Elder Law

Work With an Elder Law Attorney in American Fork to Plan for Your Grandchildren’s College Education

 Without a doubt, one of the joys of being an elder law attorney in American Fork comes from seeing the pride clients have in their grandchildren.  They continually tell us how amazing it is to see their children become parents and how much they want to be a part of supporting this next generation of their families.  There are a lot of tools that an American Fork elder law attorney can help clients leverage to make this a reality, and one of them is the 529 account.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the 529 accounts out there.  There are lots of options and decisions to make, and sometimes it all seems so complicated that folks just throw up their hands and plan to do it “later.”  Of course, elder law attorneys in Utah recognize that putting things off until “later” doesn’t always work out to one’s advantage!

So, let’s look at the benefits of a 529 account and turn “later” into “now.”

Discuss Your Social Security Options With An Elder Law Lawyer in Lehi

For many elder law clients in Lehi, Social Security benefits represent a very large portion of their post-retirement income.  Because of the way that the system has changed since it was originated in 1935, it is extremely complex.  Literally hundreds of amendments have been made in the nearly 80 years since the Social Security Act.  It may just take an experienced elder lawyer to wade through the options with you.

Getting Informed About Nursing Homes

I've recently had a number of family and friends face the ordeal of finding a nursing home for their loved one. In some cases, the family member had experienced a fall or a stroke. In other cases, a minor surgery had complications that took more time to heal than was expected, and providing care for them at home wasn't a good option. And in still other cases, the level of care and supervision required due to dementia or other health conditions had caused the family to recognize that it was simply in the best interest of their loved one to have that level of care.

As our population continues to age and our improving medical technology further lengthens our lives, these kinds of decisions will eventually be made by most of us. I wanted to make you aware of two resources that may be very helpful to you when that time arrives for you and your loved ones.

The first is the U.S. Government's Medicare online "Nursing Home Compare" guide. The following paragraph comes from the website's own description of its purpose:

Nursing Home Compare allows consumers to compare information about nursing homes. It contains quality of care information on every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country, including over 17,000 nationwide.

Sorry Folks, That Ship Has Sailed

It is not uncommon for my office to receive a call from a panicked family member of an elderly individual. The call may go something like this:

Caller: Hi, I'm calling to see how much it costs to get some estate planning done for my mom.

Paralegal: We'd be happy to help you if we can. Why don't you first tell me a little bit about your mom.

Caller: Okay. Well, mom's not doing too well these days. She's in an assisted living facility and mostly doesn't recognize us anymore. Although she sometimes has good days, most of the time she's confused and is asking for her husband who died three years ago.

Paralegal: Okay. What kind of property does your mom have?

Caller: Well, she has a home that's paid for. She has a brokerage account, a checking and savings account, some farm land in Tooele and I think she has some municipal bonds that she invested in once. But I'm not really sure.

Paralegal: Does your mom know what property she owns and does she understand its value?

Caller: Oh heavens no! She put me on her checking account years ago because she was so overwhelmed with trying to manage her finances. I don't think she has a clue how much she owns, nor could she keep it straight even if we told her.

Paralegal: I think we can help you, but you'll need to meet with an attorney to discuss some of the legal implications of your mother's situation.

Although this above excerpted conversation is a fictitious example, and a very abbreviated one at that, it illustrates a trap that many people fall into with regard to estate planning.

Are Elder Law Attorneys Just Old Lawyers Who Won’t Retire?

Have you ever wondered to yourself "what does RobRoy mean when he says he is an 'Elder Law' attorney?" I am often asked this question by clients, friends, professionals and even by attorneys. Next week, I will be representing the Utah State Bar's Elder Law section at the Utah Senior Expo (at the Sandy Expo Center). The purpose of my being there is to educate the public about the legal specialty referred to as "Elder Law."

I thought it would be helpful if I shared with you my explanation of "Elder Law" that I wrote for the State Bar's publication that will be provided to the public at this Expo:

What is Elder Law?

"Elder Law" has developed as a legal specialty over the last two decades to help seniors and their family members deal with the unique and complex challenges facing them as they age. Elder Law attorneys are often sought out when a family member, due to advanced age, disability, or mental capacity, is no longer able to adequately care for themselves, or when they anticipate that they will no longer be able to do so within the near future.

Aging and Big Brother: Orwellian Nightmare or Godsend?

The LA Times recently ran an article about new technology being developed by major health care companies (General Electric and Intel) to help the elderly population age in place.

For example:
• robotic cameras that move around grandma's house in California that can be controlled by a joystick from a family member in Montana;
• pill boxes with sensors that record when and how often medications are being taken;
• monitors in the hallway that measure the speed and gait of the resident as they walk through the house;
• devices that monitor facial expressions to look for signs of depression or anxiety
• robotic "pets" that have lifelike interactions with their owners
• and monitors on the bed that measure the rate of breathing of the occupant and can send warnings to a computer when the breathing becomes irregular or stops.
Many of these technologies are being developed in what one corporation's representative describes as a "race to see who's going to invent 21st century care services for boomers." There's a major market that is developing to serve the millions of baby boomers who are entering into the retirement stage of their lives.

Federal Budget Cuts and the Impact on Seniors

The federal government is working frantically to decrease spending in 2011 by making sweeping cuts to numerous federally funded programs, in order to avoid a government shutdown. Unfortunately, many of the changes proposed will negatively impact seniors. The cuts began in House Resolution 1 (HR 1), passed by the House last month as a long term continuing resolution to cut fiscal spending this year and keep the federal government from shutting down. But 2011 spending cuts are only the beginning. Next, focus will turn to the 2012 budget where a new round of cuts will likely take place, with potential far-reaching negative impacts on seniors.

Immediate Cuts on the Horizon

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the proposed spending cuts in HR 1 would harm senior citizens by severely cutting initiatives that help older Americans sustain their economic independence and health. HR 1 includes:

• Cuts of approximately $525 million in services specifically for low-income seniors (including a
  64% cut to the Senior Community Service Employment Program);
• Cuts of approximately $1 billion in funding for Community Health Centers that serve seniors;
• Cuts of $390 million for home energy assistance;
• Cuts of $305 million for Community Services Block Grants that currently assist 2.3 million   seniors;
• Cuts of $1 billion to programs that include senior volunteers; and
• Cuts of $625 million to the Social Security Administration (estimated to be over $1 billion by
   the Social Security Administration as noted below).

Careful With That Bank Account, Eugene

Financial exploitation of the elderly is increasingly common today. Some estimates put the number of individuals who have had money stolen directly from their bank accounts at around 2 million just last year, with an average of $1,200 stolen per person.

As an elder law attorney, I run into this far more than I'd like to. Unfortunately, more often than not, those who are doing the exploiting are the family members of the elderly - children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. So often, when people are placed into positions of trust, it becomes very easy for those people to justify helping themselves to mom or dad's cash. This problem is far more widespread than most people think. Very recently, actor Mickey Rooney testified before Congress about his own abuse and exploitation by a family member.

A Holocaust Survivor and an American Soldier

Before I became a lawyer, I wanted to be a historian like my dad. As part of his work as a historian, he recorded the oral histories of Jewish Holocaust survivors. He spent a great deal of time with members of the Phoenix-area Jewish community capturing their memories and experiences of one of the darkest periods of human history.

One such interview was with a Hungarian woman who was taken to the Auschwitz concentration/death camps in Poland as a teenager. This woman survived that nightmarish experience only because of a young American G.I. This soldier, while liberating Auschwitz from the Nazis, was walking amongst the piles of dead bodies when out of the corner of his eye, he saw a foot twitch beneath dozens of other bodies. It was her foot.

Despite the horror he undoubtedly felt as he pulled the emaciated, broken bodies from off of her, he removed her nearly lifeless body and rushed her to the American medics who eventually nursed her back to health.

Shortly after the war, she emigrated to the U.S. and obtained degrees in psychotherapy and professional counseling. She has since gone on to work as a licensed therapist with hundreds of U.S. Veterans, helping them to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse challenges. She has dedicated her life to giving back to those who sacrificed so much to bring freedom to those who had been so oppressed by the Nazi regime. She, for one, understood the sacrifices made by these young people on her behalf.

End-of-life Care Conversations: Are they worth having?

An article published in the New York Times this week by Pauline W. Chen, M.D. provided some very interesting information about the benefits of frank discussions about death and dying between a patient with a terminal illness and their physician.

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