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Estate Planning

How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You

According to a recent study by Caring.com, the number of adults 55 and older with a will has fallen from 60% to 44% since 2019. This is a decrease of 27%, even with the Covid-19 pandemic as a potentially motivating factor. At Scott Bloom Law, we constantly stress the importance of having a plan in place for all potential elder law issues, but this is probably most true for estate planning. One troubling statistic from the Caring.com study is the number of older adults that replied that they do not know how to get a living trust or will or that it is too expensive to set up. Working with an experienced, knowledgable estate planning attorney, with an overarching understanding of elder law, is one easy path to establishing a plan that benefits the elderly and their loved ones. Below we discuss what estate planning is and how an elder law attorney can help.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process by which your estate is preserved during your lifetime and distributed to your loved ones, also known as beneficiaries, upon your passing. An estate plan aims to preserve the maximum amount of wealth possible for your beneficiaries while allowing you the most flexibility of using those assets while you’re alive. In layman’s terms, an estate is somebody’s net worth in the eyes of the law and estate planning is a way to preserve your assets, such as your bank accounts, home, car, and any other smaller assets that you may have in your name.

The Benefits of Talking to an Elder Law Attorney About Your Estate Planning

Because an elder law attorney is familiar with all aspects of elder law, they provide a holistic approach to planning that guarantees all aspects of elder care and end-of-life situations are considered. While dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on all of the various documents is extremely important, it is also a good idea to consult with an elder law attorney to develop a strategy that guarantees that families cover all the bases.

Speaking of documents….there will be a lot of them and it is highly recommended that you utilize an elder law attorney to help guide you through all the paperwork. Here are some of the most common documents that at Scott Bloom Law we would include in most of our estate plans:

  • Wills & Trusts
  • A durable power of attorney
  • Letter of intent
  • Healthcare power of attorney
  • Beneficiary & Guardianship designations

With so much to account for when planning your estate, having an experienced, knowledgable, and compassionate attorney to advocate for you and your loved ones allows for peace of mind. A thorough elder law attorney is able to set a plan that, among other things, lessens the possibility of inter-family conflicts, establishes who will be managing your financial and/or legal affairs in the event of a diminished capacity, unexpected accident, or death, and so much more.

At Scott Bloom Law, we are a team of advocates who care, always fighting for what’s best for our clients and their families. With knowledge, experience, and compassion, we strive to find solutions that make the aging process as emotionally and financially easy as possible. Visit us at scottbloomlaw.com or call 215-364-1111, to talk to find out more.

Crisis Management: It’s Not Too Late

At Scott Bloom Law, we are always encouraging families to plan ahead when it comes to the eldercare needs for their loved ones and themselves. However, we understand that when an unexpected crisis arises, immediate action is required. During these highly stressful times, the decisions made carry immense consequences for the elderly and their families. Recognizing the signs of an imminent crisis and understanding the options available once time becomes of the essence, allows families to find the best possible solutions. Utilizing the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable elder law attorney allows families, confronted with so much at once, to make rational decisions with short-term and long-term considerations accounted for. In this blog, we look at signs that your elderly loved one may be on the brink of a crisis and how an elder law attorney can help with crisis management.

Signs of Trouble

The unfortunate truth for us all is that at some point we will be unable to help ourselves with life’s daily functions. The ability to complete the mundane, everyday tasks, that in our younger days we may have taken for granted, at some point becomes too difficult and, all too often, requires immediate action. Here are some of the most common signs that your elderly loved one may be on the brink of a crisis:

  • They are struggling to maintain their physical health– Are your parents or elderly loved ones forgetting to regularly bathe? Do they pay little to no attention to their hair, nails, skin? These physical signs may be a sign of a deeper issue.
  • They are no longer able to handle their finances- Are overdue bills or the lack of a balanced checkbook putting your loved one in financial trouble? These issues need to be addressed immediately to prevent further financial penalties.
  • They begin forgetting names, dates, even what year it is- Have they forgotten the names of people they have known for years? Are they no longer able to recall momentous life events? These signs of memory slippage could portend to larger neurological issues that need the proper care.
  • They no longer take care of their living space- Are dust and cobwebs prominent in their home? Are dishes piled up often and dirty clothes unattended to? These are definite red flags that steps are needed to be taken.

How an Elder Law Attorney Can Help with Crisis Management

At Scott Bloom Law, our team treats every crisis situation with a customized plan that ensures that all issues are being properly addressed. All of our clients come to us with a unique set of problems and at different points in the timeline of their crisis. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Careful consideration must take place to find the appropriate next steps that enable families and their elderly loved ones to be in as comfortable a position as possible. After listening to your concerns and learning about your particular issues, we develop a crisis plan specifically tailored to your current needs, with an eye towards what other issues may arise in the future. When it comes to crisis management, you and your loved ones deserve to be advocated for by a compassionate and knowledgeable legal team.

At Scott Bloom Law, we are a team of advocates who care, always fighting for what’s best for our clients and their families. With knowledge, experience, and compassion, we strive to find solutions that make the aging process as emotionally and financially easy as possible. Serving Pennsylvania and South Jersey, visit us at scottbloomlaw.com or call 215-364-1111, to schedule a free consultation.

Case Study: Life Care Planning

Joseph and Marie had been happily married for 52 years, raised a family, and were enjoying their retirement years when health issues began to surface. Marie was the first to exhibit health concerns and was diagnosed with dementia, leaving her unable to effectively communicate with Joseph and her three children. Shortly thereafter, Joseph began showing signs of mild cognitive impairment along with age-related physical limitations that made taking care of Marie and himself difficult.

Fortunately, Joseph and Marie had met with Scott Bloom Law a few years prior to experiencing these health issues and had a plan in place for when their decision-making capabilities had waned. While this didn’t make any of these end-of-life realities easier to confront, they were comforted by the fact that their children would be taken care of and that they were not adding to the stress the family was dealing with. With the help of Scott Bloom Law, the family was able to take the necessary steps to ensure that their parents’ best interests were always the most important consideration. With Scott Bloom’s legal counsel:

  • They had given their oldest child power of attorney a few years prior, ensuring that when needed their family would be prepared and that their wishes for end-of-life care would be met.
  • While it was challenging, the children were able to convince their father that the best next step was to find a long-term care facility where they could receive round-the-clock care. As with most families, convincing their elder loved ones to leave their home was a difficult and heart-wrenching process. When their funds for paying for long-term care were exhausted, they were able to utilize Medicaid.
  • In addition, a trust was created for the benefit of their children, mimicking their testamentary intent as shown in their Last Will and Testament. Often with multiple children involved, it can, unfortunately, become a contentious process with differing ideas and motivations in play. At Scott Bloom Law, we work with families to help mediate disputes and keep the focus on the well-being of everyone involved.

Too often, families look to a ‘specialist’ who does not have the all-encompassing understanding of the myriad of issues that are faced by the elderly and their loved ones.  This case demonstrates the importance of utilizing an elder law attorney. At Scott Bloom Law, we have the experience and breadth of knowledge necessary to understand and advise on all aspects of eldercare issues. With compassion, honesty, and attention to detail, the team at Scott Bloom Law will be there every step of the way for you and your family, providing a plan and offering guidance through the elder law legal process. Schedule a call with us today to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Benefits of Hiring an Elder Law Attorney for Medicaid Planning

When an elderly loved one experiences a life-changing health episode, options for long-term care will be undoubtedly pricey. Applying for Medicaid benefits is most families’ first move when told by a doctor that their loved one will require long-term, full-time care. Unfortunately, too many people have not adequately prepared for these decisions and the experience can be overwhelming and stressful for all involved. Seeking counsel from an experienced, knowledgeable elder law attorney can save families money and provide peace of mind that their loved ones’ needs and wishes are being met. Below, after a brief summary of what Medicaid entails, are some of the benefits of hiring an elder law attorney for Medicaid planning. 

What is Medicaid

Medicaid is a federal assistance program that is administered by the states. It is designed to help those who are financially eligible pay for the cost of long-term care and allows access to other medical and healthcare benefits. Because Medicaid is a needs-based program, there are strict financial requirements in order for someone to be eligible for Medicaid assistance.

Benefits of Retaining an Elder Law Attorney

  • Avoidance of conflicts of interest – Conflicts of interest can arise when a nursing home refers the family of a resident to a Medicaid specialist for assistance with the preparation of Medicaid documentation. Often this Medicaid specilaist has loyalties to both the facility that provided the referral and the client applying for benefits. When the facility and person preparing the documentation both want the Medicaid application to be successful, there is no conflict. However, it often benefits nursing homes when residents pay privately for as long as possible before going on Medicaid, and this can provide an incentive on the part of Medicaid specialists to ensure that Medicaid applications are delayed or denied. An elder law attorney hired to assist with Medicaid planning, however, only has a duty to his or her client, thereby eliminating conflict of interest concerns. 
  • Experience and knowledge – Elder law attorneys, with their years of experience, have the knowledge necessary to successfully and compassionately advise their clients on how to achieve their legal goals, regardless of what they may be. And in the elder law arena, these goals are often related to Medicaid. 
  • The availability of malpractice insurance – When an attorney or other professional makes an inadvertent error, malpractice insurance typically covers the loss. However, other advisers in the Medicaid arena often lack such coverage. Therefore, while mistakes by experienced elder law attorneys are rare, clients can rest easy with the assurance that unlikely errors will be covered. 
  • Peace of mind – Finally, consultation with an experienced elder law attorney will provide you with the peace of mind that you have all your bases covered in regards to Medicaid planning. An experienced attorney will take legal issues into consideration during the process that other Medicaid advisers may miss, ensuring that you receive all of the benefits you are entitled to. 

At Scott Bloom Law, we are a team of advocates who care, always fighting for what’s best for our clients and their families. With knowledge, experience, and compassion, we strive to find solutions that make the aging process as emotionally and financially easy as possible. Visit us at scottbloomlaw.com or call 215-364-1111, to talk to find out more.

What is a Will?

A Will helps you prepare for the inevitable; it names your executor, beneficiaries and explains the disposition of your estate. It’s a critical part of your estate planning. Learn more: What is a WILL?

WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

  • Power of attorney is a legal document which is used to designate someone to act on your behalf in legal matters such as healthcare and finance.
  • Power of attorney is also the authority to act on someone else’s behalf–it appoints an “attorney-in-fact;” the person with the power of attorney is the one who will take action for you.
  • A power of attorney document can be tailored to specific matters such as:
    • Business
    • Personal finance including tax, purchases and sales of assets, investments
    • Healthcare decisions
  • A power of attorney designation can be put in place for a specific transaction like buying a house or vehicle at auction. Once the transaction is complete, the power of attorney is no longer valid.
  • Other powers of attorney can only be effective once you’ve become incapacitated (known as “Springing”), or they can become effective upon executing the document.
  • Without question it’s best to create your Power of Attorney document(s) before you need them. A Power of Attorney can only be created while you are still of sound mind—an important legal standard that must be met for Powers of Attorney to be valid.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF POWER OF ATTORNEY?

  •  Durable power of attorney

    • A durable power of attorney is a document that appoints an individual to act as your agent. The scope of their agency can be finances, legal matters or health.
    • The term durable means the power of attorney has no expiration date, it endures even if you are incapacitated.
    • You can appoint anyone you want as your agent, it can be a trusted family member or friend; it can also be an attorney.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney

    • A healthcare power of attorney is a kind of durable power of attorney, that is specific to healthcare. You appoint a person to act as your healthcare “agent,” the person who will make medical decisions for you, particularly when you no longer can.
    • When you prepare your healthcare power of attorney, your attorney will ask you all kinds of questions about life sustaining measures, end-of-life considerations and giving medications. The document can spell out your wishes and how you want your agent to act for you.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A POWER OF ATTORNEY?

If you have no power of attorney in place and you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for yourself, then two possible courses of action will come into play:

  • For financial matters, the state in which you reside will open probate proceedings on your behalf, and a guardian or conservator will be appointed to oversee your finances. This person may or may not be someone you know. Family members and others will then have the ability to apply to the court to take care of financial matters for you. The probate process will be costly and lengthy.
  • If no Healthcare Power of Attorney is in place, medical personnel will seek out close family members to make decisions for you. Without a Healthcare Power of Attorney, where you’ve made your wishes known in advance, your family’s conflicting opinions may override what you would want to happen.
  • If there is no next of kin available to medical personnel, then medical professionals will make the best possible decision on your behalf–which may or may not align with what you would want them to do.

For example:

Michael is divorced, 58 years old and is enjoying his later years. He loves his work, his girlfriend and his extended family—not necessarily in that order! He dotes on his family including his grown kids and grand kids. Everyone lives pretty close by and family get-togethers are frequent and so much fun.

Fortunately, he and his ex-wife get along just fine, so much so their children and grand kids can all socialize together without the worry of heated family drama. He delights in seeing the little ones play and he loves to spoil them with trips to the ice cream shop about a mile away from the house. Michael can keep up with the kids pretty well, he exercises each day with a walk around the neighborhood after work. He also quit smoking when he was 55 and he’s feeling better than ever since he stopped.

At dusk one Friday evening, Michael was on his walk, crossing the street just two blocks from home. He was struck by a car, driven by a drunk driver, who went too far with happy hour specials after she left work. She was celebrating a promotion. She was speeding, looking at her phone and never saw Michael at all.

Michael suffered catastrophic injuries: he has cuts all over him from hitting the windshield, multiple bone breaks and a serious brain injury. Michael is in a coma, he can’t breathe on his own or feed himself. A ventilator is doing his breathing for him. A feeding tube nourishes him. It’s been 5 weeks now and there is no change in his condition. His doctors are not optimistic about any recovery, but no one can really say for sure what will happen.

Michael has no Healthcare Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney in place. There is no way for him to communicate what he wants. His ex-wife says he would “never want to be a vegetable.” She is correct: if Michael could speak or communicate in some way, he’d tell his children to take him off the breathing machine and remove the feeding tube.

He’d tell them this is no way to live.

Right now, his three grown kids are grappling with a really big decision: whether or not to keep him on the ventilator and the feeding tube. None of them know what their Dad said in the past about being kept alive if he were in a coma. Two of them think he’d never want to be kept alive in this state. One thinks he may have a miraculous recovery and wants to wait and see what happens.

They’ve all decided they need to agree on what they do for their dear father. Without consensus in sight, his kids have a standing date to sit together by their Michael’s bedside every Saturday morning— their Dad looks so young lying there. At just 58, the family’s had their father, grandfather stolen away by a horrible tragedy.

Michael lies still in his nursing home bed, he’s safe from further harm, his life may be just this from now on: a bed, a ventilator, a feeding tube and visits from his grown kids, girlfriend and the older grand kids. And caregivers: lots of caregivers will tend to him.

If he could only say it, he’d tell his kids to unplug the ventilator and disconnect the feeding tube. He’d tell them to remember all of the wonderful things they did together. He’d tell them he loves them and that he will be watching over them always.

If he could only say it, he would tell them it’s okay to let him go.

HOW DO I PREPARE MY POWER OF ATTORNEY DOCUMENTS?

  • As a first step, think about who you will place in charge of your finances and your healthcare when you no longer can do this for yourself. The selection is up to you, and you should choose someone who will have your best interests in mind–and who will carry out the wishes in good faith: exactly the way you would do it if you could.
  • A team of professionals can guide you through the steps to prepare your Durable Power of Attorney and your Healthcare Power of Attorney. They will discuss all of the options with you so you can make the best decision for your needs.

To get started, talk to the professionals at the Scott D. Bloom Law office.

To schedule your free consultation,
email us, or call 1-215-364-1111
or 1-855-992-6337 (Toll Free)

WHAT IS MEDICAID PLANNING?

WHAT IS MEDICAID PLANNING?

  • Medicaid planning is structuring your finances and assets to optimize your ability to pay for coverage of the future costs of long-term care, such as in-home or nursing care.
  • Medicaid planning is similar to tax planning; we all want to look at our financial situation to minimize tax liability throughout our lives and to our estates after we die. Medicaid planning is the same–it’s possible to minimize our out-of-pocket care costs through Medicaid eligibility.
  • Financial strategies, supported by the laws of the state in which you live, may be utilized so that one spouse may retain assets while the other spouse can be supported by Medicaid for their long term care costs. Many of these laws are in place so that a healthy spouse isn’t punished financially while the care needs for the ill spouse can be supported via Medicaid.

WHY DO I NEED A MEDICAID PLAN?

  • We all know that any form of long-term or nursing care is very expensive. As we age, particularly when one spouse requires long-term care and the other can live independently, the concerns about financial security for both are considerable.
  • Medicaid planning can provide Medicaid eligibility for one spouse while preserving assets for the healthy spouse.
  • Ideally, your Estate Planning will be put in place long before any question of Medicaid eligibility arises–while you are still living independently and healthy.
    • Medicaid planning can be done once the need arises, but the process requires time, expertise and patience.
    • The sooner you establish your plan, the more options you will have available.

HOW CAN I DETERMINE MY MEDICAID ELIGIBILITY?

  • How your finances compare to the federal and state guidelines determines Medicaid eligibility. Your current health situation figures in as well. It’s a complicated analysis that a professional such as an elder care attorney should undertake with you.
  • Items such as income, real estate, savings accounts, brokerage account balances, and insurance policies are among the items that can determine your eligibility. Again, it depends on the state in which you live.
    • Eligibility may differ slightly for married and single people.
  • A professional’s assessment should be done before you fill out any forms to apply for Medicaid.

WHAT WILL MY MEDICAID PLAN INCLUDE?

  • Everyone’s financial situation is unique, and every state has different guidelines, so there are no hard or fast rules about what your plan will involve.
  • Here are some examples of Medicaid plan components:
    • The simplest form of Medicaid planning is having an experienced professional assist you with filling out the application forms. If your eligibility is straight-forward, this is the right path for you.
    • A more complicated plan for a married couple can include:
      • Establishing irrevocable trusts. This removes certain assets from your eligibility calculation.
      • A transfer deed for your primary home. When the well spouse plans to continue to live at home, your state may allow a deed transfer into the well spouse’s name. This will protect the home from liquidation to cover costs of care.
      • Establishing an annuity. An annuity can help you “spend down” assets per the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) for your state. You purchase an annuity with existing assets; the annuity provides a source of steady income for the healthy spouse, while setting up Medicaid eligibility for the ailing spouse.

Here’s a simple example of an annuity – based solution for a married couple:

James (80) and Julia (77) live in New Jersey. James has recently been diagnosed with Dementia. He will need to move to a memory care residence since his care needs will soon go beyond what Julia can handle. His memory care residence will cost $8,000/month.

The couple’s Medicaid-countable assets total $250,000.

Julia’s goal is to get James eligible for Medicaid and move him into the memory care facility she has chosen–while providing income for herself and preserving their assets. Julia makes an appointment with Scott Bloom, an eldercare attorney, to put together her Medicaid plan. She brings all of their financial information with her to the appointment.

For starters, Scott states that James’ and Julia’s community assets must be “spent down” to $123,600, under New Jersey law for the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) threshold. Right now, James and Julia are currently over New Jersey’s CSRA by $126,400 ($250,000 minus $123,600).

Scott recommends Julia set up a Medicaid–compliant annuity which will be funded by their CSRA “excess” of $126,400. The annuity is set up for 5 years, which will give Julia a monthly income of approximately $2,100, on top of her existing $1,500/month pension income–for a total of $3,700.

Without this Annuity strategy in place, James memory care would have consumed James’ and Julia’s CRSA “excess” in a little over 15 months. With the Annuity, Julia receives the entire annuity income benefit from the CRSA “excess.”

There are other components in James’ and Julia’s Medicaid plan, like the calculation how much of James’s income will go toward his Medicaid co-pay. This scenario is a bit lengthy for a blog post–see your eldercare attorney to dig into the details of this aspect of your plan.

• The Medicaid system is subject to yearly changes in federal and state rules, so it’s best to retain a professional who is up to date on the law–someone who can counsel you throughout the application process and can alert you of pending changes to the Medicaid system–especially when it’s time to apply for your annual eligibility.

HOW DO I PREPARE FOR A MEDICAID PLANNING DISCUSSION?

You’ll need to gather all of the information on your financial situation, including:

  • Most recent tax return–federal and state.
  • Annual income statements–pension, social security, annuities, etc.
  • Bank account statements
  • Brokerage statements
  • Real estate holding (s) description/deeds, mortgage balances
  • Insurance policies

To get started with your Medicaid Plan, talk to the professionals at the Scott D. Bloom Law office.

To schedule your free consultation,
email us, or call 1-215-364-1111
or 1-855-992-6337 (Toll Free)

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF WILLS?

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

The Last Will and Testament is commonly known as a Will.

The Will:

  • defines the contents of your estate.
  • names your executor, the person who will dissolve your estate after you die.
  • names your beneficiaries, who will receive portions of your estate based upon your documented wishes.
  • may also define who will take charge of minor children in the event of your death.

LIVING WILL

The Living Will is also known as an advance care directive. It defines the kind of medical care or treatment you will receive if you become unable to communicate or to make decisions for yourself.

  • Your directive can include the kind of care you wish to receive if you have dementia, are terminally ill, have a catastrophic accident or are in late stages of life.
  • You will name a person in your Living Will who will have power of attorney; this person will have the legal authority to make medical decisions for you when you no longer can.
  • Medical care involves many different options; your advance care directive can include or exclude treatment options, such as CPR, intubation, tube feeding, even hospitalization.
  • Carefully consider all of your options with your attorney.
  • Once your Living Will is in place, it’s important to discuss it and to provide copies of it to:
    o Family members
    o Physicians, healthcare agents
  • Keep a copy of your Living Will with you while you are traveling
  • Keep a card in your wallet that states you have an advance care directive in place.

POUR-OVER WILL

A Pour-Over Will is used in conjunction with a Living Trust. It is a bit of legal “insurance” which will capture any assets not titled in your trust’s name.

  • The Pour-Over will ensures that any of your assets not held in the trust’s name will “pour over” into your trust upon your death.
  • Hopefully you can stay current with titling all of your assets with the trust’s name. If you don’t, the pour-over will takes care of any omissions.
  • Assets in the Pour-Over category are still subject to probate, so it’s definitely advisable to always take title of your assets in your trust’s name.

To schedule your free consultation,
email us, or call 1-215-364-1111
or 1-855-992-6337 (Toll Free)

CLIENT Testimonial

Scott Bloom pays attention to details .. he's very caring and helpful for the client!! .. Knowledge 100% +
- Tony E., Southhampton, Pennsylvania

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