Three important legal documents that every adult should have are a will, a living trust, and a living will.  Each document defines your decisions for the different areas of your estate and will save your loved ones time, money and stress when you are gone.  These documents are easy to draw up, or you could have a lawyer prepare the documents for a nominal fee.

A WILL dictates how your estate and property is to be distributed after your death and can also designate guardians for children and self should you become incapable or pass away. A regular will must pass through probate court in most states before your estate can be passed on to your heirs. Most state laws do not require that you use a lawyer to prepare your will; you can use a will kit at home.  Probate court can take some time if there are any disputes, so make sure your wishes are clear when writing your will. A LIVING WILL defines your wish to be kept or not kept alive by artificial life support in the event of terminal illness or injury. A living will also give you the ability to set limits on your hospital, medical and funeral costs that can easily drain your estate and leave your loved ones with the bills. If you express your wishes beforehand, it will make the process much less stressful for those involved in your care and the execution of your final wishes. A LIVING TRUST is quite similar to a regular will, but they are different at the core.  Unlike a regular will that cannot be changed after it is written, a living trust can be amended at any time.  A living trust takes effect while you are alive, whereas a will takes effect after you pass. You can put property into your living trust at any time before your death and afterward your estate goes directly to your heirs without passing through probate court. If you ever change your mind about the definitions of your will, you can change or revoke how your estate will be divided at any time by using a living trust. A living trust will also save money and time later on because your loved ones won’t have to go through probate first.
With everything going on in December, taxes are the last thing we want to think about. But this is a crucial time if you’re looking to save some money when you send in returns in a few months. You probably already know to make sure you’ve used up your flexible spending account or to contribute to your IRA, but here are a few other things you can do during the year-end crunch.
  • Decide whether or not you (or your parents) will itemize deductions. Run the numbers to decide whether you’re better off taking the standard deduction (which is $5,950 for single filers or $11,900 for those who are married filing jointly). If you are going to itemize, look for opportunities to increase the amount of deductions before the year is over, since all deductions will lower your tax bill. For example, if you make a larger-than-usual donation to charity you’ll reap extra benefits. This may motivate you to do a little holiday cleaning, and take unused clothing or furniture to The Salvation Army or Goodwill. These organizations will provide you with a receipt, and you’ll be able to claim the item’s fair value as a deduction.
  • Make large gifts now. If you or your parents want to give someone a large cash gift, write the check and make sure it’s cashed before January 1. You can give as much as $13,000 to an individual without being required to pay gift tax.
  • Make an extra house payment. Here’s a trick for maximizing your deductions if you’ll be itemizing next year. Make your January mortgage payment early. As long as you mail it by December 31, the payment will qualify for this tax year.
  • Review medical expenses. How much have you and your parents paid for medical care out-of-pocket? If your medical expenses are greater than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct them on your tax return. If you are close, you may be able to find ways to get care or purchase supplies that will put you over the edge.
  • Consider claiming your parent as a dependent. If you pay more than 50% of your parent’s expenses, and their gross income is less than  $3,800 (not counting disability payments, tax-exempt income, or Social Security), you can claim them as a dependent. Again, if you’re just shy of qualifying, see if you can make up the gaps in the last few weeks of the year.
As always, be sure to check with your accountant before taking any of these steps.
using life insurance to pay for assisted livingWhen thinking about how to pay for assisted living, one option that seniors and their caregivers forget about is the ability to turn any active life insurance policy into a long-term care benefit plan. This little-known option has actually been in existence for decades, but few people take advantage of it. Once a person reaches old age, life insurance is nice to have but not crucial, as more often than not they don’t have any dependents. However, long-term care is a major expense at this point in time. This option gives seniors the flexibility to use this investment for needs that are more pressing. The benefit can be used with any type of life insurance policy: term, whole, or universal. In some ways, this benefit is similar to regular long-term care insurance (though the two are not exactly the same).  Once the life insurance policy is converted, ownership of the policy shifts from the policyholder to a benefits administrator entity. The benefits administrator takes over responsibility for paying the monthly premiums on the policy. An account is set up from which the benefits administrator pays a specific amount, based on the value of the policy, towards the original policyholder’s long-term care needs. Often the monthly payment is flexible – for example, if the value of your policy is $24,000, you might be able to choose to receive $2,000 per month for 12 months, or $1,000 per month for 24 months. It may not be a large enough amount to pay the full assisted living bill, but it can yield a significant monthly sum that will go a long way towards defraying costs. In many cases, the long-term care benefit is worth much more than the cash the policyholder would get by simply surrendering the policy. Taking this option doesn’t mean completely forgoing the benefits of life insurance. You are often able to keep a small funeral benefit worth around one or two thousand dollars. There are several reasons why this route may NOT work for you. For example, if you have a small policy of $10,000 or less, you’ll likely find that it’s better to choose the cash surrender value or simply keep the life insurance. Also, in some cases the cash surrender value may be larger than the long-term care benefit. Finally, in order to use this option you must have an immediate need for some form of approved long-term care. Payments are made directly to the long-term care provider, not to you. If this seems like a possible option for you or your loved one, speak with a financial advisor who specializes in helping seniors.
selling home when your parent has Alzheimer'sWhen it comes time for a senior to move into assisted living, one of the most important items on the to-do list is to sell the person’s home. Often, the money from the sale is needed to pay for necessary care. It has to be done, but there’s a catch: only a homeowner can legally sell their home. If Alzheimer’s has already incapacitated the person, then getting this task done becomes difficult. Basically, you cannot act if you do not have power of attorney. Hopefully, your parent was organized enough to assign this power to a family member or other trusted person while they still had the capability to make these important decisions. But all too often, this step has been postponed, and now that the parent has lost capacity to make decisions, it’s too late. The caregiver’s only option now is to apply for guardianship of their loved one through the legal system. However, be forewarned that the process of obtaining guardianship is expensive and draining. For one thing, the court will need to award you the right to complete every step of the process. You need to have permission to sell the home, you need to get court approval of the sale price, and then you need to have permission to use the proceeds to pay for senior care. Getting these rulings made will take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months, which seems to be a long time to wait when the money is needed now. The first step is to find a buyer who’s interested in the house, and then get them to sign a contract. The contract must state that the sale is conditional upon court approval. You can then file this document with the court and wait for them to review it and approve the terms of the sale. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for buyers to decide that this extra step is too much trouble. If they can find a house they like just as much without restrictions like this, they may decide to walk away from the deal. The process isn’t necessarily any easier even if the caregiver has power of attorney. Sometimes the title company puts up obstacles and challenges the validity of the agreement between the senior and the caregiver. They may want your parent to still sign something to approve the sale, or they may want to meet with them to confirm that they are incapacitated. In the end, the takeaway message is that selling a parent’s home is complicated, and you should be prepared for a lengthy and challenging process. Your best course of action is to find a lawyer specializing in elder law, who will be able to guide you through the process in the most painless way possible.
Free memory care ebookAre you searching for a memory care facility for your loved one, but aren’t sure where to start? Our new complimentary ebook, How to Choose a Memory Care Facility for Your Loved One, is a thorough resource that tells you everything you need to consider when making this important decision. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are challenging conditions, both for patients and for their families. There comes a point when the care mom or dad needs goes beyond what adult children can provide on their own. It’s at this stage that families begin to seek out a place where their loved one can not only have their care needs met, but hopefully thrive as well. This guide covers the following:
  • What to look for regarding a facility’s environment, safety, staffing, quality of care, and policies.
  • A checklist of important details that can help you distinguish high-quality care homes from the rest.
  • How to identify signs that a facility has serious underlying problems.
  • Types of facilities that have dedicated staff and highly personalized care.
  • Important considerations when evaluating the cost of memory care.
This ebook is a free resource provided courtesy of Raya’s Paradise. We encourage you to share it with anyone you know who is looking for a memory care facility for a loved one. Click here to access the book in PDF format. For the best quality, we recommend that you download the file to your computer, rather than reading it in your browser.  
Board care for elderly can lead to financial mistakes during retirement.

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While some people work and save for years so they can have a very comfortable lifestyle during their retirement years, others find  keeping their retirement nest egg intact to be a challenge. A 2010 survey conducted by Wells Fargo Bank revealed that more than a quarter of the American population has concerns about their finances for retirement. Thus, we’ve put together a short list of common financial blunders to avoid when you’re working to protect your valuable assets. Have a Clear Understanding of Medicare and Medicaid: While Medicare is a very valuable healthcare management program, many retirees do not have the best handle on what is – and is not – covered by Medicare. One of the most financially devastating challenges to your financial health in retirement years is the need to enter an assisted living facility. While Medicare does, in most instances, cover a short-term stay in a rehabilitation center, Medicare will not cover a long stay in assisted living since assisted living is not medical care. Unlike Medicare, the federally funded Medicaid program will cover long term care, but Medicaid is a program designed for seniors who have exhausted all their assets (for a considerable period of time) and is generally considered an absolute last resort option. Many assisted living facilities do not accept Medicaid. Make no mistake – just one serious health challenge faced in the absence of a long term care plan can wipe out years of financial planning. It can also leave you with little options should you face a second, or third, health challenge. If you do not have a long-term care plan, or if yours is not comprehensive enough, start planning for that rainy day now. Beware of Con Men: Today’s seniors grew up in a world that was more trusting and more caring. However, that innocence, along with the availability of funds and assets, makes them a huge target for the unscrupulous (to the tune of $2.6 billion annually). A good rule of thumb: if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Estate Planning 101: Most individuals recognize the importance of having a will in place to leave their assets to the beneficiaries they hold dear. However, wills are not a set-it-and-forget-it type of document, and depending on when the will was initially drafted, it may have to be amended more than once. Pay attention to major life changes you experience, such as divorce, the death of a beneficiary, a birth in your family, or adoption. Note: if your will’s executor passes away, run (don’t walk) to have a new one appointed. The general rule of thumb is to review and update your estate plan portfolio at least once a year (with, of course, revisions done in between when there’s a major change). Doing so will help you notice when your documents have become outdated. Enlist the Help of Professional Estate Planners: While most family members mean well, the fact is that retirement planning is a specialized field best handled by professionals. Unless you have a family member who is both trained and experienced in this field, not just dibble-dabbling and reading market trends, it is best to maintain a relationship with a trusted advisor. Having the input from family members is fine, but before acting on their opinions, be sure your financial planner agrees.
Our Los Angeles assisted living facilities are ready for any emergency.

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No matter where your loved one’s assisted living facility is located, there’s the chance of a natural disaster. Federal and state laws require that assisted living facilities have a comprehensive disaster plan in writing. Yet, you should not take it for granted that every facility will have an effective plan in place. When interviewing facilities, try to gain a clear understanding of their disaster plan and their capability to carry out that plan. First, ask the management if you can review the facility’s disaster plan yourself. If they seem reluctant to grant this request, that by itself is a red flag. You may not be an emergency preparedness expert, but start by using your basic knowledge and common sense to evaluate the plan. Is something obvious missing? Take yourself through a disaster scenario in your mind. Can you spot potential problems? Ideally, when reading through you’ll have the impression that they’ve thought of everything. Asking to see disaster plans at several different facilities will help you start to recognize which plans are better designed. Evaluate the comprehensiveness of the plan. Does it cover all reasonable possibilities? Any true potential threats should be addressed in this plan. For example: here in California we are not overly concerned about hurricanes, but you would definitely want an assisted living facility to have a plan for earthquakes. Some of the questions you should ask the facility manager or director are:  
  • Does the facility cover these plans with the residents and the staff on a frequent schedule? There should be regular reviews and drills that involve both the residents and the staff. What kind of emergency training do staff members have?
  •  Is someone who is well-versed in the plan and capable of leading staff in carrying it out on site at all times?  Is there a plan to increase staff during a disaster? The number of people necessary to support a facility on a day to day basis may be insufficient during an emergency situation.
  • Are there disaster kits on site? If so, what is included in these kits and how will they be distributed and used in the event of a disaster? A facility should have disaster kits on hand that provide each person with canned food and water for one week. The kit should also contain candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, and first aid and sanitation supplies.
  • Even during an emergency, residents need to continue following their care plans. Ask the facility about their ability to continue without interruption during a disaster. Care plans should be easily accessible.
  • How will essential medications be dispensed during and after a disaster? You will want to be sure your loved one can get their medication during disasters.
  • Is there a plan for how to notify family members in an emergency?
  • How often is the plan updated?
The websites for FEMA and The American Red Cross can provide you with more information about specific types of disasters and improve your ability to evaluate a facility’s preparedness.    
Board care for elderly may require selling a home.

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When they decide to make the move to assisted living, for many seniors selling their home makes a lot of sense. They have likely accumulated a great deal of equity during their ownership, and now no longer need this residence since they’ll be living somewhere else. But selling a house in today’s market is often a challenge. Below are some tips on how to make this process easier, so that you can more quickly move on to a new stage of your life. Keep Tabs on Your Agent’s Work While you will probably hire a real estate agent to sell and show your home, it doesn’t mean this agent will necessarily do a good job. So after they’ve listed your home, go online and see if potential buyers can find it easily, going back to check again on a weekly basis. See what pictures have been posted and if you agree with the description of the home itself. Tell your agent to change it if you don’t. They work for you. Post a Love Letter on YouTube The video sharing site can work to your advantage when selling your home, as you may have lived in it for decades and can talk candidly about why it is such a great place. Have a family member video tape you or do it yourself and show your home from a very intimate perspective. This will be helpful to your real estate agent and to prospective buyers when they are trying to make a decision. Make Necessary Inside Fixes All those little maintenance issues will need to be fixed. New paint, appliance repairs, light switches – tackle the things you have been putting off for years because you can live with them. Your home needs to be in the best shape possible for buyers, much like a car needs to be perfectly clean and waxed before you sell it. These improvements can always be folded into the overall sales price – and may even raise the value of your home beyond their cost. Up the Curb Appeal First impressions go a long way. So just as repainting and doing small bits of maintenance around the house are helpful for the resale value, so is the exterior landscaping. Have a good yard crew come in and mow the lawn, plant a flower garden, and trim the trees so when that eager new family shows up to buy their first home, your place will charm them as much as any they have seen. Know the Right Price Learn what other homes similar to yours are selling for in your area and have a good idea of your property’s worth. Pricing a home too high will just waste time and money and add stress; however, pricing too low will just leave money on the table. Do your research with the help of a real estate agent and make sure you price your home in exactly the right range so that it will sell quickly, but not cheaply.  
Our Los Angeles Dementia care makes our residents feel loved and at home.The desire to stay in your own home and remain independent as long as possible is a strong one. Unfortunately, as we get older we eventually reach a point where this is no longer viable or safe. How can you convince a parent that it’s time to make a move to assisted living, where they can get the support they need, and help them see the transition as a positive one? Here are several tips for having this difficult conversation. Enlist the help of a medical professional. If your parent is like most of us, he or she will have a sense of pride regarding the ability to care for him or herself. This is completely natural, and the idea that one can no longer do this is a severe blow. It is for this reason that seeking the opinion of their doctor or another healthcare provider they trust can help to add weight to your suggestions when discussing the potential move to an assisted living facility. Avoid potentially condescending sympathy. It is important to realize that, despite any health complications that your parent may be experiencing, your sympathy is not what’s needed at this moment. Of course, it is always nice to have compassion for your parent. Yet discussing the move to an assisted living facility can elicit feelings of powerlessness, and providing heaping doses of sympathy could make matters worse. Approach your parent with respect. Treat your parent as an independent person capable of making decisions and deserving of the same respect and considerations as anyone else. There are some situations where maintaining this tone could prove challenging. Diseases such as dementia can greatly impair your parent’s ability to process and understand what is happening, and may force you to take on a more guardian-like role in such cases. The underlying idea that you can still treat your parent with respect and value his or her preferences still applies more than ever. Emphasize safety. The number one priority and guiding factor in all discussions and arrangements surrounding a parent’s move to an assisted living facility should be their health and well-being. The more that you can bring this point into focus, the better the transition process will likely be. If, for example, your parent has fallen several times while unsupervised, resulting in hospital stays and broken bones, reminding them of this in a gentle and understanding manner may help them see the logic in making this transition. Above all, listen. Listening may be all you need to do to help your parent accept the idea of assisted living. It’s very possible that he or she will want to make the move, yet also feels a need to express all of his or her resentments and worries about doing so. By listening, you will help your parent feel more understood and will also help make him or her more receptive to your own feedback. There is no simple and easy way to discuss assisted living care with a parent. The process can, however, be an opportunity for you two to grow closer as you share your thoughts and feelings about the matter in an open and non-judgmental atmosphere.
Our LA home for the aging provides affordable care.

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Paying for assisted living is a significant financial commitment that most seniors and their families must plan for carefully. But good news! Many of the expenses of assisted living residents are tax deductible. Such deductions can help add more flexibility to the budget and free up funds that otherwise would have gone elsewhere. A major way to find tax savings is to deduct your medical expenses. Three conditions need to be satisfied in order to get the greatest possible deduction for assisted living expenses:
  • The individual must qualify as being “chronically ill.” The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 defines this as needing assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating, etc…) or requiring continual supervision at all hours of the day.
  • Second, the ratio of the adjusted gross income of the person paying for care to the total amount of medical expenses must be greater than 7.5%.
  • Finally, the resident’s care plan must be in accordance with the recommendations of a licensed health care provider (for example, a doctor, nurse, or social worker). Most assisted living facilities will automatically provide this and residents and their families will have official documentation that meets this requirement.
If these three items apply to you, you may be able to deduct all your assisted living costs, even those related to room and board. Even if you do not qualify as chronically ill, the portion of your assisted living fees related to medical care can still be deducted, as long as total medical expenses are greater than 7.5%. Your assisted living facility should be able to provide you with information on what part of your fees are related to medical care. All documentation related to tax deductions, whether relating directly to medical expenses or otherwise, requires meticulous record keeping. This means that you will need to be diligent about itemizing every single medical expense that you believe is eligible. Obviously, fees for appointments and prescriptions are part of this, but you can also deduct less-obvious health-related costs such as eye glasses, dentures, canes and walkers, transportation to appointments, etc… If you pay premiums for long-term care insurance, these are deductible as well. However, you cannot deduct the portion of your assisted living fees paid for by your long-term care insurance. For more information about the tax implications of being an assisted living resident, consult with your accountant to learn how the options apply to your specific situation. Your accountant can also help you identify additional tax credits that you may qualify for, as well as guide you with similar deductions for your state tax return.