Maximizing Social Security survivor’s benefits

Social Security survivor’s benefits provide a safety net to widows and widowers. But to get the most out of the benefit, you need to know the right time to claim. While you can claim survivor’s benefits as early as age 60, if you claim benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be permanently reduced. If you claim benefits at your full retirement age, you will receive 100 percent of your spouse’s benefit or, if your spouse died before collecting benefits, 100 percent of what your spouse’s benefit would have been at full retirement age. Unlike with retirement benefits,…..

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Getting paid as a family caregiver through Medicaid

Caring for an ailing family member is difficult work, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be unpaid work. There are programs available that allow Medicaid recipients to hire family members as caregivers. All 50 states have programs that provide pay to family caregivers. The programs vary by state, but are generally available to Medicaid recipients, although there are also some non-Medicaid programs. Medicaid’s program began as “cash and counseling,” but is now often called “self-directed,” “consumer-directed” or “participant-directed” care. The first step is to apply for Medicaid through a home-based Medicaid program. Medicaid is available only to low-income seniors, and…..

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Understanding Medicare’s hospice benefit

Medicare’s hospice benefit covers any care that is reasonable and necessary for easing the course of a terminal illness. It is one of Medicare’s most comprehensive benefits and can be extremely helpful to both a terminally ill individual and his or her family, but it is little understood and underutilized. Understanding what is offered ahead of time may help Medicare beneficiaries and their families make the difficult decision to choose hospice if the time comes. The focus of hospice is palliative care, which helps people who are terminally ill and their families maintain their quality of life. Palliative care addresses…..

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Estate planning and retirement considerations for late-in-life parents

It is becoming more common for people to be parents at an older age, partly because of changing cultural mores and advances in fertility treatment. Comedian and author Steve Martin had his first child at age 67. Singer Billy Joel, 70, welcomed his third daughter in 2017. Janet Jackson had a child at age 50. But later-in-life parents have some special estate planning and retirement considerations. For older parents, the first consideration is to have an estate plan and to be sure that plan is up to date. One of the most important functions of an estate plan is to…..

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Charitable giving under the new tax law

The new tax law makes it harder to claim a tax deduction for charitable contributions. Charitable giving should not be only about getting a tax break, but if you want to reap a tax benefit from your contributions, there are a couple of options. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in December 2017, nearly doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples. This means that if your charitable contributions along with any other itemized deductions are less than $12,000 for the tax year, the standard deduction will lower your tax bill more than itemizing your deductions. For most people, the standard deduction will be the…..

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Use a lawyer for Medicaid planning

Many seniors and their families don’t use a lawyer to plan for long-term care or Medicaid, often because they’re afraid of the cost. However, an attorney can help you save money in the long run and make sure you’re getting the best care for your loved one. Instead of proceeding based on what you’ve heard from others, doing nothing, or enlisting a non-lawyer referred by a nursing home, you can hire an elder law attorney. Here are a few reasons you should at least consider this option: No conflict of interest. When nursing homes refer families to non-lawyers to assist in preparing the Medicaid application, the preparer has dual…..

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Prenups as an estate planning tool

As more and more people marry more than once, prenuptial agreements have become an important estate planning tool. Without a prenuptial agreement, your new spouse may be able to invalidate your existing estate plan. Such agreements are especially helpful if you have children from a previous marriage or important heirlooms that you want to keep on your side of the family. A prenuptial agreement can be used in a second marriage when both parties have children. For example, suppose you get remarried and both you and your spouse have children from a prior marriage. You want your house to pass to your children, but without proper planning and an agreement in place, your spouse could inherit the house and then…..

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Prevent mistaken Medicare denials

Have you or a loved one been denied Medicare covered services because you’re “not improving”? Many health care providers are still unaware that Medicare is required to cover skilled nursing and home care even if a patient is not showing improvement. If you are denied coverage based on this outdated standard, you have the right to appeal. For decades, Medicare applied the so-called “improvement” standard to determine whether residents were entitled to coverage of particular care. The standard, which is not in Medicare law, only permitted coverage if the skilled treatment was deemed to contribute to improving the patient’s condition,…..

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Is it legal to put a camera in a nursing home room?

Technological advances have made it easier to stay connected with family. That includes the ability to install cameras in a loved one’s nursing home room, but these so-called “granny cams” have legal and privacy implications. The benefit of the surveillance camera is the ability to monitor your family member’s care. Being able to observe care from afar can give family members peace of mind that their loved one is being well taken care of, and can also serve as evidence if abuse is found. Even if there is no abuse, cameras can be helpful in learning if caregivers are using improper techniques that may injure a resident……

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Bias continues even with online mortgage lenders

It would seem that online mortgage lending would reduce discrimination against minorities, but a new study from University of California, Berkeley, found otherwise. The study showed that both in-person and online lenders charge black and Latino buyers higher interest rates. People of color and other minorities end up with up to half a billion dollars more in interest than white home buyers, the study found. The surprising thing is that it’s the technology itself that’s causing the bias. The authors of the study said that one of the main reasons for the discrimination is “algorithmic strategic pricing.” That is what…..

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