elder law attorneys

Elder Law Attorneys Can Help the Whole Family

Many aging Americans depend on family members or friends to help manage their financial, health, and other affairs during retirement and beyond. They often believe that their family members will be able to take care of any issues that arise. While consulting with loved ones about plans and wishes can be beneficial, relying solely on them can cause problems in the long run for both seniors and their families.

Instead, it is best to seek the advice of an elder law attorney when it comes to putting proper planning in place. The issues around retirement, wills, and estate planning are often complex. Working with a legal professional can help seniors navigate these details to ensure that decisions and plans are suited to their specific situation.

Having legal arrangements in place related to retirement benefits, assets, and to determine who will be responsible for the welfare of an aging loved one can also help to avoid family disputes, and ensure that assets are preserved as intended. And although we’d like to assume family members always have seniors’ best interests at heart, legally-binding arrangements also protect against abuse and financial exploitation.

But it isn’t just seniors that benefit from working with a legal professional. Elder law attorneys can also assist heirs and beneficiaries by ensuring that assets don’t fall into wrongful hands due to debts, divorces, or other extenuating circumstances. They can also help beneficiaries avoid the long and complicated probate process.

Elder law attorney expertise

Elder law attorneys have the expertise to help seniors and their loved ones navigate all of the legal issues impacting the elderly. They can help clients to better understand Medicare and Medicaid programs and laws, and assist clients and families with all of the legal aspects of planning, including drafting wills, estate plans, and trusts.

Below is a list of some of the services elder law attorneys provide: 

  •     Medicaid Eligibility, Applications, and Planning
  •     Medicare Eligibility and Claims
  •     Social security and disability claims and appeals
  •     Long-term care planning
  •     Financial planning for long-term care
  •     Drafting wills and trusts
  •     Medical Power of Attorney
  •     Financial Power of Attorney
  •     Elder abuse case management
  •     Patient rights
  •     Nursing home issues and disputes
  •     Establishing and managing Estates and Trusts
  •     Tax advice and planning strategies
  •     Probate services
  •     Asset protection… and more

Seniors tend to procrastinate planning due to the unpleasant associations of illness and death. Elder law attorneys can alleviate that discomfort by facilitating family conversations and shifting the focus to the positive benefits of planning and preparedness. Cost can also deter seniors from seeking legal advice and services, however, failing to plan can ultimately end up being far more expensive.

No matter the issue at hand, seniors and their loved ones will benefit from working with a legal professional. If you’d like to learn more about how elder law services can help you or an aging loved one, contact the Law Office of Tyler R. Barrett in Norman, Oklahoma today by clicking here to send us a message or by giving us a call at (405) 241-5994.

Does At-Home Care Reduce Hospitalizations?

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) projects the number of Americans in need of long-term care (LTC) by 2020 to be roughly 12 million with nearly half those seniors exhibiting some form of dementia. According to Forbes.com, about half of all long-term care insurance claims are from policyholders living with dementia. The federally run program Medicaid is the primary financing mechanism of LTC where most of the monies are spent on institutional care settings that are ill-equipped to handle an increasingly large and longer living elderly population. Federal initiatives have been incentivizing States to utilize Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs to address the growing long-term care needs of aging Americans. This shift to home and community-based services is often seen as having an obvious benefit. HCBS is seen as an easy fix to offset the increasing demands for long-term care. Evaluation of health outcomes, social equality, and the costs of both settings is necessary to create the most beneficial and efficient systems to care for the aging.

Compounding the complexity in evaluating HCBS versus institutional long-term care is the statistical breakdown of racial and minority ethnic groups, as well as people living with dementia. Racial and minority ethnic groups and dementia sufferers as a whole use these Medicaid services more than non-minority groups.  Regardless of the group, people living with dementia tend to need the highest-intensity care. While hospitalization rates for HCBS and nursing facility residents remain similar, nursing facility residents were, in general, older and sicker than their HCBS counterparts.

If at-home and community-based care does not lessen rates of hospitalizations and may create potential implications for inequality in access to high-quality nursing care facilities, policymakers may need to reconsider the full costs and benefits of shifting care. In nursing facilities, even elderly, dual-eligible Medicaid beneficiaries who tend to be older and have more chronic health conditions are not more likely to require hospitalization than those in-home and community-based care. Therefore, since sicker nursing facility residents with more serious health issues and their home care counterparts have similar hospitalization rates, it would seem that HCBS is not lowering the rates of hospitalizations.

McKnight’s.com reports a group of researchers at the University of Chicago are citing why hospitalization rates do not decline under home and community-based care. The majority of home care residents receive help at the hands of untrained caregivers in non-facility settings. Even with appropriate tools available untrained caregiving leads to more undesirable health outcomes. Unsurprisingly, patients living with dementia, who generally require the most intense care, had higher hospitalization rates due in part to living in an unsecured facility and the inability for a caregiver to provide non-stop oversight which is a hallmark need of a person living with dementia.

Medicaid long-term care expenditure is reflecting this shift to home and community-based care, with nearly 60 percent of spending for HCBS. Because hospitalization rates do not substantially decline and inequitable health care for minorities increases while the majority of the budget is expended in the HCBS program it is time to rethink the quality of care and health outcomes and efficiencies of the program. Skilled nursing providers in a facility setting provide better care for all regardless of level and type of sickness, and racial and ethnic groups.

Education and expertise in industries, whether medical, legal or health care occurs because each field requires a unique skill set to drive optimal outcomes. Understanding how long-term care needs affect an individual’s retirement plan under Medicaid or dual-eligible status Medicare/Medicaid, is pertinent for both positive health outcomes and financial well-being.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your needs and how to plan for long term care. You can send the Law Office of Tyler R. Barrett a message at their Norman, Oklahoma office by clicking here or give them a call at (405) 241-5994.

hearing loss

Going Deaf May Cause Depression

The findings from a ten-year study by the Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA) reports of a link between hearing loss and health risks. The risks include a 50 percent greater risk of dementia, a 40 percent greater risk of developing depression and nearly a 30 percent higher risk for unintended falls.

Reuters Health cites data analyzed by researchers, combining the findings from 35 previous hearing studies with participants aged 60 or more, which establishes the connection between hearing loss and depression. The aggregate of the conclusions of these reports suggests that older adults who experience some form of hearing loss are 47 percent more likely to display symptoms of depression. The take away is that depression is often brought about by the isolation of an individual and hearing loss tends to create social isolation. Dr. Nicholas Reed of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine agrees with the findings published by Reuters. “First, hearing loss impairs communication and influences balance, which can lead to social isolation and decreased physical activity that, in turn, result in depression,” Reed said.

Beyond the problem of social isolation due to hearing loss is that the longer you wait to address the issue the greater the risk of associated cognition problems. An older adult may be able to hear words but not be able to understand their meaning cognitively. It is imperative to see an audiologist and test hearing capabilities to establish an informational baseline and make future adjustments accordingly. Overall, older adults who experience hearing loss tend to withdraw from society and are more likely to experience mild cognitive decline furthering levels of social and emotional loneliness.

It is estimated that 100 million people in the US are exposed to unhealthy levels of noise. Aircraft and automobile noise, leaf blowers and lawnmowers, car stereos and earbuds all contribute to the increase of hearing loss. Hearing loss lowers quality of life and can also have severe implications regarding personal safety. Potential danger warnings like smoke alarms, car horns, fire alarms, public safety announcements all require the ability to hear. Hearing loss limits everyday life experiences in our ability to socialize, work, and communicate. It also limits joyful experience like the sound of a child laughing, a bird singing, a loved song on the radio, or a gab session with a great friend.

Thus far there is no way to undo damaged hearing but other than cost; there is no downside to hearing aids anymore. Their look is discreet, they are easy to learn how to use, and professionally adjustable over time to compensate for increased hearing loss. Once you factor in the cost of a potential fall, increased risk of dementia, social isolation, and depression, the price of hearing aid(s) winds up being comparatively minimal. Although the study, as reported by Reuters, does not investigate whether treating hearing loss can prevent depression aging Americans should still seek medical attention when experiencing hearing problems.

Hearing is a complex biological phenomenon. First ears capture sound traveling through the air as a vibration in air pressure. The outer ear (pinna) catches the sound waves and indicates its direction, in front, behind, above or below you. The ear canal receives the sound wave and triggers vibrations to the eardrum which becomes amplified by tiny bones known as ossicles. Then the amplified vibrations travel to the cochlea in the inner ear where the sound is translated into nerve impulses that your brain recognizes and processes as distinct sounds.

Hearing and its complexities and loss will continue to get a lot of attention moving forward. In a world full of headphones, earbuds, robust speakers, and unwanted environmental noise, all of us are at risk of having diminished hearing abilities. Turn down the sound whenever possible to improve your quality of life as you age. Hearing loss has a profound impact on your well being.

Be proactive in the monitoring of your hearing abilities and subsequent hearing loss as you age.  If we can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

You can reach The Law Office of Tyler R. Barrett in Norman, Oklahoma by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us by dialing (405) 241-5994.

medicaid gift giving

The Problem with Gift-Giving on Medicaid

Mabel’s children were concerned that Mabel would need long-term nursing-home care in the near future. It was the holidays, and Mabel always got a lot of joy out of generosity. But her children had heard that people in Mabel’s circumstances should not give gifts.

The concern is real. For Medicaid to cover the huge expense of nursing-home care, Mabel would have to show that she owned nothing more than around $2,000. And she must also show that she had not given away money or assets over the prior five years (2.5 years in California). That Medicaid rule – the “look-back period” or the “transfer penalty” – would charge Mabel dearly for her generosity. Depending on the size and number of gifts, the penalty could be substantial.

Many wrongly think that there is no penalty for gifts of up to around $15,000 annually. That misunderstanding confuses tax law with Medicaid law (and it also misstates tax law, but that’s another subject). The Medicaid rules are entirely different from the tax rules. In the Medicaid context, gifts of any amount that are given during the look-back period can be penalized.

There are exceptions. These include gifts to spouses and siblings under certain circumstances, disabled children, and children who are caregivers and who live at home with the elder for a span of time. But overall, gifts and Medicaid do not go together. The Medicaid rules are complicated and the consequences for mistakes can be very costly. There are a number of options to protect assets and still qualify for benefits, but these options must be weighed with great care. This is why it’s best to consult attorneys who, like us, are qualified by experience and expertise in Medicaid law.

There is one harmless deception Mabel’s children might consider, to keep Mabel happy and still satisfy the Medicaid rules. The children might help Mabel fill out checks for all the gifts she’d like to give, together with a greeting card for each gift. Everybody could thank Mabel, tear up the check later, and tell her what they “bought” with that amount. It may be that that little device would be worth it, so Mabel could enjoy the holidays too.

Otherwise, the sooner you consult a qualified elder law attorney, the more other options may be available. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

You can reach The Law Office of Tyler R. Barrett, PLLC in Norman, Oklahoma by dialing us at (405) 241-5994 or by clicking here to send us a message.

middle class

The Aging Middle Class Has Been Forgotten

As we age, simple things we took for granted as kids become more difficult — and more expensive. That’s a truth all of us know. What you may not realize is that the aging middle class will face unique difficulties going forward. The private market offers options for assisted living, but at a price too high for the middle class; and those same people often have too much to qualify for Medicaid or subsidized housing. See Health Affairs article on the same.

Moreover, the adults stuck in this bind have fewer assets to fill the gap. They have more debt and fewer savings, are less likely to receive pensions and are likely to have smaller families to turn to for support as they age.

So what will fill the gap in the coming decade as more and more seniors require, but cannot afford long-term care?

The government could seek to incentivize the private market by expanding tax credits to developers of low-income senior housing, as a New York Times article suggests. The United States, like many Western democracies, could turn to public programs to fund long-term care or shift the boundaries of Medicaid to cover seniors above the current cut-off line, or to cover costs like housing instead of just health care. Given the increasing pressure on Medicaid and the difficulty of accruing political capital for such hot-button issues, those expansions seem unlikely.

Will the private market respond to demand, and start offering lower-cost options on its own? Long-term care insurance (LTCI) may be an avenue for growth, as discussed in this Commonwealth Fund article. Private LTCI options have become increasingly popular since their emergence in the 1970s, and despite some flaws, from underwriting and actuarial uncertainties to inflexible designs, LTCIs are overall a sound investment.

Planning for the possibility of needing long term care in the future is something we can assist with. We can also provide guidance in how that care will be paid for, without sacrificing all of your savings.

If you are interested in discussing an asset protection plan that focuses on long term care, please give us a call at our Norman, Oklahoma office by dialing (405) 241-5994, or you can send us a direct message by clicking here.

Aging in Place

Challenges with Aging in Place

According to AARP aging in place is a goal for 3 out of 4 Americans aged 50 or more. These seniors and near seniors are willing to employ alternative solutions to facilitate this. The alternatives include home-sharing (32%), building an additional or accessory dwelling unit (31%) and locating into villages that provide services which enable aging in place (56%). These communities become a source of support and engagement for residents and give a sense of grounding through memories of a long-time home environment.

Seniors who want to reside in a community (aka, age in place) rather than seek residential institutions or nursing homes are mostly dependent on unpaid caregivers and family members for assistance with activities of daily living (ADL). These activities include laundry, self-care actions like bathing and dressing, meal preparation, and transportation. Medicare provides some long-term care services and supports (LTSS); however, the LTSS program falls far short of the need. While the aging population in America is rapidly increasing, lawmakers are slow to respond to the insufficient funding to increase the availability of LTSS for seniors choosing to age in place. The goal of LTSS is not to replace but to supplement the contribution of unpaid family and caregivers. The addition of a Medicare benefit to support family caregivers as they help their loved ones would enable more aging adults to successfully remain in their homes.

Technology has provided some solutions for caregivers, allowing caregivers to monitor their loved one remotely while they stay engaged at work. Smart environmental controls and personal assistants have lightened the load of constant oversight but cannot replace the helping human touch. Nearly 60 percent of seniors who have seriously compromised mobility report being house or apartment bound, while 25 percent of those seniors say they often remain in bed and do not dress daily.

Low tech devices like canes, walkers, ramps, grab bars, shower seats and raised toilets to increase the level of accessibility and safety for aging in place seniors, however, transferring in and out of bed and moving around their homes still provides notable difficulty for many. The senior who wants to age in place is typically independent-minded and therefore have trouble foreseeing a time when help is not a want but a need. Aging adults and their families need to plan to address changing physical capacities before an adverse health event such as an unintended fall or dementia challenges change everything. While aging in place is a great goal for many seniors it requires planning just as if they were planning on moving into an assisted living facility.

Johns Hopkins researchers report 42 percent of older adults who have problems performing ADLs or are living with probable dementia receive no assistance at all from family, friends or paid caregivers. That is a staggering number of unaided seniors. Additionally, twenty-one percent of seniors with a minimum of three chronic conditions and high needs received no assistance at all. LTSS through Medicare will have to make changes to meet the ever-increasing demand for human caregiving.

Approximately 60 percent of at-home seniors use at least one low tech device, most commonly for bathing, toileting or in-home movement, throughout their day but their needs multiple as they age. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover the expenses of most of these nonmedical devices and services. The resulting problem is seniors near, or at the bottom of the income ladder go without assistance, human or device, putting their daily lives in a very precarious position.

Hardships for these seniors on the razor’s edge include the inability to pay medical bills or prescription costs, utilities or rent, and some resort to skipping meals to balance out their unaided lifestyle. At best this is heartbreaking, at worst it is inhumane.

The CHRONIC Care Act will allow Medicare Advantage plans to offer supplemental benefits for seniors to cover devices such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, personal care, and transportation to chronically ill seniors however there are 21 million people who have needs to be met and how this will be paid for is unclear. Meanwhile, the 39 million people enrolled in traditional Medicare are entirely left out of any supplemental benefit. Affordability for at-home care is a significant issue on a personal, family, and government level.

Caregivers and assistive low tech devices are an absolute necessity for seniors opting to age in place. The extent of the adjustments senior adults make as their needs become more profound are not well documented. As aging in place is a common strategy now, new solutions and programs must be explored to ensure successful aging.

If your strategy is to age in place, have a discussion early on with trusted counsel and family members to address some of the challenges you will eventually have to overcome.

If we can assist you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Law Office of Tyler R. Barrett, PLLC in Norman, Oklahoma. You can send us a message by clicking here or give us a call at (405) 241-5994.

Resident Security Upgrades for Senior Living Facilities

Technology is a rapidly changing industry. Advances in technology bring are constantly changing the way we live our lives and seniors are no different. There are a variety of new options emerging in security technology that can improve resident security in senior living. Many things that have long been used in security for senior living facilities are still relevant, such as locks and alarms, but more personal devices are being developed and have started emerging on the security scene.

This new technology is, for the first time, marrying safety and independence. Previously, these two things have been at odds. Personal alert systems have been around for a while, but the sophistication and reliability continue to improve. These devices give seniors the comfort to live their lives and yet be able to, at the push of a button, summon medical help. They are able to move about more freely in facilities and staff are comfortable being able to locate and assist at a moment’s notice. Wearables for seniors are no longer just for promoting physical activity and wellness, but with heart monitoring technology, they can trigger irregularities in a heartbeat and quickly detect issues. There are even sensors that can be worn under clothing to predict certain types of infections and falls. This allows independence, while also allowing help to reach the senior quickly.

Devices and apps that allow for social engagement are readily available for seniors. Devices such as smartphones and tablets are more and more common amongst the senior population. There are even phones and tablets specifically geared toward seniors that are simplified for greater ease of use. Along with these technologies are apps that allow seniors to connect with family as well as peers. Facebook and Skype give platforms that allow seniors to keep in touch with family and friends. Apps like Words with Friends allow seniors to play games and engage in mental stimulation with family and friends. Stitch is an app that allows like-minded seniors to communicate one on one, post group activities, and for some even seek romantic relationships.

In addition, up and coming applications like Gray Matters are bringing new possibilities for social engagement. This app was designed to allow dementia patients to stay connected. It allows the user to upload family photos, add text, or even recorded voices to allow dementia patients to engage while also improving social and mental functioning.

So how are technology engineers making this happen? They are putting to use technology that has been used in other forms, some even come from military uses. Take for example a global positioning system, better known as GPS. This along with real-time location services are used to create wearables that track and report the location of seniors if or when they need assistance. This allows for more independence with peace of mind, whether they are living alone or in a facility. Artificial intelligence in wearable devices allows for more data to be collected and used to predict needs and better detect changes in behavior and activity. Beyond this, engineers are using data analytics to take the data from artificial intelligence and use it to predict infections such as urinary tract infection and even malnutrition.

For many seniors, independence often trumps security, but for their families, the opposite is usually true. No matter what form of senior living best serves you or your loved one, safety is most likely one of the most important factors in making that choice. In the current age of ever-changing technology, the options may be better than you think. Take the time to research and look into improvements in technology for seniors if you or a loved one is facing these challenges.

Our firm has extensive experience in helping seniors plan their living situations along with adapting to new technologies. If you have any questions, please give us a call at (405) 241-5994, or click here to send us a direct message.

online scams

How to Avoid These Common Online Scams

The online world is rife with scams, and the number of people in the online world makes it a target-rich environment for scammers. Seniors and near seniors should be aware of some of the more common attacks aimed to gain access to your money as well as identity. If you have social media accounts, email, or shop online, you are being targeted by scam artists. Here is what you need to know about some of the most common online scams.

Don’t Fall for the Sales Pitch

The product reads or sounds to be amazing. There are testimonials of success or satisfaction galore with the product that includes a Free Trial Offer! What can go wrong if all you do is pay a modest sum for shipping and handling? Here is what is wrong. Your payment for shipping and handling allowed them access to your credit or debit card information and buried deep in the fine print are the real terms of the deal which obligate monthly payments of some much higher monetary amount after your free trial expires. This payment has to be canceled within the stringent guidelines of the contract you agreed to by clicking a box. Read the user agreement or contract parameters before accepting the free trial. Reputable companies will allow cancellation of the advertised product however if you cannot get out of the contract immediately cancel your card and negotiate a refund. If that doesn’t work, contact your credit card company and make an appeal for their help to gain restitution.

Be Wary of Public Networks

Always be aware of your digital surroundings as local Wi-Fi zones may leave you vulnerable to a hotspot imposter. In a coffee shop or an airport if you are logging onto free Wi-Fi or what resembles a paid service like Boingo Wireless you may be logging onto an illegitimate site designed to look like the real thing. A criminal can be hosting a false Wi-Fi site near you on a laptop. Free, unsecured sites allow for crooks like this to data-mine your computer or phone for a credit card, password, or banking information. The information is then typically resold to another criminal who will exploit your information for money. It can be tough to tell what a legitimate Wi-Fi spot is. One protective mechanism is to ensure you are not automatically set up for non-preferred networks. If you are not sure how to do this, ask a trusted internet savvy family member or friend. When traveling pre-purchase a credit gift card through MasterCard or Visa and use this for online purchase for access to airport Wi-Fi to protect your data and do not do banking or internet shopping from any public hot spot unless you are sure the connection is secure as it is not worth the risk.

They Call it Click-Bait for a Reason

Don’t fall for clickbait. The chances of you being the winner of a contest for a free iPad or other expensive prize is likely a scam to get you to click the link provided to “learn more”. Often the connection is grabbing your IP address and adding your computer to a botnet that can be used for a multitude of nefarious purposes. Before clicking on a shortened URL typically found on Twitter and other social media that limits characters check the profile of the user promoting the link. For instance, if the user is following thousands of people, but no one follows them, it is most likely a bot set up to trap your data.

Be Skeptical of Erroneous Pop-Ups

Sometimes on a computer, a window will pop up about seemingly legitimate antivirus protection with an alert stating that your machine has been compromised with a dangerous virus, bug or malware. You are then prompted to click on a link that will scan and remove the offending virus for a fee and the promise to clean up your computer. When you click on the suggested link, the bogus company will instead install malware, or malicious software, on your computer, compromising all of your data. The front is to scare you into acting right away out of fear to protect your computer, but the opposite happens. Often the design of these pop-up windows has a look and feel that mimics reputable companies like Microsoft. If a pop-up virus warning appears, close the window without clicking on any links, and then use tools in your operating system to run a scan to check for system integrity.

Always Contact Your Banking Institutions Directly

If your bank sends you a text message on your cell phone stating there is a problem with your account and you need to call right away with account information it is not legitimate. Another text message might read that you have won a gift certificate to a well-known store and that all you have to do is call the toll free number and provide your credit card information is also a scam. The gift certificate scam will ask for payment information for shipping and handling to receive your winnings. This is a technique known as smishing, which stands for SMS phishing. Like its email version counterpart phishing, you will lose control of your credit card data and have to chase down fraudulent charges. A real bank and legitimate store would never ask you to reveal account information over the phone for security or to claim a prize, so don’t do it, ever.

Do Your Homework on Charities

It is noble to be charitable, and Americans are some of the most generous people in the world. Whether in email, social media, text, or phone call do not donate sums of money to charitable causes as the charity is most likely a scam designed to gain access to your money and banking data. Many of these bogus charitable scams will use current headlines to garner your sympathy and get you to act now. Donate to real charities on their legitimate and secure websites only.

Write a check to the Salvation Army or Hospice and send it to their valid mailing addresses. Do not be goaded into immediate action. Have a plan for what you choose to donate to charity and follow your plan.

Never Send Money Through a Dating App

One of the cruelest scams online is the dating site or chat room scam which preys upon the lonely elderly. You might play a virtual game together online, exchange pictures, or even talk on the phone; that is the hook. You feel like you have met someone you can relate to that eases your loneliness. Typically what happens next is there is a need to wire money to escape a foreign country, an abusive parent, get medical care, or buy a plane ticket to travel to you. It isn’t true. This person isn’t the new love of your life, and you will lose your money and have your heart broken. Scam artists in online social networking specialize in luring the lonely into friendships and love affairs. Be smart about how you approach dating and social networking sites. The minute someone asks for money immediately sign off and employ these tips for keeping yourself safe from online dating scams.

Read Up on Those Online Seller Reviews

Even be wary of online shopping sites like Amazon or eBay as they allow resellers access to their platforms. Just because you are on a reputable site does not mean the reseller is trustworthy. In some cases, the scammers will send a product, but it will be counterfeit. In other cases, they will post delivery to you 3 to 4 weeks from purchase date, knowing that Amazon pays sellers every two weeks. The scammer will then receive the money from you and the legitimate company, and you will never receive anything. They have your money, and you have nothing.

The online world is always changing, and scam artists change with it because it is so lucrative. Even if 1% of their targeted victims fall prey to their tactics, scammers can make a lot of money. Don’t let that money be yours!

Dealing with reputable companies and trustworthy information is the key to your ability to enjoy a successful aging strategy.

If you feel you have been taken advantage by one of these types of online scams, there may be legal avenues available to help you.

Contact our office today by calling us at (405) 241-5994 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you. You may also click here to fill out our website contact form, and we will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

The Problem with Joint Bank Accounts

Here’s an idea that sounds better than it is: Put children’s names on the parent’s bank account. That way, children can sign checks if parents can’t pay bills when they become ill. When the parents pass, the money goes directly to the children with no court involved. Simple.

Simple does not mean good, however. Joint bank accounts are owned equally by all who are named on the account. All can spend without question. You may not believe that your children would take your money without permission – but what if that child might be going bankrupt, is in a bitter divorce, or is sued in court?

In one bad case, mom went into the hospital and a son on mom’s account saw his chance to go on a spending spree. It took six years of hard-fought litigation, and many thousands in legal fees, for his siblings to recover just a small portion of the misappropriated money. The rest was gone for good.

It is smart to designate a person to pay your bills when you can’t, so get a lawyer to draft a good power of attorney for you. This is much safer. Good power of attorney also permits your agent to stand in your shoes if you plan to qualify for Medicaid, or to file your taxes, or to sell a property if need be. With a power of attorney, you can designate only people whom you trust to take care of your finances responsibly when you can’t.

Then, for a very simple and no-cost way to give money after you pass, you can choose your beneficiaries with a “payable on death” (POD) designation at the bank. This keeps your name, only, on your account while you are alive, and it instructs the bank to convey your money to your beneficiaries only on your passing.

The best way to resist temptation is to avoid the opportunity in the first place.

If you have any questions on sharing financial information with your loved ones, please contact us for a consultation.

Estate Planning for Military Families

Estate Planning for Military Families

No matter the time of year, it is always a good opportunity for members of the military and their loved ones to consider setting up — or revising an existing —estate plan. Military families need to consider special estate-planning issues that others do not. This is particularly true when one or more family members are deployed overseas. Beyond this, members of the military have access to special benefits and resources. This can become complicated and, for this reason, it is important to seek special help if you are a military family.

Whether you are just starting your service in the military or have been serving for some time, consider the following common factors that may be important in your estate planning.

Factors to Consider

Estate plans should be customized to each person’s particular circumstances. In your estate planning, you should consider whether:

  • You own real property and, if so, if it is located in different states;
  • You are married;
  • You have minor children, or children with special needs;
  • You have money set aside in 401(k), IRAs, or thrift savings plans;
  • You plan to give to charity; and
  • You are moving multiple times across states or to different countries.

Estate Planning Necessities

There are many benefits offered to military families that can help with estate planning. These include:

Life insurance – Life insurance is an important part of an estate plan intended for those who are financially dependent upon you, especially if you are facing deployment. Active-duty members have access to low-cost life insurance for themselves and their loved ones from Service Members’ Life Insurance Group. More information can be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. When examining your life insurance, work with us to make sure that the beneficiary designation works the way you expect.

Will – A will is a crucial document outlining to whom and how you want your property distributed at your death. It also allows you to name who will administer your estate and specify who will care for a minor or special needs children.

Trust – A trust is a separate legal entity that can hold property and assets for the benefit of one or more people or entities. Similar to a will, a trust allows you to dictate who will receive your property at your death and how it is to be administered. The added benefit of a trust is that it also provides instructions on how to handle the assets during any period of your incapacity. For most families, a trust-centered estate plan is a better fit, but a will can work for some families.

Other benefits for survivors – Survivor benefit plans (SBP) are pension-type plans in the form of an annuity that will pay your surviving spouse and children a monthly benefit at your death. Likewise, dependency and indemnity compensation (D&IC) provides a monthly benefit to eligible survivors of servicemembers or veterans (1) who die while on active duty, (2) whose death is due to a service-related disease or injury, or (3) who are receiving or entitled to receive VA compensation for a service-related disability and are totally disabled. When you are examining any financial service or insurance product, it’s a good idea to work with an estate planning attorney to make sure any beneficiary designations work the way you expect and provide the maximum benefit to your family.

You Need Special Help

Members of the military often experience frequent moves, have access to several forms of government benefits after service, and can be subject to some unusual tax rules. For these reasons, estate planning for military families is more complicated than most.

You can expect an estate planning professional to assist you in setting up the following:

  • Powers of attorney for financial matters, as well as health care decisions (they are very helpful when a spouse is deployed);
  • Funeral and burial arrangements;
  • Wills and living wills;
  • Organ donation;
  • Family care plans;
  • Life insurance;
  • Trusts;
  • Estate taxes;
  • Survivor benefits; and
  • Estate administration and/or probate.

An estate plan has multiple objectives: to provide for your family’s financial security, ensure your property is preserved and passed on to your beneficiaries, and determine who will manage your assets upon your death, among others. We are here to guide you through the best options available to you and your family. Give us a call today.

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10.0Tyler R. Barrett
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