How to Cover the Cost of In-Home Care

How to Cover the Cost of In-Home Care

We all want to know how to cover the cost of in-home care. It brings up several decisions that need to be made. Including where your home will be. We may ask ourselves, “Am I able to remain in my home independently, or do I need assistance?” If the answer is daily assistance, we have three main options.

  1. Move in with or receive daily assistance from a loved one
  2. Relocate to assisted living or a nursing home
  3. Pay for in-home care services

Of these three options, in-home care is the most desired. However, it comes with a cost, as there are strict Medicare and Medicaid limitations to benefits that cover in-home care services. However, despite the high price and limitations, many people are finding ways to afford this more desirable option.

Don’t completely write off Medicaid.

Medicaid coverage varies greatly depending on the state you live in and may cover long-term in-home care if you qualify for a waiver. There may be a waitlist for benefits, so the sooner you apply, the better.

Use your veteran’s benefits.

An often-overlooked veterans’ benefit is Aid and Attendance, offering help with out-of-pocket expenses. Veterans who have served a minimum of one day during wartime, were on active duty for a minimum of 90 days, and honorably discharged may be eligible for this benefit. If qualified, the veteran receives a tax-free, monthly cash payment to use for care. For veterans and their families, this can help offset the cost of in-home care significantly.

Your life insurance policies may help.

Those with life insurance policies may learn that coverage may apply to in-home care. Some life insurance policies have a feature known as “accelerated benefits.” This feature allows the policyholder to use the insurance within the policy before death occurs. Typically, accelerated benefits are for those who have disabilities related to chronic conditions or require ongoing or long-term in-home care. If your dependents are not relying on the money, you may consider using accelerated benefits to cover the cost associated with in-home care.

Consider a reverse mortgage.

Reverse mortgages were created to help seniors live at home for as long as possible. Therefore, if your home is paid off or a significant amount of equity has been accumulated, a reverse mortgage may be an excellent option to cover the cost of in-home care. A reverse mortgage gives seniors the opportunity to take out home equity in the form of payments or as a lump sum.

Reverse mortgage qualifications include the following:

  • You must be 62 years of age or older
  • The home must be owned — either completely paid off or with a minimal balance
  • The issuing bank appraises the house to determine the value based on the senior’s age and payout

Take advantage of annuities.

An annuity combines personal investment with an ongoing insurance plan. It is a custom contract that an insurance company issues, turning an investor’s premium into an income stream that is fixed and guaranteed. After the investment has matured, the policyholder can begin withdrawing.

Many people only see annuities as a way to help seniors grow their money and assist with living expenses. However, the income earned from the annuity can very well be enough to cover the cost of in-home care.

In-home care is an option!

In-home is the most desired option for those who require daily assistance. Not only does it take away the obligation for loved ones to become caretakers, but it also enhances the quality of life for seniors and allows them to live in the most comfortable place- their home.

Despite the high cost associated with in-home care, this option may be more financially feasible than many realize. It may take some creative thinking and proper planning, but it is possible.

Elder law attorneys have the knowledge to combine estate planning with financial planning and offer guidance for long-term care options, including in-home care. We invite you to contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 to speak with one of our professionals today about Medicaid, VA benefits, and long-term care expenses.

Elder Abuse Prevention

Elder Abuse Prevention

In a perfect world we could believe that our elderly loved ones aren’t being intentionally harmed. However, the truth is that senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to abuse. The National Council on Aging reports that one in ten American seniors (60+) have fallen victim to elder abuse. It is also estimated that only one of every twenty-four abuse cases is reported. This suggests that as many as five million elders are abused every year.

Elder Abuse Defined

The Centers for Disease Control defines elder abuse as “an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates risk or harm to an older adult. An older adult is someone age 60 or older.” While abuse can vary greatly, there are five different types of abuse:

  1. Physical abuse is the intentional injury to or harm to another. It can result from kicking, hitting, grabbing, pushing, biting, pinching, or any forceful action.
  2. Neglect occurs when the basic needs of a person are not being met. This includes personal care, medical, nutritional, hygiene, and housing. It can be classified as unintentional or intentional abuse.
  3. Psychological or emotional abuse can be characterized by verbal or nonverbal behavior that caused distress, fear, psychological suffering, or mental anguish. This type of abuse can include manipulation, threatening behavior, humiliation, intimidation, harassment, shaming, criticism, isolation, exploitation, or power dynamics.
  4. Sexual abuse is the act of any forced, non-consensual, or unwanted sexual contact, interaction attention, or exploitation. This abuse can take many forms. For example, it may include non-consensual touching, exposing the elder, intercourse, exposing oneself to the elder, verbal obscenities, and sexual advances.
  5. Financial abuse takes place when someone, usually a caregiver or trusted individual, illegally or improperly takes advantage of a senior’s money, benefits, belongings, property, or assets for the benefit of someone other than the elder. This type of abuse can include identification theft, stealing money from bank accounts, fraud, incorrect billing of services, and selling off assets.

The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act

To fight the growing elder abuse epidemic, the Elder Abuse and Prosecution Act was signed into law on October 18, 2017, by President Donald Trump. This act enhances the government’s focus on elder abuse prevention by utilizing a multi-faceted approach to protecting elders by punishing perpetrators.

The goals of the Elder Abuse and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) are as follows.

  • Improve local, state, and federal data collection on elder abuse.
  • Support and improve the prosecution of elder abuse.
  • Improve elder abuse technical assistance and training for law enforcement.
  • Improve provided victim assistance programs and resources.
  • Increase penalties for perpetrators of email and telemarketing scams targeting elders.

Elder Abuse Prevention Components

EAPPA proposes five main changes to protect the elderly from this abuse include:

  1. The Department of Justice is required to designate Elder Justice coordinators. These coordinators are responsible for serving as legal counsel, assisting with the prosecution, and increasing public awareness.
  2. The Attorney General and FBI coordinate elder abuse crime training programs for current and upcoming FBI agents.
  3. It is the Attorney General’s responsibility to coordinate with all law enforcement divisions to establish the best data collection practices. They are also responsible for establishing a group that shares all relevant information for prosecuting and uncovering elder abuse cases.
  4. The Director of the Office for Victims of Crime is required to utilize the data to present an annual report to Congress with an analysis of elder abuse. This will include recommendations on how to improve current services for elder abuse victims.
  5. The federal criminal code expanded to include fraudulent attempts to induce participation in a business opportunity, commitment to a loan, or investment for profit through email or telemarketing.

The elder abuse epidemic is a significant issue in America, and our country was long overdue for help from Congress. However, seeing laws like EAPAA pass over the last few years provides hope that our country will eventually see an end to this epidemic that affects our beloved elders. For more information on elder abuse laws, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Respite Care Working Hand in Hand with Caregivers

Respite Care Working with Caregivers

Caregiving is a selfless duty that offers fulfillment and exhaustion all at once. While many find gratification in caring for others, they must tend to their own lives and responsibilities. Because of this, caregivers typically experience some extent of burnout. To avoid burnout, it is critical for all caregivers to remember to take care of themselves. We can have respite care working hand in hand with caregivers.

Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is the emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion from the stressors that coincide with caring for a loved one. It is typically accompanied by feeling under-supported, overwhelmed, and underappreciated.

Burnout is most likely to happen when caregivers are not taking care of themselves. This can eventually affect the caregiver’s ability to provide quality care, which can be harmful to both the caregiver and the individual receiving care. A study conducted by the Journals of Gerontology concluded that caregivers under high levels of strain and responsibility had a significantly higher mortality rate and poorer health outcomes compared to those with less or no caretaking pressures.

Fortunately, burnout can be prevented or minimized by taking precautions such as healthy eating, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and utilizing respite care to ensure regular breaks are prioritized.

Respite Care Services

Respite care is an essential component of caregiving. It provides support for caregivers by offering temporary relief. This enables the caregiver to take much-needed breaks from the high demands of caring for a sick, disabled, or aging loved one.

Respite care is unique for each situation. It can take place in one’s home, nursing or residential facilities, or adult day care centers. It may only be for a few hours while the caregiver runs errands, or it can be for a few days to weeks, depending on the circumstances. The type of support varies greatly as well and may include:

  • Assistance with household chores, errands, or tasks
  • Transportation to medical appointments
  • Assistance with bathing, dressing, and hygienic needs
  • Basic medical care
  • Companionship

Types of Respite Care

Arrangements for respite care are made ahead of time by the caregiver, and these arrangements can take the form of many types. The most common types of respite care are as follows:

  • Informal care is generally provided by family members or friends. It does not involve a respite professional and is an excellent solution for occasional, short-term breaks.
  • In-home care services come to you and offer temporary relief or can be regularly scheduled. An agency or an individual caregiver can provide in-home care aids or respite services.
  • Day services are an excellent option for adults who enjoy socialization and time out of their homes. These services are provided at various locations, such as senior centers or churches, and allow for supervised socialization under medical care. These services permit caregivers to go to work or complete other daytime tasks.
  • Residential care is much like a temporary nursing home or assisted living facility. It allows for overnight stays and is a good option if a caregiver must travel or needs a longer break.

Being a caregiver is a full-time responsibility. To provide the best care for a loved one, the caregiver must ensure that they are taking care of themselves too. Respite care plays a vital role, as it recharges the caregiver so burnout can be avoided and all have the best outcome. Respite care are working hand in hand with caregivers.

If you are caring for aging parents or someone with a special needs disability, learn more about respite resources available to you. For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Coverage for Long-Term Care

The improvement in medical care and healthier lifestyles are making people live longer. Because of this, more of us will need some form of long-term care in our later years. As a result, the cost of long-term care has been rising. Wharton estimates nursing home costs will increase by 4.7% and home health care by 6.9% by 2030.

Many seniors will receive some long-term care services from relatives, friends, or neighbors. However, many others will need professional help, whether in their home, an assisted-living facility, or a nursing home. There are different ways to pay for these types of long-term care. If you are able to plan well in advance for your long-term care needs, long-term care insurance could be a good option.

Traditional Long-term Care Insurance

Traditional long-term care insurance policies are similar to health, home, or auto insurance policies. You typically pay the insurance company regular premiums to keep the policy in effect and file claims if you need them to pay for services your policy covers.

Like health insurance policies, you can choose the amount and types of coverage you want your long-term care insurance policy to cover. Policies state how much reimbursement you can receive on a daily or monthly basis over a certain number of years or up to a lifetime maximum. You may be allowed different amounts depending on the care you are receiving, such as care in your home or nursing home.

Another policy feature you may get to choose is the waiting period between when you start needing care and when you start receiving benefits. Ninety days is a typical waiting period; however, you can pay more to start receiving benefits after 30 days, or you can pay less and wait 180 days before benefits start.

What Long-term Care Insurance Covers

The long-term care insurer will dictate what they will cover and what they won’t cover. Some conditions are often not covered by insurers, such as alcoholism and drug addiction. Some preexisting conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, may not be covered right away. If you have a preexisting condition, find out if the insurer will cover needs connected to that condition before you sign up.

Generally, you can be eligible for benefits when you can no longer perform a certain number of daily living activities, such as eating, dressing, getting into and out of chairs and beds, bathing, and using the toilet. Often you won’t need to pay premiums while you are receiving benefits.

Usually, you’ll lose your coverage if you stop paying your premiums before you need to receive benefits. Unfortunately, you don’t get your premium payments back if you never use the coverage. The insurance company keeps the money.

Hybrid Policies

Many long-term care policies these days are combined with other benefits, such as life insurance. These policies are referred to as hybrid or linked-benefit policies. For this type of policy, you will likely pay a lump sum or several fixed annual payments.

With a hybrid policy, you will get coverage similar to what you would get with a traditional policy, in addition to an amount of life insurance that will go to your heirs if you don’t use the long-term care benefits. If you do need to use the long-term care benefits, the life insurance payout would be reduced or eliminated. This extra flexibility usually comes with a higher premium.

Consult with a Professional

There are many factors to consider before committing to a long-term insurance policy. You may determine that you don’t even need one. Do an ample amount of research and talk with an insurance professional or an elder law attorney.

Our law firm is dedicated to informing you of issues affecting seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing facility care. Contact our office today to learn how we can help you afford the right level and best quality of long-term care.

This article offers a summary of aspects of elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Medicaid Planning Protects Your Home

It is common for people to think of their home as their most valuable possession, which is why you want your children to inherit this value when you pass away. However, you are also concerned about planning for the future, declining health, and the potential need for expensive long-term care. You have heard that Medicaid can pay for that, but the rules say you can own no more than around $2,000 in assets to be eligible. Now what?

Medicaid Planning Using an Irrevocable Trust

One solution is to take that significant asset, your home, out of your name, while reserving your right to live in it. This can be done with a carefully drafted irrevocable trust. Putting the house in the ownership of a trust could prevent Medicaid penalties and ensure reimbursement of health expenses, depending on your state’s current rules. It all depends on whether your health continues to keep you out of care for the next five consecutive years.

There are numerous other advantages to that kind of trust, one of which is to avoid probate proceedings. Trusts are private agreements that usually require no court supervision. So, signing away valuable property can feel like a big step, but it keeps your living situation unchanged and can really pay off in the long run.

Avoiding Capital Gains Taxes

But suppose, later, you decide to sell the house and move into a smaller place. That could pose a capital-gains tax problem. If the trust hasn’t been carefully drafted, and it (not you) sells the home, the personal-residence exemption would be lost. Capital gains tax could be prohibitive if the house appreciated in value since the date of purchase.

A similar problem arises when it comes time for your children to inherit. If the trust is not carefully drafted to cover this eventuality, your heirs will lose the basis-adjustment tax break. That, too, could cost them dearly. The basis adjustment allows the inherited value of the home, for capital-gains purposes, to be calculated not from the date you originally purchased the home, but from the date your heirs inherit the property.

For example, suppose you paid $100,000 for your house in 1980 and you kept it in good condition. On your passing, the house is worth $300,000. Now suppose the home is titled in the trust name, but the trust wasn’t written carefully to preserve the basis adjustment that would otherwise be allowed for inherited property. If the children sell the home for $350,000 in those circumstances, they would have made a taxable profit of around $250,000.

With the basis adjustment, however, profit would be calculated from the $300,000 mark as of the date of inheritance. This would leave your children with a tax bill on the $50,000 profit, not $250,000. This tax advantage comes from “stepping up” the taxable basis to the market price at the time of inheritance. As a result, your family receives more value by having to pay less taxes.

Protecting Your Assets for Heirs with an Irrevocable Trust

First, the irrevocable trust takes the home out of your name and, instead, titles it to the trust. Medicaid rules view the owner of the property as the trust, not you, and that’s what you want to reduce your assets and qualify for Medicaid assistance.

Next, to preserve the personal residence capital-gains exemption, an irrevocable trust creates what’s known as “grantor trust” tax rules. Current tax rules allow property owned by this kind of trust to remain part of your estate for tax purposes, and exempt from capital gains up to specified value limits, depending on your state and whether you file single or jointly as a married couple.

Even though the trust has ownership, you are still allowed to take the personal-residence exemption. For capital gains, the IRS disregards the trust.

Then, to minimize your heirs’ exposure to capital gains tax in the future, the trust also provides a “limited testamentary power of appointment.” The appointment power permits you to designate someone with the authority to disburse your assets to chosen beneficiaries, provided those beneficiaries are limited to family or charities.

The limited power of appointment allows your assets to pass down to beneficiaries while preserving eligibility for both the tax basis adjustment and Medicaid.

The right estate planning strategies neatly solve Medicaid planning and tax issues by:

  • Transferring the house title to the irrevocable trust while retaining your right to live in it, avoiding Medicaid penalties or reimbursement problems after five years,
  • Creating grantor trust status to preserve the residence exemption, avoiding capital gains tax on the sale during your lifetime, and
  • On your death, the adjusted-basis tax break is preserved by designating a person or entity to administer the assets in the trust.

Trusts are carefully drafted to comply with current rules regarding ownership and taxes to prepare for Medicaid eligibility and protect your assets for your family.

You may have a will, but it will not be able to protect your assets unless it becomes part of an estate plan that include an irrevocable trust. Bring us your will or estate plan, and let us look it over. If we find that it isn’t Medicaid-qualified, or it lacks provisions for grantor trust or the necessary powers of attorney, don’t worry. An irrevocable trust can sometimes be changed. Trusts that fail to account for various contingencies can happen if you don’t know where to find a trusted and reputable estate planning attorney.  All parties must consent, or court proceedings would be required, but an expert Estate Planning or Medicaid Planning Attorney knows how to correct these problems efficiently.

For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Nursing Home Questions to Protect Loved Ones

A nursing home advocate plays a vital role in ensuring the well-being of your loved one. Residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are disproportionately affected by the flu, pneumonia, COVID 19, and other contagious diseases. According to the American Family Physician Journal, a flu outbreak in a nursing home often affects 20 percent or more of the residents.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, AARP has identified some specific questions to ask about the facility to help ensure the safety of your family member.

Inquire About Vaccinations:

  • What proportion of staff and residents are up to date on regular vaccinations? Compare these vaccination rates at any Medicare-certified nursing home to the state and national averages.
  • How is the facility educating staff and residents regarding the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness?
  • What type of access to vaccines do residents have?

Ask if Anyone at the Facility Has Tested Positive for any Infectious Disease Recently:

  • Include staff, residents, visitors, vendors, maintenance workers, and anyone with access to the facility.
  • How many people, if any, have tested positive?
  • What is the facility testing protocol for symptomatic individuals?

Understand the Steps is the Facility Taking to Prevent Outbreaks of Disease:

  • What are the screening protocols for staff and other people entering the facility?
  • How are positive cases being handled after identification? Do staff quarantine at home? Do residents move into isolation units?
  • What are the protocols for sanitizing the facility, and how often are they implemented?
  • Are there social distancing measures in place? What are the precautions for residents with roommates?

Find out if the Nursing Home Helps Residents Stay in Contact with their Families and Other Loved Ones:

  • What are the infection control measures for visitors?
  • Does nursing home staff help residents call their loved ones via phone or video?
  • Will the facility set up a regular schedule for residents to speak with family and loved ones?

Determine if the Facility Regularly Communicates Important Information to Residents and Their Loved Ones:

  • If there is an outbreak of an infectious disease within the facility, how long will it take to notify residents and their families or representatives?
  • How is the information shared?

Know if the Nursing Home is Fully Staffed with Doctors, Nurses, Aides, and Other Workers:

  • In the event of staffing shortages, what are the backup plans to ensure the needs of nursing home residents are met? The plan should include bathing, feeding, physical therapy, medication management, and social engagement.

Ask About the Maintenance of Healthy-Living Programs:

  • Are communal activities adapted for social distancing in exercising, entertainment, and socialization?
  • Are any services suspended, and if so, which ones?

If you have a spouse, parent, sibling, or other loved one living in a nursing home, they depend on you to advocate for their protection and wellbeing. Asking the right questions helps ensure that their nursing home facility or long-term care services prioritize their health.

For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

What Life Insurance has to do with Estate Planning

In the estate planning process, life insurance does not appear to affect how assets are disposed of at first glance. However, life insurance can be an integral, indispensably important part of a well-thought-out estate plan. There are numerous other benefits to owning a life insurance policy aside from providing a large sum of money to beneficiaries.

  • Life insurance provides immediate cash upon death that can pay debts, final income taxes of the insured, and funeral expenses.
  • Life insurance cash can also pay estate taxes and avoid the forced sale of assets.
  • Mostly, the proceeds from life insurance will pass to the named beneficiary free of income tax.
  • Life insurance proceeds can transfer to a trust as part of a will the insured created for the benefit of minor children, special needs, or elderly relatives.
  • The proceeds of a life insurance policy can be payable to someone other than the insured’s estate and avoid passing through probate when owned by an irrevocable insurance trust. For example, the funds can pay marital settlement obligations for spousal or child support.
  • If the insured owns a closely-held business, a life insurance policy can fund a buy out of their interest.
  • Proper beneficiary designation forms of a life insurance policy prevent proceeds from going through probate.

Do not underestimate the importance of having cash funds immediately available in an uncomplicated way. Often the passing of a loved one or family member comes with a string of expenses that often exceed cost expectations. Much of what Americans have resides in investments like 401ks, IRAs, housing, and other illiquid assets with very little cash on hand. Life insurance proceeds protect families from having to force the sale of these assets at unfavorable tax rates. Some inheritable assets come with immediate payment requirements. Homes not fully paid off, cars, and the like can leave families with short-term liabilities requiring cash.

Understanding Estate Planning Strategies with a Life Insurance Policy

One of the more popular estate planning strategies that fit many situations is an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT). Though a beneficiary or third party cannot rescind the trust, modified, or amended post creation, it still offers heirs several financial and legal advantages. These advantages include asset protection, favorable tax treatment, and assurance beneficiaries use the proceeds in a manner concurrent with the benefactor’s wishes. Typically, life insurance policies are the chief assets held in an ILIT.

Before purchasing a life insurance policy, particularly if you want to create an ILIT, speak with your estate planning attorney regarding potential income and estate tax consequences. If you have an estate large enough, it can be subject to federal and state estate taxes depending on the applicable laws in place at the time of your passing. Your ILIT should be in place before binding a life insurance policy to it. Remember that states have different laws regarding an ILIT; to avoid problems, your ILIT must follow your state’s rules.

Using a Gifting Strategy for your Life Insurance Plan

It is possible to gift an existing life insurance policy to your ILIT. Unfortunately, if you were to die within three years of making the gift, the policy amount can be included in your estate for tax purposes due to a rule known as a “lookback period.” In effect, this isn’t making the policy proceeds taxable, but it adds the policy proceeds amount to the total value of the estate, in turn making it part of your estate subject to taxes. As federal estate tax exemption amounts frequently change, it is prudent to fund your ILIT by purchasing a new policy. Doing so will avoid the possibility of a lookback period.

When using an ILIT, whether or not you are married, use the second to die, survivorship policy, or are single and have an individual policy must be considered. Choosing between variations of permanent life insurance for your ILIT, such as whole standard life, universal life, and variable life insurance, can be confusing, and your estate planning attorney can guide you to your best option.

If you own a business and one adult child will take over the business while the other adult children are not interested or involved in the enterprise, then the life insurance proceeds can provide the cash to buy out those heirs’ business interests while leaving the business intact. Blended family systems can also benefit from life insurance payouts to ensure that all children receive an inheritance, not just the children of the last surviving spouse.

Life insurance should be a part of your family estate plan. It can increase the wealth your heirs inherit and provide a ready source of cash for immediate financial obligations after your death. Which form of life insurance best suits your needs will depend on your age and situation. Speak with your estate planning attorney about how a life insurance policy can be an effective way to transfer wealth to your beneficiaries. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 to discuss your situation. We are here to help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Write a Letter of Intent

There are numerous issues that can be addressed by a letter of intent (LOI), both in the business arena and in more personal contexts. Your LOI is a valuable piece in your estate planning, and although it is an informal letter, it can more fully represent your intentions after you die. Everyone knows they need to make a will, but this lesser-known document can also be a crucial estate planning tool.

What is a Letter of Intent?

The letter itself has no legal standing, so it can’t supersede a will. Still, a letter of intent, also called a letter of instruction, can be of enormous practical and emotional value to your loved ones. A letter of intent conveys essential information about personal and financial matters in combination with your will. Since letters of intent are not legally binding and do not replace a will or trust, they are not a requirement; however, they are an excellent complement to those legal documents.

A parent may write an LOI to express their hopes and dreams for their children in detail if both parents die, mainly when their children are still minors. An LOI often influences family court judge’s decision-making concerning children. Particularly, if you have a child with special needs, an LOI can outline how to help create a more stable world for your child’s future challenges. The letter may outline a child’s current needs and routines and any aspirations the parents have of their future employment, relationships, and independence of living under the oversight of a named guardian in the parents’ wills. It is crucial to have an estate planning attorney review any LOI in the circumstances of minor children to ensure it echoes the same structure and sentiments of your will.

Drafting a letter of intent is also for more general purposes, guiding your family to understand your intentions after you are gone. For instance, you may want to include funeral and burial arrangement information in your LOI. Outline whatever plans you have regarding the type of viewing and funeral service you prefer, if any. Include whether you desire cremation or burial. Your letter of intent may include who you want to officiate your funeral service and include special touches like seating arrangements for family, specific religious passages, and music selections. You can also request your family members inform people of your passing by providing their names and contact information in a list.

What Does a Letter of Intent Include?

A letter of intent is ideal for leaving information about bank accounts, personal assets, and any hidden stashes of cash or precious metals. For bank accounts and the like, please list the names and contact information of the professionals familiar with your accounts to help your family locate them. Remember to include the physical location of all relevant documents such as your will, trust documents, titles, deeds, insurance cards, driver’s license, birth certificate, marriage license, divorce documents, military paperwork, social security card, passport, mortgages, and outstanding debt. It is better to include too much information rather than too little. Your family needs as much data as possible to piece together the details of your estate.

Do not forget to include relevant digital information in your LOI. Much of our lives now reside online; therefore, leaving access information to your digital assets is very important. Include login URLs for digital accounts such as cryptocurrency, email, social media, income-producing storefronts, or influencer accounts, and the devices themselves such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops or PCs. Provide user names and passwords, PINS, and account numbers for each account. Make plans to gift these devices if you desire and list which individual receives which device.

Your personal items, particularly sentimental ones, may become a source of contention among your loved ones. Whether jewelry, artwork, fine china, or other valuable collectibles, it is best to sort out to whom these items will go and include that list in your letter of intent. You may also include wishes for the care of any surviving pets you might leave behind. Your letter is your final opportunity to include personal statements about your property division and your hopes and wishes for the future to individual family members.

Make sure that your letter of intent does not contradict your existing estate plan. Your LOI may be changed whenever you prefer throughout your lifetime, and it is good to revisit its contents as you accumulate more assets and should your feelings change as to who shall receive what. It is helpful to provide the most current copy of your LOI to your executor and your attorney. A thoughtful LOI can be an authentic source of comfort and peace to your family during their time of grief. If there is a disparity in your bequests, a letter of intent can help your family come to terms with your decision-making process and help loved ones move forward.

If you would like to discuss creating your estate plan or LOI, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 We would be honored to assist you!

Inheritances can be Provided through Charitable Trusts

Inheritances can be Provided through Charitable Trusts

An irrevocable trust that provides income to heirs while benefiting you or a charity is a charitable trust. If you are philanthropically minded with nonessential assets like stocks or real estate, a charitable trust can offer many financial advantages for all those involved. Once in place, a charitable trust is irrevocable even if you experience a personal or business financial loss. There are two primary charitable trust types:

Charitable Lead Trust (CLT) – This trust is designed to distribute a portion of its proceeds to charity for which you receive a tax deduction equal to the payments. The remainder of the principal is distributed among your beneficiaries.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) – This trust grants income to a designated individual by distributing non-income-producing assets first placed in the trust. A charitable donations tax deduction applies to the remaining assets earmarked for the charity. The chosen charity receives the remaining assets at the end of the trust’s term or upon your death.

Each trust type comes with many options to consider and strategies for maximizing its benefits. Both trust types do not require you to choose your charity beneficiary. Instead, you create a donor-advised fund that directs payments from either trust type to your chosen charities. This tactic allows flexibility to change your mind about an existing charity or add a new one.

For income-producing purposes to heirs, a charitable remainder trust provides options from the sale of your non-income-producing assets. For example, purchasing a life insurance policy can have premiums paid by the charitable remainder trust while using residual funds to support philanthropic intentions.

Charitable Remainder Trusts are also known as a split-interest trust, making payments from income first to the beneficiary or beneficiaries in a set amount with the remaining income supporting the organization, which is the opposite of a Charitable Lead Trust. The two ways to receive trust payments in a Charitable Remainder Trust are either a fixed annuity or a percent of trust assets known as a unitrust.

In a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust, it is not permissible to change the annuity amount once the trust is created, so it is best to over-fund rather than not have enough. An annuity trust provides a fixed dollar amount each year even if the trust’s income is less than anticipated.

A Charitable Remainder Unitrust allows receipt of a fixed percentage of the trust’s assets each year. The trust’s value receives an annual appraisal which determines the dollar amount of the set percentage for distribution. This funding method ties income to the trust’s success, providing more in good years and less in years when assets are underperforming. If trust payments are not a significant source of income to beneficiaries, this can be a good option. The IRS requires a minimum five percent distribution of the trust valuation annually.

Work with an estate attorney to design a charitable trust. They can help you determine which charitable trust type is best for you and what assets to place in the trust. An estate planning attorney will help you identify beneficiaries and payment strategies, as well as the value of your tax deduction. Once you draw up the trust document, the assets will be moved to fund the charitable trust unless you create the trust as part of your will.

The charity you seek to benefit may have preferences about how and when to donate. Speak with the organization before creating an irrevocable charitable trust. This trust type can lessen your income, estate, and capital gains taxes by making 501(c)(3) donations to a charity and providing a steady income to heirs. Creating a charitable trust is a practical, multipronged approach to leaving your legacy, permitting the allocation of money for both a charity and your beneficiaries while realizing specific tax advantages.

For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

 

 

Achieving Advanced Directives Requires Critical Conversations

It is among the most difficult challenges we will ever have to confront in life to consider our own death. Yet it is very important to think carefully about the medical treatment we would want for that challenging time. Medical technology can now keep us alive long after we have ceased to enjoy meaningful quality of life.

A series of legal rulings around thirty years ago established the rights of patients to decide when life support should be stopped. The fear of being kept alive indefinitely by artificial means led many to create legal documents known as advance directives.  An advance directive expresses our wishes about the kind of medical treatment we would prefer. It is called “advance,” meaning ahead of time; and “directive,” meaning our directions for whether we want medical providers to keep us alive at all costs, or whether we would prefer to pass naturally when life becomes no longer meaningful. It is wise to think about this, and to create such a document, well before we are facing the end.

After thirty years, concerns have now shifted to assess whether advance directives really do serve the purpose for which they are intended. Do advance directives really ensure that we receive the treatment we would like?

The short answer is “yes but.”

Yes because it is just as important now to create a legal document by which to appoint a person to help communicate our wishes. The “but” part comes in with the issues raised below.

The answer to these issues is the same as it has always been: to establish a close relationship with one or two people – called “agents” or “proxies” – whom patients appoint to step in when patients can no longer make health-care decisions for themselves. Patients must talk with their agents so the agents will know, in as much depth as possible, where the patient stands on end-of-life questions.

Over the years, we have learned that advance directives might not work as well as they could. Here are concerns that have emerged:

➢        It is unrealistic to micro-manage health care in advance. There are so many variables that depend on the particular situation. Treating a complicated illness has been likened to a jigsaw puzzle, where each puzzle piece could fit multiple other pieces; the right fit for each piece must be arrived-at, often by a team of various specialists who sort through the pieces and collaborate in assembling the picture. Under those circumstances, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to interpret a legal document that was intended to guide detailed medical treatment for as-yet-unknown conditions.

➢        The “check-the-boxes” approach taken by many “fill-in-the-blank” forms is too crude to be helpful in any but the most general of ways. Without additional detail, these documents don’t adequately address the nuances that almost always arise.

➢        Change is constant and humans are adaptable. It is one thing to imagine, when in good health, that life would not be worth living if, say, one became permanently bedridden. But when the patient is actually in that situation, new meaning in life could emerge. Choices made years in the past might look a lot different in the moment of truth.

➢        The prognosis can change with time. As reported in Kaiser Health News,

if a senior contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic, and her advance directive stated that she did not want to be placed on a ventilator, doctors tended to assume that the virus was universally fatal to such seniors. Some never got the care that could have saved their lives.

➢        The documents must be readily available, both at patients’ homes and in agents’ hands too. They must not be hidden away and forgotten-about, so no one can locate them when they are needed.

The best alternative is to create an effective, current, and available legal document backed up by serious talk between the patient and the agent or proxy. A document that meets legal requirements is essential, but beyond that: conversation in advance is the crucial additional element.

That conversation should occur first between the patient and their agent or proxy, in which they discuss quality of life issues and what matters most to the patient. The talk should avoid excessive detail for hypothetical situations that may never arise. Rather, the aim should be to provide the agents or proxies with enough information to be able to respond flexibly to unforeseen circumstances.

These conversations can be challenging. Helpful resources to assist can be found at The Conversation Project (https://theconversationproject.org) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/acp-resources-public.pdf).

Then, if the time comes when the patient is unable to speak or make decisions, the agent will be best equipped to convey the patient’s wishes to medical providers. Knowing those wishes in advance, the agent can focus on ensuring that providers furnish as much information as possible to make the hard decisions on the facts as they presently exist.

What if you are alone and without a person whom you trust to be your agent? First, study the guidance resources provided in this article. Then call us to create a legally effective advance directive document that spells out your wishes. And the final step would be to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your wishes. Give him or her a copy of your document.

Again, all must make sure that doctors and agents have copies ready for use. And everyone should also carry a wallet card to inform health-care providers whom to call in case of an emergency. Print one here,

https://www.aha.org/system/files/2018-01/piiw-walletcard.pdf

provided by the American Hospital Association.

There are no assurances in this life, except that it will end for us all. The hope is that we will have delegated people whom we trust to step in when we need them – and that we will have talked with them about the kind of care we want to prepare for a passing that is as peaceful and merciful as it can be.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 we are happy to help.