Trusts and Estates Blog

Keep an Eye on Medicaid/Medi-Cal Developments

Senior couple on cycle rideMedicaid is a program that affects millions of Americans. (California renamed its Medicaid program “Medi-Cal”). Originally established to help elderly citizens cover medical costs, the program has grown exponentially and is a large cost to many states. Since the federal government only pays 57% of the total costs of the Medicaid program, individual states are required to supplement additional funding for the program.

The Medicaid program is one of the largest line items on many state budgets. In fact, 20% of Texas’ massive budget is dedicated to paying for the Medicaid program. Due to the increased strain of the program on states, many states are considering pulling out of the Medicaid program (states such as Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming).

Increasing that strain on states are new mandates in the recently passed health care reform bill. Beginning in 2014, states are expected to expand Medicaid coverage to all non-elderly citizens who have family incomes below 136% of the federal poverty level. For the first three years, the government will subsidize the cost of expansion, but beginning in 2017, states will be expected to take over financing of the expanded program.

Already struggling through the recent economic drought, many states are breaking under the financial strain of the Medicaid program. Many states (with both Republican and Democratic governors) don’t feel they will be able to contribute the required additional dollars to fund the expanded program.

The stated goal of those states considering withdrawal from the program is to replace Medicaid and its mandates with a state-level program that are more flexible and employ stricter eligibility criteria.

Since Medicaid is the primary source of payment for nursing home care and some private care, these changes have the potential to affect many Americans currently receiving care. Should your state withdraw from the Medicaid program or employ a new system, Medicaid care will become unavailable for you or your loved ones and planning for future care will become more difficult.

Keep an eye on these developments in your state. There’s no guarantee your state will withdraw from the program, but as you plan your long-term care, you must be aware of such changes.

If you would like more information concerning Medi-Cal for long term care, contact Antelope Valley law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

The Importance of a Power of Attorney

woman in hospitalIn 1992, before Donna and Ollie Phillips began their family, they executed wills that named their yet to be born children as primary benefactors with the rest of their estate going to the Riley Hospital for Children. Years later, after not having any children, the Phillips set up durable powers of attorney, naming each other as attorney-in-fact.

As they were growing older, they befriended Elizabeth Shoemaker who helped manage their daily affairs. For three years the Phillips treated Shoemaker as the daughter they never had while family members questioned Shoemaker’s intentions.

In mid-2006, Donna Phillips was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and within 18 months, her condition had deteriorated to the point that her doctor deemed her no longer able to manager her own affairs. In late 2007, the couple contacted their long-time attorney and expressed their desire to transfer their estate to Elizabeth. In their words, “[They] wanted everything to go to [Shoemaker] after their deaths,” because “she’s like a daughter to us”.

Since Donna was unable to make such changes due to her condition, the attorney drafted a joint trust that named Ollie and Donna as grantors and primary beneficiaries. The document also named Ollie as an initial trustee with Shoemaker as successor trustee and remainder beneficiary. Several times over the course of the changes, the attorney reviewed the new trust with Ollie and Donna, seeking to assure the changes were of their own will and not an impulsive decision. After four months of drafting, on February 11, 2008, Ollie executed the joint trust by signing both his and Donna’s names (by power of attorney).

On December 26, 2008, Ollie passed away. A family friend was appointed to serve as guardian of Donna’s person and estate. When she found out about the recent changes and the new joint trust, the guardian filed a petition to revoke the trust. Despite the unusual circumstances of the changes and the sudden entrance of Elizabeth Shoemaker into their lives, the trial court denied the guardian’s petition, citing that Ollie’s creation of the trust was consistent with Donna’s intentions and it’s revocation would not be in Donna’s best interest. After an appeal, the same ruling was established.

Were the Phillips victims of a convenient friend who drained them of their estate? It does not appear so, and this scenario proves how important power of attorney is in the estate planning process. Had the Phillips not established power of attorney, they would not have been allowed to established the joint trust after Donna’s incapacity due to Alzheimer’s disease. Despite instances of incapacity in Donna, further estate planning could take place in certain circumstances through the use of durable power of attorney.

We never know what type of disease, disaster, or illness may leave us incapacitated. With that in mind, establishing a durable power of attorney allows a designated individual (Ollie in the story above) to care for us and our estate in case of incapacity.

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) offers estate planning and administration for the affluent, discriminating client. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve these clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand. For more information, contact TVT at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com.

California Consumers – Beware of Living Trust Mills: 8 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing California consumers should beware of “Living Trust Mills” when doing estate planning, because they may actually be a scheme represented by salespeople posing as “living trust experts.” These salespeople sell annuities and other investments under the guise of helping people create a living trust.

Senior citizens are particularly at risk because these salespeople deliberately target them. Many salespeople use home visits or through free seminars in churches, senior centers, senior housing communities and other places where seniors gather to in order to locate their targets. The sales people then use the financial information shared with them by unsuspecting consumers to frighten these people into thinking that their current investments are inferior and riskier than the ones the salespeople are selling.

Beware of any seminar or advertisement that includes language such as “A licensed insurance agent may contact you.” This is a red flag that you are dealing with a Living Trust Mill. The California Attorney General’s office offers the following tips to avoid being victimized by a living trust mill:

–Living trust mills’ sales agents are usually not attorneys and are not experts in estate planning.

–Watch out for companies that sell trusts and also try to sell annuities or other investments.

–Sales agents may fail to disclose possible adverse tax consequences or early withdrawal penalties that may be incurred when transferring stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit or other investments to annuities.

–An annuity is not 100 percent safe, and only a portion is guaranteed by the state.

–Insurance companies can and do fail, and their assets may not be enough to pay the full value of their customers’ investments.

–So called “promissory notes” are not insured by the FDIC or any other government agency and may be very risky. They may not be registered as securities with the state.

–Before consumers buy an annuity or any other investment, they should review it with
people they know and trust, such as their financial or tax advisor, their attorney and trusted family members.

–Before making any changes to an estate plan consumers should consult a licensed attorney, preferably a certified specialist in estate planning and trusts. Beware of anyone trying to set up your estate plan AND sell you products to place in the plan.

If you would like more information concerning your estate planning options, www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a California certified estate planning specialist will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs. You can also get information about Medi-Cal (Medicaid) for long term care at www.Medi-CalHelp.com.

Safe Driving Tips for Seniors

Senior woman driving XSmallAs we age, mundane tasks become more difficult and often need some adjustments. One such activity is that of driving. While many seniors enjoy the freedom of driving until late in their lives, it would be wise for every senior to take time to evaluate their driving as they grow older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that senior drivers are at added risk for injury while driving. Consider a few facts from the CDC: drivers age 80 and older have higher crash death rates per mile driven than all but teen drivers; most traffic fatalities involving older drivers occurred during the daytime (79%) and on weekdays (73%); older drivers who are injured in motor vehicle crashes are more likely than younger drivers to die from their injuries.

Your speed of reaction may not be the same as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up driving. You simply must take extra precautions to make sure you arrive safely to your destination. Think about the following safety tips and consider your personal driving safety.

Stay physically active. Driving safety can be improved away from the roadways. Remaining physically active improves your strength, coordination, flexibility, and reactions.

Manage health issues. Conditions such as low blood sugar, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure can affect your driving. Manage such health problems and be sure to follow any doctor’s advice or prescriptions.

Schedule regular tests. Probably no other test is overlooked as we age like the hearing and eye test. But as you continue driving, regularly checking your eyesight and hearing is crucial to your safety.

Adjust to physical problems. Be aware of your physical limitations and adjust to them. For example, if arthritis is a problem for you, purchase a steering wheel grip for convenience.

Drive under good conditions. Most drivers struggle with driving at night or in hazardous weather conditions. The likelihood of an accident increases even more when seniors drive in these conditions. Plan your trips and be sure to either finish your trip before dark/bad weather or have someone drive you during such conditions.

The best way to keep yourself safe while driving is to honestly assess your driving abilities. Can you honestly say you are able to safely drive? Ask loved ones if they believe you are still able to drive. If not, do not be discouraged but find other options for transportation such as the bus, a friend, or family members. Make safety your priority when considering driving.

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) offers sophisticated estate planning and administration for the affluent, discriminating client. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve these clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand. For more information, contact TVT at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com.

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