Elder Law and Preparing for Passing

Seminar Title Slide

The speaker for this seminar was Ms. Stephanie Bivens, CELA, Esq., the principal attorney of Bivens & Associates, P.L.L.C., and a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, accredited by the State Bar of Arizona. Ms. Bivens is one of fewer than 600 CELA’s nationwide and has been rated 2019 Southwest Super Lawyer in Elder Law; fewer than 5% of all attorneys receive this designation after professional and peer review election process. Additionally, Ms. Bivens is nationally recognized in her legal field, frequent speaker, and writer.

Ms. Bivens noted that Elder Law is best defined by who receives service rather than any specific type of legal services. The “who” includes seniors, family members of seniors, persons with disabilities, everyone! Common elder law practice areas include estate planning, post-death probate and trust administration, fiduciary representation (medical and financial), long term care asset protection planning, Medicaid (ALTCS) and VA Aid & Attendance Pension benefits planning and applications, guardianship/conservatorship, and financial exploitation. She spoke about Elder Law myths and described the difference between an estate planning attorneys versus an Elder Law attorneys. Ms. Bivens explained the estate planning documents that are crucial to have in place and what happens when death occurs without proper estate planning in place.

Over Ms. Biven’s 20+ years of experience, she has identified these top 10 estate planning mistakes:

  • Procrastination
  • DIY (Do It Yourself) project
  • Failure to update documents (should be reviewed every 3-4 years)
  • Beneficiary Designation problems
  • Trust not properly funded
  • No contingency planning
  • Blended family issues
  • Lack of incapacity planning
  • Not using a Trust
  • Failure to leave bread crumbs, i.e., markers to indicate the path you follwed as you came to the decisions you have made

Ms. Bivens' presentation then moved to Long Term Care (LTC), what it is, who will need it, the cost, and options for paying for LTC (which is not covered by Medicare). These options include private pay, long term care insurance or investment, and government benefits – Medicaid (Arizona Long Term Care System – ALTCS) and VA (VA Aid & Attendance Pension). Ms. Bivens then talked at length and in depth about the ALTCS, what it is, medical eligibility requirements, what services are covered, eligibility requirements, medical eligibility and financial eligibility. Please review the specific presentation slides for information regarding income limits, resource limits, exempt assets, and the ALTCS 5-year look-back and penalty period information.

She then spoke about Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension which is a monthly cash benefit intended to reimburse veterans and their surviving spouses for medical and care expenses. Maximum annual 2020 benefits available to single veterans is $22,938, to a married veteran is $27,194, and to the widow of a veteran is $14,761. Ms. Bivens spoke to the eligibility criteria for VA Aid & Attendance Pension and covered information regarding a transfer penalty.

Three useful links:

  1. PowerPoint Presentation
  2. Seminar Handouts
  3. Alternate HIPAA form.

Submitted by Beverly Buddee, Chair, Seminar Committee