The largest coordinated sweep of identity fraud involving US seniors has recently been conducted. The US Department of Justice has reported that more than one million elderly people have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of this targeted financial abuse. The Department has criminally charged 200 out of 250 defendants identified in the sweep. These third party scam artists account for 27% of seniors who are financially exploited.
Con artists and scammers employ many different schemes to defraud seniors of their identity information and money. A large number of them are conducted over the telephone, for instance posing as an Internal Revenue Service agent claiming back taxes are owed, or frightening a grandparent to think that their grandchild has been arrested and needs bail money wired to them. Other schemes include the promise of a prize or lottery cash if they just send a large fee in order to collect their “winnings.”. Seniors become easy victims when targeted by these social engineering schemes and it is likely to get worse because of the proliferation of smart phones and other devices that get seniors to explore the online world.
USA Today reports that while phone scams target one senior at a time the online environment is opening doors to thousands or even millions of seniors falling prey to a single scam. Email and other online channels can reach a vast number of potential victims and more elderly people have an online presence than ever before.
Romance scams that use to be conducted in person can now be achieved in the online dating environment and even in social media. The attacker can befriend multiple seniors online and then ask for money to cover “travel expenses” to visit them. This is particularly successful as many seniors are dealing with isolation and loneliness.
The online shopping world is another vehicle employed by scam artists to defraud seniors of money. All that is needed is a picture of an object that seems to be owned by the scammer and you have the potential to sell that item over and over again to thousands of seniors. All the scam artist has to do is set up a mirror website that appears to be a legitimate online auction house such as E-bay to drain seniors of their money as well as obtain credit card and other identity information. These mirror sites masquerading as official websites are often in the email accounts of seniors and a mere click on a link can download malicious software to their device that is designed to steal critical identity information.
Of the 27% of seniors who do become financially exploited by a third party, 67% do not exhibit symptoms of cognitive decline. That is a huge number of mentally fit seniors being financially exploited. This is a pervasive problem in the elderly community. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2017” identity fraud is second only to debt collection with regard to consumer complaints. Identity fraud accounted for 14% of all consumer complaints last year. The Commission also reported that seniors who are financially exploited suffer higher median losses than other age groups.
Many seniors who have been targeted are embarrassed, ashamed, or scared as a result. Many never saw themselves as being at risk, they fear retribution from the perpetrator, and they fear that government agencies or family members will label them unfit to care for themselves.
Systems can be put in place to monitor senior accounts and make their money less easy to access by scammers. In addition, there are legal documents that can protect the accounts of seniors during their lifetime, and eliminate the chance of fraud or abuse. Please contact us, your Marietta Elder Law Attorney, for more information on how we can help you or your loved ones reduce the chance of financial fraud or abuse.
When a family has a child with special needs, the care of that child eventually falls on the shoulders of the entire family. The parents generally care for the child for as long as they are able. However, when the parents begin to age and are unable to care for their adult children with special needs, the siblings are often called upon to take over care of their special needs sibling. This brings extra responsibility and stress financially, emotionally, and can impact the schedule of the caregiving sibling. Siblings who are charged with the responsibility of a special needs adult must begin planning for how they are going to manage this situation before they must take over the responsibility.
1. Ease Your Way into Caregiving
The first tip for caring for an adult sibling with special needs is to ease your way into the role of caregiver. If the eventual care of a sibling with special needs is in the future, find tasks you can begin doing to care for them. Maybe begin by taking them for an appointment or for some other outing. Another great opportunity is to care for them during times when parents might be out of town or in order to just give parents a weekend break. This can be beneficial for all family members involved. It can give tired and aging parents a bit of rest while also giving the special needs sibling the opportunity to become more familiar with living in a different place. It gives the sibling caregiver a good chance to get to experience the needs of their sibling in a time frame that is more controlled.
2. Explore Legal Needs
Chances are the parents of the adult special needs child have put into place many resources to help care for their special needs child once they are unable to do so. But if a sibling is to be the future caregiver, they need to be involved in this planning and understand their role and legal rights and responsibilities. One legal issue that needs to be addressed is guardianship. The family needs to decide when the caregiving sibling should assume the role of guardian and take care of all legal paperwork necessary, so that this is in place when needed. An elder law attorney can be of assistance in helping to be sure all the proper paperwork is complete. If there is a special needs trust in place, the attorney can also help the family to make all the arrangements for the management of the trust. If a trust needs to be created, the attorney can also assist. Legal matters such as guardianship and the management of trusts can often take time, so it is important to have these conversations early and make decisions, in advance, as a family.
3. Have a Financial Plan
Often parents plan for the long-term care of adult children with special needs. However, there are families that have no plans in place. If a sibling knows that they will eventually be the primary caregiver for their sibling, they should begin becoming familiar with the benefits received by their siblings with special needs and benefits available to family members who serve as caregivers. It is very important that parents and future sibling caregivers sit down and discuss wills, trusts, and insurance, so that the caregiver also understands what financial support will be left for the care of the sibling with special needs. Outlining the cost of caring for the special needs sibling can also be a helpful step in planning to care for the sibling. Once a sibling caregiver understands the financial support and costs of taking care of the sibling with special needs, then they can begin planning ahead and creating a budget that works.
Planning ahead and knowing the legal and financial needs of caring for a sibling with special needs can help make a difficult transition run more smoothly. These changes are hard for all family members involved. Support is available, because even the most prepared will need help at one turn or another.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information from our Marietta special needs planning lawyer, please call us at 770-425-6060.
As a Marietta Medicaid planning lawyer, I can tell you that Medicare and Medicaid have long been a mystery to many consumers. In fact, it can baffle and confuse even some of the smartest citizens. Like me, you might have thought, “I don’t need to worry about this right now.” However, it is never too early to gain a little understanding and awareness that just might help you help an aging loved one or yourself down the road. As the saying goes, “Time flies,” and you will be there sooner than you think. Let’s break it down and learn some of the differences and basics of Medicare and Medicaid to unlock the mystery.
Medicare is a health insurance program provided through the federal government. In order to receive Medicare, a person must meet certain requirements. A person must be 65 years old or older or have a severe disability. In order for a disabled person under the age of 65 to be eligible for Medicare, they must have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years. In order to be eligible a person must have Social Security retirement benefits or Social Security disability benefits. Because Medicare is run and administered by the federal government, it is uniform from state to state. If a person meets Medicare eligibility requirements, they can receive Medicare no matter their income or assets. Costs for Medicare are based on the recipient’s work history. This means that costs are determined by the amount of time a person paid Medicare taxes. These costs like all insurance include premiums, copays, and prescriptions.
Medicare can be confusing because there are four parts. The commercials talk about Parts A, B, C, D. What does it all really mean? Parts A, B, and D can be somewhat simplified. Part A is hospital insurance, Part B is medical insurance, and Part D is prescription drug coverage. Parts A and B are covered in Original Medicare offered by the government. Part C is often called the Medicare Advantage Plan. This is a private health plan. The Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part C plan are required to include the same coverage as Original Medicare but usually also include Part D as well. It is important to do your homework on these plans to find what works best and is most cost effective for you.
Medicaid is a health care assistance program. Its guidelines come from the federal government, but it is administered by each state. Medicaid is for people who cannot afford to pay for their care on their own. It is based on income and assets, and is available to people who belong to one of the eligible groups. The eligible groups are children, people with disabilities, people over age 65, pregnant women, and the parents of eligible children. Seniors who require nursing home care can qualify for Medicaid and only pay a share of their income for the nursing home. Medicaid then pays the rest.
A person can be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and can have both. The two programs work together to help the recipient best cover the expenses of health care. For example, Medicare costs include premiums, copays, and deductibles. Full Medicaid benefits can cover the costs of Medicare deductibles and cover the 20% of costs not covered by Medicare. Medicaid can also help with Medicare assistance and may cover costs of premiums for Part A and/or Part B.
Although Medicaid and Medicare can be quite confusing, it is important at a minimum to know the basics. When you or someone you love is eligible or in need of the benefits, there are organizations willing to help and your Marietta elder law attorney is also a valuable resource.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact our Marietta Medicaid planning lawyers at 770-425-6060.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which was created by Congress in 2014, allows people with disabilities and their families to save up to $100,000 in accounts for the benefit of a disabled person. The funds can be saved without jeopardizing the individual’s eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other government benefits. ABLE accounts may be opened by anyone with a disability as long as the disability began before the person turned 26.
Starting in 2018, the amount of money that can be deposited in an ABLE account per year without jeopardizing public benefits will rise from $14,000 to $15,000. The amount that can be deposited in an ABLE account is tied to the federal gift tax exclusion, which has also risen to $15,000.
Other changes to the program in 2018 include the following:
- Traditional 529 plans can now be rolled into ABLE accounts. This helps parents utilize funds that were accumulated in traditional college savings plans before learning their child had a disability.
- Individuals with disabilities who are working may be able to save up to the federal poverty level. Rather than savings being capped at $15,000 per year, in some cases the new law will allow people with disabilities to save their earnings beyond that threshold up to the federal poverty level to potentially accumulate as much as $27,060 per year in savings.
- A note of caution: there are no real “safeguards” built into the legislation to help people monitor contributions that go over $15,000. There have been delays implementing this new part of the law, as financial professionals fear that mistakes are easy to make, and benefits could inadvertently be jeopardized.
Setting up an ABLE account is often a solid way to save money toward future expenses for an individual with disabilities. As with most federal or state programs, there are intricacies in the rules that should be understood prior to establishing an account. I encourage you to seek the assistance of a qualified special needs attorney to ensure that you understand the process before tying up your funds.
If you would like to speak to a Marietta special needs lawyer about the creation of an ABLE Account or creating an ABLE account in conjunction with a Special Needs Trust for your disabled loved one, please contact our Marietta special needs attorneys at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation.