10 Signs That Your Aging Loved One Needs Help part 1

What if a loved one was in need of help as they aged?  Do you think you would be able to recognize the signs?  Here are 5 signs to look for that could mean your elderly relative needs help at home.

  1. Recent Falls

 Did you know that 1 in 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year.  Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to live independently.  Staying active and exercising can help minimize the risk of falls.  Recent falls can be a sign of deteriorating health, which would be a sign that your elderly loved one needs assistance.
  1. Forgetting Medication and Appointments

The more medication an older adult takes, the more likely they are to forget a dose, or over medicate.   In 2000 the average number of prescriptions an elderly adult took was 28.5. In  2010 the average number of prescriptions per elderly person grew to 38.5, an increase of 10 prescriptions.   Whether your loved one uses a pill box to keep track of medication, it is important to pay attention to pills that are still in the box or that haven’t been touched for days.  The consequences of forgetting these meds include disease progression or complications, increased physicians’ visits or even hospitalization.
  1. Dents in the Car, Trash Cans, Fences or Garage

If you notice dents or scratches on the car your loved one is driving, or maybe the mailbox has some dings, chances are your elderly family member is having trouble behind the wheel, which could mean other issues.  Issues with response time, or trouble seeing when behind the wheel.  There were 33 million licensed older drivers in 2009.  Of those elderly that have cut back on driving due to physical problems, 40% cited vision-related issues as a reason.
  1. Changes in Behavior & the Decision Making Process

 As loved ones get older, mental issues such as dementia may set in.  Alzheimer’s disease falls under the umbrella of dementia.  It is the 6th leading cause of death among American adults.  These diseases change a person’s mental state and decision making ability.  If you notice your family member is making decisions based on strange behavior or strange impulses, you should address the issue of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  1. Symptoms of Depression

 As people age, their friend’s pass away or move away to retire or be near family, and this could lead to an elderly person developing strong feelings of loneliness and isolation.  These life changes remind seniors of their own mortality, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.  Keeping active can help ward off depression.  If you notice your elderly loved one is lethargic or doesn’t want to participate in daily activities, they may be suffering from depression.  Also, keeping to themselves and not wanting to talk may indicate some depression.

Have questions?  Give our office a call at 818.887.9401

Families are Evolving. Is Your Estate Plan?

Have you noticed that families are changing in this day and age? Traditional families are evolving and include more extended family and relatives. This newsletter talks about the changes of “traditional families” in our society and how they affect your estate plan. If you are interested in talking to an attorney, please give our office a call.

The laws relating to how estates are handled are designed with a very traditional nuclear family in mind – a husband, wife and biological children. That is not the traditional family anymore. Fewer than half of all U.S. households meet this traditional definition. That trend is likely to continue now that same sex marriage has been legalized nationwide. Also, divorce and remarriage remain very common. It is no longer about just the traditional versus non-traditional families.

A particularly serious issue to consider is the rapid advances in reproductive technology. How should children conceived with stored genetic material after the death of one or both genetic parents be treated in regards to inheritance?

Continue reading “Families are Evolving. Is Your Estate Plan?”

Bequeathing a Home Part 2

I have two children, both are grown with children of their own.  Neither of them owns a home.  I would like to keep my house in the family for everyone to use.  Its not a large home so having two families live here would be rather difficult. But they could share it.  I have a trust that splits everything between my two kids.  I have included a hand-written note that I had notarized that states my wishes that they keep the house and not sell or mortgage it.  Is this a good idea, please advise?

 

It is very important to think long and hard about this.  Is this going to cause fighting and rifts in the family?   As you stated it would be hard for two families to share the home, even a large home for that matter.  You could be setting up battles over who gets to live there, and how much they spend for maintenance and repairs of the home. It is difficult for married couples to agree on owning a property, it is even harder to get siblings to agree.  This may not go over as well as you hope. Even the best intentions can go awry.
Lets look at the other side.  Lets say they sell your home, it could provide both families with a nice down payment for them to buy their own homes.  Then they can pick a home that works for them. Then each child can determine what they want to spend and how much maintenance they want to do. Another option is one family could get a mortgage to buy out the other and live in the house.  There is also the option to mortgage the house to provide two down payments, and then rent out the house.
Also, just to note, your notarized handwritten note won’t prevent your children from selling the house. Once you pass they can essentially do what they want with the house.  But it may cause some guilt and fighting among them about honoring your wishes.
Give our office a call if you have questions regarding your estate plan, we are here to help 818.887.9401.

Bequeathing a Home to a Loved One

I am a 74 year-old retired woman living in a completely paid off condo. I hold title to my condo in my name only. I want to know more about leaving my leaving my condo to my partner and daughter when I die. I am asking about adding my partner of 20 years and my daughter to the home title in order to avoid probate. What is the easiest way to do that? Can I leave it in Joint Tenancy so the condo will pass both survivors (partner and daughter)? My parents had held title with both my brother and me and I want to know if there is a problem with this.

YES. There is a problem with this.   Here are a couple issues that could arise after you die. What if your daughter wants to sell this condo to raise cash, but your partner disagrees and doesn’t want to move. What if your daughter would like to collect rent and your partner refuses? What if your partner wants to remodel the home as she ages but your daughter wont share the costs? Would one survivor have to buy the other out? It also brings up questions of property transfer taxes.
The best solution is a revocable living trust! A trust can leave instructions (your wishes) for how to handle this situation. It may say that your partner can stay in the condo indefinitely but must pay a rent to the daughter. The trust can even establish what is a fair rent to pay. The trust could also say that the condo should be sold and the profit divided evenly.

Whatever you decide a revocable living trust can give the proper instructions on what to do. Both your partner and your daughter will understand these were your intentions and wishes. It may also prevent fighting and resentment and animosity between your partner and your daughter. With a Trust you also have less gift tax problems to deal with. The property will transfer to either survivor, depending on your instructions. You won’t face property tax reassessment. There are many issues that are never even thought of when it comes to bequeathing a property.
If you are interested in talking to an estate attorney to help you with bequeathing a home to loved ones please give our office a call 818.887.9401.

Be Aware of Dirty Tax Scams

With tax season come tax scams. Lets face it. Scam artists are after your tax refunds and they are trying to get to your money before you do.

Here are the top tax scams we have heard of over the last couple years.

Phone scams – Criminals are targeting specific groups of people, for example, retirees. The criminals call with threats of police arrests or license revocation in order to strong-arm many elderly people into “paying their taxes.”   The IRS does not call about taxes owed without first sending you a bill in the mail. Be wary of phone calls demanding payment for taxes.

Phishing – Fake emails can be sent and phony websites can be established to make it seem legitimate. But the intent is to steal your information. That can lead to identity theft and stealing your tax refund.

Return Preparer Fraud – Each tax season criminals set up shop as tax preparers with the intention of stealing your information and getting to your refund money before you do. If dozens of people go these dishonest tax prepares, hundreds of thousands of dollars can be collected before any of the victims realize their refund was taken. These criminals can also entice people by promising an inflated tax refund, but then they ask you to sign a blank return or they may charge a fee based on the percentage of a refund.  Tip: Always ask to see the IRS’s Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

Offshore Tax Avoidance – Hiding assets offshore can lead to significant tax penalties and even criminal prosecution.

Fake Charities – There are groups of criminals who like to masquerade as charities in order to get donations from unsuspecting tax payers.

Hiding Income with Fake Documents – Avoid tax prepares who even suggest falsifying documents to reduce tax bills or to inflate a refund.

We want to make everyone aware of these scams. We hope they don’t happen to you. Feel free to share these with friends and family. You could help someone.

Tax Season Could Be Difficult With the Shutdown

This article was written before the government reopened.  The reopening is only temporary, for the next three weeks, so these problems may arise in the future.

The tax overhaul of 2017 will affect every tax return filed for 2018, and tax season starts Jan. 28.  At this moment the IRS will have approx. 46,000 of its more than 80,000 employees at work.  This years start date is consistent with last years filing season, so not much has changed in that capacity.  The agency has said it will re-open call sites that had been closed during the shutdown.  But even those wont be fully staffed and wait times could be extremely long.

This tax overhaul affected tax brackets, expanded the child tax credit and eliminated or limited several niche breaks.

Continue reading “Tax Season Could Be Difficult With the Shutdown”

A Look at Two Celebrity Estate Plans from 2018

Last year we lost a lot of big names.  In this newsletter we plan to address two of those big names and the vast difference between their estate plans.

First Aretha Franklin, who everyone knows as the Queen of Soul.  She had a catalog of hits many loved and remember fondly.  Ms. Franklin lived in Detroit and passed away in her home.  Unlike California, the state of Michigan has a very different Probate process.  Ms. Franklin was a huge star but passed away with no estate planning documents.  She leaves behind a partner, whom she never married, and 4 sons.  Her sons have filed documents in a Michigan probate court and listed themselves as interested parties in her estate.  This also means her finances will be made public should others come forward with claims against her estate -whether it be creditors who want to be paid or extend family who come forward hoping to get a portion of her wealth.

 

Probate court has several requirements.  First, someone will need to be appointed the personal representative.  It could be one of her sons or maybe an attorney.  Once a personal representative has been chosen by the court they will need to pay her finals bills.  They will be tasked with coming up with with a list of all her assets and in the end, they will be responsible for distributing these assets, most likely to her sons in this case.  Probate court in California can take years to settle.  Michigan may be significantly faster.  But with an estate as large as Ms. Franklin’s it may not be so quick.  They will need to account for her music catalog and the royalties she receives.  There may be battles with family members who believe they are entitled to a piece of her wealth.

It is unfortunate she did not have any estate planning documents in place.  Even though her attorney has told the press he was on her for “a number of years” to prepare a Trust.

We encourage all our clients to get the proper estate planning documents, do not hesitate.  It could save your family a lot of money and time after your demise.  And while they are grieving is not a good time to deal with these problems.

Our second big name star was Anthony Bourdain.  Anthony Bourdain was known as a hot-head chef who began his TV career by taking viewers on a tour around the world to “Parts Unknown.”  He would do a Layover in cities and countries far and wide – he traveled to India, Singapore, France and even Japan.  His many shows aired on CNN for several seasons.  He was greatly admired by many.  Unfortunately, Bourdain took his own life while filming one of his shows overseas.  Bourdain’s primary residence was in New York, and he actually had all his estate planning documents in order.  Bourdain had a trust that left his ex-wife in charge and made his only daughter, who was 11 at the time, the sole beneficiary.  She stands to inherit several million dollars and some real estate.

 

The entire process will be kept private, as it should with Trusts.  His daughter will receive money for her healthy, education, welfare, and support.  The daughter’s mother will be in charge of handing out the money.  The trust will also determine at what age the daughter will get it outright.  There could be educational incentives, where if the child completes a 4-year college and receives a degree she can receive more sooner.  He may have provisions in there that provide for the child to travel.  Luckily for Bourdain all these terms/provisions are kept private and his young daughter will be able to grow up and not worry.

Need help with your estate plan?  Have questions about the documents you have in place?  Give our office a call. The new year is good time to review your estate plan.  818.887.9401.

7 Strategies for Developing Good Financial Habits

As a CPA, I have learned more about people and their personal finances than might be healthy. Over the years I have put together an informal list of what I call “Good Financial Habits” that I would like to share with you.

 

  1. Pay Yourself First.

Each payday you should transfer a certain percentage of your paycheck to your savings account. You earned the money; you should keep some of it

 

  1. Save your tax refund and any work bonuses.

Although it is tempting to spend your tax refund or a bonus, you should save it in a high-yield savings account so it can accumulate interest and grow.

 

  1. Cut back on your home expenses.

There are several ways to cut home spending; a less expensive cable tv package or mobile phone plan, reduce your grocery bill, monitor heating and a/c costs by using blankets or fans instead, bring lunch instead of buying it. If you aren’t sure where to make cuts, create a list of your discretionary spending, including meals out, gourmet coffee, new clothes etc. Small changes can add up to big savings.

 

  1. Set a savings goal.

It is helpful to have a number in mind that can be broken down into smaller, more manageable increments. You may want to save enough to cover six months of expenses or you may be saving to buy a new car. Either way, having a number in mind makes it more attainable. You can also sign up to receive emails from your bank with account balances. Which will help you keep track of your spending and saving.

 

  1. Turn saving into a game.

If you want some competitive motivation to save money, create a game with your spouse or significant other to see who can save the most each paycheck or month

 

  1. Put extra cash or change into a jar.

Instead of letting change accumulate in your purse or your pockets, put it into a jar. It may seem insignificant at first, but you will be surprised by how much you can save. You can call it a “rainy day” fund.

 

  1. Make saving a habit.

It may take some time to get into the habit, but setting reminders for yourself to save money can go a long way. Once you make it a habit it will pay off for years to come.

 

 

 

 

Tips on Eating Healthy During the Holidays

The holidays mean holiday parties with increased alcohol consumption and seemingly endless opportunities to eat too much.   Holidays are suppose to be fun times of family togetherness, so here are some ways to control the calories in the midst of all the feasting.

If you are hosting a holiday party and are watching your weight, make sure to prepare a few healthy dishes for yourself and for your health-conscious guests. Dishes with lots of fruits and raw or steamed veggies are a good idea.

Continue reading “Tips on Eating Healthy During the Holidays”

Keep Your Home Safe While on Vacation

As we get closer to the holiday season we like to change direction in our newsletter. Talking about estate planning for eight months straight can get a bit tedious.   We like to give tips for party planning or keeping pets safe during holiday parties.  Hopefully its useful for you.

 

In this newsletter we are going to provide some tips for when you leave home on vacation.   These tips should help keep your home safe while you are gone.
    1. Stop newspaper delivery and ask the post office to hold all mail.
    2. Do not let your answering machine tell the world you are on vacation and how long you are gone. An answering machine message that says “we are on vacation in Aspen till the 28th” is a bad idea. It will tell any stranger who calls that you are gone and how long you are gone. Thieves love that sort of knowledge.

      Continue reading “Keep Your Home Safe While on Vacation”