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Benefits Check Up

Senior citizens have access to hundreds of federal and state benefits programs. Many meet the requirements for these aids, yet do not know they are eligible and miss opportunities to receive assistance. Others can feel overwhelmed by complex application processes. We learned about a new website that can help: Benefits Checkup at the National Council on Aging’s online resource. This site helps seniors, and their families identify the federal and state assistance programs for which they are qualified. The site will provide information about the requirements of each program before applying, including contact information for the agencies administering the assistance.

To get personalized Eligibility Results detailing the benefits programs to which you may apply, enter your information into the database on the Benefits Checkup, starting with your ZIP code. Then select the programs that interest you, which offer support on any number of services, including Health care and medication, Food and nutrition, Housing and utilities, Aging in place and in-home care, and many others.

---- Preparing an Estate Plan can protect against Financial Exploitation

Did you know one in five seniors over 70 years old will experience some form of elder exploitation? The statistics are staggering.

Do you know the warning signs of financial exploitation?

Well, The AARP has published them for you to be on the lookout for, which include:

• changes in patterns of spending, transfers, or withdrawals from accounts;

• isolation from family and friends;

• financial activity that cannot be explained;

• inability to pay for routine bills and expenses;

• sudden changes to estate planning documents, beneficiary designations, or adding joint owners to an account.

One of the many ways we assist our estate planning clients is by developing a plan to avoid financial abuse. A durable power of attorney is a very useful and powerful tool in the hands of a trusted person; however, a funded revocable trust can provide even more protection for those who are vulnerable. A revocable trust-based plan can include safeguards such as co-trustees and require an independent party's consent to any trustee change or amendment.

Let’s take steps today to protect ourselves and others.


What assets don’t require probate?

Here are some of the assets that typically don't need to be part of the probate process:

•IRA or 401(k) retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries

• Life insurance policies with designated beneficiaries

• Pension plan distributions

• Assets assigned to a living trust

• Funds in a payable-on-death (POD) bank account and payable-on-death U.S. savings bonds

• Securities designated as transfer-on-death (TOD)

• Wages, salary, or commissions owed to the deceased (up to an allowable limit)

• Household goods and other items intended for immediate family (under state law)

After someone passes away, the grief over their loss can be all-consuming for the remaining family and friends. Having your affairs in order can eliminate and reduce the burden families have to go through when your matters are not settled in advance. With or without a will, the probate process is essential to ensure that all of one's affairs are in order prior to death.

---- How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?

The probate process in Florida usually takes 6-9 months (or less) under most circumstances - start to finish. This process includes:

1. Appointing a personal representative (i.e., the "executor")

2. 90 days creditor's period that must run

3. Payment of creditor's claims

One important distinction in probate is that the personal representative, once appointed by the probate court upon petition by an attorney, has the ability to manage the estate assets. Once the 90-day creditor's period runs (starting at the date of publication in a newspaper), the estate can generally start to be closed with the personal representative following a strict process to close the estate.

If you have any questions regarding the probate process or would like to know more about preparing your estate, please contact our office to schedule a call.

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