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Estate Planning – Our Return From Miami

Estate Planning FlamingoWell, 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.

Miami Food

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?

Related Links:

Estate Planning -It’s Never to Early

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John Schmoll is a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. He's passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes so that they can live lives free from the shackles of debt and empowered to make their money work for them. You can check out his other sites: Frugal Rules, for ways to improve your financial literacy; and Sprout Wealth for tips on different ways to make more money. John has been featured on Forbes, Lifehacker, Yahoo Finance and US News & World Report and more. If you're wanting to grow your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

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25 comments

  1. We actually still have our estate planning to do. We don’t have kids yet so it hasn’t been a rush but we really need to get on it. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I wonder how the brake/horn gadget hasn’t made it to Guatemala yet. It is still manually activated but I am pretty sure they honk just as fast! I am smelling a niche business :).
    For your parents does the city has an elderly check service? in France they visit old people once a week or so to make sure everything is ok, although if they need supervision to take their meds it can be more than that. Being independent if they can still bathe and eat on their own, having a neighbor do it could be good and not too invasive.

    • I like the idea of a check in, it would be so much less expensive then home health care which is what we are looking into now, a simple check in service would save Medicare and Medicaid untold number of dollars. I did make arrangements with a neighbor to help with the cleaning once a week. What I didn’t tell my parents is that she would also be letting my brother or myself know if anything appeared to be out of order or heading downhill. Now we need to convince mom that she is needed once a week not once a month! The horn gadget must be a Latin American thing. I think that you are right, there’s a potential niche market waiting to happen! Let go of the brake and your horn gives a short beep! That’s awesome, thanks for coming by and commenting!

  3. Isn’t it sad that the day you’re in the Keys it’s that cold? Sounds like my luck, dude.

    ON the disagreement with the lawyer, the fact that you disagreed at all was problematic, but even more than that, I get the feeling you really didn’t trust him. If you’re going to pay someone good money to work in your corner, you really have to have faith that the money is well spent. This guy might have known his law, but it clearly was a bad fit.

    • Nah, I just rolled with it. A cold day on a boat diving is better than a day at work!The lawyer was a bad fit. I need to do my homework better going forward. Believe it or not, finding an estate lawyer reasonably close to my Parents in Miami was actually a challenge! Go figure!

  4. $60 is eminently reasonable for a good cleaning. I paid $200+ for a “full clean” prior to move in. Now it’s under $100 a week but not much, although the house is probably bigger than a condo.

    As for the other stuff, I echo my previous comment in saying great work, you are doing your parents a huge favour because it’s probably weighed on their minds somewhat even if they don’t outwardly worry about it. And be sure to store important documents off-site, e.g. the deed; the most popular option is of course a safety deposit box.

    • I think $60 a week is very reasonable, my mom thinks its a fortune and is doing everything she can to avoid paying it, which is fine we’ll pay it for her! My dad breathed a perceptible sigh of relief when I told him i would pick up the responsibility for his bills. He knew he was forgetting to pay them and quite frankly, i think he was just tired of the chore. His papers are safe with me. I have a fairly large (you could fit two people in it) fireproof safe in my garage, and a smaller safe for my parents stuff that goes into the big one. the safe is 1000 pounds empty and probably 1500 pounds at the moment so I’m not too worried about it leaving unexpectedly 🙂

  5. It can be difficult to help parents plan their later years. We’ve just begun with my wife’s parents and I can already see that it isn’t going to be easy. The topic of long-term care insurance has been shot down time and time again.
    I never try to engage in these topics though. Since they’re my wife’s parents I try to make her bring up the subject and point out the importance of them. I don’t want them to think that I’m overstepping my boundaries.

    • That has to be hard, especially since you blog about personal finance and know that they are not preparing. The long term care insurance is important but they’re probably still fairly young and can’t or won’t see the need for it. To be honest, I’m in my early 50’s and pretty vigorous (If I say so myself) and the topic of long term care insurance is something I’m not willing to tackle just yet. My brother on teh other hand is six years younger than me and is already looking at different plans!

  6. Jose, hate to hear about the lawyer who didn’t seem to act on your behalf. Kind of like a great doctor with a pitiful bedside manner, it renders them almost useless!

    • It does, trust is an essential element in a relationship with any Lawyer. Unfortunately he failed to establish that bond so I’ll be shopping around for another legal eagle. I’ll probably also use legal zoom for the power of attorney, I’m still debating on that.

  7. I certainly don’t look forward to dealing with those issues with my parents and in-laws. My parents at least have long term care insurance,but don’t want to discuss much other than that. Maybe when they get a bit older. My in-laws never make plans for anything, so that should be fun.

    Glad you got to eat some good food and have a bit of a vacation.

    • Parents can be stubborn :). After seeing us deal with my mom’s stubbornness, my wife now clearly knows that I inherited my stubbornness and did not develop it specifically to annoy her! I think there’s a natural reluctance to deal with estate planning and elder care. It’s an admission of sorts that you are going to get old and need help some day.

  8. You’re parents are lucky to have you looking out for them! Too bad about the lawyer, but keep looking.

    • Thanks! I will, I’m also going to look into using legal zoom for the easier things like the power of attorney. I’m definitely going to need that to help recover the IRA’s which have been sitting around somewhere for over twenty years untouched!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this info. There’s so much to think about when planning care and estate stuff for aging parents. I’m lucky that my parents have their paperwork and wills in order, but there’s still the concern that they’re both in their own houses (they are divorced: twice the fun) and need to be thinking soon about moving into a more maintenance free living situation. I’m hoping we can get everything planned soon so that there’s not as much to do in the end, you know? Oh, and good job bucking that lawyer – he sounds like a sneak.

    • No problem, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I actually enjoy writing posts like this. They seem to take a bit more time but I think they are more readable and definitely worth the effort For a less readable post try some of the investing posts I wrote, dry, dry, dry lol). One thing you might find is that some elderly won’t need to move to a maintenance free situation. My parents are fiercely independent and come from a school of thought where relatives care for the elderly. They know that moving in with the kids is not a reality and are pretty much set on staying in their condo until the. So the challenge is more about getting the home health care and cleaning services they need. The Saga continues and I’m sure there will be more posts down the road as we travel this path!

  10. I work in a mortuary and deal with so many families who have failed to plan ahead. I think it’s great that you are making long term plans for your parents and their assets! Trust me, you will be glad you did.

    Sorry you gained 6 pounds in 6 days. I did something similar in Punta Cana. It was probably the 1500 calories of alcohol per day I was drinking!

    • Thanks, I just wish we had started this a lot sooner, but at least we are making headway. I’m glad you guys enjoyed Punta Cana, it’s a wonderful place. I may post an article some day on our side trip to Hiquey for souvenirs. That was two bus trips and took over an hour in each direction. IT was an eye opener for sure, you get to see how a lot of folks live in the Dominican Republic just by driving through a few of the villages to get to the big city of Higues. One interesting point I’ll never forget was that every village had a brightly lit baseball field. They take their baseball seriously in DR!

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