Social Security Representative Payee Program

Social Security has a little known program that can help families with elderly members who are not able to handle their own finances.

One of the many problems which families of the elderly have to face, is that the elderly person can lose the ability to handle his or her own finances.

Through no fault of their own, they forget what bills they need to pay.

They give money to people to whom they should not give it.

They are susceptible to scammers.

Some of these problems can be handled with a general durable power of attorney. However, many families worry that because the Social Security check still comes in the name of an elderly person with dementia, the money might still be lost.

However, that worry is unnecessary, since Social Security has a program that can help in these situations, as Forbes discusses in “The Social Security Program For People With Dementia.”

The program is the Social Security Representative Payee Program.

It allows someone else to receive the benefit checks of a Social Security payee as a representative.

It is a little known program that has been around for almost as long as Social Security itself.

For families that know about it and use the program, it can provide a great relief.

Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a challenge if one wants to sign up.

It requires a lot of paperwork to be submitted.

For that reason, people who are interested in using the program, might want to first consult with an elder law attorney.

Reference: Forbes (Sep. 26, 2017) “The Social Security Program For People With Dementia.”

Considerations for Elderly Widows

Many elderly women are not fully prepared for what might happen after their spouses pass away.

We live in an age where, at least on a legal level, men and women are treated equally. Women can now enjoy a far greater range of possibilities than their ancestors would have ever imagined.

However, just because the law says one thing, does not mean that each individual woman fully enjoys its advantages.

Even today, many women defer family finances to their husbands.

This is especially true for older women, which can leave the women poorly prepared to handle things after their husbands pass away, as The New York Times discusses in “Helping Women Over 50 Face Their Financial Fears.”

The biggest thing for most women, is that they need to know how to manage the day-to-day finances. They need to learn how much money there is, what bills need to be paid and how any money should be invested.

Some widows also have problems in that their husbands own a business that they inherit and do not know how to run.

The best way to deal with these problems is to avoid them, if at all possible.

Husbands and wives should discuss things to make sure the wife is prepared, in case the husband passes away.

Other widows have legal problems, since their stepchildren might seek to challenge the widows’ inheritances in court. These problems need to be addressed with the help of an experienced estate attorney.

Reference: New York Times (Sep. 1, 2017) “Helping Women Over 50 Face Their Financial Fears.”

Hidden Benefit to Physician-Assisted Death Law

California’s new law to allow physician-assisted death continues to be controversial, but doctors are starting to see a hidden benefit to the law.

The recently enacted law that allows terminally ill patients in California to request lethal prescription medicine from their doctors, has caused a lot of controversy in the state and throughout the country. People are watching closely to see what effects the law will have, which patients will use it and what it will mean for doctors.

What happens in California will be cited by advocates in other states as they work to get similar laws passed or as they look to prevent similar laws from passing in their states.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on one unexpected benefit of the law in “There’s an unforeseen benefit to California’s physician-assisted death law.”

One thing the law does, is force physicians to talk to their patients about why they want to end their own lives.

That often leads to discussion about pain, quality of care and what the patient would prefer happen.

What doctors have found is that some of the assumptions they make about what is good for patients are inaccurate.

The patients would prefer that they be treated differently at the end of their lives.

Doctors and other health workers can use that information to better treat the patient.

Even if the individual patient still prefers to end his or her own life, the information can be used to improve treatment for other people.

Although it was not intended to do so, California’s law has led to better quality care for all of the state’s terminally ill patients. That is to be welcomed.

Reference: Los Angeles Times (Aug. 21, 2017) “There’s an unforeseen benefit to California’s physician-assisted death law.”

The Ethics of Medicaid Planning

Arranging your assets so that you will qualify for Medicaid, should you ever need to stay in a nursing home for long-term care is possible. However, many people question the ethics of doing so.

Medicaid often does not get a lot of attention, despite its importance. However, with some in Congress looking to make cuts to it as a way to reduce spending and taxes, Medicaid is back in the news on a regular basis.

One of the things the program does, is pay for long-term care in nursing homes for those elderly people who cannot afford their own care.

That part of the program is under fire because some people essentially hide their assets to make it look like they cannot afford their own nursing home bills, so that Medicaid will pick up the tab.

Recently, The New York Times looked at the debate over the ethics of doing that in “The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid.”

On one side of the debate are people who point out that those who can plan for Medicaid are wealthy enough to hire attorneys. Therefore, they should not hide assets to take advantage of a program designed to help the poor.

On the other side, people point out that nursing home care is extremely expensive. They believe that it is not fair for people to have to exhaust all of their assets, leaving nothing for their children to inherit, in order to have some of that care paid for by a program they fund with their taxes.

Whichever side you are on, it is important to know that if you do want to plan for Medicaid, then you need to see an elder law attorney about doing so and you need to do that long before you will ever need nursing home care.

Reference: New York Times (July 21, 2017) “The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid.”

Elder Law Estate Planning

Most of the time, estate planning is not just about a deceased person’s estate. It is also about elder law options.

A long time ago, only wealthy people had estate plans prepared and the early estate planning options evolved to reflect their needs. They needed wills and trusts to pass down their wealth to their heirs.

Eventually, more and more people started getting estate plans and the planning needs of the non-wealthy began to receive more consideration.

One of the things they needed to address was how to pay for nursing home care, when a non-wealthy person needed it.

Elder law grew out of that concern, as the Times Herald-Record pointed out in “Plenty of reasons to do elder law estate planning.”

As a result of that history, when people do estate planning today, they normally take care of many of their expected elder law needs.

Elder law estate planning attorneys help people figure out how to pay for possible nursing home care.

Elder law estate planning attorneys get their clients general durable power of attorneys and health care powers of attorney, so their clients are prepared if they are ever incapacitated.

Elder law estate planning attorneys write living wills for their clients, so their clients can decide whether or not they want to live in a coma with no chance of recovery.

Elder law estate planning attorneys also help their clients avoid the possibility of being the victims of elder financial abuse.

If you are interested in any of those elder law options, and you should be interested in all of them, then visit an elder law estate planning attorney.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (July 5, 2017) “Plenty of reasons to do elder law estate planning.

Burial for the Indigent

The high costs of funeral services creates a problem, because many people pass away without having the means for their own burials. Their remains still have to go somewhere.

Every year, thousands of people with very little money pass away. Sometimes, it is not even known who these deceased people were in life.

While this might seem like a minor issue and something that has always been the case, it creates an increasing burden on local governments. They must determine what to do with the bodies of deceased people, who either cannot be identified or whose families do not have the money to afford burial or cremation.

It is not a minor expense, since the costs of disposing of a deceased body continue to rise.

One county in Florida had such a significant problem that they purchased a cemetery, as the Tallahassee Democrat reports in “A priceless burden: Indigent burials at Leon County’s ‘pauper’s cemetery’.”

The cemetery previously belonged to a hospital, but the county purchased it to dispose of the remains of the indigent as cheaply as possible. Graves are marked with the most basic of markers and no actual funeral services are allowed at the cemetery.

The deceased are buried as quickly and with as little fuss as possible.

This is an issue that could get worse before it gets better.

Elderly people are living longer and in greater numbers. That makes it likely that many more elderly will pass away in the future, after they have run out of their own money.

The burden to bury them will be on the government. Elder law advocates may need to address this problem in the near future.

Reference: Tallahassee Democrat (June 24, 2017) “A priceless burden: Indigent burials at Leon County’s ‘pauper’s cemetery’.”

Going on a Last Ride

Motorcycle riders in Lubbock, Texas now have the opportunity to incorporate going on a final ride into their funeral services.

The basic design of hearses has not changed very much over the years. They are somber looking vehicles, usually black, that most closely resemble a limousine.

At least, that is what almost everyone would imagine, when they hear the word “hearse.”

However, Derek Dunn of Lubbock, Texas had a different idea.

Dunn created a hearse that resembles a motorcycle and painted it red.

The hearse pulls a platform behind it that carries the casket, which is in the open air.

Different graphics can be displayed on the platform for groups, such as firefighters and police.

Dunn even created the hearse to appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts who want to go on one last ride.

Everything Lubbock reported this story in “A Unique ‘Last Ride’.”

This is a continuation of the larger trend to personalize funerals and memorials. More and more people are choosing to have more personal touches in their funerals, instead of sticking with just the traditional ceremony.

If the trend continues, more stories like the motorcycle hearse can be expected.

Elderly people should be aware of this trend for two reasons. First, if they want to have a non-traditional personalized funeral service, then they should make pre-arranged plans. There are many options available.

Second, and just as important, elderly people who do not want a traditional service, need to let that be known, in case their families might decide to do it on their own.

Reference: Everything Lubbock (June 27, 2017) “A Unique ‘Last Ride’.”

Physician Assisted Suicide in California

Last year, the State of California enacted a controversial new law that allows doctors to prescribe medicine to terminally ill patients that will let patients decide when to end their lives. The state has recently issued its first report on how the law is being used.

Elder law advocates have been paying a lot of attention to California’s new law allowing terminally ill people to seek physician assisted suicide. The law was extremely controversial and remains so.

If it is deemed successful, then its advocates think the law can be used as a model for other states to follow. Those who are opposed to the law, are watching it closely to see if there are any problems with it that they can use to bolster their arguments.

The State of California recently issued a report about usage of the law in the first six months after it was enacted, The New York Times reports in “State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law.”

Life ending drugs were prescribed to 191 terminally ill patients. A total of 21 of them passed away before taking the drugs, and 111 used them to end their lives.

The fates of the remainder were not known at the time that the report was issued.

The typical patient was a terminally ill elderly person diagnosed with cancer who was receiving hospice or palliative care. In total, 173 different doctors prescribed the drug to patients.

One thing the data shows, is that the median age of the patients was 73 and the majority were over 60.

Reference: New York Times (June 27, 2017) “State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law.”

Does the Senate Bill Cut Medicaid?

Even though a vote over the Senate’s bill to repeal Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) has been delayed, it is important to know whether or not it cuts Medicaid. The answer depends on how you look at it.

Very little in government is ever straightforward. One example is the Senate Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

A vote on the bill has been delayed. However, it is likely to still come at some point in the future. Therefore, what the bill proposes to do with Medicaid funding, is important for elderly people who rely on the program for their nursing home care.

On one side of the debate over the bill are Democrats, who claim that it will slash Medicaid spending. On the other side, are Republicans who claim that the bill will increase Medicaid funding, as Fox News reports in “Fact Check: Dem claims that Senate bill guts Medicaid ignore billions in new funding.”

Which side is right depends entirely on how you look at the issue. If the Senate bill passes and eventually becomes law, then Medicaid funding would increase by $71 billion by 2026. However, if the Senate bill does not become law and the current law remains in place, then Medicaid funding would increase by $231 billion during the same time period.

Under either scenario, Medicaid funding increases.

The argument is over how much it should increase and whether any increases are enough to meet future costs.

In the current highly partisan climate, it can be difficult to understand what is going on, as politicians and the media discuss policy changes. For that reason, it is important to look carefully at the facts to determine what the real question is.

For Medicaid that question is this: are politicians making sure the program can continue to do what it was designed to do without the country going broke?

Reference: Fox News (June 27, 2017) “Fact Check: Dem claims that Senate bill guts Medicaid ignore billions in new funding.”

Medicaid Facts

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act has been one the biggest news items in recent weeks. Changes to Medicaid in Republican proposals have received a lot of attention, but many people do not know exactly what Medicaid does.

You probably know that Medicaid is the federal government program that provides health care coverage to poor Americans. However, in the debate about the repeal of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) and possible reductions to Medicaid in various appeal proposals, what often gets lost is exactly what that federal government program for the poor does.

Facts about the program get lost in the media noise.

It is important to know the facts, because only then can you really decide if you are for or against any changes.

NPR recently published a list of some lesser known facts about Medicaid in “From Birth To Death, Medicaid Affects The Lives of Millions,” including:

•It is very expensive. Medicaid currently takes up approximately 10% of the federal budget. State governments contribute even more on top of that to the costs of the program.

•Half of all births in the U.S. are covered by Medicaid. The program has been expanded multiple times to include more and more pregnant women.

•Some 62% of nursing home residents have their care through Medicaid.

•Disabled people and the people who take care of them are often eligible to receive their care through Medicaid.

•Medicaid is a major source of funding for the fight against opioid addiction.

Reference: NPR (June 27, 2017) “From Birth To Death, Medicaid Affects The Lives of Millions.”