Long-Term Care & Life Insurance Hybrids

September 30, 2011

Filed under: Asset Protection,Elder Law,Life Insurance,Long Term Care — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:17 am

With more and more people living longer, it comes as no surprise that there is heightened interest in long-term care planning.  That is why we created a website geared towards Michigan elder law and long-term care at the www.MichiganElderLawCenter.com.  People are beginning to recognize that the cost of extended long-term care can wipe out any nest egg pretty darn quickly.  Our Michigan elder law practice is focused on providing solutions to reducing the high cost of long-term care.  Many people look to long-term care insurance as one of the ways to hedge against long-term care costs.

There is quite a bit of talk lately about the new life insurance and long-term care insurance hybrid products.  The best way to understand how these new plans work and why they are catching on is that the new plans are a blend of asset protection and long-term care insurance.  You avoid losing premiums you have paid if, in the end, you beat the odds and don’t need long-term care

So, if someone owns a life/long-term care hybrid, either they will use their policy to pay for extend care expenses, or their heirs will receive an inheritance that is greater than what was paid into the product.  Now the downside of such planning is these products typically require a substantial one-time upfront payment, for example $50k.  Second, if an individual needs only long-term care protection, a stand alone long-term care insurance contract gets you more benefits for each premium dollar.

Protecting against long-term care costs is an important consideration for anyone doing estate or financial planning, these hybrid long-term care and life insurance products are one tool in the toolbox to consider.

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Understanding Veterans Benefits for Seniors

September 15, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 7:04 pm

VA Non-Service Connected Pension

The VA Non-service connected Pension program is often called, Aid & Attendance, however, Aid & Attendance is an add on for the basic VA pension.  The VA pension benefit helps supplement the income of disabled or older veterans.  Unlike the service-connected compensation, there is no need to link any disability or injury to a veterans time in service.  However, also unlike the service-connected compensation program, the VA pension program is a needs based program.

The VA Pension can grant a single veteran $1,644 per month.  A veteran with a dependent or spouse could receive $1,949 per month and the surviving spouse of a veteran can receive $1,056 per month.

VA Pension Requirements

To qualify a veteran must have spent 90 days of active duty, one day during a period of war, and be discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  If the veteran meets that criteria then he or she must also pass an income and asset test.

The requirement of one day of active duty during a time of war is linked to the official wartimes as determined by Congress, which are:

Once a one day during a time of war has been established the next step is to review the first part of the needs based test, that is the income test.  For a veteran to qualify for any portion of  their Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR), they must show that their income is less than the MAPR and will be reduced dollar for dollar for each dollar of income over zero.  For example, if a veteran’s monthly benefit was $1,644 and $19,736 annually and the veteran had $19,000 worth of income for the year, then the veteran’s benefit would be $746 annually, broken into a monthly benefit.  It is important to understand that this income calculation is what is known as a quasi-household calculation in that the income of the spouse or dependent children is also considered in the calculation.

Something to note about both income as well as unreimbursed medical expenses is that they are calculated forward from the date of claim as opposed to from the past.  In other words, the veteran needs anticipated unreimbursed medical expenses that can be be clearly and reasonable calculated.  The VA typically accepts anticipated costs for nursing homes and assisted living facilities without issue, however proving home care expenses can be problematic.  It is key to document through the use of care contracts for family care givers, or letters on company letterhead for commercial home care.  Additionally, in the case for home care, unless the veteran is deemed housebound or in need of aid and attendance, the care giver must be a licensed health professional or the expense will not be deductible.

The asset test is not a hard line number.  The VA looks to the entirety of a veteran’s net worth in order to determine if the veteran’s assets are excessive.   While there is no hard line rule, the rule of thumb that is a married veteran cannot have more than $80,000 in total assets and a single veteran cannot have more than $40,000 in total assets.  These numbers would be adjusted down the older a veteran is.  Comparable to Medicaid, a veteran is allowed to exempt a primary residence as well as one automobile.


While there are asset and income tests for this program, a visit to a highly qualified elder law attorney who is accredited with the VA may provide strategies to aid a veteran (or surviving spouse) the hard earned benefits they deserve through their service to our country.  Some of these strategies may include Legacy Deeds, Care Contracts, or VAPT’s.

Through proper planning a veteran and their family can make use of a well deserved resource that can help keep the veteran at home or in assisted living longer by better being able to pay the cost of care.

Check out our sister blog for more information (www.michiganelderlawcenter.com)

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Why Do I Need a Michigan Elder Law Attorney

August 12, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law — Christopher J. Berry @ 3:03 pm

As a Michigan elder law attorney, I appreciate when others serving seniors and veterans recognized the need for an elder law attorney to provide guidance to families facing the legal issues associated with aging.  Lynn Breuer of Elder Care Solutions, a great geriatric care management group, wrote a wonderful blog post on how important an elder law attorney is.

You can read Lynn Breuer’s blog post here: Why Do I Need An Elder Law Attorney?

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Helping Your Clients Protect Their Family Fortunes…..in Michigan?

August 9, 2011

Filed under: Asset Protection,Elder Law,Medicaid Planning,Will — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:25 pm

I just saw a blog post entitled “Helping Your Clients Protect Their Family Fortunes,” which I thought was a bit odd and out of place.  Especially on days like this when the stock market and people’s retirement assets are tanking.  Our firm heritage is that we started out as an estate planning firm in Michigan, and we still are.  However, more and more, every day, I consider my practice, at least, more geared towards every day Michiganders, who don’t have a “family fortune,” but instead worked hard and saved a nest egg that has taken a hit with the plummeting economy.

I spend my day as a Michigan elder law attorney, helping clients with modest assets save as much as they can from taxes, probate, and long-term care costs.  Sure, we have the skill set to plan around the Federal Estate Taxes ($5million dollar exemption this year and with portability $10 million, do you have that much?) and do complicated, high end estate planning utilizing GRITs, GRATs, ILITS, IDGT’s, and the rest of the alphabet soup.  But, I find that my day is spent helping working class Michigan families with questions such as “how do we pay for assisted living for mom?” or “dad’s going into the nursing home, how to we make sure that mom can continue to pay the bills?”

Very different than “Helping Your Clients Protect Their Family Fortunes.”  I’d say a good tag line for much of the work I am helping Michigan families with is “Helping Your Clients Save Their House and Savings.”

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Veterans Benefits, Michigan Medicaid and Long-term Care

July 31, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Long Term Care,Medicaid Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:14 pm

Our Bloomfield Hills Elder Law attorney office often gets contact by individuals looking for assistance with their Veterans Benefits questions.  Often we’ll get calls asking whether “my father qualifies for the aid & attendance benefit?” and what we can do to help.  What many people are missing is that there is a whole continuum of care with aging.

The VA benefit is a great benefit when the veteran is needing home care or assisted living, but once a veteran is in need of skilled nursing care, quite often we are looking at another governmental program to help defray the devastating costs of long-term care.  That benefit is the Michigan Medicaid program.

Now the thing to keep in mind about the VA benefit and the Michigan Medicaid program is that the two programs have different rules for qualification.  For example, the Michigan Medicaid program has a 60 month look back period.  The differences in the two programs is why when individuals focus entirely on the VA benefit program and ignore the Medicaid program, as elder law attorneys serving Oakland County, Michigan, we educate our clients on both programs and how they work together.

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More VA Scams by Insurance Annuity Salesmen

June 30, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 3:48 pm

This is a great article about a horrible problem that is going with groups of people preying upon seniors and veterans.  Take the time to read the whole article.  Here’s a snippet.  Does this sound familiar?

The end game comes once the veteran receives his first check, which can include retroactive benefits of $15,000 or more. Around that time, the veteran might get a call from an insurance sales rep associated with the National Strategic Alliance, offering high-dollar annuities and other financial products.

Read the article here: Veteran Con Man Back to Swindling Elderly Veterans.

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Michigan Enacts Estate Recovery Law

June 26, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Estate Recovery — Christopher J. Berry @ 12:42 am

Michigan enacted estate recovery on September 30, 2007, making Michigan the last state in the nation to comply with an over 14 year, at the time, federal mandate.  Estate recovery in Michigan is found in MCL 400.112g and federally 42 U.S.C. 1396p.  State law in Michigan states that the Michigan Department of Community Health will attempt to recoup from the estates of nursing home Medicaid funded long-term care recpients some of the costs the state of Michigan incurred in paying for the Medicaid recpieint’s care.

–Definitive Guide to Michigan Estate Recovery–

As a Michigan elder law attorney, I receive proposed changes to the Medicaid policy handbook changes.  Well, two months ago, a change came accross that verified that Michigan was about to start enforcing the estate recovery law as of July 1st.

Michigan’s estate recovery program will affect recipeints of Medicaid funded nursing home or MIChoice services.

Michigan will attempt to recover from a Medicaid recipient’s probate estate, thus any assets passing through probate (generally the only probate asset for a Medicaid recpient is the family home) will face a lien applied by the state of Michigan for any cost of care.

If you would like more information, including ways to protect the family home, download our Definitive Guide to Michigan Estate Recovery, at no cost.

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Study reveals more middle-aged adults care for kids and aging parents

February 15, 2013

Filed under: Elder Law — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Christopher J. Berry @ 1:50 pm

A new survey has revealed that the financial burdens on middle-aged caregivers are increasing.

Close to 15% of U.S. adults in their 40s and 50s provided financial support to both an aging parent and a child in 2012, revealed in a survey of 2,511 adults from the Pew Social Demographic Trend Project. This was a 12% increase from 2005.  Almost half of those currently raising or financially supporting a child have a parent 65 or older still living, who may need support at some point.

(Read more: Who Owns Your Facebook Pages When You Die?)

Interestingly, they survey finds that a great emphasis is on supporting grown children. About 48% of adults 40-59 provided financial support to grown children in 2012, up from 42% in 2005.

These increases are evident of the economic challenge our nation faces, says Kim Parker, a co-author of the report.

(Read more: The New Age Of Estate Planning

“Grown children are struggling to find jobs and establish themselves in the economy.”

But there is a silver lining, Parker says, an associate director with the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project.

“The middle-aged adults who are supporting their grown children financially report that they have stronger emotional ties with those children.”

Grown children are spending more time with their parents, proving valuable in the furthered development of their relationships. Members of this sandwich generation report a closeness with their children that they did not have with their parents.

“Generations relying on each other may create stronger ties.”

Even with these growing burdens, middle-aged caregivers are equally as happy as other adults, the survey indicates. About 31% claim they are extremely happy with their lives, compared with 28% of other adults. The downside: 31% of those in the sandwich generation say they always feel rushed, compared with 23% of other adults.

Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-profit organization based at the University of Miami, says stress can be a factor in the deterioration of relationships. But she says many families report that they are closer.

“We have developed much higher standards of family relationships and much higher expectations of family cooperation,” adds Coontz, who was not involved in Pew’s report.

“I wouldn’t call that a silver lining, but I would call it an umbrella.”

(Read more: Living Together and Property Agreements)

While it is evident that middle-aged caregivers have a greater financial strain, it appears they are the benefactor of stronger emotional connections and relationships as a result.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/30/sandwich-generation-stress/1873031/

Mr. Witzke practices in the areas of estate and gift tax planning, financial planning, retirement planning, LGBT civil rights, charitable giving, elder law, and small business planning. He focuses on helping clients grow, protect, and transfer wealth efficiently. Mr. Witzke is a past president and board member of the Financial Planning Association of Michigan, a member of the board of directors for Leadership Oakland, and a member of the planned giving advisory committees of Wayne State University and the Community House in Birmingham. Follow Mr. Witzke on Twitter @gr8estatelawyer.

Michigan Elder Law Planning for Long-term Care Costs

December 2, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Medicaid Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 1:29 am

As a Michigan elder law attorney, I am often asked by financial planners how we can help their client insulate and protect their client resources from the devastating effects of long-term care costs.  Check out the Michigan Elder Law Attorney Website for more information.

Typically there are two situations where we help families, planning cases and crisis cases.  In our office a planning case is a situation where a family has some time before they need skilled nursing care.  The family may have a diagnoses of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease or maybe dementia, but the senior is still able to live at home, maybe with assistance or in an assisted living facility.  The senior doesn’t need skilled nursing care, yet.

If this is the case, we can use Asset Preservation Trust’s to try to shield the seniors assets so that they can insulate themselves from the devastating costs of long-term care.  Asset preservation trusts can be used in conjunction with long-term care planning.

Also, it’s very important that we update the financial powers of attorney so that they allow enough flexibility to, when the crisis comes, take the necessary actions to protect your loved one’s resources.  If the senior or loved one is a veteran, we have even more options with the Aid & Attendance VA benefit that is available.  This type of planning is all about improving your loved one’s quality of life.

The second type of planning is crisis planning.  In this situation your loved one is either in a nursing home and coming off of Medicare, is about to go into a skilled nursing care facility, or is already private paying for skilled nursing care.  In this situation our Michigan elder law firm can put strategies in place to generally protect fifty to one hundred percent of your loved one’s assets from long-term  care costs.

Michigan Elder Law Center

October 30, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law — Christopher J. Berry @ 4:03 am

The Michigan Elder Law Center, a website dedicated to Michigan elder law founded by the partners of Witzke Berry Carter & Wander PLLC has went through face lift.  So head over and check it out at www.michiganelderlawcenter.com.  You’ll find a wealth of resources available for seniors, veterans and their families to assist them in navigating the long-term care legal maze.


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