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Planning for Your Parent’s Home Health Care

in Elder Law TV by Greg McIntyre 2 Comments

Watch this full length seminar in which Elder Law Attorney, Greg McIntyre and Home Health Care expert, Joe Seidel, with Bayada home Health Care present on the topics of protecting your assets and planning for healthcare.

Our eDocs Access System Keeps Your Important Documents at Your Fingertips

in Articles, Newsletters by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

edocsaccess1Hi, I’m Greg McIntyre, and it’s very good to see you on the blog.

My feature today is our eDocs Access System, which I’m extremely proud of. It’s an online, bank-level security system that allows you to store your important legal documents. That’s a value we offer to every client, and we’ll even upload them for you.

You’ll be able to share your documents with any family member, whether they be next door, out-of-state, or on the other side of the planet. It doesn’t send the files as an e-mail attachment or across the open internet and airways. It prompts them to log-on, create a username and password, and allows them to see only the documents you make available.

Your documents are secure and held to international security standards. It’s maintained with the same precautions as when you log into your online bank account.

This works great for clients that I have in other states. You can access it on your iPhone or other mobile device, your iPad or other tablet device, or use the laminated eDocs Access Card that we’ll give you for your wallet. It has your username, name, and even a place for your password on there. Though you can always keep that password safe in your memory or any other place that you prefer, of course.

Say you’re traveling out of state, and you and your wife or husband have to go to the hospital. You need to access some healthcare power of attorney documents, living will, or something like that – heaven forbid.

If you don’t already have your documents with you, you could simply pull out this card, and go straight to the eDocs Access web link. Put in your username and password, and pull up those documents right there in the hospital or wherever you are. It works really, really well.

 

How Did We Come Up With This?

Explore eDocs Access in 5 easy steps.

Explore eDocs Access in 5 easy steps.

You may know that I have a bit of a tech background. I used to be a programmer, graphic designer, and 3D modeler in the Research Triangle Park area between 2000 and mid-2002, working for two separate companies.

One, 3D Village, did 3D online walkable worlds using the Vertis Technology gaming engine, whichwas really cool stuff. We’d go model New York, Charleston, the Citadel, or Chapel Hill and put those online for different vendors and purposes.

We had a really good time with that and got a lot of press. We even modeled Area 51, before the Department of Defense came out and admitted that it existed later that year. So pretty cool work we did there.

Then I became an attorney, but I still try to bring technology to the client in a way that’s usable, user-friendly, and really matters. This eDocs System is one way we’re doing that.

I don’t see many other firms using anything like it. It’s something that I think is light-years in the future.

The Log-In Process Couldn’t Be Easier

 

Let’s go over the log-in process.

First, we’re going to go to McElderLaw.com. The actual card will also provide a link to get straight there, but from the website, you can just click ‘Log In’, and it will take you to our eDocs Access page, which explains a little bit about it.

Then log-in for ‘Full Document Access’. It’s going to bring you to a log in screen. Now, when our office shares these documents with you, it’s going to shoot you an e-mail. This will prompt you to log on to create a username. It’s going to send you a link saying ‘Welcome to the system’.

You’ll then enter your phone number and password. Then it will ask ‘Do you agree’? Finally, ‘Create my user’.

‘Welcome to the Smart Vault System’.

Once you’ve close that, you’re now in the McIntyre Elder Law eDocs Access System. You’ll see a deed, a general durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, a last will and testament, and a living will.

If you want to share these, you can do a couple of things right now. You could download the file, e-mail it and send an individual file link to someone, or copy the file to another destination.

But the really cool feature is that you can select as many of these documents as you want and send a link to the entire folder or only individual documents. You can click ‘Send a link to folder’, and send a personal message to other users.

Put in, say, a son’s e-mail address and send it directly to them. Then you’ll have a similar situation, where that son is going to get an e-mail saying they’ve been granted access to the eDocs Access folderat McIntyre Elder Law. They’re going to be able to click the link, put in a username or password, and see those documents in your McIntyre Elde Law Access folder.

That’s how it works, in a nutshell. We’re very proud of it. We think it’s just a phenomenal system.

Any time you or your wife set up any documents with us or we do any type of legal work together, you can access them through this system. And we maintain this free of charge, as an extra added value for the client, so they can have those important documents with them at all times.

 

The McIntyre Elder Law Mission

We’ll continue to try and bring you cutting edge tools, both technical and legal, to help you with protecting your property, assets and legacy, as well as providing you with flexibility and mobility. That’s our mission here at our McIntyre Elder Law.

If you have any questions about eDocs Access, e-mail me at Greg@TheMcIntyreLawFirm.com or call our office at 704-259-7040.

Thank you very much for visiting. I’ll see you soon.

Make it a great day,
Greg McIntyre
Elder Law Attorney
704-751-8031
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What on Earth is eDocs Access? Cutting Edge Legal Technology

in Elder Law TV by Greg McIntyre 2 Comments

Walk through the eDocs Access system provided by our firm as a value for the client at no extra charge. Cutting edge technology allows the client to access all important legal docs 24 hours a day, 7 days-a-week.

What on Earth is eDocs Access – Infographic

in Articles by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

Explore eDocs Access in 5 easy steps.

Explore eDocs Access in 5 easy steps.

The Importance of Thinking Different and Planning

in Elder Law TV by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

Thinking differently is key to creating something new and special. It is key in working towards your goals. Planning is also a large part of what leads us every day one-step closer to our goals. Listen as we discuss the importance of thinking differently and planning and how it will help you protect your assets and legacy.

The Importance of Thinking Differently and Planning

in Articles, Newsletters by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

I wanted to talk to you today about the importance of thinking differently and planning.

I take my job very seriously, as I’m sure you take your family, hard earned money, property, and legacy seriously.

One of the things that I had to do to transition from a general practitioner to an elder law attorney was a lot of study, a lot of planning, a lot of thinking differently. We really have done that over the last couple of years; I’ve really done that over the last couple of years.

We were honored last night by the Cleveland County Chamber of Commerce with an Emerging 10 Award, which I’m extremely thrilled with. There were 9 other great businesses honored along with us, and we all got this glass award which I’ve been carrying around since last night.

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That helps me look at and realize all the hard work that I’ve put in, that we’ve put in over the last couple of years. We wouldn’t be able to offer the services and legal strategies tailored to the senior population that we do unless we had done a lot of planning ahead of time.

The Importance of Planning

A couple of years ago, I sat down and said, “Okay, we’ve been doing a lot of estate planning, we’ve been doing some elder law services, but you know, I really want to go all in. Deep end of the pool. Jump in with both feet.”

And we got after it. We aggressively started laying the foundation and planned to really work our knowledge in that area. We joined national elder law attorney groups and did what it takes to move us in that direction. There’s still tons of planning to do going forward, and I’ll do that continuously, whether it’s retooling plans, planning for the quarter, planning for the next year, and so on.

But sometimes we forget to plan for some of the biggest things that are coming down the road. That’s what I wanted to talk about.

What’s your plan? Maybe you’re still working every day, or perhaps you’re in your 60s, 70s, or 80s. You’ve worked your life, and you’re in retirement now.

Do you have enough money to make it through retirement? Maybe you do, but you want to make sure that you can pass on a legacy for your children. To make their lives a little easier and better, or to pass on some farm land or your home.

Do you want to help set up a college fund for your grandkids and make sure that’s protected and that the funds are only used to fund their higher education?

Those are all possibilities with planning. I always say, nothing gets done unless it gets scheduled. There’s another saying along with that, that there’s if there’s no intention, there’s no tension.

That intention is what gets you to do what you need to do. So if I wanted to plan something, what I need to do is identify the steps I need to take, and I need to put those steps on a calendar and make sure that they’re scheduled so that I devote my time to doing them.

The One Constant in Life

I’d like to ask a few questions, if that’s okay, and just walk you through what might be a good thought process for you to plan to save your hard earned money and property.

What’s the one constant in life? Well, the one constant in life is change.

As much as we plan or think we know what’s going to happen, we can guarantee that things are going to change. We can try to anticipate that change, but things are going to change regardless.

You know there’s a two-thirds chance that, if you’re over 65 right now, you’re going to need some type of long term care in your life, whether that’s at-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

If and when your current health should change, you need to be prepared for how you’re going to pay for that. What are your options? What is your strategy to make sure that you can keep all the money you’ve worked for and use that?

Maybe you’re a married couple. If one party should have a health problem, what’s the strategy to make sure that all the assets for retirement, the income and property, isn’t spent down and sold or leans placed on it because of a healthcare problem of just one of the spouses.

These are things that we need to think about.

Think About Your Goals

The second thing is, what are your goals? Are they to keep your land and money during your lifetime? That’s a rhetorical question really, I know that’s you’re goal.

But is there an element there that you want to pass those assets down? Is there a farm you want to keep in the family that’s very important? Is there a vacation property that you want to make sure that the family’s still able to use, in your memory, after you’re gone?

What are you plans for that money and property after you’re gone? What are your goals there?

So the first thing is that we need to say change is constant and we need to plan. Then identify some goals out there to have healthcare options, protect money and property, pass it on, and then to carry that further. That would be to set up trusts or something of that nature to make sure the grandkids go to college, that you can help with that and that you’re remembered when those things take place.

Reap the Rewards

The last thing is, what’s your reward? What drives you?

Is it that you know that Johnny or Susie, your grandkids, are going to go to college? Is it that you have peace of mind, sleep better, and have less stress because you know you have that binder on a shelf or in a safe place that has all your important legal documents there?

That your entire plan is going to grow with you. That you’ve already done everything under the law to take care of that. You can put that behind you, or at least have peace of mind that you know those things are taken care of. The property’s protected, you have healthcare options. You have a plan in place.

Setting the Plan in Motion

Finally, how are you going to get that plan in place? Well, obviously, I know a little bit about that. Call your elder law attorney, call our office and we’ll set you up for an appointment, and we’ll sit down and talk about it.

We’ll go through these steps. I firmly believe in being extremely regimented with my client interactions and our planning sessions. We’re going to look at what your assets are, if you have your foundational documents in place.

Do you even have the basics? Do you have the power of attorney? General durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, wills.

What does your asset picture look like? Go online, fill out our estate planning workbook. I’d be glad to take a look at it. We can meet and talk about it.

Do you need to go online and do some research? Go to McElderLaw.com, and I have tons of video blogs like this one, podcasts, blog pieces, and newsletters. Our newsletter, the Elder Law Report, gives you constantly updated information on any changes in helping protect your hard earned assets and legacy.

That’s just a great way to get something delivered directly to your inbox, once a month or so.

Come to one of our seminars. We give seminars on different topics all of the time. You can check the seminar schedule on our website.

Like our Facebook page. We put out constant information daily, and sometimes multiple times a day, on what’s going on at our firm and in the elder law community.

To Sum It All Up

  • Know that change is constant
  • Identify your goals and rewards for planning
  • Figure out how to achieve those goals
  • Research by contacting your elder law attorney and financial planner.

 

THE ABLE ACT: A New Tool for the Special Needs Community

in Articles, Newsletters by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

image_1

 

 

 

 

 

Greg McIntyre
Elder Law Attorney
704-259-7040
greg@mcelderlaw.com

Late in 2014, the ABLE (“Achieving a Better Life Experience”) Act was signed into law.  The law is aimed at achieving a manner in which those with special needs can save money without losing needs based public benefits such as SSI or Medicaid . This is an important issue and, perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the Act is that it brings attention to this valuable community and addresses a serious struggle that they face.  The fact that the ABLE act had strong bi-partisan support is encouraging for the special needs community and those who serve it. 

While an ABLE account does not replace other tools, like special needs trusts, it is a tool that adds an option for us in serving our clients with special needs.  In this issue of the ElderCounselor, we will discuss the new law, when it applies, its limitations and its uses.  We are hopeful this will give you a general understanding of the Act.

 

The ABLE Act Defined

The ABLE Act is a federal law that allows states to establish a savings program for persons with disabilities.  The program is modeled after the 529 savings accounts.  ABLE accounts may be used to accumulate savings, with certain restrictions, for use by a beneficiary with a disability.

An ABLE account may be established by any contributor (a parent, friend, family member or the person with a disability) for the benefit of an eligible beneficiary of any age so long as that person can establish they met the criteria prior to age 26. An eligible beneficiary is an individual who meets the standard for disability prior to turning the age of 26.  A recipient of SSI or SSDI satisfies this requirement while those who do not receive such benefits must be certified under the act.

 

Financial Limitations on the ABLE Act

While the ABLE Act has made strides in bringing to light the issue of saving for those with disabilities, there are limits to the Act.  For example, the Act imposes a limit as to the amount of savings that can be held in an ABLE account.

The first such limitation deals with the annual contribution amount, which may not exceed the annual gift-tax exclusion amount (currently $14,000).  In addition, ABLE accounts may only accumulate aggregate contributions up to the state’s limit on qualified tuition programs (i.e. 529 accounts), which ranges between $300,000 and $400,000.  And, finally, SSI exempts only the first $100,000 of an able account.  Therefore, if an individual receives SSI, his or her ABLE account may not exceed $100,000 and he/she may have other assets up to only $2,000.  Otherwise, the individual will become ineligible to continue receiving SSI, but can remain eligible for Medicaid.

 

Medicaid Payback

It is important to note that the ABLE account is a “Medicaid Payback” account.  This means that the Act requires a provision in the account that upon the death of the beneficiary of the account, Medicaid payments made on behalf of the beneficiary subsequent to the establishment of the ABLE account must be reimbursed with any remaining funds.  As a professional serving those with special needs, attention to the client’s priorities should be weighed carefully when determining the amount of savings to place in an ABLE account given this payback provision.  When a beneficiary of an ABLE account is receiving Medicaid, it is important to consider how much should be placed in the ABLE account to limit what may be recovered by Medicaid at the end of the beneficiary’s life.

 

Tax Benefits

ABLE accounts have tax benefits similar to 529 accounts.  Qualified distributions from the account are not counted as taxable to either the contributor or the beneficiary.  Qualified distributions include expenses paid for the benefit of the beneficiary related to:  education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, expenses for oversight and monitoring, funeral and burial expenses, and any other expenses approved by the Secretary of Treasury.

In addition, earnings on the ABLE account are not taxable to the contributor or to the beneficiary.  Contributions, however, are made from post-tax income.

Finally, assets in an ABLE account may be rolled over to another ABLE account for the benefit of another qualified individual who is a brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister of the beneficiary.

 

Uses of the ABLE Act

A person receiving needs-based government benefits often has a dilemma when it comes to saving, whether for education or for unexpected events, all while maintaining public benefits such as SSI.  In order to receive SSI, a person with a disability must have assets under $2,000. The ABLE Act makes saving possible…up to a point.  Now the individual can remain on SSI and save a modest amount in an ABLE account (up to $14,000 per year).

Persons with disabilities who are employed may want to utilize an ABLE account to save a portion of their income while remaining qualified for SSI.  In addition, families may want to contribute to an ABLE account for their loved ones with disabilities in smaller increments.  These same families may also desire to use other tools available such as Special Needs Trusts, which may be more flexible.

On the other hand, the ABLE account will not be useful for people who have become disabled due to an accident and who are receiving a judgment or settlement for a significant amount.  And, it doesn’t work for a person with special needs in receiving a large inheritance.  There are several other instances where an ABLE account is not the answer.

 

Conclusion

Every tool has its use and the ABLE account is no exception.  Knowing when it is appropriate and knowing when another option might be more so is something we can assist with.  Please call us if you would like to learn more about this new law and how it might help you, a family member or one of your clients.  We are always happy to hear from you!

Emerging 10 Businesses in Cleveland County

in Elder Law TV by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

Humbled and Blessed – Mcintyre Elder Law was nominated for the “Emerging 10” businesses in Cleveland County. #blessed

Virtual Office Tour

in Elder Law TV by Greg McIntyre 1 Comment

Check out our office and meet our team!

Understanding Social Security Survivor Benefits

in Articles, Newsletters by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

 
An earlier issue of The ElderCounselor addressed social security benefits generally and when to apply. In this issue, we will address the critical yet often-misunderstood topic of Social Security survivor benefits. This e-newsletter is based in part upon an article by Frank Rainaldi and William Rainaldi, first published in Trusts & Estates magazine and available on WealthManagement.com.

 Survivors Benefits

According to the Social Security Administration, a surviving spouse may be eligible to receive the deceased spouse’s full retirement benefits at full retirement age (“FRA”).  For survivor benefits only, FRA is 66 for anyone born before 1957, and it increases two months every year until it reaches 67 for those persons born in 1962 or later. (For a regular retirement or spousal benefit, FRA is 66 for anyone born before 1955 and it increases two months every year until it reaches 67 in 1960.)  (E.g., see http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10084.pdf.)

Simply stated, survivors benefits are determined by looking first at the age of the deceased spouse, and then at the age of the surviving spouse.  In other words, we look at the amount of the benefit available to or being paid to the deceased spouse.  Then, we use the age of the surviving spouse to determine if benefits are paid early or at FRA; if the surviving spouse’s benefits are paid before 65, we must apply an actuarial reduction to the deceased spouse’s benefits.

It is important to note a key difference between survivor benefits and spousal benefits.  Spousal retirement benefits provide a maximum 50% of the other spouse’s primary insurance amount (PIA). Alternatively, survivors’ benefits are a maximum 100% of the deceased spouse’s retirement benefit.

Also, note the difference between the PIA and retirement benefit, which is critical when considering deferred retirement credits (DRCs).  DRCs can increase benefits by 8% per year when the worker elects to start collecting after FRA, up to a maximum increase of 32% for deferral to age 70. Note, however, that DRCs apply only for survivor benefits; DRCs do not increase the PIA and thus they aren’t applicable to spousal benefits. Therefore, if one spouse has the higher personal benefit and waits until age 70 to begin collecting, the full benefit with DRCs would be payable to the surviving spouse.

 The Most Common Scenario – Both Spouses Reach FRA

The most common scenario is when death occurs after both spouses have reached their respective FRA.  In this case, the survivor benefit is simply the higher of the two benefits.  If one spouse is collecting $2,500 and the other is collecting $2,000, the surviving spouse’s benefit would be $2,500.  It actually does not matter which spouse dies, the survivor benefit is still $2,500.

For example, assume Mr. A has a personal benefit of $2,000, the amount he would receive at age 66.  If he elects to defer until age 69 he would get a 24% increase in his personal benefit to $2,480.

Now let’s say Mrs. A. never worked outside the home.  When Mr. A. is age 66, the spousal benefit would be 50 percent, or $1,000. Note, however, that the spousal benefit would still be $1,000 (not $1,240) when he is age 70 because the 24% increase does not apply to spousal benefits.  But DRCs do apply to survivor benefits.  So, when Mr. A. dies, Mrs. A. would get the full $2,480 as a survivor benefit.

What if the first spouse dies prior to age 62?  The benefit will be the deceased worker’s recalculated PIA, which is based on a different set of assumptions.  It uses the worker’s earnings for a “substitute year” and a different set of required Social Security credits for the applicable age.  This special PIA calculation can only help; it can’t hurt.  It only applies if it provides a higher PIA then the regular PIA calculation.

What if death occurs after age 62 but prior to FRA after taking early retirement benefits?  The benefit will be the deceased worker’s reduced retirement benefit.  This is one good reason not to retire early.  Note that there is a minimum benefit of 82.5% of the deceased worker’s PIA, not including any actuarial reduction in benefits.

 Surviving Spouse Collects Early

If the surviving spouse elects to collect before her own FRA, as with other Social Security retirement benefits there is an actuarial reduction.  For a personal, spousal or divorced spouse’s benefit, one can start as early as age 62.  However, a surviving spouse can start collecting as early as age 60.  If the survivor benefit is at FRA or later, there is no actuarial reduction.

It’s important to note that the surviving spouse has additional options.  Suppose the surviving spouse is age 60 and not collecting any benefits. When the other spouse dies, she has the option of receiving her actuarially reduced personal benefit, then later switching to a full-unreduced survivor benefit at FRA.  This could limit the downside of collecting early.

To determine the monthly reduction amount, simply take 28.5% divided by the number of months between age 60 and the survivor FRA determined above.   The “Widow Limit” caps the survivor’s benefit at the larger of the benefit the deceased would have received if he or she were still alive, or 82.5% of the deceased PIA. This Widow Limit only comes into play if the deceased claimed benefits prior to his or her FRA. The following, from SocialSecurityTiming.com, graphically explains these options.

Examples

Suppose the surviving spouse started collecting a reduced personal benefit at 62, and her spouse dies when she is 64.  At that point, she has the option of continuing to collect her personal benefit for two more years and then switching to a full, unreduced survivor benefit at age 66.

Of course, the survivor cannot collect both benefits at the same time; the survivor must choose one or the other.  Only one switch is allowed.  If the surviving spouse is already collecting a personal benefit, she could not go from a personal benefit to a survivor benefit and then back to the personal benefit.

Understanding survivor benefits is especially important when there is a significant age difference between the two spouses.  When one spouse may outlive the other by a considerable margin, survivor benefits are a much more important than “file and suspend” or “spousal only.”  In that case, it is often a good idea to make sure that the spouse with the higher personal benefit defer until age 70, if possible.

Divorce

A former spouse who is age 60 or older (50-59 if disabled) can get benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years.  However, there is no age or length of marriage requirement if the former spouse is caring for her or his natural or adopted child who is younger than 16 or who is disabled and entitled to benefits based upon your work.  Benefits paid to a former spouse who meets age or disability requirement does not affect the benefits for other survivors based upon the worker’s record. However, the benefits paid to a former spouse who is caring for a minor or disabled child do affect other survivor benefits.

Remarriage

Generally, the survivor cannot get survivor’s benefits if he or she remarries before age 60. But remarriage after age 60 (or age 50 with a disability) will not prevent the survivor from getting benefit payments based on the former spouse’s benefits. And at age 62 or older, the survivor may get benefits based on the new spouse’s work, if those benefits would be higher.

Conclusion

Social Security survivor benefits offer a surviving spouse the opportunity to significantly increase her or his benefits based upon the benefits payable to the deceased spouse. Therefore, it’s important that seniors and their loved ones understand how to maximize those benefits. Accessing survivor benefits and understanding what is available is an important piece in helping seniors with their overall planning goals.  Please contact our office if you have any questions or if we can be of assistance to someone you know.

 

 

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