Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern

"Deaths from dementia during the summer of 2020 are nearly 20% higher than the number of dementia-related deaths during that time in previous years, and experts don't yet know why."

Close to $61,000 people have died from dementia, a big jump from the usual $50,000 within that period. 

It is not clear why the dementia death tolls have risen, but Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that isolation caused by the pandemic has changed the lives of those battling dementia. 

There is a difference between social distancing and social isolation. Social isolation "leads to a sense of disconnection from the community." Unfortunately, caregivers have been forced to limit visits due to COVID-19. "Social isolation is a risk for poor health outcomes, particularly as people age. And in the U.S., 28% of those over 65 (13.8 million) live alone."

Socially isolated people also have higher rates of dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline and death. 

Further, the job of a caregiver for a family member with dementia is very difficult and the burnout rate is high. The job is difficult under normal circumstances, which makes it even more difficult in the unnerving times we are in now. Caregivers are also having to socially isolate themselves too, which just adds to the burden. 

Also, the access of medical care has been limited for those with dementia. 

One way to fight this awful plague is to understand your patients health goals and do the best you can to adhere to those goals.

See Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern, The Conversation, October 14, 2020.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 21, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Having Dementia Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Vote

VoteEdward Kozlowski, who was born in Chicago 99 years ago, grew up on the farm. He often told his family about how his father walked across Siberia to come to America. 

Mr. Kozlowski enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II where he made four flights over Europe on D-Day. 

Mr. Kozlowski is a registered Republican who has voted in "virtually every election." “In my family, voting was the highest honor of citizenship,” his daughter, Judith Kozlowski, said. “You owed it to your country to vote; that was always the message.”

The right to vote and taking advantage of that right is something that is still important to Mr. Kozlowski, who is a resident of an independent living facility in Maryland. Understandably wary of exposure, Mr. Kozlowski did not want to vote in person,. With the help of his daughter, he was able to request a mail-in-ballot, despite him having dementia.

Although Mr. Kozlowski can become disoriented at times, he watches the news religiously and has tuned in for the presidential and vice-presidential debates. 

Mr. Kozlowski's daughter, Judith, read him the ballot in multiple short-sessions that spanned over several days. Mr. Kozlowski was able to tell his daughter which candidates he wanted to vote for, and that's all it takes. 

Although workers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may believe that dementia disqualifies their citizens from voting and often refuse to assist them, it is simply not true. 

The only thing they need to be able to do, choose their candidate.

However, there are two considerations:

One: the person must express their interest in voting. If they express that they do not want to vote, the process should end there.

Two: If they are unable to read the ballot, you may help them but you cannot provide additional information or interpretation. 

See Paula Span, Having Dementia Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Vote, N.Y. Times, October 14, 2020. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

October 19, 2020 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Healthy Life Insurance Policyowners Can Qualify for Life Settlements

ElderLife settlements are the sale of an unwanted or unaffordable life insurance policy for substantially more than the policy's cash surrender value. These settlements typically benefit seniors by "providing them with resources to help pay for health care costs, medical bills and other needs in retirement." 

Traditionally, for a policy to have value in a life settlement, the insured person would need to be in their mid-to-late 70s and have declined in health since the policy was first issued. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other serious medical conditions were typically needed for the policy to be sold. 

However, now healthy seniors have an option to sell their policies in order to generate income. This income can then be used to invest in retirement plans or pay for healthcare and other future expenses. 

There are three criteria that a healthy senior need to meet in order to qualify for a life settlement:

  1. The policy must be a guaranteed universal life (GUL) policy.
  2. The insured typically must be age 75 or older.
  3. The policy’s death benefit must be at least $250,000.

If a policy owner meets these criteria and they can receive an offer without presented a medical record review or underwriting. 

This provides many benefits. For one, if policy premiums have become too expensive, seniors can receive a life settlement in order to stop paying these premiums. Also, the recent changes in estate tax laws have provided more investment opportunities that seniors can use a life settlement to take advantage of. This would give seniors more control and freedom with their assets. 

See Ted Kilkuskie, Healthy Life Insurance Policyowners Can Qualify for Life Settlements, Think Advisor, October 2, 2020. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 14, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Current Developments in Estate Planning and Business Law: October Review

EstateThe Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2020-68 on September 2, 2020. The Notice provides "guidance in the form of questions and answers regarding several provisions in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act). 

Below are the SECURE Act topics that Notice 2020-68 addresses:

Business Credit 

The Act gives qualified employers that have established an eligible automatic contribution arrangement under an employment plan a business credit equal to $500 per year. Notice 2020-68 provides information on the limitations of this business credit. 

IRA Contribution Age Limit 

"The SECURE Act eliminated the prohibition on individual retirement account (IRA) contributions by individuals after they reach age 70½ that existed under prior law. Notice 2020-68 clarifies that financial institutions are not required to accept contributions after age 70½."

401(k) Participation Part-Time Employees

New amendments have been added to the Act regarding 401(k) participation, which the Notice acknowledges and explains. 

Qualified Birth or Adoption Distributions

Difficulty of Care Payments 

This is just a brief summary of the information that Notice 2020-68 provides. A thorough reading of the SECURE Act and Notice 2020-68 is necessary for attorneys advising clients about retirement planning.

See Current Developments in Estate Planning and Business Law: October Review, Wealth Counsel, October 9, 2020. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 12, 2020 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Actively speaking two languages protects against cognitive impairment

"The prevalence of dementia in places where more than one language is spoken is 50% lower than in regions where the population uses only one language."

Also, "A study has shown that Alzheimer's patients with a higher degree of bilingualism receive a later diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment."

Language is arguably the greatest tool in the world. It is how we communicate, how we express our thoughts and knowledge and it often shapes our perspective. Language is also "a gateway to other cultures..." 

Studies have shown that speaking even just two languages regularly "enhances cognitive reserve" and delays the onset of dementia. 

Prior to these studies, previous work showed that the lifelong use of two or more languages could be a "key factor in increasing cognitive reserve and delaying onset of dementia, as well as offering advantages for memory and executive functions."

Learning and using two languages regularly will not only increase your effectiveness to delve into other cultures and communicate with people from those cultures, it will also provide you with the ability to keep those memories—and others—for much longer.

See Cristina Saez, Actively speaking two languages protects against cognitive impairment, September 17, 2020. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

October 8, 2020 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2020

When to Tune Up Your Estate Plan

EstateIf coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that life is unpredictable and things are constantly changing and evolving. Due to the ever-changing aspects of life, you should update your estate plan as your life situation changes. 

Below are a few life events that may spur a change or at least a review of your estate plan:

  • Changes in Federal laws. 
    • have changes already occurred
    • Are they expected to change?
  • Marital status
  • Children, grandchildren, & dependents
    • Have you had children or have your children had children?
    • You may need to add or remove beneficiaries based on the children being born or even dying. 
    • You must also consider college funds and other accounts similar in nature. 
  • Changes in assets and ownership 
    • Have you acquired new properties?
    • New or old businesses? 
  • Gifts and Donations
  • Home and Health 
  • Executors, Guardians, and Powers of Attorney 

See Alicia Lowe, When to Tune Up Your Estate Plan, Schwabe, Williamson, & Wyatt, September 22, 2020. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 5, 2020 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2020

The art of leaving a legible financial footprint

Estate-Planning-1560x1040Estate and tax attorney Tom O'Rourke discussed common misconceptions in regard to estate planning on Mike Causey's show a few days ago. Those common misconceptions are listed below:

 

  1. I am not rich so I don't need an estate plan
  2. Everybody knows what I want, so why do I need a will?
  3. Minimizing taxes is one of the most important goals in developing an estate plan. 
  4. I should leave everything to my children in equal shares. 
  5. My spouse and I have been separated for many years, but haven't bothered to get a divorce. I am not going to leave him/her anything. 
  6. My significant other and I have been living together for many years and I want him/her to inherit everything I have. 
  7. I have a simple will that takes care of all my concerns and that is all I need. 
  8. I have got a trust and that takes care of everything. 

Tom O' Rourke also provided an estate planning checklist that will help deal with these concerns, especially in the "Time of the Pandemic." 

  1. Review your will or trust to make sure it remains consistent with your wishes.
  2. Check your medical directive and financial powers of attorney to insure that they remain consistent with your wishes.
  3. Review your beneficiary designations.
  4. What about your pets?
  5. Do you have specific wishes for a funeral and burial?”

See Mike Causey, The art of leaving a legible financial footprint, Federal News Network, September 29, 2020.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 2, 2020 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

In Isolating Times, Can Robo-Pets Provide Comfort?

GrannyDue to the pandemic, many seniors have been cut off from their friends and family, and have been forced into isolation—alone. 

Charlene Spangler, who lives in a dementia care facility in California, told her daughter that she wanted a dog for her 92nd birthday. At one time she had a family dog named "Wolfgang" but because of her dementia, had a hard time recalling his death.

Charlene's daughter, Linda, used to visit her every other day in which she would push her around in a wheelchair to watch the ducks and pet dogs. 

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, most of the activities that Charlene used to enjoy have been stripped away. Charlene and Linda are forced to communicate through video calls. 

Linda knew that she could not get her mother a dog, but she thought of an alternative. Linda had heard about robotic pets and decided to look them up. 

Linda decided to get her mom a fluffy robotic puppy, who Charlene named Dumbo. 

Apparently, COVID-19 has created a pique in interest of these robotic animals. Public money is even being used to purchase them. These robotic pets are not cheap, but due to the FDA referring to these robots as "biofeedback devices", Medicare will cover the expenses of the robot. 

Studies have shown that these fluffy robotic pets have decreased stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, depression, and more.

See Paula Span, In Isolating Times, Can Robo-Pets Provide Comfort?, N.Y. Times, September 27, 2020. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 30, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous III

CelebrityWe tend to look at celebrities like they are supernatural, even immortal, which is probably why we are often shocked and confused when one of our favorite celebrities pass on. The truth is, like us, celebrities are normal people and like us, they often neglect estate planning. This is the truth despite the amount of attorneys and other representatives they have on their team. 

Discussed below are a couple of celebrity stories that will hopefully teach you a useful lesson on the importance of estate planning and the risks of avoiding the issue. 

Johnny Hallyday

You may know Hallyday as the "French Elvis." Hallyday died of lung cancer in December of 2017 at the age of 74. At the time of his death, Hallyday was married to his fourth wife when he passed and had adopted children as well as natural born children. 

Hallyday died with estate planning documents that had been executed in California that left his estate to Laeticia, his fourth wife and their two children upon her death. Hallyday's natural born children opposed this estate plan in French court arguing that French law should apply to Hallyday's estate. In 2019, a French court agreed with Hallyday's natural born children, finding that forced heirship applied. 

The lesson from this story is to make sure that your client knows exactly what they want and the emotional and financial battles that can result from certain estate planning decisions. 

In a like Hallyday's where the client may be able to choose their domicile, you will want to make sure you are clear as to which law will govern the estate. 

Stan Lee

Stan Lee is one of the creative minds behind Marvel. Lee died at the age of 95 in November of 2018. Despite his fame and contribution to the world, Lee was also subject to "predators who seek to take advantage of the elderly." Lee's estate was estimated at $80 million when he died. He was only survived by a daughter. 

After Lee's wife passed on, Lee was left without stable care and security. This lead to a battle between Lee's daughter and other people that had snaked their way into Lee's life. Lee realized that he had multiple people trying to manipulate him and steal his money and was forced to send out a "cry for help" in an affidavit. Luckily, one of these aforementioned snakes was arrested following an investigation by the Los Angeles Police. 

Lee had to spend his last months on this Earth protecting himself from elder abuse. If someone would do that to Stan Lee, you can bet your bottom dollar that they would do it to you too.

 

There are many, many more celebrity stories that shed light on the importance of estate planning and the risks associated with failing to do so. For more, 

See Jessica Galligan Goldsmith et al., Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous III, American Bar Association: Probate and Property, September/October 2020. 

September 29, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 19, 2020

How to Divide Up Personal Possessions Without Dividing the Family

EstateWhen creating an estate plan, allocating and dividing your assets can be very difficult. You are more than likely trying to figure out how to allocate your possessions in a way that will not create tension between your family members after you are gone. When creating your estate plan, it is very important that you make your intentions clear and have your estate planning strategy in line with those intentions. 

Although possession that can be turned into cash are easy to divide, tangible things like jewelry and heirlooms will not be as easy to divvy up. You may also have items that hold sentimental value that multiple family members are hoping to get their hands on. The family fights are likely to be centered around these types of objects. 

It will likely be a tough decision, but whoever you decide to give these items to, you should make it very clear who you choose and why you have chosen them. 

Below are a few steps to help you along the way:

  • List the most important or valuable items in your will
  • Direct that certain items be sold
  • Write a memorandum 
  • Give everything away now
  • Get an appraisal
  • Use a letter 
  • Bidding 

If you make these decisions instead of leaving them in the hands of your family, the process will be much smoother.

See Randy M. Lish, How to Divide Up Personal Possessions Without Dividing the Family, Elder Law News, September 18, 2020.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 19, 2020 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)