Many New Jersey veterans are approaching the age where their health care needs require being admitted to a nursing home. The uncertainty of changing one’s living arrangement is often compounded by the fact that the costs of nursing home care can be, at times, staggering. Fortunately, the Veteran’s Administration provides long-term nursing home care in various facilities.
The Veteran’s Administration offers two types of nursing homes for eligible veterans: (1) those that are owned and operated by the Veteran’s Administration, and (2) those that are privately owned, but contract with the Veteran’s Administration to provide nursing home care for nearby veterans.
In order to qualify for admittance into these nursing homes, a veteran must suffer from a physical or mental impairment that necessitates nursing home care, and be otherwise qualified to receive veteran’s benefits.
The Veteran’s Administration will attempt to place an eligible veteran in the nursing home closest to his or her home. If the Veteran’s Administration does not have a facility close to the veteran’s home, the Veteran’s Administration will pay for the veteran to stay in a nearby private facility. A list of Veteran’s Nursing Homes is available here.
As another long-term care option, the Veteran’s Administration offers Community Living Centers, which provide short-term residential care to those who require rehabilitative or other short-term care, but do not require full time nursing home care.
How Can I Alter My Will?
According to New Jersey law, a will can only be altered by the execution of another will or codicil that explains the desired amendment. A codicil is an additional legal document that amends but does not replace a will. The execution of a codicil must meet all the standards for execution of a full will.
How Can I Revoke My Will Completely?
If you would like to revoke your will, New Jersey statutes provide that this can be accomplished through a writing or action. To revoke a will through writing, an individual must execute a subsequent will that revokes the previous will, in whole or part, expressly or by inconsistency. Actions that will revoke a will include burning, tearing, or physically destroying the will in some other manner.
What if I Change My Mind?
If you revoke a will and then later decide that you would like to revive it, New Jersey statutes allow this to occur through two methods: (1) re-execution; or (2) a duly executed codicil that expresses your intention to revive it. A re-executed will must be executed following the same requirements as the initial will. A codicil is an additional document that amends but does not replace a will.
I have many meetings with families that are caring for a family member with some form of dementia. While I normally collect this information ahead of time, I can spot those families without any warning from the moment I walk into the room. These are the families that look completely exhausted. That probably sounds a little cliche, but what you find in those meetings is that the family has been burning the candle at both ends to provide care, all the while living with the anxiety of what might happen to the loved one during this meeting as they are away.
Here is an article from the NY Times on the subject of caring for the caregiver. This article focuses on the subject of Alzheimer’s, but I can tell you from experience that the toll providing this care takes on the family does not discriminate. The issue with Alzheimer’s specifically is that the disease can cause the need for a caretaker for more than a decade — far longer than most things that compromise a senior’s health.
The article closes with this paragraph:
It is vital for caregivers to take good care of themselves […] by exercising, eating and sleeping properly, and getting respite care when needed.
Two additional thoughts: First, it’s vital that the other family members help care, in some sense, for the caregiver. Second, another way to reduce the anxiety is to make sure that you have addressed the financial and legal issues affecting caregiving.
Posted by Victor Medina, Medina Law Group, LLC
More New Jersey residents now qualify for Medicaid coverage, as a result of recent changes in federal funding brought on by the Affordable Care Act. A recent article estimates that the number of additional New Jersey residents who now qualify is around 300,000.
The reason more New Jersey residents now qualify for Medicaid coverage is because the income requirements are not as strict as they were in the past. Determining whether you qualify for Medicaid coverage largely depends on the size of your family and your income. For example, a single adult might qualify for Medicaid if his monthly income is $1,273 or less. This income limit increases when a person has a larger household. For example, an individual with a household size of three might qualify for Medicaid coverage if his monthly income is $2,165 or less.
An estimated 71,000 New Jersey residents have already applied for Medicaid coverage and qualified under these new guidelines. However, this leaves an estimated 229,000 more individuals who could qualify, but have not yet applied. If you think you might qualify for Medicaid, you can apply online at healthcare.gov. You might also want to consult a qualified elder law attorney for assistance.
Here is another post discussing how seniors are handling finances. I’m not a financial advisor (nor do I play one on TV), but I know enough to be dangerous.
This article from USA Today talks about how more seniors are using debt to finances their retirement. Whether it is an additional mortgage or credit cards, the easy access the debt has a higher percentage of seniors using such “financial planning” as a strategy.
The article didn’t go into detail about one of the biggest reasons that seniors are using debt — funding long term care. I think this is a really terrible strategy when it comes to the house because it means seniors are turning an exempt and illiquid asset (the home) into cash, which can be quickly consumed….and then what?
Posted by Victor Medina, Medina Law Group
I am encountering more and more situations in which elders are the victims of financial fraud and abuse. Sometimes the attack comes from the outside (like hackers) and just as often the attack comes from family members and trusted friends. It’s a disgusting act, filled with cowardice on the part of the perpetrators.
I came across this article from the NY Times. It includes some good tips. I am concerned that the advice is lost on the clueless. Those who most need the help won’t be looking to the New York Times for self-help. They are already trusting the next person out to steal their money.
Posted by Victor Medina, Medina Law Group
For those looking to avoid estate and inheritance taxes, New Jersey is currently not the ideal state for an individual to spend his or her last days. Additionally, the effects of unpaid estate and inheritance taxes could linger long after the owner’s death.
New Jersey is one of only two states that impose an estate tax as well as an inheritance tax. If a person dies with assets exceeding the federal gift tax exclusion of $5.25 million over his or her lifetime, federal estate taxes will apply as well.
New Jersey currently imposes an estate tax ranging from 4.2% to 16% on estates valued above $675,000. Additionally, inheritors are subject to an inheritance tax between 11% and 16%, if the assets are inherited by a person other than the decedent’s spouse, parents, children, or grandchildren. There is no exemption level for inheritance tax.
If the inheritance and estate taxes are not paid, New Jersey law provides that they will become a lien against any real property owned by the decedent at the time of his or her death. If these liens are not paid or secured by bond, they will endure for a period of 15 years.
There is one way to avoid the lien, and that’s to create a revocable living trust. For clients who have over $675,000 in assets (which includes everything from your home to life insurance to your retirement account), a revocable living trust is the right solution to avoid the lien on assets and smoother estate administration.
1.3 million New Jersey residents are currently receiving Medicaid benefits. Additionally, as a recent article explains, the initiation of the Obamacare health exchange caused a 35 percent surge in new Medicaid applications. As more New Jersey residents are added to the Medicaid rolls, it is important that they understand the basic principles of coverage. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning New Jersey Medicaid.
Is there a limit on how long I can receive Medicaid long-term care? No. Fortunately, there is no limit placed on how long a qualifying individual can receive Medicaid benefits. Most commonly, individuals will receive Medicaid benefits for multiple years of care, and the benefits will cease at his or her death.
I’ve been approved for benefits, when will they begin? The timeline for Medicaid applications and benefits can vary greatly. Individuals should inquire as to the anticipated timeline when submitting their initial application for benefits. Potentially, benefits may begin up to 3 months prior to the approval of an application.
What if I don’t apply? If you are denied benefits, you are not barred from re-applying. Speak with an attorney about the process of Medicaid planning. Through Medicaid planning, a person can carefully arrange his or her assets so that he or she will qualify for coverage.
New Jersey residents can expect to live longer lives than ever before. Unfortunately, residents who live longer lives will also be exposed to the staggering costs of long-term care. This necessarily means that there will be less money to pass on to the next generation. As a recent article explains, however, this will likely not be cause for complaint.
Especially within the boomer generation, individuals would rather inherit personal keepsakes and family stories than money. Additionally, 74 percent of those aged 72 and older reported that family history is the most important thing that they will pass on. As explained by president of consumer insights for Allianz Life, Katie Libbe, “The things that make your family unique – not money, but stories and personal possessions – those are most important in the legacy discussion.”
Despite the importance of family heirlooms and stories, it is all too easy for these things to get lost as wealth and other assets are transferred from generation to generation. It is therefore important for individuals to incorporate tangible personal property and intangible memories into their estate plans. Below are several steps that you can take to begin incorporating your legacy into your estate plan:
- Discuss your legacy with your family: When planning your estate, ask your family members if they would like specific keepsakes. Alternatively, if you have aging parents, consider discussing what items they would like to give to whom. It is also important to take the time to tell family stories and record important information. Consider writing important details on the back of family portraits.
- Create a Memorandum: As part of your will, include a memorandum that deals with the distribution of personal property. This memorandum should deal with who should receive specific items. Creating such a memorandum will also reduce the possibility of conflict concerning the distribution of your assets.
For New Jersey’s baby boomer residents who still do not have estate plans, planning needs to be on the top of their to-do list for the new year. A recent article discusses several important estate planning tasks that should be done as part of any estate plan.
- Create a Will and Trust: While this may be the most obvious estate planning task, a staggering number of New Jersey residents over the age of 50 have still not done so. Although many people can accomplish their estate planning goals through a simple will, incorporating a trust into an estate plan often provides more control over the management and distribution of assets.
- Create a Power of Attorney: Many people do not realize that the process of estate planning deals with an individual’s potential incapacity, as well as his or her death. One vital part of an estate plan that deals with incapacity is the power of attorney. Through this document, a person can designate someone to pay the bills and manage the finances during a period of incapacity.
- Check the Titling of Your Assets: Many assets are not transferred through a will or trust. Rather, these assets are transferred immediately upon a person’s death, and are based on contract. Some such assets are retirement accounts and life-insurance policies. The owner of these assets must designate a beneficiary to receive the proceeds of these accounts. It is important to not only understand which assets transfer outside of your will and trusts, but to also keep the beneficiary designations updated.