Weekly Scenario

Steven E. Shane, Esq. | © 2014 Offit Kurman, Attorneys At Law | Used by permission                                

Question:  My son lives across the country but is my health care agent.  He has a copy of my advance medical directive.  I’m concerned that if I am admitted to the hospital suddenly, or there is a medical crisis, he may not be able to quickly deal with the situation.

Answer:  An advance medical directive gives instructions as to the type of medical care you would like to receive in the event you cannot express those wishes yourself.  The document can also give another person the ability to make medical decisions for you.

The document, however, is not helpful if it is locked away at the bank or in your attorney’s office.  One solution [for dealing with this problem] is with a new app called “My Health Care Wishes.” This app allows one to import and store important health care documents on a smartphone so they are accessible when needed.

So in this scenario, your son could keep the information on his smartphone.  If there were an emergency, you would have a “My Health Care Wishes” wallet card stating your son has your medical proxy documents.  He would access and send that document quickly, and then have the authority to speak with the medical facility and make decisions.

Two other apps available are DocuBank and MyDirectives.  I have also seen articles which advise using a phone or tablet to simply store documents in a cloud-based storage system.

Comment:  One issue to be wary of is the security of these legal documents.  My hope is that these apps have worked on the security issues, but I can’t comment on whether that has actually taken place.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please let me know.

Steven E. Shane                                            
Principal Attorney                                              
Offit│Kurman®
Attorneys At Law

www.offitkurman.com
8171 Maple Lawn Blvd. | Suite 200 | Maple Lawn, MD 20759 | 301.575.0300

 

Please note the above material discussed is intended to provide only general information.  Do not, under any circumstances, solely rely on this information as legal advice. Legal matters are often complicated.  For assistance with your specific legal problem or inquiry please contact me directly.

Guilty as Charged

Laurie MacNaughton [506562]  © 2014

I could hear it in her voice, I could see it in her eyes – the fear, the sublimated guilt, the tears lurking just beneath her every word.

Her sin? Old age.

Her crime? The loss of her husband of 58 years. And, with his death went fully 50% of her household income.

And now a new challenge: she has suffered a stroke, and though her recovery is steady, it is slow, and the long-time family home is simply no longer appropriate.

I met with “Mrs. Jones” last night. Her darling middle-aged daughter joined us, and mentioned it was a realtor who had given them my name. After speaking with both mother and daughter it became clear just how good a call it was on the part of the realtor: Mrs. Jones needs out of this big house, and to get into a home appropriate to aging in place.

HECM for Purchase

HECM for Purchase (also known as Reverse for Purchase) is an FHA-insured home-purchase loan available to seniors aged 62 or older. The purchaser provides a down payment – often derived from the sale of the exit home – and the HECM for Purchase loan provides the rest of the purchase funds.

Punto. That’s is. That is the last mortgage payment the home buyer will make on that home until s/he permanently leaves the home. At that point the loan will be repaid from the proceeds of the sale, and the remaining equity will belong to the homeowner, or to the heirs.

Property taxes (if applicable), homeowners insurance, and routine upkeep of the home are still required.

Are you in a home too big, or with too much upkeep, or with too many stairs? Have your longtime neighbors moved, leaving you in a neighborhood you no longer recognize? Has traffic become such an ordeal you are afraid to leave your house?

Give me a call and let’s talk. Include your adult children on the conversation. And together, let’s explore your options. You may have far more than you know.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant, President’s Club · Middleburg Mortgage · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · Laurie@MiddleburgReverse.com

   Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MiddleburgReverseMortgage

Licensed in: Maryland (MD), Washington, DC, Virginia (VA), Pennsylvania (PA), Delaware (DE), North Carolina (NC), South Carolina (SC), Georgia (GA), Tennessee (TN).

Soldiering Through: Men on the Front Lines of Caregiving

Laurie MacNaughton

When my firstborn was barely two she and her best friend, a little boy named Willoughby (really), spent the afternoon playing with an assortment of stuffed toys. While Willoughby practiced drop-kicking the animals against the wall, Jessica sat diapering them. When I fed them peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, Jessica nibbled hers into a rainbow; from his, Willoughby manufactured a gun.

Assertions of my feminist friends notwithstanding, as the mother of girls I firmly believe it is the easy province of a woman to care for the weak, the sick, the young, the aged. And, be it nurture or nature I think these tasks come harder to men. Thus, I have unqualified respect and admiration for what seems to me to be an increasing number of adult sons serving as primary caregivers for aged and infirm parents.

I am just returned from visiting my own mother whose agonizing last chapter is rapidly drawing to a close. Seated beside her, hour after hour, is my oldest brother. A retired Bell Labs particle physicist and former Ivy League professor, this caregiving role is not an easy fit. Yet there he sits, tending her unglamorous, repetitive, relentlessly-increasing needs. I took his place as much as possible during my stay, and invariably he headed for bed in an attempt to catch up on months’ worth of missed sleep.

For my part, when my mother slept I returned phone calls. Back-to-back I spoke with two men, one a prospering real estate broker who, weekends, travels a thousand miles each way to help with his mother’s care; I then spoke with an aging adult son serving as primary caregiver for his advanced elderly father. Not many days earlier an elder law attorney called me in reference to a client trying valiantly to honor his mother’s wish to age in place, despite her degenerative condition.

Then tonight, Thanksgiving night, as I drove home from the airport I took a call. An unspoken universe of sacrifice implicit in the adult son’s one statement hit home in a way he could scarcely imagine: “My concept of normality has gone to pot,” he said simply.

Nothing more need be said, my friend. Well am I aware of what you have forgone to care for your mother. And well I know how meager is the support for a man serving on the front lines in this role as primary caregiver.

Residential managed care has an indispensable function in today’s world. Professional in-home caregivers are invaluable, and hospice a godsend. But rarely are any of these the full solution to aging parents’ needs. It is appropriate that family cares for family – and there simply is no substitute for family.

So men – those of you who diaper and dress and swab and shower an aging parent, who mop and launder and scour and scrub until late into the night: you are an example to all of us privileged to know you.

And if you would like to talk about help financing your aging parents’ needs – or would just like to talk – give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS 506562] is a freelance writer and Reverse Mortgage Consultant at Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank. She can be reached at: 703-477-1183 or LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com.

Adult Children of Aging Parents

The vast majority of aging Americans want to remain in their own home as they age. However, making the necessary home modifications and paying for appropriate in-home care can create a serious financial drain on adult children. Increasingly, long-term retirement planning includes a reverse mortgage as a means to make it possible for our parents to age in place, and to address their income shortfalls in retirement.

Following is some helpful information when considering an FHA-insured reverse mortgage (or HECM) for your parents:

• The bank does NOT get your parents’ home once they permanently leave the home.

• The home always remains titled in your parents’ name.

• If the home goes down in value, neither your parents, nor you, nor your parents’ estate can ever owe more than the value of the home when it is sold. If you or your siblings wish to purchase the home, you secure your own financing and buy the home – just as you would if your parents had a traditional “forward” mortgage.

• Proceeds from the reverse mortgage are tax-free.

There are unique challenges that face families as loved ones age. As the daughter of an aging mother, I know first-hand the challenges of helping an older parent, and I understand what you’re going through as you assist your parents with their financial needs.

Call me at any time with questions…or if you just want to discuss needs, as I maintain an extensive list of aging-related service providers. I look forward to speaking with you.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant, President’s Club · Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com

There is No Stage 5

I don’t know when I dozed off, but it was sometime after watching the mercilessly utilitarian clock above the door turn one. I do know when I awoke.

The petite night-duty nurse, in for her 3:00 rounds, was saying, “Wait – wait, Ms. Jean. Let me unplug you.”

Unplug? Unplug? Scary things come to mind when that word is uttered in a hospital room.

And as I stirred to wakefulness I saw the unbelievable: my mother, not 10 hours out of surgery – and who had not eaten for two weeks – was struggling to get out of bed to use the restroom. “Lollipop,” she said, using a nickname I probably last heard when I was three, “Lollipop, can you grab the blanket so it doesn’t touch the floor? And see if you can find my robe and slippers.” No wristband ID confirmation necessary here.

My mother has Stage 4, primary-site pancreatic cancer; there is no Stage 5. She has multiple, large liver lesions, “hot-spots” on her bones, and a spot on one lung. When I arrived last Friday she was slipping in and out of consciousness, so jaundiced and gaunt she resembled the figure in Edvard Munch’s The Scream, if someone had taken a yellow highlighter to it.

Four o’clock Wednesday she was rushed into surgery to have a stent inserted into the common bile duct in hopes of making her more comfortable. Now here she was, not just intent on getting up, but on doing so under her own power – and with attention devoted to tangential issues. I half expected her to ask me if there were fresh guest towels in the bathroom and roses in the guestroom.

This woman, my mother, needs no urging from Dylan Thomas: she goes not gentle into that good night. I flew to Arizona assuming I would plan a funeral. Instead I have had truly intimate hours with a woman to whom intimacy does not come easily.

But no matter how feisty, how determined, how strong – or strong-willed – the person, pancreatic cancer always wins. Additionally, her cancer came as no surprise: my mother is a Wasserman, and it’s always cancer that kills Wasserman women.

The surprise came, rather, in what preparations remained unaddressed, issues that almost assuredly would have created unnecessary distress if she had slipped away last weekend as roundly anticipated by doctors and family alike.

The following is not intended to be a complete list of vitally-important documents, but it includes some biggies which can be easy to overlook.

1)      A professionally prepared, recently updated will. My parents have had a will for decades, but it was last updated 10 years ago and was woefully out of date.

2)      Trust documents.

3)      A professionally-prepared power of attorney.

4)      An advanced medical directive, prepared by an attorney.

5)      A letter of competency, prepared by a medical doctor who has known the patient dating back to the time the patient was mentally competent. I highlight this because this letter of competency can be almost impossible to obtain once the patient has lost mental competency – whether it’s due to the onset of dementia, a coma, or any other condition that might render the patient unable to make his/her own legal, medical, or financial decisions. I have included two samples, below.

6)      Home mortgage information.

7)      A list of bank and brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, annuities or other managed accounts, along with user-names, passwords, and account numbers.

8)      The whereabouts of the key to the safe deposit box.

9)      The whereabouts of any handguns. When my father died I thought ours was the only family who struggled to locate the handgun. I have since heard from many others who have had similar issues.

10)   Funeral and burial instructions, and documents for any pre-paid arrangements.

There is not much one can do to make the loss of a parent easier. But, there are many ways to make it harder – and a frantic search for crucial items can be a monumental source of distress.

Against all odds, against all professional assumptions, my mother came home today. But we all know the day is hard upon our heels when she will not come home at all.

But now at least we can devote these last days to her, rather than to a mad scramble to assemble critical documents.

If you have stories or experiences you would like to share, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant, President’s Club · Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com

Below are sample letters of competency. I typically encourage family members to print these off for the attending physician so s/he is sure to include necessary elements:

Physician’s Letterhead Here

Date

To Whom It May Concern:

Jane Doe (DOB 06/06/30) has been a patient under the care of this medical practice since 19**. She has been seen on a regular basis throughout this time. Medical records indicate that at no time during her care has she lacked capacity to make independent legal, medical, and financial decisions.

Ms. Doe was diagnosed in (month, year) with _________. However, it is the professional opinion of this medical practice that this has in no way impaired her ability to make her own legal, medical, and financial decisions.

Feel free to contact me at (000) 123-4567 if you require further information.

Sincerely,

­­­­­­­­­­­­____________________________________

John Brown, MD

Or:

Date

To Whom It May Concern:

Jane Doe (DOB 06/06/30) has been a patient under the care of this medical practice since 19**. She has been seen on a regular basis throughout this time. Medical records indicate that until (month, year) she had mental capacity to make independent legal, medical, and financial decisions on her own.

Ms. Doe was diagnosed in (month, year) with dementia. It is the professional opinion of this medical practice that she no longer has the ability to make independent legal, medical, and financial decisions.

Feel free to contact me at (000) 123-4567 if you require further information.

Sincerely,

­­­­­­­­­­­­____________________________________
John Brown, MD 

Did you hear the one about the lawyer?

Laurie MacNaughton

Friday I ran into the office to pick up some papers when the phone rang. It was a Virginia attorney with a knotty case involving a profoundly handicapped, aging client. “I’ve looked at many options,” the attorney said, “and I’m wondering if a reverse mortgage might be a solution.”

After describing the situation, the attorney mentioned, “This person has no one left who cares, and for my part, he’s really become more family than client.”

Not the first time

This was far from being the first time I have heard a similar story, so perhaps it was the direness of the client’s situation that made me reflect – reflect on the unwavering, unflagging, relentless effort Elder and Disability Law attorneys expend advocating for their clients. Reflect on the extraordinary measures attorneys go to in seeking justice for the vulnerable. Reflect on the care and concern – at times without pay – attorneys pour out protecting the seemingly forgotten members of our communities. I probably know a hundred Elder Law attorneys, and I can honestly say I can’t name one I would not entrust with the affairs of my own family.

I’m not naïve – I know there are bad lawyers, just as I know there are bad doctors, teachers and clergy. We all know there are bad loan officers – I’ve known some of them. Heck, over the years I’ve worked with some of them. But as a group, I would have to say lawyers get a disproportionately bad rap.

So here’s an open letter of thanks to the attorneys of our communities, those who spend time, talent, and at times even their own treasure, advocating, protecting, interceding on behalf of those whom many of us will never meet.

As one who also spends countless hours working out solutions for our seniors, personally I thank you. And please know I consider you among the unsung heroes of our age.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant, President’s Club · Middleburg Mortgage · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · Laurie@MiddleburgReverse.com

   Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MiddleburgReverseMortgage

Play My Guy

Recently I attended an event at which the featured speaker, an attorney based in the Washington, D.C. area, led off with, “I hate reverse mortgages – I HATE them.”

Well, I’ll say this: if you’re an attorney, there’s nothing like a forceful opening statement.

As a reverse mortgage specialist who has been in the field several years, I am always interested in hearing what people have to say about reverse mortgages. So, after the event I asked the attorney what he hates about reverse mortgages. I thought he was going recite the same-ol’, same-ol’ outdated information, personal bias, and general peevishness toward the product. But I was wrong.

Here was his answer:

He said his firm sees reverse mortgages after a senior’s family has completely spent down savings, burned through assets, and utterly depleted the reverse mortgage. Then they turn to him for help.

I have to say, I have seen the same thing – an unplanned, undirected spend-down of assets which leaves the senior with no money and few options. Needless to say, this can result in a less-than-optimal outcome. And I hate it too.

In fact, I’ve given this approach to handling finances a name. I call it “Play My Guy.”

“Play My Guy” Approach to Financial Planning

I married young, and we started our family before I even graduated college. Consequently, I was still in my twenties when my girls were old enough to start playing video games, and I’ll admit it – I like video games. But as my girls got older and games got more sophisticated, I didn’t keep up my game skills. So every once in a while I’d be walking through the room where my kids were playing with friends, and would hear, “Hey, Mom, play my guy.”

Play your guy? Play your guy? I can’t play your guy – I don’t even know what this game is called.

A couple other things here.

I don’t know the rules to the game – I’ve never played this game. But let’s say I grab the manual and speed-read the rules. I still don’t have any experience. I’m going to get slaughtered. Preservation of self-esteem dictates you don’t just jump into something you’ve never done…even if it’s in the company of a bunch of 13-year-olds.

In much of life common sense prevents us from jumping headlong into certain activities. And yet, many adult children of aging parents plunge right into handling their parents’ finances and legal matters. The parents say the equivalent of, “Here, play my guy,” and one of the adult kids says, “SureI’ll play your guy. I can do this.”

Let’s say for argument’s sake the adult kids put in hundreds of hours on the internet and learn all about wills, trusts, estates, Medicare, eldercare, long-term care. Let’s pretend they’ve really learned all the rules. They still don’t have any experience. They’re going to get slaughtered – and it’s not going to be a roomful of 13-year-old girls laughing at them. In fact, no one’s going to be laughing.

So what this attorney was saying was that he hates mopping up after a slaughter. He hates being called into a situation in which there are few – if any – good options left. However, this same attorney conceded he recommends reverse mortgages when they’re used in strategic retirement planning.

A reverse mortgage is a powerful financial tool when used as part of a comprehensive, long-term retirement plan. It can mean the difference between financial sustainability and a less-than-desirable fallback position.

But just like with many things in life, rarely are deferred planning, poor management, and a piecemeal approach ingredients for a good outcome.

Give me a call or shoot me an email regarding your experiences with finances in an aging population. I always love hearing from you.

Laurie

Laurie Denker MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant, President’s Club · Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com · www.middleburgmortgage.com/lauriem

Visit my Informational Blog at https://middleburgreverselady.wordpress.com/