Identity theft is the fastest rising crime in America today. Criminal syndicates located overseas are gaining access to your personal information through a variety of tactics and using that information to open credit cards and bank accounts to buy products that they are then selling for profit.
Due to complex international laws most of these criminals are never prosecuted and you are left to deal with the aftermath. If you know anyone that has had their identity stolen, you know that the problems that arise from this can last years. These criminals have relied on hacking into computer systems to gain access to your personal information, but they have now turned to “phishing scams” where they trick you into given them your personal information. The criminals will pose as IRS agents, credit card operators and now estate planners.
When posing as estate planning lawyers, criminals in Atlanta will use several different tactics. One common tactic is a telemarketing scam. On the phone they will exaggerate the benefits of estate planning, likely promising a tax free transfer of all your assets once you pass away.
Since they have no intention of making good on these promises they will tell you whatever you want to hear. They will aggressively insist that this offer is only good for a limited time and will do everything to keep you on the phone until you give over your personal information. They know once you get off the phone they will have lost you as a victim. As a general rule never give out your social security number over the phone.
Another common tactic is to use a mass marketing approach. They will send emails or sometimes letters through the regular mail. They will again over-promise what is legally possible in the hope that you will want to sign up. They will then ask you to send your personal information as well.
The bottom line is if the offer is too good to be true it usually is. If you have any doubt, always follow up with a qualified estate planner. Even if it is not a case of identity theft there are many companies that will oversell a flimsy, one-size fits all estate plan that will not make it through the probate process.
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be an Atlanta estate planner and they are asking for your personal information, you should contact us to review the information they sent you. You can call our office at 770.425.6060 with any questions you may have regarding potential identity theft scams.
One of the most common issues that Marietta elder law attorneys deal with is how to help clients when it comes to both short-term and long-term care. Folks are living longer than they ever have before due to advances in both health care and technology. Certainly, this is what people have been hoping would happen for generations, but it does bring with it some new challenges. High on that list is the increased need for short-term care (to recover from an illness or injury, for example) and long-term care. What people so often want their East Cobb elder law attorneys to explain is how they can afford it and whether Medicare or Medicaid can help.
The answers to these questions are, of course, fairly complicated; but it’s worthwhile to have at least a little knowledge to get started. In the case of Medicare and Medicaid, you will find that both of them can help when it comes to paying for rehab services, but under different guidelines. This is something that Marietta elder lawyers spend a lot of time researching, and with laws constantly changing, it’s best to confer with someone knowledgeable about the current status of these programs.
If you are over 65, then Medicare might be a reasonable option for you. While similar to health insurance, Medicare is a federal program. Whether you live in Georgia or any other state, you can expect the same benefits and requirements. For example, to qualify, you need to transfer to a rehab facility (or nursing home) only after staying three days and three nights in the hospital; and the move needs to take place within 30 days of the hospital stay.
Basically, Medicare is there to help when an unexpected illness or injury arises so that you can get through it and recover. It’s not a plan for long-term care, rather it’s for those who need skilled care as they’re making their recovery. For that reason, Medicare will only pay for 100 days of care, and the last 80 days require a co-payment from the patient.
Your elder lawyer will tell you, however, that Medicaid is a state-run program. It is in place for those who have a demonstrated financial need. And that need must be pretty significant. In fact, you may have to prove that you have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify, and if you have more, you might have to get creative in how to reallocate it to qualify. Again, and elder law attorney in Marietta, Georgia, may be able to offer advice and suggestions on how to do this appropriately. The good news is that there are some exemptions to this $2,000 worth of assets rule, and you may be able to keep your house and your car while still qualifying.
Getting the most out of Medicaid can be difficult to figure out, so gaining clarification from an East Cobb elder law lawyer is definitely recommended. Social workers and staff at the hospital may also have suggestions and recommendations. This is one of those times when it pays to be prepared in advance, too, so that you know what your options will be and can set things up to work to your utmost advantage should you need to rely on Medicaid.
If you are a caregiver and you want to learn more about Medicare, Medicaid and long term care planning for your elderly loved one, please check out my free guide, “Hope For Caregivers: ABC’s of Long-Term Care and Legal Planning.” You can download it by clicking here.
Many of us are lucky enough to have our parents around long enough for them to know their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If you are one of the blessed, consider yourself lucky. However, there is one thing that you may eventually have to face – a parent who should not live at home alone anymore.
As an East Cobb elder law attorney, I highly recommend that you talk to your parents while they are still healthy and active. If you haven’t, and an unforeseen circumstance is pushing you to confront the situation, it’s going to be rough. There’s no need to sugar-coat this fact. Even if the elderly parent is perfectly amiable, there may still be a strong emotional reaction from the parent that comes along with losing one’s independence. Hopefully, the guidance we are providing will ease that path.
If you don’t expect your parents to react well to the suggestion of moving out of their home, solicit help from others. If your parent has had an injury, let their doctor know that it would be very helpful if he or she brought up the touchy topic up during a visit. In some families, parents won’t hear you – perhaps because they still see you as their child – but they will listen to someone else. Even if you are both saying the same thing!
Then, there is the “m” word – if you don’t know your parents’ financial situation, now is the time to learn. Even if your parents are able to maintain control over their financial affairs now, there is a high probability that you will need to help, or even be forced to take things over in the very near future. Approach the topic with the idea of preparedness. Tell them you’ve been learning a lot about estate planning and the next step it appears your family should take is to begin looking at mom and dad’s financial affairs so that if one becomes incapacitated, someone can step in and manage things until the parent regains their health. It is always helpful to paint this conversation in a supportive and positive light.
Finally, one of the very best ways you can help your parents get their affairs in order is to set a good example yourself! Why not go ahead and get your own will or trust taken care of? That way, your loved ones won’t be in financial chaos if something happens to you. The added bonus is that it gives you a platform for having “the talk” with your parents.
Nearly every day we get calls from adult children who are bringing in a parent that needs help getting their healthcare and financial documents in order. Believe me; it is much easier for everyone if we can work together before a medical crisis has occurred.
Set a good example! Give us a call at 770.425.6060 today and we’ll schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at NO CHARGE (valued at $600) so that you can discuss your planning needs and concerns. All of our estate planning here in East Cobb is done on a flat-fee basis so there are no surprises.
Many people believe that it would be easier for their loved ones if they transferred ownership of their home before they need to. Bypassing probate in Cobb County, they believe, will be easiest for everyone. That could be true. However, there are several risks to consider that might harm you or your heirs.
Hazard #1 – You could create tax problems
If you transfer your principle residence you could be disqualified from part or all of the capital gains tax exclusion causing an unnecessary tax liability. This means that if you decide to sell after sharing ownership of your home with your children, they would have to pay capital gains taxes on the increased value of the home. This is really bad news if you’ve lived in your home for many years and the value of the property has significantly increased.
Hazard #2 – House value counts against you if you need Medicaid
If you transfer your house within 5 years of needing Medicaid assistance for a nursing home, you will probably be ineligible. Medicaid has a five year “look back” period where any monetary gifts or property transfers are considered which may take you above the income requirements.
Hazard #3 – Your loved one could get divorced
If you transfer an ownership interest of your home to your child, and then the child gets divorced, your ex-son/daughter-in-law might be entitled to part of the value.
Hazard #4 – Your child could file for bankruptcy
When you share ownership of a home with your child, you also share exposure to one another’s financial problems. If you are moving to an assisted living home and plan to use the equity in your home to pay the rent, you may have a bad surprise if the bankruptcy court demands some or all of the proceeds of the sale to pay your child’s creditors.
Hazard #5 – Something happens to your child
If something unexpected happens to your child and they become incapacitated or predecease you, you could run into real trouble. If, for example, your child becomes disabled and needs Medicaid coverage, he could be ineligible due to his share of the home.
Hazard #6 – Your child is a problem
After you transfer ownership of your home, you must all agree if you decide later to sell the home or even do renovations. If your child doesn’t agree with you, they can stop you. I know that it is hard to imagine your dear son or daughter in this light, but it happens more often than you can imagine.
The bottom line here is that you need to be very careful when considering transferring or sharing ownership of your home with your children. There are several other options but it is important that you work with a qualified estate planning and trust attorney in Marietta GA who knows how to utilize better (and safer) legal strategies to accomplish your goals.
In general, Americans are very uncomfortable talking about end-of-life issues. It can be hard for people to think about (and plan for) their own death, let alone the death of their loved ones. I get it.
Yet by not discussing these issues, you are leaving your future caregivers (most often your adult children) in an impossible position. Many people are taken completely off-guard when their elderly parents start to decline.
Because we don’t discuss these issues ahead of time, caregivers are often left unprepared for the life changes they are about to experience. Depending on the speed and amount of decline, a caregiver might have to dedicate a significant portion of their life to the growing needs of their parents.
Simple legal planning can help to avoid these issues. You can pave the way now, so that life is easier when incapacity, disability, or ultimately death occurs. Here are a few key ways to prepare:
- Have “the talk.” It doesn’t matter if you are the impending caregiver or the person who will need care, you should make time to sit down and talk. This should happen way before the elderly person starts experiencing memory loss, so the sooner the better! You’ll need to discuss the senior’s wants, needs, health issues, financial resources, and preferences for the amount of medical intervention you/they want at the end.
- Have legal documents prepared. Work with an estate planning attorney in Marietta to prepare important legal, financial, and healthcare documents – and keep them updated! Do this immediately if the senior is showing signs of increasing health issues. If you wait until the senior is showing signs of mental decline, they could be declared incompetent to make their own decisions and it will be too late for them to sign any new documents.
- Review financial information. Be sure you review the senior’s financial statements and understand their income and expenses. Knowing how to access this information will be critical to handling their affairs if they are unable.
- Research elder care options. Review the options and determine what living situations the elder person is comfortable with in advance. Determine their preferences for hospital, rehabilitation, nursing home, assisted living, and/or independent living communities as well as options for memory care, home care, and even hospice.
Having these discussions in advance are uncomfortable, but knowing this information will save more stress and heartache than you can imagine. For additional information on how to prepare for end-of-life transitions, contact our Marietta estate lawyer and elder law attorneys at 770.425.6060.
Marietta GA estate planning and elder law attorneys often find themselves advising adult children of the elderly on the intricacies of managing their parents’ finances. While it may seem straightforward at first, there are many details and difficulties that can get in the way.
There are so many things to coordinate, and often the parent is less than helpful in the process. Being somewhat prepared and having access to an estate lawyer are two of the ways you can help avoid some of the more common pitfalls, such as:
Memory Loss – Memory loss is prevalent among the elderly, and it’s actually one of the big reasons that adult children are called in to take over finances. Unfortunately, it also makes the job that much more difficult because the parent isn’t able to answer important questions such as “How much do you owe?” or “When is this bill due?”
Role Reversal – For the majority of the adult child’s life, the parent has been in charge. Taking over and being firm with the parent can be more than a little uncomfortable. On top of that, it can be frustrating and cause resentment to see the person who taught you so much, no longer following their own advice.
Lack of Information – Your parent may have chosen to be forthcoming about finances with a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean that they want to let you in on all the financial details of their life. Previous generations found it improper to discuss money, resulting in an air of secrecy that can be difficult to break through.
So, how should you approach with these obstacles?
As with so many other aspects of life, the best way to deal with problems is to avoid them altogether. The earlier you and your parent meet with an attorney that you trust, the more likely you are to get the information you need.
As an added bonus, your parent will have the ability to make his or her wishes known in order to offer guidance on how to handle their affairs if and when all of the responsibility is passed on to you. If you wait too long, your parent may no longer have legal capacity to sign documents and make their wishes known. Then your only remedy is to seek a guardianship or conservatorship over them through the probate court. Less pleasant. More costly.
No matter where your parent is, the subject needs to be broached. Again, earlier is better, as they are more likely to understand the importance of what is happening. You may choose to start the conversation by relating it to your own estate planning or by bringing up a situation you heard about recently, such as the death of a celebrity.
A good estate planning lawyer and elder law attorney in Marietta, Georgia can offer suggestions on how to bring up the subject, as well as how to help steer the conversation in the right direction.
If you need our help, please give us a call at 770-425-6060 or email me at steve @ georgiaestateplan . com.