Apr 16, 2019

Boomers More Prepared For Dying Than Living

The values of the Baby Boom generation seem to have have changed over the years. Once it was all about flower power. Now the focus includes financial power - specifically, leaving a financial legacy. 

A March 25, 2019  Financial Advisor Magazine article entitled "Baby Boomers More Prepared For Dying Than Living" reports on a recent survey from the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement. The survey found that Boomers are eager to leave a financial legacy for their loved ones. But at the same time, they are giving short shrift to the challenges of bankrolling their own long-term care. In other words, they are focused on death planning, less so on life planning. 

It's a puzzling finding, because the majority of respondents admit they know someone who needs long term care, and 45% have been caregivers themselves! Moreover, the data shows Boomers face a significant chance of needing long-term care: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that there is a 70% chance that someone who is 65 years of age today will need some type of long-term care in the future. Since long-term care costs can easily impoverish a middle class family, neglecting life planning jeopardizes of anything being left over for the children.

Of course, in today's America, there are constraints on what a middle class person can do to prepare for long-term care costs. The "Medicare for All" mantra with long-term care included, remains just a dream at this point. Notwithstanding, there are steps Baby Boomers can and should take to protect their nest eggs:

First, there is long-term care insurance. In the past decades there have been many changes in the industry, giving consumers more flexible insurance opportunities. For more information on these policies, click here.

There is also Medicaid. Like many people, Boomers tend to assume that they need to be impoverished to get long-term care benefits in Florida. But with professional legal guidance, that's not necessarily the case. And the sooner you start planning, the better.

Baby Boomers are well-advised to get a grip on not only what they want to leave behind, but how they are going to cope during their lifetimes if incapacity strikes. To get the ball rolling, meet with our Florida elder law our attorneys to  discuss your options. Don't procrastinate! 

Apr 13, 2019

How To Divide Your Assets Among Children: What's Really "Fair"?

“That’s not fair!” What parent of youngsters hasn't heard that countless times? It's a complaint that doesn't necessarily vanish when children are adults. In fact, depending on how they feel they've been treated in your estate plan, your kids may be complaining about unfairness even after you are gone, to the detriment of their relationship with one another.


Is equal always fair? How can you avoid playing favorites in your estate plan? The most obvious approach is to split everything equally. But suppose your children's circumstances are vastly different? In those cases, treating your children "equally" in your estate plan may not necessarily be the same as treating them "fairly." Here are just a few situations when dividing everything equally may not be the best solution:

  • Scenario 1: One child is far more successful financially. Example: Child A is making a killing on Wall Street as an investment banker. Child B, just as hardworking, has made teaching high school English his life’s work. If you split your assets “equally,” B may feel slighted, and miss out on money he could legitimately put to good use. If you give the financier less, he may feel rejected and punished for being successful, despite the fact that he does not need the money.
  • Scenario 2: Child A is fiscally responsible. Child B makes bad financial decisions and seems always to be in dire financial straits. B may be immature, or may have a drug of mental health issue. You know that if A gets his inheritance as a lump sum up front, he'll manage it wisely. But you hesitate to give B his inheritance all at once, and would prefer to put it in trust so that the trustee has oversight over how it is used. Will B understand why he is being treated differently? Maybe. Will he resent his sibling who is getting his inheritance up front? Quite possibly.
  • Scenario 3: Child A is healthy, but Child B has a disability or lifelong medical issues. Depending on B’s circumstances, you may want to leave him more than you leave A. If you expect B will need federal benefits in the future, you may want to put B’s funds in a special needs trust. Despite the unequal treatment, the need for this arrangement is likely to be understood by both children. But that does not eliminate the issue of who gets to manage child B's trust. Will your healthy child want to be his brother's or sister's keeper, or consider it a burden?
  • Scenario 4: Child A has been worked since the teenage years, put himself through school and never asked you for a penny. On the other hand, you gave Child B $200,000 for college tuition and room and board, and you recently gave him $50,000 as a down payment for a home. Splitting your assets equally at death between the two of them might be great for B, but is it really "fair"? Instead of equal distributions, you may want to consider the gifts you’ve made to B over the years as a kind of early inheritance, and deduct that amount from what you are leaving B when you pass away. 
  • Scenario 5: Over the years Child A has been caring for you, taking you to your doctors' appointments, checking up on you by phone and in person, helping you with your paperwork and with other everyday matters. Child B is no busier than A and lives just as close, but rarely lifts a finger to help. You don't know if A resents B, but you wouldn't be surprised if he does. Is an equal division of your assets between the two really fair, you wonder? How will this play out between the two if you reward A for his efforts by giving him more? 

What are your alternatives? When they were little, all you had to do was split the cookie equally, and problem solved. It's not that easy now. 

How to distribute assets to children with different needs and histories while trying to be even-handed can be a vexing problem. Some parents, unable to find a “perfect” solution, will continuously delay making a plan or never create one, letting the State of Florida's intestacy laws determine who gets what. That will result in each child getting an equal share - but doesn't solve the potential problem of one child potentially feeling resentful in relation to siblings.

Our job as your Florida estate planning lawyers is to help you formulate a reasonable plan that you can live with (and die in peace with), and that your kids are likely to find "fair." Obviously, there is no one solution suitable for every family. We will sit down with you to explore in detail your finances, family dynamics, family history, and your goals. 

If you decide not to split everything equally, it is usually a good idea to tell your children about the decision in advance and explain the reasoning behind your decision, so they are not blindsided later on. You should also make brief mention of your reasons in your estate plan. This can go a long way towards fostering a good relationship among your children after your passing - and could potentially even prevent a lawsuit against your estate from an angry child who feels "That's not fair!"

Apr 2, 2019

Tranquility Base Landing For The Aldrin Family

Buzz Aldrin became the second man to walk on the moon when the Apollo 11 lunar module landed gracefully in the Sea of Tranquility. But in recent years, Aldrin's relationship with his children has been anything but tranquil.

As noted in our July 2018 post,  two of Aldrin’s three children and his business manager had alleged that the 89-year-old former astronaut was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and incapable of handling his own finances. The children sought guardianship over him. Incensed, Aldrin sued them, accusing them of elder exploitation and mismanaging his businesses, the Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation and Buzz Aldrin Enterprises. He claimed his son Andrew had stolen half a million dollars from him.

Then, in March 2019, the feud - at least the public legal wrangling - came to an end. Family members announced that they were dropping their respective lawsuits and were committed to working out their conflicts privately. And the timing could not be more appropriate: 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and there are many commemorative events on tap that Aldrin and his family will participate in. They want those events, not the family's legal woes, to take center stage. 

Said Aldrin of the end of the legal conflict: “This was the most charitable way to manage a difficult situation, as this year...is too important to my family, the nation and me." His children, Janice and Andrew, echoed that sentiment: “We are pleased to confirm that the legal proceedings for guardianship as well as civil actions have been dismissed by members of the Aldrin family. We truly appreciate the support we have received from so many and ask, again, for your understanding and respect as we continue to work through this as a family, in a private manner.”

By the way, if you haven’t yet done so, see Apollo 11 in theaters now. The filmmakers have cleaned up the fuzzy footage of the 1969 event and it feels like you are seeing this wondrous event for the first time!

Mar 17, 2019

Finding Love When Your Spouse Has Alzheimer's Disease

A wonderful and poignant segment from CBS "This Morning" about a topic that's rarely discussed publicly. Listen to the stories of people who while caring diligently for spouses affected by Alzheimer's, have found companionship with others.  They talk about the stress of caregiving and others' judgments. Watch all the way through. 

Mar 13, 2019

How To Check On Your Tax Refund

Are you expecting a tax refund this year? Whether you file your return online or submit the paperwork by mail, you can track your refund online with the Internal Revenue Service's "Where's My Refund" tool.

The tool allows you to track the dates your tax return was received, your refund approved, and  your refund issued. You can start tracking your refund 24 hours after you submit your return electronically. If you mail in your return, the information is available four weeks after you file. The information is updated daily. Here is the direct link to check your refund status: https://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof/lang/en/irfofgetstatus.jsp 

You will need to have your Social Security number, the amount you are expecting to be refunded, and your filing status.

The IRS states that you will receive your refund faster if you opt for direct deposit over mail.

You can also check your refund status using the IRS mobile app, IRS2go. Find out more about the app.

Mar 4, 2019

Electronic Wills Not Ready For Prime Time in Florida

Conducting business online is routine these days. We pay bills online. Shop online. Bank online. File tax returns online. So it's natural to ask: Can we create a valid will online? (To be clear, an electronic will does not refer to just downloading a form from a website. It means creating, signing, witnessing, notarizing, and storing the document online.)

In Florida and in all states except two (Nevada and Indiana), the answer is no. The electronic will has proven that it is not quite ready for prime time. If and when it will be remains to be seen.

To guard against fraud, a will must be executed with painstaking formalities. Unlike other documents, the will goes into action only when its creator is no longer around. Pairing those strict legal requirements with digital technology is proving to be a challenge. 

Not that Florida hasn’t tried. In 2017 the state passed the Electronic Wills Act, which included rules governing how the testator, notary and witnesses could participate in a will signing by secure video link - even if they were in different locations. The bill required the video to be recorded, time stamped and stored along with the will. After signing, the will would need to be stored online with a “qualified custodian.” 

The bill never came to fruition, though. It was vetoed by the governor amidst a swirl of unanswered questions. Critics worried about hacking, despite proponents' belief that technologies like Blockchain can keep the process secure. There were also concerns about fraud: Could someone unseen be off-camera during a video conference, influencing the testator? And what would happen if the online custodian went out of business? What about hardware and software glitches? These and other challenging issues are currently under review by the Uniform Commission on Law.

Creating a will is not about filling in the blanks. You should always discuss your situation and goals with a qualified estate planning attorney who knows the law and will make sure this most important document is executed properly. Electronic wills may be in our future, but we are definitely not there yet.

Feb 19, 2019

Family Conflict Erupts Over Estate's Precious Paintings

One of the fundamental goals of estate planning is to leave a legacy of family harmony. An estate need not be a fortune to spark a family feud. But of course, it helps. Take, for example, the Neumann family of New York.

Family patriarch Hubert Neumann, 87, and his wife Dolores had three daughters: Belinda, Kristina and Melissa. In the 1980s, Dolores befriended little-known graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and acquired several of his works. Today, his paintings are worth millions.

Dolores died in Sept. 2016 of liver cancer. Soon after, Belinda, 51, turned over one of the Basquiat paintings for auction at Sotheby’s. Hubert sued to block the sale, claiming Belinda had tricked her ailing mother into signing over the rights to the work. Although Hubert lost the suit, the painting, an oil on wood titled “Flesh and Spirit,” went for $30.7 million. That was far less than the expected $100 million. Belinda then sued her father for $100 million, claiming his lawsuit had scared off investors and depressed the price.

As often happens with estate contests, this is a saga that doesn't look like it will wrap up quickly. More legal maneuvering is now in the works. The Neumann family still owns many precious paintings, including additional works by Basquiat, as well as by Picasso, Miro, Haring, Koons and others. Family members want to hang on to them. Belinda, on the other hand, wants to sell them, and is suing her father and sisters for the right to do so. According to her lawsuit, Belinda “needs the funds to pay her family’s significant housing, litigation and educational expenses.” She claims that the paintings cannot be equitably divided because of the great disparity in their individual values.

Belinda also claims in her lawsuit that the family cannot share the works because there is just too much acrimony among them. That's probably one of the only things the Neumann family agrees on these days.

Your estate plan should always be designed to smooth over potential family conflicts, not stoke them. See a qualified estate planning attorney for guidance!

Feb 7, 2019

Skilled Nursing Homes Face Tightened Scrutiny of Staffing Levels

Throughout our many years of experience, we have found the vast majority of nursing home staff to be well-intentioned and hardworking. That said, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have concluded there is room for improvement. 

A new, more rigorous data-gathering system for nursing homes that relies on payroll records - not self-reporting as before - is now being implemented to gather information about staffing levels. The new data has revealed wider deficiencies in staffing than previously believed, particularly with regard to registered nurses. Under federal regulations, a registered nurse must be on site for at least eight hours daily; a licensed practical nurse must be present at all times. According to the payroll records, about a quarter of nursing homes surveyed lacked a registered nurse on site at least one day during each three-month period. Based on payroll data, last year Medicare lowered its ratings for about 1,400 nursing homes.

To remedy the situation, CMS is increasing the frequency of surprise spot checks at skilled nursing homes, particularly on the weekends. However, representatives of the nursing home industry argue that increased spot checks do not solve the real problem skilled nursing homes face: a shortage of workers. Dr. David Gifford, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at the American Health Care Association, writes: “CMS seems to be focusing on a punitive approach that will penalize providers and make it harder to hire staff to meet the shared goal of increasing staffing.” 

To see how a skilled nursing facility rates, check out the  Nursing Home Compare page on the CMS website. The rating scale is based on a scale of one to five stars, with five being the best. Stars are awarded based on staffing, as well as health inspections and several other quality of care measures.

Jan 23, 2019

Jan 17, 2019

A Valentine's Message To Our Readers: Online Dating Safety Tips

We are lawyers, not matchmakers. That said, as elder law and estate planning attorneys we often meet older people who are looking for companionship. With so many people of all ages using online dating sites, we are taking this Valentine's Day to offer some tips for staying safe online.

Now a multi-billion dollar industry, dating sites and apps have allowed many people to find true friendship, romance, and even marriage. But inevitably, the industry has also attracted its fair share of cyber-criminals. Older people who may be less tech-savvy than younger generations may be particularly susceptible to online predation. And while both men and women can become victims, the FBI says that women over age 40 who are widowed, divorced or disabled are targeted most often. Here are some fundamental rules for staying safe: 

  • Amy Nofziger of the AARP’s fraud unit emphasizes being alert to bad grammar. Why? Offshore scammers often use translation software that produces less than intelligible messages. 
  • Be cautious if your online friend seems in a hurry to communicate with you by text, phone or email. He/she may want to get around the dating site's privacy controls.
  • Does your online contact profess love and loyalty too early in your communication? Don’t allow yourself to be duped into a premature sense of trust. 
  • It is common for fraudsters to find reasons they cannot meet you in person. Your contact may claim to be traveling on business, hospitalized, etc. 
  • Once a fraudster has your trust, he/she will put the squeeze on you. You may be asked to wire money for a medical emergency, financial crisis, etc. If you had future plans to meet personally, you may be told that your contact needs money to travel to see you. 
  • Nofziger also recommends that you do your own cyber-sleuthing. You can google names, emails, phone numbers to see if the person has a legitimate web presence. You can even do a reverse image search: Drag the person’s photo into google and you can find out where the image has appeared. If it’s a stock image and/or or you find multiple profiles using that image, you know the person is not on the up and up.  
  • Do not hesitate to contact the dating website if you suspect attempted foul play. 
  • If you arrange an in-person meeting, select a public place, preferably during daylight hours. And let someone know where you are going.

There are numerous dating sites that cater to mature people. Some are free, some not. Each site has its own policies and fees, so research carefully. Happy Valentine's Day!

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