Drafting a power of attorney that reduces the chances of abuse

A power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents you can create, but it is also one that can be misused. While it isn’t possible to entirely prevent the possibility of abuse, there are steps you can take in drafting the document to greatly reduce the chances. A power of attorney allows a person you appoint — your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” — to act in place of you —the “principal” — for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated. In that case, the person you choose will be able to step in and take…..

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Four Social Security myths debunked

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Social Security system. Here are four common myths and the facts about how Social Security works and its future prospects. Myth 1: You should collect benefits early. This is one of the biggest Social Security myths. Beneficiaries can start taking retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you take Social Security between age 62 and your full retirement age (which ranges from 65 to 67, depending on your year of birth) your benefits will be permanently reduced to account for the longer period you will be paid. On the other…..

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Don’t make the mistake of not signing up for Medicare supplemental coverage

If you are turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare as a healthy senior, do you really need to sign up for Medicare’s supplemental coverage as well? Not signing up initially could be very costly down the road. With all the deductibles, copayments and coverage exclusions, basic Medicare pays for only about half of all medical costs. To augment Medicare’s coverage, you can purchase a supplemental, or “Medigap,” insurance policy from a private insurer. There are 10 Medigap plans, each identified by a different letter of the alphabet and each offering a different combination of benefits, allowing purchasers to choose the…..

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Should you prepare a Medicaid application yourself, or get help?

A decision on whether to prepare and file a Medicaid application on your own or hire help depends on answers to these questions: How old is the applicant? How complicated is the applicant’s financial situation? Is the individual applying for community or nursing home benefits? How much time do you have available? How organized are you? Medicaid is the health care program for individuals without other insurance or those whose insurance does not cover what they need, such as long-term care. Many people rely on Medicaid for assistance in paying for care at home or in nursing homes. For those…..

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Benefit of mediation in estate planning

A recent case in Illinois highlights the value of mediation in resolving estate-planning disputes. The case involved a successful family business created by Daniel and Mary O’Brien. The business, valued at $125 million as of 2013, included interests in hotels, a nursing home, a golf course, gas stations, fast-food franchises and warehouses. Most of the business assets were operated through limited partnerships, and the rest were held in revocable trusts, in S corporations or in the founders’ names. The O’Briens had six children (four daughters and two sons) and 15 grandchildren. When the oldest son passed away in 1989, the…..

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Should you leave siblings unequal shares of your estate?

When you’re reviewing your estate plan, it’s important to think about how to divide your estate among your children. While you don’t need to leave siblings equal shares, be aware that inheriting unequal amounts can cause arguments among children after you pass. To avoid disagreements from the get-go, you may want to leave your children equal shares. If that is your goal, remember to consider any property or accounts you hold jointly with each child. Jointly held property or money passes outside of your estate. That means if you have listed a child as a caregiver on a bank account,…..

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Avoiding Medicaid penalty period for a house transfer

Under the laws of most states, when you transfer your house to a child or anyone else, you enter into a Medicaid penalty period, barring your eligibility for Medicaid for a period of time. A way to avoid the penalty period is for the Medicaid applicant to transfer the house to a child considered to be his or her “caretaker.” A caretaker child is defined as a child who lived in the applicant’s house for at least two years before the applicant moved to a nursing home and who cared for the applicant during that time in such a way…..

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Updating estate-planning documents at divorce

The story of a divorcing couple in Arizona demonstrates why you need to update your estate plan at divorce. The couple, who were in their early 40s and had been married for several years, had created a multimillion dollar business together. When they filed for divorce, the process became bitter and full of disagreements about small issues. They were thinking in the moment about the immediate dollars and cents, but didn’t consider what would happen with assets at death. One night the wife had dinner with friends. Sadly, she died in a tragic car accident on her way home. Neither…..

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Guidance on grandparent gifting

Grandparents are regularly generous with grandchildren, sometimes giving significant amounts of money. Often they want to share their resources to leave a legacy. In some cases, their children or grandchildren are dealing with financial hardship. Grandparents might also believe that their kin shouldn’t have to wait for their inheritance. Grandparents commonly provided assistance paying for summer camp, college tuition, weddings or down payments for homes. They should keep the following factors in mind when giving to grandchildren, however, and they should be sure to contact an attorney who can advise them on the tax implications of their kindness. If you’re…..

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Guns and dementia: Dealing with a loved one’s firearms

Having a loved one with dementia can be scary, but add in access to a firearm and things can become especially dangerous. Research shows that 45 percent of all adults aged 65 years or older either own a gun or live in a household with someone who does. For someone with dementia, the risk of suicide increases; firearms are the most common method of suicide among people with dementia. In addition, someone with dementia who has a gun may put family members or caregivers at risk if the person with dementia gets confused about people’s identities, or if they think someone is an…..

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