Elder abuse has been an increasing trend over the past few decades, within roughly one in ten Americans over 60 years of age experiencing elder abuse, whether it be financial, harassment, sexual, physical, or passive abuse through neglect or deprivation. Of the elders subjected to abuse, over 90% of those Americans are abused by someone they know, either a family member, friend, acquaintance, medical staff employee, or caretaker.

Predators seek out opportunities with the elderly in order to become involved in their lives and then later exploit them in their most vulnerable state. Often times, an individual will claim to be helping the elder individual, either by assisting in caretaking or house keeping, and then will later bill them for an exorbitant amount of money or get ahold of their checking account to pay themselves.

Warning Signs

There are three main types of trusts for special or supplemental needs. Each has their own specific purpose and use, and will apply differently for every party.

First Party Special Needs Trusts

The first party special needs trust was developed to be funded with assets owned by the trust beneficiary in order to help them qualify for government benefits. This type of trust is usually established when the intended beneficiary is about to receive either a lawsuit settlement, inheritance from an estate, a large gift, or assets, that would disqualify him from receiving supplemental security income. Supplemental security income has a qualifying threshold that the beneficiary must meet; the individual cannot possess personal assets that equal over $2,000.

Special needs trust are a type of trust by which the beneficiary is provided for through the trust income, but has no control over the distributions of the trust. Generally, special needs, or supplemental needs trusts, have been used to provide for those loved ones with disabilities or who are unable to care for themselves any longer.

Once a special needs trust is established, family or a loved one can put the assets in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary in order to provide them with any number of resources they feel the beneficiary deserves. The trust funds can be used to compensate for additional medical bills not fully covered by insurance, for personal leisure, travel, or anything the grantor feels the beneficiary may want or benefit from.

Eligibility for Benefits & Being a Beneficiary

Spendthrift trusts are a type of irrevocable trust in which the grantor seeks to leave property or assets to a beneficiary, under the terms they outline, by which the beneficiary cannot alter, because they have no legal claim to the trust property. An irrevocable trust is a type of trust by which the beneficiary cannot modify the terms of the trust without the first obtaining the permission of the grantor.

Irrevocable trusts allow the grantor to create this trust document in which they transfer their rights to the property into the trust and the trustee, a third party manager of the trust, now technically holds legal title, until the trust allows for vestment in the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are not the only ones who lack control in these trust situations; in an irrevocable trust, once it is created, the grantor cannot undo the trust to obtain title to the property without first getting the consent of the trustee and beneficiaries.

When To Use a Spendthrift Trust

In continued efforts to protect the rights of elders, The Department of Health and Human Services has passed a rule to further ensure that elders are not taken advantage of and have the right to decide whether they seek a trial or alternative dispute resolution measures when bringing a legal claim. Currently, a majority of nursing home contracts contain arbitration clauses in the event that a residents bring a claim against the nursing home for incidents such as safety, quality of care, sexual harassment, elder abuse,  as well as wrongful death.

Arbitration is a method of alternative dispute resolution that is used as a way to settle a legal claim instead of using litigation. Arbitration involves both parties and a third party neutral arbitrator, who listens to both sides present their case, similar to a judge, and renders a decision after both sides are heard. While arbitration can be a very useful and effective legal tool, the implementation of mandatory arbitration has left room for abuse of the system and injustice for residents and their families who seek legal recourse when bringing their claim. One benefit of arbitration is that it is also a private process; unlike legal proceedings, arbitration proceedings and their rulings will not be made public record, which makes it more difficult to measure rates concerning legal claims brought by elders against nursing homes.

Currently, there are roughly 1.5 million elders in nursing homes who are said to be affected as a result of this rule change, and this number will continue to grow. There may be some confusion regarding the applicability of this new rule however; the rule will only apply to new nursing home contracts that are entered into going forward. Those nursing home contracts already existing that contain a mandatory arbitration clause will be enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, according to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Additionally, a nursing home and potential resident can enter into a contract for arbitration if they wish, but it will not be mandatory in their contract.

According to the 2010 Census, over 7.5 million unmarried couples or 15 million people, live together, a sharp increase from the 3.2 million unmarried couples living together in 1990. This increase in cohabitation has been attributed to a number of different factors, including increased living costs, decisions to marry later or not at all, and until recently, due to legal barriers for same sex couples.

There are many legal benefits to marriage, including rights to social security, immigration rights if one party is not a citizen, surviving spouse benefits, estate benefits, as well as joint bankruptcy filings and the right to refuse to testify against a spouse in a legal proceeding. However, these reasons alone are not justification to get married, which many couples are finding is not for them.

In order to ensure that your partner gets inheritance in the event of your passing, it is critical that the couple executes estate planning documents such as a will or trust. Naming your partner in your will ensures that they will be the beneficiary of the assets and property executed in the document. Additionally, name your partner as your beneficiary on all pensions, retirement accounts, and insurance policies and check those policies to determine if naming a non-family member is allowed or subject to specific rules.

Claiming inheritance upon its distribution is something that many individuals welcome and conversely is the source of many family disputes. There are many reasons why someone may want to refuse their bequest however, in a process in estate planning referred to as disclaiming inheritance. Some beneficiaries seek to disclaim their inheritance due to their personal wealth, whether wealthy or poor, for tax reasons, or to pass the gift on. In estate planning, if you decide to disclaim your gift or bequest, you will be treated as if you died before the grantor did, and your share is redistributed according to the terms of the will.

Examples of Why You May Consider Disclaiming

Estate taxes can be particularly hefty and if disclaimed, the gift or bequest would pass to the next of kin, who may be more willing to take on the potential tax burden. In years past, disclaimers have been used a stopgap measure after the estate tax expired in which the first million in assets valued from an estate is exempt and assets thereafter is levied at 55%. Once the tax expires, there are sometimes unintended consequences which end up negatively impacting the estate of the beneficiaries.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized a rule recently in light of the most recent natural disasters in Louisiana that compromised the safety and well being of many Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries throughout the affected area. Unfortunately, this rule came as a direct response not only to the devastating natural disasters we have experienced within the last decade, but the man made disasters as well, including terrorist attacks and health care scares. The rule was established in order to provider coordination for federal, estate, tribal, regional and local systems, that will now be required to comply with a unified system of emergency preparedness.

The need for additional support was realized when several patients who received treatment covered under Medicare or Medicaid were not able to obtain their care in light of the disaster, which furthered their need thereafter for additional care. Some of the organizations that provide care have complied with other emergency preparedness measures in order to receive accreditation, many residential mental health centers do not have a plan established, leaving a very vulnerable population without help in times of need.

In an effort to individualize emergency preparedness requirements, the new rules will apply to all 17 provider types, but will be different for each in order to receive certification. In order to comply with the rules, an annual training program will be implemented in order to ensure compliance and staff will be subject to drills and exercises to demonstrate their knowledge of the emergency rules.

Medicare was established by the federal government as a way to provide health insurance for people 65 years old and above, as well as younger people with disabilities. This program provides coverage through a variety of different plans for different services, such as skilled nursing home care, hospice care, doctor visits, outpatient care, as well as prescription drug services. Depending on the plan covered under, Medicare will pay for a specific amount of counseling services, which now will also include end of life counseling services.

Roughly 25% of Medicare spending is done for beneficiaries in their last year of life, and with the largest number of older adults turning 65 years old a day in United States history, end of life planning is more important than ever. While many doctors consult their patients about their wishes as they near closer to the end of their life, Medicare now will cover end of life care and advance care planning. Supporters of the change think that this will now allow doctors and other medical professionals to spend the time necessary with the patient to make these advance plans and have important conversations, since they are able to also bill for that time.

Currently only 17% of adults say they have had end of life discussions with their doctor or health care provider, but majority said they would want to have one. As of January 1, 2016, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulations for advance care planning will be in effect and directly cover costs instead of partially reimbursing any planning discussed. It will be billed to Medicare at $85 for the first 30 minutes to meet regarding explanation of advance directives and standard forms, and $75 for every 30 minutes thereafter. Medicare is currently working to establish a national final fee schedule for the counseling, and expects the Medicare administrative contractors to assist with that process for claims.

What Is It?

A Discretionary Trust is another type of trust that is commonly used by a grantor seeking to distribute assets to a class of people or their family. Unlike a mandatory trust which requires distributions of income and principal be made according to a set schedule that is executed in the trust document, discretionary trusts allow the trustee to make determinations about when and how much beneficiaries are to receive in capital and income from the trust. Beneficiaries of discretionary trusts do not have entitlement to a specific interest in the trust, they have a right to be considered for the appointment of property or income from the trust

When and Why To Use a Discretionary Trust

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