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Targeting seniors is not an accident. Scammers understand what research has proven: the ability to make effective financial decisions declines as people age. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, "between ages 71 and 79, one-fifth of individuals are impaired but that rises to half of those between ages 80 and 89." Regardless of how smart your aging parent is and how capable he or she has been at handling personal finances, you still need to be on the look out for financial scams.

According to the Center for Retirement Research, investments may be fraudulent if they:

-- Look too good to be true.

-- Offer a very high or "guaranteed" return at "no risk" to the investor.

-- Require an urgent response or cash payment.

-- Charge a steep upfront fee in return for making more money on an unspecified date.

-- Suggest recipients do not tell family members or friends about the offer.

-- Lure prospective investors with a "free lunch."

-- Come unsolicited over the Internet, are of unknown origin or come from overseas.

-- Instill fear that a failure to act would be very costly.

-- Cannot be questioned, inspected or checked out further.

-- Are so complex that they are difficult or impossible to understand.

When you visit or talk to your older relatives and friends, ask if they've received any of the above-mentioned solicitations or if anyone has urged them "not to tell their family" about a great opportunity.,0,2256410.story

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Maybe people who oppose the Supreme Court decision don’t want to look as if they are against elders so they avoid discussing a number of the real benefits to seniors that are part of the bill.

Who am I talking about that will benefit? It could be your own aging parents. The ACA requires many broad changes that will be directly and immediately  helpful to our elders.

1.  The Elder Justice Act
If we want to stop seeing so many horrifying stories of elder abuse, both physical and financial, we need a national coordination of effort to fight elder abuse. Now, it’s here, in the ACA.

2.  Community First Choice Option
This provision is for participating states who want the 6% increase in Federal Medicaid funding to pay for community-based attendant services for elders who would otherwise have to go to a nursing home or other care facility. 

3.  Improving seniors’ access to home-based primary care physicians and nurses
Through the Independence at Home demonstration, the ACA will pay physicians and nurse practitioners to provide home-based primary care to targeted chronically ill individuals for a three -year period.

So, when you hear all the political banter back and forth, remember, seldom is something all bad!

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Few people realize that, even though they may have a modest estate, their families may owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes because they own a life insurance policy with a substantial death benefit. This is so because life insurance proceeds, while not subject to federal income tax, are considered part of your taxable estate and are subject to federal estate tax.

The solution to this problem is to create an irrevocable life insurance trust that will own the policy and receive the policy proceeds on your death. A properly drafted life insurance trust keeps the insurance proceeds from being taxed in your estate as well as in the estate of your surviving spouse. It also protects the trust beneficiaries from their own “excesses”, against their creditors, and in the event of divorce. Moreover, the trust also provides reliable management for the trust assets. Here’s how the irrevocable life insurance trust works.

You create an irrevocable life insurance trust to be the owner and beneficiary of one or more life insurance policies on your life. You contribute cash to the trust to be used by the trustee to make premium payments on the life insurance policies. If the trust is properly drafted, the contributions you make to the trust for premium payments will qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion, so you won’t have to pay gift tax on the contributions.

The life insurance trust typically provides that, during your lifetime, principal and income, in the trustee’s discretion, may be paid or applied to or for the benefit of your spouse and descendants. This allows indirect access to the cash surrender value of the life insurance policies owned by the trust, and permits the trust to be terminated if desired despite its being irrevocable. On your death, the trust continues for the benefit of your spouse during his or her lifetime. Your spouse is given certain beneficial interests in the trust, such as the right to income, limited invasion rights, and eligibility to receive principal. On the death of your spouse, the trust assets are paid outright to, or held in further trust for the benefit of, your descendants.

If you own a life insurance policy with a significant death benefit, an irrevocable life insurance trust may be of substantial benefit to you.

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If you think muscles are just for meatheads or gym rats think again! Did you know that just 30 minutes of exercise a day can make you a genius? Ok, you still might not become Einstein but you can get pretty close. Check out the 6 ways that working out can make you smarter:

1. Increases Energy

The more you move, the more energized you will feel. Regular physical activity improves your muscle strength and boosts your endurance, giving you the energy you need to think clearer and come up with new ideas. A good 15 minutes of moving around, even just around your living room, makes your body produce more energy on a cellular level.

2. Sharpens Focus

Dr. John Ratey, author of “Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” says that exercise improves your brain in the short term by raising your focus for two to three hours afterwards.  If you have a presentation or speaking engagement try to work out beforehand; you’ll be at your peak when you have to perform. In the long term, it can even help starve off brain aging and Alzheimer’s. This works on the cellular level through neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to improve itself with blood flow and levels of brain-derived protein. He calls it “miracle-gro” for the brain, and it all comes from regular exercise!

3. Enhances Mood

Exercise releases endorphins, also known as nature’s mood elevator, which has been shown to improve memory. Exercise also releases serotonin, which improves mood and alleviates symptoms of depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. Duke University researchers proved that depressed adults who exercised regularly improved as much as those treated with the antidepressant Zoloft!

4. Helps Impulse Control

Exercise helps trigger endorphins, which improve the prioritizing functions of the brain. After exercise, your ability to sort out priorities improves, allowing you to block out distractions and better concentrate on the task at hand.

5. Improves Memory

Your brain remembers more when your body is active. In an experiment published in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, students were asked to memorize a string of letters, and were then allowed to run, lift weights, or sit quietly. The students who ran were quicker and more accurate when they were tested than students who chose the other two options.

6. Increases Productivity

Ever heard of “if you want something done, give it to a busy person?”  It’s a proven fact that productivity begets more productivity. When we’re productive and efficient it propels us to succeed more. After exercising in the middle of the work day, workers are more likely to be kinder to their co-workers, increase their work performance and improve their time management. All these amount to a more productive day – all from a few minutes of exercise!

So what I’m saying is you don’t have to be a football star or a gold-medal gymnast. You just have to get your heart rate up for half an hour most days.  We can all aim for that!

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Since my post last week on filial or family support laws, I have had three clients ask about them.  Yes, Virginia has such a law: Section 20-88 Support of parents by children

It shall be the joint and several duty of all persons eighteen years of age or over, of sufficient earning capacity or income, after reasonably providing for his or her own immediate family, to assist in providing for the support and maintenance of his or her mother or father, he or she being then and there in necessitous circumstances.

Pretty clear law, isn't it?   The other item I would point out is that it's not only the State that has brought these cases; many of them are brought by the nursing homes!   One client asked that is the nursing home got a judgment, isn't it up to them to also try to enforce it?  While that may be true, let me point out the final paragraph of the Virginia law:

Any person violating the provisions of an order entered pursuant to this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment in jail for a period not exceeding twelve months or both.

Now more than ever, advance planning is imperative!

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For many year now, Medicaid will not accept any payments made for caregiver services unless they are for a home health agency such as Team Nurse, or payments based upon a valid Personal Services Contract that meets the strict requirementsfound in the Virginia Medicaid Manual.  This case from New York further illustrates why you need an elder law attorney to represent you in these matters.

In this case, the state of New York found that the daughter was paid a rate higher than market value, and thus deemed the transfers over and above fair market value "gifts" and thus subject to penalty! 

A New York appeals court holds that a daughter who cared for her father under a personal care agreement was paid more than fair market value for her services, so the payment to her subjects her father to a Medicaid transfer penalty. Swartz v. New York State Dept. of Health (N.Y. Sup. Ct., App. Div., 3rd Dept., No. 513524, June 14, 2012).

Sharon Swartz moved into her parents' house in order to care for them. She signed a personal services care agreement in which she agreed to provide care on a 24-hour basis at a rate of $17 per hour, $16.50 per hour or $15.50 per hour, depending on the services. She provided care until her father, Kenneth Swartz, entered a nursing home. When her father sold his house, she received $51,940.50 as payment under the personal care agreement.

Mr. Swartz applied for Medicaid, but the state assessed a penalty based on the transfer to his daughter, claiming that the fair market value of the services Ms. Swartz provided to Mr. Swartz was actually only $15,883.76. The state disallowed credit for services Ms. Swartz provided during nighttime hours and found that the mean hourly wage in the state for a personal home health care aide was $9.22 per hour, not $15.50 per hour. Ms. Swartz appealed.

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, affirms the state's decision. The court holds that because Ms. Swartz "maintained a general care plan that did not contain any specific information regarding the services that were allegedly provided during that time period each night," the state correctly disallowed credit for those hours. In addition, the court rules the determination of the correct rate of pay was a credibility determination that should not be disturbed.

For the full text of this decision, go to:

A Certified Elder Law Attorney will be able to research surveys that document fair market value for caregiver services in your area.

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In a blog post last week, I introduced you to "filial responsibility laws", laws that have the potential to be used by government to force children to aid in the payment of their parent's bills, specifically the cost of long term care.  I knew it would not take long for examples to pop up.

Forbes reports on a case where a son was ordered to pay $93,000 toward his mother's long term care cost!  

Could this happen to you?

John Pittas’ mother entered a nursing home for rehabilitation following a car crash. After she left the nursing home, she moved out of the country.  His mother’s $93,000 bill at the home was left unpaid.  The mom had applied for Medicaid, which would normally pay the bill if she couldn’t.

The mom’s Medicaid application did not get approved in enough time to satisfy the nursing home, and it sued her son for the bill.  The state of Pennsylvania, like 29 others in our country, has something called a “filial responsibility law”.  Those laws require that spouses, children and even parents of needy adults support the indigent.  These laws were rarely ever enforced.  The nursing home decided to enforce it rather than have Medicaid do what it was designed to do.

The trial court found for the nursing home.  Mr. Pittas appealed. He argued that the court should have considered Medicaid or going after his mother’s husband and her two other adult children.  Astonishingly, the appeals court not only agreed that the nursing home didn’t have to wait until the Medicaid claim was resolved, it also found that the nursing home could choose any family member it wanted to when seeking payment for the bill.

Well, could this happen to you in Virginia? Yes.  Stay tuned for my next post and I will explain the current law in Virginia.

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Most of us focus on our physical self, ailments, illnesses, etc.  It seems that seldom do we think about mental health until it is put in front of us, either through Alzheimer's Disease and other types of dementia.  Yet seniors should not neglect their psychological wellness!

Centra Mental Health Services publishes an excellent monthly newsletter entitled "Mental Health Matters."  Back in March the cover story was on eight suggested therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs) to enhance your psychological well being:

Exercise is among one of the eight therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs) identified by Walsh (2011) in a metaanalysis of current research. He argues that there is too little focus on TLCs despite considerable signs of their effectiveness regarding emotional well-being. In addition to exercise, the other seven identified beneficial TLCs are:
• Nutrition and diet. Looking at 160 studies, Walsh suggests that the mental health of nations may be linked to nutrition and diet.
• Nature. Interacting with nature improves cognitive reasoning, Walsh says. For thousands of years, spiritual leaders have known that solace can be found in nature.  Although it is shown that nature helps to heal and calm, increasing numbers of people spend their lives in artificial environments and virtual realities in which they are increasingly removed from nature.
• Relationships. According to Walsh, rich relationships not only reduce health risks but boost resilience and happiness, perhaps even wisdom.
• Recreation and enjoyable activities. Walsh says these are central to a happy lifestyle. For example, play and playfulness fosters maturation in children and humor often mitigates stress.
• Relaxation and stress management. Chronic stressors have been shown to exact tolls on both physical and psychological well-being. Walsh advocates an emphasis on stress reduction through stress management techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation and guided imagery.
• Spiritual involvement. Religion and mental health is a complex but important connection. Walsh reports that spirituality focused on love and forgiveness has been found to be most beneficial.
• Contribution and service. People who volunteer to help others have been found to be psychologically happier and healthier, and they may live longer.
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Ok, if that headline doesn;t grab your attention, none will!

Yes, our government, state and federal, has finally figured out money is not an unlimited resource, no matter many bills the Fed prints!  So what does that mean for you?  Tighter asset rules and it seems, even looking at extended family for help in paying the increasing cost of long term care!

These recent articles flow directly out of a movement that got started in 2005, when a policy paper was issued by the National Center for Policy Analysis. That paper urged states to vigorously enforce state statutes called filial responsibility laws. The Center opined:

“... many [seniors] have adult children who could contribute toward their [parent’s] care, but do not do so ... Enforcement of state filial responsibility statutes could reduce Medicaid spending ... Reminding children of their obligations would encourage them and their parents to consider proper planning ...”

Since the publication of the NCPA paper, there has been an ever-increasing effort to encourage enforcement of these laws. For example, nursing home industry leaders have been blogging frequently on the issue of filial responsibility. In a blog entry, a nursing home administrator editorialized that the filial responsibility laws ought to be enforced “as a way of shoring up faltering Medicaid dollars.” In another entry, another blogger wrote:

“But Medicaid is in big trouble ... and will be inundated when Baby Boomers reach old age. The staggering cost of long-term care and the explosion in the number of people who will need it has prompted a second look at filial responsibility laws as a way to deal with the impending crisis.”

Indeed, it appears some states that do not have filial responsibility laws may be considering the enactment of such statutes in the hope of using the laws to balance their state’s budget.

Advance planning is more important than ever!  To get started, give Brandy a a call at 276 629 5381

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Most older people can't walk fast enough to cross a street in the time allotted by many automated crosswalks, according to a new British study.  The ability to cross roads safely is extremely important for older adults. "It affects older adults' health, as they are more likely to avoid crossing a busy road," Asher said.

"Walking is an important activity for older people, as it provides regular exercise and direct health benefits," Asher said in a journal news release. "Being unable to cross a road may deter them from walking, reducing their access to social contacts and interaction, local health services, and shops, which are all important in day-to-day life."

Honestly, did we really need a study to figure this out?

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CHICAGO (AP) — It's the financial protection that many will need in retirement but few are willing or able to buy. Long-term care insurance scares off most people because of the cost.

For married couples, an increasingly popular option called "shared care" may make it more feasible by providing expanded coverage for less money than would otherwise be the case.

Under these joint policies, couples purchase a combined pool of benefits that can be used by either or both spouses.

Like most everything in the world of long-term care insurance, it's complicated. But what's clear is that fast-rising costs have made shared care a more appealing option. New long-term care insurance policies cost 30 percent to 50 percent more than five years ago, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

"When I explain how it works and what you get, most people like shared care a lot," says Brian Varian, long-term care insurance consultant for insurance brokerage Marsh Inc. in Woodland Hills, Calif. "It's very favorable for couples."

A look at the shared-care option within the broader context of changing long-term care insurance:

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