Houston Estate Planning Law Blog
ESTATE ADMINISTRATION: CAREFUL PLANNING IS REQUIRED FOR SENIORS
Many seniors look to professionals to help them plan for the distribution of their assets following death. Having the advice of a competent professional to guide you in estate planning can be a great investment for Texas seniors. However, if the estate planner that you choose is unaware of all of the complexities of your situation you could find yourself with serious monetary problems.
In recent news, the Government Accountability Office has issued a report to Congress urging the Veteran’s Administration to make changes in the services that they provide to seniors. One issue is the need to protect elderly veterans from incompetent or unethical estate or financial planning services.
As one might guess, if a senior follows poor financial or estate advice, they could find themselves unable to pay for their current or future health care needs. In addition, the GAO urges the VA to implement better screening measures that would ensure that only those veterans with financial need are able to collect pension benefits.
In a study, the GAO looked at a sample of 25 organizations that provide estate planning or financial advice to senior veterans. They found that a common recommendation was for seniors to place their assets into an annuity. However, some types of annuities, such as deferred ones, are not the best option for seniors because they would be unable to access their money if they needed to pay for health care without incurring significant fees.
Furthermore, the Assisted Living Federation of America gave a statement to Congress on the issue, asserting that the actions of predatory financial or estate advisors should be considered a form of elder abuse. The group recommends establishing clear eligibility rules for VA benefits, and for close monitoring of professionals who help guide seniors through the estate planning process. Another suggestion was the implementation of a look-back policy, under which VA workers could look through past financial transactions to determine if applicants transferred assets in the timeframe just prior to applying for benefits.
In the end, senior veterans in Texas who are thinking ahead and considering estate planning options may want to heed the warnings issued by the ALFA. Furthermore, individuals should make sure that planning for the distribution of assets after their death does not interfere with their access to hard-earned benefits when they are most needed.
Source: Senior Housing News, “GAO, ALFA Warn VA to Protect Senior Veterans from Financial Exploitation,” Alyssa Gerace, June 10, 2012
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