Is It Safe to Drive with Age-Related Hearing Loss?

You might worry about whether it is safe for you or a loved one to drive with hearing loss. It is legal to drive with hearing loss, but some states require specific vehicle adaptations, depending on the type and level of hearing impairment. The focus of this article is not on the legality of driving with impaired hearing. This article explores the question Is it safe to drive with age-related hearing loss?

Step One – Get a Hearing Evaluation

People tend to think of age-related hearing loss as a normal part of growing older, so they do not get a professional hearing assessment or talk with a doctor about the condition. A third of people over age 65 have some hearing loss. Two-thirds of people over age 75 have lost some of their ability to hear.

Hearing loss is one of the most ignored medical conditions today. People wait an average of seven years to seek medical help, after noticing a problem with their hearing. Hearing aids can improve hearing for millions of people, but very few people will wear the devices. As a result of these two facts, many drivers have untreated hearing impairments.

Audiologists say that everyone should get a baseline hearing exam at age 55. You should get regular hearing checkups after the initial assessment. Whenever you notice a change in your hearing, you should check with your doctor. There might be something else going on, like high blood pressure that can cause ringing in the ears and prevent you from hearing well.

How to Be a Safer Driver with Hearing Impairment

Audiology experts say that most people with hearing impairment can be safer drivers, if they follow these recommendations:

  • Work closely with your hearing specialist to find the best hearing aid for you. Learn how to make your device comfortable. Tell your audiologist what you dislike about your hearing aid, so you can correct the problem instead of putting the device into a drawer. Have your hearing specialist fine-tune your hearing aid to optimize your ability to hear.
  • Keep it quiet in the car. Cut down on noises that will compete with the sounds you need to hear to drive safely. Turn down the radio volume and close the windows.
  • Get your eyes checked. If you have hearing loss, you will need to keep a sharp lookout to notice things on the road you cannot hear. Make sure you get regular professional eye exams, keep your eyeglass prescription up to date and wear any needed glasses when driving.
  • Have extra mirrors installed to increase your field of view. Some states require drivers with hearing impairment to use larger rearview mirrors. Even if your state does not mandate this equipment, you can be a safer driver if you expand your field of vision.
  • Cut down on distractions. We should all avoid distracted driving. People with sensory impairment need to be able to focus on the roadway, at least as much as those without these challenges. Reduce the risk of missing a vital visual or auditory cue, by minimizing your distractions when behind the wheel.

You should also talk with your doctor and audiologist about additional ways you can be a safer driver with age-related hearing loss.

Every state makes unique laws that might vary from the general law of this article. Be sure to talk with an elder law attorney near you about your state’s regulations.

References:

AARP. “Driving with Hearing Loss?” (accessed September 14, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/auto/driver-safety/info-2019/driving-with-hearing-loss.html

 

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Is Medicare Coverage Free?
New Medicare Advantage

Is Medicare Coverage Free?

Medicare coverage has a variety of expenses—including premiums, copays and deductibles. CNBC’s recent article, “Here’s what you should know about Medicare costs if you’re nearing age 65,” found that half of respondents in a recent poll by consumer website eligibility.com, said they believe Medicare is free.  If you fail to sign up on time, you may face penalties for the rest of your life.

Fidelity Investments estimates that the average male-female couple will spend at least $285,000 on health care in retirement. The items not covered by Medicare—dental, basic vision, over-the-counter medicines, long-term care—would be in addition to that amount.

If you have at least a 10-year work history, you pay no premiums for Medicare Part A. This will cover hospital stays, skilled nursing, hospice, and some home health services. However, Part A has a deductible of $1,364 per benefit period and some caps on benefits. Part B—which covers outpatient care and medical supplies—has a standard monthly premium of $135.50 (in 2019). Higher earners pay more. This part has a $185 deductible (for 2019). After it’s satisfied, you typically pay 20% of covered services.

Those parts of Medicare don’t cover prescriptions, so a Part D drug plan is needed.

You can get a separate plan to use with original Medicare, or you can enroll in an Advantage Plan (Part C). This plan usually has prescription drug coverage. If you go with this, your Parts A and B benefits also will be delivered through the insurance company offering the Advantage Plan.

The average cost for Part D coverage in 2019 is $32.50 per month, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. However, high earners pay extra for their premiums. The deductible for 2019 is $415.

If you accessed your Social Security benefits before age 65, you’ll automatically be signed up for original Medicare. A month or two before you turn 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled, and your card will be delivered in the mail. You’ll see your Social Security check decreased by the cost of the Part B premium.

If you haven’t yet used Social Security, you must enroll proactively. There’s a seven-month enrollment period that begins three months before your birthday month and ends three months after it. If you have insurance through an employer when you reach age 65, you may be able to wait to enroll in Medicare without a penalty.

Even if you don’t take medicine right now, at least sign up for the cheapest drug plan just so you don’t face a penalty. This is because if you don’t enroll in Part B when you’re supposed to, you’ll see a 10% penalty for each year that you should’ve been enrolled. The amount would be in addition to your monthly premium. Part B enrollment isn’t required, if you have medical coverage from your job.

As far as Part D, the penalty for not enrolling when you were first eligible is 1% for every month that you could have been signed up—unless you have qualifying coverage through an employer’s plan.

Many people couple their original Medicare benefits with a supplemental policy—known as Medigap—to help cover out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and coinsurance. However, you can’t pair a Medigap policy with an Advantage Plan.

If you select an Advantage Plan, there may be limited coverage for dental and vision.

Reference: CNBC (August 29, 2019) “Here’s what you should know about Medicare costs if you’re nearing age 65”

 

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What You Need to Know About Continuing Care Retirement Communities

With all the different types of residential options for seniors today, it is easy to get confused by the terminology. If you are trying to decide which choice is right for you or your loved one, you need to evaluate several kinds of arrangements. Here is what you need to know about continuing care retirement communities.

A continuing care retirement community offers a continuum of care, from independent living for people who need no assistance, to assisted living that offers some services, to nursing home care that provides skilled nursing care. A person or couple usually move into the level they need, with the option to move to either more independence or more services as their needs change.

The benefit of a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) is you do not have to move to a different facility when you need more medical attention or if your health improves. You would have to move to a different part of the community, that is usually in a separate building. However, all levels of care are at one campus or physical location.

The drawbacks of CCRC include:

  • These facilities tend to be more expensive than stand-alone centers. There is usually a sizeable entrance fee, ranging from $10,000 to $500,000.
  • The monthly expenses of living in a CCRC make these facilities out of range for low-income and most middle-income seniors. On top of the rent, there is a monthly maintenance fee that can range from $200 to more than $2,000.
  • There might not be a vacancy in the section to which you want to move, so you might have to go on a waiting list or move out of the CCRC to get the level of care you need. If you move out, you can lose the entrance fee you paid.
  • Usually, you do not own the place where you live, even though you might pay more than the market value of the building.

On the other hand, CCRCs have advantages, like:

  • A broader range of activities and services than stand-alone facilities.
  • Getting to stay close to the friends you have at the CCRC, when your needs change.
  • More options for independent living, like apartments, houses, duplexes and townhomes.
  • The CCRC arrangement creates a social network and helps residents get through grief when a spouse passes. Residents of CCRCs tend to have less social isolation and higher activity levels as widows or widowers, than people who live in single-family homes that are not part of a CCRC.
  • Because CCRCs have so many ongoing activities and the facilities include a range of opportunities for physical exercise, like swimming, yoga, tennis, golf, walking and dance, seniors in these communities tend to stay healthy and socially engaged.
  • Many CCRCs have barbers, hairdressers, grocery stores, coffee shops and retail shops onsite for the convenience of residents.
  • You can tailor your services to your desires. One resident might only want lawn care and snow removal. Another person might want housekeeping, meal preparation and transportation.

Make sure that you get detailed written information about all the costs for each service the CCRC offers and for all levels of care. Get the facility to tell you in writing what happens to your entrance fee, if you move from the facility. Compare at least three CCRC developments, if you decide that a CCRC is the option you prefer and can afford.

References:

A Place for Mom. “Continuing Care Retirement Communities.” (accessed August 21, 2019) https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/continuing-care-retirement-communities

 

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When Do I Need a Power of Attorney?

Without a valid durable power of attorney, the answer really depends on what documents need to be signed.

A power of attorney is a legal document signed by the “Principal,” granting the authority to another individual the Agent to make decisions on the Principal’s behalf. This document is only in effect during the lifetime of the Principal.

nj.com’s recent article on this topic asks “Who can sign for an incapacitated person if there’s no power of attorney?” The article noted that to have the authority to conduct financial transactions concerning the assets solely owned by the incapacitated person who failed to execute a power of attorney, a guardian will have to be appointed by the court.

A guardianship is a legal relationship established by the court, in which an individual is given legal authority over another when that person is unable to make safe and sound decisions regarding his or her person, or property.

For example, in New Jersey, an application will have to be filed in the probate part of the Superior Court, in the county where the incapacitated person resides.

If it’s not an emergency, a guardian also will need to be appointed to make medical decisions for an incapacitated person who hasn’t signed a health care proxy. This is a legal document that gives an agent the authority to make health care decisions for an incapacitated person. It will take effect, if the person is incapacitated or unable to communicate. The agent will make decisions that reflect the wishes of the incapacitated individual.

It’s typically not necessary to be appointed as an agent under a power of attorney or health care proxy or legal guardian for another person to sign an assisted living or nursing home admissions contract or a Medicaid application.

However, prior to signing another person’s admissions contract, read the fine print to be certain that you don’t become responsible for the bills!

Reference: nj.com (July 22, 2019) “Who can sign for an incapacitated person if there’s no power of attorney?”

 

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Over-Medication of Nursing Home Residents
taking prescription pill with milk

Over-Medication of Nursing Home Residents

Nursing homes are supposed to administer prescribed medications to residents. Appropriate use of these substances can treat illness and improve the quality of life for the senior. The problem arises when nursing homes use drugs to control the behavior of residents and make them easier to “handle,” instead of providing good care. The over-medication of nursing home residents, also called “chemical restraints,” is an issue across the nation.

An Overview of the Misuse of Antipsychotic Drugs

Some nursing homes keep their residents in a “zombie” state, drugged up on powerful antipsychotic medications, even though the seniors do not suffer from psychotic illnesses. These drugs can make a person drowsy, compliant and less physically active. When in such a state, the resident requires and receives little personal care from the facility.

Long-term care centers started using these chemical restraints, when state and federal legislation outlawed the routine use of physical restraints on people who live in nursing homes. Before those laws, many long-term care facilities would tie residents to their beds at night, and into chairs during the day. Drugging nursing home residents for the purpose of staff convenience, as opposed to a legitimate medical reason, is illegal. Both Medicaid and Medicare prohibit this treatment, yet the behavior continues.

The Dangers of Chemical Restraints

In addition to the assault on the resident’s dignity and the administration of drugs without informed consent, the misuse of anti-psychotic drugs can kill a senior, particularly one who suffers from dementia. These medications interfere with the way a person thinks, reacts and feels.

Resources for Dealing with the Misuse of Drugs on Nursing Home Residents

The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) developed a toolkit for families and residents to use when dealing with the issue of chemical restraints. You can learn about the symptoms of misuse of antipsychotic drugs, what rights the residents have to be free from this improper drugging without consent and how to advocate for your loved one, if you suspect the nursing home is using chemical restraints.

Alternative to the Misuse of Psychotic Drugs

When a resident’s conduct presents issues for the staff or other residents, some nursing homes prescribe antipsychotic medications to chemically restrain the resident whose behavior is at issue. Things like wandering into other residents’ rooms, aggressiveness, anger and anxiety are some examples of the conduct that can lead to the use of chemical restraints.

The long-term care facility should try these alternatives instead of drugging the resident:

  • Discover the cause of the behavior. Merely applying the label of “problem” does not address the situation adequately. Find out why the resident engages in the unwanted conduct.
  • Develop a care plan tailored to the resident to deal with the behavior.
  • Establish a protocol of good care for the patient that incorporates things like increased time outdoors, more physical exercise, monitoring and treating both acute and chronic pain, planning activities for the individual resident, having enough staff, and training the staff on how to provide good patient care without using physical or chemical restraints.

If you suspect your loved one’s nursing home is using chemical restraints, contact your state’s ombudsman about the steps you should take.

Your state might have different regulations than the general law of this article. You should talk to an elder law attorney near you.

References:

National Consumer Voice. “Antipsychotic Drugs.” (accessed August 15, 2019) https://ltcombuds man.org/issues/misuse-of-antipsychotic-drugs

 

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Get the Facts About Dementia Care

A person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia might need to move into a specialized care facility for his own safety and medical care. If you have a loved one in this situation, you need to know about the options available for dementia care in assisted living and nursing home facilities.

The Alzheimer’s Association created practice recommendations for nursing homes and assisted living facilities that offer dementia care for residents. These guidelines focus on six care areas:

  • Food and fluid consumption
  • Pain management
  • Social engagement
  • Wandering
  • Falls
  • Physical restraints

Care Recommendations about Food and Fluid Consumption

People with dementia do not always make good choices about the food and liquid they consume. They might not consume enough to meet their nutritional or hydration needs, or they might consume items with little nutritional value. As a result, their health and comfort can suffer.

Facilities that provide dementia care should:

  • Perform initial and routine periodic assessments of each resident’s food and fluid consumption status.
  • Develop procedures that ensure the residents consume proper food and liquids.
  • Make mealtimes enjoyable events, where staff interact with the residents and assess the food and fluid in a pleasant social setting.

Residents with physical challenges that make eating or drinking difficult should receive assessment by qualified professional specialists.

Pain Management Care Recommendations

Because many people with dementia have difficulty communicating, they under-report their pain and do not receive the treatment they need. Untreated pain is one of the main reasons why nursing home residents develop undesired behavioral symptoms and receive psychotropic drugs to manage their behavior, instead of getting relief from their pain.

Dementia care should include:

  • Including pain assessment in every vital signs check, along with pulse, temperature, blood pressure and respirations. Consider pain as the “fifth vital sign.”
  • Routinely treat pain just as one would address problems with any other vital sign.
  • Customize the pain management techniques for each resident, taking into account the individual’s risks, medical conditions, needs and other relevant circumstances.

Appropriate pain management can improve the resident’s quality of life.

Guidelines for Social Engagement

Every day, the facility should offer multiple opportunities for residents with dementia to engage in fun, meaningful social activities. The nursing home or assisted living center should consider each resident’s interests and functional abilities. A roomful of residents sitting in their wheelchairs passively watching a staff member perform an activity has little meaning for them, as compared to an event in which the residents can actively participate.

The home should respect each resident’s preferences, including a desire for solitude or downtime. The staff should never force a resident to participate in an activity.

Recommendations about Wandering

Many people with dementia engage in a behavior called wandering. Often, the resident wanders because he is physically uncomfortable, in emotional distress, is bothered by something in his environment, or is looking for social contact.

Facilities that offer dementia care need to encourage the resident to be mobile and physically active, but provide a safe and independent means for him to do so. Some dementia care facilities have hallways that loop around in a circle, so residents can satisfy the need to walk without ending up far from their rooms.

The center should assess the reasons for the individual’s wandering and try to meet those needs.  The facility should also develop protocols that prevent unsafe wandering, including exit seeking.

Guidelines to Prevent Falls

The facility should assess each resident’s risk of falling to prevent injuries. Fall injuries can rob a resident of her mobility. The center should implement measures that reduce the risk of falling. Physical restraints lead to fall injuries. For this and other reasons, nursing homes should avoid the use of physical restraints.

Recommendations on the Use of Physical Restraints

Sometimes a nursing home will use physical restraints under the misguided notion these devices keep residents safe. However, in fact, restraints often harm residents. Facilities should identify the reasons for undesired behavior and address those issues without using restraints. The staff should receive training on restraint-free techniques for keeping residents safe.

Every state has different laws, and your state’s regulations might vary from the general law of this article. You might want to talk to an elder law attorney near you.

References:

National Consumer Voice. “Dementia Care.” (accessed August 15, 2019) https://ltcombudsman.org/issues/dementia-care

 

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Are You Considering the Impact of Your Estate Plan on your Heirs?

When thinking about an estate plan, the top priority is usually devising strategies on how to transfer assets to heirs. It’s rare that a person really considers the consequences for the beneficiaries.

Kiplinger’s recent article asks, “Are You Forcing Unintended Consequences on Your Heirs?” An estate plan should bring about a positive outcome. However, you may be surprised to learn how easy it is to impose an unintended negative outcome on your family.

Some retirees have an estate plan that says, in essence, “What I’ve put together is enough. It’s my children’s problem to address it, when they get it. Regardless, they’ll be better off, so I’m not gonna worry.” Although that may be true, a better approach is to create intentional outcomes that advance the mental and emotional value of their wealth. This requires you to do something that can be uncomfortable—that’s talking about your wealth with your family. Many issues arise from a lack of communication and a lack of understanding of your heirs’ financial situations. Here are some examples of how you may be forcing unintended consequences on your family, when your assets transition with your estate.

Passing Unequal IRA Tax Liability to Your Heirs. When you pass on assets in a traditional IRA, you also pass the taxes and Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) of that account. Unless your children all pay tax at the exact same rate because they are all in roughly the same income tax bracket, each of their inheritances will have a different tax liability. As a result, the amount they actually receive, after-tax, will also be different. Be sure to look into the effects of an equal split of the assets in your estate plan.

Inheriting a Vacation Home. If you own a vacation home, it’s likely you hope that your children will be able to enjoy it as a part of your legacy. Parents may directly pass a property to their children or set up a Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT). However, talk to your children to see if they share the same intent for their future. A vacation home can become a burden for your children, if none of them or only one wants it.

Selling Illiquid Asset at Bargain Prices. These are assets that are hard to value and hard to sell, like real estate, collectibles and other alternative investments. If they decide to sell the illiquid asset, know that it may be at an auction or at a fire sale price, leaving your heirs with less money. Instead, think about selling these assets, while you can make sure that the fair market value is attained.

Life Insurance Proceeds Set in a Trust. You may have a life insurance policy in an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), which was set up to retain the proceeds of the policy out of your estate to avoid estate taxes. Many people did this long ago, when the federal estate tax exemption was $600,000 and have failed to look over the terms of the trust since then. However, now in 2019, the federal exemption is $11.4 million per person. For many, this means the need to own the insurance policy in the trust may be unnecessary.

Protecting Wealth in Trusts That Don’t Fit with Plans. Many people use revocable trusts as a method to protect their heirs from probate. However, when you die, the trust becomes irrevocable, and the distribution of the funds is dependent upon the terms of the trust, which may create unnecessary restrictions on accessing the funds. Therefore, it’s crucial to make certain that your need for the trust is supported by its terms to address your family’s circumstances.

An effective estate plan transfers your assets to your heirs, and it also aligns the personal, emotional, and financial situations of all those involved. Remember to think about what the heirs receive.

When meeting with a qualified estate planning attorney, be certain to talk about any restrictions that you’re intentionally or unintentionally imparting on your heirs.

Reference: Kiplinger (June 13, 2019) “Are You Forcing Unintended Consequences on You

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If One Spouse is Incapacitated Can a Transaction Occur ?

Spouse is Incapacitated – An elderly married couple wished to sell their home, but they had a big problem. The notary public refused to notarize the wife’s signature, because she clearly did not understand the document she was being asked to sign. Because there was no power of attorney in place that could have authorized her husband to represent her, the transaction came to a halt.

This situation, as described in Lake Country News’ article “When one spouse becomes incapacitated,” is not an uncommon occurrence. The couple needed to petition the court for an order authorizing the transaction. When community property is concerned and one spouse is competent while the second is not, the competent spouse may ask the court for permission to conduct the transaction.

The request in California requires the following:

The incapacitated spouse must have an examination by a physician and a capacity evaluation form must be filed with the court. This is the same as a Guardianship proceeding.

The court must appoint a “guardian ad litem” to represent the incapacitated spouse’s interests. The person might be an adult child, or an attorney. That person must then file a written report with their recommendation to the court.

Next, the transaction must involve the couple’s community property. The order may affect additional separate property interests in the same transaction. If there is no community property, it is permissible for the well spouse to change some of the well spouse’s private property into community property to meet the requirements for community property.

The transactions must also be for one of several allowed purposes, including the best interests of the spouses or their estates, or for the care or support of either spouse.

In the example that starts this article, the purpose was to authorize the sale of their home, so they could move out of state to live with their children. Another example could be to transfer property, so an incapacitated spouse may become eligible for government benefits.

Finally, the notice of hearing and a copy of the petition must be served on all the incapacitated spouse’s children and grandchildren. Any of these individuals are permitted to object and could set the proceedings back months or even years.

How much easier would it be to simply meet with an estate planning attorney long before there are any health or mental capacity issues and have a power of attorney document created for each of the spouses?

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to have your estate plan, which includes the power of attorney document, and have all these important documents created before you need them.

Reference: Lake Country News (July 27, 2019) “When one spouse becomes incapacitated”

 

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How Much Will Long-Term Care Cost ?

The recent article from MarketWatch, “This is how much long-term care could cost you, and don’t expect Medicare to help,” reports that most people over 65 will eventually need help with daily living tasks, like bathing, eating, or dressing. Men will need assistance for an average of 2.2 years, and women will need it for 3.7 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging.

Many will rely on unpaid care from spouses or children, but over a third will spend time in a nursing home, where the median annual cost of a private room is now more than $100,000, according to insurer Genworth’s 2018 Cost of Care Survey. Four out of ten will choose paid care at home; the median annual cost of a home health aide is more than $50,000. Finally, more than 50% of people over 65 will incur long-term care costs, and 15% will incur more than $250,000 in costs, according to a study by Vanguard Research and Mercer Health and Benefits.

Note that Medicare and private health insurance typically don’t cover these “custodial” expenses. This means that such costs can quickly deplete the $126,000 median retirement savings for people age 65 to 74. People who exhaust their savings could wind up on Medicaid, the government health program for the indigent that pays for about half of all nursing home and custodial care.

People who live alone, are in poor health, or who have a family history of chronic conditions are more likely to require long-term care. Women face special risks, since they typically outlive their husbands and, as a result, may not have anyone to provide them with unpaid care. If husbands require paid care that erases all of the couple’s savings, women could have years or even decades of living on nothing but Social Security.

The earlier you start planning, the more choice and control you’ll have. Let’s look at some of the options:

Long-term care insurance. The average annual premium for a 55-year-old couple was $3,050 in 2019, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. Premiums are higher for older people, and those with chronic conditions might not be eligible. Policies typically cover part of long-term care costs for a defined period, like three years.

Hybrid long-term care insurance. With life insurance or annuities with long-term care benefits, money that isn’t used for long-term care can be left to your heirs. These products typically require you to commit large sums or are paid in installments over 5 to 10 years, although some now have “lifetime pay” options.

Home equity. People who move permanently into a nursing home may be able to sell their houses to help fund the care. Reverse mortgages may be an option, if one member of a couple remains in the home. This type of loan lets them use their home equity. However, it must be repaid if the owners die, sold, or they must move out.

Contingency reserve. People with a great deal of investments could plan on using some of those assets for long-term care. Their investments can produce income, until there’s a need for long-term care, and then can be sold to pay for a nursing home or home health aide.

Medicaid spend-down. Those who don’t have much saved or who face a catastrophic long-term care cost that cleans out their entire savings, could wind up applying for Medicaid. Ask an elder law attorney about ways to protect, at least some assets for your spouse.

Reference: MarketWatch (July 19, 2019) “This is how much long-term care could cost you, and don’t expect Medicare t

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How Does an ILIT Work?

There are pros and cons to using a revocable trust, which allows the grantor to make changes or even shut down the trust if they want to, and an irrevocable trust, which doesn’t allow any changes to be made from the creator of the trust once it’s set up, says kake.com in the article “How an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) Works.”

Revocable trusts tend to be used more often, since they allow for flexibility as life brings changes to the person who created the trust. However, an irrevocable life insurance trust may be a good idea in certain situations. Your estate planning attorney will help you determine which one is best suited for you.

This is how an irrevocable trust works. A grantor sets up and funds the trust, while they are living. If there are any gifts or transfers made to the trust, they are permanent and cannot be changed. The trustee—not the grantor—manages the trust and handles how distributions are made to the beneficiaries.

Despite their inflexibilities, there are some good reasons to use an irrevocable trust.

With an ILIT, the death benefits of life insurance may not be part of the gross estate, so they are not subject to state or federal estate taxes. They can be used to cover estate tax costs and other debts, as long as the estate is the purchaser and not the grantor. Just bear in mind that the beneficiaries’ estate may be impacted by the inheritance.

Minors may not be prepared to receive large assets. If there is an irrevocable trust, the death proceeds may be placed directly into a trust, so that beneficiaries must reach a certain age or other milestone, before they have access to the assets.

If there are concerns about legal proceedings where assets may be claimed by a creditor, for example, an irrevocable trust may work to protect the family. A high-liability business that faces claims whether you are living or have passed, can add considerable stress to the family. Place assets in the irrevocable trust to protect them from creditors.

The IRS notes that life insurance payouts are typically not included among your gross assets, and in most instances, they do not have to be reported. However, there are exceptions. If interest has been earned, that is taxable. And if a life insurance policy was transferred to you by another person in exchange for a sum of money, only the sum of money is excluded from taxes.

An ILIT should shield a life insurance payout and beneficiaries from any legal action against the grantor. The ILIT is not owned by the beneficiary, nor is it owned by the grantor. It makes it tough for courts to label them as assets, and next to impossible for creditors to access the funds.

However, there are some quirks about ILITs that may make them unsuitable. For one thing, some of the tax benefits only kick in, if you live three or more years after transferring your life insurance policy to the trust. Otherwise, the proceeds will be included in your estate for tax purposes.

Giving the trust money for the policy may make you subject to gift taxes. However, if you send beneficiaries a letter after each transfer notifying them of their right to claim the gifted funds for a certain period of time (e.g., 30 days), there won’t be gift taxes.

The most glaring irritant about an ILIT is that it is truly irrevocable, so the person who creates the trust must give up control of assets and can’t dissolve the trust.

Speak with your estate planning attorney to learn if an ILIT is suitable for you. It may not be—but your estate planning attorney will know what tools are available to reach your goals and to protect your family.

Reference: kake.com (July 19, 2019) “How an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) Works”

 

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