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Elder Law Articles

Know the difference between wellness visit and physical

Confusing a wellness visit with a physical could be very costly. As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare beneficiaries receive a free annual wellness visit. At this visit, your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant will generally: ask you to fill out a health risk assessment questionnaire; update your medical history and current prescriptions; measure your height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index; provide personalized health advice; create a screening schedule for the next 5

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What to look for in a prepaid funeral plan

In addition to making things easier for your family during a difficult time, prepaid funeral plans can also be a good way to spend down money in order to qualify for Medicaid. But the plans come with risks. Consumers lose millions of dollars every year when prepaid funeral funds are misspent or misappropriated. A funeral provider could mishandle, mismanage or embezzle the funds. Some go out of business before the need for the prepaid funeral arises. Others

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Understanding how assets are distributed in a will

When creating an estate plan, the main decision is how your assets will be distributed after you pass away. The terms “per stirpes” and “per capita” become important when your descendants include children and grandchildren. In a will, these terms are often written as “I leave my [fill in the blank] to my descendants, per stirpes (or per capita).” Per stirpes Distributing your assets per stirpes (sometimes called “by right of representation”) means that your assets

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Important to know how Medicaid could treat your home

Nursing home residents do not automatically have to sell their homes in order to qualify for Medicaid, but that doesn’t mean the house is completely protected. The state will likely put a lien on the house while the resident is living and attempt to recover the property after the resident has passed away. Medicaid (known as MassHealth in Massachusetts and Medi-Cal in California) will not count a nursing home resident’s home as an asset when determining

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Big changes come to retirement plans

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act changes the law surrounding retirement plans in several important ways: Stretch IRAS. The biggest change eliminates “stretch” IRAs. Under the previous law, if you named anyone other than a spouse as the beneficiary of your IRA, 401(k) or other tax-favored retirement plan, the beneficiary could choose to take distributions over his or her lifetime and to pass what is left on to future generations (called the

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Raising grandchildren? EITC may be an option

Working grandparents who support their grandchildren may qualify for the earned income tax credit, which could reduce the amount they pay in taxes by thousands of dollars, or allow them to receive a refund. The earned income tax credit is a benefit for working people with low to moderate incomes who have dependents, a category that includes grandparents. (Taxpayers without a dependent may also qualify, but it is more difficult.) To be able to claim the credit,

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Most are taking Social Security at the wrong time

A recent report found that almost no retirees are making financially optimal decisions about when to take Social Security and are losing out on more than $100,000 per household as a result. The average Social Security recipient would receive 9 percent more income in retirement if he or she made a financially optimal decision. When claiming Social Security, you have three options: you may begin taking benefits between age 62 and your full retirement age, you

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Medicare launches app to help determine coverage

Do you need to know if a procedure is covered by Medicare? There’s an app for that. Medicare has launched a free app, called “What’s Covered,” that gives beneficiaries a quick way of determining if the program covers a medical item or service. The app offers information on what is covered under Medicare Parts A and B and provides details on basic costs. It includes a list of covered preventive services. It does not, however, provide information

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How gifts can affect Medicaid eligibility

We’ve all heard that it’s better to give than to receive, but if you think you might someday want to apply for Medicaid long-term care benefits, you need to be careful, because giving away money or property can interfere with your eligibility. If you transfer certain assets within five years before applying for Medicaid, you will be ineligible for a period of time under federal Medicaid law, depending on how much money you transferred. This is

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Is it better to use joint ownership or a trust to pass down a home?

When leaving a home to your children, it is possible to avoid probate by using either joint ownership or a revocable trust, but which is the better method? If you add your child as a joint tenant on your house, you will both have an equal ownership interest in the property. If one joint tenant dies, his or her interest immediately ceases to exist and the other joint tenant owns the entire property. This has the advantage of

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