Yes, there can be.

Many of my new clients tell me that they do not need certain estate planning documents because their adult child (or other trusted person) is a joint owner on their bank accounts.  They believe that this will avoid the need for probate and will allow the other person to have access to the accounts if they become incapacitated.

Doing this is usually not worth the risk.

Risk #1:  The joint holder will have complete access to your money because once they become a joint holder, it is their money too.  The joint holder can also have your name removed from the account. This is done by someone you believed you could trust; however, most cases of elder financial exploitation are perpetrated by family members and trusted friends.

Risk #2:  You could lose Medicaid eligibility for long term nursing care; when you put someone else’s name on your accounts, you are legally making a gift to them.  This could cause you to be ineligible for Medicaid for up to 5 years from the date of the gift.

Risk #3: There are circumstances beyond the joint holder’s control which could put your property at risk.  A judgment against the joint holder (think car accident) could result in the loss of your assets. 

Risk #4: Putting someone else’s name on your primary residence is never worth the risk.  In Florida, your homestead has constitutional protection against any creditor. But, if the joint holder does not live in the home, it is not their homestead.  The creditors of the joint holder can reach this asset which could result in the loss of your home.

Risk #5: Adverse Tax Consequences. Gifting property to a beneficiary during your lifetime (and this is what putting someone else’s name on your asset means) creates certain tax consequences which are much less favorable than allowing your beneficiary to inherit the property. 

My advice is that you not put property in joint names with persons other than your spouse.  The avoidance of probate is not worth risking the loss of your assets. Consider other options to avoid probate such as a revocable trust or ladybird deed.  Handle incapacity issues with a Durable Power of Attorney.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

CAN TECHNOLOGY KEEP YOU SAFE FROM ELDER ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION?

Elders lose millions of dollars per year according the latest statistics from the National Adult Protective Services Association. Ninety percent of the abusers are family members or trusted others.  Sadly, it is also reported that only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse are reported to the authorities.  And 1 in 10 cases are so devastating that the elder victim must turn to Medicaid because their savings are deleted.

To help vulnerable adults, several companies are now offering concierge bill pay services, and some companies also monitor bank and investment accounts and credit cards.  These companies establish a baseline from the elder’s historical spending and saving behavior so they can then identify erratic activity, like unusual withdrawals, missing deposits, and changes in spending patterns.

Elder Law attorneys can also assist victims by bringing lawsuits for civil theft on a vulnerable adult.  Florida law allows the elder victim to recover triple damages in these types of suits.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

END OF LIFE OPTIONS

One of the services that I offer my clients is a Living Will. This document is a legal declaration of what type of care your wish to have if you are in the end stage of life and there is no medical probability of recovery.

Many of my clients struggle with this document-typically it is because they cannot decide whether they would want a feeding tube or artificial hydration at the end stage.

Here are some common myths that contribute to this difficult decision along with the response of Tani Bahti, nurse:

Myth: If people don’t eat, they should get a feeding tube or they will starve to death.

The needs of the body and its ability to process food changes in the final months of life.  People do not die because they are not eating, but rather they do not eat because they are dying.  Complications due to forced feeding and the use of tube feedings can actually hasten dying. 

Myth: Not drinking leads to painful dehydration.

Natural dehydration is comfortable and releases endorphins which promote comfort. Unlike in a healthy person, providing artificial fluids near the end of life may actually increase discomfort.  Natural dehydration results in less chance of nausea and vomiting, swelling, and lung congestion.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

Most estate plans include advance directives that state your wishes for health care and end of life decisions.  But, as some families are finding out, these advance directives may not be specific enough for certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Without a specific directive, some families facing this issue have had to go to court.  The results are usually not favorable for the families.

One such case recently occurred in Oregon.  In this case, the Alzheimer’s patient had previously signed an Advance Directive after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  She wanted to prevent her life from being prolonged once the disease became severe.  Her Advance Directive stated that she did not want to be fed through tubes and other mechanical assistance.

However, she was being kept alive by spoon feeding by her nursing home caregivers.  The woman’s husband went to court arguing that his wife would not want to be kept alive in this manner and that her acceptance of food was an automatic response and not a change in her wishes.

The Court found against the family.  The judge said she would not order the facility to stop spoon feeding Nora.

“It’s not a happy decision for me, said the Judge to the husband.  From what you have told me, your wife would hate this.”

The judge went on to say that the advance directive form only speaks to artificial nutrition.  It does not specifically mention food or water presented by hand.

The Law Office of Debra G. Simms can prepare an Advance Directive specifically for dementia and dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.   This new advance planning document allows sufferers of such diseases to record the specific difficulties associated with these illnesses and to detail what type of health care you want to be followed once you are no longer able to make your own quality of life decisions.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

Contact Us

Port Orange Office:
Prestige Executive Center
823 Dunlawton Ave. Unit C
Port Orange, FL 32129
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667
New Smyrna Beach Office:
629 N. Dixie HWY
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667