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Southeastern Connecticut Senior Services Guide

Obtaining help for a family member who needs assistance with daily living can seem overwhelming. Perhaps a family member living alone can no longer cook or manage their medications … or perhaps the person has a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s … or has had a stroke or a heart attack.

At times like these, you need to understand all of the available options. You can make the right choices for you and your loved one if you dedicate yourself to obtaining helpful information.

To assist families who face this difficult situation, our firm has published its first-ever Southeastern Connecticut Senior Services Guide. This free Guide will provide you with pertinent, local information and answers to questions which we deal with on a daily basis.

Let me give you a tour of our Senior Services Guide. We begin in Chapter 1 by discussing the bewildering array of Senior Care Options. Not only are there assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes), but seniors can choose home health care, adult day care, senior housing, shared housing, age-restricted retirement communities, congregate care, and continuing care retirement communities.

We talk of the importance of care planning in Chapter 2. We encourage identification of the senior’s medical, social, spiritual, and psychological needs as well as the senior’s special preferences and usual routines. This information helps care providers understand what the senior needs to live a safe and enjoyable life.

Chapter 3 focuses on caring for the senior at home. The Guide discusses how best to manage care providers and optimize the services they provide. We summarize government programs that pay for home care, including important telephone numbers to access those programs.

We discuss continuing care retirement communities in Chapter 4. CCRCs have both independent living and a nursing home on the premises. Whether a senior is considering StoneRidge, Essex Meadows, or other CCRCs, you need to know the right questions to ask and what to consider. The Guide provides a detailed checklist that will help you focus your investigation.

Chapter 5 takes a closer look at assisted living facilities. In Connecticut, an assisted living facility consists of a managed residential community (MRC) registered with the Department of Public Health and an assisted living services agency (ALSA) licensed with the Department of Public Health. The MRC is the landlord and the ALSA provides nursing and care services. We clarify the differences between assisted living facilities and nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities. We also provide a checklist that can assist you in comparing assisted living facilities. The checklist covers everything from finance, care services, and living accommodations to food, staffing, and social and recreational activities.

Next, we turn to nursing homes. Chapter 6 describes the services provided in nursing homes and how to get good care there. We provide an evaluation form to help you compare nursing homes. The evaluation form provides you with the questions you need to ask about residents’ concerns, the staff and family considerations.

In Chapter 7, we provide a framework for comparing the costs of living and receiving care at home with the cost of an assisted living facility, nursing home, or a continuing care retirement community. To compare costs, you need to gather cost information for each option and tally the numbers.

Chapter 8 provides valuable contact information for local home health care providers, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and continuing care retirement communities. Armed with this information, you can begin contacting local facilities and gathering the information you need to make a decision.

In the final Chapter, we provide a list of attorneys in Southeastern Connecticut who are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). NAELA members focus their practice on elder law. Given the cost and time commitment involved in caregiving, it makes sense to seek legal assistance from elder law attorneys who can help with these important decisions.

If you would like a copy of our Southeastern Connecticut Senior Services Guide, give us a call or send us a letter. We will mail or e-mail you a copy of the Guide for your use. If you need assistance with preserving family assets and evaluating the available options, give us a call to set an appointment.

Congress Suspends Required Minimum Distributions for 2009

If you have a retirement plan or IRA and are over the age of 70, you know you must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your retirement account each year. To calculate the distribution amount, you multiply the value of all of your retirement accounts as of December 31 of the previous year by a life-expectancy factor from IRS tables. On December 17, 2008, Congress passed the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (HR 7327). The President signed the new law on December 23, 2008 (Public Law No. 110-458). Section 201 of the Act suspends required minimum distributions (RMDs) for the 2009 tax year. The Act applies to all RMDs from IRAs and employer plans for account owners and beneficiaries. This temporary suspension will not affect an individual’s required beginning date. An individual who turns 70 ½ in 2008 and chooses to defer their first distribution to April 1, 2009 must still take that distribution. The intent of the legislation is to give retirees an opportunity to recoup financial losses suffered in 2008.

2009 Estate Planning Changes

Some very important tax figures changed on January 1, 2009. The federal estate tax exemption rose from $2,000,000 to $3,500,000. This increase reduces or eliminates the obligation of many people to pay federal estate taxes. Married couples can now pass $7,000,000 to their children estate tax free with the use of a credit-shelter trust. Clients with estates no longer subject to federal estate tax may want to simplify their estate plans. The Connecticut estate tax exemption remains at $2,000,000. Married couples could face a Connecticut estate tax of $229,200 from an estate plan that uses a formula to take full advantage of the federal estate tax exemption. We recommend that married clients with tax-saving estate plans contact us to discuss ways to defer the Connecticut estate tax until the death of the surviving spouse.

The federal gift tax annual exclusion rose from $12,000 to $13,000 per donee beginning January 1, 2009. Thus, you can now give up to $13,000 to each child without having to file a gift tax return. If your spouse wants to join in the gift, together you can give $26,000 to each child without any of the gifts being considered “taxable gifts.” If the child is married, you could make total gifts of $52,000 from you and your spouse. Gifts exceeding the annual exclusion do not result in gift tax unless you have used your entire $1,000,000 federal lifetime gift tax exemption and your $2,000,000 Connecticut lifetime gift tax exemption.

The annual gift tax exclusion for gifts to a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen rose to $133,000. Gifts to a noncitizen spouse do not qualify for the unlimited gift tax marital deduction. This 1988 rule arose from Congress’s concern that noncitizen spouses would return to their original country without paying estate tax on the property they received. Without the marital deduction, gifts to a noncitizen spouse could result in gift tax owed. To compensate for denying the unlimited gift tax marital deduction to noncitizen spouses, Congress increased the annual gift tax exclusion in 1988 for noncitizen spouses to $100,000 adjusted for inflation. With inflation adjustments, a gift of $133,000 to a noncitizen spouse in 2009 will not result in a taxable gift.

Due to the precipitous decline in interest rates, the 7520 rate for January, 2009, is only 2.4%. This 7520 rate is the lowest in history! Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs) allow you to transfer property to loved ones estate tax free. If the total return of the GRAT (i.e. – dividends plus capital gains or rental income plus appreciation) exceeds the 7520 rate, property will pass to your beneficiaries free of estate tax. The value of real estate and securities has plummeted recently. If you believe the stock market or real estate market will turn around, it is a favorable time to fund a GRAT. If you own a fast-growing business, a gift of your privately-held stock to a GRAT could also transfer valuable property to loved ones free of estate tax.

At Cipparone & Zaccaro, PC, we have over 25 years of experience handling probate estates, estate planning, and real estate matters. Give us a call if you or anyone you know needs assistance with an estate, an estate plan or a real estate transaction.