Articles Posted in Elder Law

A challenge to the Affordable Care Act is still pending at the United Supreme Court, but other challenges against the law have also been introduced including one case in which a Texas federal judge suggested that most Americans receive preventive services like mammograms without charge. In this ruling, the judge also noted that businesses, as well as individuals who challenge the Affordable Care Act’s “first-dollar” coverage requirement for preventive services, have legal standing to do so. 

This judge has also previously found the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The plaintiffs who initiated the case argue that religious and free-market objections exist regarding the Affordable Care Act’s requirement and seek to halt enforcement of the law. 

Based on a recent order, it appears likely that the judge will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and end up interfering with the Affordable Care Act’s application. 

A new study reveals how devastating a diagnosis of mental decline can be. Researchers found that rates of suicide raise substantially in the weeks and months following a dementia diagnosis. Consequently, following such a diagnosis, patients and their loved ones should be alert to an increase in symptoms of depression. Some of the most common signs that a loved one is beginning to experience depression include apathy, increased feelings of sadness, social withdrawal, and suicidal thoughts. 

After all, learning that a person has dementia or an associated condition can be troubling. The time that a diagnosis is made also appears to be influential in regards to suicide attempts. Many times, people who are in the early stages of mental decline are still capable of processing what dementia entails. These individuals might grow fearful of progressive cognitive decline and that they might end up “burdensome” to others. People in the early stages of mental decline are also more capable than individuals in full-blown dementia to successfully carry out a suicide attempt. 

Despite these dangers, many caregivers avoid talking to elderly patients directly about any thoughts that they might have about suicide. Many times, loved ones and caregivers want to avoid asking such questions due to concerns that doing so will trigger suicidal thoughts. This, however, is often not the case and patients frequently are willing to acknowledge these thoughts, which can lead caregivers and loved ones to end up providing help. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are 15,600 nursing homes in the United States and 1.3 million individuals who reside in nursing homes. While nursing homes inarguably a critical role in the lives of many people, they also introduce countless complications into a person’s lives. As people plan on passing on assets to their loved ones, they are often left with various questions about how assets can be passed on to loved ones. 

To make sure you are fully informed about asset ownership as a nursing home resident, this article reviews some critical details that you should understand. Even worse than knowing the answer to an estate planning question is receiving incorrect details. As a result, this article also focuses on dispelling some myths about estate planning.

Myth # 1 – Joint Owning Assets with Your Children Exempt Assets for Nursing Home Issues

If you’ve been considering making a gift to take advantage of the current lifetime federal estate tax emotions, you’ve likely considered the role that a spousal lifetime access trust could play in your trust. 

A spousal lifetime access trust (SLAT) is an irrevocable trust that is created for the benefit of your spouse. These trusts can also indirectly benefit a couple’s children as well as any other beneficiaries. After a SLAT is created, you can make the most of the lifetime tax exemption. This article reviews some important factors to consider in deciding whether a SLAT is the right idea for you.

# 1 – SLATs Let You Take Advantage of The Estate Tax Exemption

The case of In re Estate of Theodore George recently concluded, which involved a daughter who appealed a civil court’s determination that her deceased father was the sole owner of a vehicle at the time of his death and that the vehicle was part of the father’s estate at the time of his death.The deceased man purchased the vehicle in 1992. Later in 1994, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles issued a Certificate of Title to the decedent in his name only. The copy of the title contained no assignment of ownership to the daughter. In 2006, the deceased man submitted a Vermont Registration, Tax, and Title Application to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The deceased man’s name was listed in the space provided on the form for the owner, while the daughter’s name was listed in the space for co-owners. A handwritten annotation next to the daughter’s name says “add co-owner”. The form also advised applicants to select rights of survivorship if more than one owner is listed, but the deceased man made no indication of the daughter’s role as a survivor. At the form’s bottom, the line for the co-owner’s signature was blank while the deceased man signed the form. No bill of sale accompanied the application. The DMV issued certificates naming both the daughter and the deceased man for 2012 to 2013, 2014 to 2015, and 2017 to 2018. 

The daughter appealed the case and argued that the deceased man’s act in changing the registration to reflect joint ownership transferred interest in the vehicle to her. In the alternate, the daughter argued that her late father’s act demonstrated his intent to make a gift of joint ownership. The Vermont Supreme Court later concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the deceased man transferred an interest in the vehicle to the daughter under either theory.

Guardianship is a court process. Guardians are only appointed if an individual is deemed to be incapacitated. The determination of incapacity is made using either a physician or a psychologist. If incapacity is only temporary, a temporary or emergency guardian is appointed. To navigate the guardianship process, it’s helpful for appointed individuals to be as informed as possible. As a result, this article reviews some critical details to appreciate the nature of these arrangements.

# 1 – How to Decide a Family member Needs a Guardian

Sometimes, disability or injury make it challenging for a person to make decisions related to health care, finances, or living situations. These situations might include a loved one who ends up in a coma, someone who is mentally challenged, someone who has suffered a stroke, or someone with a brain injury. If a court assesses that a person can no  longer make life decisions, the court will hold a hearing addressing that individual’s competency. To decide whether a person is incapacitated, courts will hold a hearing to review all of the available facts.

The Social Security Administration recently voiced concerns over a spike in reported Social Security scams. Additional data shows that the number of Social Security fraud cases has surged during the pandemic. The agency received more than 718,000 reports of telephone scams in the fiscal year ending September 30th which totaled nearly $45 million in losses. 

This number also marked an increase from 2018 when 478,000 cases of Social Security fraud occurred. Fraudulent calls during the pandemic also increased from less than 6,000 in April 2020 to over 100,000 in September. To better protect you and your loved one from being harmed by social security fraud, this article reviews the 4 most common types of Social Security fraud as well as what you can to avoid being harmed this way.

# 1 – Fraudulent “Criminal Act” Phone Calls

The value of carefully drafting a trust or will is emphasized by understanding the limited situations in which a court corrects mistakes that might arise in trusts or wills. The court’s response varies based on not the jurisdiction, but also often the type of estate planning mistake that was made. This article reviews some critical details to understand how New York courts various estate planning errors.

# 1 – Distinguish Capacity and Undue Influence from Mistakes

If a mistake is the result of the lack of competence by the testator or if the testator under the undue influence of someone else, courts often apply a different test to assess whether the will or estate planning document should be set aside. It’s sometimes the case that the concepts of undue influence, fraud and mistake are joined together, which can lead to substantial confusion.

Following the recent documentary, Framing Britney Spears, as well as the increased media focus on the matter, Brittney Spears has become a common subject of conversations in 2021. It’s not Spears’ music this time that’s making headlines, though, it’s Spears’ conservatorship.

In 2008, Spears’ father was appointed conservator for Brittney’s financial and personal decision. Over a decade later, a professional fiduciary was appointed to assume Mr. Spears’ position due to health issues the elder Spears currently faces. 

Based on allegations, Ms. Spears’ conservatorship still exists but Ms. Spears no longer wants her father to function in such a role. Following a February 2021 hearing, a judge decided that Ms. Spears’ father as well as the professional fiduciary would share conservator roles. 

Data reveals that approximately 70% of all adults in the United States who will live to the age of 65 will require long-term care. Because many of these older adults do not require the full degree of care provided by nursing homes or have limited finances, it is important to realize that alternatives to nursing homes exist. 

# 1 – Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities are often an excellent solution for elder individuals who want a mixture of both privacy as well as community interaction. 

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