Well, we’re back from Miami and have made a few strides in my Dad’s late, but necessary, estate planning. Actually, it’s a lot more than estate planning at this point we’re looking at hiring a cleaning service and working with their doctors to see about home health care. I guess you could just as well categorize our activities as elder care or elder law.
Estate Planning and Elder Law
We met with a Lawyer to discuss estate planning and that was probably a solid waste of an hour and a half. Although he was knowledgeable in Florida elder law, we fundamentally disagreed on some aspects of how we should handle some of the assets. I eventually got the feeling that this “Lawyers” version of estate planning and asset protection is that he gets half of all the cash, which Medicaid allows that without penalties, and he’ll figure out how to protect the rest. What sealed the deal in my mind was when we had a disagreement on Florida’s Medicaid Penalty divisor.
The Medicaid penalty divisor is the amount that is used to determine how long you must fund your own services if you have gifted assets within the last five years. Basically the gifted amount is divided by the divisor to determine how many months you must go without assistance. Florida raised this amount to $7,362 in September of 2012, this particular lawyer was adamant that it was $2,000. I imagine that it’s possible that there may have been a mis-communication as to what we were discussing, but I’m looking for a different lawyer to help guide us through the muddy waters of elder law in Florida.
Getting home health care is an urgent concern for my parents. They need help and guidance in taking their meds and some periodic medical supervision. A nursing home or assisted living facility was out of the question. My parents are fiercely independent and the mere mention of either will get you a quick shut down. My brother and I were out in left field as we didn’t know whether this was a Medicare or Medicaid issue. Medicare wouldn’t be a problem, they’re already covered and it would just need the doctor’s recommendation to get it going. Medicaid would be another story altogether since you basically have to be in poverty to qualify. So we’ve been going around in circles for the last few months trying to figure this out.
It was our last day in Miami and I was sitting at the table sorting and organizing some of the important paperwork I had managed to find. My mom walked by and placed a folder on the table. “Can you take a look at this”, she asked? Mmmm, Interesting, a home health care folder. Inside of it was all the medical information a home health care provider would need. A complete list of medications (Thank you!, We were trying to get a hold of the doctor to figure that one out), medical conditions and a pamphlet describing the home health care services being offered. All of this was from the medical clinic that they participate with. More importantly, it looked like this would be covered by Medicare, giving us a lot more breathing room on the estate planning. “Hey Mom”, “Why didn’t you give this to me sooner”? “I didn’t think it was that important”, “mmm, ok, no worries mom”.
One thing that I really wanted to get done while there was to identify and safeguard important paperwork. The deed to their condo, insurance papers, the will, the car title, the list is pretty extensive. My dad didn’t have a clue, which was no surprise considering his memory is pretty much shot, but my mom remembered where most of this was. We dragged out several ancient metal file keepers from her closet and I began digging. I found the deed and various other papers that I went ahead and safeguarded. I also found some fascinating documents. Their naturalization papers from the 60’s, complete with pictures! Those are eventually going to be copied, framed and given to their grandchildren. I did find the deed to the condo and some of the other documents that need to be safeguarded but no car title.
One of the last things we did was in finding help to keep their home clean. We got lucky and found a lady that agreed to come by once a week for a half day and clean for $60.00. I was impressed, after a half hour of interviewing her she had already come up with a strategy on where to focus her cleaning efforts and how to keep all the key rooms clean with a weekly visit. Perfect! Except after her first visit my mom told her her services were only needed once a month, see ya! So now my brother and I are tag teaming my parents to convince them that once a month is not enough. We’ll win that battle, but it won’t be easy.
Florida – On a Lighter Note
We did take a side trip for ourselves to Key Largo. Unfortunately that was probably the coldest day in History for the Keys. The low that evening was 50 degrees and the forecast high for the following day was 56, which was the day we had scheduled a dive trip for. The following morning found us at the dock with our dive gear, shorts, T-Shirt and thick coats. The dive trip itself was something worth writing about. Our captain was only on her second trip as a boat captain and was a bit inexperienced. We found that out when she ran over the mooring buoy for the wreck we were going to dive. That took two divers and my dive knife (which was the only instrument on board the boat capable of the job) to cut the buoy and the line off of the prop shaft. Of course they donated my knife to Davy Jones as part of that operation. But, they made good on it, giving us our dive trip for free, which was a comparative bargain!
Here’s where the fun begins, the captain circled back to tie up to the one remaining buoy on the USCG Duane and by luck or misfortune (you chose), ran over the line we had just cut loose! That one only took 5 minutes to unravel from. The wreck we dove was the USCG Duane, diving the Duane as memorable! That was one of the best dives I’ve had to date. The visibility was great, the current mild and there was abundant sea life. It was worth putting up with the cold and the “buoy” incidents. For anyone interested here’s a good site with information on the Duane. USCG Duane
A Little Known Miami fact (or speculation):
Drivers in south Miami (Kendall Lakes) seem to have an odd hobby. Apparently there’s a gadget that connects your car brakes to the horn so that when you let off on the brakes, the horn honks. At least it seemed that way. At any red light you would need an Olympic timer to measure the amount of time it takes from the light turning green to the start of the symphony of car horns that erupt shortly thereafter. My wife thought I was nuts at one point when I started randomly honking the horn while driving down 88th St. “What are you doing”, she asked? Just trying to fit in and let everyone know we’re Miami People too” was my response. Oddly enough, no one even blinked an eye at my honking.
I gained 6 pounds in 6 days. This ws the result of eating at the Nirvana of Cuban food restaraunts, El Rinconcito Latino (the Latin Corner). If you’re ever in Miami and you like Cuban food (and even if you don’t) you would be doing yourself an injustice if you didn’t eat at least one meal there. It’s Authentic, the portions are enormous (Two people can eat dinner there for less than $20 and have enough take home to eat another dinner). The Cuban style rice and chicken is served in a tureen rather than a bowl and I kid you not, the large Cuban sandwich needed to be wrestled to the table and subdued. Oh, and if you do go there, try a “cafe con leche” (coffee with milk) it’s the Cuban equivalent of a Starbucks latte at half the price and twice the flavor (my wife will testify to this). El Rinconcito Latino
The worse part of the trip? Driving north and watching the temperature drop 6 degrees for every hundred miles we drove north!
This is a somewhat lengthy post but I wanted to share some of our experiences, both from an estate planning and personal perspective, of our trip. It has inspired me to write another post which will appear shorty. I want to cover the list of items and information that should be safeguarded and made available to close family members should a tragedy happen to you. Not the brightest of subject, I’ve even seen this referred to as the death letter, but important none the less.
Do you have any Estate Panning, Elder Care or Elder Law experiences to share?
Do you have any stories about trips you have taken that are worth telling us about?