“By Failing to Prepare, you Prepare to Fail” - Benjamin Franklin

When it comes to Florida estate planning, many people have heard about probate proceedings. Typically, clients, under the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, structure their estate plans to avoid such proceedings. Many people do not know, however, that even if you successfully prepare to avoid probate in your home state, any property you own outside of your state may be subject to a specific type of probate proceeding called ancillary probate. To help better inform you about this type of probate proceeding, let us share with you a few unexpected issues that can arise when it comes to ancillary probate.

First, many people will recommend that you put another person’s name on your accounts to avoid ancillary probate. Unfortunately, this can cause problems with your potential long-term care benefits and may even affect your relationships. To help avoid this, it is important to plan early and plan well under the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney who knows the laws of your state.

Second, be cautious when using online legal documents. While it may seem appealing to use a cost-efficient online software to create your estate plan, unfortunately, this can give rise to many issues. Did you know, for example, that most online legal documents do not provide adequate asset protection and are likely to subject your estate plan to probate proceedings? We encourage you to consider this when creating your estate plan.

Finally, it is important to know that other states may have more favorable or negative tax treatment than your domicile state. When creating your estate plan, we encourage you to keep this in mind to help keep you and your assets protected. One of the most effective ways to avoid ancillary probate is to discuss your specific circumstances with an experienced estate planning attorney who knows the laws in your state. Further, do not forget to notify your estate planning attorney if you acquire any new property outside of your domicile state or are planning a move in the near future after creating your estate plan.

We know ancillary probate can be a complicated area, and these are just a few unexpected issues that may arise. If you have questions about anything discussed in this article, or if you are ready to start your planning, do not wait to contact us to set up an appointment so we can help you create the right plan for you.

Did you know that elder abuse has become a worldwide epidemic? Research tells us that today one in ten seniors over the age of sixty has suffered from some kind of elder abuse. Chances are that your friends, your aging family members, or even you, have had a personal experience with elder abuse. The question becomes: what can you to help protect yourself and those you love from falling victim to this horrible crime?


Part of the solution comes from education for Florida seniors as well as our local community. In fact, this June 15th, communities around the world are coming together to celebrate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and promote awareness to all. Our goal is to both help raise awareness of this important issue and provide ways you can help prevent harm from occurring. Let us share eight ideas with you right here in our blog.


  1. Don’t talk to strangers. It may sound like a lesson from childhood but it is a good tip for all of us to remember. Do not share your personal information with anyone you do not know.


  1. Double check identities. Similar to not talking to strangers, double check the identity of anyone who contacts you asking for your information. For example, simply because you receive a telephone call from someone saying he or she is from your bank, this does not mean the person actually is. Hang up the phone if you receive a call like this and call your bank directly from a trusted telephone number.


  1. Do your research. If it sounds too good to be true, unfortunately it probably often is. Scammers and others who would harm seniors know what you are interested in and ways to motivate you to take action. Research anything you receive before providing money or personal information.


  1. Know the IRS will not call you. At this time, the IRS does not call people. Many scammers, however, will still call Older Americans and try to scare them into making payment on false IRS tax liens. When in doubt, call the IRS or your accountant directly.


  1. Learn how to report abuse. In Florida, you can click this link to learn how to report abuse. Bear in mind, that you do not have to prove abuse to report it.


  1. Understand the different types of abuse. Not all abuse can be seen, nor is it physical in nature.  Elder abuse can take many forms including emotional and sexual abuse. It may also result from neglect and financial exploitation.


  1. Stay in frequent communication with friends and family. It is never the wrong time to check in on another person. Frequent communication is one of the best ways to not only avoid isolation but ensure that you do not find yourself in a vulnerable or unsupported place in your life. Even if it is just to say hello or share what happened in your week, talk to your family members and friends at least once a week.


  1. Choose your decision makers early. Remember, in a crisis where you are incapacitated and unable to advocate for yourself, no one has the legal authority to act for you. Decide now the person or persons you want to make your financial or health care decisions should you be unable to and talk to your elder law attorney to create an estate plan that reflects your wishes.

Remember, elder abuse of any kind should not be tolerated. If you suspect abuse is occurring, report it to the authorities. We know that this article may raise more questions than it answers and want to help you. Do not wait to contact our law firm on this or any other elder care issue now or in the future.

Every May is both National Older Americans Month and National Elder Law Month. While the former was established in 1963, the latter was created more recently to focus on the elder care needs of seniors and people with disabilities. This is a special time of year to honor and celebrate one of the most important groups in the country, and deservedly so, as older adults are too often overlooked in today’s fast-paced society.

The month-long celebration also involves raising awareness about critical issues facing American seniors. One of the biggest challenges is when Older Americans no longer feel as useful in their advanced age as they did when they were younger. Studies show that health outcomes and quality of life standards diminish significantly when seniors give into their perceived limitations, becoming more isolated and less engaged in the lives of others.

During the month of May we need to make combating this problem a priority by promoting a wide array of opportunities and resources to help older adults rediscover their talents and abilities, as well as putting them to good use. Adult children of senior parents can play a critical role by helping to connect them.

Let us share just some of the available resources National Elder Law Month and National Older Americans Month are bringing together.


Organizations like Create the Good help older adults find volunteer opportunities that match their particular interests. Programs like Senior Corps not only provide opportunities for older volunteers, but it does so by addressing important needs in their own communities, such as tutoring, mentoring, and disaster relief.

Teaching Children to Read

One of the most rewarding ways seniors can stay active is by helping younger people. Experience Corps trains and connects seniors with children who need help learning to read.

Fighting Hunger

Even in our modern, affluent society there are plenty of people who struggle with hunger. Feeding America is a program that puts senior adults in touch with food banks and meal programs to serve the hungry in their local areas.

Training for Paid Work

The U.S. Department of Labor provides a community service employment program for older adults, and the AARP further provides support for seniors who wish to re-enter the workforce or change their careers.

These are just a few of the resources we want to share with you this May. Remember, there is never a wrong time to get involved or find the support you need. Do not wait to reach out to our office for elder care help for you or an Older American in your life.

There are numerous benefits available to Florida senior veterans and their dependents from the Department of Veterans Affairs. From health care benefits and funeral assistance to monies tied to pension and service-connected disability compensation, there are a myriad of benefits available. Unfortunately, many veterans today are only accessing a fraction of the resources that exist to help them and their families live in comfort.

For many, there is a misconception that to access these benefits the veteran must have a service-connected disability. While VA Disability Compensation exists as a “tax free monetary benefit paid to Veterans with disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service,” it is only one benefit available to veterans. It exists to support veterans who were injured during service and “may also be paid for post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service.”

What many do not know, even veterans themselves, is that there are also monthly, tax-free benefits available to wartime veterans and their dependents who were not injured during service.  Perhaps the least used of the monthly benefits available is VA Pension. The VA Pension is a payment made each month to the veteran. It has three levels: basic, homebound, and aid and attendance, and can be received by the veteran, his or her surviving spouse, or dependents, or a combination of qualifying individuals.

For Florida seniors who are veterans, this can be a tremendous benefit available to help them pay for the high costs of long-term care. Unfortunately, there is no automatic qualification to receive this benefit for the veteran and/ or his or her dependents.  To qualify, the first test the veteran must pass is that of having a qualifying service record. The veteran must be able to prove that he or she served for a consecutive 90 days with at least one of those days occurring during a period of war. The veteran must also show that he or she was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

As a veteran, or the loved one of a veteran, the above mentioned` information can be found on the DD Form 214. This is a Certificate of Release or Discharge that outlines details such as the military service dates, assignments, the reason(s) for leaving service as well as the characterization of your discharge. If you need to acquire the DD Form 214, you can obtain one from The National Personnel Records Center using SF Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records.

The rules governing the VA Pension program changed substantially on October 18, 2018.  To qualify now, in addition to the wartime service test, the veteran must also qualify in several more ways. There is now a resource limit established for the veteran’s assets. Prior to this rule change there was no set amount in place. This amount will change annually, with the amount for 2019 being $126,240, less excluded assets that the veteran is allowed to own.

The VA also established with this rule change a thirty-six month “look-back” period. This is a time period, similar to the Florida Medicaid program, during which the Department may review assets to determine if they have been transferred away for less than fair market value. If it is found that a transfer was made during the "look back" period, then a penalty period may be assessed that is commiserate with the gift that was made.

These are just a few examples of how the rules for the VA Pension program have changed. Again, similar to the Florida Medicaid program, we can only expect that the rules will change again in the future as more Americans need assistance, unless the budget for these programs is increased significantly. We encourage you to ask us your questions on this or any other elder care related matter. We are your community law firm here to support you.

Even the most dedicated family caregivers may, at some point, need to make room for paid caregiving services if it is in the best interest of an elder loved one. Needs, goals, and health concerns can change rapidly for both the Florida senior and the family caregiver. While understanding the need for a paid caregiver does not mean the transition will be easy, it may be the right thing to do for you and your family.

Let us share seven tips with you to help you make the best transition possible when it comes to shifting from a family caregiver to a paid one.

1. Learn when to hire a paid caregiver. Two of the main signs that it is time to hire a paid caregiver is when the demands of caring for an elder loved one become too great for the caregiver to manage alone, or when the dynamic is no longer safe.

2. Do not let feelings of guilt stop you. A caregiving transition can induce feelings of failure and guilt, as if a family member is somehow abandoning an elder loved one. Those feelings can be overcome by knowing that you are actually tending to an aging adult’s best interests.

3. Do not allow family conflict to impede care. Clear communication and mature compromise among adult family members is essential. If disputes persist, consult an independent third-party expert, such as an elder care attorney for impartial guidance.

4. A durable power of attorney can help. A durable power of attorney allows for a trusted confidant to make decisions about an aging adult’s long-term care needs, including hiring caregivers and working with long-term care providers.

5. How to find a quality caregiver. One way is to contact a home care agency located near an elder family member, another is to ask family, friends, and associates who have been in similar situations for recommendations.

6. What to look for when hiring a senior caregiver. Make sure a prospective caregiver is appropriately licensed and insured to perform the services you are hiring him or her to do. Even if he or she has all the proper credentials, you will also need to find the right personality fit.

7. Understand how much hiring a caregiver costs. Costs depend on several factors, such as whether you hire a caregiver yourself or through an agency, and what particular services an elder loved one needs.

These are just a few tips to get you started in your transition. We know that this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do not wait to contact our law office and schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns today.

This year, it is my great honor to be able to serve as the president of The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys (“AFELA”). Right now, you may not be familiar with all that AFELA does for Florida residents, but I want you to learn more about this great organization. I would like to take a moment here in my blog to share with you why this group is so important to improving and enriching the lives of Floridians and how you can learn more.

We are a group of experienced attorneys who come together to advocate on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities. AFELA was founded in 1993 and we pride ourselves as being an association of attorneys “who are dedicated to improving the quality of legal services provided to the elderly. Currently, AFELA serves as the pre-eminent organization of Florida elder law attorneys providing advocacy, education, and action on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities.”

Overall, AFELA is the Florida Chapter of The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (“NAELA”). As AFELA shares, “NAELA was founded in 1987 to serve, advocate for, and promote solutions for America’s aging population. At its core, NAELA attorneys work together to better the lives of seniors, individuals with special needs, and their loved ones. Advocacy efforts take place at both the national and state level to better the lives of the individuals we serve. Whether this is through advocating on long-term care issues with the local government, helping families face issues such as incapacity, or planning to address the rapidly changing senior.”

One of my goals as president is to continue to work with my fellow attorneys throughout our state to protect these groups. Elder law continues to be a relatively new concept within the practice of law. As elder law attorneys, we work to anticipate the challenges that our aging population regularly face and to help our seniors and their loved ones plan for the future.

Another one of my goals that I take seriously as president is to further our legislative agenda to protect seniors and people with disabilities. In both the political and grassroots efforts, we work consistently to ensure that our Florida seniors are well represented. To that end, I encourage you to actively participate in what we are doing on social media to share the word and help us as we advocate for you.

Unfortunately, there is a persistent mindset among seniors that they are “too young” to plan and, due to a lack of planning, there is an inability to access benefits before a crisis arises. As I have shared on my website, elder law can be defined as a holistic approach to assisting the elderly with their legal needs. It is something we need to keep at the forefront of our minds and work to educate those around us.

In my practice, we strive to provide our clients with the security and peace of mind that comes from knowing their estate plan is in proper order and that our team of friendly professionals is always ready to help their family in times of need. Whether it is through my presidency or as your attorney here in our local Venice community, my goal is to improve the quality of life for my Florida seniors clients and their loved ones. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions now, or in the future.

“Sandwich Generation” caregivers are adults who provide care for both their elder parents and their children at the same time. Maintaining close ties with younger and older family members can be immensely rewarding, but it can also take a serious toll. The stress of dedicating one’s time, energy and resources to dual caregiving responsibilities, on top of regular personal and professional priorities, can lead to depression, financial hardship and declining health.

This is a massive issue that continues to be pervasive as we enter into a new year. According to the National Caregiving Alliance, almost thirteen million Americans are currently caring for their children and parents. Sandwich adults are typically between the ages of forty and fifty years old, and work full-time.

In addition to often being unpaid, constant multi-tasking can be exhausting for these caregivers. Unfortunately, it may cause all kinds of negative impacts on multi-generational caregivers’ careers, finances and health, among other areas.

With American adults having children later in life, and life expectancy increasing among the elderly, middle-aged sandwich caregivers are likely to increase in size for years to come. Certain statistics are already staggering:

Members of the Sandwich Generation are more likely to struggle to find a healthy work-life balance than non-sandwich adults, for obvious reasons. Allowing for a flexible schedule and enlisting help from family members can be valuable coping strategies.

Most Sandwich Caregivers also do not anticipate their dual care responsibilities until their parents are in advanced age. While understandable, research shows that early planning, especially financial planning, can help alleviate later sandwich pressures.

We know the challenges that you face and we can offer solutions to help, whether you are an Older American living in Florida or a Sandwich Generation caregiver. Do not wait to talk to us and let us help you design a plan that will protect you in the new year, and in years to come.

As the New Year approaches, resolutions to change old habits and achieve new goals abound. Some might set out to work out more, make a job change, spend more time with family or perhaps take a trip someplace they’ve always wanted to go. Another item to put at the top of the list, however, should be updating an estate plan.

It’s recommended to revise and update an estate plan at least every few years, or after a significant life event such as marriage, a death in the family or the birth of a grandchild. Further, you should consider an update if you’ve changed your mind since you last addressed your estate documents. Getting started after the holidays can help you get a jump on the year to come.

One particular reason to update an estate plan is asset protection. This becomes even more important as you age. Using asset protection strategies can help you protect yourself and your loved ones’ income and assets that may need to be spent in the event of a long-term care crisis. Unfortunately, many of the Florida seniors we meet have not taken the time to plan ahead. Planning ahead, often years in advance, is critical to ensure that the most planning options possible are available.

Proactive asset protection planning can provide a variety of safeguards, but they must operate fully within the bounds of the law. Working with your elder law attorney can help you to avoid any potential pitfalls from bad advice or doing it alone. Unfortunately, today, there are many non-attorney long-term care planners who do not understand the legal nuances that can impact your eligibility.

It’s critical to begin asset protection activities before you need long-term care assistance. We understand though that you may not anticipate the need for care and can help you and your family find solutions even if you wait until a time of crisis. Once your assets are secured for your long-term care future, you can then incorporate them into your estate plan. Estate planning tools such as rental property and irrevocable trusts may be ideal planning structures to reach your goals.

Planning early and well can ensure that your spouse, children, and other named beneficiaries may be provided for in the future.  Remember that asset protection is long-term planning. We encourage you to contact us with your questions to get the advice you need both now and in the future.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a wide range of long-term health care services that can help military veterans of all ages manage their daily lives. If you are seeking this type of care for your veteran loved one, it is important to know that it can be costly, and the veteran must demonstrate a clinical need for long-term care support. For example, elder and disabled veterans are considered the primary beneficiaries, but eligibility is more broadly based on the need for ongoing treatment, personal care and assistance, and the availability of services in a given location. Other factors include financial eligibility, service-connected disability status, private insurance coverage, and the ability to pay. There are many factors to consider and financial commitments to be made, which is why we want to share three ways that can help your loved one pay for long-term care services.

First, veterans can pay through a standard VA medical benefits package. To be eligible for this specific package, however, those seeking long-term care support must be enrolled in VA health care before applying. This means that the veteran has already applied for health benefits, and receives care through a VA facility on a regular basis. It is important to consider, however, that simply receiving financial compensation for a VA disability does not automatically enroll a veteran in VA health care.

Medicare is another way to help afford long-term care. The federal health insurance program will help your loved one pay for services in a skilled nursing facility, as well as some in-home health services, as long as your loved one is enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B.

“Original Medicare” may pay for up to 100 days per benefit period for skilled health care after a Medicare-supported hospital stay. The nursing facility must be certified by Medicare and provide services by skilled nursing or rehabilitation staff, such as a nurse or physical therapist. If a veteran’s physician decides they are “home-bound,” meaning their condition keeps them from leaving home without significant effort, then they may be eligible for home health services under Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) and medical coverage (Part B). Medicare Advantage Plans, which are offered through private insurers, provide the same types of benefits, although it is important to note that they may charge copays and have different eligibility standards.

Medicaid is yet another option to consider when it comes to affording long-term care. This federal-state government partnership program offers health coverage for those individuals who have a lower income and can help pay for long-term care services relating to nursing homes, as well as a number of home and community based care services, depending on which state a veteran lives.

We know that understanding insurance, government programs and VA health care eligibility can be complicated. Remember, we are here to help and support you. If we can answer any questions or address any concerns you may have, do not wait to contact our office to schedule a meeting.

More than 55 million Americans are currently enrolled in Medicare. The huge government health insurance program is available for seniors age 65 and older, and it consists of four main parts:

Together, Part A and B are known as “Original Medicare,” because it’s what was originally offered when the program was created under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

Medicare Advantage, or Part C, is an alternative to the mentioned offering. It allows for program enrollees to receive their Medicare benefits through a private health insurance plan. The main benefit is that approved private insurance plans may be able to offer more coverage options or more specific coverage to a certain health care need than Original Medicare.

These offerings, however, do not automatically make the program better. Medicare Advantage also comes with certain costs and coverage considerations that might not be the best fit for many seniors.

At a minimum, every Medicare Advantage plan has to include Part A and B hospital and medical coverage. While Part A is free, Part B includes an out-of-pocket monthly premium of about $134 per month in 2018 based on the senior. Medicare Advantage plans also come with premium costs, and the required Part B monthly premium still applies. This can end up being quite expensive, especially for seniors who are living on fixed incomes and can no longer work.

Moreover, some Medicare Advantage plans have high deductibles, not counting prescription drug costs. Yet another drawback is that Medicare Advantage enrollees are confined to their plan’s provider network, rather than having access to Part A and B doctors and hospitals all over the country. Supplemental coverage, such as Medigap, would provide additional coverage for items not included in a given Part C plan, but is only available for Original Medicare enrollees.

While Medicare Advantage may be great for some, it simply isn’t a good fit for others. The majority of all Medicare beneficiaries select Original Medicare, while about a third opt for Medicare Advantage. The key is to research the right plan for you based on your health needs. Medicare offers many resources to help you do this. You can learn more on the Medicare website, including using the Medicare tool to research plan benefits.

If Medicare Advantage is right for you, you can enroll during your initial seven-month enrollment period beginning three months prior to your 65th birthday month, during Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period from October 15th to December 7th. Bear in mind that next year, Medicare Advantage enrollment period may be changing and you can learn more here.

Do not wait to ask us your questions on Medicare or any issue facing you as a Florida senior. We are here to support you and ensure that you have the education and information you need both now and in the future.

We understand that planning for the end of life, a disability or aging can be complicated and emotional. We are here to help you.

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