Trusts and Estates Blog

Top Scams Against the Elderly

Arrest XSmallPlease take a moment and check out the short article in the link below. Awareness is the first step in stopping crimes against our elderly citizens. Crimes against the elderly are epidemic in our society.

www.caring.com/blogs/fyi-daily/top-scams-against-older-adults Caring.com is a great resource!

If you would like more information concerning how to protect your elderly loved one, or to avoid probate, contact Antelope Valley estate planning 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.

Family Legal Decision

WOK, but I have few important questions yet.hat happens when your loved one approaches the point that they can no longer function independently? While definitely a scary time for many, a few steps must be taken to ensure their legal affairs are in order.

The following are a few important points that must be discussed between you and family about the legal affairs of your aging loved one.

–Who will be in charge of managing your loved one’s personal affairs while they are still alive?

–Who will personally care for your loved one as they are unable to care for themselves? Will you pay for in-home care, appoint a loved one to be a caregiver, or choose a nursing care home at which they will live?

–How will you pay for long-term health care? Does your loved one have funds set aside for medical costs?

–Are your loved ones financial affairs in order? Be sure their assets are protected and their spouse will be properly cared for financially.

–Does your loved one have a will established? Reacquaint yourself with the specifics of their will and their wishes for the final days of their life.

This time can be overwhelming, so be sure to consult your family attorney or hire one immediately. If your loved one still has the legal capacity to make his or her own decisions, the number of planning options increases and an attorney can guide you through this process.

Sit down with your family and discuss the above questions to alleviate the stress of this transition period. Have a family meeting before meeting with an attorney so you are prepared with answers to questions the legal counsel may ask.

If you need help maneuvering through the many legal questions during this time in the life of your loved one, give our offices a call at 661-945-5868 and we will be happy to help answer any questions you have.

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.

Six Tips for Caregivers

Eldery mother with grown daughter pushing wheelchair XSmallSo you’ve made the transition from child, niece/nephew, friend, or acquaintance to caregiver. Now what? Too many people have a wrong view of caregiving and end up either burning themselves out or give up on the task. To prevent such instances from happening to you, consider the following tips for your new role in life.

1. Don’t make promises if you aren’t sure you can keep them. Promising to be everywhere at once or help more people than you can is a sure fire way to overwork yourself to the point of not being able to help the one person you need to—your loved one.

2. Even though you are now tasked with caring for an elderly loved one, remember there are other people in life who depend on you as well. Whether a spouse, children, extended family, coworkers, or friends—don’t sacrifice anyone in your life. Find a balance between the two facets of your life.

3. You are not alone in this new role. Don’t try to shoulder the entire weight of caregiving. No human being can do so! Turn to others for support, take time for you, and allow others to help. You will be no good as a caregiver if you wear yourself down.

4. Naturally, you will have fears with this new job—fears of how to go about caregiving, fears about balancing your life, fears about losing your loved one. Also, your loved one will have fears as well. Talk out these fears with family members. Allow others to carry the emotional burden of this for you.

5. Despite their age, your parent or loved one still wishes to be involved in their care. As long as they have mental capabilities, involve them! Don’t infantilize them, but talk over major decisions with them and seek their input.

6. As gung ho as you might be initially, you’ll need to sit down and set limits for yourself. Choose a “day off” each week when someone else can step in to care for your loved one while you renew yourself. Delegate tasks to others if possible (doctor’s visits, shopping, cleaning etc). This all works into your plan of balancing your life with the new role of caregiving.

You are now the caregiver for your loved one, but don’t fear! Remember to reach out to others for help and value caring for yourself as you spend extra time with your loved one.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning 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.

Conducting Elderly Parent Care Meetings

OK, but I have few important questions yet.As parents age, the difficult task of addressing elder care falls on adult children or other family and friends. Many children would love to seek advice from family members on the care of their parents, but maybe you’re like some families and have those couple extended family members who will want to get involved even if you don’t want them to. Nosy, overbearing, or opinionated family members can make the transition to elder care stressful on you. To deal with such loved ones, consider the following tips to making the transition as painless as possible.

Start Small. Begin meeting with only immediate family members. After you first seek the advice of those who know the situation best, then add extended family members, loved ones, or close family friends. Remember that the ultimate burden of this falls to you and those closest to you.

Choose a Quiet Spot. When meeting, be sure to eliminate background noises or distractions. Be sure everyone present can be clearly heard. Consider the seriousness of the task and choose an appropriate spot.

Be Thorough in Your Presentation. Come prepared with material about the move, information about the facilities available, and a list of pros and cons in the situation. Be sure everyone has a copy, and if possible, record the meeting for future reference.

Set Ground Rules. With many people comes many opinions. Before the meeting starts, set some ground rules such as only one person talking at a time. Encourage respectability and civility between those who might have strong differing opinions.

Stay Focused. Your ultimate goal is your loved ones well-being. Don’t lose sight of that fact amidst all the opinions. If needed, state early the purpose of the meeting such as “helping (loved one’s name) maintain independent living as long as possible” or “developing a plan of care for (loved one’s name)” or “planning for a facility based care for (loved one’s name).” Don’t waste time bringing up past hurts or current issues. The focus is on your elderly loved one.

Elevate Respect. Even if someone has a differing opinion, respect what they have to say. No matter your differences, others may have a unique view of the situation that will be helpful to the overall goal.

Create an Agenda. Pass out the agenda with the other printed information and refer to it if topics get off track. Use it as a guide to keep the meeting moving.

Identify a Secretary. Designate someone as the meeting’s note-taker to record the ideas stated. Be sure the person is thorough, and if at all possible, don’t take the notes yourself. You should be free to keep control of the meeting and guide the discussion.

Above all else, value the care of your loved one over any personal feelings or opinions. This meeting isn’t for you or another person to exert dominance, but for your loved one to receive the best possible care available.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning 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.

Easing into Elder Care

Elderly hands holding adult handsElder care is a giant step for most families who go through the transition of an older loved one living on their own to living with assistance. Some transition well, yet others can become discouraged by the lack of complete freedom. To ease your loved one into elder care (and to reduce the burden on yourself as well) consider these three steps to take as you make the transition.

Ask for help. If you are becoming the primary carer for a parent or loved one, seek help from other friends, family, or those who’ve gone through the process. You don’t have to be the only one caring for your loved one. Others can help with certain tasks or providing relief for you once a week or so. Be sure to value your own health and freedom by seeking help from others.

Encourage social activities. Many communities have provided seniors with social activities to connect them with other older people and to help them maintain social interaction. Whether through a community center, a church, an independent group, or a retirement home, check into activities your loved one can partake in to keep their spirits high. Also, organize family game nights or other personal activities that will keep them connected with family as well as those their age.

Communicate with doctors. Doctors, nurses, caregivers, and other medical personnel are a vital part of your loved one’s life. If possible, accompany your loved one on doctors’ visits and speak with the doctor about your loved one’s health. Be willing to help with new medication, watch for side effects, better care for illnesses, and be an extension of the doctor in your home. As you stay current with their overall health, you’ll be able to better help them live in ease.

Remember that you and your loved one are both transitioning in this time. You are caring for others, but also will be forced to take better care of yourself. Plan time for yourself and get others involved so the burden doesn’t fall squarely on you. Also, make the needs of your loved one a priority in your life. Keep their spirits high by keeping them involved with the outside world. Also be a help to their doctor by being actively involved in their medical health.

Transitioning to full-time (or even part-time) care of an aging loved one comes with its challenges, but the benefits of spending time with someone you love and gleaning from their life wisdom is an invaluable opportunity to have.

If you would like more information concerning Elder Care or any other aspect of estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning 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.

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln is offering a March 4, 2011 seminar on Medi-Cal for Long Term Care and how to access this benefit without spending everything

Elderly hands holding adult handsAntelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln is offering a complimentary seminar on the Myths about Medi-Cal program and how those myths can affect long-term care planning.

“Long-term care planning is an intricate process,” said Kevin Von Tungeln, partner at Thompson Von Tungeln. “Compliance with Medi-Cal is akin to a chess games with draconian penalties if you make a mistake. That is why consumers need to be informed about Medi-Cal and have expert legal counsel guiding them through the process.”

The recent changes to Medi-Cal, the California Medicaid program, center on the ability to give away assets such as a home or financial instruments, and changes regarding annuities. Many individuals have established planning strategies to give away assets that will need adjusting.

“Anyone living today has a greater than 50 percent chance of needing long-term care when he or she reaches age 65,” said Von Tungeln. “At least 70 percent of persons over 65 will require long-term care at some point in their lives. Being knowledgeable about the new rules and planning accordingly can save you, your spouse and your heirs a great deal of trouble in the future.”

The seminar is on Thursday, March 4, 2011 at the Hellenic Center in Lancaster – 43404 30th Street West (30th St West and Ave K-4) Lancaster, CA 93536. Registration is requested due to limited seating. To register for the complimentary seminar, call 661.945.5868

About Kevin Von Tungeln

With more than 20 years’ legal experience, Kevin L. Von Tungeln serves Thompson Von Tungeln in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, wills, trust administration, conservatorships, guardianships and elder law. He is certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialists as a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning. Get to know more about Kevin’s approach to estate planning by viewing his informational videos at: www.youtube.com/user/EstateLawyers. Kevin can also be found at LinkedIn by going to: (www.linkedin.com/in/kevinvontungeln)

About Thompson Von Tungeln

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) offers Medi-Cal and VA Pension benefit planning planning and administration 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 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.Medi-CalHelp.com and www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com.

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.

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.

Avoiding Elder Abuse—The Story of Brooke Astor

“All it takes for elder abuse to flourish is for family and friends to do nothing.”

Brooke Astor lived what some would believe to be a coveted life. The philanthropist and author was married three times, most notably to Vincent Astor, the last heir of the Astor family fortune. From that marriage, she inherited much in the way of wealth and assets. After Vincent died, she took control of the Astor Foundation and used the Astor wealth to donate to many needy causes. She was noted for her benevolence and lived by her life motto, “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around.” Even after liquidating the Astor Foundation, she continued her benevolent giving, improving local libraries and community gardens.

As Astor grew older, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and soon began losing her mental abilities. Having established her son from her first marriage, Anthony Marshall, as her caretaker, she turned everything over to him and trusted him to manage her estate.

Marshall had other plans though, and he began selling important pieces of art and jewelry that Astor had planned to be donated once she passed on. Anthony convinced his mother that they were in need of funds (even though her estate was valued at $200 million), and often pocketed money from the sale of prized possessions.

Anthony even went as far as to dismiss beloved staff members (a butler and a lawyer who had been with Brooke for fifty years). He also shut down her country home where she had told friends she wanted to die. Even in small day-to-day details, Marshall cut costs—refusing to take Astor to doctors’ appointments, neglecting to give her medication, and making her do without things she could afford.

Family members became suspicious when one of Astor’s most treasured paintings, “Flags, Fifth Avenue” by artist Childe Hassam which was promised to be donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Anthony Marshall’s son, Phillip Marshall, began paying close attention to the activities surrounding his grandmother’s estate. Staff at her apartment even told him of ways Anthony had been depriving Astor of time with friends among other things.

After observing these injustices and gathering evidence, Phillip approached a few wealthy friends of Astor’s and with their help, hired a law firm to investigate the reports of elder abuse. Brooke Astor passed away in 2007 at age 105, and in October 2009, Anthony Marshall (age 85) was convicted of fourteen charges including grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, scheming to defraud, falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, and conspiracy.

While the Astor abuse gained national media attention because of the popularity of the Astor estate, cases of elder abuse happen every day. Parents leave children or loved ones in charge of their estate, trusting them to care for them as they grow older, yet sometimes those they love can turn out to be poor caretakers.

Phillip Marshall has learned the impact of elder care abuse, and is now a national speaker on the subject, seeking to raise awareness of the problem. As he says, “All it takes for elder abuse to flourish is for family and friends to do nothing.”

If you have an elderly friend or loved one living in care of someone, pay close attention to how the elderly person is being treated. If you see signs of elder abuse or suspect something might be wrong, get help. Contact a lawyer, law enforcement officer, or family member who can help. Don’t allow your loved one to suffer needlessly.

If you would like more information concerning this issue or other 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.

Should You Convert to a Roth IRA in 2010?

Previously, if your adjusted gross income was $100,000 or more, you did not qualify to convert your tax-deferred savings to a Roth IRA. But beginning this year, in 2010, the income restriction has been eliminated, so everyone is now eligible to convert to a Roth IRA.

You can roll over amounts from your traditional IRA and from eligible retirement plans, which include qualified pension, profit sharing or stock bonus plans such as 401(k)s; annuity plans, tax-sheltered annuity plans; and deferred compensation plans of a state or local government. You do not have to roll these into a traditional IRA first.

Of course, you will have to pay income taxes on the amount you convert. But if you do the conversion this year, in 2010, you will be able to claim half of the conversion amount as income in 2011 and half in 2012. This offer from Uncle Sam is a “limited time offer” and is only available in 2010. After 2010, you can still do a conversion but it will all be included in that year’s income.

BENEFITS OF A ROTH IRA

* Unlike a traditional IRA that requires you to start taking your money out at age 70 ½, with a Roth IRA there are no required minimum distributions during your lifetime.
* Unlike a traditional IRA, you can continue to make contributions to a Roth IRA after you have reached age 70 ½. (See restrictions below.)
* As a general rule, after five years or age 59 ½, whichever is later, all distributions to you and your beneficiaries will be income tax-free. So your money doesn’t grow tax-deferred…it grows tax-free.
* Withdrawals before age 59 ½ are considered contributions first, then earnings. So there is no income tax or penalty until all contributions have been withdrawn from the account.
* Money can be withdrawn at any time without penalty for college expenses, and up to $10,000 can be withdrawn tax-free at any time to buy or rebuild a home.
* You can stretch out a Roth IRA just like a traditional IRA. After you die, distributions will be paid over the actual life expectance of your beneficiary. Also, your spouse can do a rollover and name a new, younger beneficiary with a longer life expectancy and get the maximum stretch out.

CONVERSION CONSIDERATIONS

This is an excellent opportunity, but make sure you evaluate your situation and run the numbers before you make a decision. Consider how much you would pay in income taxes. Are you currently in a low tax bracket? Will your retirement tax bracket be the same or higher than it is now? Can you pay the tax without dipping into your tax-deferred savings? Did you make any non-deductible contributions that won’t be taxed when you convert? Do you want to eliminate your required annual distribution? Should you convert some or all of your tax-deferred savings?

CAN YOU MAKE CONTRIBUTIONS TO A ROTH IRA?

There are still restrictions on who can contribute to a Roth IRA.

Maximum Contribution Limits: If you are under age 50 and meet the income limits below, you can contribute up to $5,000 per year. If you are age 50 and older, the maximum you can contribute is $6,000 per year.

Income Limits in 2010: If you are a single or head of household taxpayer with up to $105,000 adjusted gross income, you can contribute the maximum amount. (Smaller contributions are allowed if your AGI is $105,000 to $120,000). If you are married, filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er) with up to $167,000 AGI, you can contribute the maximum amount. (Smaller contributions are allowed if your AGI is $167,000 to $177,000.)

SEEK EXPERT ADVICE

This is an appropriate time to get advice from a qualified professional who has experience in this area. There may be a substantial amount of money involved, and while you certainly want to take advantage of this opportunity if it applies to you, you also want to make sure you act wisely.

© 2010 by Schumacher Publishing, Inc.

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