Articles Posted in Elder Law

If you are the beneficiary of a trust, there are a number of considerations you should be making when filing your taxes. When filing taxes each year, you should determine how much of your trust distributions made throughout the year will be taxable. In the event that a trust retains income after the calendar year has ended, they will be subject to taxation on that leftover income, thus, it is important to communicate to your trustee, whether that is an individual or a corporate entity, your tax status and what you would like to maintain.

A trust consists of both income and principal. Principal is the corpus of the trust, being any trust property owned by the grantor and now the trust, as well as stocks and investments that have funded the trust. Income is the monetary amount made off of the investments or other products attributed to principal. Based on what distributions were made from principal and what were made from income, the trust must file a K-1 and a 1041.

The 1041 is the tax document important to the trust and trustee because it provides the trust’s deductions from its taxable income distributions made to beneficiaries. The K-1 is given to the beneficiary and gives them a breakdown of the distribution and what their tax liability is to be reported by outlining what distributions were made from income and what came from principal.

As we continue to age, it can be difficult to admit when you are no longer able to handle personal affairs and financial matters on your own. There are a number of alternatives available to those seeking to have their affairs managed by another party, depending upon the individual’s mental capacity to comply with assigning these rights. Those providing caregiver services to the individual, commonly a loved one, may seek retaining legal guardianship of the elderly individual, assigning durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney to specific individuals, or establishing a trust.

Guardianship

Guardianship is a legal status given by the court to create a relationship between someone who is incapacitated or unable to care for themselves and a person determined to be suitable to administer and manage the incapacitated person’s affairs. In order to get a guardianship order, a person must file a petition with the court to review the case at hand. The court assesses the situation, the petitioner, as well as the elderly person to determine what will be the least restrictive method of guardianship. The appointment may include only managing financial affairs, but may also assign responsibility for day to day decision making including support, maintenance, and personal care.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease affects more than five million Americans today. While a large majority of those affected are over the age of 65, it is not just a disease for the elderly. Symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can occur in individuals as young as 30 years old, and currently affects an estimated 200,000 people in America. The diagnosis can often be missed or misdiagnosed as another condition or an association with the changes both men and women go through during their 40s and 50s, however, a comprehensive medical examination is required in order to properly diagnose those with early onset dementia. While the cause of the disease is not yet known, it is important to look to your family history as a way to determine if you or your loved one should be monitoring specific behaviors and changes in personality.

The thought of losing your memories, ability to perform basic tasks, as well as ability to think clearly, remember the time, date, or place, is a very scary feeling for anyone. As these functions start to go, it is important that the loved person, either elderly or young, has in place a comprehensive medical and estate plan, when the day comes that he or she is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. The unfortunate reality of this disease is that it is not a question or if, but of when they will no longer be able to make their own decisions based on a lack of capacity.

First, the individual in question must have their legal capacity assessed to determine if they are able to understand and appreciate the consequences of their actions in signing documents that give specific power to named individuals. In doing so, you should also consult a medical professional if you have doubt as to their ability to understand and make decisions. Also, if the individual has previously executed any wills, trust, or power of attorney documents, those should be revised as necessary to accommodate their current condition while still respecting their wishes.

Caregivers are in high demand and that demand is ever increasing as the aging population continuously grows every day. However, caregiving can be a difficult and underappreciated job that has left it with little public desire to go into the field, due to the lack of benefits, support and adequate pay. As a way to motivate those seeking employment to explore the field of caretaking and to help provide for those who are currently caregivers, new technology is being established in order to help support and ease communication between caregivers and the elderly they support.

Seeing the struggle for adequate communication measures between caregivers, their elderly client, the elderly client’s family, one technology company is seeking to establish a smartphone application that will hopefully increase that transparency. When caregivers sign up through the application, they will be able to directly communicate with their client and their client’s family members, log all appropriate information in one place on the application , as well as request time off, similar to many corporate structures. Caregiver are able to leave detailed notes about events of the day as well as medication schedules.

Another issue with caregiving is the inability of the caretaker to take time off due to lack of backup support. This application is aimed at offering that back up support, along with paid time off and many other benefits, if properly certified through the company. In order to receive these benefits, the caregiver must be trained through Care Pros, the official caregiver network, which will come with a number of additional benefits.  Caretakers can also opt for workers’ compensation benefits in the event that they sustain an injury on the job, which can be a real possibility when a fair amount of heavy lifting is required. Additionally, caretaker are offered stock options as well as pay that is at least 10% above the market rate in their area of employment.

There are a variety of different types of trusts that an individual can use to their benefit while they are alive or in order to preserve their wealth for their family after they pass. Depending on it’s purpose, the grantor of a trust will make either a irrevocable or revocable trust. Irrevocable trusts cannot be modified without permission of the beneficiary since the grantor is giving up rights to their assets to the trust, versus a revocable trust where the grantor can modify the trust terms as they desire during their lifetime and upon their death, the assets transfer to the trust.

One unique type of trust that a grantor can establish for their benefit and for the benefit of a charity is a charitable remainder trust unitrust. Charitable remainder unitrusts are a type of irrevocable trust with specific characteristics setting it aside from other trusts. This type of trust distributes a certain percentage of the value of the assets in the trust to a beneficiary that is not a charity, usually a grantor of the trust or whomever the grantor has named to receive the named distribution. The grantor sets a specific timeline for the distributions to the beneficiary, and upon the termination of that timeline, the remaining assets are distributed out to the charity named.

In order to determine how much the non-charitable beneficiary will receive, the trustee must use a formula that requires minimum distributions from the trust annually. The trustee will first determine the fair market value of the trust at the end of the given year by obtaining a valuation of the assets in the trust and then will distribute out the percentage of that asset value named in the document.

The legal rights of illegitimate children and their ability to take under the terms of a trust have for years been the subject of many litigation proceedings. Illegitimate children are traditionally known as children who are born out of wedlock or to unmarried parents, however, the most widely known cases are those children who were born as the result of an affair by either or both parents. When one parent is the beneficiary of the grantor of a trust, the other spouse of the child, when old enough, may try to assert claims that they are also entitled to access the trust due to blood relation.

How Does an Illegitimate Child Take?

While traditionally under common law, an illegitimate child was not seen as a legal child of either parent, with no right of parental support or right of inheritance, today the laws have changed to better reflect the rights of an illegitimate child. Although states differ regarding their laws on wills and trusts, many now favor giving children rights, under statutes such as The Status of the Children Act as well as the Equal Protection Act. Under the Status of the Children Act, there is a presumption that any reference to children not further defined in a will includes both legitimate and illegitimate children, regardless of their relationship to the father.  

Aging comes with a wide variety of issues and relying on the care of your family is not a resource available to all. Whether it is due to lack of accessibility, estranged familial relationships, or advanced care requirements, many elderly find themselves alone in their older age.

This is not a phenomenon specific to America, it is an issue experienced by countries across the world. Certain cultures are more focused on caring for their elders, much like those elders helped raise them, while others have a less integrated idea of family including care for their elders.

In fact, the issue of elderly abandonment was such a large problem in Japan it was deemed “granny dumping”. While this practice, where senile senior citizens were taken up to the top of mountains and left there by loved ones due to the inability to care for them, is a very old practice, the modern version of abandonment is once against becoming a problem. Today, elderly individuals are being taken to local hospitals, churches and charities, and being left like they used to in the mountains.

Daily, thousands of baby boomers are forced to make the decision as to whether they need care and assistance as they continue to age. Currently, there are 1.4 million adults residing in nursing homes and that number will only continue to grow over the next few decades. Plans for how to cover the millions of adults who thought they would rely on Medicare and Medicaid in their old age as well as where they will live and who will assist in taking care of them if needed, are questions that must be addressed soon.

Thus, it is not surprising that it took four years and thousands of comments in the rulemaking process in order to revise the broad nursing home regulations that were put in place in the 1990s under the Nursing Home Reform Act. Nursing homes must comply with federal nursing home regulations, but some state laws have adopted more strict laws.

What New Regulations?

Another major platform that President Trump ran under was the promise to repeal the widely contested Obamacare plans, and to instead bolster Medicare and Medicaid eligibility and benefits. Since taking office, the businessman has changed his position multiple times regarding whether an overhaul of the system will be made or whether he will keep his promise to leave Social Security and Medicare alone.

Medicare Proposals by the House

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been an avid supporter of overhauling the system, by combining Medicare Parts A and B and also increasing the Medicare age of retirement to that of the full retirement age that one must qualify for with Social Security. Additionally, this proposal would allow Medicare beneficiaries to choose which plan they wish to elect between private plans or traditional plans, based on their health needs, but would not take effect until 2024.

Winter months are difficult on many of those who live in areas that experience great seasonal changes. The National Center for Health Services actually found that death rates are twice as high in the winter than the hottest part of summer. Not only do we have bundle up and face the chilling weather, there is also a major threat of seasonal illness.

Thus, it is not surprising that individuals have the highest risk of dying from natural causes in the end of December and beginning of January. In fact, one study showed that those who die from natural causes, circulatory problems, respiratory diseases, nutritional/metabolic problems, digestive diseases and cancer have a greater chance of dying between Christmas and New Years than any other time of year.

Not Just in America

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