Estate Planning For Funerals and Burial

This is a consumer oriented seminar by Michael J. Millonig, Attorney At Law, Ohio State Bar Association Board Certified Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Specialist, Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation . Time & Place: Friday October 11, 2019 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM. Please call Kathy Ferrante at Rec West Enrichment Center for reservations @ (937)432-2839

Illegal Refusal to return body for transport

There are some other laws that you need to be aware of if you are planning a home funeral. It is possible you might run into a problem with a funeral home, hospital or other official that may refuse to release custody of the body to you. If you are demanding custody of the body for transport, you must be the person holding the right of disposition under Ohio law. This person will be named in a written declaration signed by the decedent. If there is no written declaration, then Ohio law sets forth the persons who are vested with the right of disposition in order of priority. For more information see http://www.michaelmillonig.com/practice-areas/funerals-burial/

It is illegal under Ohio law for anyone to refuse to return custody of a corpse or cremated remains to the person legally entitled to it. This is prohibited under several sections of the Ohio Revised Code with possible penalties and criminal fines. See O.R.C. §4717.13(A)(11), O.R.C. §1713.40 & 1713.41.

Medicare Launches App to Help Beneficiaries Find Out What’s Covered

At the doctor’s office and want to know if a procedure is covered by Medicare? There is an app for that. Medicare has launched a free app that gives beneficiaries a quick way to see whether the program covers a specific medical item or service.

The “What’s Covered” app allows you to search or browse to learn what’s covered and not covered under Medicare Parts A and B, how and when to get covered benefits, basic cost information and other eligibility details. You can also see a list of covered preventive services.  The app does not give results for extra benefits that Medicare Advantage plans may cover but that Original Medicare does not, such as certain vision, hearing or dental benefits.

Examples of the types of questions the app can answer include:

  • When are mammograms covered?
  • Is home health care covered?
  • Will Medicare pay for diabetes supplies?
  • Can I get a regular cervical cancer screening?
  • Will my Medicare benefits cover a service to help me stop smoking?

Although the app provides beneficiaries with basic information, it doesn’t provide personalized information. It doesn’t ask details about each user’s specific insurance information, so it doesn’t take into account the user’s supplemental insurance, co-insurance, and deductibles. Essentially, the app provides another way for Medicare beneficiaries to get the same information that is available online and in the Medicare handbook.

The app is part of an initiative by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) focused on modernizing Medicare and empowering beneficiaries. Other initiatives include:

  • Enhanced interactive online decision support to help beneficiaries better understand and evaluate the coverage options and costs of original Medicare compared to Medicare Advantage plans.
  • New price transparency tools that let consumers compare the national average costs of certain procedures between settings, so people can see what they’ll pay for procedures done in a hospital outpatient department versus an ambulatory surgical center.
  • A new webchat option in the Medicare Plan Finder.
  • New easy-to-use surveys across Medicare.gov so consumers can tell CMS what they want.

To get the new “What’s Covered” app, go here: https://www.medicare.gov/blog/whats-covered-mobile-app.

Home Funerals under Ohio Law: Update

If you plan to hold a home funeral service without use of a funeral home, you have the right to do that under Ohio law. O.R.C. §4717.12. However, this will not be easy to do since the legal system and normal procedures are set up assuming use of funeral home. It will be difficult to obtain a death certificate, burial permit and transport the body without use of a funeral home. However, it can be done. This procedure is outlined below.

1. Ohio law provides that the funeral director or “other person in charge of final disposition” must register the death with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Thus, you can obtain a death certificate without use of a funeral director. The death certificate form is issued and must be signed by the attending physician or coroner. O.R.C. §3705.16. If a funeral home is not registering the death, then you need to contact the Ohio Dept. of Health, Vital Statistics, in Columbus to get the death certificate. You cannot get the death certificate issued by the County department. Contact information for Columbus is: : VS.Registration@odh.ohio.gov 614-466-2531. You will need a written statement certifying the death from a licensed physician, coroner, or other licensed healthcare professional which you should request immediately.

2. You must call the County Coroner to report the death if the person died as a result of a crime, casualty, suicide, child under age 2, developmentally disabled person, or death in any suspicious or unusual manner. O.R.C. §313.12. If no funeral home is involved, it is probably best to call the Coroner or ask the hospital or nursing home to call the Coroner.

3. The body will need to be removed from the place where the person died. If they are in a hospital, there will be a refrigeration unit for temporary storage. Nursing homes generally do not have a refrigeration unit and you will need to arrange for transportation immediately. You could contact a funeral home to arrange for transportation and temporary storage in a refrigeration unit or embalming if desired. You might be able to use a transport service for transporting the body to a cemetery or crematory but will need to have a death certificate and burial or cremation certificate. In order to find a transport service other than a funeral home, try to find out who is used by the County for indigent persons or by an organization accepting direct body donations. You could perform an internet search for body transport or mortuary transport.

4. After obtaining the death certificate from the Columbus office, you then get the burial or cremation permit from the County Bureau of Vital Statistics. O.R.C. §3705.17 & O.R.C. §4717.22.

5. After all the above are completed, the next step is to make cemetery arrangements for burial or cremation. If you do not use any of the transport options in 3 above, you may want to transport the body by yourself. However, you should be careful since this is unusual. First, you must make sure that you have completed the above steps. The person with the “right of disposition” under Ohio law should be present during transport of the body. You can transport the body to the home or other place of funeral service or to the cemetery. Although there is no law prohibiting a private person transporting a body for this purpose, it is unusual and if you are stopped by the police, you should have a death certificate and burial/transport permit with you If you are transporting the body across State lines, you need to comply with the law of each State which might be different.

6. You can hold a funeral/memorial service at a community facility, family residence or a grave site/cemetery service. The right for a home funeral is preserved in Ohio law. O.R.C. §4717.12.

If you have any problems with the above procedure, please call me for assistance.

Six Things to Consider Before Making Gifts to Grandchildren

Grandparents often are particularly generous to grandchildren as they see their family’s legacy continuing on to a new generation. In many cases, grandparents feel they have ample resources and their children or grandchildren may be struggling financially. Assistance with summer camp fees, college tuition, wedding costs or the downpayment on a first home, can relieve pressure on the next generation and permit grandchildren to take advantage of opportunities that otherwise would be out of reach. Some grandparents also don’t feel it’s right that children and grandchildren should need to wait for an inheritance, when they have more than they need.

Helping out family members is to be encouraged, but can raise a number of legal issues involving taxes and eligibility for public benefits, as well as questions of fairness among family members. Here are six issues grandparents should consider before making gifts to family members:

  • Is it really a gift? Does the grandparent expect anything in return, for example that the funds be repaid or that the money is an advance on the grandchild’s eventual inheritance? In most cases, the answer is “no.”  But if it’s “yes,” this should be made clear, preferably in writing, whether in a letter that goes with the check or, in the case of a loan, a formal promissory note.
  • Is everyone being treated equally? Not all grandchildren have the same financial needs, and grandparents don’t feel equally close to all of their grandchildren. While it’s the grandparent’s money and she can do what she wants with it, if she’s not treating all of her grandchildren equally, she might want to consider whether unequal generosity will create resentment within the family. Many elder law clients say that what they do with their money during their lives is their business. They may help out some children and grandchildren more than others based on need, with the expectation that this will be kept private. But they treat all of their children equally in their estate plan.
  • Beware taxable gifts. While this is academic for most people under today’s tax law, since there’s no gift tax for the first $11.4 million each of us gives away (in 2019), any gift to an individual in excess of $15,000 (in 2019) per year must be reported on a gift tax return. Two grandparents together can give up to $30,000 per recipient per year with no reporting requirement. And there’s no limit or reporting requirement for payments made directly to medical and educational institutions for health care expenses and tuition for others.
  • 529 plans. Many grandparents want to help pay higher education tuition for grandchildren, especially given the incredibly high cost of college and graduate school today. But not all grandchildren are the same age, making it difficult to make sure that they all receive the same grandparental assistance. Some grandchildren may still be in diapers while others are getting their doctorates. A great solution is to fund 529 accounts for each grandchild. These are special accounts that grow tax deferred, the income and growth never taxed as long as the funds are used for higher education expenses. Click here to read more about 529 accounts.
  • Don’t be too generous. Grandparents need to make sure that they keep enough money to pay for their own needs. While small gifts probably won’t make any difference one way or another, too many large gifts can quickly deplete a lifetime of scrimping and saving. It won’t do the family much good if a grandparent is just scraping by because he’s done too much to support his children or grandchildren.
  • Beware the need for long-term care. In terms of making certain that they have kept enough of their own savings, grandparents need to consider the possibility of needing care, whether at home, in assisted living or in a nursing home, all of which can be quite expensive. In addition, those seniors who can’t afford to pay for such care from their own funds need to be aware that any gift can make them ineligible for Medicaid benefits for the following five years.  For details, click here.

There are even more issues to consider that may involve specific family situations. Some grandchildren shouldn’t receive gifts because they will use them for drugs, or the gifts may undermine the parents’ plans for the grandchild or their authority. In some instances, grandparents may want to consider “incentive” trusts, which provide that the funds will be distributed when grandchildren reach certain milestones, such as graduation from college or holding down a job for a period of time. Communication with the middle generation can be key to making certain that gifts achieve the best results for all concerned.

Talk to your attorney about devising the best plan for yourself and for your grandchildren.

 

Medicare Beneficiaries Need to Know the Difference Between a Wellness Visit and a Physical

Medicare covers preventative care services, including an annual wellness visit. But confusing a wellness visit with a physical could be very costly.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare beneficiaries receive a free annual wellness visit. At this visit, your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant will generally do the following:

  • Ask you to fill out a health risk assessment questionnaire
  • Update your medical history and current prescriptions
  • Measure your height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index
  • Provide personalized health advice
  • Create a screening schedule for the next 5 to 10 years
  • Screen for cognitive issues

You do not have to pay a deductible for this visit. You may also receive other free preventative services, such as a flu shot.

The confusion arises when a Medicare beneficiary requests an “annual physical” instead of an “annual wellness visit.” During a physical, a doctor may do other tests that are outside of an annual wellness visit, such as check vital signs, perform lung or abdominal exams, test your reflexes, or order urine and blood samples. These services are not offered for free and Medicare beneficiaries will have to pay co-pays and deductibles when they receive a physical. Kaiser Health News recently related the story of a Medicare recipient who had what she assumed was a free physical only to get a $400 bill from her doctor’s office.

Adding to the confusion is that when you first enroll, Medicare covers a “welcome to Medicare” visit with your doctor. To avoid co-pays and deductibles, you need to schedule it within the first 12 months of enrolling in Medicare Part B. The visit covers the same things as the annual wellness visit, but it also covers screenings and flu shots, a vision test, review of risk for depression, the option of creating advance directives, and a written plan, letting you know which screenings, shots, and other preventative services you should get.

To avoid receiving a bill for an annual visit, when you contact your doctor’s office to schedule the appointment, be sure to request an “annual wellness visit” instead of asking for a “physical.” The difference in wording can save you hundreds of dollars. In addition, some Medicare Advantage plans offer a free annual physical, so check with your plan if you are enrolled in one before scheduling.

 

Cryonics medical research

A new medical study suggests that our brains and consciousness are still functioning after our hearts stop beating. We apparently still have a functioning brain for at least some short time after we are legally dead. This confirms the rationale behind current cryopreservation procedures for the standby team to initiate vitrification as soon as legally permissible. The fact that the brain may still be in good functioning order means a better chance for a successful preservation and revival. For the full story see: https://www.foxnews.com/science/when-you-die-you-know-youre-dead-because-your-brain-keeps-working-scientist-claims

For information on estate planning and cryonics trusts see:
http://www.michaelmillonig.com/practice-areas/cryonics/

Estate Planning & Elder Law Overview seminar

Estate Planning & Elder Law Overview : seminar by Michael J. Millonig, Attorney At Law, Ohio State Bar Association Board Certified Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Specialist, Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.
Time & Place: Saturday, May 11, 2019, Woodbourne Library, 6600 Far Hills Ave., Centerville OH 45459 @ 1:00 pm to 2:30 PM. Please call for reservations: [937-610-4429]

Maximizing Social Security Survivor’s Benefits

Social Security survivor’s benefits provide a safety net to widows and widowers. But to get the most out of the benefit, you need to know the right time to claim.

While you can claim survivor’s benefits as early as age 60, if you claim benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be permanently reduced. If you claim benefits at your full retirement age, you will receive 100 percent of your spouse’s benefit or, if your spouse died before collecting benefits, 100 percent of what your spouse’s benefit would have been at full retirement age. Unlike with retirement benefits, delaying survivor’s benefits longer than your full retirement age will not increase the benefit. If you delay taking retirement benefits past your full retirement age, depending on when you were born your benefit will increase by 6 to 8 percent for every year that you delay up to age 70, in addition to any cost of living increases.

You cannot take both retirement benefits and survivor’s benefits at the same time. When deciding which one to take, you need to compare the two benefits to see which is higher. In some cases, the decision is easy—one benefit is clearly much higher than the other. In other situations, the decision can be a little more complicated and you may want to take your survivor’s benefit before switching to your retirement benefit.

To determine the best strategy, you will need to look at your retirement benefit at your full retirement age as well as at age 70 and compare that to your survivor’s benefit. If your retirement benefit at age 70 will be larger than your survivor’s benefit, it may make sense to claim your survivor’s benefit at your full retirement age. You can then let your retirement benefit continue to grow and switch to the retirement benefit at age 70.

Example: A widow has the option of taking full retirement benefits of $2,000/month or survivor’s benefits of $2,100/month. She can take the survivor’s benefits and let her retirement benefits continue to grow. When she reaches age 70, her retirement benefit will be approximately $2,480/month, and she can switch to retirement benefits. Depending on the widow’s life expectancy, this strategy may make sense even if the survivor’s benefit is smaller than the retirement benefit to begin with.

Keep in mind that divorced spouses are also entitled to survivor’s benefits if they were married for at least 10 years. If you remarry before age 60, you are not entitled to survivor’s benefits, but remarriage after age 60 does not affect benefits. In the case of remarriage, you may need to factor in the new spouse’s spousal benefit when figuring out the best way to maximize benefits.

For more information about when to take Social Security benefits, click here.

For more information about Social Security benefits for spouses, click here.

Tax and other phone scams

The IRS just issued a bulletin warning about tax time phone scams. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-be-vigilant-against-phone-scams-irs-be-vigilant-against-phone-scams-annual-dirty-dozen-list-continues

The elderly are often the targets of tax and other scams. I hear of these scams often through my clients and their families. One simple way to avoid these scams is to not answer the phone. The older generation grew up in a time when this was not a threat. Answering the phone is a habit and sometimes we feel rude if we don’t answer or hang up. However, that is what you need to do if the caller is not someone you know. Just hang up!

Another way to limit exposure to this problem is to not give out your phone number to everyone who asks for it. It is common for retail stores to ask this and for online orders but you should not give this out. Companies set up their computer systems to require a phone number and the employees are trained to ask for it. I do not give it out and find that they can still continue with the transaction. Companies also sell their customer lists with your phone number and other personal information. Do not give this personal information out. I know some people who give out a false phone number in these situations. I am not advising that but maybe it is easier than going through the process of refusing to give one out. You could also put your phone number on the do not call list although I am not sure if this will stop all the robocalls.

Talk to your parents or other older members of your family to make sure they understand the above.