Protecting Your Partner When You Choose Not to Marry
April 4, 2013
According to the U.S. Census Bureau the number of senior couples choosing to cohabitate instead of marry (or remarry) has risen significantly. There are quite a few reasons why senior couples might choose not to tie the knot:
* Tax disincentives
* Loss of military and pension benefits
* Keeping medical expenses separate
* Keeping any current debt separate
* Asset protection for the benefit of children or grandchildren
If you decide against marriage, you will need to take extra steps to protect your partner and preserve spousal privileges that you would like your partner to have. For example, in case of accident or emergency, do you want your partner to have the same access to medical information that a spouse would have? Do you want your partner to a voice in making medical decisions if you are unable to do so?
Seniors will also want to consider the subject of real property and living arrangements. If something were to happen to you or your partner, would your surviving partner be able to remain in the home? Would he or she at least have time to find another living situation? Most people would like to think that relatives who inherit shared property will be compassionate toward their surviving partner, but this is not always the case.
Fortunately, there are ways for seniors who choose to cohabitate without marrying to arrange their affairs in such a way that they preserve the benefits of staying legally single, but provide their partner with some spousal benefits. The best way to do this is by creating an estate plan that recognizes your partner as your agent and/or beneficiary. Whether your partner is opposite sex or same sex, creating appropriate estate planning documents is the way to go.
Giving Your Home To Your Children Can Have Tax Consequences
March 9, 2012
Clients sometimes ask about the wisdom of giving their home to their children, usually in order to avoid probate and “simplify” things after the parent’s demise. However, this is not usually the best plan and doing so can often result in unintended tax consequences for the recipient child. This is especially so if the parent’s motivation is driven by a desire to avoid a Medi-Cal recovery claim after the parent’s passing. In most situation, there are usually better options to accomplish the parent’s goals. See the following article which appeared in the Castro Valley Forum and the San Leandro Times, which addresses this question in a Q&A format.
Plan for Eldercare Now Before the Choice Is No Longer Yours
January 8, 2011
We spend our lives making plans and preparing for future events. From the beginning we plan and work towards education, a career, marriage and a family. We work hard and save, invest and build our assets. We insure to protect our home, automobiles, health and medical needs.
Retirement age comes and our plan is finally in place. Finances and time have come together to allow us to enjoy the elder years of life. This is where the planning ends. But life does not end at retirement. There is a portion of life that the majority of us will live through after the retirement years called “eldercare.”
Very few of us plan for this part of our life, but yet it is as important if not more important to plan for it. If we don’t, we are leaving our last years in someone else’s hands. As much as children love us and mean to do right by us, they cannot possibly know what we want if they are not told.
Ruby, age 80, lost her husband. She had cared for him at home after his stroke. Understandably, she felt lost and depressed after his death. An inner ear infection caused Ruby to lose her balance and fall, breaking her hip. While she was in the hospital recuperating from surgery, Ruby’s children were deciding her future.
Concerned for her health and safety they moved some of her belongings to an assisted care facility. Upon Ruby’s release from the hospital she was taken to her new home at the facility. Between pain medication and the unfamiliar surroundings, Ruby never was herself again. She spent her last days asking what had happened to her home and belongings. Though her children had her best interest at heart, they did not know how Ruby wanted to spend her elder days.
An article on the AARP website entitled, ” Are Americans Talking With Their Parents About Independent Livng“, revealed that “Most boomer women have had conversations with their parents about their ability to live independently as they ge tolder, but less than half have actually begun planning for care their parents might need.” Without talking this over, it can be difficult to know if parents really need, or want, help from their children.”
Children and parents should talk about all these things.
What do you want your children, or friends to do on your behalf? When it comes time for them to help, you may not be physically or mentally able to execute your wishes. This is where your long term care plan comes into effect. You need to be the responsible person for your own personal care in the future.
The time to start planning is now. Don’t wait until the choice is no longer yours!
Benefits for Veterans
April 23, 2010
In our country we have a tradition of honoring those men and women who served in the military. That tradition extends to offering very valuable benefits to Veterans and their families. Unfortunately, VETS sometimes are not aware of all of those benefits. One of the benefits most often overlooked is something called a Veteran’s Pension. It is available to a Veteran or surviving spouse whose service included at least one day during a time of war. However, that service need not have been overseas, and the VET need not have been injured in comabt. Many frail senior VETS can qualify for this monthly benefit, especially if they have ongoing need for care. For example: if the VET needs care at home, or must reside in an Assisted Living Facility due to his/her need for assistance, it is very likely that the VET might be eligible for this pension, sometimes called an “Improved VA Pension” or an “Aid & Attendance Pension”. The benefit can be as much as $1,949 per month for a VET and spouse. There is an asset tests and an income test, but a VET in need may be abl to take planning steps to accelereate eligibility. Our firm may be able to assist in this effort. Check out our Video, where Attorney Gene Osofsky touches upon this in greater depth.
Also, check out this month’s article in AARP Magazine which briefly discusses 8 benefits available to Veterans.
More On Health Care Reform
March 28, 2010
As promised in our earlier Blog, here’s more information on the recent health care reform legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Notice, in particular, the provisions for reducing the cost of prescription drugs for seniors by reducing the impact of the “doughnut hole” and the “CLASS Act” which will assist with the cost of long term care.
We hope to bring you even more as the coming weeks unfold. Happy reading and stay tuned.
The Importance of Being Earnest
January 27, 2010
Do you have a will or a trust?
Has your will or trust been reviewed or updated in the past 3-5 years?
If you answered yes to these questions then you are two steps ahead of 2/3 of the rest of Americans. But the next question is the big one:
Does your family or executor know where your legal documents are stored, and are they able to access them?
Having a will or a trust is essential, but it doesn’t do any good if nobody can find it after you’re gone. Olympic medalist Florence Griffith Joyner (“Flo-Jo”) supposedly had a will when she tragically passed away at the age of 38, but because her husband was never able to locate the original document, a neutral administrator had to be appointed by the court to execute the estate; and whether her estate was executed according to her wishes is anybody’s guess.
A will or a trust often contains sensitive and emotional information, and for that reason many people (understandably) want to keep these documents private; but spending any amount of time or money on your estate planning documents won’t help your family if they can’t locate—or don’t have access to—those documents after your death.
We suggest having an earnest conversation with your family (or one or two select members at the very least) about the existence and location of your personal documents. Although they don’t have to know what is in your will or trust, knowing where those documents are can ensure that the time and money you spent creating them isn’t wasted.
Going Beyond Legal Language with an Ethical Will
December 3, 2009
Estate and Legacy planning documents are often seen as difficult, and boring pieces of paper—which in some ways is exactly what they have to be in order to someday withstand tough legal scrutiny; but unless you’re an attorney who is practiced at reading the sentiment between the lines of dry legal jargon, these documents don’t make for sentimental family heirlooms. This is why some families and individuals are choosing to make (in addition to their legally binding estate planning documents) personal ethical wills to leave to their loved ones.
An ethical will can be anything from a letter to your children expressing your love and hope that they carry on your values, to a novella length memoir detailing your life experiences. But what about those people who don’t have the ability or inclination to articulate their thoughts in pen and ink? Well, more and more these people are turning to the camera and making their ethical wills on video.
A video will, as suggested by this article in the Wall Street Journal, is an unparalleled way to let the younger generation know about your feelings and values. “No matter how clear your memories of someone may be, if you have them on the screen in front of you, talking to you, there’s a qualitative difference.” And a video will, if made correctly in the presence of your estate planning attorney, might even have the added benefit of preventing disputes and bickering between your heirs later on.
What we like best about the idea of ethical or video wills is the personal touch. Although we work every day with the “dry and boring legal jargon”, we know that underneath all that an estate plan is about love and values—it’s about family. And an ethical or video will is a way to add a personal touch to the formal written Will or Trust, which is still necessary to meet legal requirements. So, consider doing both together to pass on, not only your assets, but also your values and hopes.
In This Season of Thanksgiving…
December 1, 2009
The days are getting shorter, the weather cooler, and the skeletal arms of trees reach for the skies as their colorful apparel rests on the ground. All of these signs point to just one thing… No, not the estate tax repeal (although that does loom close); I’m referring, of course, to the upcoming holiday season—a time to slow down, spend time with family, and appreciate the blessings in our lives.
During this time of celebration and Thanksgiving, our office would like to offer our sincere thanks to you, our clients and readers, for the time you have spent with us, the trust you have put in us, and the role you have let us play in your lives. We hope we may continue to serve you in the coming year.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers, and may you enjoy a wonderful holiday season.