Category Archives: Senior Tips

Putting Children on Bank Accounts

Tip – There are much better ways to get help with your finances.

Some parents, when their health begins to fail, decide to put a child on their bank account to help them manage their finances, pay bills, etc. Sometimes, doing this does not give rise to any problems. Other times, it can lead to problems after the parent has passed away. For example, after the parent passes, the child may decide to close the account and take the money that remains for themself— claiming that was mom or dad’s intention. This position taken by the child conflicts with Idaho Code Section 15-6-104, which states that “Sums remaining on deposit at the death of a party to a joint account belong to the surviving party … as against the estate of the decedent if an intent to give the account can be shown by the surviving party…” If the intent to give the remaining money in the account to the child who took it cannot be shown, the other children must seek legal action to recover the money if they want it to be distributed according to the parent’s Will.

If the parent intends to give the sums remaining in the account to one of the surviving children, the parent could state this in his or her Will, or the parent could make the account a Pay on Death (P.O.D.) account, which would make the parent’s intent crystal clear. In this situation, after the parent dies, the child gives the bank a death certificate and the bank will release the remaining funds to the child.

Another problem that occasionally occurs when you put a child on a parent’s bank account is that the child begins to take money for his or her personal use, while the parent is still alive. When this happens, it is almost impossible to get the child taken off the account.

There is a better way for a parent to get help with their finances. The parent can give an agent of his or her choosing a Power of Attorney (POA) for finances and property. The POA gives the agent the authority to help pay bills, sell property, apply for Medicaid, or do any other needed transactions. If a problem arises in the way that the child uses the POA, it is easily revoked. In addition, the Power of
Attorney ends when the parent passes away, so the child cannot withdraw any sums remaining in the account at the parent’s death.

Using a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances rather than putting a child on the bank account as a joint owner can avoid many problems.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

December 2022

Friendship is a Priceless Gift

Tip – Why not reconcile with someone this Holiday Season?

I have always been intrigued by the story of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Here is the story as told by the History Channel.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/thomas-jefferson-and-john-adams-die

Former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams—who were once fellow Patriots and then adversaries—died on the same day, July 4, 1826, within five hours of each other.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up to the British empire and forged a new political system in the former colonies. However, while they both believed in democracy and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, their opinions on how to achieve these ideals diverged over time.

Adams preceded Jefferson as president (1797-1800); it was during this time that their ideas about policymaking became as distinct as their personalities. The irascible and hot-tempered Adams was a firm believer in a strong centralized government, while the erudite and genteel Jefferson believed federal government should take a more hands-off approach and defer to individual states’ rights. As
Adam’s vice president, Jefferson was so horrified by what he considered to be Adam’s abuse of the presidency—particularly his passage of the restrictive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798—that he abandoned Adams and Washington for his estate at Monticello, Virginia. There, he plotted how to bring his Republican faction back into power in the presidential election of 1800. After an exceptionally bitter campaign, in which Jefferson and Adams engaged in slanderous attacks on each
other in print, Jefferson emerged victorious. It appeared the former friends would be eternal enemies.

After Jefferson’s two presidential terms (1801-1809), Jefferson and Adams each expressed to third parties their respect for the other, and their desire to renew their friendship. Adams was the first to break the silence; he sent Jefferson a letter dated January 1, 1812, in which he wished Jefferson many happy new years to come. Jefferson responded with a note, in which he fondly recalled when they were fellow laborers in the same cause. The former revolutionaries went on to resume their friendship over 14 years of correspondence during their golden years.

On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” He was mistaken: Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83.

Epicurus said, “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make life entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.” This Holiday Season may we mend a quarrel and remember a forgotten friend.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

November 2022

Resources for Seniors

Tip – Do you know what resources are available to help Seniors?

Many families, who provide care to a loved one, need help but don’t know where to find it. There are many resources available if you know where to look for them. For example, the Area Agency on Aging in Pocatello, also known as SICOG, has the following programs:

Idaho Lifespan Respite. Often, caregivers providing care to someone with a significant disability or chronic illness are unable to get out of the home to do shopping and other things they need to get done. Lifespan Respite gives caregivers a break. It allows the caregiver to hire someone and provides funds to pay for up to 10 hours of respite care a month. To be eligible the caregiver must be providing unpaid service to a loved one with whom they live or to whom they are providing frequent on-site visits throughout the day.

Additionally, Seniors, who live alone and do not have a caregiver, may qualify for 10 hours a month of in-home care at no cost to them.

Veteran-Directed Home & Community Based Services. Veterans in this program are given a flexible, monthly budget to help them hire personal care aides and buy items and services that will help them live independently in their own home. A care advisor from the local Area Agency on Aging will work with the Veteran to identify care needs and assist in developing a spending plan to obtain
the needed services.

Pro Age Connections. This program helps seniors who may need social contact. Volunteers reach out to those seniors by sending monthly post cards and making regular phone calls to seniors who sign up for the program.

Adult Protective Services. Adult Protective services protects vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. If you know a vulnerable adult who is not getting the care they need, adult protective services are available to assist.

\If you or your family feel that you may qualify for some of these services, contact your Area Agency on Aging. They are located at 214 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201, 208-233-4032 / 935 East Lincoln Road, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401, 208-522-5391.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

October 2022

Homestead Allowance and Exempt Property Claims

Tip – You may want to take Homestead Allowance and Exempt Property
claims into account when you do your estate plan.

Many people are not aware that Idaho law allows a surviving spouse to claim a Homestead Allowance and Exempt Property from the estate of a spouse who has passed away, in addition to any property that he or she will receive under the will.

Idaho Law states that the surviving spouse is entitled to a Homestead Allowance of $50,000.00 and to Exempt Property up to the value of $10,000 in tangible personal property—including automobiles, furniture, appliances, family heirlooms and personal effects—from the estate of his or her spouse at the spouse’s death.

This is significant in second marriages when one or both spouses have children from a prior marriage, and they want to ensure their children receive something from their estate. For example, a person may provide in a will that property goes to his or her children, but when the person passes away, the surviving spouse claims the Homestead Allowance and the Exempt Property, taking $60,000.00 from the estate that was intended to go to the children. In some cases, there may
not be sufficient assets left in the estate to make the distributions to the decedent’s children that were intended.

There is a way to limit the Homestead Allowance and Exempt Property claims. Idaho Code § 15-2-406 states that a person may state in his or her will, that a surviving spouse is not entitled to the Homestead Allowance or any Exempt Property. If the person states this in his or her will, it prevents the surviving spouse from making a Homestead or Exempt Property claim.

The bottom line is that with careful planning, you can draft your will, to make sure
your intent will be carried out.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

September 2022

Affidavit of Heirship

What if I didn’t probate my parent’s estate? What do I do now?

Sometimes when a son or daughter tries to sell the home of a parent who has passed away, he or she discovers that the home cannot be sold because the parent’s name is still on the title to the property. A realtor may tell them that they need to probate to get the names off the title; however, often when the son or daughter talks to me about probating their parent’s estate, I discover that the
parent died more than three years ago.

Idaho Code §15-3-108 provides that no probate proceeding may be commenced more than three years after the decedent’s death. Since the parent died over 3 years ago, probating the estate is not available. What can be done to get the parent’s name off the title to the property, so it can be sold?
The solution is to prepare and record an affidavit of heirship. Pursuant to Idaho Code §55-816, §15-3-101, §15-3-901 an affidavit is made for the purpose of establishing that any real property in Idaho owned by the parent at the time of his or her death, eventually devolved to the children of the parent. The affidavit is recorded in the county where the property is located. Title companies will accept the affidavit of heirship and issue title insurance, allowing the property to be sold.

When buying property, buyers need certainty that the property has a good title. When a spouse dies, the couple’s house does not automatically pass to the surviving spouse, unless the property is held as “community property with a right of survivorship.” The house does not automatically pass to the persons named in a will. Probate, an affidavit of heirship, or some other legal process is required to
clear the title to the property.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

August 2022

Do I Need to Probate?

This is a common question after a loved one passes away.

When a person dies, the surviving spouse or children ask, what do I need to do? Do I need to probate? The answer depends, in part, on the answer to the following questions: 1) Was the decedent’s property being held as joint tenants, community property, or community property with a right of survivorship? 2) Was the total value of the decedent’s probate estate minus any liens against the property less than $100,000?

1. How was the decedent’s property held?

  • Joint tenants – Many times, property is held in joint tenancy, where on the death of one of the tenants, the property passes automatically to the survivor. A common example of this is bank accounts that are held as joint tenants. When one person dies that money in the account passes to the survivor.
  • Community property – Community property (property obtained after a couple is married) belongs equally to the members of the couple. When one of the members of the couple passes, his or her interest in the property passes to their estate and not to the surviving spouse. A common
    misconception is that when a spouse passes away, his or her interest in the couple’s home will automatically pass to the surviving spouse. Instead, to remove the decedent’s name off the title to the home held as community property, probate would be required.
  • Community property with a right of survivorship –To avoid having to probate on the death of a spouse, couples can record a deed that gives a right of survivorship on their real property. Then the surviving spouse only needs to record a death certificate at the courthouse.

2. Is the total value of the probate estate, minus the liens against it, less than $100,000?

  • Property in estates that are worth less than a $100,000 can be collected using an affidavit of heirship instead of filing for probate. For example, if the only property the decedent had at his or her death was a vehicle, the spouse or children of the decedent can go to the Department of
    Transportation website, fill out their Affidavit (they call it an Affidavit of Inheritance), submit it to the county assessor along with the title to the vehicle, and they will be able to transfer the title without having to file for probate.
  • Sometimes, spouses will open a bank account in just one of their names. Even though the money in the account is community property, banks will not give the surviving spouse access to the account. If that spouse dies and their probate estate is less than $100,000, the money in the account can be collected with an affidavit of heirship. However, Financial institutions prefer
    to receive letters testamentary or letters of administration (which are used in probate) rather than an affidavit of heirship, and initially they often will not accept an affidavit. Idaho Code § 15-3-1201 clearly provides for property to be collected by an affidavit. With a little persistence and a call to the banks legal counsel, the bank eventually will turn the money in the
    account over to the spouse or children pursuant to the affidavit.

Deciding whether you need to file for probate is not as complicated as it seems, and there are many things you can do in estate planning that can help things run smoothly and can avoid problems.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

July 2022

Community Property

Tip – After a couple marries, any property they acquire belongs to both.

Idaho is a community property state. This means that when a couple marries, any property that an individual brings into the marriage is his or her separate property, and any property that is acquired during their marriage is community property and belongs equally to both.

Occasionally, when a couple buys a house, one spouse will put the mortgage and the title to the house just in his or her name. However, if that spouse whose name is not on the title did not make an agreement to give the other spouse his or her interest in the property, the house belongs to both, even though the property is titled in just one of their names. When one spouse passes away, half the value of the house belongs to the surviving spouse; the other half passes according to law or according to the decedent’s Will. This is true of all community property, regardless of whose name the property is in.

Sometimes when a house acquired during a second marriage is in the name of just one spouse, that spouse believes he or she can give the house in a Will to the children from a prior marriage—not acknowledging his or her spouse’s 50% interest in the house. This can lead to unnecessary conflict between the surviving spouse and the children.

There are many factors in these situations that must be understood to know what everyone’s rights are. But remember if you acquire property after you are married, with the joint assets of the couple, the property will be community property belonging equally to both members of the couple.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

June 2022

Qualifying for Medicaid in Idaho

Tip – To qualify for Medicaid, a person must meet Medicaid’s health,
income and asset eligibility requirements.

Medicaid is a federal program administered by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW). The focus of this tip is Medicaid eligibility for seniors, age 65 and over, needing long-term care. For those that qualify, Medicaid will help pay for care provided to seniors in skilled-nursing facilities, assisted-living facilities, adult foster care, and home-based services for seniors in their homes.

To qualify for Medicaid, a person must meet Medicaid’s health, income, and asset eligibility requirements:

To determine if a senior meets the health requirement, a nurse from IDHW does an evaluation of the senior’s need for assistance with their activities of daily living.

To determine if a senior meets the income requirement, you look to see if their monthly income exceeds Medicaid’s income limit. In 2022 to qualify for Medicaid, the senior’s monthly income cannot exceed $2,543 a month. If their income exceeds this, they may set up a Qualified Income Trust, also known as a Miller Trust, and divert some of their income to the Trust to reduce their income thereby qualifying them for Medicaid. The Trust funds can only be used to pay for longterm care or medical expenses incurred by the senior. The Trust must be irrevocable and any Trust funds remaining in the Trust at the person’s death, must be paid to estate recovery.

To determine if a senior meets the asset requirement you look at their countable assets. In 2022, a single person’s countable asset limit is $2,000. The value of the senior’s home, one vehicle, and a prepaid funeral are not counted toward the asset limit. If a couple is applying for Medicaid, the asset limit is $3,000. For a couple with a spouse receiving long-term care and the other one remaining in their home, the asset limit for the applicant is $2,000 and the asset limit for the senior remaining in their home is $137,400.

If a senior is over the asset limit, the excess funds cannot be given away but may be spent down. For example, some excess money can be used to pay off their mortgage, repair their home, upgrade their vehicle, or prepay their funeral.

There is a lot of confusion about how Medicaid works. Here are two facts that you need to understand:
• First, if a senior qualifies for Medicaid, their monthly income is paid to the long-term care provider  or their care. The difference between the senior’s income and the cost of their care each month is aid by Medicaid. The senior is allowed to keep a modest personal needs allowance each month.
• Second, long-term care paid by Medicaid is a loan. It reminds me of my student loan from law school. When I was in school, I borrowed money. When I graduated from school, I received a letter  stating that it was time to start paying back the loan. Similarly, Medicaid helps pay for a senior’s care during their lifetime. When the senior dies, Estate Recovery will send a letter that the money paid by Medicaid for their care must be paid back out of their estate. For a couple, the letter is not sent until the passing of the second member of the couple.

Applying for Medicaid can be a complicated process. You may want to consider consulting an attorney familiar with Medicaid rules.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

May 2022

Beneficiary Designations

Tip – Remember to check your beneficiary designations on insurance policies, IRAs, 401Ks, and investments.

The daughter of one of my clients came to see me about her mother’s estate after her mother had passed away. She said that her mother had several investment accounts and that her mother’s investment advisor had told her to talk with me because she needed to file for probate. She began by explaining that her mother had named her children as the beneficiaries on her accounts. At this point, I stopped her to explain that if the children are named as beneficiaries, there was no need to probate. All that the daughter needed to do was contact the company, fill out their form, and provide them with a death certificate.

”Why then did he tell me I needed to file for probate,” she asked. Not knowing, I called the advisor and asked him. He explained that the mother had 5 different accounts and that 4 of them named the children as the beneficiaries, but unfortunately there was one annuity with no beneficiary designation. The funds in that account could only be released to the personal representative of the
mother’s estate. My client had no other reason to file for probate other than this one annuity. This is a situation that I occasionally encounter.

In some cases, people intentionally name their Estate as the beneficiary of their investment accounts. They name their estate to provide funds to the estate to pay final expenses and creditors. However, if there is no need to fund the estate, by naming the beneficiaries correctly, probate can be avoided.

In Idaho, probate is efficient, timely, and inexpensive when compared to some other states. Nevertheless, it still can take several months to go through the process. Whereas if you name your children as the beneficiaries on insurance policies and investment accounts, the money goes straight to them without much delay.

Because I have had this experience repeatedly, I encourage my clients to review all their investment accounts and check their beneficiary designations to make sure their assets are going to the persons or entities that they want them to go to. Even if you are sure that the designations are correct, checking each one is worth the effort.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

April 2022

Ethical Wills

Consider leaving more than your property to your family.

A friend, who had been recently diagnosed in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, came to me for advice on how to get his legal and financial affairs in order. I explained that he needed to name agents to make medical and financial decisions for him. We discussed what government programs and benefits were available to help pay for his care. Knowing that my friend loved his family, I then encouraged him to write letters to his wife and children to let them know how much he cared for them.

Like a letter written to loved ones, there is something called an Ethical Will that gives us the opportunity to express our thoughts, love, and values in writing for those we love. Why should we leave something in writing for our family? Eric Weiner, PhD, the author of “Ethical Wills: Words from the Jewish HEART” gives the following reasons for people to express their values to their family and future generations in an letter or Ethical Will:

“It hit me like a strong punch to the gut. During a keynote address, the speaker asked us if we knew the names of our grandparents. Most in attendance raised their hands. He then asked us if we knew the names and something about all eight of our great-grandparents. Less than half responded. I knew one grandparent. I never met any of my great-grandparents and knew very little about almost all of them. Will my fate be the same? Will I be remembered by some descendent 50 years from now who happens to be named after me?

Jews have long pondered this and developed a tool that promotes intergenerational connections. The ethical will allows us to tell our story for current and future generations. For Jews, it is not enough to only leave a traditional Will. We also have a spiritual duty to guide the next generation, to
help brighten their way through life.

Where a traditional Will emphasizes money, possessions, real estate, and valuables, an Ethical Will describes our values, life stories, and blessings. While not a legal document, it adds something meaningful to the static, dry documents that rely on tax and legal language. Ethical Wills use the language of hope and immortality.

Ethical Wills have a long and rich tradition in Jewish history. They were first described 3,000 years ago in the Hebrew Bible when Jacob addressed his 12 sons on his deathbed. He told them stories, predicted their futures, and imparted his life lessons. . .

The main ingredient for writing an Ethical Will is to speak from the heart. You are constrained only by the limits of your imagination; just keep it positive. For example, here is an excerpt from an Ethical Will:

‘‘Respect life – yours and others. I’m a believer in the Golden Rule—treat other people the way you want to be treated. I hope you find a vocation that adds value to the world . . . I feel lucky to have worked in hospice. Trying to relieve suffering has been a worthwhile pursuit for me.’

By writing an Ethical Will, maybe 50 years from now, if asked, our descendants will know something about us – how we lived our lives, what we stood for and believed in.” (Ethical Wills: Words from the Jewish HEART)

As you consider taking the time to express your thoughts in writing, remember that this is a chance for you to leave something that will touch the hearts of your family and future generations.

View our “Senior’s Guide to a Well-Planned Future” on our website! Packer Elder Care Law – with you for life!

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

March 2022