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Elder Law Articles

Retirement home can force resident to move to higher level of care

A retirement community can force one of its residents to move from a private apartment to a smaller assisted-living unit, a federal court has ruled. Sally Herriot, 90, is a resident of Channing House, a continuing care retirement community in Palo Alto, California. Like many such communities, Channing House provides three levels of care – independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing. After moving to the facility with her now-deceased husband in 1991, Ms. Herriot lived

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Uncertain market makes prepaid 529 plans more attractive

With the stock market down significantly, some parents are looking at safer ways to save for a child’s college education. Prepaid 529 plans offer parents (and other family members) the opportunity to lock in tuition at today’s rates. Up until now, traditional 529 savings plans have been more popular. These traditional plans allow parents or other family members to invest money for a child’s education tax-free, usually in mutual funds. But prepaid plans are gaining ground

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What happens if you die without a will?

We all know we’re supposed to do estate planning, but not all of us get around to it. So what happens if you don’t have a will when you die? Your estate will be distributed according to state laws, which may or may not conform to the way you want your assets and possessions to be distributed. Each state has laws that determine what will happen if a person dies without a will. If you’re married,

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What the recession will mean for long-term care

The current economic downturn isn’t going to change the needs of seniors for help with the activities of daily living. However, it could have a big effect on how and where that help is provided – at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. And it could affect who provides the care – family members or hired staff.

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Who gets cash hidden in house by deceased former owner?

Imagine you bought a house and, a year and a half later, you discovered bundles of cash that had been hidden away by the deceased former owner. Who would be entitled to the money – you or the former owner’s estate? Confronted with just such a case, an Oregon appeals court determined that the new owner can keep the windfall. William and Helene Valoff owned a house in Milwaukie, Oregon. After Mr. Valoff’s unexpected death, all

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Here’s a second chance if you elected early Social Security benefits

Did you elect to take Social Security benefits before your full retirement age? If you did and are now looking for extra income, there may be an answer. Once you reach full retirement age, you can pay back the money you have received and reapply for full retirement benefits. Although you can collect Social Security benefits between age 62 and your full retirement age, if you do, your benefits will be lower. For example, if you

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Ombudsmen: front-line advocates for nursing home residents

Disagreements with a nursing home can arise regarding any number of topics, including the quality of food, troublesome roommates, lack of privacy, and services that are less than what was promised. Many disputes can be resolved by speaking with a nursing home staff member or supervisor, or moving up the chain of command. But if you can’t resolve things within the nursing home, your next step should be to contact the local ombudsman assigned to the

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New law makes changes to reverse mortgages

In addition to addressing the current housing crisis, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 makes changes to reverse mortgages, including higher borrowing limits and protections from aggressive marketing. A reverse mortgage allows a homeowner who is at least 62 years old to use the equity in his or her home to obtain a loan that doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner moves, sells, or dies. The new law, which took effect in

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Spouses of Medicaid recipients may keep more money in 2009

The amount of money that spouses of Medicaid recipients can keep may increase in 2009, as a result of new guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The amount of assets that spouses of people who are on Medicaid and living in nursing home can keep for themselves is set by each state, but the federal government sets a ceiling and a floor that the states must follow. For 2009, the ceiling

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Can you deduct the cost of ‘assisted living’ on your taxes?

If you live in an assisted living facility – or have a family member who does – you know that the costs continue to rise every year. But did you know some of those costs may be tax-deductible? Medical expenses, including some long-term care expenses, may be deductible if they are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. (You have to itemize your deductions, and the amount of the deduction varies depending on a

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