How Do I Hire a Caregiver from an Agency?

Part One of AARP’s recent article entitled “How to Hire a Caregiver” explains that when you have a list of promising agencies, you should schedule a consultation.

It doesn’t matter if your family member is eligible for Medicare, Medicare’s Home Health Compare can be a terrific tool for finding and researching home health agencies in your area.

It provides detailed information on what services they provide and how patients rate them.

Working with an agency has its pros and cons. The pluses include the following:

  • Background checks. Caregivers must pass a background check.
  • Experienced caregivers. Agencies are likely to have a number of caregivers who cared for other seniors with the illness or condition affecting your loved one.
  • Backup care. If the primary aide is sick or doesn’t work out, an agency typically can quickly find a replacement.
  • Liability protection in the event that a caregiver is injured while at the home.
  • No paperwork. The agency takes a fee, pays the aide and does the payroll and taxes.

Here are some of the corresponding minuses of working with an agency:

  • Greater expense. You’ll pay more for an agency-provided caregiver.
  • Little choice. The agency chooses the worker, and he or she may not fit well with you or your family member.
  • Negotiation is limited, and individuals are generally more flexible about duties, hours and overtime than agencies.
  • There are agencies that don’t permit a part-time schedule.

In addition, you can contact an experienced elder law attorney and ask for recommendations.

Reference: AARP (Sep. 27, 2021) “How to Hire a Caregiver”

 

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Has Pandemic Caused More Elder Abuse ?

Authorities say that cases have cropped up across the country during the pandemic, contributing to a surge in elder abuse —which is defined as an intentional or negligent act that harms someone 60 or older in a physical, emotional, or financial way.

The Wall Street Journal’s recent article entitled “Elder Abuse Spreads, Stoked by the Pandemic” reports that the number of elder-fraud victims increased 55% between 2019 and 2020, the latest data available, according to an FBI report on internet crime.

Another study from Yale in January 2021 found that more than one in five older people living in homes or apartments, as opposed to facilities, reported abuse in April and May 2020 (when all states had stay-at-home orders). That is an 83.6% increase over pre-pandemic prevalence estimates.

Elder abuse cases, which have been on the increase for years, are expected to continue climb after the pandemic because of our aging population and the shortage of trained and licensed caregivers. Low pay and burnout cause many to leave the field, both in private in-home care and nursing homes. Social connections, lost in the pandemic, are harder for older adults to restore, increasing the likelihood of isolation—a key risk factor in abuse.

Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures left older adults isolated and at times sheltering with abusers—in some cases, family, or caregivers— who threatened to send them to a nursing home or cough on them, if they didn’t give them money. In fact, they used COVID-19 as a weapon.

Social workers and others who investigate reports of abuse and neglect were unable to see vulnerable older adults in person. Moreover, short-staffed long-term-care facilities relied on questionable temporary workers. In addition, law-enforcement budgets were cut.

As a result, the pandemic created other opportunities for exploitation, such as the way many real-estate transactions moved online. This made it easier to steal from older, unsuspecting property owners.  That was especially true of seniors who have no mortgage. As a result, there is no lender with oversight.

Most cases of abuse involve a family member, which makes them harder to detect and thwart. Family members also frequently don’t recognize signs of abuse or don’t think another family member would be capable of it.

In the pandemic, they didn’t visit older parents to see what was happening in the house.

Reference: Wall Street Journal (Dec. 28, 2021) “Elder Abuse Spreads, Stoked by the Pandemic”

 

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Should I Use a Corporate Trustee?

When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a revocable living trust, you will usually name yourself as trustee and manage your financial assets as you have previously. However, it’s necessary to name a successor trustee. This person or entity can act, if you’re incapacitated or pass away.

Selecting the right trustee is one of the most important decisions you’ll make.

The Quad Cities Times’ recent article entitled “Benefits of a corporate trustee” warns that care should be taken when selecting someone to serve in this role. Family members may not have the experience, ability and time required to perform the duties of a trustee. Those with personal relationships with beneficiaries may cause conflicts within the family. You can name almost any adult, including family members or friends, but think about a corporate or professional trustee as the possible answer.

Experience and Dedication. Corporate trustees can devote their full attention to the trust assets and possess experience, resources, access to tax, legal, and investment knowledge that may be hard for the average person to duplicate. A corporate trustee can be hired as the administrative trustee—letting them concentrate on the operation of the trust. You can also hire a registered investment advisor to manage the investment assets. Such a trustee can also be engaged as both administrative trustee and investment manager.

Regulation and Protection. Professional trustees provide safety and security of your assets and are regulated by both state and federal law. Corporate trustees and registered investment advisors are both held to the fiduciary standard of acting solely in the best interests of trust beneficiaries.

Successor Trustee. If you choose to name personal trustees, you may provide in your trust documents for a corporate trustee as a successor, in case none of the personal trustees is available, capable, or willing to serve. Corporate trustees are institutions that don’t become incapacitated or die. You should consider the type of assets you own including investment securities, farmland and commercial real estate and then choose the most qualified professional trustee to manage them.

In sum, many estate owners can benefit from the advantages of a corporate trustee.

Ask an experienced estate planning attorney when creating or amending a revocable living trust, about naming the appropriate corporate trustee, and the advisability of including terms for your registered investment advisor to manage assets for your trust.

Reference: Quad Cities Times (Nov. 28, 2021) “Benefits of a corporate trustee”

 

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Gift Tax – What Happens If a Trust Is Invalid?

Lessons about gift tax, blended families, entity formalities, trusts and estate planning may all be found in the outcome of a tax case described in The Dallas Morning News’ article “The Smaldino case: Tax court opinion leads to estate planning angst.” The case involves gift taxes, and more particularly, a gift of LLC interest to a dynasty trust. The interest started out in the husband’s trust, transferred to the wife, who then transferred them to a dynasty trust, created to benefit some of the husband’s children from a prior marriage.

You may know that taxpayers are not required to report gifts between spouses. The husband’s gift to his spouse was, therefore, not reported to the IRS. The wife did report her gift to the IRS, but she didn’t need to pay any gift taxes because the reported value didn’t exceed her own lifetime gift tax exemption. Therefore, no gift taxes were due or paid on the transfer of the LLC interest to the trust.

The IRS assessed the husband a $1,154,000 gift tax deficiency, which was subsequently held up by the tax court. What was wrong?

The IRS and the tax court found a number of red flags. For starters, the wife held her LLC interest for only one day, before transferring it to the trust.

In testimony before the court, the wife said she had committed to transferring the shares to the trust even before she received the assignment of the shares. She clearly stated that she would have not changed her mind about transferring the assets, which were to benefit her stepchildren. Her timing was too hasty, however.

The husband, who was in control of the LLC, neglected to amend the LLC documents to reflect his wife’s owning an interest in the LLC. As a result, she was never recognized formally as a member of the LLC. The LLC documents made a clear distinction between the roles and duties of an assignee and a member. He executed the assignment of the interest, but she never became a member of the LLC.

The tax court also found a number of the corporate documents simply unbelievable. Several were undated. Others had an “effective date,” but lacked the date of signing.

One could say the IRS was being picky, but the IRS doesn’t have the ability to disregard documents, for two reasons. One is the doctrine of the tax court known as “substance over form.” The substance of a transaction, rather than the form it is presented in, determines the tax determination. The second is something families need to take seriously: when transactions involve family members, the IRS uses a fine-tooth comb to be sure transactions are legitimate.

When estate planning entities are created and transactions take place, consistency in actions is needed to demonstrate intent. All of the rules and practices must be followed, and when family members are involved, those involved must go above and beyond to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

An estate planning attorney with experience in creating LLCs, transferring interests and procedures required by the IRS, does more than create documents. He or she educates clients and explain how the transactions should be carried out to ensure that proper procedures are being followed. In this case, the mistakes far outweighed any benefits from the transaction.

Reference: The Dallas Morning News (Dec. 19, 2021) “The Smaldino case: Tax court opinion leads to estate planning angst”

 

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Is Prince’s Estate Settled Yet?

The long-running estate battle over Prince’s estate may be coming to a close, according to a recent article from Yahoo! News, “Minnesota probate court set to discuss ‘final distribution’ of Prince estate in February.” The Carver County probate court has set a date to start talking about Prince’s assets with heirs and beneficiaries.

Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in April 2016, with no estate plan. Administering the estate and coming up with a plan for its distribution among heirs has cost tens of millions of dollars, in an estate estimated at more than $100 million. One of many obstacles in settling the estate: a complicated dispute with the IRS over the value of Prince’s assets.

The estate will be almost evenly split between a music company—Primary Wave—and the three oldest of the pop icon’s eldest six heirs or their families.

Primary Wave bought out all or most of the interests of Prince’s three youngest siblings, one of whom died in August 2019. Three older siblings, including one who died in September 2021, rejected the offers from Primary Wave.

Comerica Bank & Trust, the administrator of the estate, settled with the IRS over the value of the estate, according to a late November filing in the U.S. Tax Court. The Carver County probate court has to approve this agreement.

Another tax dispute, this one between Prince’s estate and the state of Minnesota, has not yet been resolved.

Last year, the IRS set a value of $163.2 million on Prince’s estate. Comerica valued the estate at $82.3 million—nearly half of the IRS value. The value was so low the IRS penalized the estate with a $6.4 million “accuracy-related penalty.” Comerica followed by suing the IRS in U.S. Tax Court, saying the IRS calculations were loaded with mistakes. With the settlement now underway, the tax trial has been cancelled. The estate and the IRS have been ordered to file a status report on the case in February 2022.

The IRS and Comerica agreed on the value of Prince’s real estate holdings at $33 million. The harder task was to place a value on intangible assets, like Prince’s music rights.

The full IRS settlement most likely led to the probate court setting a date for a hearing. With the settlement, certain parts of the estate may move forward.

However, don’t expect it to be quick. It may be months before the court approves any distributions.

The lesson from Prince’s estate: everyone needs an estate plan, whether the estate is modest or includes multi-million assets and multiple heirs. Tens of millions in legal fees plus a $6.4 million penalty from the IRS adds up, even when the estate is this big.

Reference: Yahoo! News (Dec. 22, 2021) “Minnesota probate court set to discuss ‘final distribution’ of Prince estate in February”

 

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Do Dental Problems Mean Cognitive Impairment?

If you are a senior, your chances of dementia and other cognitive impairment go up with each lost tooth, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

Money Talks News recent article entitled “This Dental Issue Is Linked to a Higher Dementia Risk” reports that researchers, led by a team from New York University, reviewed a number of long-term studies. They discovered that those participants with more missing teeth had on average a 48% higher risk of cognitive impairment and a 28% higher risk of dementia than other people.

Each lost tooth was linked to a 1.4% increase in the risk of cognitive impairment and a 1.1% increase in the risk of dementia.

In total, those missing at least 20 teeth had a 31% higher risk of cognitive impairment.

In addition, those who’d lost all their teeth had a 54% higher risk of cognitive impairment and a 40% higher risk of dementia. However, participants who used dentures to compensate for missing teeth didn’t have a significantly higher risk of dementia, the researchers said.

To reach their findings, the researchers studied more than a dozen earlier research projects that included questionnaires, assessments, medical records and information from death certificates. Out of a total of 34,074 participants in the studies, 4,689 had cognitive impairment or dementia.

The earlier research also used medical examinations and self-reported records to determine tooth loss.

The researchers say it’s not known why there’s a link between tooth loss and the risk of cognitive decline.

In a press release, they noted:

“Still, tooth loss can result in problems with chewing that might lead to nutritional deficiencies, chemical imbalances, or changes to the brain that affect brain function. Also, poor oral hygiene might lead to increased bacteria in the mouth and to gum disease, which can cause inflammation and raise the risk of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, leading to dementia.”

It is also thought that tooth loss without the use of dentures signals lower socioeconomic status and education level, both of which have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. It’s also possible that those with early cognitive decline might be less likely to maintain oral hygiene, which in turn can result in tooth loss.

Reference: Money Talks News (Dec. 17, 2021) “This Dental Issue Is Linked to a Higher Dementia Risk”

 

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Bruce Springsteen – Why Did ‘The Boss’ Sell His Music Catalog?

Digital Music News’ recent article entitled “Why Did Bruce Springsteen Sell His Music Rights? A Breakdown of the Decision” looks at what could have prompted the Born to Run creator to cash in on his catalog:

Money. Cash is perhaps the leading contributor to the New Jersey-born Bruce Springsteen’s decision to sell his music intellectual property. Few would turn down a half-billion-dollar (or larger) paycheck – especially when the sum reportedly represents 30 times the annual royalty payments that the 20-time Grammy winner received.

There are a number of other artists, such as Stevie Nicks, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, who have exchanged all or some of their song rights for massive compensation.

Estate Planning. This is another important consideration regarding Springsteen’s decision to sell his music rights. Cash, property and similar physical assets are much easier to pass on to heirs than a complex collection of music intellectual property, copyrights and licensing agreements. This may have been a part of the 72-year-old Springsteen’s decision to sell.

The estates of artists, such as James Brown, have been engaged in legal battles. In fact, Brown’s estate was in litigation for over 10 years, before finally settling over the summer.

Tax Planning. Finally, there are tax-planning advantages associated with the transaction’s timing. Right now, the federal capital gain tax rate is currently 20% (with a possible 3.8% addition under the Affordable Care Act). The White House has also proposed increasing that rate to 43.4% for those who earn more than $1 million.

Due to this potential change and other possible tax-rate hikes, as well as the fact that royalties are already taxed as “ordinary income,” at a comparatively substantial 37% federal rate, Bruce Springsteen’s deal looks to have brought with it several perks on the taxation side.

Reference: Digital Music News (Dec. 20, 2021) “Why Did Bruce Springsteen Sell His Music Rights? A Breakdown of the Decision”

 

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James Brown Estate Battle Resolved … Almost, but Not Quite

A company specializing in buying and marketing estates and song catalogs has bought the assets of James Brown’s estate, including music rights, real estate and control over Brown’s name and likeness. It is hoped that the sale, worth an estimated $90 million, will finally achieve Brown’s wishes to finance scholarships for needy children, according to a recent article from The New York Times titled “After 15 Years of Infighting, James Brown’s Estate is Sold.”

The money will be used to endow the Brown scholarship trust in perpetuity, said the accountant who has served as the Brown estate’s executor since 2009. The deal includes a provision for the buyer, Primary Wave, to also contribute a percentage of future earnings to the scholarships, intended for children in South Carolina, where Brown was born, and Georgia, where he grew up.

This is a step forward in one of the longest and most contentious estate conflicts in the high-profile world of celebrity estates. Multiple lawsuits in state and federal courts have cost millions in legal fees and left behind what one official described as “As big a tangle as you’ve ever seen.”

Part of the mess centered around Ms. Tommie Rae Hynie, a singer who married James Brown in 2001. It was later learned she was already married to another man. With her spousal status unclear, Ms. Hynie and five of Brown’s children battled over the estate. Their goal was to set aside his will and negotiate a settlement of their own to receive big chunks of the estate.

They found a willing listener in a state attorney general and a state judge who approved their agreement in 2009. However, four years later, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down their settlement, calling it “a dismemberment of Brown’s carefully crafted estate plan.” It also ruled unanimously that Ms. Hynie was not Mr. Brown’s legal spouse.

Brown’s heirs and several executors have also fought over the estate’s value. One estimated it as $5 million, while another put it at $84 million. The discrepancy was claimed to be a result of savvy management of the estate after Brown’s death.

Negotiations for the sale were handled by John Branca, who was Michael Jackson’s longtime attorney and one of the executors of Jackson’s estate.

However, it’s not over yet. For one thing, the longstanding battle between two executors, Mr. Bauknight and Ms. Pope, removed as executor in 2009, isn’t over. She is suing the estate; he and others have filed suit against her. These cases are under appeal and until they are settled, or a court decision is made, no distributions can be made and no scholarships can be paid.

Reference: The New York Times (Dec. 13, 2021) “After 15 Years of Infighting, James Brown’s Estate is Sold.”

 

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Step-up-in-basis – Is It Better to Inherit Stock or Cash?

Step-up-in-basis – To make an inheritance even more advantageous for heirs, it’s a good idea to streamline accounts and simplify what you own before you die, eliminating some complications during a very emotional time. The next three decades will see a massive transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, says a recent article “6 of the Best Assets to Inherit” from Kiplinger. If you might be among those leaving inheritances to loved ones, there are steps you can take to prevent emotional and even family-destroying fights resulting from problematic assets.

Cash is king of inheritance assets. It’s simplest to deal with and the value is crystal clear. If you have accounts in multiple financial institutions, consolidate cash into one account. Each bank may have different rules for distributing assets, so reducing the number of banks involved will make it easier. Just remember to stay within FDIC limits, which insures only $250,000 per bank per ownership category. Tell your children if they are going to receive a significant cash inheritance and discuss what they may want to do with it.

Cash substitutes. Proceeds from a life insurance policy are usually very cut and dried. When you pass away, the life insurance company pays beneficiaries the death benefit in cash, according to the beneficiaries named on the policy. Be sure to tell your heirs where the original policy is located. They’ll need to provide the insurance company with a death certificate and there may be a form or two involved. The proceeds are income tax free, although the death benefit itself is added to the value of your estate and might be charged estate taxes.

Bank products, like CDs and Money Market Accounts. You can set up these accounts to be Payable on Death (POD), so the person named can access the assets quickly after your death. Don’t put one person’s name on the account and hope they share with their siblings. That’s a recipe for family disaster. If your will has one set of instructions and the bank product names another owner, the bank will pay according to the titling of the account. The same goes for life insurance proceeds—the beneficiary designation supersedes instructions in a will.

Brokerage Accounts. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other assets held in a taxable brokerage account are easy to divide and value. They are also easy to sell and convert to cash. What’s more, they could give heirs a significant tax benefit. If you bought shares of Apple or IBM years ago and sold the stocks while you were living, you’d owe capital gains taxes. However, if the investments are inherited, the heir receives a step-up-in-basis, which means the investment basis goes to the market value on the day you die. It’s entirely possible for heirs to sell appreciated assets with no or little taxes due.

Assets that decrease in value fast: this is not for everyone. Let’s say you know your heir is going to take their inheritance and buy an over-the-top luxury item, like a new sports car or a yacht. You know the asset will lose value the minute it’s driven out of the showroom or launched for the first time. Rather than leave them cash to make a purchase, buy the car or boat yourself and leave it to them as an inherited asset. They lose value immediately, while reducing your taxable estate. You’ve always wanted a Lamborghini anyway.

Roth IRA—Best of All IRA Worlds. The Roth IRA is funded with after-tax dollars, and in exchange, retirement withdrawals and investment gains are income tax-free. If you leave a 401(k) or traditional IRA, heirs will owe taxes on withdrawals and unless they meet certain requirements, they have to empty the account within ten years.

Trust Fund Assets. This may be the best way to protect an inheritance from heirs. If you leave property outright to heirs, it’s subject to creditors and predators. Funds in a trust are carefully protected, according to the terms of the trust, which you determine. Your estate planning attorney can create the trust to achieve whatever you want. Inheritances in trusts are less likely to evaporate quickly and you get the final say in how assets are distributed.

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 9, 2021) “6 of the Best Assets to Inherit”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Attorney, Trust, Roth IRA, After-Tax Dollars, Retirement, Withdrawals, Stetep-Up-In-Basis, Cash, CD, Money Market, Investment Accounts, POD, Payable on Death, Life Insurance, Beneficiaries, Death Benefit

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Can You Remove Someone from a Life Estate ?

Parents often use a life estate to leave the family home to children, while remaining in the house for the rest of their lives. However, sometimes things don’t work out as intended. If and how changes may be made to a life estate is the focus of a recent article “How to Remove Someone from a Life Estate” from Yahoo! Finance. For the life estate to be flexible, certain provisions must be in the document when it is first created. An experienced estate planning attorney is needed to do this right.

A life estate allows two or more people to jointly own real estate property. One person, referred to as the “life tenant” has ownership of the property for as long as they live. The other person, called the “remainderman,” takes possession only after the life tenant’s death. Multiple people can be named as life tenant and remainderman. However, the more people involved, the more complicated this arrangement becomes.

The remainderman has an unusual position. They don’t have full possession of the property until the life tenant dies, yet they have an interest in the property. The life tenant is not allowed to do certain things, like take out a mortgage or sell the property, without the consent of the remainderman.

The remainderman must agree to any changes in any person or persons named as other remainderman. If there’s more than one, which happens when there’s more than one adult child, for instance, all of the remaindermen must agree, before any names on the life estate can be removed or changed.

If one of the remainderman becomes heavily indebted, has a contentious divorce, or is sued for a considerable sum, their share of the property could be lost to creditors, ex-spouses, or adversaries. In that case, removing the problematic remainderman could protect the value of the home.

Most life estates are irrevocable, and the laws concerning life estates vary by state.

One way to work around the need for remainderman approval, is to use a Testamentary Power of Appointment, a clause in a will permitting the life tenant to change the person to whom the property will be left upon death. Invoking the Power of Appointment doesn’t make the life estate invalid, so the tenant is still constrained from selling the property or taking any other actions without permission from the remaindermen.

The testamentary power of appointment does give the life tenant some negotiating muscle but must be built into the documents from the start.

Another trust used in this situation is the Nominee Realty Trust. This is a revocable trust holding legal title to real estate. A property owner files a new deed transferring ownership to the nominee realty trust. The trust specifies who receives the property after the owner’s death. The grantor of the nominee trust can direct the actions of the trustee, so the life tenant has the legal ability to tell the trustee to change the names of the remaindermen. This flexibility may be desirable when the children are problematic. This has to be set up when the life estate is first established.

There are occasions when the remainderman wants to terminate the interest of the life tenant. This is actually easier than removing or changing the remainderman but requires the life tenant to do something particularly egregious or illegal. The life tenant has certain rights: to rent out the property, to change or improve the property—as long as the property is being improved. The life tenant is responsible for paying taxes, maintaining the property and avoiding any liens being placed on the property.

If the life tenant does not fulfill their responsibilities or allows the property to lose value, it may be possible for the remainderman to have the life tenant’s interest terminated. However, that depends upon the provisions in the life estate. This option should be discussed and planned for when the life estate is created.

Reference: Yahoo! Finance (Dec. 16, 2021) “How to Remove Someone from a Life Estate”

 

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