Estate Tax Extended in the House

December 3, 2009

Filed under: Estate Planning,Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:19 pm

The AP is reporting that the House of Representatives just voted 225-200 to permanently extend the $3.5 million estate tax exemption.  Included in the bill is the portability feature, that will allow married couples to shield effectively double what the exemption amount is from the Federal Estate Tax.  Stay tuned.  Next up the senate.

Read the AP story here: Estate Tax Vote

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Federal Estate Tax Update

Filed under: Estate Planning,Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:18 pm

Of the 200 that voted no in the House on making the Federal Estate Tax permanent, 26 Democrats joined all the Republicans present according to the Washington Post. Again, now it’s up to the Senate with a December 31st deadline to take the issue by the horns. It will be interesting to see if the House’s approach will be adopted by the Senate.

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Information: Veterans Benefits Michigan

December 2, 2009

Filed under: Michigan Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:20 pm


For more information on Michigan Veterans Benefits check out Veterans Benefits Michigan and the Michigan Veterans Benefits Resource Center of Witzke Berry PLLC.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was establish a March 15, 1989, succeeding the veterans administration. It is responsible for providing federal benefits to veterans and their families. Headed by the Sec. of Veterans Affairs, the a is the second largest of the 15 Cabinet departments and operates nationwide programs for health care, financial assistance and burial benefits.

Ther are two important disability programs that the Veterans Administration provides. The first is disability compensation. The Veterans Administration income benefit is money to compensate the veteran for loss of lifetime income due to disability incurred while in the service. The surviving spouse death benefit associated with compensation is based on the same principle. The large number of veterans may have service connected disabilities but for whatever reason never bother to apply for compensation. It is not too late and VA may accept a late application which will then give the veteran not only more money but possibly other VA long-term care services as well.

The Veterans Benefit Pension is another disability income program. This benefit is available to active duty veterans who have served the least 90 days active duty with the least one day during a period of war.The death benefit is also available to surviving spouses of these veterans. Pension is probably the most underused and misunderstood long-term care benefits for veterans that is available today. The misunderstanding comes about because pension is based on income. Many veterans or their surviving spouses are going to have an income greater than the pension rate ceiling and as a result never received information on this Veterans benefit.

It is important to speak with a Michigan veterans benefits attorney, we can assist in helping you understand how the Michigan veterans benefits compensation program works and help you understand what you may be entitled to.

Please visit these two resources that we have provided so that you may have a better understanding of Michigan Veterans Benefits:

  1. The Michigan Benefits Resource Center of Witzke Berry PLLC
  2. Veterans Benefits Michigan
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Department of Veterans Affairs News

December 1, 2009

Filed under: Elder Law,Long Term Care,Michigan Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:25 pm

The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided an update for what to expect in 2010 with regard to compensation & Pension Rate Information. Basically, there will not be an increase to the Veterans Administration compensation and pension benefits based on a cost of living allowance. You can read the full updated here: Veterans Benefits, What’s New?

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Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes

Filed under: Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:24 pm

Having money, fame, and fortune doesn’t preclude you from making huge estate planning mistakes. These mistakes typically occur by either ignoring the need for estate planning, trying to do it yourself, or not reviewing your estate plan on an annual basis. has a list of the top ten estate planning mistakes by celebrities. You can view the list here: Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes in Pictures.

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Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer Facebook Page

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:22 pm

The Michigan estate planning lawyer firm of Witzke Berry PLLC now has a Facebook page where you can follow the latest law firm news as well as stay in touch with Michigan estate planning lawyers, Michael P. Witzke, Esq. and Christopher J. Berry, Esq.

You can find our Facebook page at Michigan estate planning lawyers. Our Facebook page is a great way to stay in touch us and with what is happening in Michigan estate planning news. We suggest that you become a fan of the Michigan estate planning lawyer Facebook page, by clicking the “become a fan” link on the left of the page.

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Michigan Elder Abuse

December 29, 2009

Filed under: Elder Law,Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:13 pm

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a plan sponsored by Dian Slavens (D-Canton) that will create a protocol for investigating cases of elder abuse in Michigan. You can read the story at by visiting here: House Passes Slavens’ Plan to Hold Elder Abusers Accountable.

I think this is an important step, as Michigan elder abuse has been a difficult issue for law enforcement to deal with.The plan looks to strengthen protections for seniors and increase penalties to anyone who physically abuses or financially exploits seniors.

Who Was Supposed To Be Watching Grandma?

December 11, 2009

Filed under: Elder Law,Long Term Care — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:15 pm

There is a popular tune played this time of year called “Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer” which relates that Grandma — after drinking too much eggnog — went out into the winter cold to get her medication and was run over by a reindeer. The question is, “Who was supposed to be watching Grandma?”

Though this little tune is just for fun, it may very well raise alarms to many caregivers of the elderly. Caregivers know that even at a holiday party they cannot let down their diligent watch over their elderly loved one. As far-fetched as it may sound, with all the people and noise, an elderly family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be enjoying the family gathering and then suddenly become confused and walk to the door and leave.

For family caregivers the added stress of the holidays with decorating, shopping, parties and keeping up with all the family traditions is an overwhelming quest. Feelings of isolation, depression and sadness come with this added stress. There are millions of Americans who are caring for elderly frail loved ones and most of these caregivers will go through some of these emotions, especially this time of year.

There are some things you can do as a caregiver to help you and those you care for enjoy the holiday season.

First take care of yourself. Try to eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise. This will help reduce stress and strengthen your ability to cope with caregiving responsibilities.

Prioritize your holiday traditions. Perhaps instead of cooking a large family dinner, have everyone bring his or her favorite dish. Use paper plates. Forfeit the traditional outside light decorating for a lighted wreath on the front door. Choose one or two parties or concerts to attend instead of trying to do it all.

Arrange for help. Call on other family members to help with the caregiving while you do your shopping or go out for the evening. If family is not available, ask your church group or a neighbor if they would donate a few hours.

Use community services. Many senior centers provide meals for the elderly and supervised activities, onsite, at no charge or a minimal charge. For locating senior services in your state, call your state Area Agency on Aging or check the national locator website at

Use adult day care services. Some assisted living facilities provide day activities and meals for seniors on a day by day basis. Other organizations called “adult day service providers” specialize exclusively in this sort of care support at a reasonable cost. These support services provide respite for caregivers from their caregiving responsibilities as well as social interaction for their elderly family members. There is a cost for adult day services, but the benefit for all is worth it.

For example:

Jean had brought her mother into her home to care for her when mom’s Alzheimer’s made it impossible for her to be alone. When the Christmas season approached, Jean realized she had to make some choices. She did not want to give up the traditions she had set with her daughters in shopping and lunches, but it wouldn’t be possible with her caregiving responsibilities. In searching for a solution, Jean visited an adult day services facility near her home. She found she could schedule the days she needed off for her mother to come in. The adult day services company also provided transportation and would pick up mom and bring her home in the evening.

Although Jean’s mother was not sure she would like to go at first, she found she enjoyed the programs, meals and conversation with new friends and the activities provided.

The time it gave Jean to have for herself was worth the extra cost for the day care.

Technology to the rescue. Here is a solution that would have kept “Grandma” from going out in the winter cold and getting run over by a reindeer. Companies that have created monitoring systems, security alarms and other safety equipment are “tweaking” them to adapt to the needs of seniors and their care givers.

Here are a few examples:

* Ankle or wrist bands that monitor location and alert the provider when a person has gone beyond the designated perimeter, such as out the front door of the house.
* Motion detectors. Set throughout the home, motion detectors allow someone outside the home to follow a senior as he or she moves through the house.
* Smart medication dispensers. Live monitoring and dispensing of pills.
* Emergency response alert. At a touch of a button on a desktop monitor, bracelet or necklace, emergency help is summoned.

Whether providing care in your home or helping senior family members in their own homes, your use of monitoring and “tech” help aids can provide extra safety for your loved ones, and peace of mind for you.

You are not alone. Join a caregiving help group. Your local senior center may have one or go on the internet to find one. Hearing about other caregivers’ problems and solutions and being able to share your own and ask questions is a great way to relieve stress and gain a new perspective. Check out websites like the National Family Caregivers Association at

Work with a Senior Care Professional. Recognize that you are doing the very best you know how. You are not a geriatric health care practitioner, geriatric care manager, home care nurse or aide, hospice provider or family mediation counselor, nor do you have the years of training and experience these professionals have, but you can definitely use their experience. In fact, using a senior care specialist will make caregiving easier for you and more beneficial for your elderly family member.

As an example:

Mark stopped by his father Dan’s home every night after work to help with any errands or things he needed around the house. He began to notice that Dan was not showering, dressing or even fixing meals some days. Another concern was his father’s growing confusion and disorientation. A trip to the family doctor only brought more concern to Mark, since the doctor claimed it was just the aging process that caused the confusion.

Wanting a second professional opinion on what was best for his father, Mark hired Shelly — a Professional Geriatric Care Manger — to do an assessment. Shelly arranged for Mark and Dan to see a geriatrician, who advised that proper meals and an increase in some vitamins, would help clear up the confusion and disorientation. Shelly arranged for a home care company to come in daily to help with personal needs and prepare meals.

Soon Dan was back to his old self and able to function on his own.

You can find a wide variety of care professionals in your area on the National Care Planning Council website at

One more thing to remember. As a family caregiver, the greatest gift you are giving this holiday season is “Love.”

Federal Estate Tax Action Uncertain in the Senate

December 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:16 pm

The Senate may not take any action on the Federal Estate Tax issue. The House has passed their version of the Estate Tax bill, effectively freezing the $3.5 Million exemption and 45% tax rate we have currently. CCH, a respected tax reporting company is reporting that the Senate may drag their feet.

Here is a short excerpt from the article you can read here:

The likelihood that the Senate will act on extending the estate tax before it expires at the end of 2009 remains uncertain as health care reform dominates lawmakers’ attention. Senate Democratic leaders are racing to complete work on health care reform by the end of 2009 as they plan to work on weekends and possibly through the Christmas recess to reach that goal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., huddled with House leaders on December 3 to discuss the estate tax bill, but following the meeting, Reid as much as admitted that there was no time to pass the legislation this year. One option reportedly under consideration, however, is a one-year extension of the estate tax at current 2009 levels that could be attached to an anticipated omnibus appropriations bill.

The Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses Bill of 2009 (HR 4154) approved by the House on December 3 (TAXDAY, 2009/12/04, C.1) is an unlikely candidate for Senate approval even if the chamber found the time to take it up. One problem with the House bill is that the $3.5-million exemption limit is not indexed for inflation. Both Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., have said that the exemption should be indexed for inflation.


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