Friday, December 02, 2016

Medicare A&B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2017

The premium for Medicare Part B is calculated by outpatient utilization figures from the year before. Because beneficiaries used the services more than anticipated in 2015 the Part B premium for 2017 will increase will increase for most beneficiaries to $134.00.

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2017

Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
Hospital Deductible $1,316/benefit period
Hospital Copay $329/day for days 61-90
$658/day for days 91-150
Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $164.50/day for days 21-100
Part A Premium $413/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
$227/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
Annual Deductible $187.50
Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $109/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
Most covered Part B services 20%

Social Security amounts for 2017

Social Security beneficiaries will receive a COLA (cost of living adjustment) of .3% for 2017.

Social Security beneficiaries who are still working while receiving benefits will be subject to the following Retirement Earnings Test Exempt Amounts for 2017: If you are under your full retirement age the maximum you can earn without getting your benefits reduced up to $16,920/yr ($1,410/mo). For every $2 you earn above that limit your benefits will be reduced by $1. During the year that you reach full retirement age $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $3 in earnings above the limit of $44,880/yr ($3,740/mo). After you reach full retirement age there is no limit on earnings, you can receive your full benefits and still work.

Social Security Disability beneficiaries will be subject to the following thresholds in 2017: Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for Non-Blind beneficiaries will be $1,170/mo, and for Blind beneficiaries will be $1,950/mo. The maximum you can earn during a Trial Work Period in 2017 will be $ 840/mo.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefit amount will go from $733/mo in 2016 to $733/mo in 2017. One lottery ticket, good luck.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Today is World AIDS Day

Older West Virginians are not immune to HIV infection. One exposure can become a transmission. The World Health Organization recommends every sexually active adult get tested annually. Learn more about aging and HIV from the CDC www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/olderamericans/

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Racism has no place in WV aging services

As a West Virginian and as Executive Director of West Virginia Senior Legal Aid I am sad and angry to see news reports of racist statements published in social media by a county senior program director and a mayor in our state.

I hope that our network of aging services providers in West Virginia stands up against racism in any form, especially in the delivery of services to older West Virginians. I can promise you that at WV Senior Legal we welcome with open arms the opportunity to serve senior West Virginians of color, and look forward to continuing to fight discrimination on the basis of race in every corner of our state.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Budget Finance Ponzi scheme victims right to be heard at sentencing

The perpetrator of a $30 million Ponzi scheme has pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. Donna Brown faces up to 20 years and $250,000 on each charge. There were over 800 victims, and most were West Virginians.

Victims of the scheme have the right to be heard at the sentencing hearing. In order to exercise that right any victim who wishes to speak or have a statement read at the hearing must contact the court by January 17, 2017. For more information and specific details on how to exercise your victim rights at sentencing see www.justice.gov/usao-sdoh/page/file/905451/download.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Arrest Made in $31M New Martinsville Ponzi Scheme

Donna Brown has been arrested for wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering for the Ponzi scheme she was running through her New Martinsville investment company Budget Finance. 800 victims lost their investments in the $31 million dollar scam. For more info see http://wtov9.com/news/local/arrest-made-in-31-million-investment-scam

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Financial Exploitation and Law: What's New?

New legal tools for financial exploitation prevention and intervention in WV:

1. The Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) of 2012 www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/Code.cfm?chap=39b&art=01#01
Reform of financial powers of attorney includes statutory form, specified duties of agent, specified events that trigger termination of the authority, presumed durability, obligations of 3rd parties to honor, and lots more!

A new cause of action to petition court to examine agent transactions www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=39b&art=01§ion=116#01
And attorney’s fees if agent found to have violated duties www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=39b&art=01§ion=117#01

For more information about Financial Powers of Attorney in WV check this brochure out http://www.seniorlegalaid.net/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=37&Itemid=26

2. A new civil cause of action to get assets back after financial exploitation of elderly or incapacitated person
www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=hb4309%20ENR.htm&yr=2016&sesstype=RS&i=4309 (the code section will actually be §55-7J-1, et seq. Because another bill that passed also proposed to be a new §55-7I-1, et seq.)

3. The Transfer on Death Deed, a planning tool allowing you to deed your real property interest away but only upon your death, avoiding the need for probate and avoiding Medicaid estate recovery and uncompensated transfer of assets penalty. UNIFORM REAL PROPERTY TRANSFER ON DEATH ACT. §36-12-1 www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/Code.cfm?chap=36&art=12#12

For more information about the Transfer on Death Deed see this blog post http://seniorlegalaid.blogspot.com/2014/06/transfer-on-death-deed-available-in-wv.html

As Yogi Berra said, “the future ain’t what it used to be.”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Assistive Technology grants for individuals, apply by October 1

Do you or your family member need assistive technology and do not know where to turn? PATHS, the Partnerships in Assistive TecHnologieS, is a non-profit group dedicated to increasing awareness about and access to assistive technology (AT).

What is assistive technology (AT)? AT is anything that helps you or a family member do something. Eye glasses help us see. Velcro helps us tie our shoes instead of using laces. It is anything that makes life a little easier and helps independence.

PATHS is taking applications for those who need AT in the state of West Virginia. Many people need AT but affording devices can be difficult for some people. PATHS is offering awards of up to $550.00 worth of equipment/devices to qualified individuals. Please note: The total cost of the device(s), including any taxes and shipping and handling, cannot exceed $550.00. PATHS cannot “pool” the grant money with others. For example, PATHS cannot pay $550.00 towards a $700.00 purchase, and you or another source pay the difference. The total cost of the product(s) cannot exceed $550.00; this price must include all device extras, such as software.

How do I qualify? A person of any age and disability may apply. You (or a family member) must need AT to help foster independence at home, school or work. You must have no other funding sources to buy the devices. Proof you have no other funding sources will be required along with a completed application (i.e., denial letter from insurance provider, family support, etc.). If the individual is receiving services from the WV Department of Education (public school or the Birth to Three program) PATHS cannot fund assistive technology devices that should be covered in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP).

When are applications due? Applications must be postmarked by October 1, 2016

For more information and application see http://pathswv.com/grants.html.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

WV Flood victims: Disaster-SNAP benefits available, apply BY JULY 31

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) announced on July 20, 2016 that residents who lived or worked in Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers and Webster counties during the June 23, 2016, flooding may be eligible for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (D-SNAP) benefits.

D-SNAP generally offers more benefits than regular SNAP including the maximum benefit amount per eligible household size (not just the benefit amount you normally get based on your income, which for many seniors is only the minimum of $16/mo).

D-SNAP might be available even to some individuals and families in the flooded counties who do not normally receive SNAP because of lost access to money or unexpected flood-related expenses, and assets such as home and car are not included in the eligibility assessment.

Residents of the 12 identified counties may apply for D-SNAP benefits at the following locations from July 25, 2016 through July 31, 2016.

County Site Location Site Address Hours of Operation
Clay Clay DHHR 94 Main Street
Clay, WV 25043
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Fayette Fayette DHHR 1400 Virginia Street
Oak Hill, WV 25901
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Greenbrier *Rainelle Medical Center 645 Kanawha Avenue
Rainelle, WV 25962
M-F 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Greenbrier Greenbrier DHHR 150 Maplewood Avenue
Lewisburg, WV 24901
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Jackson Jackson DHHR 4285 Cedar Lakes Road
Ripley, WV 25271
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Kanawha Kanawha DHHR 4190 W. Washington Street
Charleston, WV 25313
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Kanawha *Clendenin Health Center Clendenin Health Center
107 Koontz Avenue
Clendenin, WV 25045
M-F 8:00 am – 5:30 pm
Lincoln Lincoln DHHR 8209 Court Avenue
Hamlin, WV 25523
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Monroe Monroe DHHR 174 Route 3, East
Union, WV 24983
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Nicholas Nicholas DHHR 707 Professional Park Drive
Summersville, WV 26651
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Pocahontas Pocahontas DHHR #2 Elray Business Park
Marlinton, WV 24954
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Roane Roane DHHR 677 Ripley Road, Suite 3
Spencer, WV 25276
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Summers Summers DHHR 320 Summers Street, Suite A
Hinton, WV 25951
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Webster Webster DHHR 110 North Main Street
Suite 201
Webster Springs, WV 26288
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

WV flood victims: you may be able to get your June SNAP benefits replaced, extension granted

DHHR Announces Extended Reporting Period for SNAP Replacement

7/1/2016 The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted a waiver of the 10 day reporting requirement for households requesting replacement SNAP benefits lost in the mass flooding and mud slides that occurred on June 23, 2016. The waiver extends the reporting period until July 22, 2016, in 21 counties.

Counties approved under the waiver are Boone, Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, Monroe, McDowell, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Roane, Summers, Wayne and Webster.

“Receiving this extension assists families who are facing devastating losses and challenging circumstances,” said Nancy Exline, Commissioner of the Bureau for Children and Families. “I am thankful for the USDA’s support during this difficult time.”

Households in the above-listed counties must request and complete a DFA-SNAP-36 form at a DHHR office by the close of business on July 22, 2016. The replacement benefit is for food that was purchased with June SNAP benefits received by the household. The replacement will not affect SNAP benefit allocations for July.

Replacement SNAP benefits for households affected by the June 23 flooding and mud slide that are not in one of the above-listed counties must request and complete the DFA-SNAP-36 form at a DHHR office by the close of business on July 5, 2016.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Kathy Greenlee to leave federal ACL at the end of July

My favorite federal head of aging in history is leaving! We knew it would happen, a new administration will be taking over in 2017 and there will be the usual new raft of cabinet heads installed. But it will be particularly hard for many of us in aging services to see Kathy Greenlee go. She has been that perfect combination of smart, experienced, effective, and inspirational. Here's hoping our next Assistant Secretary on Aging will be even half as excellent as she has been.

www.acl.gov/NewsRoom/NewsInfo/2016/2016_06_29.aspx

WV flood victims: DOCUMENT your damage

It's hard to comprehend how people in the flood-ravaged areas of WV are getting their needs met. Legal matters are certainly not the highest priority right now while people are still mucking out.

But please pass it on to every flood victim you know, DOCUMENT your damage before you clean up. Document as you clean up. Take pictures, video, notes about your losses. It is the farthest thing from your mind as you are shoveling mud, but you may need evidence of your damages to support claims for benefits or insurance later.

Please spread the word of the need for documentation of damages, and help your fellow West Virginians get documentation they may need later.

Any West Virginian age 60 or over can contact WV Senior Legal Aid with legal questions or problems, whether flood-related or not. We will be here to help as claims issues arise, too. We wish every West Virginia flood victim safety and we will be here to help with your recovery.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

follow FEMA's work in WV

You can follow each step of the progress of FEMA's work assisting West Virginians affected by the floods in Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties on this webpage www.fema.gov/disaster/4273

Monday, June 27, 2016

WV flood victims: protect your identity when using public computers

Many WV flood victims may have lost the use of their primary computers for accessing critical online resources like their own bank accounts, utility accounts, insurance accounts, benefits application, etc.

Beware of identity thieves and fraudsters who prey on disaster victims. If you use a public computer or other person's phone or tablet or computer to access online account information or apply for benefits be extra careful. Know whose computer you are using and don't use any machine from a source that is not safe and credible. Take extra steps to delete all your personal and username/password information when you are done. Then check again to be sure no one can use your credentials to access your accounts again later.

If you are not sure how to protect yourself, don't log in. It can wait.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas counties designated for federal disaster funds

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the State of West Virginia to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides beginning on June 22, 2016, and continuing.

The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in of Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

The President's action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Albert Lewis has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Lewis said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Follow FEMA online at blog.fema.gov, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema. The social media links provided are for reference only.

FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Friday, June 24, 2016

WV Seniors in flooded areas can call for free legal assistance

Seniors age 60+ in every county in WV can call WV Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068 to talk to a lawyer for free. Seniors in counties who have been hit by this week's massive flooding across the state may especially need legal help regarding:

  • FEMA benefits
  • other public benefits
  • landlord/tenant issues
  • insurance claims
  • contractor issues
  • creating new documents for those lost in the flood

Any disaster brings scammers and predators out of the woodwork so communities should be extra vigilant during the recovery. Check out licensing, insurance, and references carefully before choosing a contractor. Don't sign a contract without carefully reading it, don't be bashful about getting advice from a professional or a trusted smart friend before signing or agreeing to pay. Get more than one bid and recognize that the cheapest one may not necessarily be the best choice. Urgency and scarcity are hallmarks of scams, so don't let anyone pressure you into taking a step before you have done your homework.

Same goes for sending donations. West Virginians are generous people who want to help those who need it, and scammers know that. Be sure your donation is going to a reputable non-profit who has a track record of providing effective community assistance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Elder abuse can include physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse as well as neglect and financial exploitation. No senior is immune; elder abuse happens to seniors across all socio-economic groups, races, abilities, and cultures. It happens in our community. It takes all the eyes of the community to watch for it and take action.

What are the risk factors for elder abuse? Though it can happen to any senior some of us are particularly vulnerable, including those experiencing social isolation, diminishing mental or physical capacities, and the very elderly.

Who are the perpetrators? Sadly our own family members, friends, fellow church members, trusted professionals, and neighbors are often perpetrators of elder abuse.

Why are senior victims unlikely to disclose the abuse? Embarrassment, shame, fear of retaliation, and fear that our vulnerabilities will be used against us to take away our autonomy and rights to make our own choices. Especially when the abuser is family or close friend a victim may also not want the perpetrator to get in trouble. He or she may just want the abuse to stop but not know how.

What should I do if I suspect abuse of a senior in my community? Adult Protective Services is our state's investigation unit for allegations of adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation. You can call day or night to make a report 1-800-352-6513.

What can I do to raise awareness about elder abuse? Talk to your friends, your family, your work mates, your church, fellow group members, about what to look for and how to report it. Write a letter to the editor to help others be aware it can happen to anyone. Keep in touch with older people in your world. Check on an older neighbor or family member or friend. Let seniors know they can trust you to help if they ever need it, that you are a safe person to talk to. Make opportunities for older people to talk to you in private, away from caregivers or other family.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

WV Magistrate Court maximum jurisdiction amount doubles to $10,000

For decades the maximum amount you could sue for in WV Magistrate Court was $5,000. Anything above that you had to file in Circuit Court. This is a significant limitation because Magistrate Court is designed to be consumer-friendly even for those litigants who are not represented by lawyers. Circuit Court, on the other hand, is not designed for folks to navigate through without legal representation. Not to say you can't do it, but for example there are very few forms for use by litigants in that court, whereas there are several forms for Magistrate Court including a general Complaint form that can be used to get you in the door for almost anything the Magistrate Court can hear.

The state legislature this year enacted a bill to double the maximum jurisdiction of our Magistrate Courts to $10,000 beginning in June of 2016. [See SB 274 which as passed March 7, 2016 and becomes effective 90 days from passage.]

This offers West Virginians the option of filing lawsuits in the Magistrate Court that previously they may not have been practically able to file at all. For example, if you pay a contractor $8,000 for a new roof, and the job is done poorly and needs to be repaired, it may not have been feasible for you to pay a lawyer $2,500 to represent you especially since you aren't guaranteed to win, and you may not have been able to figure out how to successfully file and pursue the case on your own in Circuit Court. Now you have the option of filing that case in Magistrate Court by yourself using a fill-in-the-blank form Complaint, or hiring an attorney to file it and represent you in Magistrate Court perhaps for a lower fee than for Circuit Court representation, or hiring an attorney to file it and represent you in Circuit Court. You can still legally represent yourself in Circuit Court, but without some legal background and experience you're likely to have a difficult time succeeding on that path. You wouldn't do surgery on yourself, would you? Sometimes hiring a professional is what it takes to get what you need.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"People don't stop partying because they get old, they get old because they stop partying."

Let us celebrate Older Americans Month today with some timely and sage advice from a couple years ago from Andrew WK, the party messiah who writes a regular party advice column for the Village Voice at http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2014/10/ask_andrew_wk_on_aging.php

October 22nd, 2014

Dear Andrew,

It's my birthday and I feel depressed. I never used to be one of those people that hated telling people their age, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I'm getting old. How do I keep the party going even though I'm old?

Yours truly,
Aging Rager

Dear Aging Rager,

Your fear of not being able to party as you get older isn't uncommon, but it's unwarranted. If anything, the more experience you have at partying, the better you get at partying. The more you understand about what brings you happiness, the more skills you can acquire to bring that happiness about. Living longer makes you better at life.

This is why our elders are so appealing. We realize they've accumulated extremely deep stores of knowledge and wisdom precisely because they aren't 18 years old. We stand in awe as we ponder what insights and secrets they've extracted from the volumes of life they've endured. Similarly, the more time we spend learning who we are in this world, the better we get at being ourselves -- this is how one becomes a master -- this is the great gift of aging.

As with many aspects of a materialistic culture, ethereal ideas like mastery and wisdom are often undervalued. We are made to feel bad about change, appearance, and, most of all, our immaterial inner world. Aging demands that we reckon with overwhelmingly intense ideas about the mysteries of the world, eventually dying, looking different, loss and heartbreak, and the impermanence of everything. But these things are only truly upsetting when we attach too much importance to the material world in which the pain of these ideas dwells, outside of our true inner self.

Our true inner self -- our spirit -- is ageless and never dies. But this concept is so hard to conceive of that we often distract ourselves with little games that seem to give us a place to rest our anxiety and distract us so we don't have to dive deeper into what is really going on inside us. We worry about how we look, our attractiveness, about stuff and objects and pursuits and money and a million other things. And it's totally fine to play these games, as long as we remember that they are only games. They don't define our essence, and they are not why we are here. And when these games begin to distance us from the effortless beauty of existence, they take on a sinister and self-abusive quality. Some of these games are purposely set up to make sure that we can only ever lose -- they only can separate us from ourselves -- playing these games too passionately can kill us even though we outwardly appear to be living. Obsession with youth is just fear.

Besides, when we think back to our younger years, we often tend to exaggerate the good times and block out the bad. There's nothing wrong with remembering things in an idealized way, as long as it doesn't make us lose appreciation for where we stand right now. If we're intent on always comparing our current situation with how things used to be, we are likely to never be satisfied and to dread moving forward into the new and unfamiliar.

There's a difference between "getting older" and "being old." Getting older is just another way to describe the process of being alive. The longer you go without dying, the "older" you become. We can easily understand how aging in this way is a great triumph. Those who have reached old age have truly achieved a remarkable feat of endurance, and we should recognize and respect all that they've experienced and withstood to survive so long. This is why it's equally intense when someone dies much too soon, and didn't get the chance to survive long enough.

The best we can hope for is health and strength and a mind that's able to comprehend, appreciate, and penetrate the world around us, no matter what stage of life we're in. Make the most of the age you are right now, and realize that you still are you, no matter how old you are. Don't buy into the hype about "getting old," because aging doesn't automatically mean life gets worse. That's all guilt-based nonsense usually used to sell products and fantasies that are never as good as they're described -- they're just entertainment. And that's OK. But don't give in to it, or give up and get lazy. Don't fall back on "getting old" as an excuse for not living full-on.

What matters most is using every moment you're alive to become the best person you can be. All of us are children only for a short time. The majority of our life is spent as an adult. And as an adult, we have the tools, the resources, and the physical and mental fortitude to shape the world so that the dreams of our childhood can be realized. The gift of childhood gives us the vision and the gift of adulthood gives us the power. Be glad that you've even lived into adulthood. Be glad that you've even had the chance to have another birthday. Many children didn't get to ever see adulthood. Appreciate yours, and celebrate it in honor of all those who'll never get to have a birthday ever again. And remember...

People don't stop partying because they get old, they get old because they stop partying.

Your friend, Andrew W.K.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Dearly Beloved. . .Prince's death offers elderlaw lessons

Prince died without a will, as you may have heard. The state law of Minnesota determines who inherits from his estate, and lots of lawyers will likely make lots of money fighting over the details. Had he made it to age 60 and lived in WV he could have been eligible to talk to an attorney for free at WV Senior Legal Aid about estate planning (and other civil legal issues, for that matter).

Here are a few things you can do as a West Virginian of any age to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  1. Determine who inherits if you die without a will and get a will if that's not who you want to inherit your estate. The law of Intestate Succession is what determines who your heirs are if you die without a will. This is a matter of state law, and if you are a West Virginian when you die without a will our law from WV Code §42-1-1, et seq applies. Generally if you are legally married your spouse will inherit from you, and your kids may share, too, if your spouse is not their parent. There's a lot more to it than that, of course, and here's a brochure that explains it in a little more detail.

    If the law of intestate succession would leave all or some of your estate to someone you do not want to inherit from you, then you need a will. Yes, you can legally handwrite a will in WV or make your own from some fill-in-the-blank paper you get at some office store, but even though they may be legal wills they will probably fail if challenged. If you are trying to cut someone out of your will you are very unlikely to succeed by writing your own will, that's what lawyers are for. You are paying a lawyer not just for the piece of paper, but for making sure every single comma will survive a legal challenge by the disgruntled person you are cutting out of your estate. A fairly simple will costs a few hundred dollars. If it's not worth that much to you, write your own, and good luck with that, Cowboy. You won't be around to see if worked anyway.

  2. Wills and probate estates are public information after you die. Want your estate to be a totally private matter? Then you need to set up a trust. Trusts are substantially more expensive than wills, and can be very flexible planning tools that you can use to protect your assets during your lifetime as well as after you die. If you have lots of assets or perhaps a loved one with special needs who you want to benefit from you assets but with some restrictions or protections, a trust is the ticket. You may get some tax benefits, too. But don't be scared into creating a trust if you don't have lots of $ or special needs because only multi-million dollar estates are subject to inheritance tax anyway, and probate is just not usually a big deal in WV, so not worth spending thousands to avoid in most circumstances.

  3. Review and update your estate plan periodically. Things change. People die. Divorce happens. Grandkids get born. Priorities change. Your plan is may have been great when you got the documents done, but years or changes later if may actually be worse than just letting intestate succession distribute your estate. If you have done good planning don't get too complacent, pull those documents out every year or so, or anytime important changes happen in your life, and review to be sure they still reflect your wishes and asset picture.

  4. Plan for living with disability, not just dying. Almost all of us will live some portion of our lives with diminished capacity, whether physical or cognitive. We cannot predict whether or when, but if you lose your ability to make decisions about your money, your healthcare, or your life, or lose the ability to take care of yourself who will help you? You can plan in advance by executing advance directives like medical power of attorney or financial power of attorney that let you authorize people to have certain specific and limited authority and access on your behalf. If you don't plan and you lose important capacities to care for yourself it may end up in a guardianship or conservatorship hearing in court and a judge will decide who gets authority for you. Your spouse or child does not have any automatic authority for you in the event of your incapacity, that's a popular myth, so if you want to be the one to choose your decisionmaker plan now while you still can.

Want to talk to a lawyer about any of this? WV seniors 60+ can call us and talk to a lawyer for free. 1-800-229-5068.

This post was adapted from the following article by Danielle and Andrew Mayoras from www.nextavenue.org/celebrities-4-estate-planning-mistakes--and-what-they-can-teach-you/