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Davidow, Davidow, Siegel & Stern, LLP
Long Island's Elder Law, Special Needs & Estate Planning Firm

Friday, July 30, 2004

The Elder Suite

The vast majority of caregiving for the senior population is not provided in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Most seniors are able to receive care at home with the help of their family. In some cases, this is an alternative. However, in many cases this is simply not an option. Location issues, careers, money and raising families of their own prevent many adult children from caring for elderly parents. However, children do not want their senior parent's safety or comfort to be at risk and many want to participate in caring for their elderly parent. This is a common issue for many families with elderly relatives today.

Balancing the needs of the elderly parent and caregiver child can be difficult. However, one solution can be the addition of an "elder suite" to the caregiver's residence. Basically, an elder suite is approximately 300 square feet of living space that is custom tailored to the special needs of senios and is installed on the caregiver's residence. The elder suite has an open layout for easy accessibility and also has the safety features such as shower seating, oversized doors, non-slip flooring, grab bars and panic buttons.

Paying for the elder suite is often less expensive and more time efficient than the costs and time involved in building an addition to the caregiver's residence. The elder suite provides both the senior and the caregiver's family with the privacy and independence each needs. In addition, the elder suite can be removed and the caregiver's residence can be returned to its original condition when the circumstances of the family change.

There is a cost to install the elder suite and you can either rent or buy the elder suite, depending on your situation. Compared to the rising costs of assisted living facilities and nursing homes, this is an ideal option for many families. It allows the parent to remain at "home" and maintain a sense of independence while allowing the caregiver child to have peace of mind that his or her parent is comfortable and safe.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Divorce and Beneficiary Designations

Generally, we look to state inheritance law (i.e., NYS Estates Powers and Trust Law) to know who are the "distributees" of an estate. Distributees are those individuals who are entitled to inherit estate assets which do not contain beneficiary designations or are not disposed by will.

A recent case* addressed the issue of whether state law controls where a decedent died before changing his beneficiary designation on his 401(k) plan and life insurance policy (Both named his ex-wife.) The U.S. Supreme Court held that federal law controlled this situation. According to federal law, qualified retirement plans are required to pay the benefits to the designated beneficiaries.

The outcome of this case teaches us the importance of reminding our clients who are going through a divorce to change beneficiary designations on all assets, including retirement plans, IRAs, bank accounts and life insurance policies. Accordingly, these clients should also revise their estate planning documents, such as the Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney.

*Egelhoff S. Ct., March 21, 2001.