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How Are You Going To Pay For Your Healthcare?

in Articles by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

According to a 2005 US Department of Heath and Human Services study, 70% of people over the age of 65 are going to need some type of long-term healthcare during their life, whether in-home, assisted living, or skilled nursing care, which is nursing home care.

And has anybody ever looked up the life expectancy of a family care giver?

Many times family care givers actually pre-decease the people that they’re caring for. The reason for that is because of the stress.

For me, I’ve got a beautiful wife, Stephanie, and six children I’ve got to deal with and take care of. If I tried to take care of my mother and father on top of that or Stephanie tried to, I couldn’t imagine the amount of stress that would put on me. Plus, I’m not an expert at it.

So you want to get an expert that can come in and help you out. Whether it’s the bathing or running the errands or really detailed things like ventilators.

 

How You Can Pay For Long-Term Care

The question is, how will the healthcare be paid for if you wind up in that situation?

These are some of the average national rates:

– Nursing home: about $76,000

– Assisted living: about $40,000 a year

– Home healthcare agent: about $21 an hour

You want a plan so you have options, so you can have someone like a Bayada Home Healthcare come in and take care of you in the home. So you’re not just sent to a Medicaid facility or left with just a Medicaid bed.

Two choices are paying with your own savings or purchasing long-term care insurance.

Traditional long-term care insurance has experienced a major overhaul in the last couple of years. It’s better.

There’s also life insurance with long-term care riders. There are long-term care annuities where you can put, for instance, $100,000 in annuity set up to pay for long-term care. And it’s going to pay off up to 4 times as much or more than that. That’s $400,000 in care or higher, using that example. 

And if it did spend down and you had to roll onto Medicaid to pay for care, it would save the $100,000 through a state partnership that’s in place. They couldn’t touch it.

There’s a lot of different products these days. That’s why I always say, elder law and everything I work with is really a cutting edge area of the law and finance and home care. Because these things are just going to become more and more available.

More products, more legal tools to help people as the baby boomer population ages and as we have more and more of a need for them.

 

Medicaid and Veteran’s Administration Benefits

Medicaid and the VA also provide programs that can help pay for home care.

With Medicaid, there is a waiver program for personal services here in North Carolina which can be set up by your physician. Now, your physician may not already be aware of the program, but someone like Bayada Home Health Care can provide you with those forms and help you get started.

That program usually provides between 80 and 120 hours of care per month spread out over five days per week.

Care Solutions, here in Cleveland County, also runs a CAP/DA program for those that are Medicaid and nursing home eligible, which can provide about 30 to 36 hours per week of care.

With the Veteran’s Administration, veterans who were active duty during war time are eligible for home and attendant care services. That veteran only had to be in the military for one day during a time when the US was at war, they didn’t have to actually be there.

So that can definitely be a great option if you’re a veteran.

 

Understanding Your Insurance: Home Care vs. Home Health

When looking at your insurance policy, it’s important to understand the differences between home health and home care.

The continuous care we’ve covered here is considered home care. This can include anywhere from one hour to 24 hours of care per day, up to 7 days per week.

That is not the same thing as what Medicare and most traditional insurance policies provide. They cover home health, which only includes a few hours of care per week for a set period of time, usually about 60 days.

So it’s important to understand exactly what your insurance covers and does not cover beforehand.

 

Keeping Your Savings Safe When Paying For Health Care

The goal of my practice is to help people age with dignity.

Buying my first home was a really big deal. I was so proud of it.

But some people save and pay 30 to 40 years on a mortgage, and then, at the end, see that stripped away, see all their retirement savings lost. Sometimes a couple will a have a sick spouse who is taking all the benefits that they both saved to retire on.

It’s hard enough to save to retire and live the same or a similar standard of living as when you’re working. But if you have to take on a payment of nursing home care, assisted living, or in-home care on top of that, it can be crushing, in that you can see a large estate or amount of money go away rather quickly.

It can be a blow to our dignity. I call it the “hang your head spend down”. The family goes and spends all the money and turns everything over.

But there’s some things that we can do to plan for it, so you have choices going in.

We want to access the best care possible so you can get options. Take control over who manages your finances and under what circumstances. I’m talking about powers of attorney and general durable powers of attorney.

I routinely recommend that you get long-term care insurance. That’s part of the assessment. If I see that you don’t have it, I’m going to tell you where your weaknesses are – and that’s such a weakness.

It’s so nice to meet with somebody who already has long-term care insurance, especially if it’s an adequate policy. Because they’re just so well-protected.

They’re insured. If something bad happens, they’re going to have that option.

You meet those requirements, and it kicks in and pays the bills. To have someone set up that way ahead of time and pre-planned would be ideal.

We want to avoid running out of money. Leaving your home, which is often the most valuable asset, unprotected.

We want to avoid risking the health of family or spousal caregivers. A novice who’s not trained to do it, but who’s trying to do it. Who’s trying to get it done.

Maybe you don’t think you can afford in-home care, but there’s a number of ways to do it.

We can also implement a legal plan to save your home, your savings, or a combination of the two. I would recommend a combination approach and evaluating your goals. We do that for people all the time, whether in an emergency healthcare situation or planning ahead.

Take control of your future. Age with dignity. Chances are you’ll need healthcare down the road, so let’s figure out your options today. 

Proposed Changes to the VA Pension Eligibility Rules

in Articles by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

Elder Law Newsletter - Header

Introduction

On January 23, 2015, the Department of Veteran Affairs (hereinafter “VA”) issued proposed changes to

the regulations affecting VA Pension eligibility, a needs-based program.[1]  In support of the proposed changes to the regulations, the VA points to the results of a 2012 Government Accountability Offices (GAO) report.[2]  That report recommended changes in order to “maintain the integrity of VA’s needs-based benefit programs.” 

The proposed changes come on the heels of two bills:  H.R. 2189 proposed by the House of Representatives; and S.944 proposed by the Senate.  Both bills were proposed in 2013 and no action has occurred with regard to them since late that same year.  The VA’s proposed changes are strikingly similar to the two proposed bills, which Congress failed to pass. 

In this issue of the ElderCounselor™ we will review the proposed regulatory changes and discuss how they might affect wartime Veterans over the age of 65 and surviving spouses of wartime Veterans.  

How the Law Currently Reads

VA Pension benefits are a major focus of the proposed changes.  These benefits are available to wartime Veterans (and their surviving spouses) who meet certain criteria.  Prior to September 1980, the Veteran must have served at least ninety (90) days of active duty with at least one day being during a wartime period (as set by Congress).  After 1980, the Veteran must have generally served at least twenty-four (24) months of active duty with at least one day being during a wartime period.   The Veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged. 

There is a disability requirement for the VA Pension benefit, which is satisfied if the Veteran is sixty-five (65) years of age or older, or permanently and totally disabled.  If the Veteran or surviving spouse has additional medical needs then additional allowances may be awarded, like an aid and attendance allowance.

An applicant for VA Pension must also meet certain financial requirements. The current law reads that an applicant’s net worth must not be excessive, taking into consideration the applicant’s age, income and expenses, life expectancy, and rate of depletion of the applicant’s net worth .  The financial rules also require that household income must be less than the benefit the applicant is seeking; however, income may be reduced by out-of-pocket medical expenses. 

Proposed Changes

Net Worth

The proposed changes include a bright-line limit on “net worth” that an applicant is allowed to have when qualifying for VA Pension.  The limit is the same as the maximum community spouse resource allowance (CSRA) for Medicaid purposes (currently $119,220).  This amount would increase annually at the same rate as the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits.  Income is also counted toward the net worth limit under the proposed rules. 

Treatment of Income

The proposed rules would include income in the applicant’s net worth calculation.  In other words, if a Veteran has assets worth $117,000 and receives an income of $2,000 per month, the Veteran’s “net worth” is calculated at $117,000 + $24,000, which is well over the “net worth” limit allowed.

Determining Asset Amount

The proposed regulations define assets as, “fair market value of all property that an individual owns, including all real and personal property, unless excluded under paragraph (b) of this section, less the amount of mortgages or other encumbrances specific to the mortgaged or encumbered property.  VA will consider the terms of the recorded deed or other evidence of title to be proof of ownership of a particular asset.”

Asset Exclusions

A primary residence, whether or not the claimant resides there, is an excluded asset for calculating “net worth” and will continue to be so under the proposed regulations.  However, the proposed rules cap the “reasonable lot area” that the home sits on at 2 acres, a limit that does not exist under current law.

Transfer of Assets and Penalty Periods

The proposed regulations include the addition of penalty periods for assets that an individual transfers prior to applying for VA Pension.  Any “covered assets” (one that is used in calculating “net worth”) that are transferred will be subject to a penalty period. The penalty provisions are not limited to actual gifts, but also apply to the purchase of an annuity or a transfer to a trust (revocable or irrevocable).

The actual penalty period (the time period that the claimant will remain ineligible for the Pension benefit due to the transfer) may not be longer than ten (10) years.  The penalty period will be calculated by using the amount of the transfer over and above the “net worth” limit and dividing it by the maximum annual Pension rate.  This penalty period begins to run the month after the last transfer was made.

To illustrate:  A married Veteran applies for VA Pension with an aid and attendance allowance.  The monthly benefit she is trying to qualify for is $2,120.  During the past 3 years, the Veteran contributed $10,000 to The Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit organization.  She also gave her only child $1,000 on each birthday the past 3 years.

As a result of the charitable contribution and the cash gifts to her child ($13,000 total in 3 years), this Veteran will be penalized for 6.13 months when she applies for VA Pension.  If this same Veteran was not married, the penalty would be 11.3 months.

Lookback Period

The lookback period for all transfers, is thirty-six (36) months immediately preceding the date of application for the VA Pension benefit?  There is a presumption that any transfer made during this thirty-six (36) month period of time was made for the purpose of qualifying for the VA Pension benefit.  As an exception to this presumption, the claimant must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the transfer was the result of fraud, misrepresentation or other bad act in the marketing or sale of a financial product.  Otherwise, the presumption is non-rebuttable.

In the example above, the Veteran, whose transfers had nothing to do with VA Pension eligibility, would not be able to rebut this presumption and would have to take the penalty imposed.

Medical Expense Deductions from Income

Medical expenses are those that are either medically necessary or improve a disabled individual’s functioning.  These medical expenses are deducted from income.  This becomes more complicated when the claimant is receiving home care or is in an independent or assisted living facility, as the proposed rules seek to limit the circumstances under which room and board expenses may be counted, as well as the amount paid.  There are very specific rules as to which services qualify as medical expenses and the claimant will have to be able to identify those in his/her application.

The proposed rules also limit the hourly amount that can be paid to a home health care provider.  The amount is based on a national average, rather than local costs for care. 

Burden on Surviving Spouses

The surviving spouse of a wartime Veteran can make a claim for the Pension benefit if the Veteran meets the service criteria and the spouse meets the financial requirements.  However, the proposed rules put the surviving spouses at a disadvantage.  The proposed regulations allow surviving spouses little flexibility in planning due to the calculation method of the penalty period.  Where a married Veteran applying for VA Pension with an aid and attendance allowance could transfer $10,000 and incur a penalty period of 4.7 months, a surviving spouse transferring the same amount would incur a penalty period of 8.7 months.  As illustrated earlier, the gifting that many people do to benefit their children on birthdays, holidays or other reasons, charitable contributions or donations to places of worship will create a penalty period under these rules.

Negative Effects of the Proposed Regulations

Below are just a few of the potential negative effects of the proposed regulations if they pass as currently written.  We would be happy to speak to you further about additional harmful effects of the rules as written.

1. As mentioned above, surviving spouses will be penalized more harshly than Veterans for making transfers prior to applying for VA Pension – even if those transfers had nothing to do with qualifying for VA Pension.

2. Applicants in rural areas will be treated unfairly by the 2-acre limit on the reasonable lot area.  Currently, an applicant’s home and reasonable lot area that is immediately adjacent to the home is not counted for net worth purposes. 

3. Transfers made prior to an application for VA Pension will be penalized regardless of the reason for the transfer.  Therefore, a cash birthday gift to a child, a contribution to a charity, or a donation to a place of worship will all be penalized if the Veteran or surviving spouse later applies for VA Pension.

4. Basic estate planning, like establishing and funding a revocable living trust, will be subject to a penalty if that same individual applies for VA Pension within 3 years. 

Status of the Proposed Rule Changes and a Call to Action

The regulations proposed by the VA are currently up for public comment until March 24, 2015.  Until that deadline, the public is free to comment and the VA is required to respond to those comments before passing the regulations.  If you would like to comment on the proposed rules, please include this information in your response:  Subject: RIN 2900-AO73, Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions for Needs-Based Benefits.  You can read the full text of the bill, a summary of the bill and you can post your comments online (see the blue “Comment Now” text in the top right corner) using this link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=VA-2015-VBA-0003-0001.

You may also consider reaching out to your local representatives in Congress to let them know about some of the negative effects of the proposed changes. 

If you would like more information or would like to discuss the impact of these changes on wartime Veterans and surviving spouses in more detail, please feel free to contact our office.

To comply with the U.S. Treasury regulations, we must inform you that (i) any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this newsletter was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any person for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal tax penalties that may be imposed on such person and (ii) each taxpayer should seek advice from their tax advisor based on the taxpayer’s particular circumstances.

 



[1] The proposed change would amend 38 CFR Part 3, which covers net worth, asset transfers and income exclusions for needs-based benefits.

[2] The 2012 GAO report is one prepared for Congress.  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-342SP

Proposed Changes to the VA Pension Eligibility Rules

 

Introduction

On January 23, 2015, the Department of Veteran Affairs (hereinafter “VA”) issued proposed changes to

the regulations affecting VA Pension eligibility, a needs-based program.[1]  In support of the proposed changes to the regulations, the VA points to the results of a 2012 Government Accountability Offices (GAO) report.[2]  That report recommended changes in order to “maintain the integrity of VA’s needs-based benefit programs.” 

The proposed changes come on the heels of two bills:  H.R. 2189 proposed by the House of Representatives; and S.944 proposed by the Senate.  Both bills were proposed in 2013 and no action has occurred with regard to them since late that same year.  The VA’s proposed changes are strikingly similar to the two proposed bills, which Congress failed to pass. 

In this issue of the ElderCounselor™ we will review the proposed regulatory changes and discuss how they might affect wartime Veterans over the age of 65 and surviving spouses of wartime Veterans.  

How the Law Currently Reads

VA Pension benefits are a major focus of the proposed changes.  These benefits are available to wartime Veterans (and their surviving spouses) who meet certain criteria.  Prior to September 1980, the Veteran must have served at least ninety (90) days of active duty with at least one day being during a wartime period (as set by Congress).  After 1980, the Veteran must have generally served at least twenty-four (24) months of active duty with at least one day being during a wartime period.   The Veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged. 

There is a disability requirement for the VA Pension benefit, which is satisfied if the Veteran is sixty-five (65) years of age or older, or permanently and totally disabled.  If the Veteran or surviving spouse has additional medical needs then additional allowances may be awarded, like an aid and attendance allowance.

An applicant for VA Pension must also meet certain financial requirements. The current law reads that an applicant’s net worth must not be excessive, taking into consideration the applicant’s age, income and expenses, life expectancy, and rate of depletion of the applicant’s net worth .  The financial rules also require that household income must be less than the benefit the applicant is seeking; however, income may be reduced by out-of-pocket medical expenses. 

Proposed Changes

Net Worth

 

The proposed changes include a bright-line limit on “net worth” that an applicant is allowed to have when qualifying for VA Pension.  The limit is the same as the maximum community spouse resource allowance (CSRA) for Medicaid purposes (currently $119,220).  This amount would increase annually at the same rate as the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits.  Income is also counted toward the net worth limit under the proposed rules. 

Treatment of Income

The proposed rules would include income in the applicant’s net worth calculation.  In other words, if a Veteran has assets worth $117,000 and receives an income of $2,000 per month, the Veteran’s “net worth” is calculated at $117,000 + $24,000, which is well over the “net worth” limit allowed.

Determining Asset Amount

The proposed regulations define assets as, “fair market value of all property that an individual owns, including all real and personal property, unless excluded under paragraph (b) of this section, less the amount of mortgages or other encumbrances specific to the mortgaged or encumbered property.  VA will consider the terms of the recorded deed or other evidence of title to be proof of ownership of a particular asset.”

 

Asset Exclusions

A primary residence, whether or not the claimant resides there, is an excluded asset for calculating “net worth” and will continue to be so under the proposed regulations.  However, the proposed rules cap the “reasonable lot area” that the home sits on at 2 acres, a limit that does not exist under current law.

Transfer of Assets and Penalty Periods

The proposed regulations include the addition of penalty periods for assets that an individual transfers prior to applying for VA Pension.  Any “covered assets” (one that is used in calculating “net worth”) that are transferred will be subject to a penalty period. The penalty provisions are not limited to actual gifts, but also apply to the purchase of an annuity or a transfer to a trust (revocable or irrevocable).

The actual penalty period (the time period that the claimant will remain ineligible for the Pension benefit due to the transfer) may not be longer than ten (10) years.  The penalty period will be calculated by using the amount of the transfer over and above the “net worth” limit and dividing it by the maximum annual Pension rate.  This penalty period begins to run the month after the last transfer was made.

To illustrate:  A married Veteran applies for VA Pension with an aid and attendance allowance.  The monthly benefit she is trying to qualify for is $2,120.  During the past 3 years, the Veteran contributed $10,000 to The Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit organization.  She also gave her only child $1,000 on each birthday the past 3 years.

As a result of the charitable contribution and the cash gifts to her child ($13,000 total in 3 years), this Veteran will be penalized for 6.13 months when she applies for VA Pension.  If this same Veteran was not married, the penalty would be 11.3 months.

Lookback Period

The lookback period for all transfers, is thirty-six (36) months immediately preceding the date of application for the VA Pension benefit?  There is a presumption that any transfer made during this thirty-six (36) month period of time was made for the purpose of qualifying for the VA Pension benefit.  As an exception to this presumption, the claimant must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the transfer was the result of fraud, misrepresentation or other bad act in the marketing or sale of a financial product.  Otherwise, the presumption is non-rebuttable.

In the example above, the Veteran, whose transfers had nothing to do with VA Pension eligibility, would not be able to rebut this presumption and would have to take the penalty imposed.

Medical Expense Deductions from Income

 

Medical expenses are those that are either medically necessary or improve a disabled individual’s functioning.  These medical expenses are deducted from income.  This becomes more complicated when the claimant is receiving home care or is in an independent or assisted living facility, as the proposed rules seek to limit the circumstances under which room and board expenses may be counted, as well as the amount paid.  There are very specific rules as to which services qualify as medical expenses and the claimant will have to be able to identify those in his/her application.

The proposed rules also limit the hourly amount that can be paid to a home health care provider.  The amount is based on a national average, rather than local costs for care. 

Burden on Surviving Spouses

The surviving spouse of a wartime Veteran can make a claim for the Pension benefit if the Veteran meets the service criteria and the spouse meets the financial requirements.  However, the proposed rules put the surviving spouses at a disadvantage.  The proposed regulations allow surviving spouses little flexibility in planning due to the calculation method of the penalty period.  Where a married Veteran applying for VA Pension with an aid and attendance allowance could transfer $10,000 and incur a penalty period of 4.7 months, a surviving spouse transferring the same amount would incur a penalty period of 8.7 months.  As illustrated earlier, the gifting that many people do to benefit their children on birthdays, holidays or other reasons, charitable contributions or donations to places of worship will create a penalty period under these rules.

Negative Effects of the Proposed Regulations

 

Below are just a few of the potential negative effects of the proposed regulations if they pass as currently written.  We would be happy to speak to you further about additional harmful effects of the rules as written.

1. As mentioned above, surviving spouses will be penalized more harshly than Veterans for making transfers prior to applying for VA Pension – even if those transfers had nothing to do with qualifying for VA Pension.

2. Applicants in rural areas will be treated unfairly by the 2-acre limit on the reasonable lot area.  Currently, an applicant’s home and reasonable lot area that is immediately adjacent to the home is not counted for net worth purposes. 

3. Transfers made prior to an application for VA Pension will be penalized regardless of the reason for the transfer.  Therefore, a cash birthday gift to a child, a contribution to a charity, or a donation to a place of worship will all be penalized if the Veteran or surviving spouse later applies for VA Pension.

4. Basic estate planning, like establishing and funding a revocable living trust, will be subject to a penalty if that same individual applies for VA Pension within 3 years. 

Status of the Proposed Rule Changes and a Call to Action

 

The regulations proposed by the VA are currently up for public comment until March 24, 2015.  Until that deadline, the public is free to comment and the VA is required to respond to those comments before passing the regulations.  If you would like to comment on the proposed rules, please include this information in your response:  Subject: RIN 2900-AO73, Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions for Needs-Based Benefits.  You can read the full text of the bill, a summary of the bill and you can post your comments online (see the blue “Comment Now” text in the top right corner) using this link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=VA-2015-VBA-0003-0001.

You may also consider reaching out to your local representatives in Congress to let them know about some of the negative effects of the proposed changes. 

If you would like more information or would like to discuss the impact of these changes on wartime Veterans and surviving spouses in more detail, please feel free to contact our office.

To comply with the U.S. Treasury regulations, we must inform you that (i) any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this newsletter was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any person for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal tax penalties that may be imposed on such person and (ii) each taxpayer should seek advice from their tax advisor based on the taxpayer’s particular circumstances.



[1] The proposed change would amend 38 CFR Part 3, which covers net worth, asset transfers and income exclusions for needs-based benefits.

[2] The 2012 GAO report is one prepared for Congress.  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-342SP

Planning for Your Parent’s Home Health Care

in Articles 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 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 Articles 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

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Explore eDocs Access in 5 easy steps.

Explore eDocs Access in 5 easy steps.

The Importance of Thinking Different and Planning

in Articles 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 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 by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

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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 Articles by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

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

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