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Pittsburgh Elder Law Blog

Millennials face brunt of long-term care costs

Why is long-term care planning needed?  Millennials taking care of their parents may think they are the only ones trudging across the city to check on their parents or moving across the country to live near family members who need them, so it might come as a surprise for Pennsylvania residents to hear that the AARP estimates that nearly 10 million millennials are acting as caregivers for an elderly loved one. It is estimated that more will soon step into this role.

Millennials are spending around 21 hours a week performing their caregiving duties and those who are spending out of their pocket are spending around $7,000 annually on home modifications, caregiving related transportation, and medical costs. This can strain an already tight budget, as these very same people are plagued by other economic factors such as student loans, stagnant wages and the rising cost of elder care. As a result, taking care of elders is harder for millennials than it ever has been for any other generation.

What is the look back period for Medicaid eligibility?

Why is Medicaid/Medical Assistance Planning important? As we age, we may reach a point where it becomes difficult to care for ourselves. If so, it may be necessary to consider a nursing home. Affording a nursing home can be difficult. Unfortunately, many elderly people may need to become a resident of one temporarily or even permanently. Without proper planning, nursing home care can cut into one's savings, retirement funds and loved ones' inheritances. Pennsylvania residents might be under the impression that they can finance nursing home care through Medicaid, which may be true but is often complicated.

Medicaid is a program funded jointly by state and federal governments that covers medical bills for senior citizens and disabled persons, depending on their medical needs, income and assets. While it is true that anyone can apply for Medicaid, it is important to know that there are strict requirements for eligibility. Spend down, the process of spending one's assets to help qualify for Medicaid, was discussed previously on this blog. Another matter to keep in mind is the look-back period referenced in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

What is probate?

Probate - what is it? Much has been said on the Pittsburgh Elder Law Blog about the importance of creating a valid Will. Probate is the process through which the decedent's Last Will and Testament is filed of record with the Register of Wills office and authenticated. If the Will has been witnessed, usually by two (2) people, the witnesses may have to come in to authenticate the decedent's signature or to sign Affidavits and have them notarized. However, if the Will has been notarized, it is "self-proving," which means that the witnesses do not have to appear or execute Affidavits. Letters Testamentary are then issued by the Register of Wills to the Executor or Executrix named in the Last Will and Testament.

If there is no Will, Letters of Administration are granted by the Register of Wills. However, state law determines who has the right to seek such letters, such as a spouse, adult children, parents, siblings, etc.

When family members are the perpetrator of elder abuse

Elder abuse happens more than you might think, and often the perpetrators are members of the elder individual’s family. This can be difficult to come to terms with, especially if you are close with the elderly victim, or the perpetrator is also part of your family.

The Nursing Home Abuse Center reports that family members are the perpetrators for around 90 percent of elders, whether that be adult children, spouses or other relatives. On top of this, elder abuse is often not reported, either by the abused individual or other family members, due to not wanting to get a family member in trouble.

Healthcare proxies explained

Adulthood comes with decision-making. There comes a time in one's life when they are unable to make financial decisions or important medical ones for themselves. While many think this can only happen in old age, when an elderly person begins to slow down cognitively, this is not always the case-a sudden car accident can leave accident victims unable to make essential end-of-life decisions. In these instances, it is possible to create a power of attorney that delegates the power to make financial and medical decisions to someone else. In Pennsylvania, it is possible to combine a healthcare power of attorney with a living will in a healthcare proxy.

Many people often end up creating two separate legal documents rather than one document covering both these aspects. This leaves a person with an agent designated for their financial decisions and one agent designated under the healthcare proxy. But it is important to understand how their relationship will intersect with one another.

Spend downs can help you qualify for Medicaid

Medicaid/Medicaid Assistance planning may involve the spend down of cash and assets to qualify for eligibility. Pennsylvania residents trying to figure out how they will afford nursing home care may find themselves trying to figure out how their funds can be reduced. This is known as a 'spend down'.

How does a spend down work for Medicaid planning? Funds may be spent in a variety of ways. For example, funerals can be pre-planned and prepaid. Cemetery plots can be purchased. Grave opening and closing can be prepaid as well as the cost of a grave marker. Funds can be spent on outstanding medical bills. It may also be permissible to buy personal items such as clothes or toiletries.

What are the chances of needing a nursing home in old age?

Why is Long Term Care Planning important? As difficult as it may be to accept, there is a very real probability that many Pennsylvania residents, like their elderly counterparts across the country, will need to spend some time in a nursing home. About 14% of all people over the age of 64 have at least two chronic conditions that prevent them from living on their own. Five percent of people over the age of 65 will live in a nursing home or assisted living, and 25 percent of them will at least spend some time in a facility. Over the age of 65, the chances of staying in a nursing home increase 1.4% annually. Fifty percent of those above the age of 94 will be living in a nursing home.

Fulfill your family responsibilities by creating a Will

As Pittsburgh residents grow older, they may face a myriad of legal issues. How they choose to deal with them can not only determine how they will be spending their own old age, but also how their heirs will be taken care of after they pass away. Delaying or procrastinating about financial matters can only cause complications in the future, as previous posts on this blog have outlined. Dealing with them head-on and engaging in difficult, but important, estate planning matters can help avoid lengthy and costly disputes.

Elder law covers a wide range of issues, including estate planning - creating wills, trusts, powers of attorney and advance healthcare documents. People of any age can benefit from estate planning. Dying without a will can leave family members fighting with one another and unable to access the funds that they desperately need to make ends meet. Additionally, contesting a will, if the will is not done properly, can be a lengthy process that not only exhausts a person emotionally but also financially.

Emotional abuse in elders: what it is and how to spot it

Elder abuse - we may not often think about abuse occurring to elderly individuals in nursing homes, but it does happen. Nursing home staff, care aides, other residents or even family members can all be culprits.

It may surprise you that only one in 14 incidents of elder abuse are reported, whether it is intentional or unintentional, which is why it is so important to know how to spot it. It can be physical, which is easier to spot as it often comes in the form of nasty bruises or broken bones, or emotional.

The role and responsibility of an executor

In probate and estate administration, being the executor is a serious responsibility for Pittsburgh residents. An executor is the personal representative of the estate. It is the executor's responsibility to protect the decedent's assets, including the home, until probate is complete, and the assets are disbursed to the beneficiaries. Generally, an executor has just earned this title after the death of a loved one, which can be an emotionally difficult time. The added responsibility may be overwhelming without any knowledge of how to proceed, which is why it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced estate attorney.

Making the funeral arrangements often falls upon the executor's shoulders. The funeral home will also provide the death certificate that is needed to open the estate as well as to collect assets from financial institutions and to deal with governmental agencies.

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