Estate Planning Blog

When Should I Start Looking into Long-Term Care?
When Should I Start Looking into Long-Term Care?

When Should I Start Looking into Long-Term Care?

When Should I Start Looking into Long-Term Care? Sooner than you probably think.

You can bet that you won’t need long-term care in your lifetime, but it’s not a sure thing: about 70% of seniors 65 and older require long-term care at some point. That could be just a few months with a home health aide or it could mean a year (or more) of nursing home care. You can’t know for sure. However, without long-term care insurance, you run the risk that you’ll be forced to cover a very large expense on your own.

The Motley Fool’s recent article, “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future,” says many older workers are going into retirement without long-term care coverage in place. In a recent Nationwide survey, 75% of future retirees aged 50 and over said they that don’t have long-term care insurance. If that’s you, you should begin considering it, because the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to qualify, and the more expensive it becomes.

Long-term care insurance can be costly, which is why many people don’t buy it. However, the odds are that your policy won’t be anywhere near as expensive as the actual price for the care you could end up needing. That’s why it’s important to look at your options for long-term care insurance. The ideal time to apply is in your mid-50s. At that age, you’re more likely to be approved along with some discounts on your premiums. If you wait too long, you’ll risk being denied or seeing premiums that are prohibitively expensive.

All policies are not the same. Therefore, you should look at what items are outside of your premium costs. This may include things such as the maximum daily benefit the policy permits or the maximum time frame covered by your policy. It should really be two years at a minimum. There are policies written that have a waiting period for having your benefits kick in and others that either don’t have one or have shorter time frames. Compare your options and see what makes the most sense.

You don’t necessarily need the most expensive long-term care policy available. If you’ve saved a good amount for retirement, you’ll have the option of tapping your IRA or 401(k) to cover the cost of your care. The same is true if you own a home worth a lot of money, because you can sell it or borrow against it.

When Should I Start Looking into Long-Term Care? It’s important to remember to explore your options for long-term care insurance, before that window of opportunity shuts because of age or health problems. Failing to secure a policy could leave you to cover what could be a devastatingly expensive bill.

Reference: Motley Fool (September 23, 2019) “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future”

 

What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?
What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?  Today is the fifth part of a multi-part series on Medicare. Plan G is medigap coverage. It is important to anyone looking to obtain Medigap coverage after January 1, 2020 because that is a plan available to new enrollees since Part F has now been closed for new initial enrollees.

Medicare Plan G is a Medigap supplement plan that has lower premiums than Medigap (Plan F), in exchange for a small annual deductible. Plan F has no deductible. With Plan G, you get the same benefits as you would with the “Cadillac” version of Medicare, Plan F, but at a more affordable price. Let’s take a closer look to answer the question What does Medicare Plan G cover?

Let’s say you do not want to get hit with a mountain of healthcare bills after a medical crisis. Millions of Americans have lost their life savings and declared “medical bankruptcy” because of astronomical out-of-pocket costs, even though they have Medicare Parts A and B, also called “original Medicare.” A stroke, heart attack, or car crash could cause devastating consequences.

In response to this problem, private insurance companies created Medigap coverage (Plan F), which pays your out-of-pocket costs, like copays and deductibles, when you receive healthcare services that Medicare covers. The problem with Plan F is the premiums are quite expensive, such that many people cannot afford this excellent coverage.

The Difference Between Plan F and Plan G

The only thing that Plan G does not cover that Plan F (Medigap) pays, is the Medicare Part B (outpatient services) deductible. Since that deductible is only $198 in 2020, many people choose Plan G coverage. Because the premiums for Plan G policies tend to be much less expensive than with Plan F, people tend to save hundreds of dollars with Plan G, even if they have to pay a deductible.

The Part B deductible can change from one year to the next, but so do the premiums for Plans F and G. Premiums tend to keep pace with the risk of loss for the insurance company. You will likely continue to save money on premiums by choosing Plan G instead of Plan F, even factoring in the deductible, but you should do the math every year to make sure.

What Plan G Covers

Other than the Plan B deductible, Plan G pays everything that Plan F covers, including:

  • Coinsurance and hospital bills for Medicare Part A (inpatient services and hospitalization), at 20 percent of the total expense
  • Up to 365 more days of Part A coverage than “original” Medical provides
  • Coinsurance for Medicare Part B, at 20 percent
  • Blood transfusions, up to three units
  • Part A coinsurance or copay for hospice care
  • Coinsurance for skilled nursing facility
  • Deductible for Part A
  • Part B “excess charges.” Some doctors charge their patients 15 percent over what Medicare pays. If you choose one of these physicians, you will have to pay this expense out of pocket, unless you have Plan F or G.
  • The cost of travel from a foreign country to the United States, if you have a medical emergency.

Please note that, like Plan F, Plan G only covers Medicare-approved expenses. If you incur bills for services or items that original Medicare does not help to pay, you will have to shoulder these costs yourself.

Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) does not pay for things like routine eye exams, eyeglasses, routine dental care, dentures, routine hearing exams, hearing aids, prescription drugs (Medicare Part D can cover these), homeopathic treatments like acupuncture and acupressure and several other types of health-related goods and services. Read a policy carefully to know exactly what it covers, before you get locked into the plan for a year.

Every state makes its own regulations. Be sure to talk with an elder law attorney near you to find out how your state might differ from the general law of this article.

References:

Boomer Benefits. “Medicare Plan G – Part G” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/medicare-supplemental-insurance/medicare-supplement-plans/medicare-plan-g/

 

What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?
What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

Today is the fourth part in my Medicare series. Previously we covered Medicare A & B, C and D in three different blog posts. We will not cover Part E because new enrollment has closed. Plan E is not open to new enrollees but if you had the plan prior to 2010 you may keep it. Therefore, to start today’s post What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

Although you might not have heard about it by this name, there is a Medicare Plan F. “Original” Medicare, also called Parts A and B, covers hospitalization and many outpatient healthcare costs. Part C is the official term for Medicare Advantage, which is the services of Parts A and B, but through an HMO or PPO-type of private health insurance.

Medicare Part D helps to pay some of the costs of prescription drugs. There is no longer a Part E of Medicare. With so many options already with Parts A, B, C, and D, some people might wonder why we need a Plan F. What does Medicare Plan F cover?  Part F in simple terms covers co-pays for doctor’s visits.

Many people in the insurance industry call Plan F the “Cadillac” coverage of Medicare supplement options. Another term for Plan F is “Medigap” coverage. As long as Medicare would cover the item, Medigap Part F will pay for it.

How Medigap Coverage Works

Medigap coverage means you pay nothing for healthcare services that original Medicare covers. You will have two cards – your Medicare card and your Medigap supplemental policy card. When you receive medical services, you present both cards to the service provider. Medicare will pay its portion, and Medigap will pay the rest.

What Medigap Does Not Cover

Medigap does not pay for things that original Medicare does not cover, unless your plan contains specific terms to the contrary. Neither original Medicare (Parts A and B) nor Medigap cover these things:

  • Vision care and eyeglasses
  • Routine dental services and dentures
  • Routine hearing examinations and hearing aids
  • Homeopathic treatments, like acupuncture and acupressure
  • Surgery that is not medically necessary
  • Prescription drugs (Part D is a separate plan)
  • Foot care, unless the treatment is for a medical condition
  • Help with daily living tasks, like grooming and eating

When Medicare denies a claim, Medigap will not pay any portion of the cost of the item or service. Medigap only kicks in after Medicare pays its part.

Things That Medigap Covers

Here are some examples of things that Medigap covers:

  • Your annual deductible for Medicare Parts A and B
  • Your copays (usually 20 percent of the hospital, doctor, or another medical bill)
  • An extra 365 days of hospital coverage after you use up your Medicare hospitalization benefits
  • Blood transfusions, up to three pints
  • Coinsurance for Part A hospice care
  • Coinsurance for a skilled nursing facility
  • Some doctors charge the patient 15 percent more than the Medicare reimbursement rate. If you go to one of these doctors, you have to pay this “excess charge,” unless you have Medigap coverage. Medigap pays the 15 percent excess charge for you.
  • Emergency foreign travel for medical reasons, up to $50,000. Medicare does not cover any of this expense because Medicare only pays for healthcare services inside the United States, but a Medigap policy will pay 100 percent of this cost.
  • A portion of some of the expenses of emergency healthcare services in a foreign country, up to the individual policy’s limits.

Medigap policy premiums and benefits can vary widely from one company to another. You should read the details carefully and compare multiple policies.

Medigap Part F is going away for new enrollees starting January 1, 2020. If you have it already or are otherwise eligible you can keep your medigap but in an effort to prevent people from going to the doctor for a sniffle Part F is being closed to new enrollees.

Your state’s laws might differ from the general law of this article. You might want to talk to elder law attorney Frank Bruno, Jr. to discuss.

References:

Boomer Benefits. “What Does Part F Cover?” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/faq/what-does-plan-f-cover/

 

What Does Medicare Part D Cover?
What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

What Does Medicare Part D Cover? D is for drugs (prescription medications).

Part D is an add-on optional coverage you can buy, in addition to original Medicare, also called Medicare Parts A and B. Part D helps people enrolled in Medicare buy their prescribed medications. For more than 40 years, people with Medicare had to pay for their prescription drugs almost entirely out-of-pocket.

In 2006, the federal government launched Medicare Part D. You are not required to obtain Part D coverage, but you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year by doing so. That noted, what does Medicare Part D cover?

Part D Coverage. What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

Since you buy Part D coverage from a private insurance company in your state, instead of from Social Security, the coverage will vary from one plan to the next. Each plan gets to decide which prescription drugs they will cover.

Do not automatically go with the cheapest plan available. Paying a low premium is a waste of money, if the medications you need to take are not on the list of covered drugs. Review the details of the plans you are comparing to make sure the one you select will meet your medical and budgetary needs.

The list of covered medications (formulary) can also change every year, effective on January 1. Be sure to read the annual information you receive before the open enrollment period. If your Part D plan is going to stop covering a drug you need, you can switch to a plan that does cover your medications during open enrollment.

How Much Part D Costs

The monthly premium is different, depending on the plan you select. You might buy a free-standing Part D, in addition to having original Medicare (Parts A and B). You will get to choose from several Part D plans in your state. Some states have more than 20 unique options. If you buy Part D ala carte, you could pay as little as $10 or more than $170. The premium cost can change every year. The premiums vary, depending on your income and the state where you live.

People with higher incomes have to pay an extra amount, called the Income Monthly Adjusted Amount (IRMAA). The thresholds that determine what constitutes higher income for people who file their taxes individually or jointly change every year.

Most Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans include Part D coverage. Everyone who enrolls in a Part C plan must be in Parts A and B and continue to pay Part B premiums. Some Medicare Advantage plans have a $0 premium. With these plans, you could get Part D coverage at no cost, other than your existing Plan B coverage.

Part D Copays and Deductibles

You might have to pay a deductible and copay to get your prescription drugs. The annual deductible in 2019 is $419. If you get your Part D coverage through a private insurer, your deductible might be lower than Medicare’s deductible, but it cannot be higher.

There are several stages to Part D coverage. After you satisfy the deductible, your Part D coverage will help to pay a portion of your prescription drug costs. The private insurers must follow Medicare’s guidelines for each stage of coverage, but the private plans can offer terms that are more favorable to the consumer than Medicare’s guidelines.

Medicare Part D has four phases throughout the year. The deductible phase-each year starts with the person having to pay out of pocket until the deductible is reached. The next phase is the coverage period where the person has to pay a co-pay or co-insurance percentage. Then for some there may be a coverage gap or a donut hole period where the person pays 100% out of pocket but at a discounted price.  If payments exceed a certain amount the last phase of each year could be the catastrophic phase. On January 1 all payments are zeroed out and the deductible phase starts anew.

Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDP) have an open enrollment period every year from October 15 through December 7.

New York State will have many stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and a few of these will be benchmark plans. The benchmark plans can have a low or $0 premium for those who qualify for low income subsidy.

It’s important to review your plan every year, since changes may have occurred. Your current plan may have raised their costs, changed the medications they cover, or no longer be participating as a provider. Your needs may have changed throughout the year. You could be taking different medications or have a different financial situation.

Your state’s laws might differ from the general law of this article. You might want to talk to an elder law attorney in your state.

  • Medicare.gov – Official United States government site for Medicare coverage including drug coverage (Part D)

References:

Boomer Benefits. “Medicare Part D.” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/new-to-medicare/parts-of-medicare/medicare-part-d/

 

What Does Medicare Part C Cover?
What Does Medicare Part C Cover?

What Does Medicare Part C Cover?

What Does Medicare Part C Cover? Today is the second part of a series on Medicare and what coverage is provided by Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Part C is the official term for what people usually call Medicare Advantage. Instead of using Medicare Parts A and B, also called “original Medicare,” you have the option to purchase a private health insurance plan. Medicare Advantage usually provides benefits that are similar to Parts A, B, and D (drug coverage). You will typically have an HMO or PPO, with an approved network of doctors, if you select a Medicare Advantage plan.

Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) provide health insurance coverage for a monthly premium. An HMO limits member coverage to medical care provided through a network of doctors and other healthcare providers who are under contract to the HMO. These contracts both allow for premiums to be lower than for traditional health insurance because the health providers have the advantage of having patients directed to them but they also add additional restrictions to the HMO’s members.

A preferred provider organization (PPO) is a medical care arrangement in which medical professionals and facilities provide services to subscribed clients at reduced rates. PPO medical and healthcare providers are called preferred providers. PPO plans tend to charge higher premiums because they are costlier to administer and manage. However, they offer more flexibility compared to alternative plans.

What Does Medicare Part C Cover? What Medicare Advantage Plans Cover

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans provide the same services as original Medicare (Parts A and B). Most MA plans include coverage for prescription drugs, similar to Medicare Part D.

There are many different Medicare Advantage plans. Private health insurance companies offer MA plans. You do not buy MA from the government.

The terms of the coverage will depend on the individual MA plan. For example, some Medicare Advantage plans have a higher annual deductible than original Medicare.

Terms of Medicare Advantage Plans

Original Medicare has a 20 percent copay, after you satisfy the annual deductible. Some MA plans charge a different amount of copay. Your copay might depend on the type of service you receive, like a primary care physician or a specialist. With some MA plans, you have to pay a set amount for each day you are an inpatient in the hospital. With other MA plans, you might have to pay a traditional copay, which is a portion of the total hospital bill.

Your MA HMO or PPO will have a list of approved service providers (doctors and hospitals). If you go to a doctor or hospital that is not in your plan’s network, you might have to pay a much higher portion of the bill. In some situations, the MA plan might not cover the expense at all.

What to Do When Your MA Plan Changes

Your Medicare Advantage plan can change every year, effective on January 1. Annually there is an open enrollment period.  You will get information about upcoming changes every September. Be sure to read the terms of your coverage every year during the open enrollment period to make sure you still have the coverage you want. You can switch your coverage during open enrollment for a plan that meets your budget and other needs.

Most people find that Medicare Advantage plans are closer to the group health insurance coverage they had through their employer. You will select a primary care physician in your area. Depending on your plan, you might need a referral from your primary care doctor before you go to a specialist.

How to Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan

Here are the steps for getting coverage through Medicare Advantage:

  • You enroll in Medicare Parts A and B in your service area.
  • You pay your Medicare Part B premium while in a Medicare Advantage plan. (Most people do not have a Part A premium. Some MA plans have a $0 monthly premium.)
  • Medicare pays a flat amount to your Medicare Advantage plan to provide your medical care. You receive all of your Part A and B healthcare through your Medicare Advantage plan.

All Medicare Advantage plans protect you with an out-of-pocket maximum. The maximum applies to Part A and Part B services. The carriers calculate Part D (drugs) out-of-pocket costs separate from the annual maximum.

Every state has different regulations. You might want to talk with an elder law attorney near you to find out how your state might vary from the information in this article.

References:

Boomer Benefits. “What is Medicare Advantage?” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/medicare-advantage/what-is-medicare-advantage/

 

What Do Medicare Parts A and B Cover?
What Do Medicare Parts A and B Cover?

What Do Medicare Parts A and B Cover?

What Do Medicare Parts A and B Cover? Today is the first post in a series on Medicare. Medicare should not be confused with Medicaid. In speaking with clients, many times the two names are used interchangeably however both are government plans that serve different needs.

Medicare is a national health insurance program in the United States, begun in 1966 under the Social Security Administration and now administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It primarily provides health insurance for Americans Aged 65 years and older but also for some younger people with disability status as determined by the Social Security Administration, as well as people with End stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Medicaid is a Federal program administered by the States for people with limited income and resources. It offers benefits not covered by Medicare, including nursing home care and personal care services.

This series is on Medicare and specifically today’s post is on “original” Medicare-Parts A & B.  Parts A and B are “original” Medicare. When Medicare began, only these two parts existed. The alphabet soup of Medicare options came along years later. Since there are now so many possible types of Medicare coverage, you might be wondering What do Medicare Parts A and B cover?

Most people qualify for “original” Medicare (Parts A and B) when they turn 65. But the rules about Medicare eligibility and when you can enroll for Parts A and B can be complex

Commonly, a person is eligible for “original” Medicare (Parts A and B) if a U.S. citizen or have been a legal permanent resident for at least 5 continuous years, and one of the following applies to you: 65 years and older and eligible for Social Security.

You can apply for Medicare by visiting your local social security office in person or by telephone to a number local to your state. In New York, the number is 1-800-772-1213 with hours 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call TTY 1-800-325-0778.

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A covers your inpatient hospital stay and some services you receive while in the hospital. Some people call Part A “hospitalization” or “inpatient” coverage. Typically, you get a semi-private room with a bed and regular meals.

Sometimes, there is confusion about what Medicare Part A means by the word “inpatient.” You can receive inpatient care at a traditional hospital for acute care or critical access, or at an approved inpatient mental healthcare facility or rehabilitation center. Medicare Part A does not pay for an extended stay at a nursing home.

If you have an illness or injury that needs immediate or acute care at a hospital or other approved healthcare facility, and you receive those medical services while an inpatient, Medicare Part A can cover the costs. You might still have a deductible and copay, so do not expect that Medicare will pay 100 percent of the hospital bill.

For a short while after you get discharged from the hospital, Medicare Part A might help to pay for some limited home healthcare services directly related to your hospital stay. For example, you might need a home healthcare medical professional to change the dressings on your surgical incision and take your vital signs for the first week or two. Medicare Part A also can cover some medically necessary skilled nursing care, physical therapy and medical social services.

Part A can provide hospice services. These items can include things like:

  • Counseling
  • Social services
  • Palliative Care
  • Pain relief
  • Short-term respite care

Depending on the facts of your situation, Medicare Part A might help to provide additional services.

Medicare Part B

People often think of Medicare Part B as covering outpatient medical services, but Part B can also cover some care you receive while in the hospital. Part B will pay 80 percent of approved items, but you have to satisfy the annual deductible before Medicare starts to pay its portion. Some supplemental coverage plans cover the copay and deductible, but original Medicare by itself comes with a deductible and copay.

Outpatient care that Medicare Part B usually covers include things like:

  • Visits to the doctor’s office
  • Transportation by ambulance
  • Home health care
  • Lab tests
  • Some chiropractic services
  • Preventative care like mammograms, colonoscopies, flu shots and other measures

Medicare Part B can help to pay for these services, even if you receive them while an inpatient at the hospital:

  • Surgery
  • Diagnostic imaging like x-rays, CAT scans and MRIs
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Cancer treatment, like chemotherapy and radiation
  • Drugs you receive in a clinical setting, like insulin for an insulin pump, antigens and osteoporosis injections.

Medicare Part B does not cover other types of outpatient drugs. You would need to get Part D or another optional plan to get help paying for your medications.

The government does not require you to buy Medicare Part B coverage, but you can end up with a stack of medical bills that Part A does not cover, if you do not have both parts. You also cannot buy Medigap supplemental insurance unless you have Parts A and B.

Your state might have different regulations than the general law of this article. You should talk to an elder law attorney in your area.

References:

Boomer Benefits. “Medicare Part A.” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/new-to-medicare/parts-of-medicare/medicare-part-a/

Boomer Benefits. “Medicare Part B.” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/new-to-medicare/parts-of-medicare/medicare-part-b

 

What Should I Do If I Strike it Rich?
What Should I Do If I Strike it Rich?

What Should I Do If I Strike it Rich?

What Should I Do If I Strike it Rich?

There’s nothing quite like getting an unexpected sum of money. That happiness can be magnified when the amounts are six, seven, eight digits or more.

However, the greater the amount you receive, the greater your stress.

Investopedia’s recent article, “Tips For Handling Sudden Wealth” reports that there’s even a stress-related disorder called “Sudden Wealth Syndrome.”

This stress results in the recipients doing things that will threaten their good fortune and may leave them worse off than before they got the money.

Let’s look at few ideas to help you hang onto that new wealth:

  1. Tally your money. Take the time to carefully review all the documentation associated with the windfall. Note the areas you don’t understand and talk with your attorney.
  2. Create a comprehensive financial and life plan. Don’t settle for a cookie-cutter solution. Look for customization that takes into account your circumstances, your goals and your desired legacy.
  3. Be wary of friends and family. A downside of sudden new wealth is that new friends and estranged family members may come out of the woodwork. One idea is to pay yourself a salary, which can put some distance between you and these people.
  4. Don’t buy big ticket items, until you’re comfortable with the advice and understand your new financial position. You should address your taxes on the gain, pay down debts or take a small vacation. However, don’t make too many changes all at once. Talk to your advisors.

What Should I Do If I Strike it Rich? If you became rich because you won the lottery here are some considerations.

  1. Protect your lottery ticket.
  2. Take your time within the limit of collecting your prize usually within six months to a year. It will allow you to plan and for the media to die down.
  3. Keep your job until you know for certain that your numbers are correct or that your numbers correspond to the correct date of the lottery.
  4. Hire professional advisors such as an attorney and a CPA.
  5. Accept the prize anonymously or in a trust. Otherwise consider moving or changing your telephone number.
  6. Keep it quiet to avoid scams artists or even well intentioned relatives.

More money can mean more problems unless you put solutions into place. Use these tips and consult with your attorney, when deciding what to do with your newfound riches.

Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “Tips For Handling Sudden Wealth”

 

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have for My Child Who’s at College?
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have for My Child Who’s at College?

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have for My Child Who’s at College?

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have for My Child Who’s at College? Kiplinger’s recent article, “Documents that Parents and College Students Need,” explains that many parental rights are no longer applicable, when a child legally reaches adulthood (age 18 in most states).

However, with a few estate planning documents, you can still be involved in your child’s medical and financial affairs. Many parents don’t know that they need these documents. They think they can access a child’s medical and other information, because their son or daughter is still on the family’s insurance plan and the parents are paying the medical and tuition bills.

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have for My Child Who’s at College? Here are four documents you and your son or daughter will need.

HIPAA Authorization Form. This is a federal law that protects the privacy of medical records. You child must sign a HIPPA authorization form to let you to receive information from health care providers, such as the college’s health clinic, about their health and treatment. If your son or daughter doesn’t want to share her entire medical record, he or she can set restrictions on what information you can receive.

Medical Power of Attorney. This lets your son or daughter name a person to make medical decisions, if they are incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions. Your child should select both a primary agent and a secondary agent, in the event the first one is unavailable.

Durable Power of Attorney. This lets your son or daughter authorize a person to handle financial or legal matters on his or her behalf. A durable power of attorney or general power of attorney are usually written, so that it is immediately valid. A durable power of attorney remains effective when a person becomes incapacitated due to the language in the document. If your child would like you to manage his or her financial accounts or file tax returns while away at school, they can make the document effective immediately.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act Waiver. Once your child is an adult, you’re no longer entitled to see their grades without express permission. It seems a bit crazy that you can be paying for tuition, but you don’t have access to their academic records. This waiver signed by your child will allow you permission to receive his or her academic record. Many colleges provide this form, or you can find it online.

Once you get these documents, make sure you have ready access to them, if required.

Reference: Kiplinger (September 24, 2019) “Documents that Parents and College Students Need”

 

How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits
How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

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) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-find-financial-ass_b_11388340

Suggested Key Terms: how to find benefits for seniors, how to locate assistance programs for older adults