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November’s Elder Law Items of Interest


Turkey. Done. Pie. Done. Black Friday. Done. Next? December. But first, our review of elder law items of interest from November:

Estate & Tax Planning

The estate tax exemption will take a relatively big jump in 2023. It increases to $12.92 million per person from $12.06 million in 2022. That’s an extra $860,000 to plan with. Here’s how wealthy folks might take advantage of that jump – before the gift limit gets dialed back to a $5 million base in 2026.

A recent study by Ameriprise Financial finds that 80% of respondents have taken some steps to pass their wealth onto the next generation, but many have not discussed their plans with their beneficiaries. Not communicating at least some details can create confusion, delays, and conflict; here are some pitfalls and ways to navigate them. And here are some tips for simply getting the conversation started. If your goal is to preserve peace in the family, there are at least five mistakes to avoid. And if you are a business owner, carefully consider how the business will be handled. If you are child or loved one wanting to have “the talk,” consider this woman’s experience.

Also of interest: Good times to adjust or customize an estate plan include when planning for college for children or grandchildren, after divorce (see horror stories for motivation), and if a child has a disability, plan extensively.

Health & Care

A recent National Poll on Healthy Aging found that more than half of adults age 50–80 (54%) said they have helped an adult age 65 or older with health, personal, or other care tasks in the past two years. The most common care tasks: health care encounters, 33%; home maintenance or improvement, 32%; meals, 31%, and finances, 22%. Nearly all (94%) were unpaid for the help. Though that poll focused on 50+, the number of young caregivers is increasing; 6% of all caregivers in the United States are now Gen Zers, born after 1997.

New research from the RAND Corporation finds that dementia in the United States is declining in people over 65.  In that group, those with the condition dropped from 12% of the population in 2000 to just over 8% in 2016. Women are still more likely to live with dementia than men, but the gender difference has narrowed.  The study also found that education contributed to the overall reduction in dementia. It explained about 40% of the reduction among men and 20% for women.

If a loved one has a dementia diagnosis, consider care planning. Creating a care plan can be done in eight steps. The benefits have proved to be fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits and better medication management.

As usual, there are items of interest that advise us how to reduce dementia risk. In November: lower blood pressure, do crossword puzzles, and get 4,000 steps in per day. But don’t pick your nose or eat ultra processed foods (e.g., baked goods, snack cakes, chips, and candy at the grocery store’s check-out counter. They also include soft drinks, sweet breakfast cereals, ice cream, mass-produced bread, and flavored yogurts).

Rich & Famous

Fans flocked to the auction for the estate of author Joan Didion, which wrapped up November 16. For some it was a pilgrimage of sorts that didn’t sit quite right. As one fan said: “It’s an odd feeling of intrusiveness being here and seeing all these objects, as if I’m walking through her home without her permission. I don’t feel entirely comfortable.” Another writer tackled the event in a first-person account.

The Irving Berlin estate is aiming to keep the songwriter’s work relevant. It has announced an expanded deal with Universal Music Publishing Group to exclusively represent the Irving Berlin catalog worldwide. It includes a sync website, which allows subscribers to explore his music via strategically themed playlists and tagging. Berlin, who wrote classics such as “White Christmas” and “God Bless America,” died in 1989 at 101.

Estates & Courts

The woman whose home was destroyed in the crash that killed Anne Heche is suing the actress’s estate. The complaint alleges negligence, infliction of mental distress and trespassing. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages for loss of the home as well as trauma from witnessing the event.

The parents of Gabby Petito were awarded $3 million from the estate of her boyfriend Brian Laundrie. His estate, however, is worth only about $20,000, so the judgment is largely symbolic and will go to the Gabby Petito Foundation, formed to address domestic violence issues.

Miscellaneous Item of Interest

And here’s one more item of interest that doesn’t fit neatly into a category. Have you ever wondered what would happen if a lottery winner chose an annuity payout but died before all payments were made? Payments do not stop, but what then happens depends on state law. Apparently, some states allow naming beneficiaries, some pay to the winner’s estate, and some allow lump sum payouts. The lump sum option can be important. Estate tax will be due on the entire unpaid winnings, and tax can easily exceed the regular annuity payment. Heirs need the extra coin to pay the taxing authorities.






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