Archive for the ‘Elder Law’ Category

Nursing Home Notes — Be An Active Participant

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

It is always tough to make the decision that a loved one should move to a nursing home.  Most of the time, it is because we just can’t take care of them sufficiently in our own homes and this is the best choice for the safety of everyone.

When a loved one goes into a nursing home, there are a number of things you can do to help ensure they will get the best care possible.

This list assumes that you have already done the proper research to find the best facility that fits your needs.

1.  Visit often. How often to visit?  my suggestion is at least once per day.  Your loved one will appreciate the visits and the staff will understand that you care.

2.  Visit at different times.  If the staff knows you will always be there are 1:00 pm, it is likely that your loved one will be cared for shortly before 1:00 pm.  But if you show up at different times, they won’t know when to be ‘prepared’ for your visit.

3.  Get to know the staff.  These are the people who are taking care of your loved one.  Get to know their names and their role in your loved one’s care.  By visiting at different times, you can get to know the staff on all of the shifts.  Make a point of saying ‘hi’ when you are visiting.  It’s just human nature that people respond to those who show an interest in them.

4.  Know the names of all of your loved one’s doctors and what they do.  If a new doctor is being added to the mix, make a point of visiting while the doctor is there so you can meet him/her.

5.  Know what medications your loved one is taking, and why.  When a new medication is prescribed, you can ask about whether there will be a bad interaction with an existing medication.  Keeping up with the medications will also help you know more about your loved one’s conditions.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Can I throw away my records?

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I have a friend who does organizing for people as a business and I’ve used her services myself.  Why?  Because I always think I may need things later.  It helps to have someone hold up a t-shirt that I haven’t worn for 15 years, and is in a size that I am sure I’ll never see again and make me say out loud that I really need to keep it.  And yes, I now have 2 big bags of clothes to take to the charity resale store.

That works with clothes, but what about my financial records?

Part of me knows that I really don’t need my electric bills from 1994 from a house that has since been sold, but they really don’t take up much room and they would be difficult to recreate if I ever did need them.

This time of year, I hear people recommending that you dispose of financial records that are over 3 years old.  This may be correct for tax purposes.  I’m not a tax expert so I really can’t say.

But, if you want to apply for Medicaid, you need to be able to ‘look back’ 5 years to see if you’ve made a gift that might create a penalty period.  Or rather, you need to be able to prove that you did NOT make a gift in the past 5 years.

And since I’m never sure of what may happen in my life, I want to be prepared, just in case.

So my goal for this spring is to dispose of financial records from 2005 and before.  Yes I know that 2006 was 6 years ago and not five, but at least I’ll get rid of those electric bills from 1994!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Have You Checked Your Beneficiary Designation Lately?

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

I encourage my clients to review their estate planning documents on a regular basis, and an annual checkup seems like something that can be scheduled and easy to remember.

But what about things that aren’t part of the documents that I help to create?  What about your individual IRA?  or your life insurance policy?  or your company retirement plan? or your investment portfolio?

These types of plans are contractual in nature and the contract is between you and the insurance carrier or the plan administrator, or….whomever.

It is also important to make sure that these beneficiaries are up to date.  If the beneficiary is a minor child, do you have the person you want today as the trustee of these funds?  Have the children now become adults and you want them to have access to the funds immediately?  Have you created a trust and just never got around to changing the beneficiary of your insurance so that the funds will go into the trust to be distributed the way you wanted?

One of the biggest problems is selecting a beneficiary and just forgetting about it.  What happens if that person has died before you?  What happens if that person is no longer the one that you want to have access to the funds?  Maybe they got married to someone you hate.  Maybe they ran off to join a commune.  Maybe receiving the funds will make them ineligible (for just a little while) for medicaid benefits they are receiving now?  Maybe…. (fill in the blank).

I had a very personal example of this.  My mother had a life insurance policy that she got when she was working.  Her plan was that we could use her life insurance proceeds to pay for the funeral and then there would be a little left over for each of us (I’m the oldest of 7 children).  We all knew she had the life insurance and we all knew what she wanted us to do with the proceeds, but what we didn’t know was that she hadn’t really named a beneficiary at all.  I know she meant to have the beneficiary set to ‘all of my children equally’, but it never got recorded at the life insurance company.  The funeral home would have taken an assignment of the insurance proceeds, but that assignment had to be signed by all of the named beneficiaries and there were no named beneficiaries!

That meant that we needed to get a certified copy of her divorce papers, and all 7 of us had to sign affidavits that we were indeed her children before we could get access to the funds.  Of course we needed to have this done on the forms provided by the insurance company, which took time.  And somebody had to pay the funeral home right away.  So mom’s plan to use the insurance proceeds to pay for the funeral only ‘kinda’ worked.  One of us had to pay the funeral home and then each of the other 6 had to reimburse the one that paid when they got their one-seventh of the proceeds.

I have a great family and it worked out fine, but I’ve heard lots of examples of where one child has been ‘stuck’ with the entire funeral bill and the others refused to reimburse the sibling that paid the funeral home itself.

Please, take a few minutes and double check your beneficiary designations on all of those ‘contractual’ assets.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

July is Sandwich Generation Month!

Monday, July 4th, 2011

When I hear the word ‘Sandwich’ I tend to think of Peanut-Butter and Jelly, which always brings a smile to my face.

But there is a new way of viewing ‘Sandwich’ that is not so much fun.  That’s the role more of us are playing by being the caregivers of both our parents and our children.

In the grand scheme, this is not really anything new.  Families used to always take care of the generations, often in a single home.  Grandma and Grandpa shared the same home with their children and grandchildren providing wisdom and assistance as the new generation came along, and receiving the attention and care of those in the family as they slowed down in their elder years.

But things changed, especially here in the United States, and families tended to live in their own separate homes with Grandma and Grandpa often living across town or even across the country.  Most of us today can’t imagine even sharing a room with a sister or brother, let alone imagine sharing a home with Grandma or Grandpa.

None of us would consider leaving a two-year old home alone.  After all, the two-year old can’t really get food to eat or make sure they make it to the bathroom on time.  And there are things in the home that could injure the child if they are not used correctly.  The two-year old is also just learning about freedom and self-reliance and if the two-year old refuses to do what we tell them to do for their own good, we can pick them up and put them in their bedroom for a ‘time out’.  The parents get to set the ground rules because a two-year old doesn’t know that it is even possible to stay up past 8:00.

It’s a different story with our aging parents.  They DO know that they can stay up past 8:00, and they’ve done it for years!  Why, they even taught US!  And most of the time, they are too large to pick up and physically move to the bedroom for a ‘time out’ when they get cantankerous.  Unfortunately, our aging parents might also be in the position of not being able to get food for themselves or eating correctly, or making it to the bathroom on time, or using things in the home that can cause injury if not used correctly.

Our parents are living longer and having more health issues, both physical and mental, then previous generations.  I know there was nobody in my family that ever got cancer until my uncle was diagnosed a few years ago.  But nobody in the family had ever lived to be 85 before either.   On my dad’s side of the family, there wasn’t a history of dementia until the family members starting living into their 90’s.

Luckily, there are more and more services available to help us take care of our parents.  These services can take away some of the stress involved in day-to-day chores such as making sure that our parents are eating correctly and being kept clean and safe.  There was a time when babysitters and day-care centers for children were a new concept, even though today we see them as an established institution in our lifestyle.  It appears that there will come a day when adult care givers and adult day-care centers will also become established in our lifestyle.

These services cost money.  But unlike children who have no resources of their own, often our parents will have some resources available to them to help pay for the services needed for their care.

Also, as parents of minor children you have the legal authority to make decisions for your children.  This is not so for your parents.  It is important to have the correct documents in place so that you have the authority to make important and day-to-day decisions for your aging parents.  These include Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives.  You might also want to consider establishing a Trust so that your parent’s assets can be transferred with a minimum of hassle and used for their benefit.

What should you do?  Read…there are a lot of resources available on the web.  Talk to your parents…find out what they want while they are able to tell you.  Talk to people you trust…your doctor, your pastor, your lawyer.  Ask them to recommend services or service providers that they trust.  Unfortunately there are some scams out there that sound good but don’t really offer the right services for your needs.  And most of all, have patience. Remember that these are the people that spent their time raising you, dealing with you when you made mistakes and who helped mold you into who you are today.  Be patient with them, knowing that they are also having difficulty dealing with this role reversal.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Elder Law attorneys work with their clients to try to maintain the lifestyle that the client wants.  One of the ways that Elder Law attorneys do this is by helping the client find benefits that are available to them.

Even though its been around for a long time, a lot of people still don’t know about the Veteran’s benefit known as ‘Aid and Attendance’.

Every veteran who has served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one of those days during a period that is designated as ‘a period of war’, and who left the service with anything other than a dishonorable discharge might be eligible.  The benefit is also possibly available to the widow or widower of a deceased veteran who met the service eligibility requirements.

You can check HERE to determine if  your service included at least one day during a period of war.  Note that while you had to be on active duty for at least one day during a period of war, you did not actually need to be stationed in a combat zone.

In addition to the service eligibility, the veteran (or spouse of deceased veteran) must meet some medical and financial requirements before they can receive this benefit.

The medical requirements are that the person requesting the benefit must NEED assistance with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, eating, cooking, taking medications, etc.  There are no specific details as to what is required to prove a NEED and each application is evaluated individually.  As a practical matter, if the person can and does drive, it is practically impossible to prove that they NEED assistance with daily tasks.

The basic requirements also state that the person requesting the benefit must have a financial need.  Again, each application is evaluated individually and there are no definite limits.  While the stated requirements say that the applicant can have up to $80,000 in assets, the practical experience is that some people with assets as low as $50,000 have been declined.  The safer approach would be to have no more than $40,000 in assets.  There is also an income requirement.  Note that there is no ‘look back’ period for this benefit, unlike the ‘look back’ period that comes into play when you apply for medicaid.

If you apply for this benefit and are declined, you must wait at least one year before you can apply again.  That is why it is important to try to get the information correct the first time.  It would be a very sad event if the applicant was denied the benefit for some reason, but then things changed a month later that would have made them eligible and they had to wait a whole year to reapply.

The details of applying for this benefit are complex, even though they seem deceptively simple.  There are forms available for you to do this yourself, but you might want to consider working with someone that can help you get things right the first time.  There are also a lot of people that claim to be able to assist you in the application process for a fee, but often those people don’t have a lot of experience in getting claims approved.  It would be a good idea to ask your prospective assistant how many of the Aid and Attendance claims have resulted in approved benefits?

How much can you receive?  For 2011, the maximum benefit for a veteran is $1,644 per month; the maximum benefit for a veteran and spouse is $1,949 per month; the maximum benefit for a surviving spouse is $1,056 per month.; the maximum benefit for a veteran married to a veteran is $2,540 per month.  Note that these are maximum amounts and the actual benefit that is approved may be less than these amounts based on other criteria.

It is also very important for you to remember that once you have been approved for this benefit, you will need to respond annually to the request for information from the Veterans’ Administration to make sure you continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

To Learn more about Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law visit the website at