Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tis the Time For New Year's Resolutions

Category: Elder Law, Estate Planning, Business Law and Planning, Tax Law and Planning, Financial Planning

Ah, the presents have been opened, you have been eating cookies and leftovers for days, and the commute is remarkably smooth this week - it must be the week before New Years. With each New Year comes New Year's Resolutions - those things you are absolutely and positively going to do in 2006 (or meant to do in 2005 or 2004 - lets be honest). Some thoughts to consider for 2006's list:

  • Don't have a Will, Power of Attorney or Living Will? Get one. Search through prior posts here for some consequences of failing to plan. See the article Make a will: Your #1 family New Year's resolution for more reasons to plan.
  • Have a Will? Haven't looked at it in 5 years or more? Get it out, dust it off, and read it. Does it say what want? Do you understand it? If not, call an attorney and have it reviewed.
  • Own a business? Get a business succession plan in place. Without a business succession plan, your family is likely to receive pennies on the dollar for the value of your business at your death.
  • Got insurance? Review your insurance - health, disability, life, long-term care, property. Are you really covered for your needs? Do you understand your coverage? Have you had your insurance reviewed by a professional in the past 3 years or so? Insurance can be a large annual outlay - you should be sure you are getting the best return for your investment. Most professional insurance agents will give you a free review.
  • Planning to retire? How are you financing your plan? A meeting with a financial planner may give you ideas as to how good of a job you are doing getting to where you want to be. Again, the meeting is likely to be free.
  • Kids going to college? Do you have a plan beyond hoping that there will be enough equity in your house in interest rates stay low? Look into a 529 Plan (try for more information) . See what a financial planner has to say.
  • Have an accountant? Can him or her and make a meeting to discuss your tax profile and ideas to reduce taxes - note that dropping a bag off at the office on April 8 is not a meeting. Your accountant is an expert,particularly with income taxes, those most likely to effect you. Why not take the time to reduce the governments share of your earnings? Call TODAY for last minute year end planning items (see Happy new year! Now, call your accountant )
  • Don't have an accountant? Consider whether a tax professional could help you pay less. You still have time before December 31 to change your tax profile for 2005. (See 5 Year-End Tax Tips and Year-End Tax Tips from ABC News)
  • Have seniors in your family? Consider how they are doing and ways you can help. Would Medicare D save them any money? Go the AARP website for tools to find out the answers. Could they use help with driving, cooking, housekeeping? Consider a service (and speak to your accountant about the tax deductions). Are they safe and secure in their homes? If not, consider alternates within the family and in the community.

None of these thoughts are sexy or exciting, but they do fall under the heading of things a responsible adult should be doing, and items high on this years New Years Resolutions (otherwise known as The Great To Do List).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Senate passes Medicaid Spending Cuts

Category: Elder Law

Cheney Breaks Senate Tie on Spending Cuts - Yahoo! News: "The Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation to cut federal deficits by $39.7 billion on Wednesday by the narrowest of margins, 51-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote. "

This will make the Mediciad reductions detailed in this post law. The only question is timing of the enactment.

Monday, December 19, 2005

House Approves Compromise Budget Bill That Limits on Asset Transfers

Category: Elder Law,


House Approves Compromise Budget Bill That Retains Major New Limits on Asset Transfers

Last Updated: 12/19/2005
Topic: Medicaid

At the close of a rare overnight session, House of Representatives voted 212-206 early this morning to cut $39.7 billion from federal spending. The bill places major new restrictions on the ability of the elderly to transfer assets before qualifying for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care. The bill, a compromise between House and Senate budget bills hammered out by Republican leaders, now must be approved by the Senate, an action that could come quickly as lawmakers rush to leave town for the holidays.

The bill retains changes in the transfer rules that were part of the earlier House bill. It would extend Medicaid's "lookback" period for all asset transfers from three to five years and change the start of the penalty period for transferred assets from the date of transfer to "the date on which the individual is eligible for medical assistance under the State plan and is receiving services . . . but for the application of the penalty period, whichever is later. . . ". The bill also would make any individual with home equity above $750,000 ineligible for Medicaid nursing home care.

The House bill would also:

  • Establish new rules for the treatment of annuities, including a requirement that the state be named as the remainder beneficiary.
  • Require Medicaid applicants to provide "full information . . . concerning any transaction involving the transfer or disposal of assets during the previous period of 60 months, if the transaction exceeded $100,000, without regard to whether the transfer or disposal was for fair market value."
  • Allow Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) to require residents to spend down their declared resources before applying for medical assistance.
  • Set forth rules under which an individual's CCRC entrance fee is considered an available resource.
  • Extend long-term care partnership programs to any state.

Kirsten Sloan, chief health lobbyist for AARP, said, "AARP strongly opposes the current conference agreement. This is irresponsible policy and will harm millions of low-income Medicaid beneficiaries, millions of older persons who need long-term care and unfairly increases Part B premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries."

For the full text of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, click on: Click on the third version of the bill listed, then scroll down to Title III, Chapter 2, for the asset transfer rule changes.

For a Reuters article on House passage of the budget bill, click here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Crisis in elder care foreseen - USA Today

Category: Elder Law,

As 2006 marks the first baby boomers turning 60, a timely article from USA Today, Crisis in elder care foreseen : "As 1,200 national delegates, policymakers and advocates for the elderly converge on Washington D.C., this week for the fifth White House Conference on Aging, many come with mixed feelings of hope and frustration that, though they've been sounding the alarm for years about a looming crisis in caregiving resources, Washington still doesn't seem to be listening.

The list of concerns includes an increase in Alzheimer's disease, expected to strike up to 16 million Americans by 2025; major shortages of family and professional caregivers; lack of proper housing and transportation for seniors; and shortages of geriatric physicians. Add to that questions about how major entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will be paid for."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

GOP Senators Reportedly Ready to Hold Firm Against Medicaid Cuts

Category: Elder Law

From, GOP Senators Reportedly Ready to Hold Firm Against Medicaid Cuts - Elder Law Answers Articles:

"Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said in a news conference that he would vote against any budget bill that includes cuts to Medicaid and food stamps, and that he believes that six other Republican senators would join him. Whether the changes to the asset transfer rules passed by the House are among the Medicaid provisions the GOP senators would oppose at all costs remains unclear.

Smith, who was instrumental in drafting the Senate bill that makes only relatively mild cuts to Medicaid, was emphatic in his opposition to the Medicaid and food stamp provisions in the House bill. "

See the complete article for more details.