VA Benefits For Long Term Care For Veterans

Many wartime veterans and their surviving spouses will need some type of long-term care in the near future. The Veterans Administration may have funds that are available to help pay for this care. Unfortunately, many are not aware of these benefits.

There are three types of “pension benefits.” The veteran (or surviving spouse) does not need to have service-related injuries, but must meet certain eligibility requirements for wartime service, age and/or disability, and income/assets.

Pension with Aid and Attendance. This benefit offers the highest possible monthly payment. It provides benefits for a veteran or surviving spouse who requires the attendance of another person to assist in activities of daily living, is blind, or is a patient in a nursing home. Assisted care in an assisted living facility also qualifies. Currently, this benefit can provide up to $1,794 per month to a veteran, $1,153 to a surviving spouse, or $2,127 to a couple. A physician’s statement that verifies the claimant’s condition and need for assistance is required.

Pension with Housebound Allowance, which has a slightly lower benefit, will help those who do not qualify for Aid and Attendance, and who wish to remain in either their own home or the home of a family member. This pension requires that the individual needs regular assistance, but the criteria is not as limited as for those who would qualify for Aid and Attendance. Care can be provided by family members or outside caregiver agencies. A physician’s statement documenting the claimant’s medical needs is required.

Basic Pension is for veterans and surviving spouses who are age 65 or older or are disabled, and who have limited income and assets. No physician’s statement documenting a medical need is required.

Thomas Walters Estate Planning builds lasting relationships with our clients based on the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We help our clients customize plans that meet their unique needs, concerns, and goals. We compassionately assist families after the loss of a loved one. We believe that a well thought out and professionally developed plan will provide peace of mind making transitions for generations stress free and cost efficient.

The Staggering Costs of Dementia

Most of us know of someone who has been diagnosed with dementia. It is a costly and heart-breaking condition that is nearly doubling in numbers every 20 years. Dementia has affected the likes of Norman Rockwell, E.B. White, Rita Hayworth, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan, Charles Bronson, Margaret Thatcher and many others.

What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Symptoms can vary, but there are usually two core mental functions significantly impaired: memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception. These symptoms can be displayed when the person with dementia has problems with short-term memory, keeping track of his/her purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments, or travelling out of the neighborhood. These often progressive symptoms will likely eventually require assistance with daily activities, resulting in increased expense and stress on the individual and their family members.

The RAND Study
The RAND Corporation recently concluded a nearly decade-long study on close to 11,000 people. The study sheds light on dementia statistics including rates of diagnosis and costs to society.

The Cost of Dementia to Society
According to the RAND Corporation’s study, the cost of caring for those with dementia is projected to double by 2040 and is currently higher than caring for those with heart disease or cancer. The direct costs of dementia, including the cost of medicine and nursing homes, was $109 billion a year in 2010 compared to $102 billion for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer. This cost is pushed even higher, to $215 billion, when support from family members or other loved ones is given a cost value. This figure will rise to $511 billion by 2040. Information from the RAND study and from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services indicates that, by 2020, dementia patients will ac-count for about 10% of the elderly population.

The Cost of Dementia to the Family
While the cost to society is great, the costs to individuals diagnosed with dementia and their loved ones is even more significant. As evidenced by the RAND study, each individual case of dementia costs between $41,000 and $56,000 a year. In addition to the financial drain on families, dementia increases the stress on the caregiver. In fact, caregivers have been found to be at increased risk for depression and anxiety and long term medical problems, which impose a further financial burden on the family.

Conclusion
Dementia poses higher costs to society and individuals than heart disease or cancer. With help from an Elder Law attorney, the family of those afflicted with dementia can obtain the support they need to care properly for their loved one. We can help clients prepare or deal with an immediate need to find appropriate resources in dealing with dementia, as well as handle all your general estate planning needs. We can support the loved one in making sure the dementia patient has access to the care and medical attention they need. We would be honored to help.
 

http://www.rand.org/news/press/2013/04/03.html
The Wall Street Journal, Dementia Will Take Toll on Health-Care Spending, April 8, 2013 Care Spending, April 8, 2013

Understanding The Importance & Implications of Guardianships & Conservatorships

Usually the idea of guardianship and/or conservatorship as a bad thing - something to be avoided. In a perfect world, we have to do advance planning to provide for our own care if we become impaired or incapacitated, and we need trustworthy, responsible and financially astute family members who are willing and able to assist us. For some people, these “perfect world” conditions do exist. However, for many others, they do not.

Increasingly, attorneys run into the following situations:
1. Seniors come to us, often brought by their children or children-in-law, when mental incapacity has set in, and although they appear to have willing and able family members who can take care of them, assist with making personal care and living decisions, or manage their finances, the seniors do not have the necessary delegation documents in place to empower these helpers as their agents.
2. Seniors have documents in place, but the people named are dead or no longer available, willing or appropriate to serve.
3. The people who the senior trusted and anticipated would be appropriate have become exploitative and abusive to them.
4. Seniors have been conned into paying for, or agreeing to pay for, fraudulent products and/or services.
Elder abuse in its many forms—including fraud by unscrupulous “vendors,” financial exploitation, and physical or emotional abuse by “friends” and relatives– is a huge problem in the United States.

Crisis Solutions
Another increasingly common situation is where seniors do not have agent –delegation planning in place and end up in a medical or living condition crisis where they are putting themselves or others at risk. Loyal family members and friends are very concerned, but nobody has the power to assist once they learn what needs to be done.

Alternatively, seniors may have excellent voluntary delegation planning in place, but the seniors are non-compliant about what they now need to do for their own safety and care. For example, they may need to live in an assisted living community or nursing home, but they voluntarily check themselves out and depart. They are free to make their own decisions, even though imprudent or unsafe, so they can walk right out and put themselves in danger. If they have access to an automobile, they put the general public at risk as well.

Adult Protective Services
In emergencies, where the seniors are unwilling to cooperate and their intransigence is putting themselves or others at risk, often the first call should be to Adult Protective Services (APS). In Missouri this is the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). DHSS generally will appoint a social worker or other staff person to investigate, perhaps with local police in order to gain access to the senior and entry into the home.

Seeking Court Protection
Whether or not DHSS gets involved, and whether or not the case is an emergency or just a situation where the senior needs help and is not willing or able to sign voluntary agent-delegation documents, the solution is often a guardianship and/or conservatorship over the senior, if he or she meets the applicable standards of incapacity.

Guardianship
Terminology varies from state to state, but in general, guardianship (sometimes called “guardianship of the person”) applies to probate court appointment of a fiduciary (“guardian”) to make decisions in regard to the protected person’s personal care. A guardian generally does not have control of the protected person’s finances, although state law or the specific terms of the guardianship may authorize the guardian to hold small amounts of the protected person’s funds if no conservator has been appointed and the protected person does not have a durable power of attorney.

Conservatorship
Conservatorship refers to probate court appointment of a fiduciary (“conservator”) to administer the finances and assets of the protected person. Conservatorship is much like trusteeship, although the powers of and restrictions on the conservator are defined by statute and regulation, rather than a voluntary trust agreement or trust declaration, and are typically are much less flexible than the powers authorized for trustees. Conservatorships are also analogous to durable powers of attorney. However, one of the key differences between conservatorships, trusts and durable powers of attorney is that conservatorships are court-supervised and directly accountable to the court. It is common for conservators to be required by state law and regulations to account annually to the probate court. A conservator does not have plenary power to do whatever financial transactions he or she feels are warranted. For example, a conservator needs specific court authorization to sell real estate in most states.

Thomas Walters Estate Planning builds lasting relationships with our clients based on the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We help our clients customize plans that meet their unique needs, concerns, and goals. We compassionately assist families after the loss of a loved one. We believe that a well thought out and professionally developed plan will provide peace of mind making transitions for generations stress free and cost efficient.

How To Plan For Long Term Care

(Partially taken from LongTermCare.gov -US Health and Human Services)

WHAT IS LONG TERM CARE?
In the year 2000, almost 10 million people needed some form of long-term care in the United States. Of this population, 3.6 million (37%) were under age 65 and 6 million (63%) were over age 65 (Roger & Komisar, 2003). Recent research suggests that most Americans turning age 65 will need long-term care at some point in their lives. This section of the website provides basic information so you can begin to think about how you will handle the need for long-term care. Your path will be unique to you, and based on your preferences and circumstances.

Many people think the phrase “long-term care” refers to an insurance policy. While insurance may be part of your strategy, long-term care encompasses everything from long-term services and supports and finances, to where you will live and how you will navigate the myriad of legal, family, and social dynamics along the way.

Long-term care is a range of services and supports you may need to meet your personal care needs. Most long-term care is not medical care, but rather assistance with the basic personal tasks of everyday life, sometimes called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as:

HOW MUCH CARE WILL YOU NEED?

· Bathing
· Dressing
· Using the toilet
· Transferring (to or from bed or chair)
· Caring for incontinence
· Eating

The duration and level of long-term care will vary from person to person and often change over time. Here are some statistics (all are “on average”) you should consider:
· Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years
· Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)
· One-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years

WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF CARE?
Below are some national average costs for long-term care in the United States (in 2016). Average costs for specific states are also available.
· $225 a day or $6,844 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home
· $253 a day or $7,698 per month for a private room in a nursing home
· $119 a day or $3,628 per month for care in an assisted living facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
· $20.50 an hour for a health aide
· $20 an hour for homemaker services
· $68 per day for services in an adult day health care center

A FULLY FUNDED REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST AVOIDS LIVING PROBATE
One of the advantages of a revocable living trust is that it can avoid a living probate. When you set up a revocable living trust, if you change the name on the titles of your assets from your name to the name of your trustee (which is usually you), you are “funding” your trust. If you have fully funded your trust (changed all the titles) and you become unable to conduct business, there is no reason for a living probate because you do not own any assets in your own name. Your successor trustee, someone hand-picked by you, can automatically step in without court interference and manage your financial affairs—including selling or refinancing assets to help pay for your care—for as long as needed.

A fully funded living trust is much more effective than a durable power of attorney. For example:
· A power of attorney may not be accepted by banks and other financial institutions, especially if it’s old, is deemed too limited or too broad, or is not on their own form. By contrast, ownership of trust assets by the trustee must be honored.
· The person to whom you give this power (your agent) could become disabled or die. If you have not named a successor, a living probate may be the only solution. With a trust, even if all the successors you name are unavailable to serve, a trustee can be appointed under the terms of the trust.
· If you own a business, a power of attorney must contain very specific instructions for running the business. But if it is owned by your living trust, the successor trustee will have no problem stepping and running the business, or hiring someone if he/she is not qualified or licensed to do so.
· A durable power of attorney ends at your death, but your trust can continue after you die to provide for the care of your loved ones.

A living trust lets you set the criteria to define your disability, including certification by two physicians or a panel of people that you pre-select. You can also name the people who are to be taken care of in the event of your disability, and prioritize the names in the event funds become limited. The court may still need to officially appoint a guardian for your care, but you can make your preference known.

Thomas Walters Estate Planning builds lasting relationships with our clients based on the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We help our clients customize plans that meet their unique needs, concerns, and goals. We compassionately assist families after the loss of a loved one. We believe that a well thought out and professionally developed plan will provide peace of mind making transitions for generations stress free and cost efficient.

Dealing With Digital Assets In Your Estate Plan

In the 21st century, we now have to plan not only for financial and personal assets, but also for digital assets. We often forget to plan for these accounts. In Missouri, there is no law regarding digital assets. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to plan. There are many reasons
to do so, including just making sure that your spouse or family knows what accounts they will need to deal with and how to locate them. Here are some tips for how to handle your digital assets after death:


1. Create an inventory. Make a list of all of your online accounts, with usernames and passwords. Make sure there is someone that is aware where to find the list.


2. You may want to use a password manager, such as LastPass, and share that information with your trustee or executor, but don’t put log-in information or passwords in your will or trust.


3. Write a document stating your digital-asset plan or write it into your estate documents. When you do this you need to be very clear about it. The more specific you are about who is in charge of these assets and the assets to which they should have access. You can include a specific statement that the trustee or executor should have the same access as the account holder for all of his digital accounts, specifically including the access to the content of the digital accounts (e.g. content of the emails). Of course, that is if you want them too!


4. You may also want to leave for your trustee/executor a statement of intent for digital assets or specific directions for each account. Also, due to the fact that an average American could have hundreds of accounts, you can write a general statement of intention to encompass
all other accounts that you don’t specifically name — past, present, and future.


5. Think carefully and be specific about what you want your executor to have access to. For example, can he read all of your email messages? If not, be direct about that issue in your statement.


6. Pick your executor carefully. Consider what information they’ll have access to in your online accounts—and also that they’ll need at least some tech savvy to deal with those accounts.

Thomas Walters Estate Planning builds lasting relationships with our clients based on the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We help our clients customize plans that meet their unique needs, concerns, and goals. We compassionately assist families after the loss of a loved one. We believe that a well thought out and professionally developed plan will provide peace of mind making transitions for generations stress free and cost efficient.

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Issue 1: Simple wills inadequate to protect children from previous marriages:
Joe (age 77) and Beth (age 75) are in a long-term second marriage. Joe has two children from a previous marriage, Ashley (age 50) and Dawn (age 48). Beth also has two children from a previous marriage, Jeremy (age 45) and Jason (age 44). Joe and Beth have simple wills that give their entire estate to the surviving spouse with contingent gifts for the four children. After Beth dies, Joe moves closer to his children and becomes estranged from Jeremy and Jason. He changes his will to give his entire estate to his children.
Issue 2: Delayed inheritance leads to litigation:
Andy, a widower (age 56), marries Paula (age 25). Andy has two children, Alexis (age 24) and Lauren (age 21), from his previous marriage to Maureen. Andy wants to provide for his new wife, but does not wish to disinherit his children. He creates a trust that names his two children as remainder beneficiaries. Andy dies and his children eventually become resentful for having to wait until Paula’s death to receive their inheritance. They institute litigation against Paula over extravagant distributions from the trust.
Issue 3: Long term care needs threaten inheritance:
Linda and Mike marry when they are in their 60s. Linda has significantly more assets than Mike. Both Mike and Linda have children from previous marriages. Linda is concerned that her children’s inheritance will be diminished if Mike ever requires long term care, which she would have to pay for with her own funds.
Issue 4: Child’s blended marriage raises estate planning concerns:
Chris and Lisa have a happy first marriage with two children, Ryan and Rory. Rory is married to Ken, who has children from a previous marriage and has difficulty keeping a job. Chris and Lisa are concerned that if they leave an inheritance outright to Rory, Ken will “permanently retire” and live off of the inheritance.


WHAT ARE BLENDED FAMILIES?
• Married couples in which one or both spouses have children from a previous marriage.
• Families with children who are in second or subsequent marriages and who have children
from previous marriages.
• Families with children whose spouses have children from previous marriages.
Blended families can face complex estate planning challenges. Issues can arise between spouses, or between children and their spouses. Typically, individuals in blended families want to provide for the spouse as well as the children from the previous marriage. In some cases, they also want to provide for the children from their spouse’s previous marriage.


ARE BLENDED FAMILIES COMMON?
• Several trends related to divorce have increased the number of blended families.
• Approximately 50% of American marriages end in divorce.
• Approximately 60% of remarriages end in divorce.
• Approximately 43% of marriages are remarriages for at least one party.
• The average duration of these marriages is 7.8 years.
• There are approximately 1,160,000 new divorces each year.
• Approximately one million children each year have newly divorced /divorcing parents.
• 54% of divorced women remarry in five years.


WHAT ESTATE PLANNING CHALLENGES DO BLENDED FAMILIES FACE?
• In a blended family, estate planning challenges can include:
• The potential for children to be disinherited.
• Delays in the children’s receipt of inheritance until after the death of their parent’s spouse.
• The need to protect assets from former spouses.
• Disputes over division of authority or responsibility.

There are many ways to plan for these challenges.

Thomas Walters Estate Planning builds lasting relationships with our clients based on the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We help our clients customize plans that meet their unique needs, concerns, and goals. We compassionately assist families after the loss of a loved one. We believe that a well thought out and professionally developed plan will provide peace of mind making transitions for generations stress free and cost efficient.

5 Goals of Estate Planning For Farmers

1. Transfer Ownership: The primary goal of estate planning is to facilitate the transfer of ownership and management of the farm business, farmland, and other assets. Estate planning ensures that the farm/ranch will be passed along to the intended party with as few complications as possible, and per your wishes, taking into account family situations, taxes, medical conditions.


2. Reduce Estate Taxes: The second goal of estate planning is avoiding unnecessary transfer taxes. Transferring ownership of assets can be very complicated for the layman, and amid the complex laws and confusing language is the potential for extreme transfer taxes. Very often transferring real estate through a trust will save or eliminate taxes. There may also be agricultural exemptions to take into account.


3. Secure Financial Future: The third goal of estate planning is to ensure financial security for all generations. Without proper documentation showing how assets should be allocated, the state has the ability to distribute the estate as it sees fit. Just as important, the estate can be set up so that the costs of medical care, funeral costs, and the costs of settling the estate are covered by the estate, rather than on the shoulders of the estate’s beneficiaries. The estate can also be set up to provide living costs, educational costs and more for the surviving heirs. The
distribution of the estate, especially if one child wants to keep the farm, can also be set up so to be fair to all children.


4. Develop Management Skills: The fourth goal of estate planning in the farm/ ranch context is to develop the next generation’s management skills. With a properly planned estate, you and your family can choose the business ownership structure and asset transfer methods that allow the younger generation to participate in the management and ownership of your farm/ranch as soon as both generations are ready.


5. Keep Land in Agriculture: The fifth goal of estate planning may be to keep productive land in agriculture. There are different mechanisms that can be used to ensure that the farm/ranch will continue to be actively used in agriculture in the future, such as conservation easements, or even donations to charity.


Thomas Walters Estate Planning builds lasting relationships with our clients based on the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We help our clients customize plans that meet their unique needs, concerns, and goals. We compassionately assist families after the loss of a loved one. We believe that a well thought out and professionally developed plan will provide peace of mind making transitions for generations stress free and cost efficient.

Estate Planning 101: What Is A Will VS. A Trust Anyway?

Even if you are a person of modest means, you have an estate—so everyone needs an estate plan. The right plan depends on your individual circumstances. For some, a living Trust can be useful. For others, a Will may be all that is needed. What is a Living Trust anyway? And how does it differ from a Last Will and Testament?
What Is a Will?
A Will is a written document that is signed and witnessed that indicates how your property will be distributed at the time of your death. It becomes public record upon its filing. It states who is in charge of overseeing the distribution (called the Executor). It is revocable and subject to amendment at any time during your lifetime. It also allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children. But distributions made per a Will are usually outright upon closing of the probate. And distributions are not made until the probate is closed, which often causes significant delay of the distribution. Additionally, there may be times when there are special circumstances that warrant that the distributions have certain conditions, or that the money be held or distributed over a period of time or at a certain age. Under these circumstances, a Will cannot always achieve the necessary goals. On top of that probate could end up much more costly than setting up an estate plan. Typical costs of probate are 2-3% (or more) of the value of the assets in the estate. A Will also plans for when you are gone, but does not make provisions for what may happen if you become incapacitated. So typically a Will is now used for a more simple estate or family situation. If you have larger concerns or a larger estate, you may consider a Trust.
What Is a Living Trust?
A Living Trust provides lifetime and after-death financial and property management. If you are serving as your own Trustee, the Trust agreement will provide for a successor upon your death or incapacity. Going through a court proceeding is not required, and therefore your Trust provisions are completely private. Livings Trusts also are used to manage property. If a person is disabled by accident or illness, the Successor Trustee can manage the Trust property. As a result, the expense, publicity, and inconvenience of court-supervised distribution of your estate can be avoided.
If a Trust is properly written and funded, some things that you can do are…

  • Avoid the cost and delay of a probate on your assets;
  • Plan for the possibility of your own incapacity;
  • Control what happens to property after you are gone, and potentially how the assets are used by your heirs;
  • Plan for heirs with special needs or inheritances by minors;
  • Protect assets from possible divorce or undesirable in-laws;
  • Use it for any size estate, including making necessary tax plans for a larger estate; and
  • Prevent your financial affairs from becoming a matter of public record;

While a Trust is often appealing, it usually is more expensive to set up than a typical Will because it must be funded after it is set up, and often contains more complicated arrangements. Nevertheless, the cost is still much less than going through a probate proceeding.

Will vs. Living Trust Considerations
There are many positive reasons to establish a Trust, but do not overlook the fact that it will involve more upfront effort and expense. To determine if you should make the extra effort and invest in the expense of a Trust, answer these questions:


Is informal probate an available option? Most states have an expedited or simplified form of probate for estates under a certain dollar threshold ($40,000 in the State of Missouri). If your estate could pass under an expedited form of probate, a Will could be appropriate.
Do you have assets in more than one state? Owning property in multiple states could require more than one probate proceeding.
Do you have minor children? A Trust allows you to establish guardians for your children while they are minors as well as provisions specifying when a child will be entitled to any assets held in Trust, or for what purposes.
Do you have children, grandchildren, or other dependents with special needs? In those instances the access or control those heirs have over their inherited property may need to be limited. You do not want to jeopardize disability or other government benefits. With a standard Will your property can be passed on to those heirs but a Will alone does not allow you to exercise much control over their use of the property.
Do your children get along? Do they live nearby or are they scattered? Do you even want to leave them all the same amounts, or anything at all? Sometimes we have family situations that are complicated, and we need to find ways to set them out in black and white so there is no confusion or conflict at the end of the day. Wills may not be able to address all these “special family circumstances.”
Will your estate be subject to estate taxes? If the value of your estate exceeds the current estate tax threshold, you may wish to consider setting up a Trust with tax planning provisions. The estate tax threshold frequently changes, so be sure to check with the IRS to determine whether or not estate tax is a concern for you.
Do you have issues with a daughter-in-law or a son-in-law? A living Trust could protect inheritances from a potential divorce, or help avoid conflict at the time of distribution.
Are you on your second marriage… or third, or fourth? Blended families often have more complex situations to consider. How do you deal with inheritances for your children versus making arrangements for your spouse? These are oftentimes situations that are properly dealt with only by setting up a Trust.
Do you have long term medical concerns, and concerns about paying for those expenses? Per the Alzheimers Association, more than $5M people are living with Alzheimers in 2017. Alzheimers will cost the US approximately $259B this year alone. And statistics show that 35% of caregivers for people with Alzheimers or dementia report that their health worsened due to care responsibilities. Be sure to discuss how to protect your family and your assets sooner rather than later.
So what is best for you? In many respects, a Trust and a Will accomplish similar objectives. A Trust, however, allows you to realize other objectives that a Will cannot. But those advantages don’t come without a price. Whether or not a living Trust is better for you than a Will depends on whether the additional advantages are worth the cost. When choosing, remember that one size does not fit all. What is right for one person may not be right for everyone. Your estate plan should be prepared in a way that best meets the needs of you and your family.

Either way, EVERYONE needs an estate plan. Dying intestate (with no Will or Trust) will be sure to involve the government. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Stop procrastinating and call to make an appointment to sit down with us for a FREE CONSULTATION to plan your legacy. Protect yourselves, protect your family and give yourself the peace of mind you deserve for years to come.

Thomas Walters Estate Planning builds lasting relationships with our clients based on the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We help our clients customize plans that meet their unique needs, concerns, and goals. We compassionately assist families after the loss of a loved one. We believe that a well thought out and professionally developed plan will provide peace of mind making transitions for generations stress free and cost efficient.