Paying Your Caregiver Under the Table

September 20, 2018

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Financial,Living at Home — Alexis @ 1:47 PM

Hiring a caregiver is an expense, no question about it.  Some families are lucky enough to be able to find the perfect caregiver among their circle of close family and friends.  When finding a caregiver on their own rather than through an agency, lots of families prefer to pay the caregiver under the table because it’s cheaper than using payroll.  And lots of caregivers prefer direct payments because they make more that way – wouldn’t we all prefer to make more money?

But here’s the problem with this arrangement.  Or more precisely, several problems:

  1. Both the employer and the caregiver are committing tax fraud. You really don’t want to be caught for this.
  2. The caregiver, by not using payroll to pay into her Social Security history, is setting herself up for a lower Social Security payment upon retirement. This will make things a lot harder on her in what are supposed to be her golden years.
  3. The caregiver is not covered by worker’s compensation in the event of injury. That leaves her in a lurch if she gets hurt on the job.  Or, it leaves the family in a lurch, as she can try to sue the employer to recover for her injuries.
  4. The caregiver is not covered by state unemployment benefits when the job ends.

No one wants to pay taxes, and payroll costs add to the employer’s financial commitment and reduce the caregiver’s take-home pay.  But if you run the numbers to see exactly how much the cost changes would be for both the employer and the caregiver, hopefully you will decide that the cost is not as much as you expected, and the protections will be worth it.

As the employer, once you decide to start using payroll, you have options for how to manage that.  If you are an organized person and don’t mind or maybe even enjoy “HR” type of work, you can run payroll on your own and submit the required periodic filings to the employee and the government.  You can use QuickBooks or similar programs to help.  If you don’t have the patience or stomach to do it yourself (I don’t), you can use any payroll agency that works with small employers.  Care.com caters specifically to home-based employers.  (I’ve never used them but love that they are a Massachusetts company.)

If you would like help determining the best way to manage payments to your caregiver, please call us.

 

 

 

Elder Abuse – Do You See Signs?

Filed under: Community,Elder Abuse,Financial — Alexis @ 1:45 PM

Do you have a family member or a neighbor who is elderly, or perhaps younger and intellectually disabled? These folks are prime targets for elder abuse.  Some things to keep your eyes and ears open for include:

  1. A previously uninvolved family member becomes the primary caregiver.
  2. A previously unfamiliar “friend” becomes the primary caregiver.
  3. Lots of repeat visits by the same repairmen – are they asking this person to write checks for unnecessary work?
  4. Payments in the checkbook that can’t be easily explained.
  5. Lots of ATM or bank withdrawals for cash, if that wasn’t previously this person’s habit.
  6. The caregiver won’t let others visit or call.
  7. Acting scared.
  8. Sudden bruises or injuries.
  9. Something just doesn’t seem right with the living situation. Trust your gut.

These are not all the signs of elder abuse.  If you suspect abuse of an elder or someone who is intellectually disabled, you can try any of the following: call your town senior center; call South Shore Elder Services or Old Colony Elderly Services (depending on your service area – see map here); call the police; or call the patient’s doctor.

If you see something, say something.

For help preventing yourself or a loved one from ever becoming a victim of elder abuse, please call us.

Should I Have a Trust?

Filed under: Estate Planning,Financial,Special Needs Trusts — Alexis @ 1:40 PM

I hear this question a lot when I teach seminars.  If you’ve been to a seminar, you have heard me say that “trusts come in many flavors.”  There are all sorts of trusts, and whether you should have one depends entirely on your situation.  I would say that about one-third of my clients need some type of trust.  And for the other two-thirds, the cost simply isn’t warranted.

Here are some reasons you might need one:

(1) you have a special needs child or grandchild or sibling that you want to leave money to,

(2) you want your family to avoid probate,

(3) you have a complex distribution pattern that you want followed after your death, or

(4) you have over $1 million in assets and you want to do estate tax planning.

Here are some reasons you might not need one:

(1) you don’t have a special needs child, grandchild, or sibling,

(2) you don’t have a taxable estate (or you do but don’t mind paying taxes), or

(3) your assets are fairly simple and you’ve named beneficiaries on each of them.

These two lists are by no means exhaustive, they just show you some typical scenarios.  The only way to really know whether you need a trust is to meet with an elder law attorney who can review your assets, your family tree, and your wishes, and from there determine what the best course of action will be to transfer those assets to your family after your death, with the least amount of trouble.

Please call us so that we can help you determine whether or not you need a trust, and to make the inheritance process as easy as possible for your family.

 

 

Have You Been Appointed Representative Payee?

December 21, 2016

If you are caring for a loved one who receives Social Security and who cannot manage the Social Security benefits on her own, then you can ask the Social Security Administration to name you (or someone else) as your loved one’s “representative payee.”

This is not a difficult job, but there are some things you need to know. The Social Security Administration has developed a series of videos to help you understand your new job. You can find the videos here.

The Globe Made It Sound Like All of Our Seniors are Living Like the 1% and That Ticked Me Off

June 13, 2016

Filed under: Financial,Living at Home — Alexis @ 2:08 PM

The Boston Globe Magazine wrote in its 1/31/16 issue of a Massachusetts building boom of senior care communities targeted essentially at the “1%.” You can see that article here.

I was ticked off at the tone of the article, to say the least. The author talks about the high-end senior living communities that developers are building in Eastern Massachusetts, because, well, some seniors through a combination of work and luck have accumulated that kind of wealth. The fact is, most Massachusetts seniors are patching together a network of care and services and doing their best to stay at home. The Globe Magazine published my comment, which you can read here.

The country needs a more comprehensive network of services for seniors, and Massachusetts needs to lead the way.

National Grid Warns Customers to Guard Themselves & Sensitive Account Information

January 12, 2015

Filed under: Elder Abuse,Financial — Alexis @ 10:13 AM

Apparently scammers are getting better at their craft – received this from my local police department:

During this holiday season National Grid and local police departments received an increasing number of calls from customers being targeted by billing scam artists and impersonators trying to gain access to account information and entry to National Grid customers’ homes. The bill scams mirror reports received by utility companies throughout the country where the scammers are demanding immediate payment for electricity and natural gas bill balances and threatening immediate service shutoff if payments are not received within an hour or two. If the customer has made a payment, the caller will say that the payment has not been received and an immediate payment must be made. For the most part the scammers are demanding that the customer secure a pre-paid debit card and provide the account number to the scammer who then redeems the card.
National Grid does contact customers with past due balances by phone to offer payment options. Direct payment is an option but direct payment is never demanded as a prerequisite for continued service. If customers wish, they can arrange for a payment by check, credit card or debit card if they speak directly to a customer service representative. Payment can also be made by credit card or debit card without a representative’s assistance. National Grid does not accept pre-paid debit cards for payment and would never ask a customer to acquire one of these cards to make a bill payment.
The callers have shown to be adept at extracting account information from unsuspecting customers and they use sophisticated telephone technology to convince customers they are actually calling from National Grid.
Ask Questions/Demand Proper ID
In addition to the on-going fraudulent bill collection calls, there have been recurring reports of individuals going door-to-door, identifying themselves as employees of National Grid and demanding to see the customer’s electricity or natural gas bills. In other instances, people claiming to be a utility company employee have been able to gain entry to a home by telling the customer they must inspect their meter, which is usually located in the customer’s basement. When the customer accompanies the impersonator into the basement, an accomplice enters the home and removes items of value without the customer knowing it.

Life Estate Deeds – An Antique Technique Providing Modern Convenience

October 16, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning,Financial,Uncategorized — Tags: , — Alexis @ 9:30 AM

When we pass away, our assets are divided into two groups – probate and non-probate. Non-probate assets are things like bank accounts and life insurance policies that you have named joint owners or TODs on – they transfer to the named beneficiaries upon your death without any court involvement. Probate assets are held only in your name. The court looks to your will, or the intestacy statute, if there isn’t a will, to determine who receives these assets. This can be a lengthy, and potentially costly, process.

 

One way to make your home a non-probate asset is to create a life estate. This concept was borrowed from old English property law. You, as the owner of the home, deed the home to yourself for life (making you the “life tenant”) and then to another person(s) known as the “remainderman” (most often your children). Upon your passing, the remaindermen immediately become the owners of the home (they just need to file a copy of your death certificate with the Registry of Deeds).

 

Creating a life estate has many benefits. First, upon your passing, your home transfers seamlessly to the remaindermen without any court involvement. Second, you are guaranteed the right to remain in your home for the rest of your lifetime – you cannot be compelled to sell or move out. Next, after your passing, the remaindermen receive a step-up basis for capital gains purposes, minimizing the capital gains tax due should they decide to sell the property after your death. Fourth, because the remaindermen have no ownership interest in the home until after your death, their creditors (in the event of a bankruptcy or divorce, for example) cannot access the equity in the home during your lifetime. Lastly, the entire value of the home can be protected from your nursing home costs so long as the life estate is created at least five years before you ask MassHealth for assistance in paying for nursing home care (more on this below).

 

Creating a life estate, however, has its potential pitfalls. First, the remaindermen must all sign off if you decide you want to mortgage, reverse mortgage or sell the property. The thought of giving up so much control can be frightening for many homeowners. (It’s worthwhile to note that your remaindermen should have their own powers of attorney in place, in the event you need their approval and they are out of the country, in the hospital, or otherwise incapacitated.)

 

Also, if you need to ask the state for assistance in paying for nursing home care in the five years following the creation of a life estate, you could be disqualified for a period of time. MassHealth uses a formula to calculate the “value” of your life estate based on your life expectancy and the value of the home. The disqualification can also be cured if the remaindermen agree to deed the property back to the life tenant outright, destroying the life estate. If it’s likely that you’ll be asking MassHealth to help pay for your nursing home care in the next five years, then you should meet with an elder law attorney to explore other options to protect the value of your home to the greatest extent possible.

 

A life estate deed can be a valuable addition to your estate plan. If you’re interested in learning more about life estates and whether this might be the right solution for you, call our office to schedule a planning session.

The Importance of Caregiver Contracts

October 2, 2014

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Financial — Tags: , , — Alexis @ 12:40 PM

A goal that my clients bring up in meetings time after time is that they wish to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Many people, however, find the cost of bringing help into their homes to be daunting. Elders are increasingly turning to their adult children for in-home care. As thanks, to reimburse the child for their time and expenses, or a combination of both, elders often wish to “pay” the child. But should the elder need nursing home care in the future, MassHealth will view informal payments as gifts, which could prevent the elder from receiving public assistance. So the question is, what is a family to do?

 

One solution is a “caregiver contract.” This is a written agreement between the elder(s) and their adult children, laying out tasks the child will perform and a rate of pay. Set up along with worker’s compensation and the usual payroll deductions, this provides an income stream to the caregiver while giving the parent what most elders want – being cared for by his or her own family.

 

Caregiver contracts benefit both parties. The caretaker child gets the benefit of worker’s compensation, in addition to reportable, reliable income for state and federal income tax purposes. (You may not think that’s a benefit – but paying taxes can be much better than the consequences of being discovered as delinquent!) The elder gets to remain in his or her home with a familiar caretaker, often at a rate much less expensive than those charged by home health agencies. Should the elder require MassHealth to pay for nursing home care, he or she can prove that the payments were just that – payments – and not gifts.

 

Only an elder law attorney familiar with the ever-changing MassHealth rules should draft a caregiver contract, so that it will protect the elder in the event he or she needs nursing home care in the future. If you believe a caregiver contract would be helpful to you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Shred Day at South Shore Bank

May 29, 2014

Filed under: Community,Financial — Alexis @ 1:39 PM

I just received notice that South Shore Bank will be holding a shred day at its East Bridgewater branch on Saturday, June 7th from 9:00 a.m. to noon. This event is free, open to the public, and a great eco-friendly way to safely dispose of any personal documents you no longer need. Here are the details:

“For those who feel like they are buried in personal documents that they don’t want to throw out for fear of theft, South Shore Bank has the answer. The Bank will hold a “Shred Day” at their branch office at 225 Bedford Street in East Bridgewater on Saturday, June 7th from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., during which people can bring their confidential documents to the Bank and watch as they are turned into confetti in a mobile shredding unit.

Shredding services at South Shore Bank’s “Shred Day” will be provided by Shred King Corp., which is AAA-Certified by the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID). All shredded material will be delivered by Shred King to a recycling center.

The South Shore Bank “Shred Day” is free and open to the public. For more information, call 781-682-3715.”

National Grid Billing Scam

May 22, 2014

Filed under: Elder Abuse,Financial — Alexis @ 10:48 AM

I recently received an email from Norwell Police Chief Ted Ross warning South Shore residents about a utility billing scam. Fraudulent callers are targeting National Grid customers throughout New England. The scammers are demanding payment of alleged electric bill balances (that customers may not even owe) and are threatening to shut off their electricity immediately unless given checking account or credit card information.

What should you do if this happens to you? Ask the caller for the last five digits of your National Grid account number. Inevitably, they won’t have it and you can hang up and rest assured the caller is a scammer. DO NOT give out your banking or credit card information. If you want to verify your account billing status, the telephone number for the National Grid Customer Contact Center is 1-800-322-3223.

Criminals can easily obtain false names for caller identification purposes and attempt to pose as legitimate businesses over the phone. So remember, the best practice is to NEVER give out your banking, credit card, or personal information (such as your date of birth or Social Security number) over the telephone unless YOU initiated the call and are certain of the merchant’s identity. Additional resources on scams and identity theft from the Attorney General’s office can be found here.

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