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As winter approaches, COVID-19 infection rates have started to climb again.  At the same time we are entering influenza season.  Health officials have talked for some time about the potential double whammy caused by COVID infections and flu cases occurring at the same time.  The symptoms of the two illnesses are similar which further complicates things. One insurer is attempting to be proactive.  UnitedHealthcare insures more than 5 million seniors via Medicare Advantage, the Part C coverage that is managed care, operating similar to an HMO.  Last month UnitedHealthcare began reaching out to its members who are at the highest risk of complications from COVID-19 and the flu. What the company is offering is interesting.  It’s members can sign up for kits that include Tamiflu, (the prescription antiviral flu treatment), a digital thermometer and a COVID PCR diagnostic test.  These will be mailed to its members.  If you feel sick, you can take the COVID test at home and mail it in for the results. If the COVID test comes back negative, then the assumption is you have the flu and then having the Tamiflu already means you can take start taking it sooner which helps lessen the severity of the illness.  In order to receive the kit, however, members must agree

Last week I wrote about the questions we have been receiving from clients about tax law changes coming after next month’s election and what to do now.  As I stated last week and I’ll say again, it is impossible to know now what changes may come, therefore, we can’t recommend any specific response.  But, I can talk about what has been said and what that might mean for many Americans. Donald Trump has not provided any specifics on what he might do in a second term.  Joe Biden has, so let’s look at that.  Biden said he would undo some of the tax breaks given to corporations and wealthy individuals.  He has also stated that he would cut in half the estate tax exemption which is currently $11.58 million per person.  This is the amount that can be passed during one’s lifetime or at death in any combination that would be free of federal estate tax.  Halving it would bring the exemption down to $5.79 million (the exemption is indexed for inflation so this number is based on the 2020 exemption). How would this affect most Americans?  Not much because a very small percentage of estates even approach $5 million.  The current exemption is higher than it’s every been.  Cutting it in

Taxes are always a topic of conversation during elections, especially presidential elections.  This one is no different.  At the same time, our clients have begun to ask us about certain changes they have read about and what they should do now.    Our answer at this point is that any talk about changes is speculative.  It is impossible to know what will happen so as a result there is nothing to do at the moment.  Nevertheless, this week we will take a look at what has been and what has not been said so far. While DonaldTrump has not said anything specific about what tax revisions he might make in a second term, he did pass a tax law in 2017 that reduced income taxes for most Americans.  Wealthy Americans particularly benefited as did corporations when the corporate tax rate was reduced from 28% to 21%. Joe Biden put forth a tax plan during the Democratic primary and made some statements about it during the first Presidential debate which were reiterated by his running mate, Kamela Harris.  Much of his plan is a reaction to Trump’s 2017 tax law changes.  He has said that he would look to repeal much of it.  Specifically, Biden has said that he would increase the

Approximately half of New Jersey’s coronavirus related deaths occurred in long term care facilities.  A state funded health report has made some recommendations on how to improve facilities’ responses to the virus, especially with the potential of a much talked about second wave this winter. The Manatt Health report found that the coranvirus pandemic worsened systemic issues that have existed for some time.  We have seen how the pandemic has caused some families to shy away from moving a loved one to a facility or at least to defer that decision.  How this affects the industry long term remains to be seen but a big factor will be government response.  The first attempts to address the problem are now on Governor Murphy’s desk awaiting his signature. Several bills passed by the State Assembly and Senate are now waiting for the Governor’s signature.  One provides $62.3 million in state aid to help nursing facilities pay for wage increases and COVID related costs such as personal protective equipment.  With federal Medicaid matching funds the amount available to help these facilities would increase to about $130 million.  There is, however, a provision to hold the facilities accountable to certain defined standards and protocol.  Two or more infection control violations would result int the

In my post last week, I wrote about 2 recent calls from former clients of ours that highlight the importance of a power of attorney. Our power of attorney is very detailed and designed to cover as many different situations as possible - even though as I always say that as to any one person much of what is in our document doesn’t apply but it can’t hurt to put more into the document than less. In the first instance, the client was in a personal relationship which family members found suspect. Her two sons were concerned for their mother’s safety and discovered spending that was not the norm for Mom. When she was hospitalized they contacted the police for the purpose of asking assistance in removing the person from their mom’s home. The power of attorney which I had prepared several years earlier became an important document. I told the sons who were co-agents under her power of attorney that they would need to satisfy the police and any other third party that they had the right to make decisions regarding the home. I pointed them to the specific language giving them the right to manage real property and specifically to evict tenants and restrict access and possession to the property. With police assistance they were able to remove

Two recent calls to our office highlight once again the importance of the power of attorney - a deceptively simple document that can be obtained off the internet but which, if it is to be at all useful, must be carefully tailored and specific to the anticipated tasks that the agent may be called upon to carry out on behalf of the principal. In each case the call came from a family member of a former client who is in trouble. These are clients who at the time we first met were in their late 50’s to early 60’s. We prepared estate planning documents for them. We did not engage in long term care planning, however, we always consider the possibility of needing it down the road. In each of these cases that has now or will in the not too distant future become necessary. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to fraud. Over the years we have had many calls from family members who discovered that a loved one was subject to a financial scam or in a relationship with someone who is taking financial advantage of them. That was the situation in both recent calls. Luckily, family members recognized quickly what was going on. Some money has been lost but it is small in comparison to the overall financial picture. In