Acknowledging how tenuous any individual’s grip on life can be, it is crucial to be ready to transfer relevant personal documentation to your executor, and not wait until some emergency, or worse. In response to this sobering realization, I developed a list of important documents to help ensure all my family’s documents are readily accessible in case of need. I call the list “LifeDocs.”
I considered signing up for a subscription service offered by a company, Everplans, to organize and store my family documents on-line in an electronic vault, but decided I am not yet ready to trust our documents to someone else, especially with all the publicity about hackers compromising on-line accounts. However, I am still reading their book, “In Case You Get Hit By A Bus – How to Organize Your Life Now For When You Are Not Around Later.”
The list of documents that I developed is in Excel format, and is based on lists offered by various financial institutions and estate planning attorneys, and my own experiences. I have used this comprehensive list to develop a personalized, shorter list that is applicable to our family circumstances. As an organizational note, I used different colored file folders for each category, and have placed all folders in a portable file box with handle.
I have divided the documents into seven categories.
A) General Items
B) Medical Information
C) Insurance Documents
D) Financial, Legal, Bank & Credit Documents
E) Business Documents
F) Investment Documents
G) Documents and Information Needed After Someone Dies
Note the list includes trust documents, so one could argue this list goes “beyond the trust” for estate planning purposes. Also note certain items have an asterisk next to the number, and that means such documents should be stored very securely, such as in its respective folder in a safe, as noted in the footer. I would encourage each person or family to consider using the list, or some modified version thereof, for organizing their documents.
By way of background, when my father at the age of 85 was diagnosed with terminal cancer with three months to live, I visited my parents in Arizona to help ensure their affairs were in order to make the transition easier on my mother. When I sat down with my parents, and started to go through an early version of this list that I had received from an estate planning attorney, I would ask my Dad for this or that document and watch him wander off to the four corners of their house and car to retrieve the requested document. I doubt my mother would have been able to do even 10% of that retrieval process on her own. So I resolved to make things easier for my family, and this list is one of the outcomes.
Finally, since no one knows how long they will live, and tomorrow is not promised to anyone, if you have not already done so, I recommend you get started on your list sooner than later.
If you had a loved one die from COVID-19, you may be eligible for the reimbursement of their funeral expenses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently taking applications for funeral costs that were acquired after January 20th, 2020, from a person who passed away from COVID-19 in the United States or a territory of the United States. The purchase of a casket, urn, headstone, burial plot, cremation, interment of ashes, and or transfer of remains are all eligible for reimbursement.
Qualified applicants may receive up to $9,000 per funeral as long as their total reimbursement does not exceed $35,500. Documents needed include a death certificate that lists the likely cause of death as COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms as well as receipts of the funeral expenses. To apply, call FEMA at 844-684-6333 to begin the 20-minute application process. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Once you have received your application number, you may send the necessary documentation online, by mail, or by fax. For more information about this reimbursement opportunity, click here.
With COVID-19 remaining a global pandemic, now is the time to begin thinking about and creating your estate plan. Estate planning may seem complicated, but it guarantees that your wishes are respected and followed. In the unfortunate circumstance that you were diagnosed with COVID-19 and became incapacitated or lost your life, who would be making decisions about things like your medical care or your finances? With an estate plan in place, you would be able to answer that question by appointing people to these critical roles. An Advanced Health Care Directive would ensure that a trusted agent would make decisions about and fight for your medical care up until your final moments. Your appointed Power of Attorney would manage your financial affairs and make decisions about your assets. Even just having a Will would allow you to name a guardian(s) for any minor children that you may have. Having these components of an estate plan put into place could make a world of difference.
An estate plan can also save your friends and family from unnecessary expenses, stress, and worry. If you would become incapacitated or die from COVID-19 without an estate plan in place, your important affairs may be managed in a way that you wouldn't be satisfied with. With the uncertainty that COVID-19 still brings to our world, disaster could strike at a moment's notice. To ensure that you have a plan in place when you need it, we encourage you to start your estate plan today. You and your loved ones will have peace of mind knowing that things are taken care of in the way that you want them to be.
If you would like more information about estate planning, consider attending one of our Estate Planning Webinars. These workshops are free and answer all of the questions that you have about the process of estate planning. You can also call us at 877-585-1885 or send an email to email@example.com.
Christopher E. Botti,
Esq., Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law
Medicare and Medi-Cal are two different government programs for healthcare. It is important to understand the difference between them. Here, we will discuss how the program benefits differ, how eligibility for each program is established, and discuss some recent news pertaining to each program.
Medicare vs. Medi-Cal – What are the program benefits?
Medicare is a program administered by the federal government to provide healthcare to certain populations. Original Medicare is divided into Parts A and B.
Medicare Part A covers hospital care and a limited period of nursing home care, home health services, and hospice care. Medicare Part A will only cover nursing home care if:
1. There was first a qualifying hospital stay of 3 days of inpatient care; and
2. Nursing home care was needed relating to the hospital stay; and
3. The patient entered the nursing home within a short time of the hospital stay (usually within 30 days).
Thereafter, only the first 20 days of nursing home care are paid for by Medicare Part A. Days 21 through 100 of care require a partial payment by the patient. Any care after 100 days is not paid at all by Medicare Part A.
Medicare Part B covers traditional healthcare expenses, such as visits to a doctor, blood tests, and X-rays. In most cases, a referral is not needed to see a specialist. Original Medicare does not cover prescription drug coverage; however, you can enroll in Medicare Part D through a private insurance company with paid premiums.
Medi-Cal is also a program intended to provide medical benefits to certain populations. It is a joint federal-state program. Medi-Cal covers all types of medical care, including long-term care, such as a nursing home.
Medicare vs. Medi-Cal – How is eligibility established?
Eligibility for Medicare is simple – if you are over age 65 and have paid Medicare tax through your employment for at least ten years, you qualify. You can get Medicare Part A at age 65 without paying any premiums if:
Eligibility for Medi-Cal is needs-based. Meaning, income restrictions for programs cover pregnant women, children, the disabled, and the elderly. If your income is under the amount specified for your state, then you likely qualify if you are in one of those groups.
If long-term care is needed, however, there are also asset restrictions. An applicant cannot have over a certain amount of assets and still qualify for nursing home care benefits. However, applicants can retain an elder law attorney to do legal planning to protect assets while still getting qualified for benefits. This way, money and property are preserved for their family and won’t have to be spent on care. To learn more about how this is done, please click on the following link to download a free copy of my eBook, Understanding Long-Term Care Medi-Cal.
What are some recent developments?
A few months ago, the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act was signed into law. It eliminates the long waiting period, sometimes up to 7 months, for coverage for certain enrollees. Beginning in 2023, coverage for Medicare will begin in the month after the participant enrolls.
A few weeks ago, a group of Democrats reintroduced legislation in the Senate to lower the age from 65 to 50 in order to qualify for Medicare benefits. If passed, this would mean millions more Americans would become eligible for Medicare. Proponents of the legislation contend that getting folks on Medicare could save lives and provide much-needed care. They point to the fact that many people don’t have access to private insurance, and so care is delayed. That becomes both financially and physically costly down the road. Opponents, of course, point out the financial strain it would cause on the federal budget. Some also claim that this expanded healthcare might allow more folks to retire at a younger age, putting a strain on the workforce. Hospitals oppose the legislation, as Medicare reimbursement rates are much lower than what the hospital would receive from private insurance plans.
Medicare and Medi-Cal are two very different programs; each provides certain benefits and has certain criteria for enrollment. Between the two, however, only Medi-Cal will cover long-term care expenses for more than 100 days. Getting long-term care Medi-Cal can be a tedious process, and legal strategies can be employed that will help you protect assets while getting needed care. If you or someone in your care needs long-term care soon, or you would like to be proactive and protect assets in advance for more asset protection, then we can be in your corner and help you navigate the legal strategies available to you.
Give us a call at 877-585-1885 to discuss your planning options.
Christopher E. Botti,
Esq., Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law
EVOLVING CASE LAW IN CALIFORNIA IS OPENING UP A NEW FRONTIER IN ALLOWING AN ESTATE PLAN’S TERMS TO “TRUMP” A BENEFICIARY DESIGNATION
The majority of our articles are written by our attorneys: Christopher Botti and