Category: Elder Law

Houston Elder Lawyer: Extra VA Benefits Are Available for Wartime Veterans to Help Pay for Long-Term Care

Long-term care is expensive, and many seniors in the Greater Houston area struggle to pay for the costs associated with aging and their declining health.  Fortunately for older veterans that served the country during a period of war, additional tax-free benefits may be available through the VA to help offset their out-of-pocket costs.

This benefit is known as the Aid and Attendance Pension, and it is a 3-tiered tax-free benefit for wartime veterans and their spouses who need financial assistance, or simply need help covering the costs associated with long-term care or un-reimbursed medical expenses.

Aid and Attendance is designed for veterans who need help with performing functions of everyday living including, bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, etc. The benefit can even be used to pay a family member who oversees or provides the care for their loved-one.

There are 4 criteria for eligibility:  service, income, net worth, and medical expenses.  You do not need to have a service-connected disability to qualify.  The VA will look to ensure that you:

  • Are permanently and totally disabled, or 65 or older
  • The veteran must be honorably discharged
  • The veteran must have served at least 90 consecutive days, with at least one (1) day during a period of war.

How to Plan for Eligibility

There are strict income and asset requirements that must be met in order to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. However, even if you have assets or money in your name, you still may be able to secure Aid & Attendance benefits.  Similar to Medicaid, the government allows veterans to utilize financial tools and planning strategies with the assistance of an attorney in order to legally reallocate assets to fall within the VA’s guidelines.  Once approved, older veterans and their spouses can be eligible for up to $25,525 per year, tax-free, to help pay for their care.

Get Help When Seeking A & A Benefits!  

Our Houston elder attorneys recognize that securing A & A benefits and working with the VA can be difficult. Many veterans are turned away because they do not understand the VA’s rules or the planning available to help meet the VA’s asset and income requirements.  Our attorneys are available to assist you in order to determine the best legal and financial tools necessary to qualify and quickly help you get the benefits you deserve. To schedule a consultation, simply call our office at (281) 218-0880.

Long-Term Care Insurance and Alternatives | Houston Elder Law Attorneys

As Houston Elder Law Attorneys, we know that taking care of an aging relative can be emotional, time-consuming and expensive. Most people who have taken care of an aging relative can tell you there are many costs associated with long-term care that are often not considered. For example, you might need someone besides yourself to start helping with household and personal tasks and/or home health care.

As your loved one’s health declines, you may also have increased medical costs.  It is really best if you consider this in advance so that you can focus on your loved one’s emotional well-being, rather than being stressed about where money is going to come from. The good news is there are a few options for planning for this financial burden.

One option would be hybrid long-term care insurance. These policies combine the benefits of an annuity or life insurance agreement with a traditional long-term care contract. With hybrid policies, the consumer has the guarantee of long term care benefits or, if no care is needed, the promise of insurance benefits to themselves and their beneficiaries.

Another option that would offer income over the lifetime of the individual would be an annuity. Annuities offer security for a steady stream of income with a low amount of risk. Unlike other insurance option you do not have to prove insurability by completing an application with present or prior medical conditions. Many annuities also have long-term care riders which would waive any fees for certain conditions.

Lastly, many single-premium whole life insurance policies have an attached long-term care rider. These types of plans typically have a higher cost and may have a maximum figure that can be applied to long-term care benefits.

There are pros and cons to all of these choices. Selecting the right way to invest so that you are ready for long-term care is tricky, as there is no one-size-fits-all answer. That is why it is critical to talk to an experienced Houston elder attorney before you invest. He or she will consider all of the options above and have several other techniques that you may want to utilize to meet your needs.

Houston Elder Lawyer Answers, “When should I start planning for long-term care?”

One of the most frequently asked questions our Houston elder lawyers receive is, “When should we start planning for long-term care?” The short answer is, “Long before you need it!”

When it comes to your home, your health and your finances, you want to be in the driver’s seat. That is why it is so important to plan now for any future care you may need. Even if you have a nice nest egg set aside for retirement, it could quickly become cracked and scrambled if you require a stay in a nursing home or need assisted living. A nursing home stay could easily cost you $6,000 to $12,000 per month. How long would your money last at that rate?

Many people realize that long-term care is a rising concern for elderly individuals. While it is true that most people living in long term care facilities are older, planning for long-term care is not something you should put off. At any point, any one of us could require long-term care. Just one accident could place you in long-term care facility for the reminder of your life.

Unfortunately, we have seen families forced into debt and even bankruptcy to meet the needs of their loved ones. This is why we discuss the need for long-term care insurance with all of our clients. Additionally, we make sure that you have all of the proper legal documents such as powers of attorney and healthcare directives in place in the event something happens to you and someone has to step in and make financial and medical decisions on your behalf.

A solid Medicaid Plan and/or Irrevocable trust may also be a wise idea in order to protect your family’s finances from the grasp of long term-care facilities, without jeopardizing your loved one’s access to benefits such as Medicaid down the road.

When setting up your plan, it is important to meet with an attorney that not just handles estates, but also elder law issues, in order to create a strategy for long-term care that will protect your family and provide total peace of mind.

If you have any questions about a long-term care plan or would like to discuss the documents that you need, contact our Houston elder attorneys at (281) 218-0880.

IRS Phone Scams on the Rise in Houston

It is tax time again, which means IRS scams are once again on the rise here in Houston and throughout the United States.  Predictably, many of the victims of this scam are the elderly, since they are often the most vulnerable.

Victims are contacted in a variety of ways, but the most common method is to reach them by phone. In the latest IRS scams going around, the scammer will claim to be an IRS agent and either ask for personal information (to steal the senior’s identity) or demand immediate payment over the phone.

If the victim refuses to give the information or provide payment, the caller may become hostile and aggressive and threaten to have the senior arrested. This insidious method works more often than you think, so we encourage you to talk to your elderly loved ones. Here are a few of the red flags you can tell them to watch for:

  • A phony IRS agent will demand immediate However, the real IRS will not call you about taxes you owe without first sending a statement.
  • A scammer will not let you ask questions or request an appeal.
  • The scammer may demand a specific type of payment such as a wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
  • They may ask for personal information such as credit card numbers.
  • The phony IRS agent may threaten to send law enforcement for non-payment.

Please be aware that some of these scammers are very convincing and they may already know some personal information that is online or apart of the public record.  But, if you suspect that the person on the other end of the line is not who they say they are, just hang up and report the call to your local law enforcement authorities.

If you are worried about yourself or elderly loved ones falling victim to these types senior scams, call our Houston elder law attorneys at (281) 218-0880 so that we can help protect your finances.