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Elder Law Estate Planning

How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

If you notice your aging parent is struggling financially, you probably want to pitch in and help. Of course, doing so will mean that less money is available to pay your bills and save for your retirement. Your loved one’s money troubles could create economic stress for you and your children. It would be wonderful if you could find a pot of gold in the backyard, but we live in the real world. Here are some tips on how to help your aging parents get financial benefits.

The National Council on Aging: How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

This National Council on Aging created a tool that will search through more than 2,000 federal, state, and private benefits programs across the United States. The search tool can connect your older loved one with assistance that can help pay for housing, medication, food, medical services, utilities, transportation and other necessities.

You can call 888-268-6706 to find a Benefits Enrollment Center in your area. An agency employee can help you at no charge to locate the benefits for which your parent is eligible. After you fill out a questionnaire, you will receive a detailed report listing all those programs and telling you how to apply. You can get application forms and assistance at the Benefits Enrollment Center.

If you prefer, you can do the search yourself online at BenefitsCheckUp.org. This search tool is free and confidential. Once you create the list of programs for which your parent qualifies, you can apply for benefits. Many of the forms are available at the enrollment centers or available online. Some programs require you to contact that entity directly to apply.

How the Benefits Locator Works: How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

The online questionnaire will ask for information like your parent’s:

  • Date of Birth
  • Income
  • Assets
  • Expenses
  • ZIP Code
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Veteran Status

Your parent must be age 55 or older to use the locator tool. Allow about 15 minutes to complete the online intake form.

Types of Programs for Seniors: How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

There are many government benefits for older Americans, but do not overlook private groups that assist people in need. Some people do not apply for Social Security retirement benefits, because they did not work for enough years to qualify for full retirement benefits.

Your loved one might qualify through a spouse’s work record or be eligible for partial benefits, based on his own limited work history. A few hundred dollars more a month can make enough of a difference that your parent does not need financial help from you.

Depending on several factors like income, age and geographic area, your older parent might qualify for:

  • Housing through HUD
  • Home repairs or weatherization
  • Transportation
  • Reduced real estate taxes
  • Financial management and budget counseling
  • Groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and many regional and local food pantries, meal delivery programs for low-income or elderly people.
  • Prescription drugs through Part D Medicare coverage, Medicaid, the federal Low-Income Subsidy (also called Extra Help), drug manufacturers, and charitable groups.
  • Utility bill help, including discounts on heating and cooling bills
  • Monthly cash benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for very low-income seniors with few assets.

These are just some examples of the multitude of benefits programs available for seniors.

Every state makes its own regulations, so your state might vary from the general law of this article. Be sure to talk to the Law Office of Frank Bruno, Jr. an elder law attorney in New York.

References
HuffPost. “How to Find Financial Assistance for Elderly Parents.” (accessed October 9, 2019)

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Elder Law Estate Planning

Why Should I Create a Trust If I’m Not Rich?

“Your true assets are the collections of your quality moments on the earth.”
― Amit Ray, Mindfulness Living in the Moment – Living in the Breath

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. —Shannon Adler

It’s probably not high on your list of fun things to do, considering the way in which your assets will be distributed, when you pass away. However, consider the alternative, which could be family battles, unnecessary taxes and an extended probate process. These issues and others can be avoided by creating a trust.

Barron’s recent article, “Why a Trust Is a Great Estate-Planning Tool — Even if You’re Not Rich,” explains that there are many types of trusts, but the most frequently used for these purposes is a revocable living trust. This trust allows you—the grantor—to specify exactly how your estate will be distributed to your beneficiaries when you die, and at the same time avoiding probate and stress for your loved ones.

When you speak with an estate planning attorney about setting up a trust, also ask about your will, healthcare directives, a living will and powers of attorney.

Your attorney will have retitle your probatable assets to the trust. This includes brokerage accounts, real estate, jewelry, artwork, and other valuables. Your attorney can add a pour-over will to include any additional assets in the trust. Retirement accounts and insurance policies aren’t involved with probate, because a beneficiary is named.

While you’re still alive, you have control over the trust and can alter it any way you want. You can even revoke it altogether.
A revocable trust doesn’t require an additional tax return or other processing, except for updating it for a major life event or change in your circumstances. The downside is because the trust is part of your estate, it doesn’t give much in terms of tax benefits or asset protection. If that was your focus, you’d use an irrevocable trust. However, once you set up such a trust it can be difficult to change or cancel. The other benefits of a revocable trust are clarity and control— you get to detail exactly how your assets should be distributed. This can help protect the long-term financial interests of your family and avoid unnecessary conflict.

If you have younger children, a trust can also instruct the trustee on the ages and conditions under which they receive all or part of their inheritance. In second marriages and blended families, a trust removes some of the confusion about which assets should go to a surviving spouse versus the children or grandchildren from a previous marriage.

Trusts can have long-term legal, tax and financial implications, so it’s a good idea to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Barron’s (February 23, 2019) “Why a Trust Is a Great Estate-Planning Tool — Even if You’re Not Rich

If you ask yourself “should Create a Trust If I’m not Rich?” then these are the answers for you.

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