Category: Nursing Home

Long-Term Care Facilities Required to Request Guardianship Orders

When a loved one becomes mentally or physically incapacitated and unfit to care for themselves on their own it is a devastating issue that their families have to go through. When this happens, family members and loved ones can legally request to be named as “guardians” of the individual. This is a large responsibility and one that helps ensure there is a competent adult making decisions in the best interest of the individual.

The Responsibilities of the Guardian

Guardianship is designed to be a legal relationship between one competent adult and an individual who is no longer able to care for their own affairs. In this situation, the individual who is needing care is legally known as the “ward.” Once the agreement has been finalized, the guardian is able to make any legal, financial and healthcare decisions for “the ward.”

How Are Guardians Appointed?

With the help of an attorney, you can file a petition for a hearing in probate court in the county that the senior currently resides. The senior typically has legal representation at the hearing as well. The court then attempts to determine if the “ward” is incapacitated and to what extent they are capacitated and how much assistance they really need.

The court then determines whether or not the individual looking to be the responsible guardian is fit for that role.

How Do Long-Term Care Facilities Handle Guardianship Orders?

Guardianship orders are not new. However, there are new rules to govern the way that long-term care facilities handle guardianship orders, as a way to help protect their senior residents and their needs. These policies that are ensuring that both nursing homes and assisted living facilities have legal proof of who the legal resident’s guardian is.

As of September 2015, all nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state of Texas were required to request a copy of any court order that appoints guardianship of a resident or resident’s estate. It is the responsibility of the residents nearest relative or the individual responsible for the resident’s support.

The guardians will not only be responsible for deciding what long-term facility the senior will be living in, but they will also monitor their experience at the residence and handling finances and monitoring different services they receive while under care.

The Guardian has a great deal of responsibility when it comes to their loved one’s experience in a long-term care facility. When the nursing home or assisted living facility is fully-informed of who the legal guardian is, they know who they must communicate with and who is responsible for major decisions while the senior is under their care. If you have any questions regarding the guardianship process or submitting guardianship orders to long-term care facilities, contact the experts at Hegwood Law Firm at (281) 845-8538.

Professor Researching the Brain to Find Location of Financial Competency Issues

The National Institute on Aging has announced that scientists are now using magnetic resonance imaging of the brain to examine those parts associated with money managing abilities. Because aging makes seniors more vulnerable with financial decisions, those with Alzheimer’s or dementia are at special risk—even in the early stages. 9-15-2016

“Can we actually see a picture of this?” asks Forbes in its article, “Will Brain Images Tell You If Your Aging Parent Can't Handle Money Any More?”

The NIA report cites a prominent researcher, neuropsychologist and lawyer, Dr. Daniel Marson, who says that it’s “the $18.1 trillion problem.” Dr. Marson, a professor of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is referring to an estimate of household wealth held by U.S. adults age 65 and older.

Although they haven’t yet found a way to pinpoint an exact spot in the brain that says a person is or isn’t competent with finances, the report details the efforts using MRIs to find out more about the brain and financial capacity. The professor says that changes in some parts of the brain are linked to loss of financial capacity.

The report also cites director Nina Silverberg, who commented that “Novel neuroimaging studies, along with studies involving cognitive measures, are providing intriguing data on why older adults—even those who were previously quite savvy about finances—may lose their money-managing abilities.” Silverberg is the program director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers at NIA’s Division of Neuroscience.

Here are some takeaways to help with an aging parent who has signs of dementia or related illness:

When the first indications of a memory issue arise with your loved one, try to be more involved in monitoring their spending and money management. Get online access to their bank accounts—even if you just watch what comes in and goes out. That way you can intervene if a problem arises.

You can also offer to pay bills for your aging parents, and it may even be a relief for them. Handling money can be confusing when a parent declines cognitively, serving as a sign of cerebral impairment.

Get to know your aging parent’s financial advisor, attorney and others involved in his or her financial life, and ask your parent for written permission to talk with them. A notarized power of attorney or a letter granting you access to financial information would be required. Tell these professionals about any concerns you have and keep in touch. An ethical professional will want what is best for the client.

A piece of that $18.1 trillion Dr. Marson cited may include some of your potential inheritance, so you’ll want to act to help preserve it. Don’t assume that if your aging parent is okay now that it will stay that way. Even without the science, you should realize that some folks will experience cognitive disorders as they get older—your aging parents just might need your help now and in the future.

Reference: Forbes (July 27, 2016) “Will Brain Images Tell You If Your Aging Parent Can't Handle Money Any More?”

Look out: Medicare Changes on the Way!

8-25-2016Can you believe that Social Security’s 60 million-plus beneficiaries are scheduled to get a miniscule 0.2% cost-of-living adjustment next year? In addition, some Medicare recipients could be in line for some steep premium increases, according to the annual trustees reports about the financial health of Social Security and Medicare as reported in AARP.org’s article, “Social Security COLA Projected for 2017.”

The long-term outlook for Social Security old-age and disability benefits is still good, with promised benefits payable until 2034. Without any changes to the law, 79 % of promised benefits will be payable through 2090. However, the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital coverage is fully funded until 2028—that’s two years less than projected a year ago.

Social Security annually weighs whether to give beneficiaries a cost-of-living adjustment based on inflation compared to the last year that a cost of living allowance (COLA) was awarded. Beneficiaries didn’t receive a COLA for 2016 because the inflation rate fell, which is the third time since 2010 they didn’t get an increase in payments. The 0.2% COLA that the trustees project for 2017 still could change with inflation. We’ll need to wait for the final word to come in October.

Medicare beneficiaries want to know what will happen to the Part B premium in 2017. With no COLA for 2016, about 70% of Medicare beneficiaries were “held harmless” from cost increases and are paying the same standard premium as they did in the previous three years at $104.90 a month. The remaining folks are required by law to share the load of increased costs; they must pay much more. But Congress came through with a solution that limited the impact of the increases for this year.

The small COLA now projected for 2017 would still have an effect on Part B premiums. Standard premiums for most of those in the 30% not currently held harmless would jump by about $27.00 to $149.00 a month next year. The other 70 % would pay $107.60 a month in 2017, which is $2.70 more than they pay now.

Among the 30% impacted next year are those who didn’t have their premiums deducted from Social Security checks in 2016, including those new to Medicare in 2017, and those who already pay higher premiums because they have higher incomes. The higher-income beneficiaries would see even higher jumps in premiums next year. Those look to increase from $166.30 to $204.40 a month for the lowest affected tax bracket and from $380.20 to $467.20 for those in the highest.

One other group, which includes low-income people whose states pay their Part B premiums, aren’t personally affected. However, their states will face some additional costs.

Part B premiums are to cover 25% of total costs. The federal government will contribute the remaining 75% out of general revenues. The increased income-related premiums are set to cover 35%, 50%, 60% or 80% of the costs, depending on income level. The increase in Medicare costs, which means increases in Part B premiums, is primarily due to the high prices of some recently developed prescription drugs.

“High cost drugs are a major driver of Medicare spending growth,” said Medicare’s acting administrator, Andy Slavitt. “For the second year in a row, the spending growth for prescription drugs dramatically outpaced cost growth for other Medicare services.”

Reference: AARP.org (June 22, 2016) “Social Security COLA Projected for 2017”

Personal Finance Myths Debunked!

8-18-2016You want to prosper by following tried-and-true principles of effective wealth creation and asset management—not myths passed down from older generations or heard around the office water cooler. Kiplinger’s “8 Urban Myths of Personal Finance” unravels several urban legends of personal finance that have gained credence over the years.

Myth: There’s No Need to Start Saving for Retirement Until You’re 40. Did you know that 25% of Americans ages 30 to 49 have saved nothing for retirement and that 59% say they plan to save more aggressively “later” to make up for that shortfall? The long-term effects can be disastrous if you don’t put away money in a retirement savings plan as soon as you start earning a paycheck. The truth is the sooner you start saving and investing, the better.

Myth: Social Security Won’t Be Around When I Retire. Many people in the U.S. (55%) have this fear. The truth is Social Security isn’t going away. But remember that Social Security was designed as a supplemental retirement insurance program, not a pension per se.

Myth: I Can Borrow from My 401(k) When Needed. More than 20% of 401(k) plan participants who are eligible to take loans against their retirement savings had outstanding balances in 2012. But there’s a problem in doing this—you’re borrowing pre-tax dollars set aside in your 401(k) and paying the loan back with after-tax money. That money will be taxed once again when you withdraw from your savings after you retire! If you quit your job, are laid off or are fired, you’ll need to pay the loan back—usually within 60 days. If you can't pay it back, the outstanding balance is deemed a taxable distribution, and you’ll get dinged with a 10% early-withdrawal penalty if you are under 55. The truth is that while you are permitted to borrow from your 401(k) to make a down payment on a home or in cases of financial hardship, you’ll take a huge hit on your nest egg.

Myth: Only Rich People Need a Will. About one half of all Americans ages 55 to 65 don’t have a will. If you should pass away without one, a judge will decide how to divvy up your assets and who will raise your children. The truth is everybody should have a will, even if it’s just to detail funeral and burial wishes.

Reference: Kiplinger (May 2016) “8 Urban Myths of Personal Finance”