As we all know, tax season has been in full swing for many weeks now, and it is almost over for some. But, did you know that even if you did not have to file a tax return, as a senior, it may be beneficial for you to do so? Did you know there is a tax credit only available to seniors in Massachusetts who pay rent or real estate taxes? There is, and it is called the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit. Even if you don’t owe any taxes at all, you may be eligible for this credit, and it is just like money in your pocket (Certain counties in Massachusetts, including Worcester and Middlesex, have had tax deadlines extended to May 15th, because they have been declared Federal Disaster Areas due to the recent floodings). [Read more…]
Are you a family member or guardian of someone that suffers from dementia? Is s/he living in a nursing home? Do you know what medications s/he is taking? Do you know what the dosages are? When was the last time those medications were reevaluated to determine if they are helping in any way, or if they are even necessary? These are all important questions to keep in mind and to continue asking the administrators of the nursing home and the physicians who care for your loved one. [Read more…]
Not long ago, I posted a blog on gift transfers and their affect on qualification for MassHealth (Medicaid) for an institutionalized individual. Generally, transferring assets to dispose of property so that you qualify for MassHealth will not actually help you qualify because the state imposes a five-year “look-back” period, in which those assets are counted and used to assess eligibility for MassHealth. Fortunately, there are some exceptions to the general rule. [Read more…]
On February 4, 2010, the House of Representatives in Massachusetts amended and approved a bill dealing with safe driving in the Commonwealth. If passed by the Massachusetts Senate, this bill will have a direct impact on the senior citizens of Massachusetts because it will require drivers over the age of 75 to renew their licenses every 5 years instead of every 10 years.
Issues concerning elderly driving have been in the news on and off for many years now, but after a series of accidents involving elder drivers last year, the state legislature is looking to make some changes. The current bill does not just involve seniors though. It also seeks to completely ban text messaging by all drivers, and it provides for higher penalties for drivers under the age of 18 who are caught using cell phones while driving. [Read more…]
Hardly a day goes by when I don’t have a client who tells me that they can give away a certain amount of money free and clear, avoiding look-back periods for long-term care planning. They inform me that their neighbor, friend, or cousin told them that this is allowable. I then have the unfortunate task of telling them that they are wrong and that most states that have enacted the Deficit Reduction Act. After February 8, 2006, the rules relative to gifts changed.
Regardless of the amount, any gift that is made is a transfer and is subject to a look-back period of five-years for MassHealth (Medicaid) purposes. This doesn’t mean that the State will take that money, but rather, that the State will not pay for the donor’s long-term care costs until the five-year look-back is exhausted, or in the alternative, until all the gifts that have been transferred are used to pay for the institutionalized person’s care. [Read more…]
How often do you feel like you know what your state legislators are doing? The whole process can be mysterious and confusing. This week I would like to shed some light on the subject and tell you about a potentially helpful piece of legislation currently pending in the Massachusetts state legislature.
The proposed law would change the way assets are counted when determining whether a spouse in a nursing home, or certain other institutions and community based programs, is eligible for medical assistance through MassHealth (Medicaid). For MassHealth purposes, the spouse in the nursing home is called the “institutionalized spouse” and the spouse still living at home is referred to as the “community spouse.” Currently, under Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 118E, subsection 21A, many different types of income and asset types of both spouses are considered countable for purposes of determining eligibility. The total amount of countable income and assets are major factors the Division of Medical Assistance takes into account when determining if the institutionalized spouse is eligible for medical assistance from the Commonwealth (MassHealth/Medicaid). [Read more…]
It’s estimated that two-thirds of American households currently have at least one pet, a number that has steadily increased in the last 60 years. With more pets comes a growing industry devoted to helping Americans better care for, and even indulge, their pets, has developed. Businesses that provide pet day care, pet sitters, grooming, spa services, and even pet cemeteries have become common.
Many even consider pets part of their family, a sort of child, brother, sister, or at the very least, friend. Since so much love and attention is given to these fury and feathery companions, many wish to provide for their animals in the event that they become incapacitated or die before their pet. With family greed, skepticism, and fraud on the rise, many seek a better solution than hoping Junior will “do the right thing.” As a matter of fact, owner death and/or disability is one of the top reasons that animals end up in Shelters across the country. [Read more…]
Who wants to ring in the New Year with uncertainty? Well, that’s what Congress did by not getting around to extending the estate tax before December 31, 2009. Many experts believed this would NEVER happen. I discussed this in several past blog entries in September and December of last year.
Flashback to 2001: At that time, a largely Republican coalition in Congress tried to repeal the estate tax completely, but they were unable to get past a filibuster. So, instead, the changes were put into the tax code when then-President George W. Bush signed a bill that was designed to phase out the estate tax so that by January 1, 2010, the estate tax would no longer exist. However, since this was done through the tax code, Congress would have to revisit the changes within ten years, or the estate tax would come back into effect on January 1, 2011, at a higher rate. Generally all experts in the field believed that Congress would act and not allow the estate tax to disappear completely in 2010. But, Congress was so busy debating health care reform this fall that we have entered 2010, and the estate tax is temporarily gone. [Read more…]
Lately, the matter of Brooke Astor’s estate has been covered in the media. Like many people she had an estate plan in place which included a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, which nominated subsituted decision makers in the event she would lose the capacity to make important financial and/or medical decisions at some point during her elder years. She did not want to burden her family with obtaining a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship through the courts. She did end up suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and her son took over her financial powers. He just didn’t do a very good job… [Read more…]
I’ve been trying to come up with a new slogan for area senior centers. So far I’ve come up with Senior Centers: come for the free food, stay for the crafts! or Senior Centers: It’s WAY more than BINGO!
But seriously, senior centers offer independence for aging adults. They play a very important role in the lives of elders today by encouraging them to become and remain social. [Read more…]