What Are the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia develop slowly over a number of years Sometimes these signs are mistaken for normal, age-related mental decline instead of the result of a more serious problem.

Because the symptoms progress slowly, it’s easy for loved one’s to deny they even exist until an event happens that is so uncharacteristic or bizarre that the symptoms become undeniable.

We’ve seen this type of denial in our family.

Look for the below-mentioned signs and consider a planning meeting with our attorneys before the situation deteriorates beyond repair.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life, especially newly-learned information. Early symptoms include repeatedly asking the same questions, and increasingly relying on memory aids, such as notes, to recall routine tasks.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. The onset of Alzheimer’s can make it difficult keep track of finances, and plan and cook meals. Sometimes, people give gifts or make unusual purchases.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure, such as driving to a familiar location or recalling the rules of a game.
  4. Disorientation of time or place. Those with Alzheimer’s can experience confusion about where they are, how they got there, or what day it is.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, such as depth perception. This leads to people tripping on stairs or ledges and can cause physical harm.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s struggle with remembering the right word or use the wrong word to describe familiar objects. Sometimes, people will avoid discussing certain issues or avoid situations altogether to cover up these signs.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps to locate them. This includes keys and medications.
  8. Poor or impaired judgment. Those with Alzheimer’s may be more prone to give away large sums of money to telemarketers, dress inappropriately, or keep up with personal hygiene. They may even forget to eat for days at a time.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality. Symptoms can include mood swings, anxiety and delusions.

Our recommendations if a loved one is experiencing these symptoms:

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends seeing a doctor right away if you or someone you love experiences any of these symptoms because early diagnosis and treatment can delay the progression of Alzheimer’s.

In our pre-planning session, we discuss estate planning documents to protect your loved ones and options for long term care including Medicaid and VA planning.

Schedule a meeting today. 817.638.9016 or RWeaver@weaverlegal.net

Nursing Home Bill Blues? How You May Qualify for Payment

Yes, you or your loved one may qualify for payment of nursing home care.

Understanding the rules and proper legal planning within the rules may help you understand about options that may pay your nursing home bill.  

Who pays for nursing home care? Medicare and Medicaid are different programs offering different solutions.

  • Medicaid pays for nursing home care for qualified men and women and pays for health care for qualified low-income individuals.
  • Medicare provides health insurance for people age 65 and over.

Good news! You can qualify for both programs at the same time, known as “dual eligibility.”

There are about 11 million people who are dual eligible, including many seniors who need nursing home care or are already in nursing homes.

Working with an attorney focused on elder law may help you make proper legal arrangements to

How To Qualify for Medicaid Nursing Home Benefits and Medicare Health Insurance

Medicare Qualification: Anyone qualified for Social Security benefits (retirement or disability) is eligible for Medicare. Remember, Medicare is health insurance for those age 65 or older.

Medicaid Qualification: People with specific income and resources are eligible for Medicaid, including paying for nursing home services. 

Proper legal planning for nursing home qualification may make a difference in keeping your home, car, etc.
At first glance at the qualification table below, you may assume very few assets can be retained by a healthy spouse and still allow the dependent spouse to qualify for Medicaid nursing home care. In many situations, proper legal planning provides protection of family assets.

Every case is different. We’ll be glad to visit with you about your situation. 

More Medicare & Medicaid Benefits

There are also different levels of Medicare and Medicaid coverage, so a person who is dual-eligible may fall into one of these four categories:

  • Qualified Medicare beneficiaries may pay for Part A and Part B premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.
  • Specified low-income Medicare beneficiaries have their Part B premiums covered by Medicaid.
  • Qualifying individuals may also receive help from Medicaid for their Part B premiums.
  • Qualified disabled working individuals may have their Part A premiums covered by Medicaid. This program is limited to individuals with disabilities who are working.

As we described earlier in this article, in many cases, nursing home care can be provided through Medicaid for a husband or wife and the more physically able spouse can maintain a level of financial independence. Give us a call at 817-638-9016 to set up an appointment with Travis Weaver or Rick Weaver — both are elder care-focused attorneys at Weaver Firm – Attorneys. Rick is also board certified by the State Bar of Texas in the area of estate planning and probate law.

travis-r-weaver

Travis Weaver, Attorney Focused on Elder Care

Texas Supreme Court Reverses Ambiguous Will Holding . . . Teaches Valuable Lesson

In Knopf v. Gray, the will disposed of the testator’s entire estate as follows:

 “NOW BOBBY I leave the rest to you, everything, certificates of deposit, land, cattle and machinery, Understand the land is not to be sold but passed on down to your children, ANNETTE KNOPF, ALLISON KILWAY, AND STANLEY GRAY. TAKE CARE OF IT AND TRY TO BE HAPPY.”

Bobby then tried to sell the property to someone else and his children sued him, claiming Bobby only possessed a life estate in the property. After a lengthy legal battle, the Texas Supreme Court held that the provision in Bobby’s Will merely created a life estate:

We need only read the provision as a whole to see a layperson’s clearly expressed intent to create what the law calls a life estate. Reading all three clauses together, Allen grants the land to Bobby subject to the limitations that he not sell it, that he take care of it, and that it be passed down to his children. This represents the essence of a life estate; a life tenant’s interest in the property is limited by the general requirement that he preserve the remainder interest unless otherwise authorized in the will. Allen’s words in the contested provision unambiguously refer to elements of a life estate and designate her grandchildren, the petitioners, as the remaindermen. The language thus clearly demonstrates that the phrase “passed on down,” as used here, encompasses a transfer upon Bobby’s death.

The Court’s ruling is an important reminder to make sure your Will is clear and correct.

Call us today 817.638.9016

 

Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors

We are all targets for scammers. Since we often help older individuals, our lawyers at Weaver Firm – Attorneys are especially careful to warn our elderly clients about these schemes.

Seniors make good targets because they generally have good credit and accessible savings.

Further, many seniors are alone or suffer from conditions like memory loss or frailty, which creates an easier target for fraud.

Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors – Protect yourself and loved ones by reviewing these common fraud schemes that prey on older men and women

  • Medicare & Health Insurance Scams: In these schemes, a con artist pretends to be a Medicare representative and will call or set up a makeshift mobile clinic to try to get people age 65 or older to reveal personal information.  With access to personal information, these con artists later file false claims against Medicare and pocket the money. DON’T GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION TO STRANGERS.
  • Counterfeit Prescription Drugs Schemes: Often, these Internet schemes offer specialized medications at a bargain price. These schemes are dangerous because seniors can lose a lot of money and may not receive the real medications they need.
  • Funeral & Cemetery Scams: This scam involves a crook who scans obituaries and then attends funeral services to take advantage of a grieving spouse or family member.  Often the crook then claims that the decedent owed the crook money and will try to collect on a fake debt.
  • Internet Fraud: Email phishing scams range from those involving a Nigerian prince to a surprise inheritance from an unknown relative.  Seniors also unwittingly update personal information in response to a phishing email from what appears to be a legitimate company or known sender. If  someone offers you a large sum of cash over the internet, avoid these emails.
  • Homeowner & Reverse Mortgage Scams: These scams affect seniors who have equity in their homes. These scams range from predatory lending practices to sales products that can only be purchased with proceeds from a reverse mortgage to family members pressuring a senior to obtain a reverse mortgage in order to steal the proceeds of the loan.
  • The Grandparent Scam: In this scam, a crook calls a senior and says, “Hi, Grandma, do you know who this is?” The senior takes guesses on which grandchild the caller sounds like.  The caller then asks for money to solve some unexpected financial problem like car repairs or overdue rent and begs the senior not to tell the “grandchild’s” parents.
  • Telemarketer Fraud: This common scheme involves a telemarketer asking for identity or financial information.  Some statistics suggest that seniors are twice as likely to make a purchase over the phone. This form of scam is difficult to trace because there is no face-to-face interaction or paper trail.  Scammers usually share the valuable identity and financial information with others.
  • Sweepstakes Scams: In this well-known scheme, a senior is told that he or she won the lottery and needs to pay a fee to unlock the supposed prize. A check is sent to the senior and deposited into the senior’s account, until the senior discovers the fake check has been rejected.  By the time the senior discovers the fake check, the criminals have already collected the fees, which are pocketed by the crooks.
  • Home Repair Schemes: These crooks go door-to-door to conduct home repairs on seniors’ homes. The scam varies from overcharging for work to requiring payment upfront without finishing the work.  These crooks also lure seniors outside of the home to view the proposed repair, and while the senior is outside, an accomplice enters the home to steal valuables.
  • Investment Schemes: Where many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings, these seniors should be wary of pyramid schemes complex financial products that lack strong endorsements from trusted finance sources.

Avoid these scams by refusing high-pressure deals, guarding all personal and financial information, and practicing caution with any offer that sounds too good to be true.  However, having a carefully drafted power of attorney is another way to guard against fraud.  With a power of attorney, a senior can appoint a trusted individual to help manage and monitor financial transactions. If you find yourself in a situation like this, contact one of our attorneys at Weaver Firm – Attorneys before you release information.

817.638.2022 or

RWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net

Skating On Thin Ice – Daughter May Waste Inheritance

Protecting your child once meant insisting on a sweater, warm hat, and gloves. In the cold reality of adult life, your adult child may make poor financial choices and endure major slips and falls.

Check out a client’s questions and our response on providing income to an adult child after you’ve skated away permanently:   

Dear Weaver Firm,

I am in my 70’s and have two children from a previous marriage of five years. One has a son and the other has two daughters.

My daughter is married and values material things far more important than financial security. She and her husband stay in debt, which has contributed to a rocky relationship for the past 15 years. I don’t know if it will last or not, especially when my granddaughter leaves home in just a few years.

More than likely, there will be some money left when my current husband and I are gone. Is there a way to assure that whatever she might be left would be protected from her wasting it away and instead, possibly contribute to her old age? We have individual wills but wondered if a trust of some sort or other type of document would be better? 

What would be the best way to structure this for both of my children and grandchildren and also, my husband’s one family member that he wants to leave something to? My current husband and I have been together for the last 35 years and live in Texas.

-Concerned Client

Dear Client,

Your question has two parts: Do you split your estate equally? And, how do you split your estate?

The first one is easy: Yes. You want to leave your children something, but you don’t want to leave them with resentments and questions. You want to leave this world in a swift, graceful manner that leaves people with a good feeling — the inheritance equivalent of the triple axel from the 2018 Winter Olympics: three equal, generously timed moves, and then you’re off the proverbial ice. Except in your case, for good.

As to your second question. I suggest an irrevocable trust, outlining ways in which your inheritance should be spent. This has two advantages. Your son has a financially responsible life, so he will be glad with any bequest and, I’m sure, will be heartened to know there is money set aside for home improvements or his children’s education. Your daughter, while not so financially responsible or astute, gets the same deal. Only in her case, you are protecting her from herself and protecting the interests of your granddaughter.

You don’t say what relationship your husband’s relative has to him, but if it’s not a sibling, you may consider leaving him/her a smaller amount than the money you leave the rest of your family. You may want to discuss the tax implications of such a trust with a financial adviser when you have decided on your stipulations and the amounts.

You want to appoint someone who has no conflict of interest whether that person is a professional trustee — that is, a bank or trust company — or not. You need to depend on that person to act in a competent and trustworthy manner.

This Trust can be contained in your Will (testamentary trust) or a standalone document. 

Planning for blended family is crucial to avoid hard feelings and litigation down the road. We’re glad to visit with you about your options and concern for your adult children. Call 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment with attorneys, Travis Weaver or Rick Weaver. At Weaver Firm, we understand your concerns. Let us help protect your family and their future.

817.638.9016 or RWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net

Nursing Home Bill Blues? How You May Qualify for Payment

Yes, you or your loved one may qualify for payment of nursing home care.

Understanding the rules and proper legal planning within the rules may help you understand about options that may pay your nursing home bill.  

Who pays for nursing home care? Medicare and Medicaid are different programs offering different solutions.

  • Medicaid pays for nursing home care for qualified men and women and pays for health care for qualified low-income individuals.
  • Medicare provides health insurance for people age 65 and over.

Good news! You can qualify for both programs at the same time, known as “dual eligibility.”

There are about 11 million people who are dual eligible, including many seniors who need nursing home care or are already in nursing homes.

Working with an attorney focused on elder law may help you make proper legal arrangements to

How To Qualify for Medicaid Nursing Home Benefits and Medicare Health Insurance

Medicare Qualification: Anyone qualified for Social Security benefits (retirement or disability) is eligible for Medicare. Remember, Medicare is health insurance for those age 65 or older.

Medicaid Qualification: People with specific income and resources are eligible for Medicaid, including paying for nursing home services. 

Proper legal planning for nursing home qualification may make a difference in keeping your home, car, etc.
At first glance at the qualification table below, you may assume very few assets can be retained by a healthy spouse and still allow the dependent spouse to qualify for Medicaid nursing home care. In many situations, proper legal planning provides protection of family assets.

Every case is different. We’ll be glad to visit with you about your situation. 

More Medicare & Medicaid Benefits

There are also different levels of Medicare and Medicaid coverage, so a person who is dual-eligible may fall into one of these four categories:

  • Qualified Medicare beneficiaries may pay for Part A and Part B premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.
  • Specified low-income Medicare beneficiaries have their Part B premiums covered by Medicaid.
  • Qualifying individuals may also receive help from Medicaid for their Part B premiums.
  • Qualified disabled working individuals may have their Part A premiums covered by Medicaid. This program is limited to individuals with disabilities who are working.

As we described earlier in this article, in many cases, nursing home care can be provided through Medicaid for a husband or wife and the more physically able spouse can maintain a level of financial independence. Give us a call at 817-638-9016 to set up an appointment with Travis Weaver or Rick Weaver — both are elder care-focused attorneys at Weaver Firm – Attorneys. Rick is also board certified by the State Bar of Texas in the area of estate planning and probate law.

travis-r-weaver

Travis Weaver, Attorney Focused on Elder Care

Are You Dead? Not Yet? How to Get Your Affairs In Order

cartoon

You may not be dead yet, but odds are it’ll happen. Setting up plans while you’re able helps make the situation after your death less difficult for those you leave behind.  And, your loved ones will thank you. 

How To Get Your Affairs In Order 

Collect all of your important papers in one place and tell someone where they are located. Preferably a trusted family member. Here’s a short list of important documents: 

  • Your Social Security card, living will, military records and other legal documents;
  • Contact information for your estate planning attorney, accountant, banks, investment firms and life insurance company;
  • Bank account info, safe deposit box key, vehicle titles, the deed to the house and last year’s tax return.
  • You may want to avoid probate by adding another person to titles and property—ask your attorney how to do this correctly;
  • Monthly bills, property tax bills, credit card companies, passwords for online billing, as well as passwords for PCs and electronic devices.

Go through your home with family members and/or friends and inventory items they hope to inherit after your death. Do this one-on-one to avoid hurt feelings and give you time to decide on how to handle sought after antiques, collectibles, memorabilia, etc. 

Put your inventory list with your important papers. Some people like placing labels on items to show who receives each specific dish, lamp, work of art, etc. In most cases, I like a written or typed and signed list because labels have the tendency “walk away” once you are gone.

Take steps for remaining alive, but unable to make decisions. Here are recommendations:

  • Give permission in advance through a durable power of attorney for health care and a regular durable power of attorney to someone you trust.
  • Choose someone you trust. Without your authority, your caregiver won’t be able to access information, consult with your doctor or pay your bills. Choose a person you believe will handle these responsibilities. 
  • An advance directive is used when you get sick. If you know what kind of care you want or don’t want, draft a living will so that your family won’t have to make the difficult decision to take you off life support. You will have made that decision in this document long before the situation arises. 

Make your own funeral and burial arrangements. This decreases the burden on your family and ensures your wishes will be followed after death. Pre-pay your burial and funeral expenses to lock in today’s cost.

Talk to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney about setting up your will or using a trust to avoid probate altogether and help avoid conflicts among loved ones. 

Need some help with these plans or other life-changing moments? Give us a call at Weaver Firm- Attorneys today at 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment.

5 Retiree Tax Updates from New Tax Laws

As a retiree, you deserve an easy-going, good life. Managing your retirement income  and understanding how the $1.2 trillion tax overhaul signed into law by President Trump may affect your retirement funds is important.  To save us all from boredom, we’ll stick to the five most important items of note (in our opinion).

These changes would be for next year’s taxes, to be filed in 2019. Tax returns for 2017 tax returns are due on April 17 . . .unless you extend.

5 Retiree Tax Updates Resulting From New Tax Law

Retirees will have to be more strategic about their IRA conversions

The new tax bill would stop what’s called “recharacterizations” of IRAs. Recharacterizations allow a person to undo their decision to rollover or convert accounts to Roth IRAs. Therefore, retirement savers who have already made these conversions this year should consider before the new year if they want to reverse them.

Check out this calculator to see if you’ll owe more or less next year: The Trump calculator — will you pay more or less?

And contribute to charity twice every two years

Retirees likely won’t be itemizing since they don’t have many deductions, except for charitable contributions, property taxes and perhaps state income taxes.

Some retirees may want to take advantage of Qualified Charitable Distributions, which allow them to donate directly to charity from their individual retirement accounts without having to itemize those donations (after 70 ½ years old). Because of the increase in the standard deduction, retirees may benefit from making more charitable donations, but less frequently — for example, donate twice as much, but every other year — which would help taxpayers by having more to write off than the standard deduction limit.

Personal income tax rates are changing, but still important

Personal income taxes would be lowered for most households — to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. Retirees will have to watch their income to avoid ending up in a higher tax bracket. Income includes withdrawals from retirement accounts, required minimum distributions and ordinary income. For example, people with large balances might want to begin distributions before turning 70 ½ years old, when they’ll be required to take distributions in some accounts — that way, when they get there, they won’t be forced into a higher tax bracket.

It takes a little calculating, and predicting what income will look like in the future versus now, but it could save retirees money down the road.

Small businesses may not offer retirement accounts

Most 401(k) plans and similar defined contribution benefits are offered by large employers because they’re too expensive for small businesses to administer. Under tax reform, it may become even less advantageous for small businesses to host these accounts.

The bill reduces the income tax rate for small businesses but does not address offering or contributing to retirement plans, which are incentives to establish these accounts, according to the American Retirement Association.

Some retirees may want to move

Deductions for mortgage interest rates were left untouched, and $10,000 in local property taxes will be deductible on a federal level. That means income tax-free states will be best for retirees. Retirees are more easily able to move from state to state because they have no job tying them down, he said, which also means they can be more sensitive to the various income tax rates in various states. There are a few states that soar above the rest for tax-friendly states best for retirees, such as Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The new bill also reduces the maximum amount of mortgage debt a person can acquire for their first or second residence, to $750,000 for married couples filing joint tax returns (or $375,000) for those married filing separately, down from $1 million. This won’t affect home purchases before Dec. 16, 2017 so long as the home closed before April 1, 2018.

If you have questions about the tax plan or about estate planning in general, give us a call at 817.638.9016.

How to Inherit an IRA

For many, the most special person in their lives is their spouse. The tax code treats spouses in unique ways by granting them abilities unavailable to others. Inheriting an IRA is one of those times.

Your spouse has options when inheriting your IRA. Here they are:

The most often used spouses-only option is the ability to roll the IRA into their own name. This makes things very simple for the surviving spouse. By rolling into their own name, they call all the shots and the funds are treated as if they had always been in the spouse’s name.

Most surviving spouses do this reflexively as the default. It feels like a no-brainer.

However, there are circumstances in which other options should be considered. Three that we see a lot are a surviving spouse who is older than the deceased spouse, a surviving spouse who is under 59 ½ years old and a surviving spouse in a high marginal income tax bracket.

When the survivor is older than the deceased and rolls the IRA into their own name, the IRA is treated as if it were always the survivor’s so Required Minimum Distributions are based on the survivor’s higher age. RMDs will be larger if they had already begun or will start sooner if they had not already begun.

This can be addressed by taking the deceased’s IRA as an inherited IRA. The IRA stays in the deceased’s name and the surviving spouse is referred to in the title with wording like “spousal beneficiary”. RMDs will then be based upon the deceased’s birthdate and the Single Life table unless and until the funds are rolled into an IRA just in the surviving spouse’s name.

When it comes to retirement, 60s are the new 50s
 
When the survivor is under 59 ½ and rolls the IRA into their own name, the IRA is treated as if it were always the survivor’s so distributions could be subject to the 10% early distribution penalty. This too can be addressed by taking the deceased’s IRA as an inherited IRA. The survivor will be able to take distributions at will, pay the applicable taxes but avoid the 10% penalty. Once the survivor reaches 59 ½, they can roll the deceased’s IRA into their own IRA if they wish.

A surviving spouse in a high-income tax bracket with no need for the taxable income that comes from the IRA may prefer that lower income family members inherit the IRA money instead. The surviving spouse can disclaim their interest. The disclaiming spouse does not get to decide how the funds are distributed. The funds flow to the contingent beneficiaries as though the disclaiming spouse pre-deceased the original IRA owner. Anyone interested in disclaiming should consult a qualified attorney.

If you have questions about your IRA or an inherited IRA, please contact us today. 817.638.9016.

Love & A Prenup – All You Need

Valentine’s Day happens this month and love surrounds us. Well, some of us. While we wish everyone a long and romantic union, making sure husbands and wives agree on practical matters now and in the future is a good idea. Make that a great idea.

Premarital agreements—also called prenuptial agreements or “prenups”—allow husbands and wives to share important financial information and plan for their future. While prenups are often used to address the terms of a future divorce, they can also serve other purposes.

Financial Matters Covered By Premarital Agreements

Prenups are primarily used to address the impact of a marriage and/or divorce on financial issues. Some issues that you may want to cover in your premarital agreement include the following:

  • How separate property will be treated during the marriage and in a divorce
  • How property acquired during the marriage will be treated by both spouses and in the case of a divorce
  • Whether a dependent spouse has a right to receive alimony or post-separation support, and the terms of any alimony payments
  • What happens to property upon the death of either spouse (estate planning issues)
  • Any other issue relating to the marriage that doesn’t violate public policy

Note that some of these issues are related to how the couple will treat financial matters during the marriage, not just in the case of a divorce. Financial problems are a common cause of marital discord, and a premarital agreement can avoid some of these problems before they happen by clearly stating the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

Prenups also cover Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance issues. If you are bringing significant assets to the Marriage, plan ahead!

Who Needs a Prenup?

Any couple that’s about to get married could benefit from a prenup. Some people have more of a need than others.  You may be one of these folks if you have any or all of these situations:

  1. If you have valuable assets or own a business, you may have a stronger need for a prenuptial agreement.
  2. Couples who have significant differences in their assets or income are also good candidates for prenups.
  3. If you have children from a previous marriage, you may want to use a premarital agreement to clarify which pieces of property you’d like to set aside for your children.

Prenuptial agreements are an effective tool for settling financial issues that arise during a marriage or divorce, but they need to be carefully drafted to address your unique circumstances. If you are considering signing or creating a premarital agreement, schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney. Our attorneys have deep experience in this area and would be glad to visit with you about your options. Call our office at 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment with Travis Weaver, attorney, or Rick Weaver, attorney