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Is Your Estate Plan Strong Enough For a Pandemic?

Everybody knows about the pandemic that we are currently living in. On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave name to the disease-causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. The coronavirus disease 2019 shortly after became known by its abbreviation, CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease, and 19 for the year of the outbreak; COVID-19. This virus will likely become a milder illness in time because of vaccinations, pandemic controls, and naturally occurring herd immunities. Still, COVID-19 will probably be with us humans forever, endemic in large swaths of the world in varying degrees of intensity.

According to National Geographic, COVID-19 may eventually transition into a “mild childhood illness,” joining the four endemic human coronaviruses which contribute to the common cold. Three determining factors, human immunity retention (vaccine or otherwise), virus evolution, and prevalence of older population immunity, will set the pace of post-pandemic transition. If COVID-19 responds similarly to related diseases, it will take sixty to seventy percent of the human population to become immune to end the pandemic phase. We have entered a new year with no magic to make the coronavirus go away.

Many people have lost loved ones, colleagues, and acquaintances. Our daily lives have forever been disrupted. If we can, we work from home, and if we have them, we oversee our children’s school day. We debate statistics of those lost, observe new surges, use terms new to many, like efficacy, and wait for COVID-19 to go away. We put into practice government messaging by limiting our social interactions, wearing masks, and practicing good hand hygiene. There is no getting around a pandemic; it looms large. Collectively everyone is participating in vanquishing this unseen foe. Individually it is a good time to ask yourself some questions about your legacy and personal legal preparedness.

What is the status of your will? When did you last review it? Have you moved? Does your will reflect the laws of the state in which you live? Is your accounting for any inheritance tax law changes at the state or federal level? Remember that wills are subject to state law even though there are federal inheritance laws. A valid will must be per the laws of the state where it is signed. It is essential to have an up to date will.

If you become ill or otherwise incapacitated, it is prudent to have a living will or advance care directives that describes how you envision your medical care. Should you become sick with COVID-19 or any other potentially fatal disease, do you have strong feelings about being on a ventilator, and for what purposes? Ventilators are needed if you undergo anesthesia for surgery and perhaps for a short while post-op. However, people on ventilators trying to recover from COVID-19 have high mortality rates and poor survival outcomes. Under what conditions would you want to accept this type of medical intervention?

If you have children or own any assets, having a will or setting up trusts for descendants’ care and dispersion of inheritable belongings is crucial. Now is a good time to carefully read through your will and advance care directives as currently written. It is best not to rely on memory; find those physical documents and read them. As estate planning attorneys we can update your legal documents via the telephone or virtual meetings if you prefer not to meet face to face. If you do not have these documents currently, it is a good time to start the process of speaking to an attorney about how these documents should be drafted. These documents define your life and can provide stability for those you love when you are no longer capable of doing so. In times of great uncertainty, as in the coronavirus pandemic, preparedness is within your control.

We help families with their estate planning needs. If you would like to discuss your personal situation, we would be happy to meet with you at your convenience. Please contact our office at (212) 937-8420.



Important Things to Consider When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18

Having a child that has special needs comes with many challenges. One of the toughest challenges faced by many parents is knowing how to best care for their special needs child as they reach adulthood. There are many areas that need consideration when planning for the transition of a special needs child to adulthood. Let’s take a look at some of these areas.


During childhood, the public education system provides for the bulk of the care, structure, and services that a special needs child requires. However, once they are out of public education, this support and service abruptly come to an end. If parents don’t plan for this transition, it can be difficult for the child and the family. That is why the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that at age 14, the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) contain a plan with steps that will be taken to help the special needs student acquire skills that are necessary to transition from school to the workforce. Schools are required to monitor progress of the students as they acquire the specific skills. It is important for parents to understand their child’s rights and for parents of children with special needs to be advocates for their child as they turn 14 and enter this time of transition.


Special needs individuals if trained in skills specific to the workforce can find ways to have a job. For example, the local Walmart hired a young lady who has special needs to work as a cashier. The young lady while in school had an IEP. From the time the young lady was in elementary school, part of her IEP include life skills goals. These goals allowed her to learn necessary skills to get and keep a job as a cashier.

Beyond preparing your child early for the workforce, it is helpful to research companies that hire people with special needs and determine the types of skills they will need to succeed. Then, parents or other caregivers, should seek out ways to develop those necessary skills in their child. The key to employment is being prepared to help your child both during and after school. Be patient with the process. Sometimes it takes time for a special needs adult to get hired. Many special needs people do not work because they are scared that they may lose benefits if they work.


Working can be a great way for special needs adults to earn some additional income. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are limits on the amount of money a special needs person can earn without affecting Social Security Insurance (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Once a child reaches 18, these benefits are based on his or her own assets. Other ways to protect the assets of your special needs child is by creating a first or third-party trust. This way, your special needs child can draw benefits while also having assets.

If you are the parent of a special needs child, it is important to begin planning early for the future of your child. Don’t wait until your child is 18. The public education system can be a great resource but you will need to do some planning on your own. The good news is there are organizations that can help you and your child find the right employment opportunities to match their skills. An elder law attorney who specializes in adults with special needs can be very helpful in planning for the financial future of your child with special needs.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us. Please contact our office at (212) 937-8420.


Smart Personal Assistants Are Rapidly Increasing in Popularity

Moving at a fast breakneck pace, is the revolution of smart personal assistants. It took approximately 30 years for the cellular telephone to begin outnumbering people on the planet, but smart personal assistants are projected to outnumber humans in half of that amount of time by 2021. The technology-research firm Canalys expects 100 million smart speakers (smart personal assistants) will be installed worldwide by the beginning of 2020 and also estimates the number of smart assistant compatible devices will reach 1.6 billion in the US that same year. The numbers are staggering.

It is precisely because of these numbers that manufacturers of smart personal assistants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are pushing sales of their devices. Not only does a smart personal assistant allow for corporate monetization post-purchase from user data collection it is on the forefront of taking over your everyday space whether that be your home, car, or office. The corporation that garners the biggest market share with their smart assistant technology will lock in app developers, appliance manufacturers, and consumers into their company’s proprietary platform also called the ecosystem which ensures frictionless interoperability. Home automation and lighting is forecast to make up 49 percent of the market segment, followed by home security and surveillance (18 percent), audio and video entertainment (13 percent) and “other” appliance segment (20 percent).

The smart assistant with its voice technology is a significant boon to US seniors as more baby boomers are opting to age in place and smart voice technology simplifies remaining at home. There are the obvious uses for a smart assistant like calendaring events, medication reminders, home environmental controls, age-appropriate learning activities, and much more. Some of the newer applications of voice technology are pushing smart personal assistants into newer realms like digital therapist, companion, and caregiver. For the senior who is living at home and alone, these are wonderful new developments.

Research in the field of prosody, the patterns of stress and intonation in a language, are making smart assistants capable of detecting depression, loneliness, anxiety, joy, and anger to name a few. Initial research of emotion enabled artificial intelligence focused on emotion detection through facial expressions but quickly turned to the spoken word. Vocal signatures carry an incredible array of information from how you string the words in a sentence together, to tone, depth, rhythm, pitch, resonance, pronunciation, tempo, and more. These vocal features are then analyzed to suggest a person’s mood and subsequent best action practice for the senior.

The practical applications of this technology are numerous. A medical doctor with a smart personal assistant in their office can more readily pick up on identifiers that suggest patient depression. A smart car speaker in a semi-autonomous car can make informed judgments about the safety of handing over the controls to the driver based on vocal characteristics indicating stress or confusion. A smart personal assistant might pick up on loneliness in a stay at home senior and offer suggestions of music or other activities to engage the senior and lift their spirits. The smart personal assistant is also “someone” an elderly person can tell their troubles to without shame, recrimination or judgment. The smart assistant is programmed so that it never gets tired, never becomes distracted or bored with the content of “its person.” It is a bit like a therapist allowing the senior to get out all of their frustrations about growing old and losing their physical and cognitive abilities; even expressing fears for their future.

While smart personal assistant technology is currently not able to provide all of the benefits of a professionally trained human caregiver, therapist, or companion it is readily available, overall inexpensive, and can help alleviate the problems of too many seniors with too few attainable human caregivers to meet their needs. The technology may also outpace its human counterpart in the not too distant future if current research and development is any indication of success. The market forces for profit will continue to drive the expansion of the smart personal assistant and its associated products allowing for newer market segments and more importantly the ability for stay at home seniors to live their best quality of life.

If you have questions about what you have read, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Please contact our office at (212) 937-8420.


What It Means To Become a “Fiduciary”

Throughout their life, many people may be asked to be power of attorney for a family member or friend. Your person may be planning for when they might become unable to take care of their affairs. For example, they might become disabled or incapacitated, and they would need a trusted person to step in and manage for them. This is also necessary if the person is writing a will, and his or her estate must go through the probate process.

If you are named as a guardian, executor of a person’s will, trustee, or power of attorney, the law calls you a “fiduciary.” You must act in the best interests of the person who has named you – “selflessly,” in other words. You must act loyally and in good faith.

You are not allowed to use the person’s property for your own profit. You cannot give gifts to yourself or others, if the person has not authorized you to do that. You cannot mingle your person’s property with your own. If you spend the person’s money, you must carefully document the amount you spend and for what purpose.

What is a Fiduciary Relationship?

The “fiduciary” relationship imposes the highest duty in law. If you violate that duty, you may become personally liable.

Or, if you are the one who is thinking about whom you would like to name as your power of attorney (or the like), you must be sure you trust that person absolutely.

A recent New Jersey probate case shows what can go wrong. Mother Christine named Patricia, one of her daughters, to be executor of Christine’s will. On Christine’s death, her other daughter, Diane, received a check from Christine’s estate for $10,000.00 – yet Christine’s house had sold for nearly $230,000.00.

The judge ordered Patricia to produce an “accounting” of where all that money had gone. An accounting is an inventory of estate assets and a record of all income and expenses. Patricia would not do so. Examination of the estate’s inheritance tax return revealed that despite a gross estate value of $319,368.00, the estate bank account contained only $6,886.00.

Patricia had spent $40,000.00 on what she claimed were home repair expenses, but she could produce no building permits. She had also given herself $110,000.00 as “fees” for her executor duties, plus a “gift” to herself of $27,000.00. No wonder she pled the Fifth Amendment.

The judge entered a judgment against her of $200,422.00. The judgment was affirmed on appeal, but with the requirement that the trial judge calculate the damages more specifically.

The case is In re Cenaffra, and can be found here:

Most people are not like Patricia. If you are named as guardian, power of attorney, or executor, follow a few simple principles. Make sure you don’t personally benefit from what you do with the other person’s property. You might be compensated fairly for your work, but refrain from doing anything that might look like a conflict of interest. If there are other beneficiaries waiting to receive their inheritances, be transparent. Keep the beneficiaries informed. Write down why you acted as you did, at the time you acted. Document everything. Keep receipts.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We help people determine who should act in their best interests, and we can help those who are already named. We welcome the opportunity to speak to you. Please contact our office or give us a call at (212) 937-8420.

Do You Have a Letter of Instruction For Your Estate Plan?

A letter of instruction (LOI) is an important part of any comprehensive plan whether starting from scratch or adding it to a current one. A letter of instruction can help your loved ones manage important information about you. A LOI conveys your desires, includes practical information about where to find various items referenced in your plan, and it can provide advice to help those you designate in managing your affairs.

Even with a new or updated estate plan, there exists a lot of information that your heirs need to know that doesn’t necessarily fit into the format of a will, trust, or other estate plan components. In the absence of this information, it is easy for those in charge to miss important items and alternatively become overwhelmed, sifting through all of the documents you left behind. All LOI’s are as different as the persons who wrote them; however, there are some standard data that every LOI should include:

  • A current list of people and their contact information to inform of your death
  • A list of beneficiaries of your estate plan
  • The locations of important documents like your will, trust, financial statements, insurance policies, deeds, and birth certificate
  • A comprehensive list of assets such as bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate holdings, insurance policies, and military benefits if applicable
  • PINs, usernames, and passwords for debit cards and online accounts
  • Usernames and passwords for social media accounts, music or information accounts
  • Keys and combinations to digital safes, strong boxes, and safety deposit boxes and their locations
  • A list of credit card accounts and any other debts
  • A list of organizations in which you belong or are a paying member such as professional organizations, boards, country or golf clubs, social or political clubs, and more
  • A current list of contact information for lawyers, brokers, tax preparers, financial planners, and insurance agents
  • Instructions for the distribution of personal items with sentimental value
  • Instructions for a memorial or funeral service
  • A personal message to family members

A note about your digital footprint: your digital world often includes music libraries, storefronts, YouTube channels, influencer social media accounts, etc. When most of us create these accounts, we blithely accepted the End User License Agreement (EULA) without much thought about when we are no longer around to manage its content and activity. A EULA designates the rights and restrictions that apply when using the software known as terms of service (TOS). Naming someone capable of managing your digital-assets and their activity is important. Most of your online accounts are not subject to typical estates planning devices like trusts and wills because they are not technically your property. Since most TOS are non-transferable, you will be unable to transfer your online accounts’ ownership legally. However, you can still make a plan for how they are handled when you die.

Once you write your letter, put it somewhere easily accessible and tell your family about it. If you do not want anyone to read the LOI until your death, seal it in an envelope. You should review your letter once a year to be sure it reflects your most current wishes and information. Because your heirs read your letter of intent upon your death, it can be difficult for you to write and have any degree of satisfaction. Final words and conveyances are sobering.

We can help you compose such a letter (as well as other estate planning documents), making sure that it compliments and does not contradict your estate plan. Remember that your LOI can bring real peace and be a source of comfort to your grieving family members. It allows them time to contemplate and connect with others to celebrate you rather than sort through documents searching for important papers. Your LOI can also alleviate potential family conflicts and stress because you specifically address personal items’ distribution. Your goal should be to ease the burden for those in charge and gain a sense of peace that you have done all you can to allow your loved ones to focus on reflecting on your life.

When you are ready to take the next step, we will be here to help. Please contact our office or give us a call at (212) 937-8420.

COVID-19 and The Increase In Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can vary and look different to different people. It may present itself in older adults’ lives concurrently. Sadly, elder abuse events are significantly underreported. The National Council on Aging reports that estimates range as high as five million older adults experience abuse every year or about one in ten. A study by The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that only one in fourteen cases are reported to authorities. The number of abuse cases is increasing during the coronavirus pandemic as family and caretakers struggle under the strain of uncertainty and pressures of survival. Fully two-thirds of perpetrators of violence against elders are adult children or spouses.

Abuse includes physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse, and neglect or abandonment. The impact of the abuse comprises a host of issues in the elderly, including:

  • Physical abuse can bring about unusual weight loss, bedsores, bruises or skin damage, broken bones, malnutrition and dehydration, pain gestures when the older adult is moving or touched, and higher mortality risk
  • Incidences of distress, depression, mental health decline, anger, anxiety, confusion, fear, sleep disorders, helplessness, PTSD, non-responsiveness, and withdrawal often accompany emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse can bring about loss of home, inability to pay for utilities or medication, reduce medical treatment, drain of retirement savings, theft, and more

These underlying biological, social, financial, and psychological vulnerabilities are magnified as elderly individuals are disproportionately affected by social distancing policies and other restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19. The loss of an elder’s social network makes it easier for an abuser to escape having their behavior cross-referenced by others. Caregiver and relative abuse indicators include:

  • Speaking for the older adult who is capable of expressing themselves
  • Stories that conflict between the older person and the caregiver or family member
  • Discernable substance abuse by the caregiver or family member
  • Restricting the activities of or socially isolating the older adult

Collectively, as a nation, negative attitudes pose significant risks to older adults’ health and well-being. For example, on social media platforms, the hashtag #BoomerRemover is trending and often is accompanying disparaging and devaluing memes. During the pandemic, public discourse increasingly portrays Americans over the age of 70, even 65, as frail, helpless, and unable to contribute to society. Since the coronavirus pandemic’s start, a massive increase in elder abuse reports occurs. Still, the abuse is probably being underreported. Family violence, financial scams, and neglect are heightened by the pressures all Americans feel due to coronavirus.

Adult Protection Services (APS) are available to victims of abuse or suspected abuse and are run by local or state health departments. While these agencies and departments investigate elder abuse, fewer financial resources are chasing increasing abuse cases. There is also insufficient access to data needed to resolve issues, inadequate administrative systems, and a lack of cross-training with the other agencies and disciplines in the aging field who serve clients, some with mental health disabilities.

Two of the more important federal acts that address elder abuse are the Older Americans Act (OAA) and the Elder Justice Act (EJA). Yet, these acts’ effectiveness has been diluted with a lack of funding and relaxed enforcement. According to Forbes, the EJA has less than 10 percent of the funding it was authorized to receive, and one of EJA’s main goals is to dedicate funding to Adult Protective Services. Underreporting, denial of, and underfunding of acts designed to protect older Americans from elder abuse is a significant problem in enforcing existing laws. Policy change requirements are needed to increase the protection of the elderly from abuse during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Since help to identify and prevent elder abuse can be difficult to come by, older adults can employ several actions to reduce their risk of being victimized. To stay safe, it is important to:

  • Maintain an active, positive, and healthy lifestyle, decreasing the chance of being vulnerable to abuse
  • Routinely and actively monitor all financial accounts
  • Make use of a living will that specifies future healthcare decisions
  • Periodically review their will to ensure there are no unauthorized changes
  • Safely guard personal information by not providing information to persons on the phone, in email, in social media platform postings, and open all mail
  • Seek assistance for any family member with whom they have close contact that is experiencing substance abuse issues, abnormal behaviors like depression, or coping with the loss of income due to the pandemic
  • Know your rights, stand your ground, and voice your opinions

Elder abuse is a criminal, civil, and moral offense. Victims vary by age, gender, background, and status, and the abuse can be domestic or institutional.  There are ways to protect yourself or a loved one from financial abuse or fraud. If you have questions or would like to discuss how to mitigate the risk of elder abuse or fraud through legal planning, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Please contact our office or give us a call at (212) 937-8420.


Telehealth Coverage Being Rolled Back

Many health systems and hospitals have been coping with unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. There has been a need to increase and safeguard healthcare staff as well as non-COVID-19 patients, testing and treating infected patients, expanding critical care unit capacity, procuring personal protective equipment (PPE), and canceling non-emergency patient procedures. The American Hospital Association estimates that healthcare systems are losing an average of 50.7 billion dollars a month. This financial crisis is jeopardizing the telehealth industry as insurance groups seek to lower rates for virtual appointments. Without payment parity equivalent to an in-person appointment, many health care systems will be unable to continue telehealth services.

COVID-19 has brought telehealth from a niche service to a common practice in less than a year. The assurance of physical distance, preservation of PPE, and limiting infection spread has been invaluable. Yet, despite the advantages telehealth provides, insurance coverage, prescribing, and technology access remain limiting factors. The federal government created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to address these concerns, removing many barriers to promoting telehealth expansion. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) created a toolkit to encourage state Medicaid agencies to adopts CARES Act standards, and many private insurers followed suit. Still, telehealth’s subsequent explosive increase in patients became unprofitable. The resulting financial strain on the healthcare system and insurers may force telehealth provision limitations, although the public health crisis remains.

Early in 2020, the use of telehealth saw an increase from 13,000 to 1.7 million Medicare recipient visits per week. During the height of the national lockdown, between mid-March to mid-June, the number of Medicare recipients receiving telehealth care was more than nine million. Meanwhile, private insurers, mimicking the CARES Act policy changes, saw telehealth claims increasing upward of 4,000 percent from 2019. The CARES Act intended to last until the public health emergency was over. With the advent of this flu season and the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus, there is a call for telehealth’s expansion to become permanent.

However, many private insurers are changing their telehealth coverage policies for non-COVID-19 issues due to financial losses. United Healthcare will no longer waive co-pays and other fees for non-COVID related appointments. Other insurers like Anthem BlueCross BlueShield will extend coverage through the end of 2020; however, only the first two telehealth sessions will be free for the consumer. Telehealth billing standardization remains elusive as each private insurance plan, and many state-funded Medicaid plans have varying rules and dates for what telehealth treatments have coverage. Some patients are paying more, while others are paying less. Costs are confusing, and patients may be delaying healthcare to avoid a surprisingly expensive bill.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is a trade, and political advocacy association of health insurance companies with certifications for Medicare Advantage and other CMS governed health plans. Working with public and private sectors, AHIP implements solutions to lower out-of-pocket costs, which can be a barrier for people seeking telehealth medical care. AHIP’s website lists many insurance providers and general information about their coverage, often addressing telehealth. If you or a loved one requires telehealth coverage, it is the optimal time to review your health care coverage for 2021 as the insurance industry is in its annual enrollment program.

Diminishing coverage for telehealth visits will continue to impact Americans this winter and beyond. Patients are paying more while health care practices are earning less, and the risk of infections increases. Health insurers seem to be driving patients back to the in-person appointment model. Telehealth is truly innovative and protective during the coronavirus pandemic, but its continuation will suffer unless it can also become profitable.

We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss a personal legal matter, don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our office at (212) 937-8420





How an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You and Your Family

In the United States, the senior citizen population is increasing rapidly as the baby boomer generation ages, and the influx of international migration continues. Although the US average life expectancy has seen a slight three-year decline, many Americans, men and women, live well into their 80s, 90s, and beyond. An elder law attorney works with seniors, taking a holistic approach to the legal issues people commonly face as they age. These include matters of housing, physical and financial health, estate planning, and more. There are as many issues as there are seniors, as life circumstances are different for everyone. An attorney who specializes in the host of the problems senior citizens face can be a wise investment.

Whether you have a lucrative business and many assets, or a small home with a modest bank account, estate planning can be overwhelming. However, having your affairs in order is a final gift to your family. An estate plan is much more than creating your will though it is generally the first step. There are multiple types of wills, and while most people think of their last will and testament, there are also living wills, joint wills, pour-over wills that work in conjunction with trusts, and more. The type of will(s) you need to best control what happens to you and your assets throughout your life, and your death, are best explained by an elder law attorney. An elder law attorney specializing in estate planning helps you navigate wills, trusts, guardianships, advance medical directives, and the financial management of life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs, and 401ks. All of these can have tax implications for managing and settling your estate.

Government programs on federal and state levels may be available to seniors. Individual qualifications and the application processes can be complicated and confusing, especially when enrolling for the first time. An elder law attorney can help you understand Medicare Part A (hospital, skilled nursing, some home health, and hospice), Part B (medical insurance covering certain services by doctors, preventative services, medical supplies, and outpatient care). Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans, a private company insurance plan you purchase that dovetails with Medicare) and Part D (covering prescription drugs). If you are a veteran, programs are available through the Veteran’s Administration and can provide you with further and more specialized assistance because of your military service. Veteran program qualifications can be highly complex, so look for an elder law attorney who is accredited by the Veterans Administration.

Medicaid provides health care benefits for low resource and low-income adults, pregnant women, elderly adults, children, and people with disabilities. If you qualify, you may receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Medicaid qualifiers have their healthcare premiums and out of pocket medical expenses covered through the program. Medicaid also includes custodial care and addresses long-term care expenses if you begin living in a nursing home. An elder law attorney understands how Medicare and Medicaid can work to your best advantage.

Social Security benefit amounts change depending on the age range you choose to receive your benefit. You can currently apply and qualify for your benefits at 61 and nine months of age; however, the full retirement age for social security is 67, and cashing in early has long-term consequences for your payout. An elder law attorney can help you determine the best age to receive your social security benefits based on your health and financial situation. Suppose you also receive disability benefits before full retirement age or become disabled at that age. In that case, an elder law attorney can ensure you receive the proper benefits based on your condition.

Long-term care is known to be an expensive proposition whether you are trying to afford long-term care insurance upfront or pay for it out of pocket if you require it in the future. Not addressing the issue of long-term care is a big gamble to your financial well being. Morningstar reports that 52 percent of Americans turning age 65 will need some long-term care services in their lifetime. An elder law attorney can help you understand policy premiums and how they can increase if you purchase long-term care insurance. They can also guide you through Medicaid planning or estate planning that can help you qualify for the best financial arrangements for long-term care. Sometimes, it is beneficial to spend down your estate to be eligible for Medicaid, and your elder law attorney will know what is required by law to do it properly.

Other issues, such as employment discrimination, elder abuse, and elder fraud, even grandparent visitation rights, fall under an elder law attorney’s scope. An attorney who practices elder law has a more comprehensive list of capabilities to help you through your senior years than those attorneys without expertise in this area.

We focus on elder law.  We would be honored to speak to you about how we can help you come up with a comprehensive legal plan covering many of the topics above so you can enjoy your senior years without unnecessary worry. We look forward to hearing from you.

We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss a personal legal matter, don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our office or call us at (212) 937-8420.


Common Myths About the Risks of Alzheimer’s Disease

Polling shows that the number one worry for Americans as they age is memory loss, outpacing fears of insufficient monies, and loneliness. The most prevalent among all dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures Report, Alzheimer’s accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of diagnosed dementia cases. Projections for increasing numbers of Alzheimer’s patients in the coming decades is cause for concern. However, in this digital age where disinformation is in abundance, Right At Home has identified ten persistent myths about Alzheimer’s that should be dispelled for clarity’s sake and because worry increases stress levels, which is bad for the brain.

Myth #1: If I live long enough, I will likely develop Alzheimer’s disease.

The fact is that developing dementia is not a natural function of aging. While there are more diagnosed cases than ever before, and risks increase as we age, it is not inevitable that age equals Alzheimer’s. A University of Michigan poll of people in their 50s and 60s found half the respondents expect to develop serious cognitive and memory loss as they age. The statistics show only twenty percent of older adults will experience dementia.

Myth #2: If I have a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease, I can do nothing to prevent getting it.

It is a fact that a higher risk for dementia does run in some families. However, research data presented at the July 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggest that even those with a higher genetic propensity to develop Alzheimer’s can lower their risk by adopting lifestyle choices that address brain health.  Actionable lifestyle choices decreased dementia risks by 32 percent. A study of identical triplets from the University of Toronto (December 2019) revealed while two contracted dementia, the third did not. While there are no guarantees, there are preventable strategies.

Myth #3: If I already have amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in my brain, I will soon experience Alzheimer’s disease.

Today’s medical technologies like PET scans and other brain imagining techniques show that some people have these plaques and tangles but display no obvious outward disease symptoms. The brain is highly resilient and plastic, creating workarounds or backup connections that bypass the affected brain cells.

Myth #4: Specifically engineered brain games will provide the mental exercise I need to protect against dementia.

Neurologically focused computer games, puzzles, and similar brain “training” products are somewhat useful. Still, they do not provide a greater benefit than other mind-challenging activities. You are just as well off learning a new language, taking an art class, reading, playing video games, traveling, or even working at a mentally stimulating job. These activities help the brain build new connections; in particular, learning something new is especially beneficial.

Myth #5: All I need is solitary brain exercise.

The fact is that while engaging in intense mental focus is great, interacting with other people is more beneficial. Socialization stimulates many more regions of the brain, and those who regularly engage in social activity consistently have a lower incidence of dementia. Staying connected, even virtually in this age of social distancing, also prevents becoming part of the epidemic of loneliness, which leads to many negative health consequences. There are many reasons to stay socially engaged.

Myth #6: Skipping physical exercise is permissible as long as I get mental exercise.

It is a fact that brain stimulation matters, but it is also a fact that exercising our muscles is as important for brain health because the two work together. Physical movement requires brain and muscle memory. Whether you move about a park or a gym, you need to know where to go. You also must know what to do, how to complete each task, and move to the next. In this multi-tasking body/brain exercise work, each function enhances the other—muscles matter.

Myth #7: Only aerobic exercise benefits the brain.

Muscle-strengthening activities are as important as aerobic exercise. It is true that having an aerobically fit heart is good for a healthy brain but lifting weights, doing squats, planks, pushups, and working with resistance bands are all known to boost memory. In some instances, strength training can even reverse memory loss because building muscle makes us overall healthier, and it also increases several beneficial chemicals in the brain.

Myth #8: I can take supplements to protect my brain health.

The fact is you are better off eating a diet that includes lots of quality vegetables and fruits, grains, poultry and fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. America is overrun with vitamins, herbs, and promises of brain health substances. The World Health Organization has recently stated no reputable study confirms the value of these vitamins, herbs, or supplements. Save your money and talk to your doctor about a healthy diet instead.

Myth #9: Drinking alcohol protects my brain.

The fact is experts do not agree about the studies associated with moderate drinking, in particular red wine, with brain health. However, the experts all do agree that drinking too much is very harmful to the brain. Heavy drinking shrinks the brain. The Lancet Public Health Journey states that “alcohol disorders are the most important preventable risk factors for all types of dementia.” As part of your diet plan, talk to your doctor about a safe amount of alcohol for you.

Myth #10: Alzheimer’s disease is not related to other health conditions.

No disease is unrelated to other health conditions in our bodies. Many chronic conditions and diseases can harm our brains like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, stress, insomnia, hearing and vision loss, and even gum disease raise the risk of Alzheimer’s. Regular healthcare that manages existing conditions can also lower the risk of memory loss or slow its progression. Routine medical appointments, taking medications as prescribed, and following doctor recommendations can help to preserve brain health.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, now is the time to plan. We can help create a comprehensive legal plan to address how to pay for care without losing everything you’ve saved over the years. We would be happy to talk to you about ways we can help. Please contact our New York Office or call us at (212) 937-84