Articles Tagged with NYC elder law

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?

The cost of living continues to grow every year, making it difficult for those who have saved for the future, but did not anticipate how dramatically their expenses would increase. Several of our previous posts have noted the concern that have been raised regarding our nation’s ability to cover the costs of our aging adults through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, however a recently released study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University further confirms those notions. The study found that there the current generation that has retired or is coming upon retirement is facing greater financial trouble, leading to a lack of accessible and adequate housing, a problem for a population that will double in size.

There are specific elements of housing that need to be considered for the aging population, including accessibility to entrances either by ramp or walk up, single floor housing, whether that is in an apartment or a home, as well as wider entrances and doorways and walk in bathroom units, that are compatible with the size of wheelchairs and healthcare devices. However, according to the Center, only 3.5% of homes right now currently adhere to these elements of architectural design that are critical to elders staying in their homes. While a simple fix that many may propose would be to renovate the home in order to make it accessible, these types of renovations cost thousands of dollars that many elderly individuals cannot allocate out of their budget.

In an effort to maintain their housing situation, some elderly individuals have decided to cut back on transportation, refilling medicine that may be critical to maintain their health, as well as cutting back on buying food. All of these consequences lead elders to seclude themselves, which can further exacerbate health problems. Up to 95% of informal care for elders being taken on by family members, thus, it is important for elders to continue to maintain those relationships and for family members to be able to access their elderly family member and provide assistance in a safe environment.

Probate and Contested Estates

When an individual dies, their transfer of property through the legal system is known as probate. During this process, the court determines the validity of a legally formed will or a how property will be distributed if it has not been designated to be inherited by another named party. When an estate enters probate, all of the debts and taxes owed by the deceased on the property are paid, any remaining income, dividends, stocks or investments are sold and the property is distributed or transferred out to the heirs of the deceased. While the deceased individual can leave property or assets to any party they wish, there are certain situations that call into question the validity of the transfer. If one of these suspicious situations arises, a party may raise a contested issue with the distribution.

Examples of Contested Estate Issues

Putting your assets in an irrevocable trust has a number of benefits, including: allowing the settlor, also known as the maker of the trust, to establish how his or her assets will be kept and eventually distributed, it allows the settlor to have access to the income produced by the trust, as well as the numerous tax benefits such as capital gains taxes being either deferred or in the event of gifting, avoided.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the federal tax code applies a gift tax on an individual level, however, that tax does not apply to trusts. If you transfer funds from your personal account, whether it is a savings or checking, to another, in excess of $14,000 you will be subject to a tax for the gift made, however, the IRS does not place these same taxes on trusts, depending on how the gift was made.

If the beneficiary makes a discretionary gift to another, a gift that can be shown to be made for the immediate benefit of another, it depends on whether the donation is viewed as present or future interest in the gift. If it can shown that the gift was made for the future interest of another, the IRS will not subject the trust to gift tax, however if it can be perceived that the gift was made for a temporary relief of another, the gift tax will be applied to the donation made.

Recently, in Ocean County, New Jersey, a well known elder law attorney was arrested and charged with stealing money from his clients. The attorney, considered an older adult himself, is charged with stealing over 1.2 million dollars over the course of five years from a number of elderly clients he served. A court order allowed officials to freeze the firm’s numerous bank accounts, seize billings records, and a number of other records implicating his crimes.

This attorney had a particular target on the elder population, however, he did not discriminate who he took money from when it came to clients. Notably, the attorney stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients suffering from dementia, clients who had elected him power of attorney (or so he had claimed) which allowed him to write checks from their accounts, depositing annuities proceeds into his account instead of the client, and misfiling legal fees. His behavior did not go unnoticed by some family members of clients, and when confronted, he claimed there were administrators errors and would issue repayments.

Important Questions to Ask Your Elder Law Attorney

2017 Projected Increases

Those individuals receiving social security benefits can expect another disappointing increase in their benefits in 2017. While this increase is another record low over the past five years, some view it as a win since social security beneficiaries failed to see any increase in their benefits in 2016, although costs of living continued to rise. The projected increase, coming at .3%, or $4 a month, was assessed by the federal government in response to adjusted costs of living.

How this Affects Elders

Physician Assisted Suicide and The Election

Physician assisted suicide has continued to be a widely controversial, but popular topic across the country over the past decade. With the presidential election coming to a close very soon, the future of physician assisted suicide, or dying with dignity, may become a more widely spread practice, legal medical practice available to those terminally ill patients. Thus far, The Death with Dignity Act, or a similar version, has been passed in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California and Montana.

California recently passed the California End of Life Option Act in June of 2016, after years of deliberation, voting and criticism, Governor Jerry Brown ultimately signed the bill into effect in the fall of 2015. Many families are relieved that this may become an option for a terminally ill loved one. What is different about death under this Act, is that it is no longer viewed as suicide, and will legally allow loved ones to retain what their terminally ill family member has designated for them after their passing.

There comes a time when difficult conversations must be had with an elderly loved one in your life that requires a caregiver, but is not receptive to the idea. These conversations can initially be overwhelming for both the loved one and the elderly person, as they start to make a plan about how their lives will change, but as so many Americans continue to live longer with a number of chronic health problems, enlisting the help of a caregiver is a very realistic and responsible choice in order to ensure an elderly person is well taken care of. This also tends to be the best option for those families who are not geographically close enough to care for their loved one full time but see the need for change in the current situation.

In determining the needs of your loved one, continue the dialogue to assess what is most important to both of the parties, such as, full time versus part time care, what daily activities the individual partakes in and what kind of assistance is needed with those, if any, as well as whether overnight care or meal assistance is needed, among many other factors.

Once needs have been determined, it is important to build a pool of applicants to interview. Caregivers build a very personal and intimate relationship with those they care for, thus, it is critical that the individual not only approves of the caregiver, but shares something in common and can trust that person.

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

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