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Tax Deadlines Postponed: Free Tax Assistance Available for Seniors
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will be extending the filing date from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. This means that Americans have an additional three months to prepare and file their tax returns.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will be extending the filing date from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. This means that Americans have an additional three months to prepare and file their tax returns. Comptroller of Maryland also extended the filing date to match that of the IRS. This decision is a result of the pandemic, Covid19 or coronavirus, because many places of business have closed or converted to remote or virtual only services.

Seniors and retirees should know that they may be able to use online tax preparation software free of charge. In years past, the software providers who agreed to provide free versions to seniors and low-income individuals of any age were making it difficult to find the software online. The IRS implemented new requirements on these software providers making it easier to find the free version.

Seniors are also eligible for free counseling assistance from the IRS which includes the preparation of tax returns. Seniors can use the IRS’s Tax Counseling for the Elderly program. The TCE program is available to taxpayers who are 60 years old or older and specializes in answering questions about pensions and retirement plans. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

TCE sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations across the country. To locate the nearest TCE site near you, call 800-906-9887.

For assistance with estate planning issues contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599 in the Greater Baltimore area.

April 3, 2020
Staying Connected to Senior Loved Ones Among the Covid19 Crisis
America’s response to Covid19 includes new practices to avoid the spread of the novel Coronavirus. The most popular strategy is that of physical distancing, also known as social distancing.

America’s response to Covid19 includes new practices to avoid the spread of the novel Coronavirus. The most popular strategy is that of physical distancing, also known as social distancing. Nursing homes have been hugely impacted and have taken measures to protect residents and patients by only allowing healthcare workers on the premises and isolating residents from one another. Seniors are more susceptible to severe symptoms, even death, from this virus and it is vital for their safety to take these measures. Unfortunately, this isolation practice leads to increased loneliness and anxiety.

So how can you stay connected to senior loved ones whether in a nursing home or self-quarantined in private residences?

- Call regularly to check in and have upbeat, positive conversations. Allow them to express concerns over what they may see in the media and provide factual information and reassurances.

- Use video calls if possible like FaceTime or Skype.

- Help them set up and use online, interactive classes, religious services and/or social networks to keep them entertained and socially engaged.

- Send them craft kits, puzzles, reading materials or other items of interest to help combat boredom.

At Stouffer Legal, we hope that you and your senior loved ones avoid the dangers of Covid19 and all other negative impacts, financial and otherwise, that could possibly result from this pandemic. This situation is a painful reminder of the importance of long-term care planning and incapacity planning (including Advance Directives). For assistance with these types of legal planning, please contact us at 443-470-3599.

April 2, 2020
What the Elimination of the Widow’s Tax Means for Veterans Benefits
A federal law passed in the 1970’s laid out how Veteran’s Affairs would allocate military survivor payments.

A federal law passed in the 1970’s laid out how Veteran’s Affairs would allocate military survivor payments. Two separate payment plans were established:

1. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program: awards approximately $15,000 per year to qualified survivors.

2. Survivor Benefits Plan: qualified survivors receive up to 55% of deceased veteran’s retirement pay.

For over 40 years, military survivors who took advantage of the new type of payout could not also benefit from the other. For the last two decades, lawmakers have considered making changes to the old law, in response to many who advocated for change.

Last April these advocates congregated in Washington, D.C. to meet with legislators. This meeting initiated the needed change to eliminate the “Widows Tax”. On December 20, 2019 the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDDAA) was signed into law.

What This Means

Additional benefits will begin incrementally over three years starting in 2021. Full benefits commence January 1, 2023. Survivors will not receive retroactive benefits. This change is likely to impact approximately 65,000 military families.

Veterans – At Stouffer Legal, we work with veterans and their spouses to determine eligibility for Aid and Attendance and/or Medicaid. We assist with all necessary paperwork and know the process. For more information, contact our firm at 443-470-3599.

April 1, 2020
LIVE Webinar April 1st at 10am - Now is the time to protect and plan!
Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe.

LIVE Webinar- Click Here to Register for April 1st at 10:00am

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar- Click Here to Register for April 1st at 10:00am

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar- Click Here to Register for April 1st at 10:00am

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

March 31, 2020
How Often Should I Update My Estate Plan?
There are certain life occurrences that take place which merit a prompt review of your estate planning documents and often require some updates as a result. These include:

There are certain life occurrences that take place which merit a prompt review of your estate planning documents and often require some updates as a result. These include:

Birth – When a new family member is born this may impact any specific bequests and guardianship provisions.

Death – When someone passes away this may also impact specific bequests or require you to modify appointed agents and/or successors.

Marriage – When you get divorced or remarried, it is highly likely that all of your estate planning documents and beneficiary designations will need to be reviewed and updated.

Business Issues – When you start a new business, enter a Buy-Sell Agreement, alter the legal form of your business, change business partner(s), or experience a significant change in your business’ value, you should review your estate plan.

Disability - If a beneficiary of yours becomes disabled, you may be jeopardizing their public assistance benefits by giving them an outright distribution from your estate. With proper planning, a disabled beneficiary may receive an inheritance and still qualify for public assistance benefits.

Some other instances that may precipitate the need to review your estate plan include moving to a new state, tax law changes, or coming into a windfall or large sum of money that alters your planning goals.

At Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area we carefully review your documents, discuss your goals and provide comprehensive advice. Contact us today at 443-470-3599.

March 27, 2020
Do Small Estates Have to Go Through Maryland Probate?
We often hear clients ask about whether their small estate will require them to endure a typical, lengthy probate process. There are ways under Maryland statutes to avoid a full estate administration, but several factors, not just monetary value, determines whether you can qualify for Maryland’s Title 5, Subtitle 6 “Small Estates”.

We often hear clients ask about whether their small estate will require them to endure a typical, lengthy probate process. There are ways under Maryland statutes to avoid a full estate administration, but several factors, not just monetary value, determines whether you can qualify for Maryland’s Title 5, Subtitle 6 “Small Estates”.

This law was enacted so that smaller estates could be processed more efficiently and economically. If the deceased had conveyed most property to a trust but there remains some property, small estate laws may still be a viable option.

In Maryland, if the estate is valued at less than $30,000 it may qualify for the shortcuts allowed in the probate process. If the surviving spouse is the sole heir, the amount allowed increases to $100,000.

The value of the estate is determined by the fair market value of the property minus any debts of record secured by the property, as of the date of death, to the extent that insurance benefits are not payable to the lien holder or secured party for the secured debt. Assets in a small estate are not free from creditors’ claims.

If you have questions on an estate administration of your loved one, or if you have been appointed as an Executor and have questions, please give us a call at 443-470-3599 to schedule an appointment with one of our estate administration attorneys in the Greater Baltimore area.

March 26, 2020
Medicaid May Pay a Family Member as a Caregiver
Taking care of an elderly relative is hard work and time-consuming, but it can be profitable work. As a caregiver you will spend countless hours assisting loved ones with daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning, errands, driving them to appointments and keeping them safe.

Taking care of an elderly relative is hard work and time-consuming, but it can be profitable work. As a caregiver you will spend countless hours assisting loved ones with daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning, errands, driving them to appointments and keeping them safe. Medicaid does allow certain family members to serve as a compensated caregiver.

Maryland's Community Personal Assistance Services (CPAS) are part of the state Medicaid plan and are provided in the eligible individual's home or community residence by self-employed or agency-employed providers. Under this program, ‘self-employed' means program participants choose their own care providers. This “self-directed” program is also known as “consumer-directed” or “participant-directed”. A senior accepted into this program will be given a monthly budget for purchasing Activities for Daily Living (ADL) assistance, and with the appropriate waiver, the cash from this budget may be used to hire a family member as a Personal Care Attendant, commonly known as a caregiver.

In Maryland, the caregiver cannot be your spouse or someone living with you and the pay rate must be less than fair market value to avoid fraud. In addition to Medicaid programs, there are also non-Medicaid programs that allow for self-directed care. These programs may have different eligibility requirements than Medicaid.

The first step is to apply for Medicaid through a home-based Medicaid program. Medicaid is available only to low-income seniors. The Medicaid application approval process may take several months. There also may be a waiting list to receive benefits under the program. For more information on eligibility requirements, contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599 in the Greater Baltimore area.

March 25, 2020
LIVE Webinar March 26th at 10am Now is the time to protect and plan!
This workshop covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for March 26th at 10:00 AM

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for March 26th at 10:00 AM

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for March 26th at 10:00 AM

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

March 24, 2020
A Medicare Costly Mistake – Knowing the Difference Between a Wellness Check and an Annual Physical
Under the Affordable Care Act, Maryland Medicare beneficiaries receive a free annual wellness visit. This is not to be confused with an annual physical. The difference between the two can be extremely costly.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Maryland Medicare beneficiaries receive a free annual wellness visit. This is not to be confused with an annual physical. The difference between the two can be extremely costly.

For your annual wellness visit, you will likely be seen by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant (PA) and he or she will do the following:

· Assist in filling out a health risk assessment

· Update your medical history

· Verify your prescriptions

· Obtain your current height, weight, and blood pressure

· Screen for cognitive issues, and

· Provide you with a flu shot.

You do not have to pay a deductible for this visit. Where the confusion lies is when you mistakenly request an annual physical rather than the annual wellness visit. At a physical, you typically see the doctor and it will include checking vital signs, urine and blood work. You will pay a co-pay and any deductibles associated with this visit.

To avoid receiving a bill for your annual checkup, make sure you use the correct wording and refer to it as an annual wellness check. Look over your Medicare plan carefully as some Medicare Advantage plans offer a free annual physical as well.

For more information on Elder Law services in the Greater Baltimore area, please contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599.

March 23, 2020
Three Common Probate Avoidance Strategies
When someone passes away, the probate court supervises the administration of the estate by overseeing how the executor notifies creditors, pays debts and disburses the assets to the beneficiaries.

When someone passes away, the probate court supervises the administration of the estate by overseeing how the executor notifies creditors, pays debts and disburses the assets to the beneficiaries. Many clients prefer to avoid probate because the process can be time-consuming and expensive. Here are three common probate avoidance strategies:

For Real Property:

Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship.  Using the language in the deed to convey property to the other owners by right of survivorship may avoid probate for the real property; however, there are situations where real property will have to be brought back into the estate.   When a decedent dies while holding property in joint tenancy with another person, the property will pass to the surviving owner by operation of law.  

For Financial Accounts:

Beneficiary Designation/Payable on Death.  Many assets such as retirement accounts or regular checking accounts will allow for a beneficiary designation or payable on death designation to be placed on the account.  In this case, when the owner of the account dies, it passes automatically to the beneficiary who is listed on the account.  There must be a living beneficiary at the time of death or the asset goes into probate.  

Trusts.  One of the most common techniques utilized by estate planning attorneys is the use of trusts.  Assets held in trust will pass according to the terms of that trust and will bypass probate proceedings. The trust must not only be created but also properly “funded”.  Funding the trust means that the client transfers his/her assets into the name of that trust.  Assets that remain in a decedent’s name at the time of death may be subject to probate.

For more information on estate planning to avoid probate in the Greater Baltimore area, please contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599.


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March 20, 2020
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