What Are Elder Law and Special Needs Planning?Elder law and special needs planning involve preparing for expected and unexpected life circumstances, including the possibility of becoming incapacitated as well as protecting and providing for future needs of loved ones with disabilities.At its core, Elder Law focuses on the unique needs of older persons and practice areas that address issues of concern for aging adults, adults with disabilities/incapacity, their families and caregivers. Unlike traditional estate planning, Elder Law begins by assisting you with issues associated with a long and healthy life, rather than simply planning for death. It mixes legal and practical issues such as being able to continue residing in your home if you had a chronic condition, having someone help in managing your finances, and not becoming a victim of financial abuse in the process. Elder law endeavors to help you solve the problem of not knowing what you dont know.Special Needs Law focuses on solving legal problems for individuals with special needs and their caregivers. Although there is no uniform definition of special needs, the phrase describes individuals with a wide variety of physical or mental conditions who require assistance with personal care needs, activities of daily living, paying bills, managing finances, etc., who may be vulnerable to and need protection from exploitation or abuse, and who may need access to public benefits or any number of other types of assistance. If you currently provide care for a child or loved one with special needs (such as mental or physical disabilities), you must have contemplated what may happen to him or her when you are no longer able to serve as the caregiver. Frequently, parents and grandparents are concerned about how their children and grandchildren will be cared for after the parents or grandparents deaths and want to plan in advance to protect their special needs loved one. Elder Law and Special Needs Planning encompass many different fields of law, including, for example: Disability planning, durable powers of attorney, living trusts, advance directives, other tools to delegate management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity Estate planning, including the management of finances and assets during life and disposition on death using trusts, wills, and other instruments Special/Supplemental Needs Trusts Conservatorships and guardianships Long-term care planning and placements Trust and probate/estate administration Elder abuse and financial exploitation Medicaid planning Retirement and Social Security planningWhen each day seems to present a new challenge, thinking about the future can be overwhelming. A plan can help break things down into achievable pieces. No matter what age or stage, it is getting started that counts.This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.This article was submitted by Ashley Day, Esq., A Day Law, LLC. Reach her at 251-277-3377.
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.
With stores putting out holiday decorations well before Halloween, it is hard to avoid the hype surrounding the holiday season.For most people, it is an anticipated time of year with traditions, memories and family gatherings. But for older residents, these same reasons may result in the blues, making the holidays a challenging time. Sometimes beloved traditions and family gatherings become out of reach as we age and may be isolated from friends and families. Holidays may remind us of the passing of time, who is missing in our lives and who is not nearby. The loss of holiday traditions and gatherings often changes the way we feel about the holidays. Sometimes reminiscing on traditions that have gone can fuel feelings of loneliness.An AARP study found that 31% of respondents felt lonely during the holiday season. Additionally, another 41% worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome. Whats more, more than 12 million Americans over age 65 live alone, according to the American Psychological Association. As children grow up and move away, neighborhoods change, and friends pass, the opportunities for close connections sometimes become limited. Financial constraints and loss of independence and mobility can change looking forward to the holidays to dreading them. To help avoid the holiday blues, here are some steps you can take to restore holiday joy. Find new ways to connect, such as video chat and email. Write letters, cards and call. You do not have to wait for family members to reach out. Take initiative. Connecting with others is one of the best ways to relieve loneliness. It is heathy to feel sadness about missing family and friends. It is important to acknowledge your feelings. Volunteer and help others. If you are able, you can help with daily tasks that may seem overwhelming or share a meal. If you are feeling lonely, maybe your neighbor is, too. Being available for someone else is good medicine. Be kind to yourself. Continue your wellness routines and healthy habits. Rethink how you do things this season. Joy is not limited to the last two months of the year! Every day can be treated as a holiday! Consider trying a new activity or hobby or teach someone something you are good at. Limit screen time. A constant diet of bad news creates anxiety. Resolve to make the best of the holidays but adjust your expectations and adopt realistic goals. While the holidays may look different over time, they can still be meaningful. The most important thing to make someone feel special this season is to simply spend time with them. If you cannot participate in person, FaceTime or Zoom also work.Here are other ways you can help others (and yourself) find joy in the holidays and help banish the holiday blues: Share your traditions with others and enjoy theirs. Reflect about past holidays as you unpack cherished decorations. Listen to the stories of others and ask about special pieces. Make a conscious effort to be available for those who might be feeling isolated. Plan a regular call or visit or reach out with a video call or old-fashioned letter. For anyone who might be struggling with holiday loneliness, provide a comfortable space for them to talk. Save judgments or problem solving and simply have a genuine conversation. As you plan your celebrations, look for ways to be inclusive. Extending an invitation may not be enough to make others feel included. Being with a crowd of strangers who have little in common can still feel very lonely. Being recognized and honored goes a long way in combating loneliness. Be open to asking about and including favorite memories such as treasured decorations, traditional treats and meaningful music. Religious organizations often offer extra social and/or spiritual support. Just talking with someone can go a long way. Bring or send familiar treats that represent holiday customs for elders to enjoy and share. Often, holiday blues are temporary. However, if symptoms last for more than two weeks, they can indicate clinical anxiety or depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), socially isolated older adults are at higher risk for depression.It may be time to seek help if you or someone you love is experiencing any of these common symptoms of depression: Feeling so down you cannot shake it off Too little or too much sleep, or interruptions through the night Changes in appetite; eating more or less than usual Difficulty concentrating Lack of interest in the things that typically make you happy Irritability Lack of interest in socializing or engaging with others. Plan to look for and spread cheer this season, but if the holiday blues linger well beyond the season, discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider.ABOUT THE AUTHOR Courtney L. Whitt, Ph.D. is Director of Behavioral Health at Healthcare Network, which offers behavioral health services as a routine part of comprehensive care and traditional counseling services. Healthcare Network provides quality primary care services for children and adults in locations throughout Collier County. To learn more or make an appointment, please call 239.658.3000 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org.