and to create the best long term care plan for him or herself. 

When a life change presents itself, talk to an Elder Law or Estate Planning attorney and review your estate plan.  My initial consultations are complementary and the time it takes to review your plan can offer you a substantial future savings and peace of mind as life moves forward.

 

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This Grandparents Day celebrate your Grandparents in all you do!

My grandmother, Mee Maw, was a riveter during WWII, she was a preacher’s wife, a mother to three and worked with my grandfather running a vacuum cleaner shop.  She is a remarkable woman, and an example of the strong women that worked diligently and tirelessly, without drawing attention, and unknowingly at the time moved the ERA in the direction that allows me to do what I do today.

But, more importantly, she is my grandmother.  We used to spend hours shopping for one sweater together, I introduced her to Taco Bell in her 70’s, went with her to get her ears pierced in her 80’s and, in her 90’s, she still makes the best chicken fingers in the world.  She listens, she is loving and she is devoted to me.

It is my relationship with Mee Maw that draws me to elder care and life planning and makes me want to provide the best possible service to all generations as they age.  People like Mee Maw deserve the best treatment possible, and it is my hope that I can honor her by doing all I can to provide that.

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What is the appropriate time to start planning for possible institutionalized Medicaid eligibility?

Life planning for the elderly population is far different than it is for younger generations.  Often times, one must plan for the possibility of needing long term health care assistance.  Sometimes this may include an eventual stay in nursing care.  Because Medicare has such limited benefits available to help with nursing care, families are most often forced to spend the assets of the patient on care and then apply for Medicaid benefits.

Several times each month, people come to me because it is time to place a parent in nursing care and ask what they can do short of impoverishing the parent by draining all assets to pay for care.  Under Medicaid rules, a person may only have $2,000.00 in assets to be eligible for nursing care.  This rule forces a patient to sell all of his assets, including his home, and spend all of his money down to $2,000.00 before applying for Medicaid assistance.  While there are tools available to provide the patient with some added benefits while in nursing care, the best way to protect yourself or your parents from this situation is proper advanced planning.

The Medicaid “look back” period is 5 years, so the proper time to create a life plan, including a possible nursing home stay, is 5 years before the anticipated stay.  Of course, none of us know when this will be.  According to the American Health Care Association, 1.6 million people live in nursing homes.  The average age of entry is 79, and women are three times more likely to live in nursing care as men (this statistic coincides with the likelihood that a woman will outlive her spouse and the longer lifespan of women).

Because we cannot predict when we will need nursing care, I recommend that all clients over the age of 70 have a life plan that includes a plan for possible nursing home care.

A person may transfer assets 5 years prior to a nursing home stay without penalty.  However, this must be done with caution.  If the person goes into nursing care during the 5 year period after the transfer, the property or asset may need to be transferred back, or the proceeds from the sale provided for the person’s nursing care.  Further, the tax ramifications of such a transfer must be considered.

A person may transfer assets to another, who can use them to establish a trust for the person’s care.  However, the same 5 year transfer rule applies and such trusts must be set up carefully so the assets are not available to the person for Medicaid purposes.

A married couple should have an estate plan that involves provisions for property to be held in trust for the institutionalized spouse and then pass to children without a Medicaid lien, should one spouse enter nursing care during the marriage.

Long term care planning should also consider all possible uses of assets, so the individual can stay in the home, or in the lowest level of care, as long as possible.

When creating a life plan to include a potential nursing home stay or other long term health care possibility, an individual’s situation must be very carefully reviewed by the professional helping with the plan.  It is very important that all planning is done with the sole purpose of protecting the assets of the individual for his best possible care.

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MEET VERNON, A TRUE AMERICAN HERO

While at the Veterans Advocates Group of America conference, we were given the wonderful privilege of listening to several representatives of the National WWII Museum speak.  One representative was Vernon.

Vernon told the story of running away at Pearl Harbor when the bombs struck, being sent to the Pacific and having his boat sink, watching his Captain drown at sea,  swimming for 3 days in the ocean alone before being rescued, and dancing on a hill at Iwo Jima upon hearing that the War was over.

Vernon’s story brought tears to the eyes of every grown woman and man in the room.  To meet such an incredible American hero was both inspiring and humbling.

There is no question in my mind that Vernon’s life was spared so that his story could be spread to future generations, so that we may truly understand what has been sacrificed for our liberty.

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Veteran’s Benefits – A Great Way to Pay for Long Term Care at Home

This June, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the National Conference for the Veteran’s Advocates Group of America.  Meeting with other Veteran’s Advocates who are as passionate as I am about assuring that our veteran’s are getting all of the benefits they deserve was both a rewarding and educational experience!

 

It saddened me to hear that there are currently over 25 million US Veterans eligible for benefits, while only about 30% of our senior veterans are receiving benefits to which they are entitled!

 

Why?

 

Because our senior veterans are unaware of the benefits due to them and their surviving spouses!

 

If you or a loved one meets the following criteria, the Aid & Attendance program may entitle you to up to $1,949.00 a month in additional income!

 

  1. Over the age of 65 (or permanently disabled);
  2. Served 90 consecutive days in the military;
  3. Discharged other than dishonorable; and
  4. Need some assistance with daily activity.

 

I ask each of you this month, to tell each Veteran and widow of a veteran that you know of these possible benefits.  It is a shame that we have people who have sacrificed for our country that are not receiving the benefits to which they are entitled!  Encourage them to contact me or any VA accredited attorney to assure they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to!!

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67 years ago today……….

It is hard to imagine the horror of what 164,000 young men experienced as they stormed the beaches of Normandy, but it is no doubt the American men sacrificed themeselves for their belief in our nation and our freedom. Of the 16 million soldiers that served in WWII, only 1.7 million are alive today.  By this time next year, it will likely be far fewer.  Let us all take an opportunity to celebrate our Greatest Generation through remembrance on this day.  What a wonderful opportunity we all have to call a Grandparent, Church member or friend in the community and thank them for what they sacrificed for us and our children 67 years ago today.

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