If youre part of a blended family (meaning you are married with children from a prior marriage in the mix), youre no stranger to the extra considerations and planning it takes to keep your familys life running smoothly from which parent your children will be with for the holidays to figuring out the schedule for a much-needed family vacation. Youve also probably given some thought to what you want to happen to your assets and your family if something happens to you. But what you might not have realized is this: If you dont create a plan for your assets before you die, the law has its own plan for you that might not reflect your wishes for your assets, especially your retirement assets. And if youre in a blended family, this can have a significant financial impact on the ones you love and even create expensive, long-term conflict.This week, we explain how the law affects retirement distributions for married couples, and why you need to be extra careful with your retirement planning if youre in a blended family to ensure your retirement account assets go to the right people in the right amounts after youre gone.Be Aware of How ERISA Affects 401K DistributionsIf youve remarried, you and your new spouse have probably talked about updating the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts to reflect your blended family arrangement. (If you havent talked about it, you need to talk about it ASAP). Sometimes, people who are remarried decide to leave their retirement funds to their children from a prior marriage and leave other assets like their house and savings accounts to their current spouse. You may do this to avoid future conflict between your spouse and your children over your assets.But even if you want to leave your retirement for just your children, if youre married and your retirement account is a work-sponsored account, your children wont inherit the entire account even if you name them as the sole beneficiaries. Thats because the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) governs most employer-sponsored pensions and retirement accounts. Under ERISA, if youre married at the time of your death, your spouse is automatically entitled to receive 50 percent of the value of your employer-sponsored plan even if your beneficiary designations say otherwise.The only time that your surviving spouse would not inherit half of your ERISA-governed retirement account is if your spouse signs an official Spousal Waiver saying they are affirmatively waiving their right to inherit 50 percent of the account, or if the account beneficiary is a Trust of which your spouse is a primary beneficiary. IRAs Have Different Rules Than 401KsIf you want your children to inherit more than 50 percent of your work-sponsored retirement benefits, and completing a Spousal Waiver isnt an option, consider rolling the account into a personal IRA instead.In contrast to 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored plans, IRAs are controlled by state law instead of ERISA. That means that your spouse is not automatically entitled to any part of your IRA. When you roll a 401(k) into an IRA, you gain the flexibility to name anyone you choose as the designated beneficiary, with or without your spouses consent. On the other hand, if you want to ensure your spouse receives half of your retirement savings, make sure to include them as a 50 percent beneficiary or better yet, have your individual retirement account payout to a Trust instead. With a Trust, you can:Document exactly how much of your retirement you want each of your loved ones to receiveControl when they receive the funds outrightEasily update and change the terms of your Trust without having to remember to update your financial accounts.Beneficiary Designations Always Trump Your WillWhether you have an employer-sponsored 401K or an IRA you manage yourself, there is one critical rule that everyone needs to know: beneficiary designations trump your Will.A Will is an important estate planning tool, but most people dont know that beneficiary designations override whatever your Will says about a particular asset. For example, if your Will states that you want your retirement account to be passed on to your brother, but the beneficiary designation on the account says you want it to go to your sister, your sister will inherit the account, even though your Will says otherwise.Similarly, lets imagine that you get divorced and as part of your divorce decree your ex-spouse agrees that they will not have any right to your retirement fund. However, after the divorce, you forget to take their name off of the beneficiary designation for the account. If you die before updating the beneficiary designation, your former spouse will inherit your retirement account. If you forget to update your ERISA-controlled account and have remarried, your current spouse would receive half of the account and your former spouse would receive the other half. Thats why its so important to work with an estate planning attorney who can make sure your accounts are set up with the proper beneficiary designations and ensure that your assets are passed on according to your wishes.Work With An Attorney Who Makes Sure All Your Assets Will Be Passed On How You Want Them ToUnderstanding how the law affects different types of assets is essential to creating an estate plan. But theres more to it than just having a lawyer you need an attorney who takes the time to really understand your family and your assets so they can design a custom plan that achieves your goals for your assets and your legacy. Thats why we help our clients create an inventory of all of their assets to ensure that every asset they hold is accounted for and passed on to their loved ones exactly as they want it to.Contact Entrusted Legacy Law at 412-347-1731.
Weve all seen the commercial with the infamous line: Help, Ive fallen and I cant get up! The advertisement itself may have been a bit melodramatic, but it raises an important question: what should seniors do if they actually fall and cannot get up?This is where a medical alert system can be critical.What are Medical Alert Systems?Medical alert systems, sometimes referred to as life alert devices, are emergency monitors for seniors to use as they go about their everyday lives. Many medical alert systems are used in the seniors home. These usually consist of a base unit and sensors that are mounted on the wall of the home. These types of systems can detect a fall in the home and trigger an automatic call to emergency services.Some systems also come with a portable option for the senior to wear wherever they go. The main feature of mobile options is the help button. When an emergency such as an injury or fall occurs, seniors can press this button to send out an alert and get the help they need.Oftentimes seniors wear these portable monitors around their neck like a long necklace, on their wrist like a bracelet, on their belt loop, or in their pocket. These monitors should be small and portable so the senior can wear them at all times, and waterproof so they can wear them in the bath or shower a common location for falls.How Do Medical Alert Systems Work?Most medical alert systems allow for real-time tracking through the use of voice, data, and GPS technology. This is important because it gives emergency services the seniors exact location in case of an emergency.With a mobile device, seniors can press the help button after a fall to alert emergency personnel. An in-home system will automatically alert emergency services when it detects a fall. Many basic systems simply alert emergency services once the help button is pressed. More elaborate systems are connected to a 24-hour call center that fields the emergencies and determines the next move. They are able to either alert the seniors emergency contacts (set up ahead of time) or send for emergency services if needed.Who Should Use Medical Alert Systems?All seniors could benefit from having a medical alert system, since you never know when an incident may occur. But, these emergency alert buttons are especially important for seniors who live alone or are aging in place. If a senior who lives alone has a fall and no one is there to help, a medical alert system is not just beneficial; it can actually be lifesaving.Additionally, wearing a medical alert system is one way for seniors to maintain their independence at home while still being prepared for an emergency. And it also provides peace of mind for family members and caregivers that their loved ones can access help in case of an emergency.Why Should Seniors Use a Medical Alert System?The main reason for seniors to use a medical alert system is to allow for fast action in case of a fall or other emergency. According to the CDC, around 36 million falls are reported among seniors every year. Falls can be caused by a number of reasons, such as certain health and cognitive conditions, loss of muscle mass, and weakened eyesight, reflexes, and balance. They can also be caused by unsafe footwear or safety hazards inside and outside the home, like steps, rugs, spills, and clutter.Falls should be taken seriously when they occur. Falls are the leading cause of accidents, serious injuries, and accidental deaths in seniors. To that end, emergency departments treat 3 million seniors for injuries from falls every year. That is more than 8,000 falls every day.The risk of falling can also be a major source of anxiety for seniors, as falls can threaten their independence, mobility, and physical health.Oftentimes when a senior falls, they need help from someone else to regain their balance and get back up. But, if they live alone or no one is around, they may not be able to get themselves up at all. Being stuck on the ground for a long period of time is extremely dangerous for seniors and prolongs their risk of serious injury. Therefore, getting help quickly after a fall is key. With a medical alert system, even a senior who lives alone can have peace of mind that help is available when they need it all at the push of a button. How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?As with all technology, the price of medical alert systems can vary based on equipment, activation, monitoring type, extra devices, and additional features.Some companies allow you to rent their medical alert system equipment, and some require you to buy it. Buying the items may cost anywhere from $50-$350 depending on the type of equipment.In addition, many medical alert systems charge a monthly fee to use their service. This fee pays for access to the 24-hour emergency call center.Generally, the service cost for at-home medical alert systems is around $25 per month or $239 per year. The service cost for on-the-go-devices is slightly more expensive at around $30-$45 a month. Sometimes there is an additional one-time installation or activation fee that can range from $25-$100. However, this fee is often included in the package when you purchase and initiate a medical alert system.Are Medical Alert Systems Covered by Insurance?Usually medical alert systems are not covered by insurance. But, some options might be available to help you cover the cost.For example, your HSA or FSA may offer a deduction for medical alert systems. Medicare Advantage may also cover some of the cost of medical alert systems. You may be able to get coverage through Veterans benefits as well. However, make sure you check with your insurance provider or your states Medicare/Medicaid program, as benefits can vary by policy or state.If you need assistance funding a medical alert system, be sure to contact your local sheriffs office or Area Agency on Aging, which sometimes have grants or resources available. Best Affordable Medical Alert Systems for SeniorsThere are hundreds of companies that sell medical alert systems. Some of the top-rated, affordable options are as follows:MobileHelp - The National Council on Aging (NCOA) voted this company as Best All-Around System. Their monthly fees start at $19.95 and fall buttons are available for an additional $10 per month. They also offer a free trial period.Bay Alarm Medical - The NCOA voted this company as Best for the Price. Their fees start at $25 per month and fall buttons are available for an additional $10 per month. They also offer a free trial period.Lively - Voted Best Health Services by the NCOA, this companys fees start at $25 per month, with fall detection buttons for an additional $25 per month.Other options include Get Safe as a basic option, Medical Guardian MGMove as a wearable option, and Fast Help as an easy, quick option available on Amazon. Some other notable providers of medical alert systems are ADT Medical Alert and Life Alert.How to Help Your Senior Loved OnesMedical alert systems are one impactful way to gain confidence about your senior loved ones safety as they age. For some seniors, this is all the reassurance they need about their safety and independence. But, other seniors may need a little more support.Having a fall can reveal or trigger the need for additional support. Whether you are looking for support in a senior living community or are seeking home health care services, Florida Senior Consulting can help. Our expert senior advisors will find your loved one the care they need to lead a healthy lifestyle, stay safe and lower their risk of falls and injuries. With this peace of mind ultimately comes a better quality of life for seniors and their families.When the decisions become too overwhelming, our experts are here for you. And, we offer these services at no cost to seniors or their families.Senior living on your terms. The choice should be yours.For peace of mind, call us at (800) 969-7176 or visit us at FloridaSeniorConsulting.com.
We cant emphasize enough how important it is to review your will and insurance policies, reassign your Power of Attorney if necessary, and meet with your financial advisor(s) at the beginning of this decade. Ive changed my will three times, and I am 54 as of this writing. Life really does whiz by, and so do all the changes. About one month before your life insurance policy renews, put it on your calendar to meet with your agent. You are not bothering themyoure making their DAY! Regarding your financial advisors or broker, this is another helper you dont want to sit by the phone for, hoping they will call you. They typically only call you when they need you to sign an updated form or something new or unpleasant is about to happen with one of your funds (maybe), and theyll need your verbal permission to move your money into another account. Youll need to be proactive, checking in and scheduling your appointments, even if theyre just phone calls. If youre not certain how to properly access your statements and information online, make sure you get help from your advisor to get in and look, together. They might be the expert here, but in the end, youre in charge, and its YOUR money.Since you dont usually get to choose how youre going to leave this world, you DO get to choose how youll be, um...stored...after you die. In the jar or in the box? Ashes at sea or on a golf course? Do you want to be part of a trees seeds? I want my ashes scattered in Ireland, a trip Ill pay for, for my kids to take my ashy bits and put them into the Irish Sea. Its where my ancestors are from, but thats not the point. Its where I want my ashes to go. I love the ocean, and I love Ireland. And I love my kids. I want them to get on a plane to Dublin, pop into a pub, order beer and a big bowl of (Irish) stew, and talk about me. Im sure theyll regale the locals about what an awesome adventurer I was, and of course, a stellar mother. Then theyll take me to the sea, say a few words, and after checking wind conditions, toss my remains into the water. It's not pleasant to discuss or think about, but it is reality. I know this. We all do, really, we just dont talk about it. If you cant talk about it, write about it. When you pass away, there are going to be questions and uncertainty, let alone grief, from those who you loved you. They will need to understand your wishes as they are dealing with the loss, so it is truly helpful to record the answers to these questions, at the minimum. Make sure you give your executor or executrix this information sooner than later, and keep a copy for yourself.My name is ___________________, and this is what I want done with my: possessions: ________________________________________________________________ money: ____________________________________________________________________ funeral: ____________________________________________________________________ photos: ____________________________________________________________________ digital rights: ________________________________________________________________If you are looking for an incredibly easy tool to use, check out the Peace of Mind Planner: Important Information about My Belongings, Business Affairs, and Wishes, by Peter Pauper Press Inc. It has easy-to-use forms for final thoughts and hopes for you to convey to your family or anyone you will someday leave behind who loves you.This article was adapted from the book Chronological Order: The Fine Print for a Large Life, by Jill B. Yesko and Laurean Kile.