Welcome to the Elderupdates.com blog

I hope to provide you with timely reports on law and changes in law, health, investments, news, and other matters I think will be of interest to you, my clients, friends, colleagues and associates in a quick, readable, enjoyable format. Nelson Mandela’s recent death is recognized and mourned in this, the first issue. A radical who turned to conciliation and lead a peaceful revolution, his name will be long remembered and celebrated. Today CBS reports that the estate tax exemption is being raised to $5,340,000 per person in 2014. Social Security is increasing 1.5% in 2014. The IRS is changing the 501(c)(4) rule, which has been used by political organizations to fund political campaigns, although it was originally intended for use by religious, veterans, and similar groups. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, quoted in The Week, December, 13, 2013. 80% of all health care spending is spent on 10% of the population, according to Daniel Callahan, in The New York Times. A study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that robotic surgery often has no better outcomes than traditional surgeries, even though it has several advantages such as allowing surgeons to work in smaller spaces with less disruption to adjoining tissue. See AARP, December, 2013. In the last few days laws banning gay marriage have been struck down in New Mexico and Utah. America Online, December 20, 2013. The Los Angeles Daily Journal reports that “all legally married gay couples will be able to file joint federal tax returns even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages”. Between 1979 and 2007 the incomes...

CLIENT UPDATE – NOVEMBER, 2013

Veterans should be aware of two little known non-service related programs, the Improved Pension and Aid and Attendance Programs. They can provide additional income for vets below certain income levels, or home care for vets who are over 65 and totally disabled. Social Security is 78 years old this year. When Social Security was passed in 1935 more than half of the elderly lived below the federal poverty line. Today, that number is less than 10%. (Reported by MoveOn.org, 8-14-13). The increase in Social Security benefits will be 1.5% this year. Your first $5.25 million is exempt from estate taxes. This amount doubles for married couples. So most of you can continue to breathe easy – this is one tax you probably won’t have to pay! If you have an internet account, make sure that you have either written the password(s) and codes in your estate planning documents or given them to someone you trust. As more and more activity is done online, this is increasingly important. Books: Two great books I’ve read this year are Bull by the Horns by Sheila Bair (former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), and Liar’s Poker, the story of one man’s adventure into investment banking, by Michael Lewis. The Los Angeles Daily Journal reports that “all legally married gay couples will be able to file joint federal tax returns even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. Beware of non-attorneys who draft legal documents for you cheaply so you can “save money by avoiding attorneys”. Over the years I have come across several cases where such services did anything but save my clients’ money. I remind you that if I have...

Living Trusts as Means to Avoiding Probate

This document is prepared for general distribution to the clients and potential clients of Brian J. Sheppard. The production of copies for anything other than free distribution is prohibited. This document is not intended to provide legal advice to the individual and any individual receiving this document is encouraged to meet with the speaker or another licensed California attorney for the preparation of his, her or their estate plan rather than attempt this on their own, with the assistance of a paralegal or semi-legal organization which does not have an attorney meet with the client and review the documents with the client. A word about the speaker: Brian Sheppard is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Southern California Council of Elder Law Attorneys and the San Fernando Valley Estate Planning Council. He has worked with seniors and their legal issues since 1990. He focuses his practice on Elder Law issues, including Wills & Trusts, Conservatorships and Probate. A word about the talk: The following talk is meant to be a general overview only. For specific questions contact an attorney or the agencies mentioned later in this talk. If you believe you have been a victim of a fraudulent trust sales scheme contact the California Attorney General, at 300 South Spring Street, Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA, or the Estate Planning Fraud Hotline at (888) 460-7364. 1. Correcting some misimpressions about trusts. Many people think they do not need a trust if they have less than $600,000. This is a confusion about the need to probate the property and the “Exemption Equivalent (which until recently was $600,000, was $3.5 million until January 1, 2010, and has now expired). Your heirs can...

Conservatorships

This is a broad overview of conservatorships and the conservatorship process. A conservatorship is a court proceeding to appoint a manager for the financial affairs and personal care of one who is either physically or mentally unable to handle either or both. The court will determine whether it is in the “best interests” of the proposed conservatee to have a conservator appointed. There are two effects of a conservatorship. First, it shifts responsibility for making decisions from the conservatee to conservator. Second, it imposes significant limitations on the ability of the conservatee to take independent actions regarding legal, financial and personal care decisions. In most cases, power of attorney documents and a trust (if the person has real estate or other significant assets), will be enough to allow the agent to act without applying to the court to be appointed conservator. Unfortunately, many people do not bother to have power of attorney documents drafted. There are three types of conservatorship. The first is a Probate Conservatorship. This can enable to conservator to make decisions for the person (i.e. medical care), or the estate (i.e. what the person owns and and income, or both. Another type of conservatorship is a Limited Conservatorship. This type of conservatorship is for adult disabled persons and allows conservator to make personal and financial decisions relating to education, contracts, marriage, social contacts, where the conservatee lives and medical decisions. Finally, an LPS (Lanterman-Petris-Short) conservatorship is for those who present a danger to themselves or others. Only a medical facility can start the process for this type of conservatorship. This talk will focus on probate conservatorships, which are the most common type of conservatorship. 5. Appointment of conservator of the estate is a finding...