Elder Abuse Continues as a Billion-dollar Problem

Elder abuse continues to be a problem for seniors, but individuals can take steps to protect themselves in their estate plans and finances.

Aging baby boomers are a giant target for scammers. A report issued last year from a federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau highlighted the growth in banks and brokerage firms that reported suspicious activity in elderly clients’ accounts. The monthly filing of suspicious activity reports tied to elder financial exploitation increased four times from 2013 through 2017, according to a recent article from the Rome-News Tribune titled “Financial abuse steals billions from seniors each year.”

When the victim knew the other person, a family member or an acquaintance, the average loss was around $50,000. When the victim did not have a personal relationship with their scammer, the average loss was around $17,000.  See this recent blog for more background.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/elder-financial-abuse-is-increasing/

What can you do to protect yourself, now and in the future, from becoming a victim? There are many ways to build a defense that will make it less likely that you or a loved one will become a victim of these scams.

First, don’t put off taking steps to protect yourself, while you are relatively young. Putting safeguards into place now can make you less vulnerable in the future. If you are suffer bad health and lack of capacity later, it may be too late.

Create a durable power of attorney as part of your estate plan. The power of attorney names a trusted person you name as your legal representative or agent, who can manage your financial affairs if need be.  You should also consider using a trust which owns assets during your lifetime.  While it is true that family members are often the ones who commit financial elder abuse, you’ll need to put your trust in someone. Usually this is an adult child or a relative. You may also consider a bank as a trustee.  They will charge for their services, but their professionalism makes a bank an excellent choice.

It may also help to bring your agent, trustee and other loved ones into the discussion about assisting with your finances well before incapacity and be open with them about what you want your fiduciaries to do.  Of course, many people are hesitant to discuss finances openly, but as Justice Brandeis remarked over a hundred years ago, “Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.”  Having multiple people aware of what is happening and what your fiduciaries are doing may prevent one bad actor from attempting or getting away with elder abuse.

Consider the guaranteed income approach to retirement planning. Figuring out how to generate a steady stream of income as you face the cognitive declines that occur in later years might be a challenge. Planning for this in advance will be better.  Social Security is one of the most valuable sources of guaranteed income. If you will receive a pension, try not to do a lump sum payout with the intent to invest the money on your own. That lump sum makes you a rich target for scammers.

Consider rolling over 401(k) accounts into Roth accounts, or simply into one account. If you have one or more workplace retirement plans, consolidating them will make it easier for you or your representative to manage investments and required minimum distributions.

Make sure that you have an estate plan in place, or that your estate plan is current. Over time, families grow and change, financial situations change and the intentions you had ten, twenty or even thirty years ago, may not be the same as they are today. An experienced estate planning attorney can ensure that your wishes today are followed, through the use of a will, trust and other estate planning strategies.

Resource: Rome News-Tribune (April 27, 2020) “Financial abuse steals billions from seniors each year.”

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Does Medicare Cover COVID-19-related Medical Expenses?

Seniors need to know what Covid-19 related expenses are covered by Medicare.
Seniors need to know what Covid-19 related expenses are covered by Medicare.

Knowing the way in which Medicare is offering coverage for COVID-19 can help seniors protect their health and their finances at the same time.

Motley Fool’s recent article entitled “How Will Medicare Cover COVID-19? Your Top Questions Answered” answered some common questions seniors have about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will Medicare cover COVID-19 testing? The testing for the coronavirus can be difficult to obtain, depending on where you live. However, the good news is that Medicare Part B will pay for this. In addition, Medicare Advantage plans must also cover COVID-19 testing.

How much must Medicare enrollees pay to get tested? While COVID-19 testing may be a stressful process, if you’re on Medicare, you won’t pay to get the results. There’s no cost for your actual test and no co-pay for seeing a doctor who can order one.

Does Medicare pay for COVID-19 treatment? There’s no standard treatment for the coronavirus, but some patients with severe symptoms are being hospitalized. Medicare Part A will usually cover inpatient hospital treatment. As a result, if you’re admitted because of COVID-19, you’ll have your normal deductible under Part A ($1,408 per benefit period). Note that coinsurance won’t kick in during your first 60 days of consecutive hospital care, but beyond that, you’ll pay $352 per day until you reach the 90-day point in the hospital. If you have supplemental insurance, your Medigap plan may cover the cost of some of the out-of-pocket costs you have for getting hospital treatment.

Does Medicare cover a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available? While a vaccine is at least a year out, if one becomes available, it will be covered by Medicare Part B and you won’t have a copay for it.

Will Medicare cover mental health services? Many seniors are having a hard time coping with the pandemic and its effects. Some are feeling isolated in their homes, and others are feeling anxious. Medicare does cover mental health services, and you may be able to meet with a professional remotely via telemedicine. Generally, you will be subject to your Part B deductible, plus 20% coinsurance. Seniors who are struggling with mental health issues can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.

The COVID-19 crisis has been especially tough on seniors.

Knowing what to expect from Medicare could make a this a little easier.

If you’re interested in the CDC’s recommendation for Care Plans for older adults, see https://www.galliganmanning.com/covid19-update-cdc-recommends-care-plans-for-both-older-adults-and-caregivers/

Motley Fool (April 30, 2020) “How Will Medicare Cover COVID-19? Your Top Questions Answered”

 

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Does Your Executor Know What to Do?

Don't leave a mess for your executor clean up. There are ways to make your executor's job easier.
Don’t leave a mess for your executor clean up. There are ways to make your executor’s job easier.

Next Avenue’s recent article entitled “Is Your Estate as Planned As You Think?” explains that when you pass away your executor will have many tasks to perform when settling your estate.

It’s helpful to add clarity and lessen the burden of your executor’s work in advance. Look at this list of things to make sure your estate is as planned as you think it is:

Is your will current? If you’ve written your will, how long has it been since you drafted it? Have there been any major changes in your life since that time? If so, it’s likely time to update it. Review your will to make certain that it’s an accurate representation of your assets and your wishes now.

Is your will detailed? Yes, you’ve addressed the big stuff, but what about smaller items with sentimental value? You should list who gets what, to avoid fighting, especially if the executor is one of your beneficiaries.

Do you have a way to distribute your other personal items? You should determine how your family will divide up the possessions not explicitly listed in your will, such as the lawnmower, dishes and photographs. All of it will need to be either distributed by the executor to one of your beneficiaries, donated, or sold.

Are your financial affairs organized? Your executor will need to know if you have any recurring payments, as well as your account number, and online passwords. Create a list of regular monthly bills, along with your account numbers and access codes to simplify your executor’s job.

You will also need to let the executor know about any automatic deductions or charges on your credit card, internet-based subscriptions, club memberships, recurring charitable donations and automatic utility payments.

Making your wishes clear for your executor can help ensure that there’s less stress and an easy distribution of your assets.

Your estate planning attorney can help you address these issues to make things easier for your executor and your family. And while speaking with your estate planning attorney, ask about advance medical directives such as a medical power of attorney, a living will, a HIPAA waiver and whether you should have a trust.

For more information on wills see https://www.galliganmanning.com/understanding-why-a-will-is-important/.

Reference: Next Avenue (Feb. 25, 2020) “Is Your Estate as Planned As You Think?”

 

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