When You Need an Elder Law Attorney

An elder law attorney can guide you through the issues that affect us as we age.
An elder law attorney can guide you through the issues that affect us as we age.

The conversation that you have with an estate planning attorney, when you are in your thirties with a new house, young children, and many years ahead of you is different from the one you’ll have when you are much older. That’s the time to consult an elder law attorney. When you are older, you face a whole new set of issues, including rising health costs and the possibility of needing long term care. An elder law attorney knows that you are about to enter a time in your life when your estate planning documents are more likely to be used, says the article “Learn about legal documents and Medicaid” from the Houston Chronicle.

As we get older, the need to address long term care becomes more important. Elder law attorneys warn that there are many options that may be foreclosed if planning is not done ahead of the time. This is the time to talk to an elder law attorney to create a road map that anticipates the care you may require as you get older and how to pay for it. Making the right decisions now, could have a big impact on the quality of your life in the future.

This is also the time to update your financial and medical powers of attorney. Because of your experiences, there may be certain preferences you have for health care treatment. In addition, your elder law attorney may advise you to include a broad gifting power in your financial power of attorney which may be necessary to help you qualify for government assistance.

You should also review your other estate planning documents to make sure that they still reflect how you wish your estate to pass at your death. Your elder law attorney may suggest adding provisions to protect a surviving spouse’s eligibility for Medicaid or other government assistance in case it is needed.

It may be that your estate plan will include trusts, or that certain assets will need to be retitled. An elder law attorney can guide you through this stage of your life to make sure that you are prepared for what the future holds.

Learn more about elder law and medicaid at our website.

Reference: The Houston Chronicle (April 19, 2019) “Learn about legal documents and Medicaid”

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Should Elder Care Benefits Be Part of Employees’ Compensation?

More young and middle-aged workers find themselves in the role of family caregiver.
More young and middle-aged workers find themselves in the role of family caregiver.

As employees’ parents and family members grow older, many young and middle- aged employees are asked to be caregivers. More than one in six Americans working full-time or part-time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend. Of this group, nearly 50% say they have no choice about taking on these responsibilities. That’s why many struggle in silence, deciding not to share their situation with employers out of fear for the impact on their career or a desire for privacy.

Benefits Pro reports in the article “Elder care benefits: A growing need for the U.S. workforce” that under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), “family leave for seriously ill family members” is required by law. However, the law offers unpaid job protection and the definition of family member is restricted to spouse, child or parent. This has resulted in an increase in demand for elder care benefits. There are a variety of options that businesses can offer.

Many employers now offer an employee assistance program (EAP), which provides employees and household members with educational and referral services for elder care. These services often include free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services. These EAPs also address a broad body of mental and emotional well-being issues, like alcohol and substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems and psychological disorders.

In addition, some employers also have Dependent Care Assistance Plans (DCAP), commonly referred to as the “day care benefit,” allowing employees to set aside tax-free dollars for qualified elder care. While DCAPs don’t cover the entire cost of elder care, they can provide up to $5,000 per calendar year in assistance and lessen employees’ federal tax burden.

Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers and can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days.

Caregiving has shown to reduce employee work productivity by 18.5% and increase the likelihood of employees leaving the workplace. Offering elder care benefits to employees can help with retention and efficiency, as well as with businesses’ bottom line. A study by the Center for American Progress found that turnover costs are often estimated to be 100 to 300% of the base salary of the replaced employee.

As the demand for these benefits continues to increase, employers are recognizing the diverse needs of their workforce and are creating programs that have benefits to help at all stages of life.

Learn more about what health care documents a caregiver needs to be able to make medical decisions for an elderly or disabled family member.

Reference: Benefits Pro (April 30, 2019) “Elder care benefits: A growing need for the U.S. workforce”

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Social Security Benefits – What Happens When a Spouse Dies?

Social Security benefits can change after the death of a spouse.
What happens to Social Security on the death of a spouse?

Imagine both spouses are receiving Social Security when one spouse dies. What will happen with their Social Security checks?  How does the survivor obtain death certificates? How complicated will it be to obtain survivor benefits?

First, what happens to the Social Security monthly benefits? Social Security benefits are always one month behind. The check you receive in May, for example, is the benefit payment for April.

Second, Social Security benefits are not prorated. If you took benefits at age 66, and then turned 66 on September 28, you would get a check for the whole month of September, even though you were only 66 for three days of the month.

If your spouse dies on January 28, you would not be due the proceeds of that January Social Security check, even though he or she was alive for 28 days of the month.

So, when a spouse dies, the monies for that month may have to be returned. The computer-matching systems linking the government agencies and banks may make this unnecessary, if the benefits are not issued. Or, if the benefits were issued, the Treasury Department may simply interrupt the payment and return it to the government, before it reaches a bank account.

There may be a twist, depending upon the date of the decedent’s passing. Let’s say that a spouse dies on April 3. Because he or she lived throughout the entire month of March, that means the benefits for March are due, even though they are paid in April. If a check was not issued or sent back because of the date, it should eventually be reissued.

Obtaining death certificates is usually handled by the funeral director, or the city, county or state bureaus of vital statistics. You will need more than one original death certificate for use with banks, investments, etc. The Social Security office may or may not need one, as they may receive proof of death from other sources, including the funeral home.

If you were already receiving spousal benefits on the deceased spouse’s work record, Social Security will in most cases switch you automatically to survivor benefits when the death is reported.  Otherwise, you will need to apply for survivor benefits by phone at the 800 number for Social Security or in person at your local Social Security office.

If you had only received a spousal benefit as a non-working spouse and you are over full retirement age, then you receive whatever your spouse was receiving at the time of his or her death. If you were getting your own retirement benefits, keep in mind that you will not receive a survivor benefit in addition to your own retirement benefits. Social Security will pay the higher of the two amounts.

Survivor benefits will begin effective on the month of your spouse’s death. If your spouse dies on June 28, then you will be due survivor benefits for the entire month of June, even if you were only a widow or widower for three days of the month. No matter what type of claim you file, you will also receive a one-time $255 death benefit.

Reference: Tuscon.com (March 13, 2019) “Social Security and You: What to do when a loved one dies”

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