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Unplanned Disability & Guardianships

Unplanned Disability & Guardianships

By William T. Miller, Attorney at Law What if? We do not like to think about the “what ifs” that revolve around our health, but the recent pandemic has brought certain issues surrounding unexpected disability to the forefront. What if I get sick or am severely injured in an accident? Will my family know what to do? Every attorney in the practice knows from experience that planning ahead can avoid a family crisis later. Consider this scenario: You are 50 years old, divorced, or widowed, with grown children in their 20’s and parents in their 70’s. All of a sudden, you become extremely ill, lose consciousness, and are admitted to the hospital. You are not able to make decisions about your medical care, pay your bills, or manage your finances. If you have planned ahead and have the necessary paperwork in place, your family will know your wishes and be able to make decisions on your care and keep your finances straight until you recover. If you have not taken the steps to complete advance directives and powers of attorney, your family members will be placed in the difficult situation of deciding on your care. If you have minor children or care for a loved one with special needs, the situation becomes even more tenuous. Will your parents make decisions for you? Your grown children? A spouse if you are remarried? During an especially stressful time, this can trigger family squabbles or divide the family as they argue over who is in charge of medical decisions and how finances should be handled. Worse yet, their decisions may not reflect...
Three Questions to Ask When Applying for Medicaid

Three Questions to Ask When Applying for Medicaid

Filling out your Medicaid application does not have to be stressful or frustrating. Knowing the requirements, what documents you need and what resources are available all are things that an experienced attorney can “guide you through the application process. What is Medicaid? Before you start the Medicaid application process, it is important to know what Medicaid is. According to NC Department of Health and Human Services, “Medicaid is a health insurance program for low-income individuals and families who cannot afford health care costs.”  Medicaid programs serve millions of Americans, including low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Although Medicaid is a federal program, each state has its specific set of rules and regulations that must be followed. Make sure you stay in contact with your State Medicaid Agency for up-to-date information on new and existing laws, and policy changes. Do I Qualify for Medicaid? One of the first questions you ask your attorney is, Do I qualify for Medicaid? Depending on which state you live in, your attorney will help in determining if you qualify for Medicaid.  North Carolina has general requirements for all applicants that include but are not limited to: Age 65 or olderBlind or disabledInfants and children under the age of 21Low-income individuals with familiesIn need of facility-based long-term care servicesReceiving MedicareMeet certain financial need-based requirements (countable assets under $2,000) depending on the type of services sought after  What Services Does Medicaid Cover? Medicaid assists pregnant women, children, the elderly, low income, and disabled individuals. For North Carolina residents who receive Medicaid, it covers mandatory benefits in addition to state services. Please...
Virtual Notarization Temporarily Authorized in North Carolina

Virtual Notarization Temporarily Authorized in North Carolina

By Ryan McNeill, Attorney at Law The current pandemic may have you thinking about estate planning. With social distancing requirements put in place, schools closed for the academic year and business temporarily closed, there is a lot to process. Add to that the COVID-19 statistics shown on the nightly news, and it is no wonder many people are worried about the future. To adapt and to provide continuous vital legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina General Assembly has passed a law that will no longer require a notary to be physically present in the same location as the signing of documents when notarizing estate planning or other legal documents. The emergency video notarization provisions were part of Senate Bill 704, which became law on May 4, 2020, and which had other important provisions for signing estate planning documents. Emergency video notarization is authorized while a state of emergency order is in place and requires that there be real-time video and audio electronic interaction between the notary and the person signing the document. Itfurther requires that the notary either has personal knowledge of the person signing the document or that during the video conference the signer show to the camera a state or federal issued photo identification card like a driver’s license. Additional changes were made to witnessing certain estate planning documents. The old law required a living will or healthcare power of attorney documents to be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary. During the state of emergency both of those documents now only require notarization and the presence of two witnesses is...
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst During COVID-19

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst During COVID-19

By Will Miller Since mid-March of this year, we have all been living in the shadow of COVID-19. Although we all experience death during our lives, the pandemic has heightened awareness of human vulnerability and mortality, both for ourselves and our loved ones. We wonder what would happen if we became critically ill from the virus, how our illness would affect our family and friends, and what we can do to prepare for the possibility of grave illness or death. Illness and death are morbid topics in the best of times, perhaps more so in the midst of a pandemic. However, the value of taking proactive steps to prepare for the worst is rarely more apparent than now. A comprehensive estate plan provides preparation for illness and end of life through advanced directives for incapacity and end-of-life treatment, as well as for instructions for the division of assets among loved ones at death. An initial step toward such preparation is considering what decisions may need to be made regarding your medical care if you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. If you were unable to breathe due to COVID-19, would you want to be intubated and connected to a ventilator? What if your treating physician determined that you were not going to recover from the virus – would you want to be kept alive as long as possible, or would you want life support to be withheld or withdrawn? Questions concerning end-of-life medical treatment are relevant for many illnesses and conditions, but current events make us more mindful of such scenarios. An estate planning attorney can guide...
What You Need to Know About the SECURE Act

What You Need to Know About the SECURE Act

By David Inabinett, Attorney at Law The SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019) was signed into law December 20, 2019, and most of its provisions became effective January 1, 2020. The Act is intended to make it easier for Americans to save for retirement and decrease the percentage of us who outlive our retirement funds. While the purpose of the Act is positive, some of these changes may result in unanticipated tax bills for beneficiaries who were previously able to defer or “stretch” the withdrawal of such accounts over an entire life expectancy. The key provisions of the SECURE Act include: The age limit to begin mandatory distributions from retirement plans has been increased from 70 and a half years of age to 72 in recognition of the fact that people are living longer. This does NOT impact anyone who turned 70 1/2 before January 1, 2020. If you are still working at 70 1/2, your retirement savings may remain untouched for an extra 18 months.People of any age may now contribute to a traditional IRA. The prior age cap of 70 1/2 has been removed, so if you are still working and want to build your retirement account and get the tax benefits of a traditional IRA, you may do so. Timing is such that those turning 70 1/2 in 2019 will not be able to claim the IRA deduction for 2019’s taxes but will be able to do so for 2020 and moving forward. In addition, you now have extra time to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, should...
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Ryan McNeil | November of 1983 marked the official designation of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Communities since then have made it their mission to not only increase awareness of the disease but raise funds toward the research for a cure, too. What is Alzheimer’s? According to the National Institute of Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, with new medical treatments, clinical trials, and with the help of advancements in technology doctors provide Alzheimer’s patients with a somewhat better quality of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports “The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65 and this number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.” Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Every person who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is the not the same. There are signs or indicators that manifest differently in people. However, there are symptoms that you should be on the look out for. According to the Alzheimer’s Association there are 10 symptoms of Alzheimer’s Memory loss that disrupts daily lifeChallenges in planning or solving problemsDifficulty completing familiar tasksConfusion with time or placeTrouble understanding visual images and spatial relationshipsNew problems with words in speaking or writingMisplacing things and losing the ability to retrace stepsDecreased or poor judgmentWithdrawal from work or social activitiesChanges in mood and personality Who Does Alzheimer’s Affect? Regular responsibilities like remembering to pay bills, turning off electrical appliances or just trying...