By Kristin Daugherty, Long-Term Care Planner
Are you a caregiver looking for community resources to assist you and your loved one with the cost of caregiving and home modifications? The Family Caregiver Support Program has been providing financial assistance to eligible older adults and their caregivers since 1990.
On December 22, 2011, PA House Bill 210 was signed by Governor Tom Corbett. Titled the Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Act, this bill marks the first change to this program since its inception. This bill updates the definition of caregiver to be more reflective of current caregivers. For example, qualified beneficiaries of the act are no longer required to reside with the caregiver, and program funds can be used to pay non-relatives for caregiving.
The Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Act provides up to $200 monthly reimbursement with the possibility of up to $500 to a caregiver of a functionally dependent individual, age 60 or over. This monthly reimbursement can be used for in-home respite, facility respite, transportation, and incontinence supplies, as well as for education and counseling for caregivers. Beneficiaries of the Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Act may also be able to receive up to $2,000 to make home modifications, such as the installation of a stair glide, grab bars, and wheelchair ramp.
Prior to becoming a Long-Term Care Planner with Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak, I was a caseworker for STEP, Office of Aging. While serving in that capacity, I learned that the financial support from government funded programs, like the Family Caregiver Support Act, often means that the beneficiary of those programs can remain safely in his or her home. To learn more information about programs such as the Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Act, please visit The Elder & Special Needs Resource Center provided by Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak
How long do you keep your personal and financial records? 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 7 years?
With identity theft being the crime of the time, most of us have been told that the safest way to dispose of our personal records is by shredding them. While shredding your personal and financial records is the most recommended and safest way to dispose of your documents, the challenge is knowing when to get rid of your important personal documents.
In the “Managing Your Money” column in the April 22nd issue of USA Today, the writer advised that “canceled checks that aren’t related to your taxes can be shredded after you’ve reconciled them with your bank statement.” This may be accurate information for IRS purposes, however, this is not the best advice for a senior who may someday need nursing home care. The IRS is not the only government agency that requires supportive documentation. When qualifying for Medicaid benefits, the Department of Public Welfare can require five years of canceled checks and other financial documents to support an application for nursing home coverage.
Qualifying for Medicaid benefits for long-term care has always been complex; however, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 has made this cumbersome process even more difficult. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA), which was signed into law by former President Bush on February 8, 2006, imposed a five year “look-back period” (the period immediately before a person applies for Medicaid). Therefore, Medicaid agencies may require copies of canceled checks and bank statements, documenting all expenditures made within the five-year window.
Furthermore, with bank mergers, obtaining canceled checks can be a nightmare. Saving canceled checks, rather than shredding them, can prevent unnecessary anxiety and expense.
Seniors who follow the advice to “shred it all” may face serious problems should they need to apply for Medicaid for nursing home or in-home care. A senior who may someday need nursing home or in-home care should keep financial records for at least five years.
Our goal at Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak is to provide you with peace of mind. We will work with you and your family to develop a comprehensive estate and long-term care plan that fits your individual needs and meets your specific goals. To schedule your FREE initial consultation, please contact Steinbacher , Goodall & Yurchak at (800) 351-8334. We look forward to talking with you.
Most of us look forward to retiring. A properly planned retirement can afford individuals with the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, travel to desired destinations, and commit time to overlooked hobbies. However, retirement planning involves more than just mathematical calculations. Successful retirement planning undertakes a comprehensive evaluation of your retirement goals, available benefits, and existing estate plan.
The office of Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak can help both retirees and prospective retirees with their planning.
Our time in the workforce culminates in retirement. For those individuals approaching retirement, the transition from the active workforce to retirement may be overwhelming due to the many variables. For instance, since Social Security was introduced, the average life expectancy of a 65-year-old adult has increased by nearly 50%. Statistically, such individuals can expect to enjoy nearly one-third of their adult life in retirement. However, the issues affecting retirement can be complex, including determining the best time to retire, retiring in a tax-efficient manner, and preserving retirement savings for your life and posterity.
Retirement planning is not unique to individuals with a high net worth; rather, every individual can benefit from a comprehensive plan. Each individual’s retirement goals and options must be critically examined. The attorneys and planners at Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak have the experience and expertise in retirement planning to help you confront those challenges through the implementation of a customized plan.
Our office provides guidance and formulates a plan designed to assist retirees and prospective retirees in assessing the options available from their retirement benefits, structuring their beneficiary designations, preserving benefits during their lifetime and for posterity, and identifying tax-savings for retirees and beneficiaries.
From defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans, each retiree has a unique benefits package. At Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak, we have attorneys to explain your options, provide recommendations, and guide you through the planning process. Our recommendations will evaluate the benefit options available to each retiree, implications to the beneficiary or beneficiaries, and corresponding consideration of each option through a broad framework, including income tax, Pennsylvania inheritance tax, and federal estate tax. Steinbacher & Stahl utilizes a comprehensive approach to retirement planning, which incorporates the recommendations into each client’s overall wealth protection plan, long-term care plan, or business succession plan. In helping you attain your retirement goals, our firm will recommend a variety of planning strategies, including, but not limited to, the utilization of accumulation and conduit trusts, strategic beneficiary designations, and benefit plan elections.
*“In 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was almost 14 years; today it is more than 20 years.” See Social Security Basic Facts available at http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/basicfact.htm.
Special Needs Planning involves developing a plan that provides lifelong support for your loved one who has a disability.
If your loved one has a physical, emotional, or medical condition resulting in a disability, Special Needs Planning is essential. Without Special Needs Planning, you and your loved one could miss out on a wealth of free resources that would enhance your loved one’s life.
We understand the complex decisions facing the families of a loved one who has a disability, and we help guide decision makers as they provide for their loved ones’ needs. Our Special Needs Plans are created to meet your specific current and future goals and will truly enhance your loved one’s life.
We will guide you step-by-step through the Special Needs Planning process.
- An aging couple came to the law firm to begin their estate planning and wanted to provide for their adult daughter who had a seizure disorder. We accomplished their legal planning, including updated wills and powers of attorney, trusts to protect their home and assets, and a special needs trust to benefit their daughter. We engaged the family in a visioning process through the Summary of Wishes. Beyond concerns about their daughter’s future needs, it was clear that they needed a break from their current day to day care-giving responsibilities. We referred their daughter to a community program serving adults who have disabilities. She is able to spend several hours a day engaged in socially stimulating activities while her parents enjoy freedom from their care giving responsibilities for the first time in years.
- A caseworker called from the local office of mental health. Her client had unexpectedly inherited her brother’s estate, putting her SSI benefits in jeopardy. We drafted a first party special needs trust to receive the inheritance, preserving benefits and providing for the future needs of the beneficiary.
- A referral from a personal injury attorney involved a young man who was severely injured and in need of round the clock care. We recommended an assessment by a life care planner, who could estimate the cost of the disability over the expected life of the client. This resulted in a significantly higher settlement. We created a first party trust for the settlement funds. In addition, the family had been providing much of the young man’s care so a caregiver agreement was executed that allowed those caregivers to be paid out of the trust funds. Finally, we scheduled interviews between the family and corporate trustees and negotiated the trustee’s fee for administering the trust.
- A young working woman was having a difficult time paying the co-pays for her very expensive medication. She also was at risk for losing her private health insurance. Because she was able to work part time, we assisted her in enrolling in the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disability (MAWD) program. Because her family had given her financial gifts as a child, her assets were over the eligibility limit. We drafted a first party trust to hold the funds that put her over the asset limit. She was approved for the Medical Assistance insurance through this program. In addition a third party trust was established to receive future gifts from her family.
- The family of a son with Autism wanted to encourage their son’s artistic abilities and provide him with a chance to earn money through his art. We helped them establish a business to market his artwork and legal documents and a plan to make sure his benefits were preserved. In addition, a special needs trust was established to receive future gifts and inheritances.
With the baby-boom generation advancing in age, Pennsylvania's senior citizens and their families increasingly encounter legal and practical concerns surrounding the care and support of elder loved ones. An attorney experienced in elder law matters can assist clients in establishing guardianships and conservatorships to provide the day-to-day assistance many elders need to manage their financial and personal matters. An experienced elder law attorney can prepare legal documents to allow senior citizens to predetermine medical and financial decisions during a period of incapacity, and provide for long-term medical care or nursing home residency through various funding sources. Additionally, an experienced elder law attorney can provide much-needed legal and emotional support to family members suddenly faced with the mounting pressure of caring for an elder loved one.
Guardianships and Conservatorships
Guardianships and conservatorships can help an elder family member manage his personal and financial affairs. When symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, senility, dementia or physical disabilities arise, our loved ones will often find it difficult to care for themselves and make the decisions they once did. Common tasks can become daily obstacles. Our loved ones may become forgetful, easily confused, and delusional as they age. Their judgment may become impaired, and their ability to make sound financial decisions may come into question. Guardianships or conservatorships can help you care for your loved one. Through a guardianship or conservatorship, you can become the court-ordered guardian or conservator of your loved one's personal effects or financial matters. Vested with control over various aspects of your loved one's life, you can maximize your loved one's quality of life through a support network of qualified professionals, friends, and family.
If you think that a guardianship or conservatorship may be a necessary step in the care of your loved ones, it is important that you speak to an experienced elder law attorney, who can advise you in the best course of action. There are several options to consider so it is important to deal with an experienced advisor who understands Pennsylvania Elder Law. Please call us today at (800)351-8334.
Powers of Attorney and Health Care Declarations
Before physical or mental disabilities arise, sound planning allows everybody to make decisions about their future financial matters and medical treatment, even if they are unable to communicate at the time those decisions are to be made. Powers of attorney and health care declarations allow a person to designate a carefully selected agent to carry out their wishes. In a thoroughly drafted document, each person may communicate with their agent, inform him of your financial goals and decisions, as well as determine the extent of any medical procedures or life-sustaining techniques that may be performed in the future. These powers direct your agent to make sound decisions according to your wishes, even if you are unable to communicate at the time.
Planning for Long-Term Care
While financial and medical decisions are extremely important, so too is planning for long-term care. In the busy world we live in, many people overlook the financial, medical, and personal impact of long-term care planning. In the event you develop a serious mental or physical disability, requiring sustained health care as part of your daily life, you will want to have implemented a proper long-term care plan. Long-term care costs in Pennsylvania are quite expensive and continue to rise. Proper long-term care planning now will allow you to cover these rising costs without exhausting your life savings. A skilled elder law attorney can counsel you on the availability of long-term care insurance, Medicare assistance, and Medicaid eligibility. With the proper payment options, you will be free to choose the long-term care option that provides you the best care and treatment available.
Help for Families of Eldercare Law Clients
Caring for an elder loved one can be a demanding chore. It is often time consuming, expensive, and physically and mentally exhausting. When added to your employment commitments, family life, and social relationships, your new role as caregiver can feel overwhelming. You are not alone, however. Millions of Americans currently care for an elder loved one, whether he lives with you or not. An experienced elder law attorney has counseled others in your position and can draw on professional experience to provide you the guidance, support and encouragement you need to meet your new challenges. If you have questions or concerns please feel free to call us at (800)351-8334.
If you feel you need to take control of the future financial or personal decisions for yourself or the protection of a loved one, it is important to act quickly. Taking the necessary steps now to establish guardianships, conservatorships, powers of attorney, and health care declarations can eliminate financial waste, personal turmoil, and family burdens for yourself and your loved ones in the years to come. All the while, you can ensure the best available medical and long-term care for yourself or your family.
Contact Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak today at (800)351-8334. We have offices located in Williamsport and State College, and offer in home appointments to those who cannot travel.