Steep Decline In Estates Owing Estate Taxes

Over the last decade there has been a steep decline in estates owing estate taxes to the federal government. Only 0.6 % of those who died in the USA in 2008 owed any estate tax.

Because of the increase of the filing threshold, the number of estates that needed to pay taxes dropped from 108,000 in 2001 to less than 34,000 in 2009. Of these estates filing returns in 2001 only 51,700 paid a tax. In 2009, the figure dropped to 14,700 of the 34,000 returns filed.

What To Do With Virtual Assets In Your Estate Planning?

Kris Maser Attorney at Law

Digital assets can range from items of financial value like online bank and brokerage accounts to domain names, Twitter accounts and social-media pages. Sometimes accounting for these assets after the death of the owner can be a nightmare. It becomes even more difficult if the decedent paid bills or filed tax returns on line. Without login information to access web accounts you may need to resort to hiring a computer forensics expert or obtain a court order for access to material.

Without access into the accounts of the decedent there is no way to stop automated bill payments or other automated services.

Suggestion: take inventory of all digital accounts and store a list of passwords and other necessary information on a flash drive. Put the drive in a safe deposit box or lock it in a safe. Remember to keep the inventory updated.

 

Irish Proverb

Kris Maser Attorney at Law

I found a quote in the paper today and I think I will keep it on my desk
in the office.

‘Do not resent growing old. Many are denied the Privilege.’

Medicaid Long-Term Care

If the current health care trend continues, more than 35% of the state’s budget will be needed for Medicaid by 2030. Of this amount, ½ will be needed for Long-term care services.

This information comes from the Article by Deloitte Development LLC “Medicaid Long-term Care: the ticking time bomb.”

Are Limited Duration Long Term Care Insurance Policies a Viable Option?

So what if you think you don’t have the funds to purchase a long term care insurance policy? Perhaps you could consider a limited duration long term care insurance policy. Typically these policies can be used to keep the cost of long term care insurance affordable. According to the American Association of Long Term Care insurance in 2009 almost 1/3 of people buying individual policies purchased a 3 year benefit period policy.

Men with a 3 year policy who begin a claim on their policy at age 82 have a 12.4 % likelihood of outliving their benefits. Women who begin using their policy at age 82 have a 23.5% chance of outliving their benefits according to a consumer guide published by the industry trade association.

A policy that pays benefits for 3 years costs somewhere between 42% to 54% less than a policy that will pay for an unlimited number of years. It appears that the risk is smaller for men than for women. When considering a long term care insurance purchase perhaps less insurance can provide benefits sufficient to cover some, if not all of one’s health care costs.

An experienced insurance person should be able to discuss with you the cost benefit analysis of any policy of interest to you.

Receiving SSA Benefits While Living Abroad (Part 2 of 2)

What was true for obtaining Medicare coverage overseas is not true for receiving one’s Social Security benefits. People who decide to retire to another country or who travel outside the United States for more than 30 days in a row must comply with Social Security’s rules for collecting their benefits.

Thankfully the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send checks to anyone who is eligible for benefits and chooses to live abroad. There are a few countries where the SSA is not allowed to send checks. If you retire in Cuba or North Korea, the SSA will not send checks into these two countries. You can receive your checks if you go to a country where the Social Security checks can be sent.

You could have your Social Security check directly deposited into a bank account in the United Sates or check to see if your check could be directly deposited in an account in the country in which you choose to live. But be careful, some countries may tax your Social Security benefits. To find out whether a country imposes a tax on your Social Security benefits, you can contact the country’s embassy in the United States.

For more information go to the Social Security website.

Will Medicare Cover Health Care Costs While One is Traveling Overseas? (Part 1 of 2)

While many of us look forward to roaming the world once we have retired, we need to be prepared.  Traditional Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital and medical costs outside the United States.  Exception: Medicare does cover residents of Puerto, Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and Samoa.

Private Medicare plans may provide benefits for health care when a participant of the plan travels outside the United States.  Be sure to look at your  plan before leaving the country.   If your plan does not cover foreign travel you will need to purchase health insurance from another source.

Medicare beneficiaries can purchase health coverage through either a short term travel insurance policy or a Medigap policy that covers foreign emergencies.   Medigap plans lettered C through J offer travel insurance for the first 60 days of any trip.  The benefit covers 80% of emergency care provided outside of the country.

There are travel policies that one can purchase from private companies that will cover health care expenses overseas.

You can find more information at the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.  The Bureau also has a list of companies that offer travel medical insurance.

Travel often, travel safe, travel insured.

Your Vote Counts!

I can’t stand it anymore.  I open the paper, turn on the television, the radio, or pick up the telephone and I am bombarded with campaign ads. And I assume this can only get worse after Labor Day as we head in to the home stretch towards the election in November.

In the last election for the president 75 million eligible Americans chose not to vote.  That is roughly 36% of our eligible voting population. This year every House seat and 33 senate seats are open, in addition to the Presidency.  The next set of elected officials will be making decisions about our health care, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs that could affect all of us.

I might be crabbing now about the deluge of political campaign advertising that is invading my life but as my kids so aptly say “put up or shut up”.  I guess that applies to me.

It is time for me to get down to business and research the candidates, figure out who are the best people I want to elect into office and then go and vote. This may be a very close election for many of the positions currently open.   Al Franken finally won his seat in the Senate by 312 votes, nearly 8 months of recounting the ballots and a court Challenge.

Each of us has the right to choose who makes the decisions that run this country.  No matter who we are, our vote counts.  Value your vote. Get out there and do it.  Then we can celebrate a period of time when there will be no campaign ads,  until the next election cycle.

Elder Care Dilemma – One Family’s Solution

Kris Maser Attorney at Law

In my 30 years as an elder law attorney I have had the opportunity to counsel many families in the journey through the elder care maze. Families struggle with the want to help their elders, the high cost of care outside and even inside the home, the time commitment for care, jobs outside the house, layoffs because of the current economic condition, and caring for the family and children. I have seen some creative solutions and some disasters.

Let me share with you one family’s solution to their elder care dilemma. Mother – age 73 and father – age 84. Mother is healthy and has been caring for her husband who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 4 years ago. Mother admits she is tired and feels isolated. There are 4 children in the family. All children have children. Three of the 4 children live in Minneapolis, the 4th lives in San Francisco. Two of the children have been laid off from their jobs and have been looking for work for the past 8 months. One child, a daughter, is a registered nurse and is working. She is single with 3 small children.

All children get along. After much discussion with Mom and Dad alone in my office and later with the children, with the consent of the parents, a plan was devised to help mom care for dad, help single daughter with daycare issues, find employment for the 2 laid off children and keep the child in San Francisco involved.

In a nutshell this is what the plan looks like. The parents will pay to build an addition to RN daughter’s house to add a mother-in-law suite. (This daughter has the space on her property to do so.) The value of this addition to the house will be noted and used for further discussion about the division of the parents’ estate upon both parents’ death. A contract will be developed to determine who is responsible for what costs in the maintenance of the family compound.

RN daughter will continue to work but will monitor and oversee medications and be involved with medical issues for Dad. Mother will continue to provide care. The two children who are currently unemployed will be hired by Mother and Dad to augment care for Dad and for Mother, if Mother begins to need help. Social security will be withheld, along with FICA, FUTA and workers compensation insurance. The three children will allocate hours for care, develop cleaning schedule and meal preparation schedules, and be on sight to assist Mother with care for father and to care for father when Mother needs time away.

The children of RN daughter are school age, but need oversight after school. They will now be able to return home after school. RN daughter will discontinue the after school programs that the family used to provide daycare for her children while she is working.

AND the child in San Francisco? This child agreed to handle the investments, income taxes, set up the accounts, pay the parents bills and pay the salaries of siblings. This child will also make periodic trips to Minnesota to visit the parents and spell the other three children. (The parents don’t see this child enough and would like to pay for the child’s return to Minneapolis more often.)

We have a lot of things to determine here. How long can the parents stay independent? What happens if any of the children want out of the arrangement or if the parents want out? How do we determine salaries for the children? What other work is to be done around the house while the children are caring for the parents? Is any of this work going to benefit the RN daughter and if so should she pay the other children? Should RN daughter be paying siblings and parents for the child care? Who is responsible for meal preparation? Who will pay for groceries? Do the siblings have to bring their own lunches? And how will the parents allocate the funds that remain, if any, after their deaths?

Interesting, isn’t it. When care was being provided to parents during the depression often times there was no money to pay for expenses. Everyone just pitched in. The benefit now is that in this family they are choosing to provide care at home and pulling the entire family together to do it. Thankfully there are sufficient funds to carry this program on for some time.

How to Choose an Elder Law Attorney

Kris Maser Attorney at Law

There 4 law schools in the Twin Cities area. This means there are approximately 1,200 new lawyers graduating each year. With the economy as it is today these new lawyers as well as more seasoned lawyers are finding jobs hard to find. Choosing a good Elder Law attorney in these times is no easy task. The area of Elder Law encompasses a number of different areas of the law and some non-legal decisions, some of which are interdependent upon each other. Issues arise with real estate, estate planning and estate taxes, disability planning, income and capital gains taxes, caregiver issues, trusts, long-term care insurance issues, age discrimination, short and long-term disability, hospice care, contracts with caregivers, assisted living facilities, family members, housing options, medical insurance issues, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits, both State and Federal, and a myriad of other related health care issues, including how to organize the family to maintain and oversee good care for the elder.

Since the area of Elder Law is complex, choosing an Elder Law attorney who practices and has substantial experience in the Elder Law arena will help you address all the concerns that can impact an elder’s quality of life. Here are some suggestions to help you choose the right law firm and attorney for your needs.

• Make sure that the attorney practices Elder Law. An estate planning attorney traditionally deals with how to distribute your wealth after you have passed away. An Elder Law attorney works in the area from retirement or disability to the end of life and beyond. Minnesota does not have a specific specialty for the Practice of Elder Law. Consequently it is important that you research the background of the attorney. The National Elder Law Foundation certifies Elder Law specialists in the United States. This certification doesn’t guarantee that one lawyer will serve you better than another, but it may be a good place to start. Be mindful of the certification though. This certification is national. Elder Law can and is very State specific. The national certification cannot deal with all the nuances of the laws in each individual state.

• Friends and other professionals are a very good source of information. Tap into these resources and find out who they recommend. If the attorney’s name comes up from different sources chances are the attorney knows what he/she is doing.

• Go to the law firm’s website and read the information about the attorney. There you may find additional information about how long the attorney has practiced in the Elder Law area, what roles the attorney has had in the elder bar and if the attorney participates in other organizations that work in this area. Perhaps you will find out if the attorney has had personal experience in his/her family with caring for a family member. How does the attorney give back to the community? And finally, find out how much of the attorney’s time is devoted to the Elder Law practice. Is it the focus of the firm or is Elder Law just a minor piece of the firm’s areas of practice?

Finding a good Elder Law attorney before a problem becomes a crisis is good advanced planning.

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