Blog

Making the Most of your Social Security Retirement Benefits

Posted Oct 20, 2014 by Bill Alexander

In order to make the most of your Social Security retirement benefits, it’s important to do research and plan ahead prior to withdrawing. Otherwise, you can leave thousands of dollars on the table over the course of your lifetime.

Deciding when to withdraw your benefits involves both math and good judgment. You should base your decision on your relative health and expected longevity. While it’s nearly impossible to know how long you will live, there may be some helpful indicators, such as family history. Most people today can expect to live ten years longer than their parents. In addition, if you are beginning to experience medical issues now (such as dementia, diabetes, etc.), this may factor into your decision of when to withdraw. While no one knows what’s in store, you can use your good judgment to determine when the best time is to withdraw.
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The Importance of “Admitted” Patient Status for Medicare

Posted Oct 6, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Many families don’t know how crucial it is to demand that the hospital “admits” their loved ones (as opposed to keeping them on “observation” status). If you’re not admitted to the hospital for three nights, Medicare will not cover any post-hospital rehabilitation. Your status in the hospital can affect your health insurance coverage, as well. If you’re on Medicare and have a supplemental health plan, and Medicare doesn’t pay, your supplemental health plan won’t pay either.
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Recent Changes Could Affect your IRA Planning

Posted Oct 2, 2014 by Bill Alexander

New changes in the law could affect your IRA planning. The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that IRAs in the hands of your children or grandchildren are no longer protected assets from their creditors. In North Carolina, an IRA is protected from creditors for the owner and his or her spouse. If you have a 401k, it is also protected under federal law–ERISA.

Those who are concerned by this change should consider creating an irrevocable trust and naming that trust as their IRA beneficiary for their children/grandchildren, leaving your IRA in an asset-protected trust to your children and grandchildren. This can be particularly helpful to those who have large IRAs and are concerned about the reach of creditors, or those who want to see their children “stretch” this inheritance to gain its maximum retirement benefits.
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Impending Changes for Special Assistance Benefits

Posted Sep 24, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Many seniors don’t know about the North Carolina specific government assistance program known as Special Assistance. This program is available to those who fall below a specific income cap who live in an Assisted Living facility. Sometimes, our clients are confused about the various levels of care. You can receive home care, care in an Assisted Living Facility, as well as care in a Skilled Nursing Facility. Assisted Living Facilities provide assistance with Activities of Daily Living, such as bathing, medication management, dressing, etc. Skilled Nursing Facilities provide medical care and more aggressive care for those who are bed-ridden.
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Consulting In-Home Professionals

Posted Sep 23, 2014 by Bill Alexander

If you haven’t seen your loved one in some time, you may notice that his or her cognitive and physical capabilities have declined when you next see him or her at family gatherings. If you believe that your loved one may need assistance, be sure to consult a professional, such as a Geriatric Care Manager or a Home Health Care Agency. Often, physicians are unable to make these evaluations, as they don’t spend enough time with their patients in an in-home setting.

Geriatric Care Managers, such as those at Aging Family Services, can come to your loved one’s home and asses whether you need to complete home improvements for your senior’s safety. Likewise, Home Care Agencies, such as Bayada, can assess whether your loved one is in need of assistive care at home with his or her Activities of Daily Living.
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Social Security Benefit Planning

Posted Sep 22, 2014 by Bill Alexander

It’s important to understand the quirks of the Social Security system if you are planning to retire soon. If you’re approaching 62 or older and have not started withdrawing your Social Security benefits, go online and establish an account with the Social Security Administration at http://www.ssa.gov/retirement/retirement.htm. This website will help you determine where you stand financially and allow you to make the decision of when to begin taking your benefits. Ultimately, when to withdraw determines how much money you will receive over time.
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Keeping Up-to-Date Policies on Vacant Homes

Posted Sep 19, 2014 by Bill Alexander

When a person dies or moves into a long-term care facility, often the former home becomes unoccupied. This can create a tricky situation if there are no relatives who wish to move into the home or the family wishes to sell it. Your homeowner’s insurance policy may lapse if someone does not move into the home or stay there regularly. Some policies will continue coverage in this situation, but you must be very careful. This is a time when you need to read your policy. While some insurance agents will claim to cover you, they cannot override the explicit terms of the policy. Insurance agents lack the authority to ignore the provisions of an insurance contract. If your homeowner’s policy lapses, then the insurance company will return your premiums, despite any promises that your insurance agent may have made. In the best case, if there is no coverage when the agent told you that you were covered, litigation is often required; everyone loses with litigation.
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Negotiating Probate Fees in Advance

Posted Sep 17, 2014 by Bill Alexander

It’s important to negotiate your probate fees with your CPA, Accountant or Attorney for probate and/or trust administration purposes prior to your passing. When someone loses a loved one, most are unable to make critical financial decisions due to grief and stress. Unfortunately, some professionals take advantage of families in these types of situations. Many professionals charge their clients the statutory rate for their estate administration services. However, they’re actually charging 5% of the estate, which can be exorbitant for a smaller estate.
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Using a Properly Structured Entity to Protect your Assets

Posted Sep 16, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Many business owners want to protect their personal estate from liability relating to their business. In order to get basic personal asset protection, business owners have several options: they can form a Limited Liability Company, a C-Corporation, or elect to act as a sub-chapter S-Corporation. A sub-chapter S-Corporation will allow you to treat your small corporation like a partnership for income tax purposes. Both an LLC and a Corporation will provide asset protection for your privately owned property held outside of the business. However, many people don’t receive proper asset protection, as they choose the wrong entity or don’t comply with the ongoing requirements.
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Planning for Unmarried Couples

Posted Sep 15, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Unmarried couples of all ages are living together more and more frequently. Many seniors live together and remain unmarried, often after the death of a previous spouse. Seniors may not be comfortable marrying their new partner for a variety of reasons. However, they may also not know of the legal implications of remaining unmarried.

Trust-based planning works extraordinarily well for those with unique situations. Trusts allow unmarried couples to control their legacy, plan to leave a gift a certain way, as well as maintain control over what happens to their assets at death. Ultimately, trust-based planning allows you to decide what will happen to your resources when you want, the way you want, and how you want with the least professional fees possible.
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Increasing your Income Tax Benefits

Posted Sep 12, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Today, income tax planning is more important than ever before. Ten to fifteen years ago, the estate tax exemption was far less, and many middle class families faced the prospect of paying high estate taxes at death. With the help of an estate-planning attorney, they implemented credit shelter trusts to maximize their estate tax savings.

Today, the exemption is now $5.34 million per person ($10.68 million for a husband and wife combined). Few middle class families today will face estate taxes as a result of this increase. However, many families still have outdated credit shelter trusts in place that they haven’t updated. Many people do not realize that these outdated plans create high capital gains taxes.
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Property Ownership and Comprehensive Planning

Posted Sep 10, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Everyone wants a plan that is going to work the way that they want. Unfortunately, there are many ways that a plan can fall apart. How you own your property makes a huge difference to whether your overarching estate plan will work.
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The Importance of Caregiver Respite

Posted Sep 9, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, as it takes its toll on caregivers emotionally, physically, and financially. Often, caregivers are spouses or children who become exhausted over time. Many caregivers fail to take needed respite away from the daily stress of providing care for their loved ones. Without frequent vacations, caregivers begin to feel unwanted resentment toward their loved ones.
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Financial Wellness with Virginia Clay

Posted Sep 2, 2014 by Bill Alexander

This past week on our radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on Talk Radio 850 WPTK (AM) the ladies took over as our attorneys, Tovah Mitchell and Kathryn Bowman welcomed Virginia Clay, a Certified Financial Planner from Morgan Stanley as our guest for the show. Virginia focuses on women’s financial and retirement planning, long term care insurance and planning, healthcare and caregiver related planning, elder care support planning, as well as financial plans and advice for pharmacists, physicians, physician assistants, and nurses.
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Leaving a Meaningful Legacy

Posted Aug 29, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Robin Williams recently passed away, leaving behind an important legacy through his movies and comedic performances. Because Williams was famous, his legacy is recorded and will touch the lives of generations to come. However, we all have our own legacies that we can pass on to those who come after us, but we may need to do more to ensure that they are recorded. While our families may know some things about us, few of us do a good job of leaving behind the most important information about us that we want to leave for posterity. Legacy planning can be important to you descendants.
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Asset Protection for You & Your Family

Posted Aug 11, 2014 by Bill Alexander

All families should implement an overarching plan to protect their assets. Unfortunately, most families fail to first consult an experienced attorney for good legal advice regarding how their estate plan and legal documents interconnects with their insurance and financial needs. As a result, most families end up with a hodge-podge of assets with various title holdings that sometimes conflict and often fail to work as anticipated.
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Newsworthy Celebrity Planning

Posted Aug 7, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Occasionally, we will see unique stories of celebrities and how planning, or lack of it, makes a big difference. These stories in the press act as examples of either good or bad real world planning. By putting a proper plan in place, you can achieve your goals and leave what you want, to whom you want, the way you want.
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Supporting our Veterans

Posted Aug 5, 2014 by Bill Alexander

The Veterans Administration has received lots of negative attention in the press over the past several months. First, the public became aware that VA hospitals were filing false paperwork regarding the scheduling of medical appointments that made it appear to officials in Washington that they were meeting specific deadlines and timely seeing patients when in fact there were significant delays. Some Veterans died while waiting to be seen at the VA Hospital.
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Investing in Long-Term Care Insurance

Posted Jul 15, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Many people don’t realize that purchasing long-term care insurance is one of the best investments to protect themselves for the future, as the likelihood of facing a long-term care crisis is high, and most families cannot afford to self-insure. Unfortunately, long-term care insurance often isn’t on people’s radar until a long-term care crisis happens to them or someone that they love. People should buy long term care insurance when they are healthy and in their forties or early fifties—exactly when other financial needs are tugging on them. But it is too expensive for many who wait until their late fifties or early sixties. Hence it is important to buy long term care insurance and keep it as soon as you possibly can.
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Staying Independent this Fourth of July and Beyond

Posted Jul 11, 2014 by Bill Alexander

Many families are returning from the Fourth of July holiday after visiting with loved ones they may have not seen in some time. Holidays, such as the Fourth of July, are an important time for loved ones to get together and sometimes assess the best way to help aging family members stay independent. In the past, it was easier for families to take care of each other when they lived together or down the street from each other. In those times, families relied less on facilities to provide for their care as they aged. Now, the dynamics of growing older and the financial needs of the elderly have changed a great deal. Today, family members should strive to keep their loved ones independent for as long as possible through engaging in open dialogue, seeking the assistance of geriatric professionals and visiting an experienced Elder Law attorney to make sure that they have the right documents and planning in place.
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