It’s that time of year when many of us are working on our New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s to eat healthier, get organized or finally clean out the garage, many of our resolutions center around some type of self-improvement. Doesn’t it feel great when you’ve finished that dreaded item on your to do list?
For many folks, estate planning is at the BOTTOM of the to do list. Studies have shown that over 50% of Americans don’t have a Will. Yet 100% of folks would benefit from some type of estate planning! With an updated, effective estate plan, you can guard against unnecessary heartache, financial hardship and family drama. For example, if your health deteriorates to the point where you’re dying and you can’t communicate your wishes, without any advance medical directives in place, your loved ones have the emotional burden of trying to figure out what medical care you do or don’t want. Moreover, who’s going to be in charge of the decisions? And without an updated Will, can you be sure that your property goes to the right people?
I understand that for many of us, estate planning is uncomfortable, emotional and overwhelming. Who wants to spend time thinking about leaving their loved ones behind? I guide my clients through the process, one step at a time. Let’s tackle this resolution together. Then you can get back to your other resolutions, like cleaning out that garage.
If your Medicare drug plan denies coverage for a drug you need, you don’t have to simply accept it. There are several steps you can take to fight the decision.
The insurers offering Medicare drug plans choose the medicines — both brand-name and generic — that they will include in a plan’s “formulary,” the roster of drugs the plan covers and will pay for that changes year-to-year. If a drug you need is not in the plan’s formulary or has been dropped from the formulary, the plan can deny coverage. Plans may also charge more for a drug than you think you should have to pay or deny you coverage for a drug in the formulary because it doesn’t believe you need the drug. If any of these things happens, you can appeal the decision.
File An Exception Request
Before you can start the formal appeals process, you need to file an exception request with your plan. The plan should provide instructions on how to request an exception. The plan must respond within 72 hours or 24 hours if your doctor explains that waiting 72 hours would be detrimental to your health.
5 Steps Appeals Process
If your exception is denied, the plan should send you a written denial-of-coverage notice and a five-step appeals process can begin.
- The first step in appealing a coverage determination is to go back to the insurer and ask for a redetermination, following the instructions provided by your plan. You should submit a statement from your doctor or prescriber that explains why you need the drug you are requesting, along with any medical records to support your argument. If your doctor informs the plan that you need an expedited decision due to your health, the plan must notify you within 72 hours. For a standard redetermination, the plan must notify you within seven days.
- If you disagree with the drug plan’s decision, you have the right to reconsideration by an independent board. To request reconsideration, follow the instructions in the written redetermination notice you receive from the insurer. You have 60 days from the redetermination notice to request reconsideration. An independent review entity (IRE) will review the case and issue a decision either within 72 hours or seven days. If you receive a negative decision, you can keep appealing.
- The third level of appeal is to request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), which allows you to present your case either over the phone or in person. To request a hearing, the amount in controversy must be at least $160 (in 2018). The amount in controversy is calculated by subtracting any amount already covered under Part D, and any deductible, co-payments, and coinsurance amounts applicable to the Part D drug at issue, from the projected value of the drug benefits in dispute. Your request for a hearing must be sent in writing to the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA). The ALJ is supposed to issue an expedited decision within 10 days or a standard decision within 90 days.
- If the ALJ does not rule in your favor, the next step is a review by the Medicare Appeals Council. The appeal form must be filed within 60 days after the ALJ’s decision. You will need a statement explaining why you disagree with the ALJ’s decision. The appeals council will issue an expedited decision in 10 days or a standard decision within 90 days.
- The final step is review by a federal district court. To be able to request review, the amount in controversy must be $1,600 (in 2018). Follow the directions in the letter from the appeals council and file the request in writing within 60 calendar days.This article is service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she guides her clients so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Contact Myrna at (813) 514-2946 to schedule your elder law consultation today.
The Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) are sometimes called the “granddaddies” of college savings accounts. Both allow parents to establish custodial accounts for a minor child, and a grandparent can then make gifts to the account. Because the account is in the child’s name, the tax liability is often shifted to the child. That child is usually in a lower tax bracket than the grandparent or the grandchild’s parents. Gifts to such accounts are irrevocable, but the gift-giver retains control of the money and decides how it will be invested.
UGMA and UTMA differ in the type of property they permit a person to transfer: States usually restrict UGMA investments to life insurance, cash and certificates of deposit, while UTMA allows a wider variety of investments, including mutual funds, stocks, bonds, real estate — even artwork. Banking institutions and brokerage firms offer UGMA and UTMA accounts.
Either type of account should be managed by someone other than the parent. Otherwise, the parent will be responsible for taxes on the account income.
The major downside of these accounts is that custodians must turn the money over to the child when he or she reaches a certain age. Even though the law in FL now allows the account to exist until the minor reaches age 25, in reality that child could take the money out at age 21. The child may then do as he or she wishes with the money — and it may not be what you would prefer. In addition, as with custodial accounts, the child’s sudden ownership of the account funds could jeopardize his or her eligibility for financial aid for college.
UTMA Accounts are “owned” by the minor and, as such, are subject to seizure by the minor’s creditors. There is no “spendthrift” protection for UTMA Accounts as there is in a properly drafted child’s trust.
Older parents are becoming more common, driven in part by divorce and remarriages and fertility treatments. Comedian and author Steve Martin had his first child at age 67. Singer Billy Joel just welcomed his third daughter. Janet Jackson had a child at age 50. Later-in-life parents have some special estate planning and retirement considerations.
Update Your Plan
Make sure you have an estate plan and that the estate plan is up to date. One of the most important functions of an estate plan is to name a guardian for your children in your will. This is especially important for parents having children later in life. If you don’t name someone to act as guardian, the court will choose the guardian. Because the court doesn’t know your kids like you do, the person they choose may not be ideal.
Consider a Trust
In addition to naming a guardian, you may also want to set up a trust for your children so that your assets are set aside for them when they get older. If the child is the product of a second marriage, a trust may be particularly important. A trust can give your spouse rights, but allow someone else — the trustee — the power to manage the property and protect it for the next generation. If you have older children, a trust could provide for a younger child’s college education and then divide the remaining amount among all the children.
Another consideration is retirement savings. Financial advisors generally recommend prioritizing saving for your own retirement over saving for college because students have the ability to borrow money for college while it is tougher to borrow for retirement. One advantage of being an older parent is that you may be more financially stable, making it easier to save for both. Also, if you are retired when your children go to college, they may qualify for more financial aid. Older parents should make sure they have a high level of life insurance and extend term policies to last through the college years.
When to take Social Security is another consideration. Children can receive benefits on a parent’s work record if the parent is receiving benefits too. To be eligible, the child must be under age 18, under age 19 but still in elementary school or high school, or over age 18 but have become mentally or physically disabled prior to age 22. Children generally receive an amount equal to one-half of the parent’s primary insurance amount (PIA), up to a “family maximum” benefit. You will need to calculate whether the child’s benefit makes it worth it to collect benefits early rather than wait to collect at your full retirement age or at age 70.
This article is a service of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she guides her clients and educates them about how to protect what matters most. And that’s why Myrna offers a Planning Session, to help you get more financially organized than ever before and to make the best decisions for the people they love. Call our office at (813) 514-2946 to schedule a meeting with Myrna.
A recent New Jersey appeals court case shows how important it is for families to come up with a long-term care plan before an emergency strikes. The case involves two brothers who got into a fight over whether to place their mother in a nursing home – a dispute that resulted in one brother filing a restraining order against the other.
Brother vs. Brother
R.G. was the primary caregiver for his parents and their agent under powers of attorney. After R.G.’s mother fell ill, R.G. wanted to place his mother in a nursing home. R.G.’s brother objected to this plan, but R.G. went ahead and had his mother admitted to a nursing home without his brother’s consent. R.G.’s brother sent angry and threatening texts and emails to R.G. as well as emails expressing his desire to find a way to care for their parents in their home. Eventually the men got into a physical altercation in which R.G.’s brother shoved R.G.
R.G. went to court to get a restraining order against his brother under the state’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. The trial judge ruled that R.G. had been harassed and assaulted and issued the restraining order. R.G.’s brother appealed, arguing that R.G. did not meet the definition of a victim of domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
In R.G. v. R.G. (N.J. Super. Ct., App. Div., No. A-0945-15T3, March 14, 2017), a New Jersey appeals court reversed the trial court, ruling that R.G.’s brother’s actions did not amount to domestic violence. According to the court, there was insufficient evidence that R.G.’s brother purposely acted to harass R.G., ruling that “a mere expression of anger between persons in a requisite relationship is not an act of harassment.”
Keep This From Happening in Your Family
If the brothers had sat down with their parents before they needed care to explore options and determine their parents’ wishes, this drawn-out and costly dispute might have been totally avoided. Putting a long-term care plan into place can help avoid family conflicts like this one.
To start planning for long-term care, talk to us to help you design the best plan for you.
Long-term care insurance (LTCi) is an important element of good retirement planning. That is because it offers financial protection against unexpected illness or disability that would otherwise eat into savings. But many LTCi plans are too expensive for most retirees or people nearing retirement age, and the costs just seem to be going up.
At the same time, the cost of medical care and assistance over a long period is even higher, and an unexpected illness could wipe out everything you’ve saved. You may not have enough after-tax dollars to pay for LTCi, but you can protect your retirement income by using money from your IRA to fund coverage.
Is It Possible to Avoid Taxes and Early Withdrawal Penalties?
Typically, withdrawals or non-qualified investments (including insurance purchases) made with IRA funds before the age of 59½ are subject to taxes and penalties. Certain allowances are made if you use IRA savings to pay for medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, or if you’re unemployed and using these funds to buy medical insurance.
Although these exemptions don’t apply if you’re buying LTCi directly with your IRA savings, there are some indirect options available that allow you to avoid taxes and penalties. Here are two: fund a 20-pay life insurance plan or a qualified Health Savings Account (HSA) with part of the money saved in a traditional IRA. Both options can be done penalty-free before age 59 ½
Option 1: Convert Your IRA into LTC Insurance with a Tax-Qualified Annuity
If you invest in a tax-qualified annuity that makes internal distributions to an insurance carrier, you can indirectly pay for long-term care coverage using IRA money without additional tax penalties. Here’s how the process works:
- Step 1: Apply for 20-pay life insurance with LTC features
Apply for a 20-pay life insurance plan with an LTC rider, which can accelerate the death benefit to pay for long-term care. This policy will be funded with tax-qualified annuities that make annual distributions to the insurance policy over a 20-year period. After you apply, complete the underwriting process, and receive approval, you will be given a quote for the annual premiums required for this plan. The premiums may be higher than those for term insurance, but limited-pay plans offer lifetime security.
- Step 2: Apply for IRA-based annuity plans to fund the policy
The second step is to determine the up-front cost of an IRA-based annuity where the annual dollar amount of income is the same as the insurance premiums, over a period of 20 years. Apply for this annuity type and include instructions for the company to directly credit your 20-pay life insurance plan with the annual gains from the annuity.
- Step 3: Use a direct transfer of IRA funds for annuity premiums
Directly transfer funds from your IRA to purchase your 20-year annuity. By paying an equal dollar amount directly into your life insurance policy, this annuity will fund your insurance coverage and keep it active for 20 years, after which the LTCi policy is paid in full.
You will receive IRS tax form 1099-R from the annuity company every year on the amount of taxable IRA money moved into the life insurance policy. While you still pay income tax on this amount, the payout and benefits from the policy will be tax-free for you and your beneficiaries. After you’ve made premium payments over a 20-year period, the death benefits will apply for your entire lifetime.
Option 2: Move IRA Funds into an HSA with LTC Benefits
You’re allowed to make a one-time tax-free transfer of IRA funds into a qualified HSA, which provides tax-advantaged savings for health care expenses in the future. Check if your HSA includes an option for long-term care, and consider this method only if you meet the eligibility rules.
The maximum transfer allowed is the same as the HSA contribution limit, which in 2017 is $3,400 for single people and $6,750 for families, with an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions for those aged 55 and up. Remember, this limit will decrease based on how much you move from your IRA. You may also be liable for taxes and penalties if you’re no longer eligible for the HSA within 13 months from December 1st of the transfer year.
The amount saved by these strategies will vary depending on the individual’s or family’s needs, the amount transferred and the expense of the annuity applied for. But they are worth the trouble, in most cases; anytime you can use tax deferred dollars, it is a good thing.
If you want to be financially comfortable, safe and happy after you retire, it may be time to take another look at your IRA savings and investment portfolio. A self directed IRA might be your best option, since you retain full control over investments. Consult a professional advisor if you want to learn more about how it works.
The federal government is issuing new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries. To prevent fraud and fight identity theft, the new cards will no longer have beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers on them.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is replacing each beneficiary’s Social Security number with a unique identification number, called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). Each MBI will consist of a combination of 11 randomly generated numbers and upper case letters. The characters are “non-intelligent,” which means they don’t have any hidden or special meaning. The MBI is confidential like the Social Security number and should be kept similarly private.
The CMS will begin mailing the cards in April 2018 in phases based on the state the beneficiary lives in. The new cards should be completely distributed by April 2019. If your mailing address is not up to date, call 800-772-1213, visit www.ssa.gov, or go to a local Social Security office to update it.
The changeover is attracting scammers who are using the introduction of the new cards as a fresh opportunity to separate Medicare beneficiaries from their money. According to Kaiser Health News, the scams to look out for include phone calls with callers:
- claiming to be from Medicare looking for your direct deposit number and using the new cards as an excuse,
- asking for your Social Security number to verify information,
- claiming Medicare recipients need to pay money to receive a temporary card, or
- threatening to cancel your insurance if you don’t give out your card number.
There is no cost for the new cards. It is important to know that Medicare will never call, email or visit you unless you ask them to, nor will they ask you for money or for your Medicare number. If you receive any calls that seem suspicious, don’t give out any personal information and hang up. You should call 1-800-MEDICARE to report the activity or you can contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). To contact your SMP, call 877-808-2468 or visit www.smpresource.org.
For more information about Medicare, click here.
- Part 1: What You Need to Know About Divorce and Estate Planning January 17, 2020
- Tips for Talking with Young Kids About Death November 7, 2019
- Tools for Parents of Children With Special Needs October 3, 2019
- What you need to know: Medicaid Asset Transfer Rules September 5, 2019
- Do Right By Your Pet. Be careful with your Will. August 27, 2019
- Part 1: What You Need to Know About Divorce and Estate ...January 17, 2020 - 8:49 am
- Tips for Talking with Young Kids About DeathNovember 7, 2019 - 6:23 pm
- Tools for Parents of Children With Special NeedsOctober 3, 2019 - 5:22 pm
- What you need to know: Medicaid Asset Transfer RulesSeptember 5, 2019 - 6:00 pm