Exploring Elder Financial Abuse

Exploring Elder Financial Abuse

Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is all too common and we see cases of it frequently. If you want to protect your senior loved ones, it’s best to be aware of what to look out for and how you can prevent any financial abuse from happening. In this article, our elder law attorneys in NJ will outline the signs of elder financial abuse and how to successfully avoid it. 

What is Elder Financial Abuse?

According to the CDC, elder financial abuse is, “The illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual.

This includes depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. Examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions; use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property; or improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.”

Signs of Elder Financial Abuse: What to Look Out For

Elderly people who have some type of cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s disease, are the most vulnerable to financial abuse. However, even mentally-sound older adults often fall prey to financial abuse from people they know and trust. Here are several signs to look out for:

  • Checks written to “cash”
  • They transfer their assets to friends who are assisting them with their finances
  • They can’t explain their current financial situation, or they make excuses when you ask
  • You notice unpaid bills piling up, despite them being able to afford to pay them previously 
  • They start uncharacteristically spending money, or giving it away more frequently

How to Protect Your Elderly Loved Ones

The first step is having a discussion with them about their vulnerabilities. Fair warning, they’ll likely give you resistance on this. Oftentimes, older adults have trouble accepting that they’re not completely in control of their lives anymore. However, it’s a conversation that must be had. When having the conversation, it’s important to reiterate that anyone could fall victim to financial abuse and you are assisting with the situation because you care. To reduce the chances of elder financial abuse, we recommend that seniors simplify their finances, develop a network of trusted people to monitor financial activity, and draft a financial Power of Attorney (PoA) to legally reduce the risk of abuse. 

For more information about how to detect and prevent elder financial abuse, or if you have any questions about creating a financial Power of Attorney for your loved one, please contact our team at SCC Legal today or visit us at: https://www.scclegal.com/

When Is It Time to Hire an Elder Law Attorney?

Elder Law Attorney

Elder law attorneys handle a wide range of issues, and despite common misconceptions, you don’t only need to hire an elder law attorney when a loved one is near the end of their life. Attorneys for seniors help with many different aspects of growing older and aging. Having an experienced elder care lawyer on your side can make things much easier for you and your family. Here are some strong indicators that it may be time to hire an elder lawyer: 

You Need Help with Medicaid or Medicare

Medicaid and Medicare applications are notoriously difficult. You must meet specific criteria, provide certain documentation, and any mistakes with your application means you have to start over from the beginning. Starting from scratch can cause severe delays to you being accepted and gaining coverage. 

Elder lawyers are well-versed in Medicaid and Medicare applications, and they can help you or your loved one complete the application, gather the necessary documentation, and ensure they meet all eligibility criteria before submitting the application. 

You Need To Make Estate Planning Decisions

We recommend that people of all ages create an estate plan, but it’s especially important for older adults. Elder law attorneys can assist you with drawing up your living will, trusts, and powers of attorney. These documents are essential and give your family explicit instructions on what to do with your assets when you’re no longer here. 

Estate plans are important for everyone, particularly if you have complex finances, a blended family, or numerous assets. Don’t let the court decide what happens to your assets when you’re gone, work with an attorney to create an estate plan today. 

It’s Time To Make Long-Term Care Decisions

Many of us will need some type of long-term care at a certain stage in our life. Whether it’s an in-home health aide, an assisted living community, or another type of elder care, it’s important to think about what you want to happen if a time comes when you’re no longer able to make your own healthcare decisions. You need to appoint someone to be your healthcare proxy, and decide who you want making your medical and financial decisions if there comes a point when you can’t. 

If you’d like more information about when to hire an elder law attorney, please contact our team at SCC Legal or visit our website at: https://www.scclegal.com/

Guardianship abuse: what it entails and how to avoid it

Guardianship abuse is a type of elder abuse that occurs when a person who has been appointed as a guardian abuses their power. Unfortunately, guardianship abuse is much more common than you might think.

However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your family and your assets. Guardianship is an essential part of a comprehensive estate plan, and if you haven’t spoken with an elder lawyer yet, we recommend you do so soon.

Continue reading “Guardianship abuse: what it entails and how to avoid it”

Estate Planning: 5 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid Litigation

estate planning

With large amounts of money at stake, some otherwise good and kind people can exhibit behaviors that are based on want and greed. At SCC Legal, we’ve seen our share of horror shows in estate litigation cases over our many years handling all aspects of elder law. If there is no last Will or Testament, no proper estate plan in place when mom or dad passes, children or other family members may begin to fight over who deserves, or who controls what assets.

When siblings or other beneficiaries engage in clearly dishonest behavior, or refuse to be transparent during estate administration or guardianship proceedings, other beneficiaries may suspect they are being cheated. Sometimes these remaining children have moved far away and are finding it difficult to keep tabs on the distribution of assets here in New Jersey. In these cases, parties have little choice but to engage a qualified NJ elder law attorney to represent their interests, and protect their rights under the law. For many, it is a matter of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that is at risk, if they don’t do something legally, and do it quickly.

How to Minimize Infighting Over Your Estate and Assets

Even with a legal estate executor or administrator these cases can get ugly, ending up in a courtroom. That’s why it’s important to have a DETAILED estate plan in place, especially if you own valuable real estate, significant stock or collectable assets, or a business that needs to survive you. A well thought out estate plan coupled with an EFFECTIVE will, can help ensure your final wishes are met, your loved ones are cared for after your passing and avoids nasty litigation cases that could break up your family – if it is done correctly

With most things, it helps to know what not to do first. You’d be surprised to see how one simple mistake in your estate plan can end in a costly court battle. Here are five of the most common estate planning mistakes to avoid provided by the SCC Legal team in Fairfield, NJ. 

  1. Thinking you’re too young to create an estate plan. Estate planning should be thought of before passing away in order to give you ample time to create a plan you’re comfortable with. As soon as you start to live independently and gather assets, you should start planning your estate. This will ensure your property goes to the people most important to you, who need it most – not to those the state selects.
  2. Excluding the Advance Healthcare Directive. This is a legal document giving the person of your choosing the ability to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you be unable to. If you have strong feelings about whether you prefer to be kept alive (or not) in certain medical situations like a coma, this is a very important document to consider when creating your plan.
  3. Forgetting to add your business to your estate plan. For many people, their business is more than their livelihood – it’s their passion. However, it is often forgotten about when it comes to estate planning. Consider what would happen to your business if you passed away – who should it go to? Is there someone who can buy it? How will this affect your heirs?
  4. Taking a DIY approach to estate planning. In reality, the technical side of estate planning is very complex – it’s not as simple as leaving certain assets to certain people. The tax side, for example, needs to be managed very carefully in order to ensure the least amount of tax possible is levied on your estate. This will have a significant effect on the outcome of your estate and needs to be addressed by a professional who knows this system intimately and can give you solid advice.
  5. Choosing a problematic executor. This is the person who will be responsible for administering your estate and, as such, should not benefit from the distribution of your estate. It’s very important the chosen person knows you and your family well, supports your views and has the ability to perform their duties without any issues. An estate planning lawyer can help you decide who will fit this position, explain their duties and even help add a third party who can assist the executor, such as a bank trust department.

Avoid Estate Litigation by Using a NJ Estate Planning Attorney

As we mentioned above, estate litigations can destroy relationships between your surviving family members and rack up substantial legal and court costs. The best way to keep your heirs out of this type of situation after you pass away is to ensure you work with a reputable estate planning attorney to create a solid estate plan and last Will or Testament.

Frank Campisano is an estate planning attorney at Sedita, Campisano and Campisano (SCC Legal) in New Jersey, who brings an exceptional level of patience and compassion to this often emotional process. With many years of experience, he can assist you in developing a plan that addresses all your requirements, ensuring your hard work and assets go to the people you love, rather than to the government or other greedy family members. At SCC Legal, trust is the key – and we’ll give you all the time, advice and expertise you need to ensure your wishes are carried out. 

For more information about estate planning and litigation, or to book an appointment with Frank Campisano, please contact us today or visit our website at: https://www.scclegal.com/

What happens to my business when I die?

Small business owner

As a small business owner, you undoubtedly have a lot on your plate. There’s the day-to-day operations of running your business, managing your staff, budgeting, inventory, and much more. With your busy schedule it can be easy to forget about succession planning, but it’s an important question all business owners must ask themselves: What happens to my business when I die?

We often hear about the importance of planning for your personal estate, but small business owners must also have a plan in place for their businesses. Having a clear succession plan in place helps avoid confusion, litigation, and disputes when you are no longer here. Lawyers who specialize in small business law can help you create and secure a succession plan that ensures your business is run exactly the way you desire. 

How to find the right small business lawyer for you:

  • Ensure your lawyer specializes in succession planning. There are many types of small business lawyers: bankruptcy, compliance, trademark, copyright, litigation, and more. You want an attorney that specializes in helping people plan for what happens to their business after they pass away. It’s especially important if you own a large business with multiple locations and many employees.
  • Make a list of your company’s needs. Your industry, the size of your business, the number of staff, and the number of locations will all be factors in your succession plan, so we recommend working with a firm that has experience with companies that are similar to yours. It may be worth asking fellow owners in your industry if they have any recommendations. 
  • Come to the initial meeting with all your questions ready. The lawyer you meet with should be able to provide answers that are more than satisfactory. If the firm is experienced then they’ll be able to tell you exactly how they’ll help you, and what your options are. 

Make a plan with a New Jersey business lawyer 

We know it can be unpleasant to think about end-of-life issues, but you’ve worked so hard to get where you are and the legacy of your business should be treated like the valuable asset that it is. Whether you own a small, family-run business or a larger, franchised company, it’s crucial to make decisions about succession planning. 

For more information about succession planning, or if you have any estate planning questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. As both an elder law firm and small business firm, we are uniquely positioned to help you navigate the succession planning process. Discover why so many small business owners in New Jersey choose us as their trusted counsel. 

The Duties of a Will Executor

Last Will and Testament document

It’s never too early to create an official will. Even though it’s not something most of us want to think about, it’s a necessary part of life. When drawing up your will you’ll also need to nominate an executor, which raises the question: what exactly does being an executor for a will include? 

Choosing a will executor

An executor is the person who carries out all of the instructions in your will when you’re no longer here. Think of your will as a map, and the executor is nominated to be the navigator. The person you choose to be your executor should obviously be someone you trust, but are there any other important factors to consider?

We recommend choosing someone who is adept at paperwork and managing legal issues, especially if you have a large or complicated estate. Your executor doesn’t necessarily need a legal background, but they need to be able to handle various legal obligations. Additionally, you can choose more than one executor if you feel it’s best to split the duties. 

People commonly named as executors include one child or multiple children, a niece, a nephew, an adult grandchild, or a close family friend. If you don’t have anyone in your life who you want to nominate as your executor, please speak with your attorney, so they can discuss other options with you. 

What is a will executor responsible for?

Depending on the contents of your will, your executor will be responsible for:

  • Registering your death
  • Organizing your funeral
  • Paying any inheritance tax
  • Having your estate valued by an appraiser
  • Applying for probate
  • Sorting out your finances and distributing your assets as you requested in your will
  • Following any other additional instructions in your will

You can see why it’s important to choose a responsible person you trust to be your executor, as this is a responsibility that should be taken very seriously. 

Planning for senior healthcare and more at SCC Legal 

Regardless of your age, we recommend planning for your senior years as soon as possible. An experienced elder law attorney can help you create a will, plan for your health care, provide assistance with Medicaid planning, and much more. Having a plan in place makes things a little bit easier on your loved ones when you’re no longer here, and it avoids what can become long, frustrating legal battles among family. 

For more information about how our team at SCC Legal can help you in all matters of elder law, including senior healthcare and Medicaid planning, please contact us today. Choosing an executor for your will is an important task and we are glad to offer our professional advice, every step of the way.

Top 6 Reasons to Hire an Elder Law Attorney

Elder law attorney New Jersey

Are you and your family considering hiring an elder law attorney? Elder law attorneys handle a wide range of issues, including handling estate assets, Medicaid applications, Medicare claims and appeals, short-term and long-term care planning, wills, estate planning, and much more. None of us like to think about aging and end-of-life issues, but we recommend being prepared and having a plan to make things as easy as possible for your loved ones. 

Here are the top six reasons to hire an elder law attorney:

  1. Attorneys who specialize in elder law often have a large network of other professionals in related fields who can offer support and assistance. The services of financial planners, psychologists, and social workers, for example, may be needed depending on the situation.
  2. You own many assets and have a significant amount of money. Unfortunately, family fights over assets and money are very common, and the larger your estate is the more complicated it can be if you pass away without leaving clear instructions. 
  3. Elder law attorneys take a holistic approach to estate planning and help you plan for all aspects, including care options, financial details, Medicare, care for your dependants, and more. 
  4. You have a large, blended family. Blended families are the norm these days, and when it comes to estate planning you need to be very clear about asset allocation.
  5. Elder law attorneys know all the legal techniques and tools to meet the needs of older adults. Whether you’re just getting around to planning your estate now, you need help with a Medicare application, or you want to know your long-term healthcare options, elder law attorneys are experts in these areas.
  6. You’re a business owner. If you own one or more businesses, an estate planning attorney can help you plan for the future of your business(es) when you’re not here anymore. 

Call an estate planning attorney in NJ

If you become unable to make medical or financial decisions for yourself and don’t have an estate plan in place, there’s a chance that the allocation of your assets will be decided in probate court. If this happens, the court decides what they think is best with no consideration for your wishes, and this unfortunately causes your loved ones more emotional distress. Having a solid estate plan in place is the best way to protect yourself and your family. 

For more information about how an estate law attorney can help you and your loved ones, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted elder law attorneys. 

Who Needs an Elder Law Attorney?

elder law

Elder law attorneys handle a variety of matters related to aging and estate planning. However, it isn’t just older adults who benefit from working with an experienced elder law attorney. Whether you already have an estate plan or you’re still in the planning stages, an elder law attorney can help ensure all your bases are covered and that your family will be protected if something unexpected happens to you. 

Elder law attorneys can help in a range of different situations, including:

  • Applying for Medicaid or determining Medicaid eligibility. Anyone who has dealt with Medicaid knows the process can be arduous and frustrating. People are often discouraged from following through with their applications. With strict eligibility criteria and income guidelines, Medicaid applications often require assistance from those who know the process. 
  • Blended family situations. This includes having children from a previous marriage, being married for a second or third (or more) time, having a disabled child or a child who has certain care requirements. This also applies if you’ve recently got divorced.
  • Complex financial situations. Some examples include owning more than one business, owning property in more than one state, or if you want some of your money to be given to charity after you’re gone. This also applies if your assets are valued at a substantial amount.
  • You’re a caregiver for an elderly family member. There may come a time when you can no longer be the primary caregiver for your family member and you’ll need to consider alternative options, like an in-home health aide or a nursing home. Elder law attorneys can help arrange payments for long-term care, prevent elder abuse and elder fraud, and will ensure the proper documents are in place, like Power of Attorney and Last Will and Testament. 

Update your New Jersey estate plan today

Don’t wait until later in life to solidify your estate. When someone passes away without an estate plan, their family often experiences additional emotional distress. And with no clear instructions on how to distribute the deceased person’s assets, it’s unfortunately common that disagreements break out among loved ones. 

Elder law attorneys aren’t only for older adults. They can help you plan for the later years in your life, ensure your children are taken care of, give valuable financial advice, and help you solidify plans for what will happen if you ever become unable to make medical and financial decisions for yourself. 

To learn how SCC Legal can help you with matters involving elder law, or if you have any other questions, please get in touch with our team today. 

Getting Your Will Together During COVID-19

Last Will and Testament

COVID-19 continues to have profound effects on our country and the way many of us live our lives, and it’s caused many of us to think about things a bit differently. For example, most of us don’t sit around thinking about contacting an elder law attorney to create or update our will. However, when faced with the unfortunate realities of the pandemic, it’s important to be prepared in situations like this. 

How can you best prepare for the worst?

  • Work with an estate planning attorney to create an official Last Will and Testament. This document determines what happens with your assets when you’re no longer here: real estate, money, stocks, cars, and all of your other possessions. It’s important to have a Last Will and Testament in place, because when people pass away without one it can cause conflicts within the family. 
  • Durable Power of Attorney: This document allows someone you designate to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. These are often financial and legal decisions where time is of the essence, and someone you trust will be able to represent you.
  • Beneficiary designations: You can designate beneficiaries to receive specific assets outside of your will. Insurance plans, for example, should always have a designated beneficiary. Ask your estate planning attorney about the details.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: Similar to Durable Power of Attorney, this document enables someone you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf. At a time when so many people have suffered serious health complications from COVID-19, this is a critical document to have in place. 

It’s time to create or change your will with SCC Legal

COVID-19 has given many of us a different perspective, and we now understand how important it is to be prepared in case of a tragedy. It’s not always pleasant to think about end-of-life situations, but being prepared makes things easier for your family. Having clear instructions on what to do ensures they won’t experience any added stress or emotional strain. We know it can be tempting to put it off for a later time, but we recommend preparing your estate now, and encourage your family members to do the same. 

To learn how SCC Legal can help you update or change your will, if you have any questions about Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, or other estate planning documents, please contact us today. 

Conservatorships vs. Powers of Attorney: Which Is Right for You?

There are many decisions to make when planning your estate. One common question people have is about Conservatorships vs. Powers of Attorney, and which one is best for their particular situation. While estate planning attorneys can give their professional advice, it’s important to understand the difference between the two options before deciding.

Conservatorships

A Conservatorship is a legal relationship that a judge puts in place when an individual is deemed mentally, physically, or emotionally unable to care for themselves. If you become incapacitated in an accident or fall seriously ill, and aren’t able to care for yourself and make important decisions about your own life, a judge will appoint a conservator who can make these decisions for you.

A Conservatorship isn’t something you can put in place ahead of time. In order to become the conservator of someone else, you must file a petition with the court and the court must decide that the individual in question is unable to care for themselves. The court also decides what types of decisions the conservator is allowed to make on the person’s behalf: medical, financial, and legal, to name a few. Conservatorships have no time limits and if the incapacitated person recovers, the court must decide that they are now able to care for themselves going forward.

Powers of Attorney

Power of Attorney is a legal document you put in place ahead of time as part of a comprehensive estate plan. In this document you nominate other people to make decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated, and these can include financial decisions, medical decisions, legal decisions, and more. You can choose which decisions your nominated individuals can make on your behalf, and you can enforce time limits and stipulate specific circumstances. 

Unlike a Conservatorship, Powers of Attorney do not require going to court and getting a judge’s approval, rather they are created and verified as part of your estate planning process. 

Estate planning for digital assets 

One relatively new aspect of estate planning is digital assets. Things like email accounts, social media pages, blogs, websites, and media stored in the Cloud all qualify as digital assets, and you’ll need to decide who gets which assets after you pass away. Many of us now use Cloud services to store our family photos and videos instead of traditional photo albums and physical videos, so your family will want to be able to access these cherished memories. 

If you have any questions about estate planning or would like to learn more, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted estate planning attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.

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