Join CMDA at Detroit Zoo Senior Day

senior-day-detroit-zoo

Senior Day at the Detroit Zoo takes place on September 4 

Tri-county seniors 62 and older and an adult companion receive FREE admission and parking to the Detroit Zoo on Wednesday, September 4 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.  Senior Day features live entertainment, tram tours, bingo, zookeeper talks and a senior resource area.

Look for the CMDA booth at the senior resource area and stop by for a free gift.  Gene Richards, a partner in our Livonia office, will be speaking on important estate planning and elder law issues at two different times throughout the day.  We hope to see you there!

Estate Planning for Retirement Years

Retirement is a highly-anticipated reward for years of hard work and child rearing. The “golden years” are viewed as a special season to pursue hobbies and enjoy life. Interestingly, while many people seek advice from a financial advisor to make sure they have enough money to retire, often they do not obtain a professionally prepared estate plan. Instead of working with an attorney, they will do one of the following:

  • rely on outdated wills, trusts, and powers of attorney drafted many years earlier,
  • use estate plan forms downloaded from the Internet, or
  • not worry about estate planning at all.

All of these approaches are a disaster waiting to happen. There is simply no substitute for an estate plan prepared by an attorney because the legal issues facing older adults are far too complex.

The Advantages of an Elder Law Attorney

Since retirement typically happens later in life, aging and health concerns become more of a priority. A person who relies on the three approaches above will face several disadvantages:

  • Old estate plan documents typically focus on the children and not the retirement years.”
  • Canned” estate plan forms and those purchased from estate planning services are not tailored to the person’s unique circumstance and are not adequately state specific.
  • Long-term care planning strategies are not authorized or adequately addressed.

On the other hand, an elder law attorney will provide experience and specialized training required to plan for and cope with the unique legal issues that accompany aging. Elder law attorneys prepare documents that are:

  • tailored to a client’s personal circumstances,
  • current and state specific, and
  • designed to maximize eligibility for public benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans benefits, and Social Security.

Estate Plans Focused on Retirement

At first glance, every estate plan seems to use the same few documents: wills, trusts, financial powers of attorney, and medical powers of attorney. It is important to realize that a document labeled as a “will” or “power of attorney” is not necessarily appropriate for the situation. A power of attorney prepared for a 75 year old should be very different from one prepared for a 40 year old. The financial and health needs of an older person are much different than those of a younger person, and their legal documents need to address those differences. Below are some examples of how estate plan documents for senior adults are tailored specifically for that season of life.

Financial Powers of Attorney. This document authorizes someone to make financial decisions on your behalf. For retirees, this is the single most important document for managing long-term care needs. Carefully crafted powers should be included to deal with retirement accounts, beneficiary changes, transfers of assets, creation of legal documents, and extraordinary powers for long-term care planning.

Medical Powers of Attorney/Patient Advocate Designation. This document authorizes someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Each state has very specific rules about what decision the health care proxy is permitted to make. It should be drafted for the state of residence. Careful thought should be given to the powers to refuse or withdraw life support, deal with mental health treatment, and who should have the power to make those decisions.

Wills. A last Will and Testament is a well-known document goes into effect after death and disposes of assets passing through probate court. Many people mistakenly believe all of their assets will be controlled by their will. The truth is that a will does not touch some of a person’s largest assets, like IRA’s, annuities, and life insurance. Moreover, wills are not useful during periods of incapacity.

Trusts. Trusts are much more beneficial than wills when it comes to dealing with aging issues and long-term care needs. A trust has several advantages over a will as it:

  • is useful during periods of incapacity,
  • is adaptable to a variety of strategies for Medicaid and VA eligibility,
  • maximizes assets for a healthy spouse under special conditions,
  • benefits disabled children, and
  • avoids probate court process if properly structured.

Summary

The importance of up-to-date estate plan documents that are personalized to the present season of life cannot be overstated. These documents allow trusted family members and advisors to take over management of assets during a period of incapacity. They facilitate access to public assistance programs when needed to help pay for long-term care costs. They minimize the need to involve a probate court judge for the appointment of a Guardian when a person is incapable of making care decisions or the appointment of a Conservator if the individual is not able to manage their finances.

Every person of retirement age should have an elder law attorney on their team of advisors. Senior adults who consult with an elder law attorney will have assurance that their legal documents have been carefully tailored to their unique situation. They will have peace of mind that they have planned for the financial and legal challenges unique to the retirement years.

Gene Richards_8x10@300Norman E. Richards (Gene) is a partner in the Livonia office of Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. where he focuses his practice on estate planning and elder law. He assists clients with the development of customized estate plans to address their specific needs, including family owned businesses, senior adults concerned about long term care needs, and special needs trusts for children with special needs. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or nrichards@cmda-law.com.

Attorney Presents on Stepping into Retirement

img_4147.jpgOn January 16, 2019 Gene Richards, a partner in our Livonia office, gave a presentation on Stepping into Retirement- A Practical Action Plan to over 30 members of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) Detroit Chapter. The interactive workshop gave an overview of decisions and actions people should take before, during and after you retire to protect and cultivate your retirement accounts.

If your business or social group is interested in having Mr. Richards present a complimentary seminar on Stepping into Retirement, please contact us at (734) 261-2400 or nrichards@cmda-law.com.

Five things to look for during holiday visits with aging loved ones

‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations and family gatherings.  These gatherings offer the opportunity to surreptitiously keep an eye out for noticeable changes in behavior and living conditions of aging loved ones.   It is important to be alert to changes because these may reveal health needs and care challenges that require intervention.  Here are five signs to look for:

  1. Partners covering for each other. Take note if one partner is constantly finishing the other’s sentences, correcting their recollection of events or hovering around them and helping with menial tasks.  Such behavior can be an effort to mask a partner’s declining mental or physical abilities.  If you suspect that to be the case, then subtly inquire how long it has been since they saw their doctor.  You might recommend that they see a doctor if they are having a hard time hearing, remembering or are appearing to be more anxious or depressed.
  2. Changes in appearance. Noticeable changes in weight (gain or loss), poor hygiene and disheveled dress can signal physical or mental issues.  These could include medical conditions and emotional problems such as depression.  Weight loss could be the result of difficulties performing the physical tasks of cooking and eating, such as handling kitchen tools and grocery shopping; reduced thinking ability that causes them to forget how to prepare or eat meals; or not taking medications properly.
  3. Difficulty getting around. Monitor your aging loved one’s mobility. Are they moving slower than last year’s holiday gathering? Do they appear to experience pain as they move? If you notice any changes, see if your loved one has discussed their symptoms with a doctor. Also determine if your aging loved one is still capable of navigating and driving for appointments and errands. Discuss alternative transportation options if necessary.
  4. Change in living conditions. Is your loved one carrying out everyday tasks to maintain their home? Check the refrigerator and make sure old food is not piling up or check to see if the garbage has been taken out. Ask your aging loved one if there is anything you can do to help make it easier for them to live in their home. Discuss the option of in-home care to help carry out some of these tasks.
  5. Money Mismanagement. Look for signs about how well your loved one is managing their finances.  Are there old, unopened bills lying round? Is the mail unsorted and piling up?  Are there collection notices?  Unpaid bills and collection notices can be early signs of memory problems. Also, be alert to any unusual purchases, recent home repairs, “You’re a winner!” lottery notices, and mail from foreign countries as senior citizens are often a target of scams and mail fraud.

As your family gathers for holiday celebrations, use the time together to make sure your aging loved ones are properly managing their lives. If you observe anything that causes you concern, follow-up on your observation after the celebrations are over. Consider comparing notes with other family members before starting a discussion with the aging loved one. An elder law attorney should be consulted if you think your concerns require intervention.

Gene Richards_8x10@300Norman E. Richards (Gene) is an attorney at the law firm of Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. where he focuses his practice on estate planning and elder law.  He assists clients with the development of customized estate plans to address their specific needs, including family owned businesses, senior adults concerned about long term care needs, and special needs trusts for children with special needs.  He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or nrichards@cmda-law.com.

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