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How working after retirement affects Social Security

A growing number of people continue to work after retirement, some to supplement their income and some simply to stay active. Most retirees can continue to work without any negative effects on their Social Security benefits.

There is no reduction in Social Security benefits for those who continue to work, as long as they have reached full retirement age. For some, Social Security benefits may actually increase, because benefits are calculated using the highest 35 years of earning.

For people born between 1943 and 1955, full retirement age is 66 years old. For those born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67 years old.

Taking Social Security benefits before reaching full retirement age and continuing to work can lead to a reduction in benefits. For those under retirement age for a full year, the Social Security Administration deducts $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above the annual limit of $15,720. For the year in which the individual reaches full retirement age, $1 is deducted for every $3 earned above an income limit of $41,880 in the months before the individual reaches full retirement age.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015 and is filed under Elder Law, Estate Planning | no comments | Leave a comment

If You Want to Withdraw from Medicare Advantage

Medicare recipients choose to withdraw from Medicare Advantage for a variety of reasons, including difficulties accessing their provider, coverage problems, premium increases and issues with Part D coverage.

Medicare Advantage enrollees have through February 14, 2015 to withdraw from their Medicare Advantage plan and instead receive Medicare Parts A and B through Original Medicare. During this period, recipients can also join a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) if necessary. There are some issues that individuals should keep in mind if they would like to withdraw:

  • During the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP), it is not possible to switch to another Medicare Advantage plan – the only option is to go to Original Medicare coverage Part A and Part B. Those who would like to switch Medicare Advantage plans may do so during Fall Open Enrollment, which runs from October through December.
  • Individuals returning to Original Medicare should consider how they might manage the deductibles, coinsurance and copayments they may encounter when seeking medical care and coverage. For example, individuals seeking to purchase a Medigap policy may face higher premiums or a waiting period.
  • Keep in mind, if you drop other coverage (i.e. employer or union health care coverage), you may not be able to reinstate your coverage.

To learn more about these Medicare click here: http://www.medicare.gov/

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

Important Differences between 504 Plans in Public Schools and Colleges

It is important for students with disabilities who plan to attend college, and their parents, to understand how their legal rights related to their disability will change in a post-secondary education environment.

In public elementary and secondary schools, students with disabilities may receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The IDEA does not apply in the workplace or in post-secondary education, so services available under IDEA, such as an individualized education program (IEP), are not available in college. However, services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may continue at the post-secondary level.

First, it should be noted that while Section 504 only applies to schools that receive federal funding, most colleges and universities do, and private post-secondary schools that receive no federal funding are still required to provide similar accommodations to students with disabilities, under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability, meaning that the needs of students with disabilities must be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. Colleges and universities must provide accommodations for students with disabilities. As a practical matter, this may include accessibility of classrooms, dormitories and other buildings; additional time on tests; substitution of some course requirements; interpreters or readers; adapted computer terminals and other services. Such services must be provided unless a fundamental alteration of the program or an undue financial or administrative burden would result.

Students with disabilities going from high school to college will need to advocate for their own needs more than ever. If the university has a disability support office, the student will need to make contact with that office to explain his or her needs. If a student has a history of accommodations in high school, then documentation of this should be provided to college or university officials. Most of all, students will need to be persistent, keeping a record of who they talked to, and continuing to press the matter until the needed accommodations are received.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

Guest Blog:Holiday Gift Ideas for Seniors

Our guest blogger this week is Lou Giampa is the President of Right at Home (Westchester). Lou is a New York State Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) who volunteers in hospitals and nursing homes throughout Westchester County.  He also volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Association, Meals on Wheels, and the Aging in Place community.

Mom and Dad are knocking out their bucket list – wine country trip, tandem skydiving, harbor dinner cruise – you can’t keep up with them. Grandma loves to cook, but standing in the kitchen causes knee pain. Grandpa must watch his TV programs, but he cranks the volume too high. Uncle Galen enjoys golf and gardening, but his hands lose their grip. Aunt Marianne relishes sitting down to chat over gourmet coffee and chocolates. For active and less active adults like these, how can you find them just-right gifts for the holidays

“The types and price ranges of holiday gifts for seniors expands every year and you can feel overwhelmed with choices,” said Lou Giampa, President of Right at Home of Westchester.  “In our work with the elderly and their families, I recommend that gifts mean something significant to the senior loved one and involve time spent together. Older adults don’t just want a handsomely wrapped gift. They want to enjoy memorable experiences with you.”

Giampa suggests the following variety of holiday gifts for seniors, depending on budget and the loved one’s activity level and personal interests:

Personal GiftsBionic StableGrip™ gloves for golf, gardening, fitness, driving and everyday tasks were developed by an orthopedic surgeon for a smooth, ergonomic grip and less hand pain (under $50).

  • For Him – Magnetic money clip; passport wallet; novelty neckties; National Football League (NFL) cuff links; Major League Baseball (MLB) team tie bar; carrier fleece blanket; personalized grilling apron; vintage golf club covers (under $50)
  • For Her – Massaging slippers; spa gift set; makeup travel toolkit; gardening tote with tools; skin beauty moisturizing set; full-service picnic basket; smart pedometer; acupressure mat (under $50)

Kitchen and Food – Pasta pot for two; “Wine of the Month” clubs; portable wine and cheese cooler; beer-tasting set; no-melt ice cubes; seasonings and finishing salts; gourmet olive oils; specialty foods gift basket; coffee bean and tea leaf sets; premium steaks ($20 – $100)

GelPro® floor mats offer soft shock-absorbing gel core therapeutic comfort for anyone suffering from foot, back, hip or knee pain, or osteoporosis, arthritis or plantar fasciitis. It is ideal for standing at the kitchen sink or garage workbench ($50 – $120).

Technology – The Crosley Cruiser portable turntable celebrates the sounds of vinyl records in a briefcase-styled record player that’s light enough to carry anywhere. About the size of a cellphone, the Bellman & Symfon® personal amplifier filters out background noise to give the gift of better hearing ($80 – $150).

Travel – Food and wine tours; brewery tours; American history tours; art and history museums; national parks; urban exploring on a guided Segway (free – full travel expenses)

Experiential Action and Adventure Gifts – Hot air ballooning; white-water rafting; surf lessons; stock car passenger or driver; boat dinner cruise; scenic helicopter tour; tandem skydiving; flying lessons; mountain biking; rock climbing; hang gliding; big game hunting; fly-fishing; snorkeling ($100 – $1,000)

Time – One of the most meaningful gifts any time of year is to carve out regular visits and outings with your seniors. Plan weekend handyman projects or go out for dinner and a movie. Check in regularly with phone calls and social media, but best of all, sit down together to talk, laugh and reminisce (priceless).

Gifts.com is one of most comprehensive online stores that searches all over the Web for the best gift ideas for senior men and women and even matches products to personality types (e.g., super grandma, health and fitness nut, intellectual). If you are unable to travel for the holidays to be with your older loved ones, Giampa notes that elder care providers like Right at Home offer companion care and transportation for holiday shopping and excursions. Home caregivers also can help your seniors buy the ingredients and make great-grandma’s traditional fruitcake. Or, skip the fruitcake and go for the chocolate-drizzled pretzel sticks.

About Right at Home

Founded in 1995, Right at Home of provides in-home care and assistance to seniors and the disabled.  We help care for seniors who require some assistance in order to maintain their independence, improving their quality of life, and enabling them to remain in their homes.  Our caregivers help with all the activities of daily living, as well as cooking, light housekeeping, safety supervision, medication reminders, and transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, social activities, etc. Our caregivers are thoroughly screened, trained, and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home.

For more information, please contact Right at Home (Westchester) at 914.468.1944 or visit us at www.westchesterseniorcare.com or click here to Follow their Facebook page.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 15th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law, Guest Blog | no comments | Leave a comment

November is National Home Care and Hospice Month

Millions of people across the country, from family caregivers to nurses to home health aides, dedicate their time and compassion to helping aging, ill and disabled individuals receive health care and support while they remain at home. November is Home Care and Hospice Month, and Americans are encouraged to honor the health care professionals and family members who provide these essential services.

As America’s senior population continues to rise, the need for adult home care providers is increasing. In addition, there is a growing trend towards providing as much care as possible in the home as opposed to an inpatient setting.

The care provided by home health workers, hospice workers and family caregivers is invaluable. Caregivers assist with activities of daily living such as bathing and eating, medication monitoring, skilled nursing tasks, housekeeping, transportation and emotional support.

Hospice care helps individuals facing end-stage illnesses to maintain their comfort and dignity as they approach the end of life. The end of life is one of the most challenging periods faced by individuals and their families, and hospice care workers also care for the spiritual and emotional needs of patients and their families.

During November and throughout the year, individuals are encouraged to recognize the caregivers in their lives. A simple action such as thanking a home health worker or offering respite to a family caregiver can make a huge difference to people who do important work each day.

Here are some helpful resources for caregivers in New York State:

-        New York State Office for the Aging

-        New York City Department for the Aging

-        Westchester County (Caregivers)

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

How to Balance Savings Between a 401 and a Roth IRA

Roth IRAs and 401(k)s are two of the most commonly used retirement savings accounts. For people with both a 401(k) and a Roth IRA, it is best to balance retirement savings between the two accounts in order to maximize employer contributions and tax benefits.

A Roth IRA provides considerable flexibility both before and after retirement. It is funded with after-tax dollars, so that it grows tax-free for the rest of the account holder’s life. There are no penalties or taxes for taking an early distribution of the amount contributed to the Roth IRA, providing peace of mind in case of an emergency later on.

A 401(k) is funded with pre-tax dollars and the account grows tax-deferred, so that taxes are paid when the distributions begin. Contributions to a 401(k) account receive an immediate tax deduction, but are subject to the uncertainty associated with future tax rates.

The most important consideration when balancing savings between a 401(k) and a Roth IRA is to make sure to contribute enough to the 401(k) to receive the full amount of the matching contribution from the employer. If there is no matching contribution or the match has already been met, then it is time to focus on the Roth IRA.

For people under the age of 50, there is a $5,500 annual limit on contributions to a Roth IRA. If an individual would like to keep saving after contributing enough to max out their Roth IRA and 401(k) employer matching, then more can be added to the 401(k) for additional tax deductions. If both accounts have been maxed out, it may be time to turn to a brokerage account or deferred variable annuities.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 14th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

Consider the Details when Estate Planning

Once you’ve drafted a will and advance directives and signed a health care proxy, take into consideration some of the less obvious things that may alleviate some of the burden on a loved one or family member.  Here’s a quick list:

Access to Information

The family needs to understand and have access to the individual’s documents. Three steps are recommended: creating a centralized and comprehensive collection of documents and information; talking to family members about wishes; and providing key documents such as powers of attorney to family members named in those documents.

The collection of documents and information should include not just the estate planning documents, but also information regarding online accounts, burial arrangements, and all financial accounts.

Cash Flow

After the initial steps in administering the estate, cash from the estate will be available to settle debts and pay for estate administration costs. The cash from the estate may not be available immediately after the individual’s death, but bills such as burial costs and attorneys’ fees come quickly. Individuals should ensure that there is enough cash flow to handle the initial costs.

Bills and Accounts

Having a list of the account numbers and information for all financial accounts and debts prevent issues such as unknown creditors and unclaimed assets. There should also be a list of bills, particularly bills that are automatically withdrawn each month. Additionally, the individual should keep a list of online accounts and passwords.

Special Arrangements

Some people have special requests or arrangements which require additional planning. For example, the survivors of veterans who wish to be buried in a military cemetery must provide the veteran’s DD214; not having it on hand can cause delays. Such arrangements should be discussed and planned for.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment

Paid Time Off – What Household Employers Need to Know

By Tom Breedlove, HomePay by Breedlove

The holiday season is just around the corner, which means families are starting to make plans to travel, see loved ones and use up the rest of their vacation days before 2015 begins. So with the idea of time off on many people’s minds, it’s a good time to talk about how things like vacation and sick days work if you employ an in-home caregiver. Many of us are simply told when we began our current job how many vacation days, sick days or personal days we get each year and we just accept that. But did you know there are federal and state labor laws in place that dictate paid time off?

If you employ a caregiver in your home, federal law does not explicitly require you to offer any form of paid time off to your employee. However, in the state of New York, after 1 year of employment, you are required to provide at least 3 paid days off. The law makes no designation whether these should be vacation, personal days or holidays – just that your employee is entitled to have 3 paid days off. Most families that want to attract a quality caregiver probably already offer this minimum, but in case you’re reading this trying to plan the benefits package for your employee, keep that number in mind.

Additionally, if you live in New York City, you’re required to provide 2 days of paid sick time per calendar year after your caregiver has worked for you for 1 year. Any unused sick time is allowed to be carried over to the next year or paid to the caregiver if they are terminated. City law also requires you to keep sick time records for 3 years.

Finally, the state requires you to provide a written notice to your caregiver about your policy on sick leave, vacation, personal leave and holidays. This can be worked into your formal employment agreement and is a great way to get on the same page during the hiring process so your working relationship is positive from the start. Whatever you decide on with your caregiver, just make sure it’s in writing and understood by your employee before they begin working for you. The holiday season is not a good time to have a conversation about how many vacation days your caregiver has left in the year.

If you need help putting together a sample employment contract that includes paid time off, you can find one at Care.com. And if there are other aspects about being a household employer you get stuck with, just visit our state-specific tax page on the HomePay website.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law, Special Needs Planning, Tax Planning | no comments | Leave a comment

National Estate Planning Awareness Week Starts October 20 2014

The Big Problem – Did You Realize That?

1. It is estimated that over 120,000,000 Americans do not have an up-to-date estate plan to protect themselves, and their families, making estate planning one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management? Financial and estate planning is not just for the wealthy and is an important process for everyone. With advance planning, issues such as guardianship of children, managing bill paying and assets in the event of sickness or disability, care of a special needs child or parent, long-term care needs, and distribution of retirement assets can all be handled with sensitivity, care, and at a reasonable cost.

2. The majority of Americans lack the ability to adequately plan for their retirement as most Americans over 65 are totally dependent on Social Security. With proper knowledge and planning, future generations will certainly have a more secure future.

3. Most people mistakenly believe that concepts like financial awareness, financial planning , retirement planning, planning for major expenditures, investment planning, tax planning, insurance planning, and estate planning, are just for the wealthy. When, in fact, few people today can really attain and maintain their financial security without forethought and a strategy to protect themselves and their families. This attitude can be financially harmful and can be avoided with proactive action. Managing personal finances today is more complicated and more important than ever. We’re living longer, but saving proportionately less. Scores of us feel less secure in our jobs and homes than we did in the past. We see our money being drained by the high cost of housing, taxes, education, and health care while dealing with the uncertainty of investments and our economy. We worry about the future, or unfortunately in many cases, simply try not to think about it.

Click here to read the Six Steps Toward Successful Estate Planning. To learn more about The Financial Awareness Foundation and National Estate Planning Awareness Week, click here.

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 17th, 2014 and is filed under Asset Protection, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Special Needs Planning | no comments | Leave a comment

Aging Gracefully in Your Own Home - with a Little Help: Non-Profits Offer New Model for Growing Old on Your Own Terms

Our guest blogger this week is Jilana Van Meter, Communications & Administration Manager,  At Home on the Sound.

The term “aging in place” is being heard more frequently these days. Simply put, “aging in place” means remaining in your own home and maintaining your independence as you grow older. Some Americans hope to accomplish this entirely on their own; others assume they will have the aid of nearby family members. But there is another option. By joining a local aging-in-place organization older adults are now finding they can have the best of both worlds – the privacy and autonomy they value plus peace of mind from belonging to a community of people who are willing to step in to lend a hand when needed.

To date there are 145 such organizations (frequently referred to as “Villages”) already operating around the country. These nonprofit groups have proved so popular that 125 more are in development. There are ten “Villages” in New York State, with seven more on the way.

One such group in Westchester County is At Home on the Sound. Serving Larchmont and Mamaroneck, At Home on the Sound is currently comprised of 150 members (ranging in age from 62 to 100), plus approximately 80 community volunteers of all ages. Many of At Home’s members are also volunteers. Besides providing enriching programs and activities, At Home on the Sound matches the volunteers with members who need local transportation or other assistance. In any given week At Home on the Sound provides 25 to 30 rides to doctor appointments, errands – even the nail salon!

At Home on the Sound volunteers are also available to handle simple household maintenance tasks like changing a hard to reach light bulb or fixing a leaky faucet. Several times throughout the year local high school students offer technology workshops providing one-on-one assistance to At Home members with cell phones and iPads. Staying up-to-date with technology not only has wonderful social benefits but can be a matter of safety as well.  An occupational therapist offers free home safety assessments, while a volunteer Medicare expert conducts annual seminars to keep members up-to-date on laws and deadlines. Trained volunteer patient advocates are even available to accompany members to medical appointments.

At Home on the Sound schedules at least a dozen social and cultural programs each month for members. A gentle yoga class is offered every week. Lectures are held on a vast array of topics from Acupuncture to the Constitutional Convention. Bus trips are organized for outings to museums, Broadway shows, and concerts. Activities such as Scrabble, Bridge, foreign language conversation, and current events discussions bring together like-minded members for fun and intellectual stimulation. All the programs are designed to ward off the sense of isolation that can sometimes come with age.

Not only do aging-in-place organizations improve the lives of members, these nonprofits can also be a godsend for family members who live far away and may not have regular contact with their older loved ones. With a quick local phone call, the older adult who belongs to an aging-in-place group can easily access a ride or other assistance when needed.

Aging-in-Place organizations around the country offer similar services to enhance and improve the quality of life for older adults – and their families. To see if an aging-in-place organization is currently serving your area visit the Village to Village network for a searchable map of the US.

Learn more about At Home on the Sound by clicking here.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 and is filed under Elder Law | no comments | Leave a comment