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In my elder law practice, it is very common to meet seniors who need nursing home or community care, but who are reluctant to seek out help because of the cost. This is understandable. Take the hypothetical case of Fred and Wilma.
Fred worked hard at the quarry for decades to accumulate sufficient retirement savings. Fred is now in his late 70s and, unfortunately, has Parkinson's Disease.
In recent months, it has become difficult for Wilma to care for him. It is getting to the point that being a care provider has started to impact Wilma's health. They know he needs help, but they are concerned that getting that care will be so expensive, Wilma will no longer be able to have a comfortable retirement.
We are fortunate to live in a part of the country with abundant quality care options. There are outstanding nursing homes and community care providers in our region. Unfortunately, many people don't take advantage of these care options due to fear of the cost.
This fear is rooted in their understanding that the government rules require someone to go broke before getting financial assistance from Medicaid. While it is true that most of Medicaid's rules are quite harsh, there are strategies available to expedite eligibility and protect assets.
For example, under the right circumstances, it is possible for Fred to transfer significant funds to Wilma in a way that she gets to keep the money. This would make Fred almost immediately eligible for Medicaid.
The truth is there are many individuals paying privately for skilled nursing care who could take steps to expedite Medicaid eligibility. However, each case is different, and you need the help of a qualified attorney to find your best strategy. The rules are complicated and there are plenty of pitfalls.
Don't fall into this trap. Don't assume you must go broke to get quality care. Under the law, there are strategies available to protect your life savings. To take advantage of these options, you need to work with a qualified attorney who can properly plan for your circumstances. If you or someone in your family needs care, call our office to learn about your options.
Editors Note: This article was submitted by Tim Sechler, Esq., a Certified Elder Law Attorney and Principal of Sechler Law Firm, LLC. See our ad on the Back Cover or contact us at 724-565-6615.
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.
Let's say that you came across a shoebox full of old loose photographs or a few inherited family photo albums when you were in the process of decluttering your home. Let's also assume that you have made the conscious decision to have these pictures scanned by a Professional Photo Organizer in order to share them with your friends and family. The question will inevitably arise: what do you do with the original photos after they've been digitized? In the spirit of downsizing and getting rid of things that take up space in your home, your first thought may be to throw them away. The photos already on a flash drive, your cloud drive, and your computer - why would you need to keep the originals? The original photos are the best backup, especially if you use a cloud sync service to view/share your digital photos (i.e., Apple Photos, Google Photos, etc.). There are few worse things than accidentally deleting a photo on a synced drive (meaning it gets deleted EVERYWHERE) and realizing that you have no way of getting it back!Storage hardware and cloud software failure are rare occurrences, but they can be devastating. If you experience a power surge that damages your computer or the cloud software you use shuts down, you are really going to regret throwing the originals away! It is also important to note that hard drives have the potential to fail within a year, and most external hard drives only last around 3 years before they start experiencing data loss.Destructive edits made to a photo (i.e., cropping, lighting/color adjustments, etc.) can be difficult or impossible to undo, especially if it is the only digital copy you have access to. The original copy is always going to be your best reference if edits go awry!The original, printed photos are format-less. That is to say, you don't have to worry about "paper technology" changing as we advance further into the digital world. These "analog" photos are going to be able to be viewed by anyone at any time without the restrictions of cross-compatibility or file format.Using some sturdy archival boxes and labeled divider tabs as you sort through your photos can optimize your storage space! This means you can still maintain your goal of downsizing and clearing space! However, in order for this to be most effective, proper storage practices need to be used. Photos should not be stored in the attic, basement, garage, or anywhere where temperature and moisture levels fluctuate. By the way, you don't have to keep ALL your printed photos - just the ones that you consider the best and most meaningful! If you have already sorted through your photo collection and removed the blurry and "finger-in-frame" photos before they were scanned, finding the space in your home to store the originals of your favorite photos should be a non-issue. Also keep in mind that having photos you took on your phone printed is a great idea, as long as you create space on walls, in albums, or in photo books for them.
After a decluttering project is complete, it's time to make sure that things STAY organized. Group your like items togetherclothing, pantry items, cleaning supplies whatever items you want to focus on. If you are searching for the right container there are many to choose from. There are a lot of affordable and stylish options for your pantry, for general home use, and even for your basement and attic! After you have gathered your similar items, place them into an appropriate sized container and label it. Condensing items and labeling the container is a quick and simple way to sort and maintain organization! That way, when you buy new things, you know exactly where they go.Dont Buy Containers Until You Are Done Organizing!It is very tempting to buy boxes, storage goodies, or drawer organizers before you start to declutter. We get it! It can be fun (and motivating) to head to The Container Store to "get ideas" and come home with $200 worth of bins and baskets, labels and more. It is better to wait until after you have sorted out what you are keeping and have measured the drawers, cabinets, and shelves that the container will go on to go shopping - either online or in the store. Instead of making multiple trips to the store, save yourself time and effort (and frustration when things don't fit) by making sure that you are prepared!Try not to worry too much about "the system" being perfect. Organizing is a skill you CAN learn and once it becomes a daily habit, it will get easier. Eventually, you will have an easy-to-manage system that allows for quick retrieval and storage of almost any item!
At Sechler Law Firm, LLC, our mission is to help families make great plans. A great estate plan is more than just a set of documents. It is a comprehensive and well thought out written strategy on how to deal with lifes unfortunate twists and turns. Our process first provides you with the education necessary to make informed decisions with regard to your planning. Then we put the proper documents and legal framework in place to respond to lifes unfortunate changes.Our Estate Planning law office is headquartered in Cranberry, PA. From this office, we happily serve the residents of Cranberry, Mars, Wexford, Pittsburgh, Butler and the residents of surrounding communities. As one of the regions only Certified Elder Law Attorneys, Tim Sechler and his team often assist families from across Western Pennsylvania.We understand that the pursuit of health, wealth and happiness is the goal of most families. We want you to be able to pursue these goals, or whatever goals you may have, knowing that you have a back up plan if life throws you a curveball like a death, disability or nursing home need. With education as our foundation, we will work with you to make decisions to Shield What Matters Most to you.Practice AreasEstate PlanningCustomized planning doesnt have to be difficult for you. We strive to make the process easy. The first step is to identify your concerns so that we can make suggestions regarding your plan.Elder Law Crisis PlanningA significant percentage of our practice is dedicated to helping families navigate the long term care maze. We help with Asset Protection and eligibility for Medicaid and Veterans Benefits.Trust And Estate AdministrationIf you have lost a loved one, we can help you take the necessary steps to help handle their affairs.Tims estate planning practice is focused on guiding clients through the complicated maze of balancing transfer strategies, wealth preservation, and family values in the planning process.Tim is a Combat Veteran, having served in Afghanistan as a member of the West Virginia Air National Guard. Prior to leaving the military, Tim had attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. His experiences in the military have led him to thoroughly enjoy working with Veterans and their families.Tim received his law degree from Duquesne University School of Law, and his Master of Business Administration from the Duquesne University Donahue Graduate School of Business. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from West Virginia University, majoring in Finance. Tim is licensed to practice Law in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.Recently, Tim has been seen frequently as a guest on KDKAs Pittsburgh Today Live, and has been quoted in several local print publications. For the last several years, he has been honored to be chosen as a Super Lawyers Rising Star, an award given to less than 2.5% of Tims peers. Tim enjoys educating the public about Elder Law and Estate Planning. He has spoken to thousands of people regarding estate planning and has averaged more than 50 speaking events per year.Tim became a Certified Elder Law Attorney* in 2017. A CELA is more than just an attorney who specializes in the field of elder law. CELAs are committed, through certification, to maintaining and improving their proficiency with continual practice and continuing legal education. Becoming certified in elder law validates a lawyers specialty to handle issues that affect senior citizens.Tim and his wife, Robyn, are raising three beautiful children in their home in Mars, PA.*Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.