Medicare Open Enrollment Season

October 21, 2016

Filed under: Medical Care — Alexis @ 9:46 AM

Medicare Open Enrollment is happening now: it runs from October 15 to December 7.

Now is the time to check whether your supplement and Part D plans are the right ones for you. For help with the research, you can visit www.medicare.gov and you can also make an appointment with the SHINE counselor at your local senior center.

The Globe Made It Sound Like All of Our Seniors are Living Like the 1% and That Ticked Me Off

June 13, 2016

Filed under: Financial,Living at Home — Alexis @ 2:08 PM

The Boston Globe Magazine wrote in its 1/31/16 issue of a Massachusetts building boom of senior care communities targeted essentially at the “1%.” You can see that article here.

I was ticked off at the tone of the article, to say the least. The author talks about the high-end senior living communities that developers are building in Eastern Massachusetts, because, well, some seniors through a combination of work and luck have accumulated that kind of wealth. The fact is, most Massachusetts seniors are patching together a network of care and services and doing their best to stay at home. The Globe Magazine published my comment, which you can read here.

The country needs a more comprehensive network of services for seniors, and Massachusetts needs to lead the way.

Alzheimer’s 10th Annual Educational Conference and Caregiver Day

April 14, 2015

Filed under: Alzheimer's,Caregiver Issues — Alexis @ 11:03 AM

I will be on the afternoon panel of this day-long conference.  This year’s annual conference features the film “Alive Inside,” which shows how music can reach into the depths of our souls even when are minds betray us, and some speakers focusing on how to communicate with the person with demential emotionally.  The ever-popular Dr. Paul Raia from the Alzheimer’s Association will be the key speaker for the day.

At the end of the day, a panel will take questions from the audience.  It will be myself, Dr. Raia, Maureen Bradley, who is a nurse with the Royal Health Group, and Eve Montague, who is a music therapist with the South Shore Conservatory.

This event is sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Partnership of the South Shore, Partners Healthcare, and Linden Ponds.  So far 200 people have registered.  If you would like to join us, please do, it’s a very affordable all-day conference – just $40, including lunch.  It takes place at Linden Ponds in Hingham.

See here for more information and to RSVP.  Please note that there are several events listed on that page – be sure you are looking at the Caregiver Conference info.

See you there!

National Grid Warns Customers to Guard Themselves & Sensitive Account Information

January 12, 2015

Filed under: Elder Abuse,Financial — Alexis @ 10:13 AM

Apparently scammers are getting better at their craft – received this from my local police department:

During this holiday season National Grid and local police departments received an increasing number of calls from customers being targeted by billing scam artists and impersonators trying to gain access to account information and entry to National Grid customers’ homes. The bill scams mirror reports received by utility companies throughout the country where the scammers are demanding immediate payment for electricity and natural gas bill balances and threatening immediate service shutoff if payments are not received within an hour or two. If the customer has made a payment, the caller will say that the payment has not been received and an immediate payment must be made. For the most part the scammers are demanding that the customer secure a pre-paid debit card and provide the account number to the scammer who then redeems the card.
National Grid does contact customers with past due balances by phone to offer payment options. Direct payment is an option but direct payment is never demanded as a prerequisite for continued service. If customers wish, they can arrange for a payment by check, credit card or debit card if they speak directly to a customer service representative. Payment can also be made by credit card or debit card without a representative’s assistance. National Grid does not accept pre-paid debit cards for payment and would never ask a customer to acquire one of these cards to make a bill payment.
The callers have shown to be adept at extracting account information from unsuspecting customers and they use sophisticated telephone technology to convince customers they are actually calling from National Grid.
Ask Questions/Demand Proper ID
In addition to the on-going fraudulent bill collection calls, there have been recurring reports of individuals going door-to-door, identifying themselves as employees of National Grid and demanding to see the customer’s electricity or natural gas bills. In other instances, people claiming to be a utility company employee have been able to gain entry to a home by telling the customer they must inspect their meter, which is usually located in the customer’s basement. When the customer accompanies the impersonator into the basement, an accomplice enters the home and removes items of value without the customer knowing it.

Ice Sledding & Skating at Local Rinks

Filed under: Adult Disabled Child,Family Fun — Alexis @ 10:00 AM

In this weekend’s Boston Globe South section, there is an announcement for gear and ice time availability at local rinks.  Several rinks will have ice sleds and skate walkers.  Some rinks will have time slots set aside for assisted skating and sled ice hockey.

Here’s the link to the article.

And here’s the link to the DCR Universal Access Program, which is organizing these events.

Get up and go!

Gifts and the Five-Year Lookback

November 19, 2014

Filed under: MassHealth,Medicaid (MassHealth) — Alexis @ 5:47 PM

I often hear from clients that they “have made gifts in the last five years – but it’s ok, they were all less than $14,000 so they won’t count under the five-year lookback – right?”

Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. While it IS true that you can give up to $14,000 per year (as of 2014), per recipient without paying a gift tax for federal income tax purposes, MassHealth (Medicaid) views the situation very differently. Should you need a nursing home and ask the state to help pay for your care, any gifts you have made within the last five years will be scrutinized and will render you ineligible from receiving MassHealth assistance in paying for your nursing home care until the amount of the gift(s) is paid back.

In fact, any asset transferred for less than fair market value will be scrutinized and can potentially disqualify you from MassHealth assistance. For example, if you sell your son-in-law your $20,000 Mercedes for $1,000, or add your children’s names to the deed on your house (and they didn’t pay you fair market value), MassHealth will view these transactions as assets transferred for less than fair market value.

How does the disqualification work? Let’s say in the last 5 years you have gifted $50,000 in assets. You will be disqualified from MassHealth assistance for $50,000 worth of care – and the disqualification only begins to toll once you have spent down your other assets to the allowable $2,000. In other words, you will pay privately for your care until you have just $2,000 in the bank, then you’re responsible for the $50,000. But now you only have $2,000 left – so who pays it? Either the recipients can return the gifts to “cure the defect,” or someone else – likely a spouse or child, will have to foot the bill for the next $50,000. Then and only then will you be eligible for MassHealth assistance. This is a scary prospect, for you and your family alike!

Of course, there are exceptions to the no-gifting rule. You may always transfer assets to your spouse. Likewise, if your child has been living in your home and taking care of you for two years, you may be able to transfer your home to the caretaker child without penalty. You may also be able to transfer assets to a special needs trust or pooled trust for a disabled child, though you should consult with an elder law attorney before making any transfers in the latter two of these scenarios.

Gifting to your family and loved ones during your lifetime can be a wonderful, helpful, and rewarding thing. Before making any gifts, however, you should consult with a trusted financial professional, an elder law attorney, or better yet, both. If you’re wondering if giving gifts during your lifetime is plausible in your situation, don’t hesitate to contact our office to set up an appointment.

Life Estate Deeds – An Antique Technique Providing Modern Convenience

October 16, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning,Financial,Uncategorized — Tags: , — Alexis @ 9:30 AM

When we pass away, our assets are divided into two groups – probate and non-probate. Non-probate assets are things like bank accounts and life insurance policies that you have named joint owners or TODs on – they transfer to the named beneficiaries upon your death without any court involvement. Probate assets are held only in your name. The court looks to your will, or the intestacy statute, if there isn’t a will, to determine who receives these assets. This can be a lengthy, and potentially costly, process.

 

One way to make your home a non-probate asset is to create a life estate. This concept was borrowed from old English property law. You, as the owner of the home, deed the home to yourself for life (making you the “life tenant”) and then to another person(s) known as the “remainderman” (most often your children). Upon your passing, the remaindermen immediately become the owners of the home (they just need to file a copy of your death certificate with the Registry of Deeds).

 

Creating a life estate has many benefits. First, upon your passing, your home transfers seamlessly to the remaindermen without any court involvement. Second, you are guaranteed the right to remain in your home for the rest of your lifetime – you cannot be compelled to sell or move out. Next, after your passing, the remaindermen receive a step-up basis for capital gains purposes, minimizing the capital gains tax due should they decide to sell the property after your death. Fourth, because the remaindermen have no ownership interest in the home until after your death, their creditors (in the event of a bankruptcy or divorce, for example) cannot access the equity in the home during your lifetime. Lastly, the entire value of the home can be protected from your nursing home costs so long as the life estate is created at least five years before you ask MassHealth for assistance in paying for nursing home care (more on this below).

 

Creating a life estate, however, has its potential pitfalls. First, the remaindermen must all sign off if you decide you want to mortgage, reverse mortgage or sell the property. The thought of giving up so much control can be frightening for many homeowners. (It’s worthwhile to note that your remaindermen should have their own powers of attorney in place, in the event you need their approval and they are out of the country, in the hospital, or otherwise incapacitated.)

 

Also, if you need to ask the state for assistance in paying for nursing home care in the five years following the creation of a life estate, you could be disqualified for a period of time. MassHealth uses a formula to calculate the “value” of your life estate based on your life expectancy and the value of the home. The disqualification can also be cured if the remaindermen agree to deed the property back to the life tenant outright, destroying the life estate. If it’s likely that you’ll be asking MassHealth to help pay for your nursing home care in the next five years, then you should meet with an elder law attorney to explore other options to protect the value of your home to the greatest extent possible.

 

A life estate deed can be a valuable addition to your estate plan. If you’re interested in learning more about life estates and whether this might be the right solution for you, call our office to schedule a planning session.

Home Care Goes High-Tech

October 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alexis @ 9:30 AM

CNN recently ran a fascinating article about the expanding use of technology in the field of home care for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, allowing them to remain independently in their homes longer.

 

You’ve probably heard of “call for help” bracelet or necklace devices, but did you know that a wireless sensor attached to a key fob can text a caregiver if a parent or loved one leaves his or her home? Or that a bedroom motion sensor can monitor sleep interruptions and middle of the night bathroom trips? A company called SmartThings manufactures a variety of sensors, which compile data wirelessly and report back to you via a smartphone app. Stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot also have their own automated home-monitoring sensor systems.

 

More senior-specific systems include Lively, GrandCare, and BeClose. They offer senior-targeted products such as bathroom and pillbox sensors, and blood pressure and glucose monitoring devices. Reports from these devices can be easily shared with the elder’s doctor. In a nod to social media, caregivers and loved ones can even upload photos and messages using the Lively app, which are printed and sent to the elder via mail twice per month!

 

Of course, even the niftiest of devices can’t replace a caregiver. But these devices can supplement in-home care and enable seniors to remain safely in their homes longer, while giving their families some peace of mind.

 

(Disclaimer: We haven’t used or investigated any of these devices, we are just passing along the information. Before investing in any new device, you may want to do some research, such as reading online reviews or asking friends if they have used them.)

Shared Office Space Available to Lease in Hingham

October 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alexis @ 2:35 PM

Are you a South Shore professional in search of a nice, sunny, 14 x 12 corner office? Our law firm consists of two attorneys and an assistant – we would like to add another professional to our suite. We have a top-floor space that consists of three offices, a spacious conference room, and a waiting area.

 

Clients love the location, right off Route 3 at Exit 15 near the Derby Street Shoppes. The building is handicapped-accessible, with a ramp and an elevator. There is plenty of parking.

 

Rent is $945 per month, which includes heat, electricity, etc. You would just pay for your own phone line, and share the internet cost. The space is available November 1.

 

Doreen, my assistant, is available to greet your clients and make them feel comfortable. She can also provide limited hours of secretarial support, if needed.

 

This is a great space for a solo practitioner, but the office is large enough to have an assistant join you. You do not have to be another attorney – you could be an accountant, a graphic designer, a bookkeeper, a webmaster… any professional who needs a sunlit, spacious office in a conveniently located, modern building.

 

Please contact alexis@alexislevitt.com or doreen@alexislevitt.com for more information.

14 x 12 corner office space.

Sunlit top-floor space.

 

 

Sunlit top-floor space.

14 x 12 corner office.

 

 

 

The Importance of Caregiver Contracts

October 2, 2014

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Financial — Tags: , , — Alexis @ 12:40 PM

A goal that my clients bring up in meetings time after time is that they wish to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Many people, however, find the cost of bringing help into their homes to be daunting. Elders are increasingly turning to their adult children for in-home care. As thanks, to reimburse the child for their time and expenses, or a combination of both, elders often wish to “pay” the child. But should the elder need nursing home care in the future, MassHealth will view informal payments as gifts, which could prevent the elder from receiving public assistance. So the question is, what is a family to do?

 

One solution is a “caregiver contract.” This is a written agreement between the elder(s) and their adult children, laying out tasks the child will perform and a rate of pay. Set up along with worker’s compensation and the usual payroll deductions, this provides an income stream to the caregiver while giving the parent what most elders want – being cared for by his or her own family.

 

Caregiver contracts benefit both parties. The caretaker child gets the benefit of worker’s compensation, in addition to reportable, reliable income for state and federal income tax purposes. (You may not think that’s a benefit – but paying taxes can be much better than the consequences of being discovered as delinquent!) The elder gets to remain in his or her home with a familiar caretaker, often at a rate much less expensive than those charged by home health agencies. Should the elder require MassHealth to pay for nursing home care, he or she can prove that the payments were just that – payments – and not gifts.

 

Only an elder law attorney familiar with the ever-changing MassHealth rules should draft a caregiver contract, so that it will protect the elder in the event he or she needs nursing home care in the future. If you believe a caregiver contract would be helpful to you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

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