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Lessons I Learned from my Father

My father, Howard Schneider, died on November 16, 2013.  When I graduated law school my father told me that the experience would serve me well and he was right. My father’s legacy is his work ethic, the importance of one’s character and credibility, and the bravery he exhibited living with Parkinson’s. I am grateful for his legacy as it has made me a better person and a caring elder law attorney. During my 20 year career as an elder law attorney I have endeavored to educate and empower clients to make informed decisions that will bring them peace of mind. In honor of my father I would like to share with you my top tips to help clients and their caregivers as they experience the aging process. I hope that these tips will serve you well:

1. Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: Sometimes you can take a shortcut to get to the goal line and sometimes you can’t. Don’t use an internet program, or an attorney who is not a specialist, to create your legal documents just to save a few bucks. When it comes to your legal plan do it right the first time by hiring a qualified professional. Otherwise, you may spend more money later to fix the problem.

2. Don’t Let Rumors Determine Your Future: I see clients who listen to neighbors for legal advice and then make decisions based on fear. Beware! There is a lot of misinformation floating out there. Do not add your children’s names onto your accounts thinking it will avoid probateYou may create a problem by exposing your accounts to your child’s creditors such as in a divorce or bankruptcy. Invest in a well drafted Durable Power of Attorney that will give your children authority to handle your financial affairs (not own your assets) during your illness or incapacity.

3. Veterans Should Avoid Becoming Victims: The VA provides a variety of benefits (financial assistance and healthcare) to veterans and their immediate family members. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who tell veterans that they can help them apply for benefits for a small fee. Don’t be duped into buying inappropriate investments with a promise of qualifying for benefits.The VA prohibits anyone, including an accredited advisor (like myself), from charging for assisting a veteran to file an application for benefits. First seek advice from an accredited advisor and then have the local veteran service office assist you with the application, at no charge.

4. Medicaid and The Home: In Florida we are fortunate to have homestead laws that protect the home from creditors including Medicaid. Don’t panic and transfer your home to your child. You will make yourself ineligible for Medicaid benefits. Consult with me and I will show you how to protect your home and qualify for Medicaid in the event of a long-term illness.

5. Social Security Survivor Benefits: Healing from the loss of a beloved spouse can be challenging. Sometimes, we postpone dealing with things. The one thing you do not want to put off is meeting with the Social Security office to determine your entitlement to receive spousal or survivor benefits. If you are divorced you are entitled to benefits if you were married for 10 years. If you are married, you must be married 1 year to be eligible. The amount of the benefit is based on several factors including the surviving spouse’s age, whether the surviving spouse has begun to receive benefits and whether the decedent suspended his/her benefits. Don’t wait because you may lose the right to receive monies that can help you meet your financial obligations.

Today is a new day – seize it and be proactive. Meet with a qualified elder law attorney and create a plan that will make the aging process easier. Our firm is here to guide you.

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