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2 years ago I wrote about bank and other financial institutions' resistance to powers of attorney (POAs). Since then we have seen an increase in frequency of these issues so it bears revisiting some of the common problems and solutions. When we draft POAs for clients we tell them to expect some resistance. Many financial institutions act out of an abundance of caution. They are concerned about fraud and their own liability, however they often go too far. Bank policies are often too restrictive, lack common sense or just plainly violate state laws. We tell clients to expect push back but if you find yourself in that situation (ie. looking for bank approval of a POA) what should you or can you do? The more official looking the POA the less resistance to honoring it you are likely to get. For one thing, I don't recommend "do it yourself" or "internet" POAs. Often they are done incorrectly. I have seen some in which the principal (the person designating someone to act for him/her) lists him/herself as the agent rendering the document meaningless. Unfamiliarity with legal documents can lead to mistakes that invalidate

Last week I posted about the future of Social Security and what is being said in this 2020 election year.  President Trump’s comments have been ambiguous as far as whether he would cut or protect Social Security, although his recent budget proposal includes cuts of $72 billion to the Social Security Disability program.  This week we’ll take a look at what the Democratic candidates have said. As one would expect, none of the candidates has proposed cutting Social Security.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren support an expansive increase in benefits.  Warren has suggested an immediate increase to benefits of $200 per month across the board.  Several of the candidates have talked about a more accurate cost of living adjustment which would be reflective of the inflation rate faced by seniors – a CPI index for the elderly.  All the Democratic candidates support increasing the minimum Social Security benefit for low income retirees to keep their income at or above 125% of the federal poverty line. Several of the candidates have talked about increasing benefits for caregivers whose wages are reduced because they must care for family members.  Since benefits are based on earnings and how much a retiree paid into the system thru payroll deductions, one proposal is to exclude nonworking years for caregivers.  This would have the effect

This being an election year there is talk again about what the candidates propose to do about the Social Security program which most recent projections suggest will run out of money by 2035.  The Medicare program projections are more dire, with that program now expected to be insolvent by 2026 which is 3 years earlier than was predicted in 2017. I have written about this problem a few times over the past 10 years but Washington D.C. has done nothing about it except to raise the full retirement age gradually for baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – who are now or will soon be reaching retirement age.  There are a few reasons for this problem.  One is that people are living longer in retirement and thus collecting benefits longer than was ever anticipated.  The aging population is also a cause.  Back when Social Security was instituted the ratio of workers contributing to Social Security versus retirees collecting benefits was much greater than it is now.  It is not difficult to do the math and see that more people taking money out and less people putting money in is going to be a problem. What makes it worse is that as the percentage of Americans with traditional pensions has declined and with only about ½ of all American

Last week I started talking about Medicaid’s redetermination process.  Pretty much every county Medicaid office is now sending out annual redetermination notices.  As I said last week, married couple cases can be especially tricky.  That’s because even after Medicaid is approved, the healthy spouse must keep certain rules in mind. Let’s first review some of the Medicaid rules.  In order to qualify for benefits in the case of married couple where only one applies for benefits, the countable assets are totaled as of the first day of the first month of continuous institutionalization – known as the snapshot date.  The assets are then divided in half and the non-Medicaid or community spouse can keep ½ but only up to a maximum of $128,240 (in 2020).  That is known as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).  The Medicaid spouse must have no more than $2000 in assets to his/her name. I explain this to clients and repeat it many times during the course of the spend down process leading to Medicaid and again during the Medicaid application process.  What people tend to focus on is the first part but not the second.  I mean that clients focus on the target number they need to get to for Medicaid eligibility but not the part about how much of that amount must

Last year I wrote about the challenge of keeping Medicaid after you’ve been approved.   Whenever I give prospective clients an overview of the Medicaid rules and what is necessary to qualify, I also explain that the rules must be followed even after Medicaid eligibility is achieved.  You can’t let your guard down and completely forget about the Medicaid rules. Medicaid does a redetermination once a year.  For many years the redeterminations were sporadic.  I had clients on Medicaid who never received a redetermination notice.  I’ve noticed, however, in the last 5 years or so that just about every county in which I file Medicaid applications now sends annual redetermination notices like clockwork.  While the” redets” as we call them are much easier to work thru (since the process doesn’t involve providing 5 years of records), most of our clients either handle it themselves or the facilities take care of it, especially in the case of single Medicaid recipients where all the income goes directly to the facility and they have most of the information needed to process it.  There are several reasons redeterminations are necessary.  Some of the numbers change from year to year.  For example, Social Security and pensions typically have a cost of living adjustment.  Health insurance premiums, which can be deducted from income before turning the

6 years ago I wrote about the fight over Casey Kasem. (Blog post 11-25-13).  Some may not be old enough to remember Kasem who was an actor and radio personality.  He is probably best known as the host of American Top 40, a nationally syndicated radio program in the 1970’s and 80’s which counted down the top pop songs every week. Kasem died in June 2014 but not before his children from his first marriage fought with his second wife over their right to see their father and to make decisions regarding his medical care.  Kasem had advanced Parkinson’s Disease and was reported to be bedridden.  A legal battle ensued in which the children filed for conservatorship in a California court.  His wife then removed him from a California nursing home to one in Washington state and that is where he died.  6 months after his death she buried him in Norway.  The children then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his wife and she filed a countersuit against them. It is now nearly 6 years after his death and both sides finally agreed to an undisclosed settlement in which they both dismissed their claims.  The case highlights several issues which I have previously written about.  One is the challenges presented by second marriages.  It appears that Kasem’s children