Saturday, September 30, 2017

Retirees often become trustees themselves: know the rights of beneficiaries

Often the wishes of people for others (especially family) after they pass away are set up in trusts instead of just traditional wills alone, in order to avoid going through probate. Trusts are often revocable while the original owner is alive and become irrevocable after death. Typically the executor (who will often be one adult child) can then revise and amend the trust and make it a grantor trust to simplify IRS tax filing.

It is becoming more common, as people live longer, for even the adult children to have become seniors themselves, and to be dependent on the trust for their own income.  But there can be tricky areas.

Trusts typically have distribution provisions for various beneficiaries, which start after some number of months for paying claims.  Sometimes one or more family members may continue to live in a particular home owned by the trust.  Typically they have the right to sell and downsize, but sometimes this gets tricky if the new property has to remain within the trust.

A party can be a beneficiary of a trust without necessarily getting a scheduled distribution. Beneficiaries can be removed from or added to trusts when they are revised, although the language of the original trust can make this more difficult.  Beneficiaries may be persons or organizations, typically religious, political, cultural, or other non-profits. 

A beneficiary has a self-interest in the trust even without immediate distribution because of the expectation that it may receive a future benefit when a trustee himself or herself dies. But the beneficiary does not have the same standing as, say, a stockholder in a company.

Elderlaw has a piece on the responsibilities of the trustee to beneficiaries.  Somewhat controversial is the idea that trustees are supposed to report annually to beneficiaries, even those who receive not distributions.  This legal requirement makes more sense for individual beneficiaries than it does for organizations, who really don’t have the time and staff to keep up with estates that may pay them only in the future but not now.  Often a beneficiary gets a monthly small contribution from a trust through an automated process at a bank. Some organizations are not set up well to process these, and they don’t offer the opportunity for matches, and fall outside the usual fundraising for non-profits.  Also, an organizational beneficiary might not be tax-exempt (say, a PAC).

A trustee should be careful about adding a beneficiary if it’s an organization. The organization may believe, somewhat incorrectly, that the beneficiary status and occasional gifts imply absolute loyalty to all of the organization’s political objectives.  An established beneficiary organization in an "inherited" trust could pose ethical dilemmas for a trustee if he/she did not accept the purposes of the beneficiary. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It keeps getting harder to save for retirement

The Washington Post Business Section Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 has a long article by Jonnelle Marte, “Why it’s so hard to save for retirement”, with an exposition of the career of Ted Benna. 
The basic problem is that, while the 401(k) was a good idea, employers expected it to replace defined benefit pensions, which they tended to freeze starting in the late 1990s.
Another problem is that social security offsets were often designed around the idea of starting early retirement at 62, despite the fact that people live longer.  Careers from the past simply weren’t sustainable for enough decades.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Seniors can face sudden driving restrictions as medical scrutiny of prescriptions steps up

The tendency for some physicians to require more frequent visits to renew prescriptions raises the risk that problems, not causing overt symptoms, could be found.  In some states there are mandatory reporting requirements about drivers on physicians.  These states are California, Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon and Pennsylvania, as outlined in a 2011 New York Times article by Jane Gross.  

In most other states, doctors may report elderly drivers.  It is typical for rules to prohibit driving for six months after a stroke, three months after a TIA (enough to cause medical treatment), and perhaps three months after pacemaker implantation.  Amazingly, driving while on oxygen if often permitted, partially.
Here are three references for Virginia:  NoloDMV reporting form, and DMV policies

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Opioid crisis seems to drive Medicare and insurance companies to demand more doctor visits to scrutinize all prescription refills

I got a text late last night that the CVS store couldn’t refill my Losartan blood pressure medicine because it required re-authorization.  I checked, and quickly saw that the refills had been less then previously.

I call the doctor’s office and I’m told that the insurance (I presume that’s Part D Medicare) now insists on more frequent monitoring, every six months, not every year.  From a Medicare perspective, that encourages more doctor visits, more revenue for doctors, and more hits on the federal deficit for Medicare spending.

This seems to be driven by the opioid crisis, which I have nothing to do with.  But “big government” has dragged me into it anyway. 

There are some remote issues with some blood pressure meds.  They can, in rare cases, lead to afib or cardiac arrests.   Still, this is opening my own life, at least, to possible unnecessary disruption and interruption. 
A lot of people live as long with very little medical intervention as with a lot.  My paternal grandfather lived to 89 with almost no doctor visits (on a farm, with physical activity).  So some of us who don’t use the benefits a lot support those who do need it.  That’s how health insurance works.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers sometimes had to flee Irma in large numbers

Moving disabled seniors to shelters, in large numbers, from nursing homes and assisted living centers was indeed harrowing before the arrival of Irma, according to this Washington Post story by Aaron C. Davis and others on Sept. 9.  The link is here

In some cases, distant relatives bought them plane tickets north and arranged for special services to take them to airports. 

Some with Alzheimers were told they were going “on vacation.” 

All of this could be construed as an argument for keeping disabled seniors in their own homes with adult children when possible, but in this case, seniors had already moved to Florida. It’s always been common for seniors to retire on coastal communities, increasing risk.   

Picture:  Naples FL, mine, 2004. 

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Consumer Reports covers assisted living costs

Consumer Reports has a cover issue, “Who Will Care for You?” with a big article  on p. 30 (Oct. 2017 issue). 

There is an interesting chart of the cost of a year’s rent in an assisted living facility, which for Washington DC is over $80000 a year.  Florida and North Carolina are among the cheapest, at $36000.
Lower birth dates and longer life spans are part of the problem.  I wonder, do big families help?  Or are seniors who live alone (like I do) likely to stay sharp longer because they have to?  I know other seniors (from FL) who are still into fitness training, bicycle races, swims, and the like.    Physical fitness and stronger immune systems seem to counteract a future of dependency. 

Monday, September 04, 2017

Congress still could threaten retirees as debt ceiling plays out

Politico Playbook has the latest analysis on the debt ceiling issue, with a deadline in very early October.

Trump seems to want to raise it cleanly (which is a refreshing change from his earlier ideas of “deals” with creditors).  But he offered to tie it to a veterans bill, which some hard liners rejected, and now there is a “big mess” (or “big problem”).  Now the latest is to tie it to Houston relief efforts.

I would be concerned about attempts to bargain away other people’s lives, like immediate cutoff of some social security benefits for people who “don’t need it”.  Boehner seemed to threaten than back in 2011. 
I leaves one watching his own back all the time.