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Live Webinar September 30th 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 September 30th at 10AM

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 September 30th at 10AM

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 September 30th at 10AM

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

September 22, 2020
How a Residential Lease is Impacted by Death of a Tenant in Maryland
When someone rents residential property and dies during the lease period, the lease does not terminate automatically. The estate of the tenant will still be liable for paying rent for the duration of the lease period.

When someone rents residential property and dies during the lease period, the lease does not terminate automatically. The estate of the tenant will still be liable for paying rent for the duration of the lease period.

Death does not automatically terminate tenancy so landlords must either go to court to regain possession or work out an agreement with the deceased’s personal representative/executor administering the estate. The steps that a landlord will take will depend on whether the personal representative continues to pay rent or not. If the landlord continues to receive rent payments, the landlord cannot terminate the lease.

If the personal representative does not continue to pay rent, a form called “failure to pay rent” is available in the district court that can be filled out to initiate legal action. You must give notice to the personal representative that you are taking this action. There is also the possibility that you may be able to negotiate a payment plan or an early termination agreement with the personal representative instead of going to court.

Personal Property

The personal property (furniture, clothing, personal items, etc.) inside the rental is still considered property of the deceased and must be made available to the personal representative or designated family members to be picked up. Be careful in this situation because it is not uncommon for con artists to see obituary notices and then contact landlords posing as next of kin of the deceased individual. Check the records you have for emergency contacts provided by that tenant before you allow anyone access to the personal items left behind.

Security Deposit

Depending on the condition of the property, you will need to address the security deposit as you normally would when someone vacates. If the property is in appropriate condition and you would normally under those circumstances return the security deposit then you should return the security deposit to the deceased’s estate.

As soon as you learn of the death of a tenant make sure you take action. You want to mitigate any damages immediately so that you can rent the property to a new tenant as soon as possible. For more information on how to handle residential leases after the death of a tenant or if you are serving as a personal representative for someone that died during the term of a residential lease, please contact the experienced Estate Administration attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the greater Baltimore area.

September 21, 2020
How Can I Get Paid for Being a Family Caregiver?
There are millions of family caregivers providing billions of hours of unpaid care for loved ones. This can come at a huge personal cost to the caregivers in the form of lost wages and lost time with other friends or family.

There are millions of family caregivers providing billions of hours of unpaid care for loved ones. This can come at a huge personal cost to the caregivers in the form of lost wages and lost time with other friends or family. It also has the potential to create conflict among other family members. When care is given without any financial reimbursement it can really take a toll on the caregiver. That may then translate into less than adequate care for the loved one in need of care.

There are a few options available that may allow a family member to receive payment in exchange for the care they provide. Working with an Elder Law attorney you can draft a formal Personal Care Agreement or caregiving contract that details this arrangement before it begins. A Personal Care Agreement cannot be created for retroactive payment for past care. This is a binding agreement offering family caregivers security that they will not suffer undue financial consequences while ensuring the elder and other family members that the needs will be met by caring advocate. The document should outline the services to be provided as well as the payment to be received.

These agreements typically occur between an adult child and his or her parents. The agreement outlines the tasks expected in return for a stated compensation.

The Personal Care Agreement should include the following:

- date care begins (cannot be retroactive)

- detailed description of services provided

- hours per week

- compensation amount and frequency (a lot of flexibility here as it can be bi-weekly, monthly or even an upfront lump sum)

- Room & Board Provisions if applicable

- duration of the agreement

- standard contract language pertaining to location of legal dispute, how to modify and a termination clause

- signatures by caregiver and person authorized to make financial decisions on behalf of the person needing care if that person is not capable of making those decisions for himself or herself.

Having a family meeting to discuss the terms prior to signing is advisable. In some cases, it may also be beneficial to include a clergy member or trusted family friend to take part in the meeting. Take notes at the meeting for future reference, and make sure that an experienced Elder Law attorney is consulted and drafts the agreement on the family's behalf. For assistance in creating a Personal Care Agreement in the greater Baltimore area please contact the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Stouffer Legal.

September 18, 2020
When Does a Power of Attorney Designation End?
A power of attorney (POA) authorizes a specified individual to act as your agent to handle certain matters, such as finances or health care, on your behalf. If a power of attorney is durable, it remains in effect if you become incapacitated, such as due to illness or an accident.

A power of attorney (POA) authorizes a specified individual to act as your agent to handle certain matters, such as finances or health care, on your behalf. If a power of attorney is durable, it remains in effect if you become incapacitated, such as due to illness or an accident. A General POA covers a wide range of transactions, while a Limited POA covers only specific situations, such as authorizing a car dealer to register your new vehicle for you.

An ordinary power of attorney expires if you become mentally incompetent, while a durable power of attorney includes special wording that makes it effective even if that happens. So when does the POA designation end?

Regardless of when the document takes effect all powers under a POA end upon the principle’s death. When the principal dies, the agent loses all ability to act in his or her stead both medically and financially. That is not necessarily problematic for healthcare POA since you no longer need to make medical decisions after death. However, it can be problematic for a financial POA because even after death there maybe financial issues requiring access to information.

If the agent was also named as the executor of the decedent's estate that will allow that designated person to remain to have access to financial accounts for purposes of administering the estate and guiding the probate process. The agent may also retain access to certain assets if they were named as a joint owner or payable-on-death or transfer-on-death beneficiary. If the person died intestate (without a will) the agent can petition the local probate court to be appointed as the personal representative which would allow them access to the estate. In these situations, there is a continuing fiduciary duty. The agent under a POA has a legal duty to act in the best interest of the principal and the executor has a legal duty to act in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries.

For more information on power of attorney, trust and estate planning, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the greater Baltimore area.

September 17, 2020
Compulsive Shopping Among the Elderly
Online ordering, television shopping channels and mail-order catalogs make it very appealing for seniors to shop as a hobby or pastime that can quickly lead to an addiction. Some seniors may have had shopaholic tendencies their whole lives, while others ramp up their spending to overcome feelings of depression, boredom or loneliness.

Online ordering, television shopping channels and mail-order catalogs make it very appealing for seniors to shop as a hobby or pastime that can quickly lead to an addiction. Some seniors may have had shopaholic tendencies their whole lives, while others ramp up their spending to overcome feelings of depression, boredom or loneliness. Retail therapy can offer a mood boost, although it is short-lived. In severe cases, hoarding can also accompany reckless spending. Either or both of these behaviors may indicate a mental health issue or cognitive decline.

How can a caregiver step in and help manage a senior’s finances?

Like driving, the right to spend gives seniors a sense of autonomy. This can make seniors very reluctant to grant anyone access to their financial records or their spending habits. It may be best to bring in a third party to help handle this challenge. The first place to start is by making an appointment with the senior’s primary care physician or a specialist for a cognitive evaluation. This helps to rule out dementia and other cognitive issues.

If it turns out that the cognitive evaluation shows the senior is still competent, there may be very little that you can do legally from that point. However, if you are still concerned about the spending and damage to finances you may be able to get a friend, spiritual leader or financial advisor involved to discuss a realistic budget and shed light on any underlying issues causing the senior to overspend.

Hopefully, all legal preparations are in place, including a financial power of attorney (POA) which will allow a trustworthy representative to access the senior’s finances and begin making appropriate decisions. If you need assistance making these types of legal preparations, contact the experienced, compassionate Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the greater Baltimore area.

September 15, 2020
Live Webinar September 22nd 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 September 22nd at 10AM

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 September 22nd at 10AM

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 September 22nd at 10AM

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

September 15, 2020
How to Spot Medical Billing Errors and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Expenses
You may find yourself accruing a lot of out-of-pocket (OOP) costs not covered by Medicare that can become a major financial burden. Healthcare costs are exorbitant but there are some steps that caregivers for seniors can take to reduce these out-of-pocket expenses.

You may find yourself accruing a lot of out-of-pocket (OOP) costs not covered by Medicare that can become a major financial burden. Healthcare costs are exorbitant but there are some steps that caregivers for seniors can take to reduce these out-of-pocket expenses.

The first step is to make sure you understand the invoice and the insurance company's Explanation of Benefits (EOB). Your medical provider will send you a bill explaining what you need to pay, while your insurance company sends you an Explanation of Benefits explaining why you need to pay that particular amount. The EOB will show the lower contracted rate for an in-network provider and it will show how much your policy is willing to pay versus the patient's responsibility. It is important to do your research on in-network providers prior to major surgery or treatment so that you can select a good quality healthcare provider while making sure that decision is also cost-effective.

Do not pay the medical bill immediately upon receipt. You need to take the time to determine the amount that you truly owe. Make sure you have an EOB for that bill before making a payment. If you have not received an EOB, typically that means your insurance company has not finished processing the claim. Compare the EOB and the medical bill. Request an itemized bill from your provider if they do not provide you with one. Go through the itemized bill to make sure you did indeed receive the services for which you are being charged and make sure there are no duplicate charges. If the itemized statement includes medical billing abbreviations that you do not understand, call the provider for clarification.

Before paying the bill, contact the provider and ask if they have any flexible payment options or discounted rates if you pay upfront. If you do not have health insurance, many providers will give you a discount to bring your bill closer to the contracted rate that they have established with their accepted insurance companies.

If you feel overwhelmed or lack the confidence you need to handle the matter on your own, you can seek out a medical bill advocate. The Patient Advocate Foundation helps patients with serious medical issues so they can receive the treatment and medical coverage they deserve, often at no cost. You can also hire a professional medical billing advocate and the fee is typically on a contingency method where they are paid a percentage of the total amount they negotiate off the medical bill. If the advocate cannot secure a reduction in the amount owed then the client may be required to pay a retainer fee.

Failing to pay medical bills will very likely affect your credit. It is important that you address these invoices and make arrangements for payment in a timely manner. The longer you wait to handle these issues the more complicated and costly the process is likely to become.

At Stouffer Legal in the greater Baltimore area, our Elder Law attorneys work closely with our senior clients and their caregivers to ensure they are treated fairly and not placed at a disadvantage due to medical billing errors. Contact us for more information.

September 11, 2020
Live Webinar September 15th 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 September 15th at 10AM

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 September 15th at 10AM

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 September 15th at 10AM

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

September 10, 2020
Helping Prevent Injury-Causing Falls Among the Elderly
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 4 adults aged 65 and over fall each year. Falls cause over 90% of hip fractures in the elderly. Twenty percent of those suffering from a hip fracture die within one year of the injury.

Helping Prevent Injury-Causing Falls Among the Elderly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 4 adults aged 65 and over fall each year. Falls cause over 90% of hip fractures in the elderly. Twenty percent of those suffering from a hip fracture die within one year of the injury. With advancing age, many senior adults experience joint pain due to arthritis and an overall decrease in muscle mass. Age-related medical conditions such as dementia, vision loss and heart disease can also cause dizziness and weakness that can result in falls.

What causes elderly people to fall?

1. Decline in physical fitness. Many seniors as they become older become less active. This results in weaker muscles, inflamed joints and less core strength needed for balance.

2. Environmental hazards. Environmental factors such as poor lighting, clutter, slick floors and a lack of proper safety features result in falls.

3. Mental decline. Whether naturally or as a side effect of medication, cognitive issues may lead to falls.

Top 4 Ways to Prevent Falls

1. Balance enhancing exercises. Some popular balance enhancing exercises that help to prevent falls include walking heel-to-toe and the one-legged stand. Other helpful, balance-building fitness routines include Tai Chi, chair yoga and water aerobics.

2. Removing clutter. As previously mentioned, improving the safety features of one's living space has tremendous potential to prevent injury-causing falls.

3. Precautions with Medications. Take proper precautions with medications by discussing side effects with physicians, ensuring the patient is on the correct dosage and/or eliminating medications that are not necessary.

4. Wearable technology. “Smart Garments” designed to prevent falls as well as cushion falls are cutting-edge new technology that will improve the statistics mentioned earlier. Special undergarment briefs detect a fall in progress via motion sensors and respond by inflating a set of micro air bags designed to cushion the hip on impact.

Understanding how older individuals are at an increased risk for falling can help family caregivers take the proper precautions to keep their loved ones safe. At Stouffer Legal, we care about our seniors. For more information on our Elder Law or Estate Planning services please call our office today.

September 4, 2020
Filing a Final Income Tax Return After the Death of a Loved One
When someone passes away during the most recent tax year, the person named as executor in the will (or if there is no will, the administrator of the estate appointed by the court) is responsible for filing all necessary income, estate and gift tax returns in the decedent's name.

When someone passes away during the most recent tax year, the person named as executor in the will (or if there is no will, the administrator of the estate appointed by the court) is responsible for filing all necessary income, estate and gift tax returns in the decedent's name.

The executor determines what income was received by the decedent prior to the date of death and that income will need to be reported on a personal income tax return (Form 1040). Write the word “deceased” across the top of this tax return along with the decedent’s name and date of death. This personal return should be filed by the same due date that it would normally be due if the person were still alive.

Any income over $600 received by the decedent after passing away will need to be reported on the tax return for the estate (Form 1041). To begin creating the estate tax return, the executor must first apply for an employer identification number that will be used to reference all tax documents relating to the decedent's estate. The EIN is only used to file a final tax return for the estate of the person who passed away and should not be used to file returns or make payments for any year prior to the year when the person died.

A few finer points to keep in mind:

  • The final tax return can include any tax credit the person would have been eligible to receive prior to their passing.
  • If you are itemizing deductions keep in mind that only those medical expenses that were paid for while the person was still living can be deducted from the income. The medical expenses that have not been paid become liabilities of the estate and will be outlined on the federal estate return.
  • Once the executor files the final return the executor can also fill out Form 5495 (Request for Discharge from Personal Liability) to cut down on personal financial risk. This form notes that the executor will not be responsible for paying any additional taxes levied against the decedent's estate within nine months after this request.

For more information, consult this IRS publication or contact the experienced estate administration attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the greater Baltimore area.

September 3, 2020
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