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Elder Law Articles

Drafting a power of attorney that reduces the chances of abuse

A power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents you can create, but it is also one that can be misused. While it isn’t possible to entirely prevent the possibility of abuse, there are steps you can take in drafting the document to greatly reduce the chances. A power of attorney allows a person you appoint — your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” — to act in place of you —the “principal” — for

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Four Social Security myths debunked

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Social Security system. Here are four common myths and the facts about how Social Security works and its future prospects. Myth 1: You should collect benefits early. This is one of the biggest Social Security myths. Beneficiaries can start taking retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you take Social Security between age 62 and your full retirement age (which ranges from 65 to 67, depending

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Don’t make the mistake of not signing up for Medicare supplemental coverage

If you are turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare as a healthy senior, do you really need to sign up for Medicare’s supplemental coverage as well? Not signing up initially could be very costly down the road.  With all the deductibles, copayments and coverage exclusions, basic Medicare pays for only about half of all medical costs. To augment Medicare’s coverage, you can purchase a supplemental, or “Medigap,” insurance policy from a private insurer.  There are 10

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Should you prepare a Medicaid application yourself, or get help?

A decision on whether to prepare and file a Medicaid application on your own or hire help depends on answers to these questions: How old is the applicant? How complicated is the applicant’s financial situation? Is the individual applying for community or nursing home benefits? How much time do you have available? How organized are you? Medicaid is the health care program for individuals without other insurance or those whose insurance does not cover what they

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Guns and dementia: Dealing with a loved one’s firearms

Having a loved one with dementia can be scary, but add in access to a firearm and things can become especially dangerous. Research shows that 45 percent of all adults aged 65 years or older either own a gun or live in a household with someone who does. For someone with dementia, the risk of suicide increases; firearms are the most common method of suicide among people with dementia. In addition, someone with dementia who has a gun may

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Maximizing Social Security survivor’s benefits

Social Security survivor’s benefits provide a safety net to widows and widowers. But to get the most out of the benefit, you need to know the right time to claim. While you can claim survivor’s benefits as early as age 60, if you claim benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be permanently reduced. If you claim benefits at your full retirement age, you will receive 100 percent of your spouse’s benefit or, if

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Getting paid as a family caregiver through Medicaid

Caring for an ailing family member is difficult work, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be unpaid work. There are programs available that allow Medicaid recipients to hire family members as caregivers.  All 50 states have programs that provide pay to family caregivers. The programs vary by state, but are generally available to Medicaid recipients, although there are also some non-Medicaid programs.  Medicaid’s program began as “cash and counseling,” but is now often called “self-directed,” “consumer-directed”

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Understanding Medicare’s hospice benefit

Medicare’s hospice benefit covers any care that is reasonable and necessary for easing the course of a terminal illness. It is one of Medicare’s most comprehensive benefits and can be extremely helpful to both a terminally ill individual and his or her family, but it is little understood and underutilized. Understanding what is offered ahead of time may help Medicare beneficiaries and their families make the difficult decision to choose hospice if the time comes. The

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Estate planning and retirement considerations for late-in-life parents

It is becoming more common for people to be parents at an older age, partly because of changing cultural mores and advances in fertility treatment. Comedian and author Steve Martin had his first child at age 67. Singer Billy Joel, 70, welcomed his third daughter in 2017. Janet Jackson had a child at age 50. But later-in-life parents have some special estate planning and retirement considerations. For older parents, the first consideration is to have an

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Charitable giving under the new tax law

The new tax law makes it harder to claim a tax deduction for charitable contributions. Charitable giving should not be only about getting a tax break, but if you want to reap a tax benefit from your contributions, there are a couple of options. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in December 2017, nearly doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples. This means that if your charitable contributions along with

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