How to Make Home Caregiving Easier

New tools and techniques can improve the safety of a home, which can make caregiving a little easier. AARP’s recent article entitled “9 Items That Make Home Caregiving Easier” provides us with some tools designed to help caregivers ease the burden of daily challenges.

  1. Sit-to-stand toilet. A quarter of falls happen in the bathroom, so assistive toilet seats with adjustable handlebars and seat heights — for safe and stable toilet transfers — are great for those with weakness and instability issues.
  2. Adjustable beds. Although pricey, they’re a real investment in helping to adjust comfort levels with the push of a button. These beds can help create an upright position for eating and are a good tool for preventing bedsores. They also allow for fast repositioning, and safer and faster transfers in and out of bed.
  3. Walk-in shower with handrails. These make it easier for caregivers to get someone with dementia or other challenges to bathe. Walk-in showers have more room for a seat or bench and grab bars. Anti-slip flooring and faucets that regulate water flow and temperature to prevent scalding should also be added.
  4. Motion-sensor lights. Wireless motion-sensor lights can illuminate dim areas, such as stairs and long hallways. These lights are battery-operated, have built-in magnets and double-sided adhesives and shut off after a short amount of inactive time, usually from 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. In-home cameras. Cameras can prevent a loved one from leaving a home or wandering off without a caregiver’s knowledge.
  6. GPS trackers. These devices let loved ones live an independent life, while letting caregivers know exactly where they are. This technology allows for real-time tracking, the setup of safe zones and custom alerts to let caregivers know someone has wandered off. They also may have two-way communication and the ability to give others, like additional family members, access to the same information.
  7. Monitoring apps. There are many digital apps that can be used as monitors, reminders and providers of useful information.
  8. Customizable digital clocks. Choose clocks with large, easy-to-read displays, or voice capabilities. Some clocks let caregivers set reminders, such as “It is now Saturday afternoon.” Caregivers can program alarms, events, birthdays and holidays. Models with personalized voice reminders — for medication, appointments, and tasks — let the person being cared for hear the comforting voice of the caregiver.
  9. Large erasable whiteboards and calendars. Place these in commonly frequented parts of the house, like the kitchen and family room. These can be easier to use and more legible for people with dementia.

Reference: AARP (Dec. 21, 2021) “9 Items That Make Home Caregiving Easier”


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What Should I Know about Burial Insurance ?

Burial insurance—also called end-of-life insurance, final expense, or funeral insurance—is a whole life insurance policy that’s designed to pay for the costs of your burial. These costs may include a memorial service, cremation costs, a headstone for your grave or other expenses associated with end-of-life arrangements.

Bankrate’s recent article entitled “Burial insurance” explains that if you have your affairs in order, your family already knows what will happen when you die. You may have given instructions for how you’d like your body to be treated, as well as ideas for your memorial service or what you want written on a tombstone.

However, all of these things cost money. If you don’t want your family to be stuck paying those costs, you may want to consider a burial policy.

Because the payout for this insurance is small compared to many regular life insurance policies, the premiums can also be quite affordable. The policies are easy to purchase and don’t require a medical exam. However, there may be a waiting period and the policy may offer only limited benefits in the first two years.

Burial insurance policies cover all the normal costs incurred by someone’s death, such as:

  • Embalming
  • A casket
  • Flowers
  • Cremation costs
  • A burial plot
  • The cost of transporting the body and/or remains
  • A headstone; and
  • Payment to clergy.

One type of burial policy, called a guaranteed issue life insurance policy, is available without any medical or health questions. It’s designed for those who are seriously ill and can’t get a policy any other way.

If all the appropriate arrangements have been made, the process of filing a burial insurance claim should be fairly smooth.

Reference: Bankrate (March 5, 2021) “Burial insurance”


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What Is a Marital Trust ?

Marital trusts have multiple benefits for beneficiaries, including asset allocation and tax benefits.  They are worth looking at in your estate plan.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “Guide To Marital Trusts” says that a marital trust is an irrevocable trust that allows you to transfer a deceased spouse’s assets to the surviving spouse without paying any taxes. The trust also protects assets from creditors and future spouses that the surviving spouse may encounter.

When the surviving spouse dies, the assets in the trust aren’t included as part of their estate. That will keep the taxes on their estate lower.

There are three parties involved in setting up, maintaining and ultimately passing along the trust, including a grantor, who is the person who establishes the trust; the trustee, who’s the person or organization that manages the trust and its assets; and the beneficiary. That’s the person who will eventually receive the assets in the trust, once the grantor dies.

A marital trust also involves the principal, which are assets initially put into the trust.

A marital trust doubles the couple’s estate tax exemption limit, especially when almost all assets are owned by one spouse. Estate tax refers to the federal tax that must be paid on someone’s estate after they die. The estate tax limit is how much of an estate will be tax-free. In 2022, the estate tax limit is $12.06 million, which means utilizing such a trust would essentially double that amount to $24.12 million. Therefore, about $24 million of a couple’s net worth would be shielded from estate taxes by taking advantage of a marital trust.

A marital trust is also beneficial because it can provide income to the surviving spouse, tax-free.

Only a surviving spouse can be a beneficiary of a these trusts. When the surviving spouse dies, the trust will then be passed on to whomever the first spouse’s will or trust governs.

If keeping wealth within your family after you die is important, then a marital trust is an estate planning tool that will make certain that individuals outside of your family don’t have access to the wealth. You can put a variety of assets into the trust, including property, retirement accounts and investment accounts.

A marital trust is one legal tool to consider using when planning for a blended family.

Reference: Forbes (June 30, 2022) “Guide To Marital Trusts”


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401(k) Does Potential IRS Change Have an Impact on Estate Plan?

The new federal regulation would require many people who inherit money through traditional IRAs, as well as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and eligible 457(b)s to withdraw funds from the accounts every year over a 10-year period, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “How an IRS Change Could Hurt Your Heirs” says that the change would apply to most beneficiaries other than spouses, and would apply to those who inherited money after 2019.

Children 21 and older, grandchildren and most others who get money from an affected account would need to follow the new regulations or rules.

The proposed change would require beneficiaries to take minimum taxable withdrawals every year for 10 years from their inheritance in situations where the original account owner died on or after April 1 of the year of his or her 72nd birthday.

These withdrawals, technically known as required minimum distributions (RMDs), must deplete the account within the 10-year period.

Heirs would pay a penalty of 50% on any RMD amounts they didn’t withdraw according to the schedule defined by the new IRS rules.

The proposed change has the potential to leave your heirs less wealthy. The reason is because the money you bequeath to heirs would have less time to grow in tax-advantaged accounts before they would be forced to withdraw it.

Over time, this can make a big difference in how much money they accumulate from the initial amount you leave them in your 401(k) .

The proposed rules are designed to clarify changes resulting from the federal Secure Act of 2019.

If the IRS moves forward with the changes, the new rules will add to the growing number of reasons why it makes sense for some people to consider putting money into a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA.

With a Roth IRA, the account owner pays taxes upfront As a result, heirs won’t owe any taxes on the money they inherit. Therefore, the new rules wouldn’t apply to Roth IRAs.

Reference: Money Talks News (May 13, 2022) “How an IRS Change Could Hurt Your Heirs”


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Do I Need a Spendthrift Trust ?

Spendthrift Trust – There are situations when you want to care for your children in your will. However, you know they’d just blow their inheritance in just a few years. That’s when a spendthrift trust is useful. This type of trust has restrictions that protect immature heirs from both themselves and potential creditors.

US News’ recent article entitled “What Is a Spendthrift Trust?” explains that a spendthrift trust lets you  leave funds to a beneficiary, without giving them full control over those funds. Instead, a trustee is given the authority to distribute funds for the benefit of a beneficiary.

This type of trust is created to protect a beneficiary from squandering the wealth bequeathed to them or was left to them

Speak with an estate attorney and talk in detail about your concerns. Ask the attorney to draft this document for you.

The attorney can write into the trust certain rules, such as that an heir may be required to reach a certain age before they start receiving payments, or that the heir receives installments at certain life stages.

If you have an heir or someone you want to leave an inheritance who is immature, irresponsible, or underage, a spendthrift trust can give you some control and power over how and when the money is spent.

A spendthrift trust can also try to limit access to the funds by creditors. The objective is to keep other people from accessing the funds set aside for the beneficiary.

It’s the goal of the original trust creator to protect their beneficiary’s assets from other people. This might be a creditor or even an ex-spouse.

Note that the laws regarding spendthrift trusts vary from state to state, so work with a local estate planning attorney.

The ability of a creditor to access assets in the trust will to depend on state law. Every state has different rules regarding their respect for the spendthrift trust.

One of the critical tasks in setting up a successful spendthrift trust is the person who is named as the trustee of the funds. That person can have some discretion when distributing the funds, so it needs to be an individual you can trust over the long term. That’s why partnering with an experienced estate planning attorney who’s truly an expert in that field is so important.

Reference: US News (June 28, 2022) “What Is a Spendthrift Trust?”


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Understanding the Issues of Elder Law

Elder Law – The legal needs of many older Americans go beyond basic legal services. They are also all intertwined. In addition to understanding the legal issues and complications that older Americans face, elder law attorneys must also understand the surrounding personal concerns of their clients, such as health, financial and family issues, and how those affect their clients’ legal issues.

Recently Heard’s article entitled “What You Need to Know About Elder Law” explains that other specific areas of expertise include the following:

  • End of life planning could extend to planning your health care support system as you age, signing a power of attorney, establishing a living will and other issues surrounding end of life care.
  • Financial issues frequently entails questions about retirement and financial planning, housing financing, income and estate tax planning and gift tax issues.
  • Long term care can include planning for asset protection, insurance for in-home care or assistance with activities of daily living, Medicare planning, insurance, veterans’ benefits and other issues.
  • Residents’ rights issues may include claims or complaints you bring while a patient in a nursing home or long term care facility.
  • Workplace discrimination issues stem, from the fact that older Americans sometimes face age and disability discrimination in the workplace.
  • Guardianship issues might include guardianship avoidance, planning wills and trusts, planning for the future of a special needs child, probate court and other issues surrounding minor or adult children.
  • Landlord-tenant law may mean handling disputes with landlords, contesting an eviction, dealing with foreclosure issues, rent increases and more.
  • Abuse, neglect, and fraud. These elder law attorneys specialize in cases where an older client is being victimized.

An elder law attorney can be a great partner for you as you plan out the legal and financial aspects of the next stage of your life-or the life of a loved one. Speak to one today.

Reference: Recently Heard (June 23, 2022) “What You Need to Know About Elder Law”


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Can Bone Density Scan Predict Dementia?

Bone Density Scans – A new study shows that calcification within the abdominal aorta can double one’s risk of developing dementia over the age of 80.

News Atlas’ recent article entitled “Common bone density scan can predict later-life dementia risk” reports that the new study examined data from a long-term research project called The Perth Longitudinal Study of Aging Women. The project initially was focused on understanding how calcium supplements can prevent osteoporotic fractures. However, it also included more than 10 years of valuable follow-up health data.

A team of researchers from Australia’s Edith Cowan University re-examined data from that study, hypothesizing that certain biomarkers gathered from bone density scans could be used to predict the onset of dementia up to 15 years later. The focus was on a biomarker called abdominal aortic calcification (AAC). That’s a build-up of calcium in the body’s largest artery. AAC is currently used to predict a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Examining the health records from nearly 1,000 women, they found those subjects with medium to high AAC in their mid-70s were twice as likely to be hospitalized or die from dementia over the following 15 years.

It’s very quick and easy to capture these scans. They are also less-invasive, cheaper and miniscule in radiation exposure compared to X-rays or CT scans. One of the study’s authors, Joshua Lewis, said that bone density scans are common tests for senior citizens.

“It’s generally very quick and easy to capture these scans and they are less-invasive, cheaper and miniscule in radiation exposure compared to X-rays or CT scans,” said Lewis. “It means these scans may be a cheap, rapid and safe way to screen a large number of susceptible older Australians for higher late-life dementia risk.”

The study also indicates there to be a significant overlap in the link between cardiovascular health and brain health. Simon Laws, another researcher on the project, said identifying AAC as a risk factor in late-life dementia opens the door to lifestyle and dietary interventions that could help people prevent cognitive decline in their 80s.

“There’s an adage in dementia research that what’s good for your heart is good for your brain,” Laws said. “What’s come to light is the importance of modifying risk factors, such as diet and physical activity, in preventing dementia: you need to intervene early and hopefully this study allows for the earliest possible change and the greatest impact.”

In the short-term, these findings offer doctors and patients a novel way to use data from a common bone scan in assessing one’s risk of developing dementia in the coming years. The new study was published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health.

Reference: News Atlas (June 27, 2022) “ Common bone density scan can predict later-life dementia risk”


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What’s Latest on Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman ’s Estate?

A shocking and heartbreaking news event of 2020 was the death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. It was also sad that the actor had been battling colon cancer for years before succumbing to the disease on August 28, 2020.

The movie Black Panther had become a phenomenal hit with millions of fans eagerly anticipating a sequel. A sequel is scheduled for release later this year, but it will be without its star.

MSN’s recent article entitled “Chadwick Boseman’s Widow and Family Reach Agreement Over Actor’s Estate” explains that since his passing, Boseman’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, was placed in charge of handling his financial affairs.

RadarOnline obtained the final report of accounting filed by Ledward. Court documents say that Boseman’s estate decreased slightly after Ledward paid a $900,000 bond for costs associated with the probate case. Her late husband’s company Chadwick Boseman, Inc., reportedly owed a tax bill worth $51,000, but the estate plans to dispute it.

Ms. Ledward asked for reimbursement for funeral expenses including $9,500 for the venue, $10K for the funeral service, $1,275 for flowers and the $7,495 cost for a mausoleum crypt at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Anderson, South Carolina. She also spent $22,000 to purchase mausoleum crypts for Boseman’s parents Leroy and Carolyn to be buried next to him as their final resting place. The court allowed her to be reimbursed $47,000 of the requested amount. Ledward states that the total inventoried value of the estate is $3,881,758.31. That amount includes several residual checks that have come in since March 2021. Boseman’s estate has netted more than $230,000 since his death.

The filing states, “No other assets have come into the hands of [Ledward]. All assets have been inventoried and no additional assets have been received, although [Ledward] continues to receive and deposit residual payments into the estate and/or corporate account.”

Boseman’s widow said there’s no real property of the estate, and no real estate tax is due. The California and federal income taxes have been paid, with no tax amounts currently owing.

In addition, an undergraduate scholarship has been funded in Boseman’s name in a partnership between Netflix and Howard University (his alma mater). The same institution’s College of Fine Arts has been renamed the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.

Reference: MSN (June 27, 2022) “Chadwick Boseman’s Widow and Family Reach Agreement Over Actor’s Estate”


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What Is an ‘Ethical Will’?

Ethical Will – A “legacy letter” is designed to define a person’s non-financial legacy – from details of the key milestones, places and relationships in their life to the thoughts, feelings, obstacles and lessons they experienced along the way. They can even be a place to ensure important family traditions and values are preserved and continued in future, says Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Remember, You’re Worth More Than Your Money.”

Rather than quickly writing a letter in hindsight during old age, you should be constantly capturing major milestones, lessons and experiences in your life as they occur. This will enable future generations of your family to read, watch and, crucially, learn from them further down the line.

Many of the stories you’ll want to share in your ethical will would be achievements. However, at the same time, an ethical will isn’t only about painting a picture of perfection. We’re inspired by recovery, so you must also record the times you hit an obstacle, failed and came back stronger.

These life experiences and bits of advice can help future generations avoid the same mistakes and believe they can overcome similar issues in their own lives.

An ethical will can also enable you, as the bequeather, to fulfill that innate human desire to be eternal. You will be able to leave a legacy based not only on your material wealth, but also on your relationships, intellect, ethics and life lessons. It helps you to keep on having “conversations” with your grandchildren about their financial decisions and lifestyle choices long after you die.

You could also create a matching program in which your assets are linked to a specific behavior pattern. Therefore, if your goal is to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, missionaries, or professors, you can expressly state in your will that anyone who decides to pursue your chosen path can reach into the family trust and get a certain amount of dollars to do so.

This will allow you to align your financial resources to behaviors and values that are important to you from beyond the grave.

Whatever steps you decide to take to get started on your ethical will, it’s critical to plan for end-of-life in a way that goes beyond simply passing on your financial wealth to future generations.

You should also be including all the other things that have defined your life and that can go on to help your loved ones shape theirs as well.

Reference: Kiplinger (June 11, 2022) “Remember, You’re Worth More Than Your Money”


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Unmarried Couples – What Happens If My Partner Dies?

Unmarried Couples – Traditional or non-traditional couples have the option of marrying, but not all couples wish to, according to a recent article from Kiplinger, “Marriage: When You’d Rather Not.”

Planning for a life together without the legal protections provided by marriage means couples of all kinds who decide not to marry must be sure to do estate planning. Otherwise, they may find themselves in life-altering situations concerning property ownership, parental rights, and inheritances. An estate plan is one of the most important protections for unmarried couples. It’s a gift to give each other.

Start with a last will and testament. Unmarried couples without children need a will, if they want to leave each other property. Otherwise, the laws of most states will have property going to the legal next-of-kin, which might be parents, siblings, or cousins. No matter how many decades the couple has been together, if they are not married, they have no legal inheritance rights.

Other estate planning basics are important to protect each other while living. Without documents like a financial power of attorney and a health care proxy for both partners, medical and other health care providers might not allow your partner to make critical health decisions on your behalf. For couples where families disapprove of their unmarried status, asking a parent to make these decisions, especially in an emergency situation, could magnify a crisis or worse, lead to a result neither partner wants.

Accounts with named beneficiaries, which typically include life insurance policies, retirement funds, investment accounts and similar financial products, aren’t distributed by the terms of your will. Instead, they pass directly to beneficiaries on death. Even traditional married couples run into trouble when beneficiary designations are not updated.

Every time there is a life change, including death, birth, break-up, or any big life event, updating beneficiaries is a good idea for all concerned.

Unmarried couples with children need to be especially diligent about estate planning. If a biological parent dies, their assets go to their biological children. However, when the non-biological parent dies, all of their assets could go to other relatives, unless a will is in place and beneficiaries are properly named. What about if the non-biological parent takes the step of legally adopting the children? They should still check on their parental rights. If accounts do not have beneficiaries named, the assets will go to next of kin, a parent or sibling and not the child or partner.

Home ownership is another financial issue to tackle for unmarried couples. They need a document clearly stating how the home is owned, how much each invested in the home, who is responsible for mortgage and tax payments, how to divide the home if it’s sold and who has the right to live in the home if the couple breaks up or if one dies or becomes disabled. If a home is solely in one person’s name and the other partner dies, the surviving partner may end up being evicted if the right protections are not in place.

For unmarried couples, meeting with an estate planning attorney is necessary to protect each other now and in the future.

Reference: Kiplinger (June 16, 2022) “Marriage: When You’d Rather Not.”


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