Jan 12, 2018

Teen hearthrob David Cassidy cuts out daughter, leaves everything to son

Another legend gone.

“Partridge Family” heartthrob and Fort Lauderdale resident David Cassidy died on November 21, 2017 as a result of liver and kidney failure. He was 67. As noted in a 2017 post, Cassidy was diagnosed in 2015 with dementia. Both his father and mother, actors Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, suffered from dementia. He had ceased performing a few years earlier, no longer able to remember the lyrics to his songs.

Cassidy's will cuts out his oldest child, Katie. He and her mother never married. Cassidy did not participate in her upbringing, although they reportedly had somewhat more contact in recent years. His will bequeaths his music memorabilia to his three half brothers, Patrick, Ryan and Shaun. The rest of his estate - estimated at a modest $150,000 given his earlier fame – goes to his son, Beau, 26.

Cassidy had financial difficulties, along with longtime drug and alcohol problems. He had declared bankruptcy in 2015. At the time of his death, he still owed about $103,000 to his lawyers. Therefore, it's doubtful that Beau will see much of anything from his father's estate: Estate creditors must be paid before anything is distributed to beneficiaries. A sad end for someone who delivered so much happiness to others during his career.

Jan 6, 2018

Is A Tattoo a Valid DNRO?

By law and training, doctors and emergency medical technicians must do all they can to save lives. That includes administering CPR in the event of cardiac or pulmonary medical emergency. CPR can be withheld only if medical personnel can verify that the patient has a valid Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNRO).

DNRO's are kept in medical charts and by bedsides in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities. When emergency medical personnel are summoned to homes, they look for it on refrigerators or at bedsides. If there's any doubt that a valid DNRO exists, they will err on the side of caution and provide resuscitation.

But what happens if there is no document - just a tattoo?  This is precisely what happened in a case recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine: 

An unconscious 70-year-old man was brought into a Florida emergency room, unaccompanied by family or friends. He had pulmonary failure, and an elevated alcohol blood level. He had the words Do Not Resuscitate, and his signature, tattooed across his chest. The physicians now faced a perplexing ethical quandary. The tattoo is not a legally binding document; but presumably, this man had wanted the tattoo applied. Even so, did the tattoo reflect the patient's current wishes? Might he have changed his mind and just not had the tattoo removed? Erring on the side of caution, the physicians went ahead a treated him with antibiotics and other life-saving measures.

Later, the hospital’s social work department delivered the definitive answer. Through the Florida Department of Health, they were able to confirm that the patient had a DNRO. The physicians ceased treatment, and the patient passed on.

That was a case in which a tattoo accurately reflected an individual's wishes. But another curious incident demonstrates that's not always the case. "DNR Tattoos: A Cautionary Tale," published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2012, describes a 59-year-old man admitted to the hospital for a leg amputation. He suffered from diabetes and chronic non-healing wounds. During the admission process he insisted he wanted CPR in the event of cardiac or pulmonary arrest. But here's the curious part: he also had the letters "DNR" tattooed on his chest. When puzzled staff inquired about it, the patient explained he'd gotten the tattoo years ago as a result of losing a bet in poker game. Medical staff suggested he have it removed, but the patient declined, insisting it was obviously a joke and no one would ever take it seriously.

If you are one of the many millions of Americans who would prefer to avoid CPR under certain circumstances, or if you are the health care surrogate or proxy for someone who would want to avoid such measures, no need for a tattoo. What you do need is a Do Not Resuscitate Order. Here are some specifics you will need to know about this important document:
  • The Florida Department of Health DNRO form (#1896) may be downloaded, or call the department to request a form at 800-226-1911 or 850-245-4440, ext. 2795.
  • The form must be signed by you and your physician (but it does not need to be notarized). 
  • To be valid, the form must be printed on YELLOW paper.
  • At the bottom of the form is a “Patient Identification Device” which may be detached from the form, laminated and worn around your neck, clipped to clothing or bed, etc., so it is always with you.

For more information on the DNRO, check out the Florida Department of Health's frequently asked questions about DNRO's.

For information on all types of medical advance directives, click here. 

Jan 1, 2018

Tax Reform Bill Presents Challenges For Clients

Effective January 1, 2018, a comprehensive tax reform bill took effect. It is the most sweeping change to the tax code in 30 years, since the 1986 tax reform legislation under President Reagan.

Will this new law have the same longevity as Reagan's law? Most experts think not, because unlike the 1986 legislation, the new law lacks bipartisan support. Therefore, any planning done relative to the new law should be approached cautiously. You should not assume the new law is a safe or permanent guideline on which to base your estate planning.

The new estate tax and gift tax exemption is doubled from $5.6 million per individual, to $11.2 million. But don't be lulled into a sense of false security. While history shows us that no tax law is permanent, this new law presents two specific issues to keep in mind and prepare for:  
  • After the congressional election of 2018, and the presidential and congressional elections of 2020, there could be a substantive overhaul of the new law.     
  • Even if there is no substantive change as a result of the 2018 and 2020 elections, the new law mandates that in 2026, the estate tax exclusion will revert back to its 2017 level: $5.6 per individual, along with inflationary adjustments.

Here are just two examples of what might occur as a result of these issues:
  • Someone gives $11.2 million as an exempt gift in 2018 and passes away in 2026, when the 2017 exemption is again in effect. The government may "claw back" the $11.2 million gift, include it in the decedent's estate, and tax $5.6 million of the previously gifted funds ($11.2 million minus $5.6 million). 
  • A married couple believes that is highly unlikely that they will have a combined estate of $11.2 million. They do not  realize that in 2026, the lower estate tax exemption is again in effect. If they do no estate tax planning, they may inadvertently leave their estate vulnerable to estate taxes in the future.

What to do now?  
My recommendation is that you have your estate plan reviewed so that it has all of the flexibility and necessary protections that you and your family need for an uncertain future. Plan defensively and do not be lulled into complacency.

Our attorneys continue to analyze how the new law may affect your legal and financial planning going forward. Be sure to check this blog, our website, like our facebook page, and subscribe to our twitter feed to keep up with developments. If you don't already receive it, you can also sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. 

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Dec 11, 2017

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect A Growing Problem: Here's How to Prevent It, Spot It, Report It

This post on nursing home abuse and neglect is contributed by Attorney Michael Brevda of the Senior Justice Law Firm.
If you have a possible case of nursing home abuse and neglect, please call the The Karp Law Firm to discuss your case, at 800-893-9911.

As America’s population lives longer than ever before, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are enjoying record-breaking occupancy rates. Unfortunately, over-packed and understaffed facilities lead to nursing home abuse and neglect injuries. Arming yourself with knowledge is your best weapon in combating this growing trend of elder neglect.

What is Considered ‘Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect’?

For many, nursing home abuse and neglect evokes horrifying images of physical abuse by a caretaker. It’s important to note that physical abuse only accounts for a small percentage of nursing home abuse and neglect cases. 

Nursing home abuse and neglect is defined by The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) as “failures by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm.” This means nursing home abuse includes:
  • Bedsore development because staff did not move the patient in bed. 
  • Fractures from falls that could have been prevented
  • Unexplained broken bones. 
  • Medication mistakes by an overworked or undertrained nurse. 
  • Dehydration or malnutrition when facility staff ignores a patient’s food/water intake. 
  • Wrongful death caused by staff neglect of a resident’s deteriorating condition.

Startling Statistics

An NCEA research brief cites the following startling statistics:
  • Only 1 in 14 cases of nursing home neglect gets reported;
  • 1 in 3 nursing homes were cited for deficiencies;
  • 95% of sampled residents either were neglected themselves or they witnessed another resident suffer abuse/neglect;
  • More than half of the nursing home staff sampled admitted to neglecting or abusing residents in the past year.

Stopping Neglect Before an Injury 

If your loved one resides in a nursing home or assisted living facility, take the following steps to prevent them from being neglected:   
  • ETA: Unknown (and unexpected!). Visit often and at random times. Do not announce your visits.
  • Q and A, every day. Speak with staff and ask questions. Keep a care journal of who you spoke with. Make sure the staff knows you are following up on prior questions and concerns.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If something doesn’t seem right, make sure you express your concerns to the CNAs, the Director of Nursing and the facility doctor. If your family member has not been showered since you saw them last, bring this to the staff’s attention. If they have a new bruise on their leg, make sure that makes it into the chart. Accountability creates action from facility nurses. 
  • Bribe them with sugar. Place a bowl of candy in your family members room. This sounds silly, but the nurses will come in and eat the candy throughout their shift. This ensures the staff will check on your family member often while you are not there.

Steps to Take After a Loved One is Injured in a Nursing Home 

The cycle of nursing home abuse can only be stopped by taking action and reporting the incident. If you do not report it, you are allowing it to happen to the next resident. The Administration on Aging recommends the following steps if you suspect your family member was abused or neglected in a nursing home:
  • Call 911 if your family member is in immediate danger or has suffered a severe injury. 
  • Next, contact your local Adult Protective Services state agency. Here in Florida, you can call 1-800-96-ABUSE to report elder neglect inside a nursing home or ALF.
  •  Have your loved one checked out by an outside doctor who has no relationship with the negligent nursing home. 
  • Speak with a nursing home abuse attorney who can gather your records and help you get answers on why the incident occurred. 

Dec 5, 2017

Singer Glen Campbell's estate plan cuts out three of his children

When country music legend Glen Campbell was living, his family feuded over control of his money. Now that he’s gone, they are likely to continue feuding over it - just on a new front.  Considering the singer had eight children from four different marriages, and leaves behind an estate estimated at $50 million, the infighting is not exactly a surprise.

The Rhinestone Cowboy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011. But he and his fourth wife, Kim, 22 years his junior who he married in 1982, did not shrink from the public eye. On the contrary. Campbell released a final album, “Ghost on the Canvas,” went on a “Goodbye Tour,” and participated in a documentary, "I'll Be Me," about his and his family's journey through Alzheimer's. Campbell entered a memory care facility in 2014, but Kim continued to keep the public updated on his status. On August 8, 2017, Campbell died, age 81.

The family infighting started when Campbell entered the memory facility. Two of his children, Travis and Debby, alleged that their stepmother Kim was mishandling their father's assets, not visiting him or providing him with necessary items such as clothing and toiletries, and that it was inappropriate for Kim to allow their father to be filmed while in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. They requested the court assign a guardian to handle his medical and financial affairs. 
Kim addressed those allegations in a recent People interview. “They said I was withholding basic necessities like a toothbrush," she told the magazine. "The reality was he had plenty of toothbrushes but we kept them locked away because he didn’t know what it was and would rinse them in the toilet. They never asked. They only attacked. To be slandered while he was dying was beyond the pale. It was very painful.”

Travis and Debby also alleged that Kim prevented them from seeing their father and “participating in his care and/or treatment.” On this point they scored a legal victory, as it prompted Tennessee’s governor to sign the Campbell/Falk Law on May 2016. Under the law, family and close friends must be permitted contact with their loved with Alzheimer’s or dementia, regardless of the guardian’s wishes.

Now to the newest battlefront. The Tennessean reports that Campbell’s will was recently filed in Nashville probate court. Executed in September 2006, it specifically excludes Kelli, William and Wesley, the three children from his second marriage. They are cut out of his estate and are not beneficiaries either under the will or a related family trust. Kim is named as executor, and half of her bequest will go to the family trust. 

The court will hold a hearing on January 18 regarding the contents of the will, but don’t expect Kelli, William and Wesley to leave Campbell’s estate plan unchallenged. The family bickering will likely go on for some time.

Dec 2, 2017

Late RMD from your IRA? Uncle Sam MIGHT Forgive You

Uncle Sam wants you to take your required minimum distributions (RMD) from your Individual Retirement Account at just the right time. Not too early. Not too late.

If you make a withdrawal too early - before age 59 1/2 - you'll face a 10% penalty. But that's mild compared to what happens if you fail to take your RMD by the year following the year you turn 70 1/2. That violates the RMD rules, and will get you a whopping 50% penalty. For example, if your RMD was supposed to be $5,000 and you miss the deadline, you'll owe the IRS an additional $2,500 on top of the taxes you would ordinarily pay on the distribution. Uncle Sam doesn't fool around.

The administrator of your IRA should alert you that an RMD is due, but the buck - and the penalties - stop with you, so it's wise to stay on top of the deadlines.

There have been some cases in which the IRS has waived the penalty for a late RMD. If you find you've missed the deadline, you should take the RMD as soon as possible. Submit it, along with IRS Form 5329 (Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans). Attach a letter to the filing explaining why you were late - lost paperwork, health issues, family crisis, hurricane, etc. Also indicate what steps you have taken to ensure your future RMDs will be timely. 

The IRS is not known for being "warm and fuzzy," but it doesn't hurt to try appealing to its softer side.

Nov 17, 2017

Bill Gates Digs Deeper Into Alzheimer's Disease

Bill Gates has taken on a new mission: defeating Alzheimer's Disease. And he's approaching it with the same out-of-the-box thinking that led him to create Microsoft. He recently contributed $50 million of his own money (not his foundation's) to the project.

The philanthropist's father just turned 92 and is doing well, but as Gates notes, he is one of the lucky ones: Statistics show that if one makes it to age 80, the chances of developing the disease are about 50%. And Alzheimer’s is the only one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. for which there is no effective treatment or cure. That's a fact that does not sit well with Gates' inner innovator.

After studying the tremendous emotional and financial toll the disease takes on families and society, Gates decided to plow $50 million into the Dementia Discovery Fund. The fund is a unique collaboration of industry, charity and government, based in the U.K. While most research into Alzheimer’s focuses on the two proteins which seem to be involved with Alzheimer’s, amyloid and tau, the Dementia Discovery Fund is examining other disease pathways and more unconventional treatments. Writes Gates: “We’ve seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer’s.”

Several of his own family members succumbed to the disease. “I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity,” he notes in his blog, “and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.”

Unlike Gates, most American families lack sufficient financial resources to care for loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Many still believe that Medicare covers the cost of long-term care; discovering it does not is a frightening wake-up call for many Americans. Without generous long-term care insurance, middle class families are turning to other solutions, like Medicaid and Veterans benefits, or risking the loss of everything they've worked for.

Kudos to Bill Gates. We hope his efforts will open new “windows” into this dreaded disease, and eventually, lead to an effective cure or treatment. We really need the breakthrough.

Read Bill Gates’ blog post, Why I'm Digging Deeper Into Alzheimer's.

To read about Medicaid benefits and Veterans benefit for long-term care, click here.
Find out more about the Dementia Discovery Fund.

Nov 11, 2017

House Tax Bill Raises Concern Among Advocates for Seniors, The Disabled

Debate on the proposed tax overhaul is heating up. Both chambers of Congress have now produced their own bills which have significant differences.

Advocates for older Americans and the disabled have strongly criticized a key provision in the House's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill eliminates the itemized medical expense deduction, which currently allows taxpayers who spend more than 10% of their adjusted gross income on medical costs to deduct a portion from their taxes. It is anticipated that older Americans, the chronically ill and the disabled - those who tend to have high medical expenses - would be most impacted. Out-of-pocket costs for long-term care would not be deductible, nor would premiums for long-term care insurance, co-pays, etc.  

Only about 6% of filers - 8.8 million households - itemized medical expenses in 2015, reports the IRS. But of those who did, the AARP notes, 74% were over the age of 50, and half had incomes of $50,000 or less.

House Republicans counter the criticism by noting the small percentage of Americans who take the itemized deduction. They assert that overall, the proposed bill would be helpful to seniors. Republican Rep. George Holding of North Carolina states: "In the context of tax reform, this targeted deduction is no longer vital thanks to the other tax benefits for seniors and all Americans provided in this bill."

Another area of concern for some is the elimination of the Orphan Drug Tax Credit, which allows pharmaceutical and biotech companies to deduct up to 50% of the cost of clinical trials for treatments of rare diseases, such as Lou Gehrig's Disease and Huntington's Disease. Orphan drugs target diseases that affect less than 200,000 Americans.

Many are also worried about the House's plan to do away with the tax deduction for interest on student loans, which was claimed by 12 million filers in 2015. The tax break is available to single taxpayers who earn up to $80,000 per year, and married couples who earn up to $160,000 per year.

You can read the House bill here.
Read a summary of the Senate bill here.

Nov 9, 2017

Veterans Shop Tax Free For Life Beginning Veterans Day 2017

If you are a military veteran, you can purchase merchandise sales-tax free beginning this Veterans Day, November 11, 2017. This is not a one-day benefit. It is a lifetime benefit! Florida sales tax is 6% so you could save a bundle over time. Eligible shoppers include honorably discharged veterans, active military, Reserves, Guard, spouses and family members. 
The benefit is offered through the online shopping service, www.shopmyexchange.com. Items available for purchase are similar to what you would find at most department stores and include clothing, furniture, electronics, jewelry, sports equipment, etc. In order to qualify to begin making tax-free purchases from the site, you must first be verified. You can start the verification process by visiting www.vetverify.org.
The Karp Law Firm advises elderly and disabled veterans about V.A. benefits for home care, nursing home care, or assisted living. For more information on our services and these benefits, click here.

Oct 22, 2017

Playboy Founder A Shrewd Estate Planner

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died in September at age 91.  As he wished, he was laid to rest at Los Angeles' Westwood Memorial Park in a mausoleum adjacent to Marilyn Monroe, who appeared on the very first cover of the magazine.

Hefner leaves behind two children from his first marriage: Christie, now in her 60s, and David; and from his second marriage, Marston and Cooper. Cooper, 27, is the current creative director of Playboy Enterprises.  Most of Hefner’s assets will go to his children, the University of California Film School, and several charities.

Hefner launched the magazine in 1953 with an investment of $8,000. The satin smoking-jacketed tycoon reigned over his empire for decades. In the 1970s, readership of Playboy peaked at seven million. But changing times and tastes, and the rise of the internet, caught up with the business in recent years. Current magazine readership is said to be just 500,000. Most of Playboy's revenue now derives from licensing deals to put its famous logo on everything from perfume to clothing. 

Whatever you think of Hefner's lifestyle and influence on American culture, he deserves credit for the nimbleness of his estate planning. Confronted with changing family circumstances and business realities, Hefner made several shrewd decisions designed to protect himself and his children, and to minimize the chances of battles occurring over his estate once he was gone. That is an approach we would all be wise to adopt, because everyone's circumstances and priorities change with time.

Hefner married his last and third wife, Crystal Harris, then 26, on New Years Eve in 2012 at the Playboy Mansion. They had met when she posed for the centerfold. According to reports, Hefner’s children, originally skeptical about Harris’ motives, felt grateful for the care she gave their father as his health declined. She coordinated game nights and movie nights to keep up his spirits, accompanied him to his doctor’s appointments, and when he was ultimately confined to bed, remained at his side. But she gets more than just her stepchildren's appreciation: Although not included in Hefner's will, the prenuptial she signed guaranteed her $5 million at his death. She also gets the house he purchased for her in 2013, in a trust that she controls. Located in the Hollywood Hills, the 5,900-square-foot residence has 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and an infinity pool.  

Hefner owned only a 35% interest in Playboy Enterprises when he died, and all of Playboy Magazine. He had sold the company to a private equity firm some years ago. That deal provided Hefner with an annual salary of  $1 million and editorial control over the Playboy brand. Playboy Enterprises has one year from the date of his death to buy the shares from his estate; if it does not, the shares will be sold to the highest bidder. Their value is estimated at around $45 million, and the proceeds will go to Hefner's children.

It is not well known that at the end of his life, Hefner no longer owned the famous Playboy mansion he continued to reside in. Playboy Enterprises did. Hefner had given up ownership when he took the company private. Then, in 2016, Playboy Enterprises sold the 20,000-square-foot, 29-room compound to Hefner's adjacent neighbor, Daren Metropoulos for $110 million, on the condition that Hef could live there for the rest of his life. It is believed Metropoulos now intends to combine both properties and create a mega-mansion of some sort.

What happens to the Playboy brand now that Hef is out of the picture? We'll just have to wait and see.
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