Family Elder Law Expert Blog
Family Elder Law is pleased to offer the legal blog entitled “The Family Elder Law Expert Blog,” authored by Jason A. Penrod, B.C.S., CELA. Jason is board certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation. He is also the founder of Family Elder Law with offices in Lake Wales, Lakeland, and Sebring, Florida. The blog addresses legal issues of particular interest to our readers. In addition, the blog will answer individual questions from the readership on a wide range of topics.
President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month back in 1983. The goal is to raise awareness about the disease and its prevalence among the US population and provide potential caregiving suggestions, links to organizations that can help, and raise money to find a cure. Alzheimer's is a neurological disease, is not a normal part of aging, and is the most common form of dementia. In 1983, fewer than two million Americans had Alzheimer's. Today that number is upward of 5.7 million and growing. More than ten million Americans are caring for a loved one with the disease. Projections are that by the year 2050, 14 million Americans will have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.
This November is National Family Caregiver Support Month. Even if you are not a family caregiver, you probably know someone who is. Millions of Americans are willing to provide varying support levels to older relatives and even friends. Support can take on many forms, like helping with financial or legal issues. Some family caregivers tend to healthcare management while still others provide care and hands-on assistance with the activities of daily living. These support services and the social connection with family caregivers are especially beneficial during the coronavirus pandemic. It allows older loved ones to remain safely at home and socially engaged.
Probate is the legal process for authenticating a deceased person's will, reviewing their assets, paying their outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing what remains to their inheritors. After an asset-holder dies, the court will appoint a valid will's executor to administer the probate process. In the absence of a will, the court will appoint a state administrator to handle probate. Probate law varies by state, but there are steps in the process that are common.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes upcoming changes to its social security program every October that take effect on January 1 of the next year. These changes can make a difference in how you plan for or live during your retirement years. It is good practice to create what is known as a "my Social Security" account with the SSA here by clicking the "Create Your Account Today" button. Your account is an online gateway that provides interactive content and secure access to many online social security services. Your account allows you to check your social security statement, verify your earnings as reported, estimate your future benefits, change your address, and more. All of this information is relevant to you, whether you are retired or not.
Health systems and hospitals have been coping with unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. There has been a need to increase and safeguard healthcare staff as well as non-COVID-19 patients, testing and treating infected patients, expanding critical care unit capacity, procuring personal protective equipment (PPE), and canceling non-emergency patient procedures. The American Hospital Association estimates that healthcare systems are losing an average of 50.7 billion dollars a month. This financial crisis is jeopardizing the telehealth industry as insurance groups seek to lower rates for virtual appointments. Without payment parity equivalent to an in-person appointment, many health care systems will be unable to continue telehealth services.
Everything we have come to know about successful, healthy aging is contingent upon connection to those around us. The opportunities for people to laugh, move, and learn together is foundational to aging success. Enter the coronavirus pandemic to change all of that. Now aging Americans must stay socially engaged while maintaining a physical distance. This issue touches us all from senior wellness professionals, medical staff, families, inter-resident connections, and those aging in place at home and alone. The internet of things, and the virtual links it creates, is a great solution to implement in a socially distanced, troubling pandemic world.
Many adult children in the US live far away from their parents. Managing aging parents or in-law medical events can be a serious challenge without proper preparation and understanding of what your parents' strategy may or may not be, no matter where you live. Do you know what legal documentation your parents have in place regarding their medical care? Do they have advance directives that can help guide your medical decision-making process? Do you and your spouse openly discuss the situations of each other's parents?
The US Department of Veterans, through Tricare and the GI Bill, offers numerous basic health care and education benefits to veterans. Even with these programs that help veterans and their families, other little-known services can improve their lives and ease the financial burden of medical care and other expenses. Check your veteran status to see if you qualify for the following ten benefits:
Whether you are starting from scratch or have an estate plan in place a letter of instruction (LOI) is an important part of any comprehensive plan. A letter of instruction can help your loved ones manage important information about you. A LOI conveys your desires, includes practical information about where to find various items referenced in your plan, and it can provide advice to help those you designate in managing your affairs.
During the general election of 2020, elderly residents in nursing homes, assisted living, and other long-term care facilities find casting their ballot more difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic. Voter registration, opting to vote online or by mail, receiving a mail-in ballot, or using a computer, and finally completing and submitting your vote to the proper election authorities, can be a daunting task for seniors. Although rules are becoming less stringent regarding outside visitation, family members still find it difficult to assist their loved ones in voting as it is a multi-step process. Adding to the confusion is the perception of fairness in choosing to vote, in person, online, or by mail.
The senior citizen population of the United States is increasing rapidly as the baby boomer generation ages, and the influx of international migration continues. Although the US average life expectancy has seen a slight three-year decline, many Americans, men and women, live well into their 80s, 90s, and beyond. An elder law attorney works with seniors, taking a holistic approach to the legal issues people commonly face as they age. These include matters of housing, physical and financial health, estate planning, and more. There are as many issues as there are seniors, as life circumstances are different for everyone. An attorney who specializes in the host of the problems senior citizens face can be a wise investment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one out of five senior falls causes a serious injury like a broken bone or head trauma. Injuries of this sort can make life difficult for an older person to do everyday activities or live on their own. Half of the time, when a senior falls, it goes unreported to their doctor, and the person is likely to become fearful, cutting back on their activities. Not reporting a fall creates a vicious cycle. Fearfulness leads to less activity, making a senior weaker, which increases their chance of falling. Right At Home provides ten tips to reduce the risk of a senior falls. These tips are science-based, and seniors should try to implement them in their daily lives.
Wills and trusts have specific and quite different benefits for estate planning purposes. Each state has specific laws and regulations governing these legal documents. You can have both a will and a trust; however, the information in each should compliment the other. As a standalone, it is not accurate to say one is better than the other. The better choice for you, or a blend of both documents, depends on your assets and life circumstances. Begin by assessing your situation, goals, and needs, and understanding what wills and trusts do to guide your decision making. Then, along with an attorney, you will be able to identify the solution that best suits and protects your family.
The coronavirus pandemic creates risk scenarios for Americans well beyond becoming infected with COVID-19. If you are close to retirement age and recently lost your job, there is a good chance you may not find work again. The Great Recession (2007-2009) saw workers aged 62 and more were about half as likely to become re-employed compared to those in the age group of 25 – 34. The Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago finds, more than four out of ten jobs lost during the pandemic may never come back, pushing many pre-retirees into early retirement. For many, this means an unexpected shortage of cash. As retirement can last a long time, you should proceed with caution about finding ways to supplement cash flow if you have lost your job.
Revised guidance for nursing home visitation has been issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). It is now possible to have visitation with nursing home residents for reasons other than urgent end-of-life scenarios and, in some instances, may include physical touch. Additionally, communal activities and dining are permissible as long as the social distancing rule of 6 feet of separation, and other precautions are observed. Encouraging outdoor visits is desirable as long as the weather permits. Indoor visits are permissible if no new cases were identified in the previous two weeks, and the facility adheres to the core principles of resident and staff testing, screening, proper hygiene, social distancing, and facility cleaning.
When your child turns 18 (in most states), it might be hard to imagine that little child who once needed you for everything has now become – overnight – an adult. Now your child is free to vote, marry, apply for a credit card, make medical and financial decisions, sign contracts, and live independently. No wonder the law calls this coming of age “emancipation.”
Record unemployment rates related to COVID-19 business closures have hurt business owners and their workers, many of whom are 50 years and older. Though workers of all ages have felt the effects of unemployment or reduced working hours, older workers will fare worse upon re-entering the workforce. Research shows the recession of 2008 found that those adults age 62 or more were the least likely group to re-enter the workforce, and it is most likely as the employment situation stabilizes the same will hold in 2020. Ageism plays a role when employers have huge swaths of potential employees from which to choose.
Most parents choose to treat their children equally when it comes to inheriting property or money. But sometimes, parents intentionally choose to not leave anything to a child, and the reasons for doing so may vary. One reason could be that a child who is more financially successful than the others and the parent doesn’t feel it’s necessary to leave anything. Another reason may be a desire to prevent a child with special needs from losing government benefits. Or a parent may not want to leave an inheritance to an irresponsible or drug-dependent child for fear the inheritance will be wasted.