Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Happy Halloween! With monsters like Freddy Krueger, Dracula, and mummies in a lot of scary thoughts, it's time that I bring about another topic that's only going to add to that fear. A lot of people have finally taken the jump at getting an estate plan created, signed and ready to go in case of a worst scenario event. You must feel a lot of relief after all that work.
There is one more thing that I hope you've been working on: getting your estate plan and subsequent documents in an easy spot to locate when something happens to you. Because of something that goes wrong, you might not be able to get them yourself. And if you died, then whoever you've set up as your executor will be in charge of your estate.
It's a matter of life that we're all going to die. As we get older, a lot of us could end up disabled, whether physical or mentally. According to a statistic by the Social Security Administration, a twenty year old starting a career today has a one in three chance of dying or qualifying for Social Security Disability Income before reaching the full retirement age for Social Security.
The pressure of being in charge of someone else's estate can be daunting and even scary. Executors may be the people in charge of one's estate, but can often have a hard time getting everything organized for such an event.
I have a suggestion to help. It's a simple idea, be we love simple. It's give you and extra sense of confidence that can help you relax further. It's simply putting everything in a retrievable format.
A binder is a good suggestion. Be sure to label it something like "Emergency documents for "________________"".
All of our estate plans are labeled and even come with a digital copy.
Some other things that should go in there include:
- An Financial Asset List
- A Non-Financial List
- Computer passwords
- Credit Cards (email list for cancelation)
- Emergency Contacts
- Estate Planning Documents
- Funeral Arrangements
- Health Information
- Insurance Policies
- Safe Deposit Box (If they have one, keep a list of what in them)
- Tax Statements
I hope I didn't scare you too much. I just wanted to remind you of what needs to be done before anything.
In 1989, the average rent was a little more than $400 a month and you could buy a dozen eggs for less than a dollar. That same year, Congress raised the amount of money that recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) could retain without losing their eligibility to $2,000.
While the cost of rent and eggs and everything else has risen in the last three decades, SSI’s asset limit has remained frozen in time. A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would finally change that.
Since the program’s creation in 1972, SSI has subjected recipients to strict asset limits. Any recipient having assets over $2,000 is automatically disenrolled, with minimal exemptions and exceptions. For couples, the maximum is $3,000. Because the limit for couples is only 50 percent larger than, not double, the limit for individuals, SSI recipients in effect are penalized if they get married.
Under the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act, introduced in the House in September, individual SSI recipients would be allowed to have $10,000 in assets, while the limit for couples would be double that, or $20,000, eliminating the marriage penalty. And, for the first time, these limits would be indexed to inflation.
The bill would also eliminate what is known as the in-kind support and maintenance rule, which penalizes beneficiaries who receive certain benefits, such as food and shelter, from friends and family.
“The Supplemental Security Income program has succeeded in serving as a last resort to keep millions of elderly and individuals with disabilities out of the harsh realities of poverty, but far too many are being rejected from receiving the assistance they need simply because the program hasn’t kept pace with inflation,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who introduced the bill, said in a news release. “Modest updates will provide needed stability to those with disabilities and seniors who are continuing to struggle to afford basic necessities, such as skyrocketing costs of medication.”
Rep. Grijalva first introduced the bill in 2013, and it has been introduced in both chambers of Congress each year since.
Click here to read the full text of the bill.
For a fact sheet on the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act from Justice in Aging, click here.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 40% of people age 55 and over were working or looking for work in 2014. The labor force participation rate for seniors is expected to increase to around 164 million individuals by 2024. In 2016, over 42% of workers age 55 and over were in management, professional, and related occupations. According to one report, entrepreneurship amongst seniors aged 55-64 increased from 15% in 1996 to 26% in 2017.
The multitude of baby-boomers aging are one reason that there are more elders in the workforce. Other factors are better health and longer lives, the financial need to work longer, and changes to Social Security and pension benefits. And many folks find being idle in retirement doesn’t add to their quality of life, compelling a return to the work force.
Some barriers that seniors might face in seeking employment are the standard stereotypes – that seniors are unwilling to learn new things and their skills aren’t up-to-date. However, many organizations around the country are working hard to dispel these myths. A Colorado group, Changing The Narrative, seeks to end ageism and encourage employers to change their attitudes regarding senior employees. They are sponsoring a campaign from October 25 through November 3 around the country to encourage people from all generations to gather in their own neighborhoods to have a conversation about ageism and how we all can challenge ageist assumptions.
AARP has an Employer Pledge Program that includes an action plan for building an age-inclusive workforce. The program is a way for companies to recognize their commitment to value workers of all ages. Participants can use the official seal of the program on their recruitment materials and website, and may receive discounts on job postings on the AARP job board. Some participating companies include ZipRecruiter, H&R Block, CVS, AT&T, and Ace Hardware.
The Global Coalition on Aging has promulgated their Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses to help serve as a guide for companies, to facilitate being more inclusive. They suggest employers:
Obviously, just because someone reaches retirement age doesn’t mean that they stop being an asset to a company or project. In fact, seniors presumably have more experience and valuable feedback than their younger counterparts. And oftentimes, seniors are more reliable than those in their youth.
Finding that right fit can be difficult for anyone. So, what are some tips for seniors looking for work?
As our society strives to shake off old-fashioned concepts and biases towards those of different races, ethnicities, sexes, and genders, let’s not forget to add ages to the list. What someone can bring to the table in the workforce is not based on what one can see on the outside – it should be based on the value that person can bring from what they harbor on the inside. And in the case of seniors, that is oftentimes a lifetime worth of valuable experience and life lessons.
The law offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson is a proud sponsor of the upcoming Field of Honor in Murrieta.
This is taking place in Murrieta Town Square on November 9 - 16 where families and people can have a flag placed to honor a loved who who has served or is currently serving under the armed forces.
Some seniors simply want to downsize. They either can’t afford to live in a large home, or they don’t want the maintenance and upkeep. Or, they would like to move closer to family. In addition, as the multitude of Baby Boomers continue to age, there are oftentimes a shortage of traditional living facilities and care practitioners for seniors who find that they need extra help. As nursing home and assisted living facility costs continue to rise, some elders are finding creative ways to seek care. For whatever reason, some seniors are finding alternative living solutions.
Downsizing in Current Home
A trend for seniors who want to remain in their current home is to restructure the space so that they take up less of the home and rent out the other portions. Websites have popped up that facilitate these endeavors, making matches easier. Some seniors wish to rent to other seniors to foster companionship; others like to open up their doors to families, or invite their own family members to reside with them.
The benefits of home-sharing include sharing in expenses and the upkeep needed to maintain the property. Also, it is possible for two seniors who may need help with care to continue to live independently and stave off assisted living for a while. For example, maybe one senior can’t drive and needs help with grocery shopping. The other senior needs help with their medication or preparing meals. By sharing their strengths, they may be able to minimize their weaknesses.
Tiny Home Alternatives
Tiny homes can be a great alternative to large traditional homes because they are portable and can be placed on the property of caregivers for those seniors who still desire a bit of independence and privacy, but still need care. Or, a collection of tiny homes can make a community for seniors. Dr. Bill Thomas of New York has said “I spent my career trying to change the nursing home industry….now what I’ve got to do is make it so people don’t need nursing homes in the first place.” His idea was to create tiny houses and sell them for an affordable price. His first projects have been to create communities of tiny houses for seniors, affordable alternatives so that folks can age in their own communities and not have the upkeep of traditional homes.
MEDCottages are a mobile medical dwelling that can be temporarily placed on the property of a family member, to provide hospital-like care to a loved one for rehab or extended care. If a family member finds that a senior needs care beyond what the family member can provide, they can elect to have this structure erected on their property so their loved one is still near to them but has access to the medical offerings of the structure. The senior still has their privacy, and access to remote monitoring, but they are still close enough to participate in family activities and enjoy the proximity to their familiar surroundings. MEDCottage also has products that can transform a garage into a senior living space, or even an RV platform.
Adult Family Care
Adult family care is a term that describes a situation where friends or family will take in an elder to care for them. While this has been the norm for centuries, adult family care has also come to encompass taking in an elder that you don’t know. Families will take in unfamiliar seniors and provide care to them. The senior gets to live in a family environment, which is often preferred over an institutional setting, and the family gets paid for the care provided to the senior.
According to a recent article by NPR, adult family care in Vermont is on the rise. In Vermont, there are more seniors who need care than nurses to care for them. Because of this, nursing homes are selective and there can be a long wait for admission. Sometimes, seniors must spend this waiting period in a hospital setting. Adult family care has been a great solution for some seniors, to end their need for institutional care and enter back into the community.
Green House Home
Most of us have visited a traditional nursing home. Long, dark hallways lead to small rooms – sometimes containing two residents. It oftentimes feels like a hospital environment. The Green House Project has reimagined nursing homes. Instead of an institutional feeling, these Green House homes feel like a real home! There is a dining room, kitchen, common areas, bedrooms and private bathrooms. Each home is designed for about 10 residents. So instead of a more sterile, traditional setting, the Green House plan offers a more family-like environment.
According to an article by The New York Times, the writer was most impressed by the fact that there wasn’t a ridged schedule like there usually is in a nursing home. In a traditional nursing home, because there are so many residents, a strict schedule must be kept. Meals are served during specific times; doctors are on a schedule; help with bathing and dressing must be provided according to a set plan. At a Green House home, seniors are free to eat when they want, just like if they were at home. If a care provider comes to provide care and they find the senior asleep, they will come back at a later time.
In addition, there is four times more staff engagement with the seniors, as opposed to a traditional nursing home. Green House homes practice consistent assignment – the same staff is assigned to the same seniors on an on-going basis. Staff becomes familiar with the seniors, and can now find the time for more personalized care while the senior can enjoy more autonomy. To date, there are 284 Green House homes in the United States.
Many factors go into a senior’s decision on where to live. What can they afford? Do they want to be closer to family? What kind of care do they need? Some trends in senior living include renting out their own home, buying a tiny home, getting care in the community by others willing to share their homes, or finding a place that has reinvented what nursing homes look like.
The good news is that senior living may be finally getting the attention it deserves. Seniors are valuable members of our community, and deserve to live with dignity and respect. A wider array of senior living options means more choices for seniors. They can find a solution that works for their own needs, and not have to conform to traditional institutional care.
Technological innovations designed to help seniors live longer, more fulfilling lives are starting to catch on—everything from companion robots to smart devices that can help monitor, alert, track and support our growing senior community, whether they are living in smart senior communities or in their own homes.
It is important for elder law attorneys and elder care professionals to stay on top of this evolving technology so we’ve created a live program to take a deeper dive into these issues.
Why the Timing is Right
According to recent estimates, the population of adults 85 and older in the U.S. will roughly triple between 2015 and 2060, making it the fastest growing age group over this time period. At the same time, there is a projected decline in the working-age population, meaning there will be fewer people to support the growing elderly population, financially and otherwise.
Just seven years ago, seven able adults were available for every senior in need of care. By 2030, AARP estimates that ratio is estimated to drop to 4:1 and by 2050, to just 3:1. AARP calls this the “caregiver cliff,” as mass numbers of Baby Boomer seniors who need care begin to outnumber those able to help them.
It is also estimated that the costs to provide health care may more than double between the ages of 70 and 90, depending on the region. With rising pressure on governments, payers and manufacturers to reduce healthcare costs, senior care needs solutions in order to be prepared for this impending rise in costs.
Virtual home assistants and portable diagnostic devices will be able to help provide better elder care, help control medical costs—and allow more seniors to stay in their homes longer.
How seniors will take to the technology may also be changing
A 70-year old may have first experienced some form of internet technology in middle age or later and may not be as accepting as someone who at age 50 is already far more comfortable with technology. As a result, there will be a growing interest and market for already available and maturing technologies to support physical, emotional, social and mental health.
The Internet of Things DefinedThe Internet of Things (IoT) is the name given to the expanding network of smart devices currently connecting together in the digital landscape. Just as the Nest camera system allows us to monitor our homes remotely, numerous new technologies promise to connect seniors to care teams and other life-saving processes that can make their lives easier, safer and more enjoyable.
7 Specific Ways Technology Can Help
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!