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Long Beach Elder Law Blog

Starting down the road to smart retirement planning

California residents may be interested in ways to get started with saving for retirement. There are many issues that go into balanced retirement planning that can change depending on the person's individual financial situation.

While the person is still working, a 401(k) with a balanced investment strategy can be used to save these retirement funds. The particular mix of investments is dictated by the age and retirement goals of the investor. Money that is in a 401(k) can be rolled over into an IRA after the person stops working. There are two types of these retirement accounts, a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. The traditional IRA is taxed when the money is distributed, because money is put into it pre-tax. The Roth IRA, on the other hand, is paid into with after-tax earnings. This means that the funds are not taxable when withdrawn. However, any deposits into the account must be kept for five years before withdrawal.

The use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes

California nursing home patients can be affected by issues such as overcrowding, limited staffing and low budgets. However, family members of elderly patients housed in such facilities may want to pay special attention to the drugs administered to their loved ones, especially if dramatic changes in behavior, personality or condition are observed. Nursing home abuse can take many forms, and in some cases, antipsychotic drugs are incorrectly or illegally used to manage patient behavior.

Experts indicate that as many as 20 percent of nursing home patients receive antipsychotic drugs that are not necessary. Worse, these are often dangerous for those who are elderly. A combination of poor training, serious understaffing and pushy behavior by pharmaceutical companies marketing the drugs contributes to the problem. The wrong use of these products as chemical restraints is considered one of the most common issues resulting in harm to patients. It is also one of the most preventable sources of harm.

Another look at end-of-life planning

When people in California plan for retirement, they might believe they have effectively organized all of their financial matters. However, they may have overlooked the very real and costly expense of long-term care. A recent survey indicated that most Americans fail to account for the high costs of care for seniors.

The report indicated that while more than 56 percent of respondents thought that private nursing home care cost less than $75,000 annually, it actually costs more than $81,000 yearly for a semi-private room. If the person seeks a private room, the cost skyrockets to more than $90,000 each year. Since people underestimate the cost, they are not saving enough to prepare for the future. In New York City, the cost for a semi-private room jumps to more than $141,000, which means that a person could feasibly have their projected savings eaten up about twice as quickly as they anticipated. Furthermore, the data shows that 40 percent have saved nothing for elder care while 67 percent have saved less than $75,000. While Medicaid helps, in order to qualify a person must have little, if any, net worth. Choices regarding facilities are limited, and a private room might not be covered.

Finding the right trust solutions for an estate plan

As California residents work on estate plans, the decision about creating a trust may be a concern. A trust is perceived as protecting one's assets from the probate process, allowing for smoother and more private distribution after death. However, trusts may not always be protected fully from probate, and state laws should be considered. Many individuals believe that there are tax benefits available when a trust is established, but experts indicate that many of these benefits are primarily advantageous to those who are very well off.

Changes in tax policies allow married couples an exemption of $10.6 million from federal estate taxes. For many, this is more than enough protection to eliminate the need for a trust. It is also helpful to know that revocable trusts offer no special tax advantages. While there may be some tax benefits with irrevocable trusts, the expense and effort involved in administration of such trusts may be significant.

The importance of long-term care insurance

California residents may wonder whether long-term care insurance is necessary or how to go about securing a policy. One woman discovered that her mother's long-term care costs were $3,000 per month, which was paid by her father's estate and the sale of the mother's home. Many people erroneously believe that Medicare will cover any of their long-term care needs, such as in-home care, a nursing home or living in an assisted facility.

Long-term care insurance primarily covers daily assistance that is not primarily medical. Typically, that includes managing medications, transporting the patient, bathing and even getting dressed. Only one-third of individuals polled realized that Medicare would not pay for these services. Home service providers cost a little more than $51,000 per year. In California, a semi-private room in a nursing home costs an average of $82,000 annually. Medicare does cover approximately 70 percent of patients in nursing homes, but only after other assets have been depleted.

What could happen now that Casey Kasem has passed?

The passing of television personality Casey Kasem was a somber one that had been coming for several months. Suffering from Lewy body disease, Kasem's condition had progressed to the point where he could no longer walk on his own and was unable to speak. But, as some of our readers already know, this wasn't the only tragic thing about Kasem's case.

A few of our more frequent readers may remember our May 14 post that highlighted the family feud that had erupted between Kasem's eldest children and their stepmother. At the center of the feud was the dispute over who should be able to make medical decisions for the ailing celebrity: Kasem's wife or his children? Earlier this month, the question was answered when a Los Angeles County judge reinstated Kasem's health care directive that was signed in November 2007. But did litigation end with Kasem's passing?

New bill lets veterans get medical help from non-agency providers

Though many people would agree that there are some downsides to serving in a branch of the United States’ armed forces, there are also upsides as well, such as receiving a high standard of medical treatment from a VA hospital in any state across the nation.

Though the Department of Veterans Affairs has come under scrutiny in the last few months and people have lost confidence in the agency’s ability to provide prompt care to service members, efforts made by the government as well as a new bill that was passed this month could renew public confidence in a system that provides necessary benefits to all it members.

The Affordable Care Act and how it's impacting the elderly

When it comes to getting older and planning for your retirement, probably one of the biggest concerns on your mind is how much money you will need for health care as you age. As you get older, your chance of developing a serious illness increases. Bills for doctor visits and hospital stays can add up quickly, which is problematic for someone with a fixed income.

While an effective care plan can help elderly people avoid facing financial hardship due to health care costs, some may not have considered these expenses prior to retirement. Though this can usually become problematic later on, it’s worth noting that the passing of the Affordable Care Act may have created a fix some of our California readers may not be aware of.

Con artist impersonating IRS scams elderly woman out of money

No one ever wants to become the victim of a scam; but with criminals using increasingly sophisticated methods to dupe people out of their money, it’s becoming harder to protect those assets. This is especially true with elderly people who rely on a fixed income when making financial decisions. A scam targeting their bank accounts or credit cards can have a devastating effect and can even constitute as elder abuse in some situations.

But scams targeting the elderly do not just occur here in California, as you’re probably already aware. They happen in states across the nation, often with the same devastating results. Such was the case for a 78-year-old Florida woman who is still trying to sort out her bank accounts after becoming the victim of an aggressive phone scam.

What will happen to Ann B. Davis' estate now that she is gone?

Many of our readers who grew up watching the “Brady Bunch” probably remember the character of Alice. Best known for her trademark blue dress and witty one-liners, the fictional housekeeper often brought a smile to the faces of everyone she encountered, including her viewing audience.

But those smiles gave way to sadness this month when it was announced that the actress who played Alice, Ann B. Davis, passed away at the age of 88. The actress had been receiving treatment for a subdural hematoma that was suffered after a fall. But a close friend of Davis explained that she never regained consciousness, leaving some to believe that she may have passed away from the head injury.

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