Elderly couple thinking about retirement planning

Myths and Misconceptions about Retirement Planning

Numerous studies have shown that Americans’ greatest fear regarding retirement is running out of money. Even so, myths abound about planning for retirement, Social Security, the cost of medical care, and more. Let’s explore the reality behind some of the most common retirement planning myths.

Elderly couple thinking about retirement planning

Social Security is going broke.

Approximately 50 percent of elderly Americans derive at least half of their income from Social Security. For decades, Social Security has collected more than it paid out, with excess income going into the Social Security Trust Fund. According to the Social Security Administration, this fund held $2.91 trillion by the end of 2020. However, due to the retiree population growing faster than the working population, as well as the fact that people are living longer, Social Security is starting to pay out more than it takes in. Without changes to the way Social Security is financed, the trust fund is projected to run out in 2034.

Of course, Social Security still collects taxes and pays benefits. According to recent estimates, however, it will only be able to cover 78% of scheduled benefits after 2034. To avoid that scenario, Congress will have to take measures to strengthen Social Security’s finances, as it did in 1983 when the program’s reserves were nearly exhausted. Given the program’s importance to retirees, and the fact that millions of older Americans have been paying into the system for decades, it is highly unlikely Congress would fail to take the necessary steps to protect it.

You can receive your full Social Security benefit when you turn 62.

While it is true that you can begin taking Social Security benefits at age 62, this will lead to a lower monthly benefit than if you wait until full retirement age. What is your full retirement age? It depends on when you were born. If you were born:

  • In 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67
  • Between 1955 and 1960, full retirement age ranges from 66 and two months to 66 and 10 months
  • Between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66
  • Between 1938 and 1942, full retirement age ranges from 65 and two months to 65 and 10 months
  • Before 1938, full retirement age is 65

Should you take your benefits at age 62? “Expert opinion” differs, but the consensus seems to be that if you are in good health, and you have enough money to live comfortably without Social Security benefits, you may want to delay taking them to maximize your monthly benefit later on.

All of your medical care will eventually be covered by Medicare.

Medicare does not pay for all of a person’s medical care. Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers hospital visits and outpatient care but not dental and vision care. Nor does it cover the cost of prescription drugs. Although Medicare Advantage plans can provide greater coverage, they generally have high premiums. Most Americans fail to include enough money in their retirement budget to cover the expense of annual medical care, let alone the cost of long-term, in-facility care. It is estimated that for a couple aged 65, out-of-pocket medical costs will approach $600,000 over the course retirement.

You don’t have to plan for retirement because you want to keep working.

This may seem like a reasonable assumption when you have a well-paying and satisfying job, you’re young, and you’re healthy. The reality is quite different. According to a Retirement Confidence Survey, 43 percent of current retirees left the workforce earlier than they expected. While mandatory retirement at a set age was abolished in 1986 by an amendment to the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, many of us lose our jobs for other reasons or cannot continue to work due to health problems. Simply put, you may not be able to work as long as you want. The best protection against running out of money in retirement is to have a realistic, detailed retirement plan.

We’re here to help with your retirement planning needs

You’ve worked hard to save for retirement – and deserve to enjoy it with peace of mind. As you plan for these years, know you can lean on an Amoruso & Amoruso estate planning attorney for personalized advice based on your goals and needs. To learn more about our approach to retirement planning, contact us for a personal meeting.

Your Legacy is More than Just the Money You Leave to Loved Ones

When we hear the word legacy, many of us think of money left to people and institutions that have come to mean the most to us over the course of our lives. But your legacy is much more than that. It includes your memories, values, wisdom, family history, and more that do not necessarily have monetary value. How can you pass those on to future generations?

You could begin by writing down, or making a recording of yourself sharing, stories about your parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Don’t just talk about where they lived and what they did for a living. Try to convey a sense of who your family members were, what was important to them in life, and the values they held dear.

You’ll want to take a similar approach in telling your own story. Describe why you made certain decisions, what you learned from mistakes, how you achieved success, and what you would do differently if you could. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to preserve photos that depict your history and that of other family members. You might even want to create a website featuring your stories and photos, and invite family members to contribute to it.

Now let’s consider items that may not be worth much money but have a great deal of sentimental value: an old watch owned by your uncle, for instance, or the rocking chair that your mother used for many years. You’d be surprised at how many family disputes arise over items like these. If one of your children has shown interest in such an object, you could specify in your will that he or she receives it when you pass away. Regarding sentimental objects that have not been “claimed” by your children, consider using an estate planning letter to designate the person you would like to inherit it, and why.

What about your values, is there a way to increase the likelihood that these will be passed on as well? One approach is to use an estate planning tool, such as an Incentive Trust, to encourage certain behaviors while discouraging others. For example, your trust could reward your children for graduating from college, entering a certain profession, purchasing a home, or doing charitable work.

In the end, you may be surprised by how much your values, wisdom, and family history—the nonmaterial aspects of your legacy—mean to the people you love and future generations.

Contact a New York Estate Planning Attorney

To learn more about passing on your legacy to future generations, contact an experienced Estate Planning lawyer at Amoruso & Amoruso, LLP for a personal meeting to discuss your particular needs and goals.

children adult

If Your Children Have Turned 18, They Need Their Own Legal Documents

When your children turn 18 they are legal adults. They might not act like adults all of the time, and you may still be supporting them financially, but in the eyes of the law they are indeed adults. This means that you can no longer make certain decisions for them, including health care decisions. Furthermore, you can no longer obtain medical information about your adult children without their authorization—even in an emergency.

children adult

Consider the following scenario. Your son is away at college and gets severely injured in a car accident. When you become aware of what has happened you immediately call the hospital for information about his condition, but nobody will tell you anything. This is because the law—specifically, a statute enacted in 1996 called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)—prevents the disclosure of a patient’s health information without the patient’s consent. The hospital in question could be prosecuted for violating HIPAA guidelines.

This is why your adult children need a legal document called a HIPAA Release. It allows your adult children to list the people who are permitted to receive medical information about them.

Another crucial legal document your adult children need is a Power of Attorney for Health Care, which is also called a Health Care Proxy. It allows them to name a person they trust to make health care decisions on their behalf if they cannot do so themselves. Medical decisions covered by a Power of Attorney for Health Care can include the types of treatments allowed in an end-of-life situation, such as the use of a feeding tube, as well as do not resuscitate orders.

Similarly, a Power of Attorney for Finances allows your adult children to designate a trusted individual to make financial decisions if they cannot make them on their own.

If your adult children have their own Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Finances, and they name you as their agent in the documents, you will be able to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. If you are named in your adult children’s HIPAA release, you can get medical information about their condition in an emergency.

Contact a New York Estate Planning Attorney

To learn more about obtaining legal documents for your adult children, contact us for a personal meeting to discuss your particular needs and goals.

insurance

Five Factors to Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance

The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately 70 percent of Americans over the age of 65 will need some type of long-term care. Contrary to what many people believe, Medicare does not cover long-term custodial care. Given the cost of such care, it makes sense to consider your options, in advance, about how to obtain the care you might very well need without exhausting your life savings to pay for it.

insurance

One such option is long-term care insurance. Here are some factors to consider regarding the purchase of a long-term care insurance policy.

Your age and health matter.

The younger you are when you purchase long-term care insurance, the less expensive it will be. Unfortunately, if you have conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, your application might be rejected.

It is better to have some coverage than none at all.

The very best plans, such as those that adjust for inflation or cover the widest range of services, may be prohibitively expensive. Experts advise that policies with the option to add services in the future may be a better approach.

Know exactly what services are provided by your policy, and just as importantly, what services are not covered.

Take note of when the coverage begins.

Most policies have what is known as a waiting period. During the waiting period, you will have to pay for services on your own before the policy kicks in. As you would expect, the shorter the policy’s waiting period, the more expensive the policy will be.

Finally, if you buy your policy through an agent, ask him or her these three questions:

  • How long have you been selling long-term care insurance?
  • How many policies have you sold? Fewer than 100 is not enough.
  • How many insurers do you work with? The minimum should be three or four.

Contact an Experienced New York Estate Planning Attorney

We invite you to contact Amoruso & Amoruso LLP by calling (914) 253-9255 for a consultation about whether long-term care insurance is right for you, and if so, what type of policy makes the most sense for your particular situation.

What to Do When a Loved One is Diagnosed with Dementia

A dementia diagnosis is a traumatic time for any family. Dementia happens slowly and progressively over time. In the early stages, some symptoms are often thought of as just signs of aging. Beginning signs can be as simple as losing car keys, forgetting where the car is parked, or even forgetting to turn off the oven. Unfortunately, dementia is incurable and progresses over time. It is important to have difficult conversations sooner than later. There are a few things you can do to protect your loved one during this challenging time.

Gather Financial Documents

There are several advantages to having all financial documents in one place during an early diagnosis of dementia. Dementia patients usually have difficulty remembering where they put things. It is important to not only put all financial documents in one place, but to also make copies and have them kept with a trusted member of the family. It is a good idea to make a binder that consists of insurance documents, health care wishes, will, power of attorney, bank statements, and car titles. Original documents should be kept in a safe place. It is important to have discussions early on, while your loved one can remember important financial information.

Protect Their Assets

Elderly individuals are often a target for financial fraud. A dementia diagnosis could mean even more risk for your loved one. Financial fraud is not always done by strangers. It is important to keep a close watch on new “friends” your loved one starts spending time with. Keep a close watch on their finances to ensure they are not a victim of fraud.

Establish a Power of Attorney

Dementia can be scary. Your loved one will likely feel like they are losing control and may be reluctant to freely give their perceived freedoms away. However it is important to create a Power of Attorney. This will allow a trusted loved one to make financial decisions, conduct banking transactions and pay bills when the time comes.

Create a Health Care Directive

After a diagnosis such as dementia, it is important to understand your loved ones wishes. Health care, long-term care, and end-of-life treatment are very personal. Every person has different beliefs and concerns regarding what they would like to occur in the event they are not able to make decisions for themselves. These wishes should be very clear and stated in writing.

Does your loved one want to be put on life support? Do they want to be resuscitated? Do they prefer an assisted living facility or in-home care? A Health Care Directive will outline the person’s wishes and it will also appoint a person that will make healthcare decisions when the time comes. Be sure to post health care wishes somewhere visible in the house and in your loved one’s wallet, in the event that emergency services are needed.

Review Estate Plan

Estate planning in the best of situations can seem overwhelming. There are financial implications for present and future generations. Emotional stressors include preparing for one’s own passing and trying to equitably distribute properties, investments, cash, and family heirlooms. However, when a spouse or loved one begins to suffer from dementia, forming a comprehensive estate plan is more important than ever. A basic understanding of the legal rights of someone suffering from dementia can help smooth the process. Having the trusted advice of an elder law and estate planning attorney can help navigate the process.

Contact an Experienced Elder Law Attorney

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding a loved one and dementia, contact the experienced New York Elder Law attorney at Amoruso & Amoruso LLP by calling (914) 253-9255 to schedule an appointment.

Filial Responsibility: Are Children Responsible for Their Parents’ Long-Term Care?

Filial Responsibility Laws, also known as Filial Support Laws, are relatively unknown. More than half of US states (including Puerto Rico) could hold adult children financially responsible for their parents’ long-term care. If your parents live in one of the following states, you could be held legally responsible for their healthcare: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

At one point, 45 US states had statutes that left adult children responsible for their parents’ nursing home care. After Medicaid was established in 1965, many states repealed these laws. The filial law system was adopted from England’s “Poor Laws”, a set of social measures meant to support low income citizens that could not afford care. Medicaid and Social Security helped to reduce the need for these laws.

While filial laws are rarely enforced, the rising cost of healthcare and longer life expectancies increase the likelihood of elderly individuals outliving their savings, which could rekindle these laws’ implementation. If your parents live in a state with filial responsibility laws and they start to accumulate healthcare bills they cannot afford, the provider may be within their rights to sue you for payment, and win. Some states can even extend criminal penalties to children who deny covering care. For example, according to North Carolina law, refusal to support your parents could result in a Class 2 misdemeanor that could earn you up to 120 days in jail.

If a parent becomes eligible for Medicaid, then the government will pay for nursing home care in most cases, and these laws become irrelevant. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) will sometimes try to recover the cost through the recipient’s estate after death. However, Medicaid does not require that adult children contribute directly to their parents’ care. In cases where the child and parent share assets, such as joint bank accounts or jointly owned real estate, the state may take action against these assets when trying to recover long-term care costs.

The best way to avoid issues with these laws is to get involved with your parents’ financial planning to ensure they have a plan to pay for long-term care themselves. An estate planning and elder law attorney can help create a plan to protect your parents’ assets while alleviating you of your filial responsibility. It is also important for families to consult with an attorney when applying for Medicaid or when beginning to plan Medicaid strategies, such as changing asset ownership or spending down assets.

Senior Woman Comforting Man With Depression At Home

A Designer Has Created Tableware to Help People With Dementia

Senior woman comforting man with Dementia at home

Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases can make even basic tasks extraordinarily difficult. Designer Sha Yao saw this firsthand when her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In response, she created Eatwell, a seven-piece tableware set. It features bright, primary colors, which Yao chose based on a Boston University study that showed individuals with cognitive impairment consumed 84 percent more liquid and 24 percent more food when they were served in brightly-colored containers.

Other features of the tableware set include cups and bowls with angled bases. This allows contents to shift naturally to one side and make them easier to drink or scoop up. The accompanying spoons are ergonomically designed to correspond to the contours of the bowls. In addition, the tableware set has holes with flaps at the edge of the tray where a napkin, bib or apron can be tucked to prevent spills. The set’s drinkware features wide bases, reducing the likelihood that they will be knocked over.

“Raising awareness and addressing the needs of people with impairments will allow them to maintain their dignity, retain as much independence as possible, and reduce the burden on their caretakers,” said Yao. “That’s what made designing the Eatwell tableware set so rewarding.”

Learn more about the set here.

Contact Us

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding estate planning and Dementia, contact the experienced New York Elder Law attorneys at Amoruso & Amoruso LLP by calling (914) 253-9255 to schedule an appointment.

Irrevocable Living Trust

The Benefits of an Irrevocable Living Trust

An Irrevocable Living Trust generally cannot be modified or terminated except under certain limited circumstances. It requires the grantor to transfer assets into the trust and give up his or her rights of ownership to these assets. So why would you want to create an Irrevocable Living Trust, as opposed to a Revocable Living Trust?

Irrevocable Living Trust

Irrevocable Living Trusts, when properly designed and implemented, can provide an almost unsurpassed level of asset protection from the high cost of long-term care. And, like Revocable Living Trusts, they spare your family the delays, frustration and expenses of the probate process. Other reasons to utilize an Irrevocable Living Trust include:

  • Tax minimization
  • Avoiding the risks of placing assets in the name of your children
  • Protecting assets against predators, creditors and lawsuits

While many different types of Irrevocable Living Trusts are available, in essence all of them retitle your assets. Assets placed in an Irrevocable Living Trust can include a business, cash, investments, life insurance policies, and more.

Why is an Irrevocable Living Trust better than a Revocable Living Trust at protecting assets against the cost of long-term care?

Under current Medicaid laws, assets in a Revocable Living Trust are not fully protected. Why? Assets in a Revocable Living Trust are available to the Grantor. Medicaid may determine that those assets be used to pay for long-term care. This is not the case with an Irrevocable Living Trust, as long as it is properly designed and implemented to take into account the latest laws governing Medicaid eligibility.

How does an Irrevocable Living Trust protect your children’s inheritance?

When you transfer assets directly to your children, they typically become outright owners of the assets. They also become responsible for the risks associated with owning the assets. A properly drafted and implemented Irrevocable Living Trust will avoid:

  • Loss of inheritances due to lawsuits, divorce, remarriage, or the inability of your children to manage money on their own
  • Gift tax liability
  • Income tax consequences for your children
  • Problems with getting financial aid to cover educational and other expenses for your grandchildren

To determine if an Irrevocable Living Trust is right for you and your family, contact us today for a consultation.

Second marraige

Estate Planning for Second Marriages

Second marriages can present unique challenges when it comes to estate planning, particularly if you or your new spouse have children from previous marriages. Let’s take a look at some of the factors, tools, and strategies to consider when planning for a second marriage.

Second marraige

Prenuptial Agreements

You’ve been married before, so you’re a little bit older and a whole lot wiser the second (or third) time around. However, this doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. While it is hardly the most romantic aspect of planning a life together, many couples should at least discuss a prenuptial agreement. This is especially true if any of the following scenarios apply:

  • One of you is giving up a lucrative career to get married
  • You or your future spouse owns a business
  • Either of you has significant assets and wants to keep them separate from marital assets
  • One of you carries significant debt
  • There are children from a previous marriage

If you think a prenuptial agreement makes sense in your situation, the next question is when the documents should be prepared. The sooner the better is a good rule of thumb. This will avoid the appearance of coercion, which can render some prenuptial agreements null and void. Your documents should be signed at least one month before the wedding, preferably before the invitations are sent out. In addition, you and your future spouse should each have an attorney involved in the design and review of the prenuptial agreement.

Review and Update Beneficiary Designations

Did you know that the people you have named as beneficiaries in various retirement and other accounts will generally inherit account assets even if other beneficiaries were named in your will? Consider the following situation. You got divorced, remarried, and changed your will to make your new wife your primary beneficiary.

However, if your ex-wife is still named as beneficiary in your retirement and investment accounts, she will inherit the funds, not your new wife. Beneficiary designations typically trump wills.

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to make and update beneficiary designations. When you open a retirement account, such as an IRA, the provider generally offers a beneficiary designation form within the account itself. You can name your beneficiaries when you create the account and change your beneficiaries whenever you wish (with one possible exception). As for investment and bank accounts, making beneficiary designations will likely require you to request a transfer on death form. This, too, is easily accomplished.

The exception noted above refers to certain laws governing the passing of retirement accounts to spouses. Your spouse will typically inherit your 401(k), for example, unless he or she signs a consent form waiving his or her right to it. If your ultimate goal is to leave your 401(k) to your children, your spouse will have to agree to this in writing. Designating your children as beneficiaries of your 401(k) will generally not be enough.

Protecting Children from a Previous Marriage

If all of your estate’s assets are left to your new spouse, your children from a previous marriage may not be provided for in the manner you would have wanted after you pass away. Your new spouse could, upon his or her death, leave all of the assets to his or her children from a previous marriage, thereby excluding your children. Conversely, if the majority of your estate is left to your children from an earlier marriage, there may not be enough assets remaining to provide for your new spouse or any children you have together. It can be a balancing act, one that requires proper planning to ensure your wishes, and those of your new spouse, are carried out. At the very least, each spouse should have a will. Without one, intestacy laws will likely result in assets being distributed in a manner neither of you would have wanted.

A trust, or combination of trusts, is generally a better approach than a will for second marriages and blended families. One such trust, which provides an excellent form of asset protection, is called a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP). A QTIP Trust can generate income for the benefit of the surviving spouse during his or her lifetime. When the surviving spouse passes away, the QTIP’s assets can be distributed between mutual and prior children according to the wishes of the previously deceased spouse. In addition, if the children are young, assets from the QTIP Trust can be held in another trust, under the control of an independent trustee. This approach can prevent estate assets from falling under an ex-spouse’s control. It can also protect your children’s inheritances from threats like creditors, lawsuits, and even your heirs’ poor decisions if they are not yet ready to manage an inheritance on their own.

To learn more about planning for second marriages and blended families, contact us for a personal meeting to discuss your particular needs and goals.

Smiling young man

The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Paying Your Grandchildren’s College Tuition

Paying your grandchildren’s (or adult children’s) college tuition is one of the greatest gifts you can make. The education lasts a lifetime and opens a world of opportunity for your grandchildren. In a way, it is like giving a gift to your children as well, since it alleviates their concerns about paying for their children’s education on their own. And when done correctly, the gift of a college education can be an excellent estate planning tool.

Smiling young man

One way to help pay for your grandchildren’s education is to simply give them part or all of the money to cover tuition. The gift tax exclusion is currently $15,000 per person per year, and $30,000 for a married couple, which can go a long way toward covering the tuition for most colleges. Of course, giving the money to your grandchildren directly carries with it a big risk. Are they genuinely interested in using the money to get an education, or will they suddenly decide a year abroad, funded by your gift, might “better prepare them” for college?

A safer approach is to pay the college directly. In this case, the tuition payment is exempt from gift taxes, meaning you could also make a gift to cover other expenses such as room and board, books and other fees. The same $15,000/$30,000 gift tax exemption mentioned above still applies.

Finally, you could contribute to a 529 college savings plan, which is offered on the state level. A 529 plan is a college savings account that is exempt from federal taxes. 529 plans were introduced in 1996 to help taxpayers set aside college expenses for a designated beneficiary. Named for Section 529 of the federal tax code, these plans often have tax benefits at the state level for in-state residents. (This applies only in states that have an income tax.) If the maximum deduction is exceeded in a calendar year, the deduction can often roll over into later years. It is important to note that each state enforces a specific total contribution limit, which are typically between $235,000 and $520,000.

Some of these plans allow for the use of various investment options. Others, known as prepaid tuition plans, let you lock in at the current cost of tuition in place of the future cost. A 529 account is not owned by the grandchild—in most cases, one of the parents owns the account, so if your grandchild does not attend college when the time comes, he or she cannot access the money. Similarly, if your grandchild doesn’t want to attend a university covered by the 529 account, allowances can be made to use the funds elsewhere.

Before deciding whether to pay your grandchildren’s tuition using any of these strategies, you must first ask yourself one very important question: “Can I afford it?” You need to consider not just if you can afford it today, but whether you will be able to afford it ten, twenty years down the road. We can help you determine whether you can indeed afford to help your grandchildren pay for college, and if so, the best strategy for your particular situation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.