Social Security (Part 2 of 6)

By Kris L. Maser

Social Security offers annual inflation adjustments. Currently, the cost-of-living adjustment is 2.8%.

So, as a follow up to the example on my previous blog, if your monthly benefit is $2,000:
• In 10 years your monthly benefit will be $2,636.
• In 20 years your monthly benefit will be $3,474.
• And in 30 years your monthly benefit will be $4,580.

I pose the same question: Did you pay enough into the system while you were working to sustain this kind of benefit? Read my next blog for information on the reform proposals being studied.

Social Security (Part 1 of 6)

By Kris L. Maser

We as voters, baby boomers, elders and tax payers need to get a handle on not just what our benefits will be as we retire but also what effect the benefits are for the looming baby boomers going into retirement. When the social security system was originally established there were 40 workers for every retiree. Now there are 2 workers for every retired person.

No one was expected to live much beyond age 65 when social security was originally started. But our society is aging and living longer. Consider these statistics:
• If your monthly benefit is $2,000 today and you retire and live 10 more years you will receive a total of $304,236 in lifetime benefits.
• If you live 20 more years your total lifetime benefits paid will be $673,622.
• If you live 30 more years your total lifetime benefits will be $1,160,479.

Do you think you paid that much into the system while you were working?

What is Life Care Planning? (Part 2 of 2)

by Joyce Konczyk

A Life Care Plan answers three questions:
1. How do you access all benefits available to you and understand which coverage or benefits pay for which service?
2. How do you protect the maximum resources and income so that expensive long-term care costs do not consume lifetime savings, thereby preserving assets for your spouse and/or children?
3. How does a person with a chronic illness access and pay for good long-term care?

What is the Process?
• Set goals through a comprehensive assessment of home, caregiver, estate, benefits, care needs and financial situation
• Analyze financial and health care information to help with crucial decision-making
• Apply funds to help maintain independence and choice
• Provide ongoing advocacy and monitoring to maximize well being, dignity and quality of life

Who Benefits from a Life Care Plan?
ELDERS maintain control as long as possible
CAREGIVERS secure quality care
FAMILY is supported and has peace of mind knowing that a professional advocate is only a phone call away

Maser Amundson, P.A., is the first and only (at this time) law firm in Minnesota to offer this comprehensive planning process to their clients and families.

What is Life Care Planning? (Part 1 of 2)

by Joyce Konczyk

What is Life Care Planning?
• A TEAM approach to organizing care for a loved one with a chronic, progressive, debilitating illness
• A service that helps people access and pay for quality care
• A process that provides guidance navigating the health care maze with the assistance of:
o Elder law attorneys
o Medicaid and VA paralegal
o Experienced geriatric social worker

What are the Objectives of Life Care Planning?
CREATE estate and disability planning documents
AMEND and MODIFY current estate planning documents in light of changing health issues
REVIEW and NEGOTIATE housing, health care, long term care insurance and disability contracts
IDENTIFY care resources and goals
ACCESS quality care and services
MAINTAIN elders’ control of decision making
PROTECT the healthy spouse
COORDINATE health providers
PROVIDE on-going education, support and advocacy
PREVENT crises by early intervention
ADDRESS fear of isolation, outliving assets, unwanted life support
MAXIMIZE resources

Maser Amundson, P.A., is the first and only (at this time) law firm in Minnesota to offer this comprehensive planning process to their clients and families

AARP’s Report – How Financial Service Professionals Can Meet Retirees Needs

AARP’s Public Policy Institute today released a new research report focusing on older investors with diminished capacity -and how financial services professionals can best meet their needs.

Increasingly, older people are responsible for their own retirement security in an era of defined contribution plans and other forms of ‘do-it-yourself’ retirement. Financial capacity is the first kind of decision-making capacity to decline with the onset of dementia and other causes of cognitive impairment. Are financial services industries prepared for the age boom and increased incidence of diminished capacity?

This report includes extensive background information on diminished financial capacity, the risk of financial exploitation, and the financial professionals who serve older clients. It shares results of a national survey of financial professionals and an interdisciplinary roundtable about current practices, protocols and needs-and makes recommendations for federal and state policy-makers, industry, aging organizations and other stakeholders.

Protect Yourself Against Phone Scams

AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. I was reading the paper this morning and came across the following article:

Fast-Moving Utility Scam Arrives in State

Heads up: President Obama is not offering to pay your utility bills this month.

A scam that has taken in tens of thousands of victims in other states in recent weeks has just swept into Minnesota, according to the Better Business Bureau and an MSNBC report.

The deception, spread by telephone, word of mouth, social media and door-to-door, claims the government has launched a grant program to cover utility bills.

People are directed to call a number, provide a routing number and personal information such as a Social Security number. In some cases, victims receive a false confirmation that a bill has been paid on their behalf, the BBB said.

Meanwhile, scammers have just acquired victims’ personal information.

From Minneapolis Star Tribune – the Whistleblower Blog
Posted by: Jane Friedmann
Updated: July 9, 2012 – 5:44 PM

Kris Maser Attorney at Law

Our office spends a fair amount of time lecturing and educating our clients on scams that affect our community. We talk about the Nigerian connection, the knock off reader’s digest scam, the grandchild caught with no money in Mexico calls, the hot investments sold over the phone, the get rich quick business ventures, the charities that are not charities callers, and now we have this, a scam that claims that the government has a grant program to cover utilities.

This scam comes at a time when we are all well aware of the problems that the local, state and federal governments have with deficits. I will say this again – if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

Please protect yourself by:

1) Think first: Does it sound too good to be true? Then be wary!

2) Install caller ID on your phone and do not pick the phone up unless you know the number that shows up on the screen.

3) Get an answering device on the phone and listen to the caller before picking up the phone. If the caller really needs to talk to you let them leave a message. You can listen to the message and call back if it is someone you know.


Practice Perspective: An Extension of Women’s Role in Society (Part 2 of 2)


Kris Maser Attorney at Law

It was based largely upon this experience that I chose a career in elder law. I wanted to assist families in these decisions, as well as the myriad of the issues facing them. These decisions include getting a proper estate plan in place for the parent, such as financial powers of attorney, a health care directive, and a will or a trust. The family must also make decisions about how to manage the parent’s finances, to ensure sufficient income exists to cover the parent’s monthly costs, or to ensure that the parent becomes eligible for Medical Assistance or other government benefits at the most appropriate time. Alternatively, the family must determine whether long-term care insurance is an available option and, if so, whether it is cost-effective for their parent. If the parent has become incapacitated and does not have a power of attorney or health care directive in place, the family must have a Conservator or Guardian appointed for the parent, and must then administer that Conservatorship or Guardianship for the rest of their parent’s life.

These are serious issues and must be addressed with both compassion and competence. I believe that these requirements are a major reason so many women attorneys choose to practice in the areas of estate planning and elder law. In my own firm, for example, eighty percent of the Elder Law Department attorneys are women. I do not believe this is coincidental.

Women today are far less likely to be the homemakers of yesteryear. Two-income families are the norm, yet the wife and mother still bears a disproportionate share of the caregiver role for children, and now for elderly parents and other family members. To have a woman as the family’s attorney during this complicated process adds an invaluable measure of empathy in addition to legal assistance. In fact, many times it is the empathy that is more important to the family than the legal advice.

Elder law is an incredibly rewarding career, but it is also one which forces an attorney into dealing with sensitive mental capacity issues, dysfunctional family situations, financial crises and highly emotional decision. In short, it is one that should not be entered into lightly.

Kris Maser is a shareholder in the law firm of Maser Amundson, P.A. where she manages the firm’s Elder Law Department. Her practice is dedicated to the needs and interests of the elderly and families of the elderly.

Practice Perspective: An Extension of Women’s Role in Society (Part 1 of 2)

Kris Maser Attorney at Law

In most societies, including our own, it is the woman who is the primary caregiver, the nurturer, the supporter. In a woman’s capacity as mother these tasks are performed on her children, rearing them and preparing them to be well-adjusted, productive members of society. It should come as little surprise, then, to discover the woman generally assumes these roles for parents and other family members in the latter stages of life as well. In this case, however, it is in the woman’s capacity as daughter that these tasks are performed. Thus, in addition to focusing on the physical and financial needs of the parent, she must also be sensitive to their dignity, and the emotional issues accompanying a person’s aging process and their progressively increasing dependence on their children.

As the circle of life draws to a close, an elderly individual has a number of important decisions to make, chief among them being where to live. For individuals unable to live independently because of physical or mental deterioration, there are a few options. A nursing home is an option, as is an assisted-living facility, but perhaps the individual is not yet in need of such a level of care, or is unwilling to incur the potentially tremendous cost of such care. The final option, then, is to move in with a family member. More than nine times out of ten, a family member acts as a caregiver in some capacity for an elderly parent prior to that parent receiving a professional level of care.

In nearly twenty years of practice, I have seen literally hundreds of families in this precise situation and my experience clearly shows that for families who choose to move an elderly parent in with them, it is far more often a daughter than a son who takes the parent. There may be many reasons for this phenomenon, but I believe the caregiver role of women in our society is the primary one.

I come from just such a family, and grew up with all manner of elderly relatives. It was simply expected that we would be there for these family members, and my mother cared for them during all stages of their physical and mental capacities. My father was present as well, but there was an understanding, an implicit expectation, that my mother would bear the majority of the burden of caring for these individuals. That was simply the way it was, and no one questioned it. I believe that my situation is identical to those of thousands of other families in Minnesota.

(To Be Continued…)

Kris Maser is a shareholder in the law firm of Maser Amundson, P.A. where she manages the firm’s Elder Law Department. Her practice is dedicated to the needs and interests of the elderly and families of the elderly.

Building Your Team

By Joy Gullikson and Michelle Fournier

Joy E. S. Gullikson

Having a team of experts to call on is sound planning, no matter what your age or health condition. The older or less independent you are, the more important this planning becomes. Everyone needs experts they can call on to help with their legal, financial, tax, medical, real estate, and even pet and vehicle issues. Ideally, these experts will have your best interests at heart, will recognize issues outside their own areas of expertise and make referrals, and will work with each other to provide the best care possible.

For example: John Doe suffers from severe diabetes, lives alone, has investments with three different investment houses, banks at two different banks, drives an old Chevy and has a 10 year old cat. John wants to sell his home and move into an assisted living facility. He doesn’t want to talk to his son, because John is afraid to worry him. Eventually, John hears of an assisted living place through friends and decides to move. John must pay the down payment so he calls one of his banks, but there was no one available to listen to his story and help him develop a plan. John withdraws money from two investment accounts to come up with the entrance fee, incurring a substantial tax impact. John hires movers, and once in his assisted living, must move the furniture around himself to fit it all in. As John moves in, he is told that he needs to get rid of his cat. John is exhausted, broke and devastated that he will lose his pet.

If John had a team in place the story would be different. He would call his elder law attorney who would put him in touch with the firm’s care manager. The care manager would work with John to find a place that he likes, can afford, and allows pets. John’s financial advisor would work with John to find the entrance fee funds that would cause the least tax burden and help John appropriately invest the funds from the sale of his home (using a realtor recommended by one of his team). The care manager would also find John a mover who would not only take care of the move but also the set up in his new apartment. Once in his new apartment, John would call on his veterinarian, who makes house calls, to provide John’s cat with the care needed. John’s experts identify other services that will come to John. Soon John feels he no longer needs his car. He contacts his trusted mechanic who sells the car for a good price. Thanks to the efforts of John’s team, the process of change is smoother, simpler, and ultimately less expensive than the first.

5 Steps to Building a Good Team:

1. Build your core team. The core team include your lawyer, health care professional and financial advisor. Find these people early, establish a rapport with each of them and ensure that each expert will work with the others.

2. Identify other team members you may need. If you have a pet, you may need a veterinarian who makes house calls. If you have hearing loss, you may need a mobile audiologist.

3. Build your team before you need to make life altering decisions. The earlier you have a team of people who know you, your desires and your needs, the smoother decision making will be in the event changes need to happen quickly or if a crisis occurs.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask your team for help outside their area of expertise. If your lawyer, whom you trust, trusts a certain real estate agent, chances are you will trust that agent as well.

5. If you are tired, turn the management of your team over to a trusted family member, whom you know has your best interests at heart. A son or daughter whom you know to be competent will usually be glad to make sure that your needs are met. Having a good team in place will make the job much easier for your child, rather than having to make guesses about what to do.

Planning and gathering a trusted team will ensure your life plan is as smooth as possible.

A Guide for Older People, Talking with Your Doctor

The National Institute on Aging has developed “A Guide for Older People, Talking with Your Doctor”.  Recently I had a chance to introduce this Guide to one of our clients and worked with him in navigating his wife’s health care issues.  My client has had little contact with the medical system during the course of his life.  Now that is wife is ill, he is at sea with caregiving and his wife’s health issues.  Together we found the Guide to be very helpful in both choosing a doctor that he could talk to and in getting ready for the appointment.

The Guide contains basic issues and tips on what one needs to know in looking for a doctor, such as:   Is the doctor taking new patients?  Is the doctor covered by the client’s insurance plan?  Does the doctor accept Medicare?

Additionally, the Guide recommends looking at the qualifications and characteristics of the doctor.  Is the doctor Board certified?  In what field?  Is it more beneficial if the doctor is in a group practice or is working as an individual?  To which hospital(s) does the doctor admit patients?

Other topics that the Guide covers are: How to prepare for the appointment.  The give and take of information with the doctor.  Making good use of the time with the doctor.  Understanding prescriptions.

There are also worksheets that one can utilize such as changes in life status since the last appointment.  This is helpful because it can be difficult to remember the day-to-day things that happen.  With the list in hand when next talking to the doctor, the record that has been kept will facilitate discussion.  There is also a medication worksheet and a space to note concerns that need to be addressed at the next meeting.

As my client and I worked through the Guide, I found that he was better equipped to help his wife and he was not as overwhelmed with his caregiving role.

“A Guide for Older People, Talking with Your Doctor” can be ordered free by contacting the National Institute on Aging Information Center at 1-800-222-2225 or by ordering online at

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