Thursday, December 15, 2011

Estate Planning For Women (And the Men Who Love Them)

A fellow attorney (and award-winning journalist) Deborah Jacobs authored the book, “Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide”.  In her recent Forbes article titled “Estate Planning for Women (And the Men who Love Them)” she indicated the below question is a question every financially savvy woman should be able to answer. 

Question #4

Who would raise your children?

Few prospects are more wrenching than the possibility that young children will be orphaned. Often, parents put off writing a will because this particular thought is unbearable or couples cannot agree on a potential guardian. Some assume--incorrectly--that it is enough just to ask a relative or trusted friend to step in if the need arises.

But not formalizing the arrangements and doing some estate planning along the way could leave your children in a vacuum. For example, let's say you are a single or surviving parent--in this group too, women predominate. If you do not have a written document outlining your wishes, a court usually decides who will fill your shoes. A custody battle might erupt or, awful as it sounds, no one may want your children. And without financial planning, there may not be enough money for your child's support.

When choosing a guardian, people typically look first to relatives, starting with their own siblings--the child's aunts and uncles. A second choice for some people is their own parents, if they are young enough. Even if certain family members seem like obvious candidates, take into account all the factors involved. Key questions to ask: Am I comfortable with the individual's lifestyle and values? Would my child have to relocate? Can the prospective guardian incorporate my children into his or her household? If I have more than one child, would the guardian be able to keep them together? Does my child already have a relationship and a good rapport with the person?

Here too, you can build in checks and balances--by putting a different person in charge of the money you leave for your child's support. You can name a guardian for the funds, or put them into a trust and designate a trustee to spend the money on your child's behalf. While financial guardianships are a matter of state law and require court supervision in some states, trusts are a private matter. A trust also gives you much more say over how the money is spent.

Questions like this one can often trigger even more questions in your mind.  Please accept my invitation to schedule a meeting where we can discuss this topic and others that might be relevant to your estate planning.  Give my office a call to set a meeting.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Government Cuts Affect Nursing Homes

One of my WealthCounsel colleagues posted a comment on the potential for concern about nursing home care levels.  Lizette Sundvick targets this concern that appeared in this article: Medicare Cuts Could Up Nursing Home Costs SmartMoney.

Nursing home residents may soon face higher costs and reduced services, as planned Medicare spending cuts take effect this fall. 

The last few months have been a wild ride on multiple levels, to include concerns over Medicare and the “debt crisis.” While many more challenges lie ahead in terms of budget cuts, some cuts already have been made under the radar screen. Several you should know about actually go into effect this fall, as reported in a recent SmartMoney article.

According to SmartMoney, nursing home residents could face higher costs or reduced care once these cuts kick in.


On July 29, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided and announced that they would be compensating for last year’s $4 billion shortfall by cutting reimbursement rates to nursing homes by 11.1%. In real terms, the shortfall is going to reduce government reimbursements to nursing homes. In 2010, nursing homes increased charges on residents by an average of 5%. Bad news: These reduced government reimbursements likely will trigger even higher nursing home costs for residents beginning this fall. Alternatively, it might trigger a reduction in services to nursing home residents. Either way, the forecast is not pleasant.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps nursing home residents won’t see increases in costs or decreases in services. After all, the CMS actually justifies the 11.1% cut by pointing out that it is simply a more accurate reimbursement amount based on a government report indicating that Medicare has been overpaying. In fact, a spokesperson for the CMS maintains, “We do not believe that nursing homes will respond to the payment changes by decreasing the quality of care furnished to patients. However, we intend to carefully monitor changes in utilization and staffing patterns to ensure that patients continue to receive high quality care.”

Still, the nursing home industry appears to be monitoring the situation with caution. Bottom line: If you have a loved one in a nursing home, then you, too, should take notice.  Keeping abreast of current economic changes keeps you prepared for changes you may need to make on behalf of your loved one.  

The potential for drastic changes in long term care environment serve as reminders that our power of attorney and healthcare directives need to be up-to-date and relevant.  If you want assurance that your plans are up-to-date, then let’s get a meeting scheduled to review your plans.