Financial Scams Targeting Seniors: How To Protect Yourself – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

It’s scary to think about. A time in life when people have the most assets under their care, is also the time that aging begins to take its toll on their bodies and their cognitive abilities. The legions of individuals actively preying on seniors to take advantage of them seems to be growing exponentially. What can you do?

Marketplace offers tips on how to best protect yourself and loved ones from scammers in its article “Concerned about financial scams? Here’s your guide.”

Stay in touch with family members, especially if they have lost loved ones to death or divorce. Isolation makes seniors vulnerable to scammers.

Try not to be judgmental and be empathetic if someone reveals that they have been scammed. Seniors who have been scammed are embarrassed and fearful.

Talk about the scams that you have heard about with loved ones. They may not know about the scams, and this may give them better awareness when the call comes.

If anyone in the family calls with an urgent request for money—often about a grandchild who is in trouble overseas or a fee for a prize that needs to be claimed immediately—pause and tell them that you need time to consider it.

Don’t send or wire money to anyone you don’t know. Gift cards from retailers, Google Play, iTunes or Amazon gift cards are often used by scammers to set up fraudulent transactions.

Once one scammer has nailed down contact information for a victim, they are more likely to be contacted by other scammers. If a loved one is getting calls at all hours of the day, they may be on a list of scam prospects. Consider changing the number, even though that is a hassle. The same goes for email addresses.

You can prevent scams by talking with people you trust about your financial goals. Talk with an estate planning attorney about creating an advance medical directive and medical power of attorney, then do the same for finances. A power of attorney for your finances allow someone who you know and trust to make financial decisions for you, if you become incapacitated, by illness or injury.

There are different powers of attorney:

General: A designated person can control parts of your financial life. When you return to normal functioning, the power of attorney ends.

Durable: This power of attorney remains in effect, if you become incapacitated.

Springing: This power of attorney is triggered by a life event, like the onset of dementia, an accident or disease, makes you mentally diminished or incapacitated. Certain states do not permit this type of power of attorney, so check with your estate planning attorney.

Reference: Marketplace (May 16, 2019) “Concerned about financial scams? Here’s your guide”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

What Can I Do When My Aging Parent Refuses to Give Up Control? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

It’s a common problem for families when a parent in charge of finances develops cognitive impairment and needs help managing the family trust and his own spending. It can be financially dangerous with a stubborn parent.

Forbes’ recent article asks, “What Can You Do When A Stubborn Aging Parent Refuses To Give Up Control?” The article explains what it took one family to get an aging parent out of the position as trustee and to permit the successor, the adult daughter, to take over.

The family saw signs of dementia and a family member’s financial abuse.

The trust provided that the parent could be removed as trustee, if two physicians declared him to be incapacitated for handling his own finances. In that case, a judge’s decision wasn’t required. The doctors verified that the elderly parent was incapacitated to safely handle his money. However, all this takes time.

A parent’s failure to listen to reason and their stubborn refusal to resign as trustee when asked, can cost his children dearly. In that situation, a family may have to engage an attorney to resolve the problem.

Remember that even if your aging parents are fine, there’s no time like the present to ask them to review their estate planning documents with you. Look at the terms that define what happens in the event of “incapacity.” Be sure that all of you understand what would happen, if impaired parents are unwilling to give up financial control and you have to institute the proscribed process to remove control from them.

Those who are named in a trust as the “successor trustee,” must know what that means and how much responsibility is involved. The family needs to recognize that financial elder abuse is a huge problem in our country, and family members are frequently the abusers. If you see abuse, and your elderly parent can’t resist the pressure to give money to any dishonest person, an elder law attorney will be able to give you worthwhile advice on the best approach, as well as the law.

Lastly, in the event your aging parent never created an estate plan, work with an experienced estate planning attorney and ask your parent to get going for the family’s sake. You don’t want to live through the situation described above, with no legal means to stop an impaired parent from financial ruin.

Reference: Forbes (May 7, 2019) “What Can You Do When A Stubborn Aging Parent Refuses To Give Up Control?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How are Financial Advisors Trying to Prevent Financial Exploitation? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The next time you see your financial adviser, you may be asked to provide a trusted point of contact, such as a relative or friend to call, if the adviser has a reasonable belief that you might be a victim of financial exploitation.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “New Rules Battle Financial Scams, Elder Abuse” says that your adviser could place a temporary hold on a suspicious disbursement request from you, so your money is protected until the concern is investigated. Once money leaves an account, it’s hard to get it back.

Changes include several new laws that protect seniors and their money. For older adults, financial exploitation is a growing problem. One in five older Americans are the victim of financial exploitation each year, resulting in the loss of $3 billion annually.

Mild cognitive impairment can result in older adults not seeing red flags for fraud, says Michael Pieciak, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), which represents state securities regulators. The ability to judge risk may be diminished. He noted that social isolation plays a part, with vulnerable seniors home during the day and apt to answer the phone when a fraudster calls.

Federal and state lawmakers, along with the financial services industry, have initiated new rules to help safeguard seniors and their assets. The idea is that financial institutions and professionals are on the front lines of spotting elder financial abuse. The changes are designed to protect seniors and to shield financial professionals from liability for reporting possible exploitation.

Congress passed the Senior Safe Act in 2018. This law protects financial services professionals from being sued over privacy and other violations for reporting suspected elder financial abuse to law enforcement, provided they’ve been trained. If a bank teller notices that a senior seems confused about withdrawing money or making puzzling transactions, the teller could tell a superior, who could contact authorities, if necessary.

Nineteen states have enacted some version of a NASAA model act that provides registered investment advisers and broker-dealers with guidance on telling a trusted point of contact and putting a temporary hold on a client’s account to investigate financial fraud.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 3, 2019) “New Rules Battle Financial Scams, Elder Abuse”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Why You Need a Plan for Long-Term Care – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Boomers are more willing to plan their own funerals than to prepare for an extended stay in a nursing home. Both are inevitable events for most of us.

With more than 10,000 people celebrating their 65th birthday every day in America and the startling statistic that 70% of us will need long-term care at some point during our lifetimes, it would make sense that more of us would be planning for long-term care. And yet, boomers seem to be more comfortable making plans for a memorial service than they do for a nursing home visit. The cost of long-term care is big and it’s not covered by Medicare. Surprised? So are families when the bill comes.

The Motley Fool’s recent article, “Baby Boomers Are More Prepared for Death Than Life,” says most baby boomers are either unprepared or haven’t planned for a long-term care expense, according to a Bankers Life survey of 1,500 middle-income Americans aged 54 to 72. The results show that baby boomers were more likely to plan for their own death than to have a long-term care plan. About 81% made some kind of funeral arrangements for when they pass away, but just 32% have a plan for how they’ll get care in retirement. The lack of long-term care planning is a significant issue when you compound this with the harm that such a huge unexpected expense has on a person’s retirement savings, especially in cases where a nest egg is small to begin with.

The Department of Health and Human Services believes that the average total cost of care for a retiree is $138,000. However, 79% of the respondents said they have set no money aside for their retirement care needs. For those who do have long-term care savings, the median amount saved is a mere $40,000. Nonetheless, 67% of those surveyed said they know someone who required care in retirement and 36% said they can’t rely as much on friends or family for around-the-clock care. Given all these negative numbers, why aren’t more boomers better prepared? The article gives us three surprising reasons that contribute to this lack of awareness and lack in savings for long-term care:

  1. Overconfidence. Boomers may overestimate their ability to manage future long-term care costs. Three-fourths of those surveyed by Bankers Life said they were confident in their ability to handle future healthcare costs. A misplaced confidence could be why boomers used more effort and money to plan for their deaths. About half of the respondents had fewer than $5,000 saved in an emergency fund and 33% had fewer than $1,000 set aside for emergencies. With the high cost of long-term care and the collective weakness in emergency funds, boomers’ confidence in being able to manage long-term care costs appears unrealistic. These people may be relying on Social Security benefits and Medicare too much.
  2. Lack of basic Medicare understanding. Medicare covers only some long-term care expenses like skilled nursing care after a hospital stay, but there are limits. It also doesn’t pay for custodial or home healthcare. Most of those surveyed believe that Medicare will pay for a future healthcare event and 56% mistakenly identified Medicare as a source to pay for future long-term care.
  3. Not knowing where to get advice. The greatest obstacle to planning for care in retirement is a lack of trust. About a third of boomers surveyed said they need and want advice but don’t know whom to trust. Most seek the help of a family member (36%) and just only 7% ask a health professional. A lack of trust or willingness to seek professional help may lead boomers to either put off a decision or perhaps not fully understanding their planning options.

If you don’t have a long-term care insurance policy in place, the time to get started is now. If your retirement savings accounts can handle it, figure about $138,000 for a nursing home stay. Add in a long-term care insurance policy with premiums that you can manage as another layer of protection. It is better to have a small policy than none at all.

Reference: The Motley Fool (March 27, 2019) “Baby Boomers Are More Prepared for Death Than Life”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Legitimate Power of Attorney Use Leaves Widow Impoverished – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

This is a cautionary tale about what can happen, when the wrong person is given power of attorney. The problem here is that a man changed his power of attorney without any review or oversight from any family members, including his own wife.

Why Dorothy Jorgenson’s husband changed his power of attorney just days before his death, is something that only he and the relative he named will ever know. However, the relative acted fast and took more than $70,000 from the couple’s joint bank account, says WPRI.com in the article, “Son questions power of attorney after mother’s bank account is drained.”

“When I went to pick up a prescription for my mother, there was insufficient funds to pick up a prescription,” Dorothy’s son, Gene Weston, said. “I can’t believe that someone would do that to an elderly woman.”

The couple had been married for almost twenty years. Both had added money to the account.

“My mother is still alive, and my mother needs to continue living,” Weston said.

The son called the police, because he claims there’s no way the power of attorney document for his stepfather was legitimate.

“He was on morphine at the time,” Gene Weston said.

According to a local police report, detectives interviewed several people and found Jorgensen’s husband was “only taking a minimal dose of meds.”

Police determined that Mr. Jorgensen “acted with his own free will” and ended their criminal investigation. However, these types of cases involving powers of attorney, often wind up in civil court. When people make a change to a power of attorney right before their death, it can raise concerns, especially when the person is elderly and on medication.

One thing that many people don’t know, is that they can limit the power of attorney document to protect a surviving spouse or family members.

It’s important to carefully choose an agent and make certain that the power of attorney is properly notarized. You should select a person whom you trust, and whom you know will do the right thing for you, in case you can’t make your own decisions.

Despite her actions, the relative who withdrew the money maintains her innocence.

Reference: WPRI 12 (April 15, 2019) “Son questions power of attorney after mother’s bank account is drained”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Congress Recognizing Need to Help Those with Early Onset Alzheimer’s – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A hearing of the Senate Special Committee on aging is looking at bipartisan legislation that would make changes to the Older Americans Act to give individuals younger than 60 with a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s a chance to access support programs.

Senate Bill 901, which is called “Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act” was introduced in late March by a number of Senators who crossed party lines to support the amendment to the Older Americans Act. According to McKnight’s Senior Living’s article, “Bill would aid those with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease,” Senate Bill 901 was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), chairman of the committee, Senator Bob Casey, ranking member and Senators Doug Jones (D-AL) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). In the House of Representatives, the bill H.R. 1903 introduced was introduced by Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Pete King (R-NY), David Trone (D-MD), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Nutritional programs, supportive services, transportation, legal services, elder-abuse prevention and caregiver support have been available through the OAA since 1965. However, under the current law, only individuals over 60 are eligible.

“These programs would make a huge difference in the lives of individuals living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, who don’t have support services available to them,” said hearing witness Mary Dysart Hartt of Hampden, ME, a caregiver to her husband, Mike, who has young-onset Alzheimer’s.

About 200,000 individuals aged less than 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to hearing witness Clay Jacobs, executive director of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, North Abington Township, PA.

“The need to reach everyone affected will grow significantly in the coming years,” he said.

Senator Collins was a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. She noted that she and Casey are leading this year’s OAA reauthorization efforts.

Senator Collins said she was also introducing the “Lifespan Respite Care Act” with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) Tuesday “to help communities and states provide respite care for families.” This legislation would earmark $20 million for fiscal year 2020, with funding increasing by $10 million annually to reach $60 million for fiscal year 2024. The program lets full-time caregivers take a temporary break from their responsibilities of caring for aging or disabled family members.

For family caregivers, which included Senator Collin’s own mother, the greatest need is for respite care. Many Americans take on the task of caring for a loved one, sacrificing their own lives and sometimes their careers. Making respite care for caregivers a national priority, would be a great help to communities nationwide.

Reference: McKnight’s Senior Living (April 3, 2019) “Bill would aid those with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jane Frankel Sims

410-828-7775

Contact: Frank Campbell

410-263-1667

Sims & Campbell Estates and Trusts

Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell
Merge to Form Sims & Campbell

Firm will offer comprehensive Trusts & Estates services through offices in Towson and Annapolis

TOWSON, Md. (April 26,2019)  Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell have jointly announced the merger of their firms to create a boutique Trusts & Estates law firm providing comprehensive services in the fields of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Trust Administration and Charitable Giving. The combined firm will be named Sims & Campbell and have offices in Towson, Md. and Annapolis, Md.  Jane Frankel Sims and Frank Campbell will lead and hold equal ownership stakes in the firm.

Sims & Campbell will have 9 attorneys and 15 legal professionals that handle every facet of estate and wealth transfer planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate and gift tax advice, and charitable giving strategies.  The firm will focus solely on Trusts & Estates but will serve a wide range of clients, from young families with modest resources to ultra-high net worth individuals.  This allows clients to remain with the firm as their level of wealth and the complexity of related estate and tax implications change over time. 

“By joining forces, we have expanded our footprint to conveniently serve clients in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia” said Jane Frankel Sims.  We are seeing some of the greatest wealth transfer in our country’s history, and we want to continue to be on the leading edge of helping our clients maintain and enhance their family’s wealth.  In addition, we aim to serve our clients for years to come, and the new firm structure will allow Sims & Campbell to thrive even after Frank and I have retired.”    

“Jane and I have always admired each other’s firms and recognized the need to provide even greater depth and breadth of focused expertise to help families amass and protect their wealth from generation to generation,” said Frank Campbell.  “Now we have even greater capabilities to make a real difference for our clients.” 

The Sims & Campbell Towson office is located at 500 York Road, on the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Towson.  The Annapolis office is currently located at 716 Melvin Avenue, and is moving to 181 Truman Parkway in August, 2019.  For more information, visit www.simscampbell.law.