seniors-manage-finances-help

How can we help seniors manage their finances?

How can we help seniors manage their finances? With these tips, seniors can manage their finances better. And if they ever need help, they can shift their financial management to someone they can trust. 

1. Use direct deposit.

First, use direct deposit for income form pensions, annuities, and Social Security benefits. Not only will this save a trip to the bank, it also avoids the risk of a paper check being stolen, lost, or forgotten. 

2. Consolidate retirement accounts.

Consolidating retirement accounts into fewer accounts may make it easier to evaluate and manage savings, as well as to take any minimum distributions that are required.  Also, when moving money between retirement accounts, it’s a good idea to use a trustee-to-trustee transfer rather than moving the money yourself.

3. Consolidate financial accounts.

It can be a lot easier to manage your money when you have your money in fewer accounts at one bank. But make sure to consider the FDIC insurance limits on money held at one institution before consolidating. 

4. Pay bills automatically.

For recurring bills, have the biller automatically deduct payments from a credit card or bank account each month. 

5. Arrange for third-party notifications.

Arrange to have companies that provide critical services, such as electricity, send notices to you if they miss payments and the service is to be disconnected. Also,  ask the tax office to notify you if they miss tax payments and are in danger of losing their property. 

6. Get the proper legal documents in place.

Work with an estate planning attorney to get a power of attorney for finances in place. With this document, seniors can grant someone they trust the authority to manage their financial affairs if they reach a point of mental or physical inability to manage them on their own. 

Moreover, a revocable living trust is also a way to transfer control of finances. The successor trustee can manage trust assets when the senior is no longer able to manage them. 

Learn more about a Durable Power of Attorney here.

Learn more about Estate Planning here.

7. Find out whether your bank will honor the power of attorney.

Some banks may not honor a power of attorney unless it was created using forms provided by the bank or unless they run it by their legal department. Therefore, we suggest checking with the bank ahead of time. 

8. Prepare a financial overview.

An overview of their finances ready and waiting will make the process much easier. Consider making a list ahead of time that includes:

  • Information about their financial accounts, insurance policies, sources of income, regular bills and debts. 
  • The location of all of their estate planning documents, prior tax returns, birth and marriage certificates. 
  • The names and contact information of their financial and legal advisors. 

Store the financial overview in a secure place. Also, make sure  you can also access it if necessary. 

9. Get professional help. 

Hire a tax advisor to prepare tax returns and a financial advisor to manage investments.  Also consider hiring a daily money manager to handle financial tasks, such as paying bills, reviewing statements, and dispensing cash.  

Here are five things to know about aging and financial decline.

Call us at (813) 902-3189 to schedule a consultation.

freeze-credit-identity-theft-elder-abuse

How do you freeze your credit?

Are you a senior worried about identity theft? Or are you worried about a loved one with dementia becoming a victim of identity theft? Here are some tips on freezing someone’s credit. This is important if you’re trying to protect someone from elder abuse.

What does it mean to freeze credit?

A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.

To place or lift a credit freeze, you must contact each credit bureau separately.

Once a credit freeze is in place, it secures your credit file until you lift the freeze. You can do that online, by phone, or by mail using the special PIN the companies give you when you do the credit freeze.  Once you place the credit freeze, it secures your credit file until you lift the freeze. You can unfreeze credit temporarily when you want to apply for new credit.

Does it cost anything to freeze credit?

No. Placing or lifting a credit freeze is free. Once a credit freeze is in place, it secures your credit file until you lift the freeze. You can unfreeze credit temporarily when you want to apply for new credit. Also, freezing your credit does not affect your credit score.

Should you freeze your credit?

If you’re not actively shopping for a credit card or loan, freezing your credit is wise. If you think someone compromised your data, consider a credit freeze. It’s especially important if someone stole your Social Security number. Identity theft among seniors is on the rise. So be vigilant about this issue.

Call us at (813) 902-3189 to schedule your consultation! We are happy to help you or your family.

Schedule your free 15 minute consultation.

how-much-does-an-estate-plan-cost

How much does an estate plan cost?

There is a lot more than just price that goes into choosing legal documents or the lawyer that will help you.

When you’re comparing our fees to your other options, I encourage you to really understand what you are actually getting for that price. If you use an online form, you might actually cause your family a lot of headache and heartache down the road. So you want to find a lawyer that can draft you excellent legal documents in accordance with the state laws that captures everything that you want to see about how your assets go to your loved ones under what circumstances, who’s in charge.

In my office, we create relationships with my clients instead of just a transaction.

That is because your estate planning should stay up to date with your life and with the law as it changes. So that your documents, so that when it matters most, your documents work. In my office, we analyze our client’s situation and goals and what we need to do to get them there.

We charge a flat fee agreed to in advance. That way there are no surprises. We offer “a la carte” options and packages.

Many times we find that it works best for our clients to offer them packages for their estate planning so that they are covered not just after their death but during their lifetime as well. So when it comes to which estate plan package might be right for you, we help you figure out what’s right for you during our first meeting. On average, our will plan starts at $2,000 and our trust plan start at $4,000. Those prices are not for just one document. It’s a series of documents and strategy that is customized to your specific situation. We design our plans to make things as easy as possible for yourself and your family in the event that you become incapacitated or die.

What if you’re thinking? Oh I just need something simple. I just need one document. OK, maybe you do. We won’t really know what you really need until we meet in person and review your specific situation.

Sit down with me for a Planning Session. It’s a no obligation Planning Session. That way you can go over your situation and what options work best for you so that you can be on tract to make things as easy as possible for yourself and your family in the event that you become incapacitated or die.

Call us at (813) 902-3189 to schedule your Planning Session.

Check out our video about how much an Estate Plan costs.

Will These Life Insurance Mistakes Hurt You?

Life insurance is an important part of estate planning and taking care of the people you love after you pass away. Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid.

1. Not naming a beneficiary

Too many people forget to name a beneficiary or backup beneficiaries. Those mistakes can result in your life insurance proceeds having to go through the probate court process. That can tie up your money for months and even open up the life insurance proceeds to your creditors. And that can wipe out your funds.

2. Naming an individual as beneficiary to take care of that money for someone else

You might be tempted to list someone you know and trust as beneficiary of your life insurance, with the understanding that he or she would use that money to take care of another person that you have in mind. This could result in a number of problems. For example, you list your sister as beneficiary of your life insurance so that she can take care of your daughter.

3. Not keeping your beneficiaries up to date

Too many people forget to update their beneficiary designations.  You should review your beneficiary designations at least once a year so that you can make sure you update them upon events like divorce, deaths, and births.

4. Naming a minor as beneficiary

We see this ALOT. And it can result in expensive and time consuming complications for your family. That is because in Florida, minor children can’t directly inherit assets over $15,000. If a minor is listed as the beneficiary, the proceeds of your insurance will be distributed to a court-appointed custodian (guardian of the property), who will be in charge of managing the funds (often for a fee) until the age of majority, at which point all benefits are distributed to the beneficiary outright.

Instead of naming a minor as beneficiary, consider setting up a trust to receive the insurance proceeds, and name a trustee to hold and distribute the funds to a minor child you would want to benefit from your insurance proceeds. By doing so, you get to choose not only who would manage your child’s money, but also how and when the funds are distributed and used.

5. Naming an individual with special needs as beneficiary

If a loved one has special needs, chances are you want to help provide for a lifetime of care and protection. But if you leave the money directly to someone with special needs, it could disqualify that individual from receiving much-needed government benefits. Consider creating a “special needs trust” to receive the insurance proceeds. That way the money won’t go directly to the beneficiary upon your death, but it would be managed by the trustee you name and dispersed according to the trust’s terms, without affecting benefit eligibility.

You owe it to your loved ones to get this right.

Naming life insurance beneficiaries might seem pretty straight forward. But if you mess this up, you can create pretty big problems for the people you love.  But don’t worry, we can support you in planning for the people you love, whether it’s through life insurance or other tools such as wills or trusts.  Schedule an estate Planning Session to get started.

Call us at (813) 902-3189.

How Will The Coming Wealth Transfer Affect Your Family?

Whether it’s called “The Great Wealth Transfer,” “The Silver Tsunami,” or some other catchy-sounding name, it’s a fact that a tremendous amount of wealth will pass from aging Baby Boomers to younger generations in the next few decades. In fact, it’s said to be the largest transfer of inter-generational wealth in history.

Because no one knows exactly how long Boomers will live or how much money they’ll spend before they pass on, it’s impossible to accurately predict just how much wealth will be transferred. But studies suggest it’s somewhere between $30 and $50 trillion. Yes, that’s “trillion” with a “T.”

A blessing or a curse?

And while most are talking about the benefits this asset transfer might have for younger generations and the economy, few are talking about its potential negative ramifications. Yet there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that many people, especially younger generations, are woefully unprepared to handle such an inheritance.

An Ohio State University study found that one third of people who received an inheritance had a negative savings within two years of getting the money. Another study by The Williams Group found that inter-generational wealth transfers often become a source of tension and dispute among family members, and 70% of such transfers fail by the time they reach the second generation.

Whether you will be inheriting or passing on this wealth, it’s crucial to have a plan in place to reduce the potentially calamitous effects such transfers can lead to. Without proper estate planning, the money and other assets that get passed on can easily become more of a curse than a blessing.

Get proactive

There are several proactive measures you can take to help stave off the risks posed by the big wealth transfer. Beyond having a comprehensive estate plan, openly discussing your values and legacy with your loved ones can be a key way to ensure your planning strategies work exactly as you intended. Here’s what we suggest:

Create a plan

If you haven’t created your estate plan yet—and far too many people haven’t—it’s essential that you put a plan in place as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter how young you are or if you have a family yet, all adults over 18 should have some basic planning vehicles in place.

From there, be sure to regularly update your plan on an annual basis and immediately after major life events like marriage, births, deaths, inheritances, and divorce. We maintain a relationship with our clients long after your initial planning documents are signed, and our built-in systems and processes will ensure your plan is regularly reviewed and updated throughout your lifetime.

Discuss wealth with your family early and often

Don’t put off talking about wealth with your family until you’re in retirement or nearing death. Clearly communicate with your children and grandchildren what wealth means to you and how you’d like them to use the assets they inherit when you pass away.

When discussing wealth with your family members, focus on the values you want to instill, rather than what and how much they can expect to inherit. Let them know what values are most important to you, and try to mirror those values in your family life as much as possible. Whether it’s saving money, charitable giving, or community service, having your kids live your values while growing up is often the best way to ensure they carry them on once you’re gone.

Communicate your wealth’s purpose

Outside of clearly communicating your values, you should also discuss the specific purpose(s) you want your wealth to serve in your loved ones’ lives. You worked hard to build your family wealth, so you’ve more than earned the right to stipulate how it gets used and managed when you’re gone. Though you can create specific terms and conditions for your wealth’s future use in planning vehicles like a living trust, don’t make your loved ones wait until you’re dead to learn exactly what you want their inheritance used for.

If you want your wealth to be used to fund your children’s college education, provide the down payment on their first home, or invested for their retirement, tell them so. By discussing such things while you’re still around, you can ensure your loved ones know exactly why you made the planning decisions you did.

 Secure your wealth, your legacy, and your family’s future

Regardless of how much or how little wealth you plan to pass on—or stand to inherit—it’s vital that you take steps to make sure that wealth is protected and put to the best use possible.

Call our office today at (813) 902-3189 to schedule a  Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Can An Adult Child Be Liable for a Parent’s Nursing Home Bill?

Although a nursing home cannot require a child to be personally liable for their parent’s nursing home bill, there are circumstances in which children can end up having to pay.

This is a major reason why it is important to read any admission agreements carefully before signing.

Federal regulations prevent a nursing home from requiring a third party to be personally liable as a condition of admission. However, children of nursing home residents often sign the nursing home admission agreement as the “responsible party.” This is a confusing term and it isn’t always clear from the contract what it means.

Typically, the responsible party is agreeing to do everything in his or her power to make sure that the resident pays the nursing home from the resident’s funds.

If the resident runs out of funds, the responsible party may be required to apply for Medicaid on the resident’s behalf. If the responsible party doesn’t follow through on applying for Medicaid or provide the state with all the information needed to determine Medicaid eligibility, the nursing home may sue the responsible party for breach of contract. In addition, if a responsible party misuses a resident’s funds instead of paying the resident’s bill, the nursing home may also sue the responsible party. In both these circumstances, the responsible party may end up having to pay the nursing home out of his or her own funds.

In a case in New York, a son signed an admission agreement for his mother as the responsible party. After the mother died, the nursing home sued the son for breach of contract, arguing that he failed to apply for Medicaid or use his mother’s money to pay the nursing home and that he fraudulently transferred her money to himself. The court ruled that the son could be liable for breach of contract even though the admission agreement did not require the son to use his own funds to pay the nursing home. (Jewish Home Lifecare v. Ast, N.Y. Sup. Ct., New York Cty., No. 161001/14, July 17,2015).

Although it is against the law to require a child to sign an admission agreement as the person who guarantees payment, it is important to read the contract carefully because some nursing homes still have language in their contracts that violates the regulations. If possible, consult with your attorney before signing an admission agreement.

Another way children may be liable for a nursing home bill is through filial responsibility laws.

These laws obligate adult children to provide necessities like food, clothing, housing, and medical attention for their indigent parents. Filial responsibility laws have been rarely enforced, but as it has become more difficult to qualify for Medicaid, states are more likely to use them. Pennsylvania is one state that has used filial responsibility laws aggressively.

We recommend that your Health Care Directives explicitly lay down a financial liability shield for your agents.

This one provision can save great grief and money.

This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to learn how to get this $500 session at no charge. 

Call us at (813) 902-3189.