Gun Ownership & Safety Tips for Seniors

Advice For Caregivers

The Pew Research Center reports that just over 40% of adults report there is a gun in their household. While the majority of gun owners are white men, the typical demographics of gun owners are changing. For example, when it comes to gun ownership for seniors, owning a firearm is becoming even more common than it was decades ago. Current estimates report that more than 17 million Americans over the age of 65 own a fiream.

Read full article

Estate Planning for Gen Z’s and College Students

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Going away to school is exciting.

But before taking Junior to college or to his first apartment, don’t forget legal matters. There are key financial and legal documents you need in place. These documents are a general durable power of attorney, health care proxy and living will for Junior. Once Junior attains the age of majority, his doctor, nurse, academic registrar, landlord or bank needs these documents to speak with you.

Having the documents in place can bring peace of mind. Busy Gen Z’s need time to learn how to “adult.” They feel overwhelmed by the financial side of “living their best life.”

If you insist that Junior sign his legal documents before leaving home, you have done him a favor.

With these documents, you can lead Junior by example in dealing responsibly with adult challenges. These could be “surprise medical bills,” health insurance reimbursements, credit card billing, income tax issues. Once you shown him how to manage such challenges, he will thrive. And you can relax and just be the proud parent!

Since Gen Z’s are the digital generation, make sure you have a well-crafted durable power of attorney with digital asset powers. If the unthinkable happens, you will want to be able to access Junior’s Instagram or other social media accounts in an emergency.

If Junior doesn’t execute a health care proxy, you will wish he did when he is in an urgent care facility located ten hours away!

Junior should also share a list of credit card and financial accounts with the customer service number for each account. That way, if he misplaces his credit card, it is easy to report. Also note his digital accounts numbers, usernames and passwords (i.e., student identification username and password, and the health insurance username and password).

For more practice tips on estate planning for your family, contact Jane. 

Seniors, Mental Health and Firearms: A safety plan.

As of July 16, 2022, the suicide prevention and crisis hotline can be reached by dialing 988 in New Jersey (and nationwide.) There is also a chat feature. The 1-800-273-8255 hotline will continue in effect.   You can find additional details online at Department of Human Services | 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (nj.gov).

Sadly, suicide affects people of all ages. It is a leading cause of death among white males over the age of 65.  Approximately 15 individuals pass away from this daily. The use of firearms is a leading contributing factor.  See James H. Price, Jagdish Khubchandani, Firearm Suicides in the Elderly:  A Narrative Review and Call to Action, Journal of Community Health 46:1050-1058 (February 5, 2021).  The full study is available online at Firearm Suicides in the Elderly: A Narrative Review and Call for Action | SpringerLink. Letters Against Isolation | Write letters to Self-isolating seniors.

This is not a political statement. Many seniors have firearms for protection and sport. When not in use, guns should be locked away, preferably in a gun case. You may want to reconsider keeping a firearm in the home of a senior with a serious vision impairment (i.e., blindness or macular degeneration), a condition which will impair coordination (i.e., multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy, stroke with paralysis, traumatic brain injury, and brain tumors) or a diagnosis or signs of dementia, confusion and/or cognitive impairment (i.e., Alzheimers and/or vascular dementia). Article for Gun Ownership & Safety Tips for Seniors

What are the societal factors driving these grim statistics? The elderly are confronted with physical and mental illness, isolation, loss of independence in the home, family and friendships, and must navigate life without any sense of meaning or productivity usually provided by gainful employment. They must face their struggles with limited income, limited financial resources and limited social support.  They are often invisible in our media.  Unlike younger adults, older individuals facing overwhelming challenges may be less likely to hang in there, until the situation improves for them. 

What You Can Do To Help.

These problems are a wake-up call.  What can we do to better the situation?   A good place to start is with little things. If you are so inclined, you could make a donation to non-profits that fight hunger, such as Feeding America and Meals on Wheels. Some churches have casserole programs, where you can prepare an extra meal, freeze in a foil container, and donate it to your local church or soup kitchen. Fostering a sense of connection is another way to help. It doesn’t take much to make a telephone or Facetime call, send a short note or card, share a meal, or to express your thanks to a loved one who helped shape you into who you are today. If your parents and grandparents are no longer with us, I am sorry for loss, but you are not off the hook! If you want to help and are inclined to write, consider volunteering with a cause like Letters Against Isolation, which fights senior loneliness with letters to bring joy. For more information, visit https://www.lettersagainstisolation.com/.

Smooth Sailing In Your Golden Years

Life is smooth sailing, until it’s not. Don’t jeopardize your independence and quality of life, or your loved ones’ freedom, by waiting for a crisis to plan your elder care and your estate.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us the importance of being prepared. Failing to plan for death, taxes, long-term care and disability can create hardship and stress. Medicare only pays for a limited amount of long-term care under limited circumstances. Private pay long-term care can cost you and your spouse more than $13,000 per month at the private pay rate in New Jersey. At that rate, your life savings can be quickly dissipated without advance planning. Even the cost of part-time paid care at home can add up quickly. For an idea of the costs you may be facing, check out the Genworth long-term care study at https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html.

Here are some tips that can help you remain at home as long as possible, avoid an elder care crisis and preserve a legacy for your heirs.

  • Your MVP team should include a tax and estates and elder law attorney, an accountant or enrolled agent, and a financial advisor. They can help you define your goals and the right plan to achieve them.   They can also vet others to help protect you from elder financial and other forms of abuse.
  • Execute a valid Will, a power of attorney and a health care proxy.   Work with your attorney to do this.
  • Discuss your completed estate plan with your attorney and your accountant or financial planner. Understand how your estate will be funded.   
  • Work with an elder care attorney to understand your options for long-term care.
  • Explain your wishes and preferences with your health care proxy and the person who will serve under your power of attorney.    
  • Trusts can protect your life savings, a special needs child or grandchild, and can leverage a charitable gift.  A trust can protect an inheritance from bankruptcy, divorce, disability, addiction and/or some taxes.
  • A revocable trust with a “pour over” will can provide privacy and ease of administration.
  • Periodically review your finances. Update your retirement account and insurance beneficiary designations.
  • Purchase long-term care insurance if you can qualify medically for a policy. Your financial planner can evaluate your disability, long-term care and life insurance needs.  Your elder care attorney can evaluate the policy provisions.
  • Periodically review your legal documents.  If they are outdated, or misplaced, how can they be useful?  
  • Don’t add payable on death or transfer on death designations to all your financial accounts without speaking to an attorney.   
  • Consider a prepaid burial.  Your loved ones and your funeral representative will be grateful that you did.

For questions, contact Jane at Archer Brogan – Elder Law Attorney – Trenton – Princeton – Somerville – Brick – Jamesburg

Featured man in blue sweater sitting on brown chair near the window

Avoiding a Medicaid Penalty Period

What is the Medicaid penalty period?

During the Medicaid look back period, you can’t give away your money (without receiving equal value in return) and go on Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) Medicaid. If you do, a Medicaid penalty period will result. During the Medicaid penalty period, the Medicaid applicant is treated as if she still had the gifted funds. During this period, Medicaid will not pay for long-term care.

How long with the Medicaid penalty period be?

The sum of all the gifts made during the look back period is added. Then the total of those gifts is divided by the applicable Medicaid divisor. The result of this equation is the Medicaid penalty period.

Example. The Medicaid penalty divisor is $374.39 per day, or $11,387.69 per month. If I give away the sum of $11,387.69 during the look back period, the total gifts ($11,387.69) are divided by the Medicaid divisor of $374.39 per day. The resulting penalty is just over 30 days. A penalty period of about one month will apply on my Medicaid application, without an exemption.

Why can even a short Medicaid penalty period be a big problem? During the Medicaid penalty period, Medicaid will not pay for my long-term care. If I am already poor and living in a nursing home, how will I get the money to pay my nursing home bill? This can be a real challenge. No nursing home or assisted living facility will provide free care.

Increase in the Medicaid penalty divisor.

The higher the divisor, the shorter the penalty period will be. On May 24, 2022, the State of New Jersey increased the Medicaid penalty divisor to a rate of $374.39 per day. The new divisor applies to Medicaid applications filed on or after April 1, 2022.  Increase_in_the_Penalty_Divisor_Effective_4-1-2022.

Medicaid Penalty Traps

Unfortunately, the Medicaid penalty period can be a trap for the unwary. A penalty period can be imposed even with no gifts during the Medicaid look back period. The recent decision of H.L. v. Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services et als. shows what can go wrong. The Final Agency Decision is available online at H.L.vDMAHS&MonmouthCty

In that case, a Medicaid application was filed on behalf of H.L. with the Monmouth County Medicaid office. The Medicaid office reviewed H.L.’s bank records. H.L. withdrew about $58,000 during the Medicaid look back period. No gifts were made. The cash was spent on everyday living expenses, including rent. Some of the withdrawals were made after H.L. moved into a nursing home.

The Medicaid office computed a 162 day Medicaid penalty period. H.L. was now in a difficult situation. Unless the Medicaid penalty period was removed, H.L. would have an unpaid long-term care bill of approximately $60,000.

Reducing the Penalty with a Medicaid Fair Hearing.

The solution in H.L.’s case was to file for a Fair Hearing. On Fair Hearing, the Medicaid penalty period was reduced by the amount of the rent. The penalty period might have been avoided with better documentation of H.L.’s expenses.

How An Elder Law Attorney Can Help You.

Applying for Medicaid may appear simple, until it’s not. Doing it yourself or using a non-attorney Medicaid advisory service) can be like wading through quicksand. You may not realize you are in trouble until it is too late. Once assessed, a. Medicaid penalty can be difficult to remove. Fortunately, a seasoned elder law legal team can help obtain Medicaid coverage with as little stress as possible.

For more information on how we can help you with your New Jersey Medicaid planning and application, contact Archer Brogan, LLP at telephone number (609) 842-9200 or visit our firm’s website at https://archerbrogan.com.