Articles Posted in Elder law estate planning

In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau, determined that the average national retirement age was between 63 and 64 for men and 62 for women. Most Americans agree that in retirement they’ll need saving to supplement Social Security benefits. Social Security alone will not get them through retirement. The current life expectancy for Americans is 78.93.

Social Security benefits accounts for close to 40% of your pre-retirement income. The average Social Security monthly benefit in 2018 was $1,409.91 a month, or about $16,919 a year. You will need savings to cover the other 60% through a combination of cash, 401k, and other retirement accounts for income. Schwab conducted a survey of its  401k plan participants and found that the participants themselves calculated they’ll need savings of $1.7 million on average to get through retirement.  

To figure out how much money you’ll need to support yourself in retirement consider the following:

Millions of Americans are expected to experience a drop in their FICO score when the Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that invented the FICO score, modifies the methodology they use to determine a consumer’s FICO score. Beginning in the summer of 2020, lenders may opt to use the new methodology when assessing the creditworthiness of a consumer when extending credit and setting interest rates on mortgages and consumer loans, such as credit card or automobile loans.

Link between consumer behavior and your FICO score

Consumers with fair credit, growing debt, who take out personal loans to consolidate debt, or who are about to max out their credit cards are expected to see a negative impact to their FICO credit score. The Fair Isaac Corporation updates its scoring model every few years. The last time significant changes were implemented was in 2014, where it was thought that credit restrictions were lessoned. For individuals with little to no credit, utility payment histories, rental payment histories, and the elimination of civil judgments from individual’s credit histories, helped bolster their credit score.

In-vitro fertilization, also known as IVF, has its origins in the 1890’s when the first known case of embryo transplantation occurred in rabbits in Great Britain. By 1973, scientists were able to transplant a human embryo into a woman. The first human IVF pregnancy occurred 47 years ago in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to IVF there are other assisted reproductive technologies, commonly called ART for short, that have changed human conception, such as artificial insemination and surrogacy that have made parenthood possible for people who are unable to reproduce naturally.

Significant changes are afoot in the area of estate planning of such families as more children are born from ART methods for reproduction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.8% of all infants born in the United States were aided by ART methods. In the context of estate planning, there are two main issues ART families should tackle. First, how parentage and descendants are defined for legal purposes, such as maintenance and inheritance. Second, is who controls the disposition of stored genetic material that has not been used.  

Are all children descendants, legally speaking, of course?

The conventional wisdom is to wait and not claim Social Security benefits until you are over 66 (the full retirement age for individuals born between 1943 and 1954). Full retirement age is calculated by year of birth. To see what your full retirement age is click here, or review the website maintained by the Social Security Administration ( The reason choosing when to begin claiming Social Security benefits is a big decision that will impact the size of your monthly benefit amount or checks for the rest of your life. For example, if you have a full retirement age of 67 and wait until age 70 to begin claiming Social Security benefits, you’ll receive your full benefit amount plus an extra 24% each month for the rest of your life.

Delaying benefits however isn’t right for everyone, and it may make sense for you to claim your benefits as early as possible, or age 62, (the earliest retirement age for individuals born between 1943 and 1954). Again, to determine when you can claim your benefits, click here. Three reasons why claiming your retirement benefits through the Social Security program may be right for you are as follows:


  • Your retirement years are limited.

After decades together, there are still couples who do not share information about their finances with each other. Some couples separate their money – mine, yours, and ours. They too often get caught in the same position, having very little knowledge about their spouse’s money.

The problem is compounded in household’s where one spouse worked outside the home. The stay at home spouse may not have a separate stockpile of money and investments and is wholly financially dependent on the other spouse.  The working spouse in this scenario, usually manages the family’s bank accounts and makes the financial decisions. The non-working spouse trusts the information the working spouse provides and goes along with the plan.

Without a financial power of attorney, one spouse has no way of knowing what the other spouse has by way of cash, investments, life insurance policies, stocks and bonds, pensions, and retirement accounts. Unless, the accounts are held jointly, even if you are legally married, you will not receive financial information from any financial institution about your spouse’s accounts.

If you’re eligible for divorce benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you can collect up to 50% of the amount your former spouse is eligible to receive by claiming your benefits at his or her full retirement age (FRA).

Your FRA is either 66, 66 plus a few months, or 67, depending on the year you were born. The earliest you can claim Social Security benefits is 62. If you claim benefits before your FRA, your Social Security benefits will be permanently reduced by as much as 30%. You can only receive your full Social Security benefit amount if you claim benefits at your FRA.

You cannot double dip

The Trump Administration announced on March 9 broad new rules that will allow you to share your medical records with third-party apps of your choice in order to retrieve medical data like blood test results and doctor’s progress notes directly from your health care providers.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the new system intends to make it easy for you to manager your health care on smartphones, similar to how you manage your finances through apps on their smartphones.

Anyone who has tried to access their medical records can tell you that giving people access to their medical records via mobile apps is a major milestone for patient rights. Some physicians still require patients to pick up health records on computer disks or issue paper copies only, charging patients exorbitant fees to process a request for copies of your medical records.

Even if your health care provides you access to your medical records, they can still limitation what type of information you can access from your medical records. For example, if you get blood drawn from a laboratory, you cannot have access to the results of your test until your doctor views your results and authorizes the laboratory to release your blood test results to you.  In the last several years there has been a proliferation of online portals to access information about upcoming appointments, medical records, and vital signs. These portals do not always provide access to progress notes or results from imaging tests, like MRIs and x-rays.

On March 13, CMS issued updated guidance for visitors to nursing homes related to COVID-19. If your loved one is residing in a nursing home, the facility should be actively screening and restricting or limiting visitors according to CMS guidelines. CMS is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In addition to guidance on screening and restricting or limiting visitors, CMS recommends that nursing homes do the following:

  • Review and revise how they interact with volunteers, vendors, agency staff, EMS personnel and equipment, transportation workers, and other practitioners

Did you know that the cost of in-home care services and nursing home care are not covered items under the Medicare program? According to AARP, the average cost of nursing home stays is more than $100,00 per year in many parts of the United States. A comprehensive retirement plan should include long-term care insurance because costs like these can drain your retirement savings quickly.

What is long-term care insurance?

Long-term care insurance (LTC) helps individuals and couples protect against medical expenses not covered under the Medicare program. Once you or your spouse can no longer perform daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating on your own, LTC insurance typically quicks in to cover in-home care services. There is a waiting period (called “elimination period”) of sorts that applies to most plans before coverage begins in earnest. Check your insurance policy documents for more information.

For over 80 years, Social Security has made guaranteed monthly payouts to eligible retired workers. Today, over 64 million people receive a monthly benefit from the Social Security program. The average retired worker benefit is $1,505.50 a month, as of January 2020. Generally Social Security income for the ordinary retiree is not taxed. There are states however, that do tax Social Security income.

The federal government can tax your Social Security benefits

The taxation of Social Security benefits began in earnest as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1983. Beginning in 1984, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is allowed to apply federal ordinary income tax rates on up to one-half of an individual’s or couple’s Social Security benefit, depending on their income. If an individual’s or couple’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) plus one-half of benefits exceeds $25,000 or $32,000, respectively, they would be subject to this tax.

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