Drafting a will is perhaps the last thing you ever want to do. Sadly, for some people it’s the one thing that never happens, and once you have passed on it’s too late to go back and dictate how you want your estate divided. The one thing to note about last wills and testaments is that they aren’t just for rich people. If you have property and assets, you need to determine how what you leave behind is dispersed after your death. Otherwise, your property could be sold or seized to satisfy debts, or people will file lawsuits to obtain your things.Even if you have only a few thousand dollars in the bank, a will lets people know what you want done with the money after you’re gone. Having a will protects your spouse and children from unnecessary legal hassles. Once you have decided to draft one, you should consider hiring a lawyer to assist you. While you might think it’s easier to go to your office supply store and purchase the twenty-dollar template, you still need to handle the legal filing of the will. An attorney can assist you through the process.So now you need a lawyer who specializes in estate law, now what? There are a number of ways you can find the right person for the job. Here are four tips to get you started.1) Ask for referrals. Ask people you trust to recommend a good attorney to consult. You may wish to speak with your employer or a friend with contacts in the legal community where you live. If a trusted family member has mentioned drafting a will, find out who helped them. Talking about wills may not make you comfortable, but once it’s out in the open you’ll have an easier time finding somebody.2) Check regional legal directories. In print and on the Internet, there are places where you’ll find contact information for the best lawyers in your city. Many are associated with various “who’s who” organizations to help you find what you need.3) Search firm websites. Hit up a search engine for an estate planning lawyer near you. It’s more uncommon these days for a lawyer not to have a website, so browse the first few pages of search results until you find a compatible match.4) Use social media. If you have a question about any type of business, people are willing to opine online. Internet local search leaves room for people to discuss their experiences, and you can put out the question of finding a lawyer to Twitter and receive leads. Put out a call on Facebook, too, and see what your friends suggest.Drafting a will is one of the most important things you will do in your life. Take care to make your passing as stress-free as possible for your survivors and hire a lawyer to assist with your final wishes.
How common are elder care lawsuits these days? Would it surprise you that there are more pending lawsuits for elder care facilities and their employees than there are care facilities by a factor of three? Obviously, there is a real problem here and it is also apparent that not all these lawsuits are legit, worse each of these lawsuits adds to the cost of care, and that means we all pay as taxpayers and again if we ever need care or have family members in or ready to enter such facilities.It’s a huge problem, and it is just one more example how our health care industry is out of whack and broken. Can this problem be fixed? Well, all attempts to modify the laws for elder care caused increased regulations, more fines, more fees, more on-going education, more restrictions, and more lawsuits. All this hurts care, not help it.Some of the restrictions now are so extreme that it is hard to make exceptions for special cases, and in reality isn’t every case special? Don’t we care anymore for our elderly, don’t we want care professionals to be able to make exceptions as needed based on common sense?We have seen costs, which were already somewhat excessive in the industry increase by at least 400% in the last five years alone for these companies giving care. Insurance is up, compliance is up, legal costs are up, and training is up. All the while there are a shortage of nurses. Please consider all this.
How bad is the problem of elder abuse and law violations in America’s assisted living facilities? Well, it’s not as bad as many of the scary reports from 60-minutes and made for TV expose shows seem to indicate. Still, as well run as most of these facilities are, there are indeed, still questionable outfits running substandard locations.According to a Forbes Magazine Article; “The Old Folks Home; Assisted living centers are a fine way to care for the aged, but finding a good one isn’t a snap. Here’s how to look,” published on December 12, 2005 and written by Mark Tatge; it was noted that there is still quite a bit of crime against seniors out there, much of which goes unreported. There were numerous examples in the article of jewelry, credit cards, and valuable belongings being stolen from elderly assisted living residents.Sometimes the culprits are caught, but it is not as often as one might assume. Further, there have been numerous examples of physical abuse in such places. Luckily, most assisted living facilities are indeed honest and hire the best help and nurses, but you have to check to best help prevent this happening to your older relatives.There have been numerous studies and research done by the GAO, A-A-R-P, Office of Healthcare Management Services, Veteran’s Administration, American Bar Association and many non-profit groups that seem to indicate that only about 75 to 80% of these facilities are safe, and up to standards. One lawyer recently confided in me that most of the complaints filed are not legitimate, but many are, and abuse still happens.
What long-term care benefits are available to veterans and their surviving spouses? Long-term care costs can add up quickly. For veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans who need in-home care or are in an assisted living facility or nursing home, help may be available. The Veterans Administration has an underused pension benefit called Aid and Attendance that provides money to those who need assistance performing everyday tasks. Even veterans whose income is above the legal limit for a VA pension may qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit if they have large medical expenses for which they do not receive reimbursement.Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit, which means it is available to veterans who served at least 90 days, with at least one day during war time. The veteran does not have to have service related disabilities to qualify. Veterans or surviving spouses are eligible if they require the aid of another person to perform an everyday action, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, or going to the bathroom. This includes individuals who are bedridden, blind, or residing in an assisted living facility or nursing home.To qualify the veteran must have less than $80,000 in assets, excluding the home and vehicle. In addition, the veteran’s income must be less than the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, which for a single veteran is $19,736; $23,396 for a veteran with one dependent; $12,681 for a single surviving spouse; and $15,128 for a surviving spouse with one dependent.Income does not include welfare benefits or Supplemental Security Income. It also does not include unreimbursed medical expenses actually paid by the veteran or a member of his or her family. This can include Medicare, Medigap or Medicare supplement plans, and long-term care insurance premiums; over-the-counter medications taken at a doctor’s recommendation; long-term care costs, such as assisted living or nursing home fees; the cost of an in-home attendant that provides some medical or nursing services; and the cost of an assisted living facility. These expenses must be unreimbursed, in other words, insurance must not pay the expenses. The expenses should also be recurring, meaning that they should occur every month.How does the Aid and Attendance benefit work? Let me give you an example. The amount a person receives depends on his or her income. The VA pays the difference between the veteran’s income and the Maximum Annual Pension Rate. John, a single veteran, has income from Social Security of $16,500 a year and a pension of $12,000 a year, so his total income is $28,500 a year. He pays $20,000 a year for home health care, $1,156.80 a year for Medicare, and $1,788 a year for supplemental insurance, so his total medical expenses are $22,944.80. Subtracting his medical expenses from his income, $28,500 – $22,944.80, John’s countable income is $5,555.20. John could qualify for $14,180.80, which is $19,736 – $5,555.20, in Aid and Attendance benefits.What are the benefits of pre-arranging your funeral plans? Most people avoid planning for their funerals and instead leave the decisions to their loved ones. Unfortunately, due to emotional duress, waiting to make those decisions until immediately after death can be unnecessarily expensive. According to the Federal Trade Commission consumer guide for funerals, funeral and burial costs can easily exceed $10,000.Most consumers have no problem haggling over the price of a new car, but never think about negotiating the price of a funeral. Compounding the problem is the feeling that the price spent is reflective of their feelings for the deceased. To help resolve these issues, an increasing number of people are planning their own funerals. It is important to investigate the options and not let yourself be pressured into buying goods or services you do not want. You must learn to be an informed consumer.Shopping around for funeral services can save you thousands of dollars. Do not assume that a funeral will cost the same no matter where you go. By federal law the funeral provider must give consumers a general price list of all goods and services. Typically included would be costs for the initial conference, consultations, paperwork and overhead. This is known as the basic services fee and is added to the cost of the funeral. There is a wide variation in the pricing of the basic services fee. The price list should include costs for transportation of the body, care of the body, including embalming, and use of the funeral home for viewing, wake, visitation and funeral or memorial ceremony. It should also include alternative arrangements such as cremation and optional services such as flowers, use of the limousine and a casket. It is recommended that you obtain price lists from at least three funeral homes before making a selection.You may wish to make arrangements in advance, but not pay for the services in advance. Keep in mind that prices will change over time. You can make your preferences known by writing it down and by including it in your letter of last instructions. Remember to give copies to your family members and your attorney, as well as keeping a copy in a convenient and accessible location.Make sure the funeral home is licensed and has a good reputation in the community. The National Funeral Director’s Association suggests that you call and speak with the funeral director to determine their professionalism and to make sure you are comfortable with them.
Scenario: Margaret and Susan are home for the holidays visiting their elderly father. They discover that while he is still managing to take care of himself personally that his vision is beginning to fail. His checking account is overdrawn and he has money missing from his savings account where he has paid someone to make repairs on the house that were never completed. Further investigation reveals that he has not paid his utilities for several months but thinks everything is current. After talking with one of his close friends, they have reason to believe he is no longer able to handle his financial affairs. What do they do?The father did not execute a durable power attorney that would allow his daughters to take over his affairs. Their only recourse is to file a petition with the court and ask that the court determine that their father is no longer competent to handle his financial affairs and request that one or both of them be appointed guardian of their father’s property. This would require:• Hiring an attorney to draft the petition and file for guardianship with the court;
• Paying the appropriate filing fees;
• Notifying parties in interest;
• Appointing of a Guardian at Litem in most states to represent the interest of the father;
• Medical evaluation of the father to determine his mental and physical condition; and
• A hearing before the Court to rule on the question of guardianship.Filing a guardianship petition with the Court can be an expensive and time-consuming affair. The only way to avoid this when dealing with elderly parents is to have executed a durable power of attorney before aging parents become incapacitated. Consult with a competent attorney when executing wills or other testamentary documents to make sure every contingency is considered.
Elder financial abuse is not only a crime, but invokes a civil cause of action as well. There are many remedies to stop financial thefts and this article will discuss a powerful law that protects elder victims through civil litigation.Many states have laws that specifically protect seniors from such abuse. California, in particular, has enacted the Elder Abuse and Dependant Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA). The civil courts in Riverside County, for example, are now familiar with the remedies that EADACPA provides.One of the primary advantages of EADACPA is the right to recover postmortem pain and suffering damages (general damages). Prior to EADACPA, a lawyer might refuse to accept a financial abuse case because it was quite possible that his or her frail elderly client might pass away before the case got to trial. If so, the right to recover general damages died also.Under EADACPA, this right continues even after death. Interestingly, one of the primary reasons the California legislature passed this set of laws was to encourage attorneys to take on such cases.The law requires that it be proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant committed acts of fraud, malice, oppression or recklessness. EADACPA claims involve intentional torts and, when proven by these higher standards, provide nearly every remedy that the elderly victim could hope for.Out of pocket monetary losses are recoverable damages. These may include interest on money that was wrongfully taken by the defendant, or lost rent on a home that the defendant lived in without making any payments.As mentioned, general damages (pain and suffering) are recoverable. There is no measuring stick to determine the amount of money that would compensate the elder for this loss. A jury must put aside passion and sympathy and award only the amount that appears reasonable under the circumstances.Exemplary, or punitive, damages are also recoverable. The purpose of such an award is to both punish the defendant and also to set an example that despicable acts of elder financial abuse will not be tolerated in a civilized society.Enhanced remedies may also be available in which the court, under circumstances of particularly egregious acts, may double or triple the amount of certain damage claims.As mentioned, an award of attorney fees is another remedy for the elderly victim. Under certain circumstances, these fees are mandatory. Appropriate costs are also recoverable.If an EADACPA lawsuit is brought on behalf of an elder who is under a conservatorship, then a jury verdict can include monetary compensation to the conservator for services rendered in furtherance of the civil lawsuit.Imposition of constructive or resulting trusts can also be imposed against a defendant. If the defendant wrongfully acquired title to the elder’s real or personal property, then the court can order that the defendant’s interest was solely as a trustee and such property must be returned to the elder.These are just some of the many remedies available to an elder who has been victimized by financial abuse.
One of the most attractive characteristics of the paralegal profession is the opportunity paralegals have to become specialists in a myriad of niche fields. And chances are, you have a hobby or passion for a subject that you can potentially build your career around.Think about it. Not only is this a great opportunity to make the most of your personal pursuits and develop your skills, you have the added benefit of getting paid to do so. The old adage, “Do what you love, and the money will follow” can be a reality for you. Below are four significant advantages to leveraging your passion into a paralegal career in niche field. Fringe benefits There is a wide variety of unique practice areas – video game law, wine law, loan modification law, elder law and animal law are just a handful of examples. One of the fringe benefits of working in a niche you’re passionate about is your job will permit you to learn even more about something you are already interested in, allowing you to flourish in your profession. In addition, your knowledge of the subject will be further enhanced by working closely with attorneys who themselves are zealously pursing that niche.Avoid boredom Reason number two for considering a specialty is the fact that because you have a significant interest for your niche, the enthusiasm you bring to your work will permeate throughout everything you do. When you truly love the work you do, you are less likely to become disenchanted when the inevitable mundane task presents itself.Make a contributionAnother benefit to choosing to specialize in a field you already love is, at the end of the day, you will feel- rightly so – that you have made a significant contribution toward something that enriches you. Because rather than simply going through the motions, you will have provided each task with the necessary attention to detail.Stand out in crowd Lastly, if you do have a personal interest that correlates to an area of law – whether it’s aviation, entertainment, technology, business, sports, real estate or the environment-possessing a passion and significant knowledge in that subject will help you stand out among a sea of applicants. Your cover letter will jump out at a potential employer because it is infused with your genuine enthusiasm. And employers want that in the work place because they know enthusiasm is contagious.When you thought about becoming a paralegal, it is possible this hadn’t occurred to you. Many people entering the field tend to think generally about their employment opportunities. But you have options. Think about what interests you outside of work. What are your hobbies? Then set about finding a paralegal job in a niche field that presents the opportunity for you fold your passions into your work.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monetary support and benefits to disabled adults and children who belong to families with limited incomes and resources. The program also offers payments and benefits to non-disabled US citizens 65 years or older who meet defined financial limits. It is intended to help the elderly, blind, and otherwise disabled afford the basics to support life — food, clothing and shelter. A live interview is required, so applications for SSI must be made in person. You may bring an attorney with you to your appointment.General Regulations Regarding SSI
Parents receive benefits on behalf of their disabled child until the child turns 18. At 18, the child’s condition are re-evaluated and any future payments will go directly to the child, unless for some reason it is determined the parents must remain in charge of the child’s finances. Some states also supplement the federal SSI benefit for children through their own programs.SSI recipients may qualify for additional benefits, including Medicaid assistance and food stamps. Medicaid provides medical insurance coverage to those in need. Qualification to receive Medicaid is determined by the state.In order to qualify for SSI, there are no tests or other requirements with regard to work history, as SSI is not funded by employee taxes paid into Social Security. Receipt of SSI is based solely upon need, as defined by the Social Security Administration.SSI payments are usually paid on the first day of the month they are due, following the month in which eligibility for payment has been established. Thus, if benefits are due to be paid in October, the payment should arrive on October 1st.The Social Security Administration, which runs the SSI program, has set definitions for “citizenship,” “disability,” “income” and “resources” by which they determine eligibility to receive SSI.Citizenship
The SSA defines United States citizenship as follows:
A US citizen residing in one of the 50 states
A US citizen residing in the Northern Mariana Islands
A US national residing in one of the 50 states
A US national residing in the Northern Mariana Islands
Certain non-US citizens may also qualify for SSI. Those determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.Disabilities
According to the SSA, to be disabled means having one or more physical or mental impairments that:
Prevent a person from working
Have lasted for a minimum of one year
Are expected to last for at least a year
Are expected to result in death
Income is considered by the SSA to include:
Social Security benefits
Spousal or parental income (depending on age and marital status)
The SSA defines resources to include such sources of income as:
Real estate (excluding personal residences and the land on which they are built)
Stocks and bonds
Any other source of income that is worth a maximum of $2,000 (for an individual) or $3,000 (for a couple)
How Are SSI Benefits Calculated?
The SSA bases SSI benefit calculations on the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) to determine payment amounts, along with whether the applicant is earning income or has resources as an individual or as one-half of a married couple. Countable income is subtracted from the FBR amount and any state supplement is added. The FBR is adjusted annually to account for cost-of-living changes.
I have read a lot of books on the law of attraction. Feeling good really sets up the positive vibration.If you are feeling down, it is difficult to find the place of the feel good factor. Try smelling a rose, playing with an animal if you have one, smile for 15 seconds whenever you remember and just try and help someone. When we stop thinking about ourselves, that’s when we can move to the feel good factor.When people feel down or feel like they are a victim, it is very difficult to want to feel good. The mind just wants to keep up down all the time if we let it. Keep on persisting to want to feel good. Watch
a funny movie. Do whatever it takes to laugh or put a smile on your face. We live in the now. We can’t worry about later. What is now is what counts.What I suggest for myself and people around me is to take small steps first. Even if you just take a walk and look at the beauty around you, that may just be a baby step to put a little smile on yourself. Say hi to your neighbors.I always tell this story because I think it is an incredible story. I think it is true but can’t confirm it. An elderly person was down and had enough. This person decided that it was time to kill themselves by jumping off a bridge. The only way this person was not going to jump off the bridge was if walking to the bridge someone just smiled at them, they wouldn’t jump off the bridge and commit suicide. Well this person did jump off the bridge because no one even looked at them and smiled.So smiling at someone can save their lives. I work with Senior citizens and I always smile at everyone that comes in my path. Just smiling and interacting with neighbors or even animals is enough to
start you off in a positive way and then you putting out positive vibrations. Positive vibrations can then bring positive things in your life.The feel good factor along with the Law of Attraction go hand in hand to help you attract a more positive and inspiring life.
I recently had an opportunity to participate in a Native American Indian Ceremony known as a sweat lodge. I learned from Tribal Elders, direct representatives, (adopted tribal brothers authorized instructors) that the Crow Indian Nation permitted adopted brothers to use the Sweat Lodge Ceremony if several conditions were met. Also in previous history I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with a Chief of the Crow Nation, Chief Dan Old Elk. Old Elk and I discussed Native Indian Ceremonies and the topic of energy in general. That in its self would be a great topic for another article.In order to have the rights to conduct the ceremony one must be properly trained. It’s all about the safety of the participants. In addition to safety the basic fabric of the philosophy must also be maintained, meaning not compromised. In exchange for the rights to “Pour” the ceremony the following items are offered in trade. A blanket, tobacco, a small amount of currency, and a personal item valued by the giver. Hence the Universal Law of Fair Exchange.The short list of items seemed a small price to pay for permission to conduct a sacred ceremony. After A trip to Wal-Mart for a blanket and tobacco, the rest of the items were assembled easily. Currency was available. The gift of a personal item was a more difficult. I decided that my favorite old tee-shirt, with a wolf howling at the moon would be suitable. Like most of my favorite t-shirts, In Larry the Cable Guy Fashion, the sleeves were removed immediately. I also love the universal “right to bare arms” The shirt was splattered with several colors of various paints from years of prior use.Sweat day came a little too soon for me and I was startled to hear my phone ring waking me out of a very comfortable sleep. Seems I overslept by about one hour. I jumped up to take care of the morning essentials and sped towards the location at a speed slightly over the legal limit. Upon arrival at the sweat lodge I noticed even though I was late, so were several other participants.Training began in a circle, as is common for the Company I work for. We use a lot of traditions borrowed (with permission) from the Crow Nation. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life. Elders stand in key positions that mark the North, South, East and West. The circle begins with the leader stating; “What goes around comes around.” Then we pass the heart to heart hug. After the hug the person in the place of control, (the north) begins the instruction. In essence the next twenty minutes of discussion was about Company Policy, and safety procedures, and of course the recent tragedy that occurred in Sedona Arizona. Google that if you have an interest.We then discussed the gifts to be exchanged. The blanket signified comfort. Tobacco came from mother earth. The currency represents fair exchange, something of value for something of value. In retrospect silver or gold would be more fitting, (because Federal Reserve Notes by definition represent DEBT.) The personal gift to me is most significant.A co-worker provided two nice pieces of her artwork that obviously had been well thought out and highly symbolic. One pencil, the other colored pencil. For a moment I was jealous, that turned to envy, that quickly dissipated, ending up as self loathing.Another Co-worker gave up a very special watch that she had been given as a youth. Later she lost the watch in a pond. She recovered the watch, however it was in non-working condition but very special to her. And so it went with my-self and another co-worker explaining our gifts.It is important to note that typical ceremony participants are a diverse group with multiple religious backgrounds. The instructor clarified that while we all may have different belief systems, spirituality comes within all denominations. In order to stay true to the Crow Ceremony it is necessary to offer a prayer to The Great Father, or Grandfather. Also it is necessary to pay homage to Mother Earth. I personally had no problem with the Crow belief system. My personal preference however is to pray first to mother earth, then father sky. Does that make me a mamma’s boy?After the gifts were collected we circled out in clock-wise rotation symbolizing an upward spiral vortex.We then had yet another co-worker available to operate the door opening. This person, (doorman) was also responsible to pass “hot rocks” and water through the door opening at the appointed time. It is interesting that the door person is also responsible to keep trespassers from walking between the fire pit and the sweat lodge. That prevents negative energy from permeating the area. Those participating in the sweat ceremony had already conducted the ritual at the circle.I will not discuss the process of building the sweat lodge at this time. This in itself is another ceremonial topic. However the sweat-lodge is a small dome constructed of hickory boughs frame work that is approximately eight feet circumference and about five feet high. The covering or skin is heavy weight canvas layered so that when inside it provides a pitch black environment. Within the lodge just inside the door opening is an earthen pit about a foot deep and three foot diameter. The symbolism of the actual lodge is as follows; framework and covering when inside represents the inside of the buffalo, and the pit with glowing hot rocks inserted represent the heart.Outside the sweat lodge at a distance safely from flammable materials is located the fire where rocks are brought to temperature. Hardwoods some seasoned and some green are ideal to bring rocks to temperature suitable to produce the proper amount of steam. It is suggested that at least fifty or sixty hand or melon sized rocks are available at the sweat lodge. Rocks should not be sandstone, however that is generally what was available for this particular ceremony. Also outside the fire area was stored several containers of water to serve multiple purposes. At the conclusion of the ceremony it is necessary to extinguish the fire.Also outside the sweat lodge was located a small mound of rocks that participants could place personal items on so as to bless them by the power of the cleansing process about to unfold. It is believed that items placed there would attract the same benefits received as within the sweat lodge.Participants stooping or crawling filed through the doorway in a clock wise direction to continue the upward spiral theme. Once inside the actual ceremony began. There were a series of “pours” with various elements discussed relating to the number of ladles poured over the hot rocks. The numbers four, seven, ten, and millions are significant. I choose not to go into detail on the numbers subject. It is very important that “what happens in the sweat-lodge stays in the sweat lodge.”The actual ceremony lasted about an hour and a half. There were breaks in between the pours so as to replenish the rocks, and provide drinking water to participants. I do not know for sure, but I will hazard to guess that in days of old, there were no water breaks. As a matter of fact, fasting and doing without water was likely required.The sweat lodge ceremony ended outside the lodge, culminated by participants gathering in yet another circle. Final thanks given to all in the circle including the support staff. Afterwards, we circled out and lined up for a bucket bath. This was a nice end to an awesome ceremony.From a personal perspective I offer the following. In compliance with Universal Laws as I understand them, A gathering of like-minded individuals is synergistic and even in business marketing circles, (that darn shape again) is known as a master-mind. Release of negative energy from the energy system and physical body is an awesome form of cleansing. Stating positive affirmations and giving thanks is certainly a form of being great full; (Self Explanatory.)In exchange for all of that powerful energy received, and negative energy expelled, and recognizing that we earth bound spirits are powerful and capable of co-creating our own realities, I can only say Thank You to the Crow Nation.James “Jim” BlackstoneFootnote: Another ceremony not mentioned but standard is the practice of “smudging.” Again this is another ceremony worthy of its own article.