The Unexpected Costs of Caring for Elderly Parents In Your Home

Multi-generational households are becoming the new (or maybe it’s really old) in vogue way to handle the care of aging parents. And we’re all for it so long as you consider the implications and set your family up for success.

With Mom or Dad moving in, you can anticipate some extra expenses, not just financially, but possibly emotionally as well. But it’s hard to know what to expect, and you might face costs you didn’t see coming. Having an elderly parent move in with you is a major life event that requires financial and emotional preparation. Here are some unexpected costs of caring for elderly parents to get you thinking about what lies ahead, if you decide to move mom or dad into your home.

Remodeling

Many people don’t think about the modifications they might need to make to their home to welcome an elderly parent. If your parent is living with you long-term, you will want to make him or her comfortable, which might entail adding a new addition to your home, creating a private living space out of a shared area, making accommodations for single-level living if your parent cannot navigate the stairs, or adding mobility adaptations such as a walk-in bath or chair lifts.

Lost Work Productivity

Moving your elderly parent in, helping him or her get acquainted with the area, and checking out activities can all eat into your work week. Expect further loss of productivity if you have to take your parent to run errands, to medical appointments, or to therapy sessions. You can look into senior transportation services if you are unable to take time off from work, but remember to budget for the extra expense.

Home Help

In-home care can be a significant expense, but unless you are able to take time away from your busy day, your elderly parent might need it. Long-term care insurance will sometimes cover some or all of the costs, and you might be able to get assistance from certain programs through the VA or other community organizations.

Miscellaneous Household Expenses

The costs of simply having another household member can be unexpectedly high, especially if that member spends most of his or her day at home. You should expect such extra expenses as increased heat and electricity bills, special foods, and personal care products. Remember that elderly parents have special needs, and those needs can be expensive.

Medical Expenses

Even with insurance, your parent might have steep out of pocket costs for co-pays, prescriptions, mobility aids, supplements, vitamins, and other uninsured medical expenses. For certain conditions, these costs can quickly add up.

Long-Term Expenses

As your parent ages, his or her needs will change, too. These changing needs can result in unexpected long-term costs. When your parent’s retirement funds are exhausted or when they face deteriorating health, you might have to consider the staggering costs of long-term care in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Therapy

Moving mom or dad into your home could bring up all of the unresolved emotional issues that have not yet been addressed within your family dynamic. This isn’t something to be afraid of, so long as you have the right support. On the contrary, it can be a great opportunity to heal inter-generational wounds that would otherwise get passed on to you and your children and their children.

Caring for an elderly parent can result in unexpected expenses and unexpected benefits, as well. Now that they have become dependent on you, you might also need to consider making changes to your insurance policies or revising your estate plan. If you are ready to take the step of officially becoming caregiver for mom or dad, meet with us for guidance.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you prepare for the unexpected costs (and reap all the benefits) of caring for an elderly parent. We begin all planning with a Family Wealth Planning Session to get to know you, what’s important to you, and to support you to make the most informed, educated and empowered decisions possible for yourself and the people you love. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what’s most important to you, and what you can do to ensure your entire family is taken care of.

 This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Estate Attorney. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Why You Should Get Estate Planning Off Your To-Do List

There are many goals most of us want to accomplish in life, and some of the most important ones center on family and money. Here is what a thoughtful estate plan can help you accomplish that involves both:

Control health care decisions. Most people will die in a hospital or care facility, and many will lack important decision-making capacity for their own care. You can name the people responsible for health care decisions if this should happen to you through an advance medical directive as part of your estate plan.

Control your finances. By assigning a durable power of attorney in your estate plan, you can save your family from the expense and emotional trauma of having to go to court to take control of your finances via a conservatorship in case you become incapacitated.

Plan for your long-term care. Most of us will require long-term care at some time during our lives, and it can be expensive – even financially devastating for many families. An estate plan will help you take the necessary steps to plan for your long-term care so it doesn’t fall to your family.

Keep peace in the family. By determining where your assets will go and having the right beneficiaries named on retirement and bank accounts, you will help ensure family harmony and fend off any potential inheritance fights.

The process of estate planning is ripe for procrastination since so few people understand it or – more commonly – wish to contemplate their own demise. Yet it still remains one of the best things you can do to protect your money, your health and your family.

Here are 3 tips to get estate planning off your “to-do” list:

Consider your children. Estate planning helps you protect your children throughout their lifetimes. When they are young, you need to appoint a guardian if something should happen to you. When they are older, you want to have the financial capacity to send them to college. When you are gone, you want them to enjoy a legacy that includes passing on your values as well as your assets.  Only estate planning can do this for you.

Review beneficiary designations. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment accounts and other financial vehicles all require you to complete a beneficiary form to designate who will receive the assets upon your death. With no form, state law will govern, and your assets may go to those you never intended to receive them, or worse, go to your estate and be depleted by taxation. Be sure you have beneficiary forms on file for your accounts and that they are reviewed at least annually for any necessary updates.

Consider your own health. If you become incapacitated, who will be making your health care decisions for you? Do you want your life to be prolonged via life support no matter what? Whatever your wishes are for your own health, they won’t necessarily be followed unless you have executed a Living Will or assigned powers of attorney to see to these matters.

Make this the year you create your estate plan – or, if you have a plan that hasn’t been reviewed in the last two years, to update your estate plan. It’s a gift that will keep giving to you and your family.

The best way to learn about estate planning for your family is to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Don’t wait! Give us a call today at 832.408.0505, we love to hear from you.

 

How Can I Plan for a Strategic Retirement?

Are you approaching retirement? Not sure how you can ensure a smooth transition from working life to retired life?  Walking away from regular paychecks and employer-provided benefits can feel a little nerve wracking. Minimize the impact of these major life changes by planning accordingly.

Time It

Get your timing right. Review and understand your employer’s policies on 401(k) matching and profit sharing. Make sure you plan to retire at a time when you can reap all the vested benefits you have coming to you before they expire. Sit down with your company’s HR department to maximize your retirement benefits.

Bridge the Insurance Gap

If you are retiring before the age of 65, you could have a lapse in insurance coverage before you are eligible for Medicare. If your employer doesn’t offer retiree health insurance benefits (and most don’t), look into COBRA insurance to extend your current coverage or an individual insurance plan to carry you over until Medicare kicks in. Don’t forget about life insurance and long-term care insurance either. If you do not have an insurance advisor you trust, we can refer you to someone, and we can also provide an objective backstop review on any insurance you do have in place to make sure it’s the right amounts and right types for you.

Petition for Your Pension

Apply for your pension at least five months before you retire. Get a benefits statement, and consider your payout options if you have them (e.g. lump sum vs. annuity). Coordinate your pension payout to minimize your tax liability while still meeting your financial needs.

Rearrange Your Retirement Funds

Consider consolidating accounts and rolling 401(k) funds into an IRA for more investment freedom and easier management. Conversely, some retirees find the investment options with employer-provided 401(k)s are cheaper than those bought independently. Make sure you discuss your options with a financial professional and choose the option that maximizes your income and gives you the flexibility you need. And, of course, ensure your beneficiary designations are set up to make sure your retirement benefits go exactly where you choose

Planning a strategic retirement takes forethought, and don’t short sell yourself on all the perks you may be owed. Make sure you take advantage of all the benefits your employer offers and carefully plan how you will manage your retirement income to minimize tax liabilities. Following these simple steps can help ensure you are financially prepared for retirement.

If you are nearing retirement, consider sitting down with a Personal Family Lawyer®. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you strategize your retirement to reap maximum benefit before you retire. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you, and what you need to do to preserve your financial well-being and retire comfortably.

At GP Schoemakers, we don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a, no-pressure, Family Wealth Planning Session.

Three Health Care Documents You Need to Include in Your Estate Plan

Decisions about your health care are some of the most important you will ever make.

Don’t put off making plans until you are unable to assert your wishes. Including health care documents in your estate plan can ensure your decisions are always your choice, even if you cannot speak for yourself.

Health care documents that clearly state your wishes should be included in your comprehensive estate plan. Here are three documents you need to include in your estate plan to ensure your wishes are respected:

Health Care Directive

This document allows you to name a health care agent. This will be the individual who you grant the authority to make certain decisions on your behalf. A health care agent may also be called a health care surrogate or a personal representative.

In your directive, you can include specific instructions on the health care measures you desire if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. These are life and death decisions; make sure your agent is someone you trust.  Work closely with an estate-planning lawyer to ensure your directive provides clear guidelines for your agent to follow.

HIPAA Authorization

Your health care agent or personal representative will need access to your medical records in order to make educated decisions about your care. To do this, your agent will need a HIPAA authorization. This will ensure he or she has access to your medical records from HIPAA-covered health care providers.

Living Will Declaration

A living will provides specific guidelines for your end of life care. While your health care directive can include provisions for your agent to make certain decisions about your ongoing health care,a living will tells your agent how you would like those decisions made, such as if and when you want life support to be removed, whether you would want hydration and nutrition and what kind of care choices should be made for you, if you cannot make them for yourself. These types of absolute decisions about your life should be included in a living will for extra protection and assurance your desires will be known and honored.

These documents, if carefully crafted, will help you express and enforce your healthcare wishes, even if you cannot speak for yourself. If you want to ensure your preferences for your ongoing and end of life care are respected, contact us to discuss your options today.

A Personal Family Lawyer® can help you articulate and legally protect your healthcare wishes and preferences. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can guide you to create and complete these very important health care documents so you can have the peace of mind of knowing your family will make the right choices for you, when you cannot.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Signing Up for Medicare: The Facts For You or Your Parents Nearing Age 65

People who are nearing the age of 65 should be making plans for the transition from private health care to Medicare. It is not a simple process or one that happens automatically. You have to initiate the enrollment process at a specific time or suffer a monetary penalty.

It is important to understand that applying for Social Security benefits and enrolling in Medicare are two totally different things. Don’t confuse your eligible age for Social Security with the eligible age for Medicare. For Medicare, it is 65; there are no variations based on your date of birth.

Can I Sign Up Whenever I Want?

If you are turning 65 and are not covered under a health insurance plan through your employer or your spouse’s, you must enroll in Medicare during an initial enrollment period (IEP) that applies just to you. The period runs for a seven-month span beginning and ending on either side of your 65th birthday. The fourth month of the period is the month in which you turn 65. That is how you establish your window of opportunity.

If you passed the age of 65 while covered under a plan through your or your spouse’s employment, you have a special enrollment period (SEP). The SEP covers any time before the employment ends, and for eight months thereafter. A word of caution here: employers with less than 20 workers may require employees turning 65 to enroll in Medicare and have the employer plan serve only as a backup insurer.

What If I Missed The Deadline?

If you failed to enroll during your initial or special period, you must enroll in a general enrollment period (GEP) which is in effect from January 1 to March 31 of each year. In such a case, you will be charged a penalty of 10 percent of the premiums for each full 12-month period after the end of your IEP and the beginning of the GEP.

The good news for some who enroll during a GEP is that they may not have to pay any premiums for Medicare Part A coverage, so there is no penalty to be assessed. If you have contributed Medicare tax while employed for 40 quarters (10 years), you have enough credit to get Part A coverage for free. Part A covers hospital and skilled nursing facility charges. Part B, which covers doctor’s services, outpatient services and medical equipment, always comes with a premium, and an enrollment penalty will be assessed as long as you are in the plan.

While the process can be complicated, these are some of the more important facts people need to know about Medicare enrollment. There are still other factors that may apply to individuals, especially anyone who is disabled and receiving Medicare benefits prior to age 65. As such, contacting the Social Security Administration (or if you need more help, contacting us) well before your 65th birthday is the smart thing to do.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer,®  who develops trusting relationships with families for life, including helping with Medicare issues.  We offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™, where we can help answer all your questions, address your concerns, and meet your goals. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk because this planning is so important.

Are You Entitled to Unpaid Time Off Without Risking Your Job?

The Family and Medical Leave Act may provide unpaid time off due to the serious health condition of an employee or an employee’s immediate family member. However, only certain employers, known as “covered employers,” are required to comply with this law. Additionally, employees must meet certain basic requirements before they are entitled to the leave.

This article will guide you to know whether you are entitled to unpaid time off without risking your job.

Employer Requirements

Only employers who are considered “covered” under this federal law must comply. Public agencies are all covered, as are elementary and secondary schools. However, private employers are only covered by the FMLA if all of the following apply:

  • Employed at least 50 employees
  • In 20 or more workweeks
  • In the current or preceding calendar year

 

If your employer doesn’t meet these requirements, you are not entitled to unpaid leave and if you take unapproved time off, your job could be at risk.

Employee Requirements

When FMLA leave is requested for an employee or an immediate family member, the qualifying health condition must be considered “serious.” This means that the affected person either requires inpatient care or a continuing course of treatment. In addition, an employee must meet the following requirements:

  • Worked for a covered employer
  • For at least 1,250 hours
  • In the prior 12 months
  • At a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles
  • Does not qualify as a “key” employee

 

The Protections

Once these requirements are met, an employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as long as proper, timely documentation is provided. An employer may require an eligible employee to submit a certification from a health care provider to support the request for FMLA leave. The employer may also require additional medical opinions, at its own expense.

If the need for leave is foreseeable, the request for FMLA leave must be submitted 30 days in advance. If the need is not foreseeable, the request must be provided as soon as possible and practicable. An employer may require an employee to substitute paid leave to cover part or all of the 12-week period.

FMLA leave may be taken all at once, intermittently, or on a reduced schedule. For example, one employee may need to take off eight weeks after the birth of a baby; another may need to take leave from time to time for migraine headaches or cancer treatments.

The employer must continue existing group health care coverage during the period of leave. The employer may also request recertification at reasonable intervals. At the end of the leave, the employee must be placed in his or her former job or one that is substantially equivalent.

One of the ways we support our family of clients is by being the trusted legal counsel they can turn to no matter what comes their way. If you are not yet part of our client family and would love a trusted advisor by your side, consider starting with a Family Wealth Planning Session during which we will guide you to be more financially and personally organized than you’ve ever been before.

Before You Take Off for Summer Vacation, Take On These 5 To-Dos

It’s no surprise that Americans spend more time planning their summer vacations than they do planning their estate.  After all, a vacation is a trip you want to go on, while the eternal “trip” is not.

However, wouldn’t you travel with more peace of mind if you knew you had taken the necessary steps to protect your family if something unthinkable should happen to you?  That’s why you need to tackle these five important tasks before you go on that much-deserved summer vacation:

Guardians for minor children — if you have children under the age of 18, you must name a guardian or guardians to ensure that they will never be left in the hands of strangers or people you wouldn’t want raising them.  You can name short-term guardians in case of emergency, and then plan for long-term guardianship.  We recommend a full Kids Protection Plan® to ensure there is no gap in your kids care, ever and no matter what.

Beneficiary review — if it’s been awhile since you updated your beneficiary forms for retirement accounts, life insurance or other assets, it’s time for a review — especially if there has been a major change in your life.  Make sure insurance and retirement accounts are never passed on to your minor children, outside of a Trust.

Estate plan review — if you have experienced a birth, death, marriage, divorce or other life-changing event since you last updated your estate plan, you need to be sure those changes are reflected by updating your plan.

Advance healthcare directive — if you become incapacitated and can’t make your own health care decisions, have you named someone who you can depend on to carry out your wishes?  If not, you need to execute an advance health care directive that includes a durable power of attorney and a HIPAA release so your medical information can be shared.

Insurance update — is your life insurance still sufficient to meet the needs of your family?  If not, then you should revise your policy before you go.

If you haven’t done any of these things, it’s time to take care of business.  Call our office to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best ways for you to protect and provide for your family.

7 Good Reasons You Need An Estate Plan — Even If You Only Have $500 in the Bank

Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not just about money or taxes.  Far from it. Today, it’s more about protecting your assets for yourself and your loved ones, achieving your financial goals and safeguarding your health care.  Money and taxes aside, here are 7 good reasons you need an estate plan:

  1. Your Health care. Defining how your medical needs will be addressed in case you cannot make health care decisions for yourself is a primary objective of having an estate plan.  You also need to consider how you will meet the costs of long-term care.  You need to name someone to make decisions for you and tell them how you want them made.  This must be legally documented or the person you want caring for you, cannot.
  1. Probate. Probate is an unnecessary, public and often expensive Court process that takes control out of your family’s hands and puts that control in the hands of a Judge who doesn’t know you or what’s important to you.  A main focus of estate planning is keeping your family out of Court. Period.
  1. Family feuds. Family fights over how assets are divided and distributed are common when there is no estate plan and/or trusted advisor to guide family members.   Sadly enough, these fights happen even when amounts of money are small OR even when there is no money at stake.  Some of the biggest fights we’ve seen happen in storage units over sentimental items with no monetary value at all. If you don’t want your family to fight, you plan your estate.
  1. Beneficiary forms. You likely have several assets that cannot be passed along in a will alone.   These include IRAs, life insurance, retirement plans and annuities, all of which are governed by beneficiary forms that specify who is to receive the assets upon the death of an account holder.  Completing these forms properly is estate planning.
  1. Kids and parents. If you are currently responsible for the care of minor children, elderly parents or a person who has special needs you need a plan for the continuation of that care after you are gone.
  1. Managing assets. Is your spouse or other family member capable of managing all your assets?  If not, you will need to name someone who is capable of doing this now so your assets will be managed wisely for the benefit of your family in the future.
  1. Business succession. If you own a business, you will need a succession plan to govern what happens to your ownership shares if something should happen to you.

If you would like to have a talk about guiding your loved ones through estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

 

 

The Conversation You Must Have With Your Kids and Your Parents

Every single adult needs to have an advance health care directive written, signed and in place. This includes your children, as soon as they turn 18.  This includes you. This includes your parents.

Without an advance health care directive in place, you would not be able to access your child’s medical records, if they are unable to communicate permission. You would not be able to ensure your health care decisions will be made the way you choose. And your parents lose the ability to communicate their wishes and remain in control as long as possible.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decision Day (NHDD).  Here is what you can do on April 16 – or any other day – to have the conversation you need to have about advance healthcare planning:

  1. Look inward. Before executing an advance healthcare directive with the help of your Personal Family Lawyer®, think about what you do – or don’t – want to happen if you were unable to make your own decisions.  Think about the people you would want to carry out those decisions and if the person you have in mind will follow your wishes.
  1. Talk to your family. One of the most tormenting things for families is having to make healthcare decisions for a loved one by having to guess what they would want.  Communicate your wishes to your family so you don’t put them in this stressful position.
  1. Talk to your healthcare providers. Let your primary physician and any other healthcare provider know about your decisions about your healthcare.  Ask any questions to alleviate any concerns you or your family may have.
  1. Execute your advance healthcare directive. Once you have decided upon your healthcare options and have chosen an agent, meet with your Personal Family Lawyer® to complete your official advance healthcare directive.  Have copies made for your family and your primary healthcare provider.

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, come into the office anytime the week of April 16 and we will prepare a free health care directive for you, your parent(s) or your adult child(ren). Call our office today to schedule before all time slots are full.

 

No More Reasons for Delay in Implementing These 5 Estate Planning Essentials

Last year’s uncertainty about the future of the estate and gift tax caused many people to put their estate planning on hold, even though estate and gift tax planning is only a teeny tiny piece of estate planning.  Now that the clouds have lifted and Congress has given us clarity, there is simply no reason for anyone to delay in implementing these five estate planning essentials:

Will.  Look around you right now.  Everything you see has to be distributed in the event of your death.  Your Will names the person you want to handle it all and can also indicate who you want to receive it all.  If you don’t have a Will, a Judge decides who is in charge of your affairs and State law provides who receives everything you own.  Take control now by getting your Will in place today.

Kids Protection Plan®.  If you have minor children at home, you need a comprehensive set of documents to ensure they are taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what.  Not just for the long-term, but also in the immediate term if and when something happens to you.  A Kids Protection Plan® does just that.  Only a licensed Personal Family Lawyer® has the skills, training, and resources to create a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan for your family, so call us today if you do not have one in place already.

Advance Medical Directive.  Also known as a health care proxy, durable power of attorney for healthcare or living will, this document provides the legal right for the person of your choice (your representative) to make healthcare decisions for you in case you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself.  Plus, it also lets that person know HOW you want decisions to be made if you cannot make them for yourself.  Without an Advance Medical Directive in place, your family could have their hands tied when it comes to ensuring you get the best care possible, in the way you would want.

Power of Attorney.  In the event you cannot communicate, your Power of Attorney will allow your family to gain access to your financial accounts so they can pay your bills and manage your financial affairs. Without this in place, they’ll face an expensive, long and public court process to take matters into their hands.  Don’t leave your family in that position, handle this today.

Trust.  If you own any property that would go through the probate process (a home, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, business assets, investment real estate, and other investment assets), you’ll want to make sure to have a Trust set up as soon as possible so your family isn’t stuck dealing with an expensive, unnecessary, long, and totally public Court process in the event of your death.  A revocable living trust puts the people you know, love and trust in control without having to go to Court.

If you’re ready to do the right thing by your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.