Estate Planning Conversation Aging ParentsThere are several aspects of estate planning in Florida that are less than fun, and that means that a lot of people choose to put the process off indefinitely.  There’s the need to gather a lot of documentation together, pay for an estate planning attorney, and not insignificantly, to contemplate one’s own death.  Adult children often find themselves up against these obstacles when trying to encourage their aging parents to get their estate planning affairs in order now, rather than continuing to procrastinate.

But, how do you get that conversation started?  Here in Jacksonville, we offer some suggested conversation starters that can help break the ice.

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #1 – Find an example of a family where the parent(s) unexpectedly died or became incapacitated without having put together the appropriate documents.  Describe how much the probate process ended up costing, how difficult it was for the adult children to make choices that should have been up to the parent, and so forth.  Over half the population in the United States does not have a will, which likely means they don’t have any other related documents like a durable power of attorney that follows the new Florida durable power of attorney law, designation of healthcare surrogate, or a living will.  Many people have negative stories about estate and incapacity messes.

You can find tons of examples online and then find a way to work one into the conversation.  Try something like, “I was watching CNN the other day” or “I was reading XYZ web site,  and I saw this crazy story.”  Every time a celebrity passes away, their wills or trusts make the news.

Stories work well because they are memorable and not just hypothetical situations.

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #2 – Let your parents know that if they want to have a say in what happens to their estate, it’s up to them to get things lined up with an estate planning attorney now.  Many people put it off because they think that they are healthy and don’t expect to die any time soon.  But do you they want to have some lawyer going to their hospital room to get their last requests signed and on paper?

Many times, just recognizing the fact that “the government” will be stepping in to settle their affairs can be enough to spur a parent to action.  After a lifetime of hard work, it’s unlikely they want some faceless bureaucrat making decisions about their money, right?

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #3 – Do your own estate planning and then share what you’ve learned.  By working with your own estate planning attorney in Jacksonville, you are bound to become even more convinced of your parents’ need to do theirs, plus you will have first-hand knowledge of what the process looks like and can help take some of the fear and mystery out of it for them.  Just knowing that they can come to someone they trust for support can be very helpful in making the mental leap necessary to get the ball rolling.

Simply relaying your final wishes may spurn your parents on to get their final wishes up to date.

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #4 – Your parent needs or asks for your help at their home with day to day tasks.  In many situations, the child closest in distance to the parent will take care of the parent.  If it starts as simple as driving your parent to the doctor or going to the bank for your parent, you will notice the red tape involved in dealing with doctors and banks.  With proper estate planning documents, the banks and doctors will allow you to handle your parent’s business with minimal hassle.

An estate planning attorney with knowledge of elder law issues can help to advise your parent of government benefits that they might be entitled to or help minimize future headaches that can come from “black sheep” family  members.

Talk to your parent about getting their estate planning done to make your life easier now and in the future.

By using any of these three conversation starters, you can help increase the chances that your aging parent will at least start moving in the right direction.  Estate planning in Jacksonville is something that many people want to put off, but to continue to do so is gambling with their own, and their heirs’ future.

 

Photo by:  R. Rasmussen

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Costly VA Aid and Attendance Application Mistakes

Do you want to receive this message from the VA about your aid and attendance application?

 

As easy as it may appear on first sight through their online portal, applying for VA Aid and Attendance is not easy as sending the online form.  Here are mistakes that will cost you when completing your application.

 

 

Costly Application Mistake #1:  You don’t use the right forms.  As simple as it may sound, you must use the correct form for the benefit you are applying for. For example, the form for a surviving spouse to claim aid and attendance is different from the form for the veteran to claim aid and attendance.  You will get a reply from the VA with the correct forms, leading to delay.

Costly Application Mistake #2:  You haven’t used enough forms.  Simply using the primary application form is a mistake. Other VA forms are needed to apply for VA benefits. If you forget to send a form, then the VA will write you back and request the form you should have sent in the first place. This of course will delay a decision.

Costly Application Mistake #3:  You fill out the forms incorrectly.  Despite directions on the forms, it is possible to fill the forms out incorrectly. For example, when filling in income numbers, you put a “N/A” instead of a “$0”. I have heard of applications be rejected for that reason. Another mistake would be filling out information that is not applicable to your claim. By doing so, you invite the VA caseworker to mistakenly believe you are applying for a benefit that you don’t intend to apply for.

Costly Application Mistake #4:   You don’t provide enough information.  If you leave out information, you are inviting the VA caseworker to have to perform more work. If you force a caseworker to have to follow up, you invite mistakes on your part and procrastination on the caseworker’s part.

Costly Application Mistake #5:   You don’t provide enough supporting documents.  You can actually provide all the correct VA forms and follow the directions perfectly, but if you do not provide enough supporting documents you are inviting delay because the VA caseworker will have to follow up with you. You also invite further delay or denial risk because your supporting information won’t match your application information.

Costly Application Mistake #6:   You use the VA’s medical form.  The VA actually accepts any medical information you provide. Ironically, the VA’s own medical form for Aid and Attendance Examinations could lend itself to a mistake. There might not be enough room for a doctor to elaborate on your condition. Also, the medical form does not provide much instruction to the doctor. Incomplete, illegible, or inaccurate medical forms will delay your aid and attendance application decision.

Costly Application Mistake #7:   You don’t have any proof when the VA received your application.  The VA is notorious for losing information. Don’t let your claim be a victim. If you send your application via express overnight with a signature requirement, you have a good chance your application’s arrival will be known and you will have proof of the date the VA received your application. A very important piece of evidence if your application is lost and you want benefits from the date your first applied. Important note, always make a copy of the exact documents that you send to the VA so you can have the record if you need to reapply or you need to refer to it if the VA contacts you.

Costly Application Mistake #8:   You sent the application to the wrong place.  You could send the application to any VA office, but ultimately your application will need to end up at the city where your type of claim is supposed to be evaluated. Transit time between VA offices will delay your claim.

Costly Application Mistake #9:   You haven’t met the requirements for an award and your application is premature. Don’t apply for the VA Improved Pension benefits if you do not meet the 4 requirements. If, for example, you have too high assets, you are going to put yourself through all the bureaucratic headaches for nothing and then you will have to apply again once you do meet the requirements.

Costly Application Mistake #10:   You provide incorrect information on the application.  The VA has the ability to cross reference IRS records and other government information about you. If you put your income as one number and your tax return shows another, you risk benefit denials, demands for repayment, or prosecution.

If you want to learn more about VA Improved Pension with Aid and Attendance, the costly financial pitfalls associated when seeking this benefit, and how to hire someone to help, then download my free guide, Long Term Care Benefits for Veterans and their Families.

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