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No Charitable Deduction in 2018?

By | Estate Planning, Legal Education | No Comments

The tax bills passed by the House and Senate would eliminate deductibility of state income tax and nearly double the standard deduction, dramatically reducing the number of people who would benefit from itemizing their deductions. As a result, most people would get no tax benefit from their charitable contributions. This article examines how a Donor Advised Fund could allow donors to make a contribution this year, getting a tax benefit, and then release the funds to charities in the future.

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Albuquerque Nursing Home Lawyer Discusses Signs of Abuse

By | Elder Law | No Comments

Albuquerque nursing home lawyer

Caring for an older loved one who is suffering from physical and/or mental deterioration can be exhausting. Despite this, most people hang on as long as possible in an attempt to avoid placing their loved one in a nursing home.  Given the unsettling, and even downright terrifying, news reports that appear on an almost daily basis about nursing home abuse, it is hardly surprising that people will go to great lengths to avoid placing a loved one in a nursing home facility. Fortunately, there are nursing homes that provide competent, caring, and compassionate care to patients; however, it is in your loved one’s best interest for you to remain vigilant and on alert for signs of abuse or neglect. Once in a nursing home, your loved one needs an advocate.  To help ensure that you know what to look for, an Albuquerque nursing home lawyer discusses the sign of abuse and what to do if you spot them.

Nursing Home Abuse Facts and Figures                                                       

The population of older Americans (defined as age 65 and older) in the United States has increased dramatically over the last several decades. As a consequence of that growth, the demand for services geared toward seniors has also increased. The long-term care industry, in particular, is scrambling to try and keep up with the demand for care. Unfortunately, that often means caregivers are hired without conducting proper backgrounds checks.  Administrators, who are already stretched thin, overlook complaints and potential issues.  The end result is that nursing home abuse and neglect occur far more frequently than most people realize. Consider the following facts and figures:

  • Between 1999 and 2001, almost one-third of all nursing home facilities were cited for violations of federal standards that could cause harm, or that did harm elderly residents of those facilities;
  • Nearly 10% of those homes had violations that posed a risk of serious injury or death, or that did cause deaths of elderly residents;
  • More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
  • Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
  • More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities;
  • According to Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs in 2003, there were more than 20 thousand complaints of exploitation, neglect and abuse coming from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The most common type of abuse reported was physical abuse;
  • The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year. Ten percent were cases unrelated to financial exploitation.

Signs of Abuse -- and What to Do If You Spot Them

Victims of nursing home abuse frequently remain silent, sometimes because they cannot speak out, while other times it is because they are ashamed or they fear doing so. Either way, it is often up to loved ones to spot the signs of abuse, such as:

  • Excessive, unexplained, or frequent bruising;
  • Indications of restraints used on ankles and/or wrists;
  • Weight loss;
  • Anger or hostility;
  • Depression or mood swings;
  • Withdrawal;
  • Urinary tract infection (sexual abuse of seniors does happen);
  • Missing medication or not taking medication as prescribed;
  • Personal items missing.

If you notice any of these signs, try and talk to your loved one if possible. Sit down with the facility administrator as well and share your concerns. Sometimes this is very productive and leads to an investigation while in other facilities the administration starts “circling the wagons” in an effort to avoid liability. Filing a report with the appropriate law enforcement agency may also be necessary given that elder abuse can be a criminal offense. Finally, consult with an experienced elder law attorney immediately. Nursing home abuse can form the basis for a civil lawsuit against the facility for negligence. Furthermore, it may be necessary for you to petition for guardianship over your loved one if the need to move him/her arises.

Contact Albuquerque Nursing Home Lawyer

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about nursing home abuse, contact the experienced nursing home attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

Phoenix Estate Planning Attorneys Explain the Lifetime Exemption

By | Estate taxes | No Comments

Phoenix estate planning attorneysA well thought out estate plan does much more than simply decide what happens to your estate assets at the end of your life. It also protects those assets and helps them grow over the course of your lifetime. One of the many factors a successful estate plan must take into consideration is the impact federal gift and estate taxes will have on your estate. Fortunately, every taxpayer is entitled to make use of the lifetime exemption which limits your estate’s exposure to gift and estate taxes. The Phoenix estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC explain the lifetime exemption and its effect on your estate.

The Federal Gift and Estate Tax

The federal gift and estate tax is effectively a tax on the transfer of wealth that is collected from your estate after you die. Every estate is potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. The tax applies to all qualifying gifts made during a taxpayer’s lifetime as well as all estate assets owned by the taxpayer at the time of death. To illustrate how the tax works, assume that you are single and made qualifying gifts during your lifetime valued at $5 million. In addition, at the time of your death, you owned assets valued at $12 million. The combined total of $17 million would be used to determine your estate’s exposure to federal gift and estate taxes. The federal gift and estate tax rate fluctuated historically; however, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) permanently set the rate at 40 percent. Without any deductions or adjustments, that $17 million estate would owe $6.8 million in federal gift and estate taxes.

Incorporating the Lifetime Exemption

Whether you leave behind an estate valued at $17,000 or $17 million, losing almost half of it to federal gift and estate taxes would certainly not be desirable. Moreover, it would discourage people from saving, and passing down, wealth to future generations. The good news is that the tax doesn’t apply to all estates once the lifetime exemption is incorporated into the calculations. Every taxpayer may deduct the lifetime exemption amount from his/her estate before the federal gift and estate taxes are calculated. In other words, your estate will only owe federal gift and estate taxes if the combined value of lifetime gifts and assets owned at the time of death exceeds the lifetime exemption amount.

Like the tax rate, the lifetime exemption amount fluctuated until ATRA set exemption amount at $5 million, to be adjusted for inflation each year. For 2018, the lifetime exemption amount would be $5.49 million for an individual and $10,980,000 for a married couple; however, President Trump signed tax legislation into law that changed the lifetime exemption amount for 2018, and for several years to come. Under the new law, the exemption amounts are now $11,200,000 for individuals and $22,400,000 for married couples. These exemption amounts are scheduled to increase with inflation each year until 2025. On January 1, 2026, the exemption amounts are scheduled to revert to the 2017 levels, adjusted for inflation.

Using the example above for a single person, the $17 million estate would only owe taxes on $5.8 million after the lifetime exemption is deducted. The tax due to Uncle Sam would be reduced from $6.8 million to $2.32 million thanks to the lifetime exemption.  For a married couple with a properly drafted estate plan, there would be no estate taxes.  

Although almost all gifts made during your lifetime count toward your lifetime exemption limit, there is one notable exception that you should make use of if you have an estate that is likely to be subject to federal gift and estate taxes. The yearly exclusion allows each taxpayer to make annual gifts valued at up to $15,000 (for 2018) to an unlimited number of beneficiaries without those gifts counting toward the lifetime exemption. Married couples can combine their exclusion and make gifts valued at up to $30,000. Over the course of several years, you can transfer a significant percentage of your wealth out of your estate without being taxed for those transfers using the yearly exclusion.

Contact Phoenix Estate Planning Attorneys

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about the lifetime exemption, or about federal gift and estate taxes in general, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.