CLIENT UPDATE, NOVEMBER, 2014

BRIAN J. SHEPPARD, PFP Attorney At Law 18075 Ventura Blvd., Suite 109 Encino, CA  91316 Phone: (818) 342-5799/Fax: (818) 342-2470 BJSheppard@aol.com Website: www.BrianSheppardLaw.com LinkedIn, Avvo.com, Facebook   Of Counsel:                           LAW OFFICES  OF STUART D. ZIMRING   CLIENT UPDATE – NOVEMBER, 2014          TO RECEIVE MY BLOG  (ON MATTERS I OF INTEREST TO MY CLIENTS),  EMAIL ME AT BJSHEPPARD@AOL.COM WITH THE WORD “SUBSCRIBE” IN THE SUBJECT LINE.          The year had many articles on poor management at the Veterans Administration, long waits for appointments, and, most unfortunately, the abuse of disability benefits.  These shortcomings interfere with the VA’s ability to provide for those truly injured in their service to our country.   Social Security payments are scheduled to go up 1.8% in January, while Medicare premiums for part B will stay at $104.90 per month is 2015.   More insurance companies now pay for “end of life talks” for those with terminal illness.  And the Obama Administration will require HMOs to pay for care outside of the network when the network cannot provide adequate care.   Delaying social security benefits until 70 enables you to collect 8% for each year you wait and for the increases that occur while you are waiting.   46 people die every day from painkiller overdoses.   Gay marriage is now legal in 35 states.   A Roth 401k, which requires regular distributions when you reach 70 1/2.   President Obama has a first, an agreement with China under which both countries will reduce long-term emissions by a specific date.   Books: Two informative works I read this year are “Average...

CLIENT UPDATE – NOVEMBER, 2013

Veterans should be aware of two little known non-service related programs, the Improved Pension and Aid and Attendance Programs. They can provide additional income for vets below certain income levels, or home care for vets who are over 65 and totally disabled. Social Security is 78 years old this year. When Social Security was passed in 1935 more than half of the elderly lived below the federal poverty line. Today, that number is less than 10%. (Reported by MoveOn.org, 8-14-13). The increase in Social Security benefits will be 1.5% this year. Your first $5.25 million is exempt from estate taxes. This amount doubles for married couples. So most of you can continue to breathe easy – this is one tax you probably won’t have to pay! If you have an internet account, make sure that you have either written the password(s) and codes in your estate planning documents or given them to someone you trust. As more and more activity is done online, this is increasingly important. Books: Two great books I’ve read this year are Bull by the Horns by Sheila Bair (former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), and Liar’s Poker, the story of one man’s adventure into investment banking, by Michael Lewis. The Los Angeles Daily Journal reports that “all legally married gay couples will be able to file joint federal tax returns even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. Beware of non-attorneys who draft legal documents for you cheaply so you can “save money by avoiding attorneys”. Over the years I have come across several cases where such services did anything but save my clients’ money. I remind you that if I have...

CLIENT UPDATE – NOVEMBER, 2012

The Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Robert joining the four “liberals” to find the law constitutional. Briefly: The big four changes are: parents can keep their children on the parents’ policies until the child reaches 26; by 2014 people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied insurance; policies cannot be canceled except in the cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation, and there can be no limit on lifetime and annual limits. In 2013: Companies will be required to provide information to employees regarding health care exchanges and there will be a $2,500 cap on annual flexible spending accounts In 2014: Companies with 50 or more employees must provide health care with minimum coverage or pay a “penalty” or “tax”; companies with 25 or less full time employees may receive a tax credit; incentives to provide wellness programs increase, companies with more than 200 employees must automatically enroll employees into a group health plan; state health insurance exchanges are to coordinate the purchase of private sector insurance; and employers cannot make employees wait more than 90 days before they receive insurance. California has passed legislation that requires behavioral therapy for autism, which affects 1 out of every 88 children, to be a covered condition. Quotables: The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. ~ Albert Einstein. If you have an internet account, make sure that you have either written the password(s) and codes in your estate planning documents or given them to someone you trust. As more and more activity is done online, this is increasingly important. According to Dan Kinney of the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, elder abuse most commonly occurs where the...

CLIENT UPDATE – NOVEMBER, 2011

ŽIf you have disabled or special needs children or grandchildren you might want to contact Ahead with Horses, which provides recreational and educational activities with horses, at 818-767-6373. Ž 2012 Medicare premiums for the Advantage plan are scheduled to be cut 4% while other plans contemplate increases of 10%, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There will be a 3.3% increase in social security benefits starting in January. Until the end of 2012, the estate tax exemption is $5 million per person and $10 million per couple. What happens then is anybody’s guess. The Treasury Department has announced it will phase out paper checks by March, 2013, for public benefits, including social security. If you have an internet account, make sure that you have either written the password(s) and codes in your estate planning documents or given them to someone you trust. As more and more activity is done online, this is increasingly important. The CBC news reports that “a new study shows the rates of sexually transmitted infections are rising rapidly in people over 50 who are popping erectile dysfunction drugs”. Who knew? Quotables: “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem” (Woody Allen, quoted in The Week).Ž Books: I strongly suggest the Ron Chernow biography of George Washington; it is very readable and objective about both his strengths and faults. Beware of non-attorneys who draft legal documents for you cheaply so you can “save money by avoiding attorneys”. Over the years I have come across several cases where such services did anything but save my clients money. As always, I remind you that if I have done a trust for you, you should contact me every five...

CLIENT UPDATE – OCTOBER, 2010

The NAELA Bulletin (9-21-10), reports that some are advocating for a separate poverty index for seniors. While at first blush this might seem like a good idea (for example, seniors have more medical expense), this could also lead to every other group (minorities, people living in poor neighborhoods, handicapped people, etc.), also wanting their “own” index, not to mention an index for different classes of seniors (healthy, minority, cancer survivors, etc). The NAELA Bulletin (9-21-10), also reports that the administration is proposing a crackdown on fraudulent claims for medicare reimbursement by providers who bill for services that were never provided in the first place. Medicare fraud is estimated to costs taxpayers $55 billion per year, and has also been a feature story on 60 Minutes. Parts of the new health care law have already gone into effect. Parents can now keep adult children on their policies until the child reaches 26, tax credits are given to small employers who provide health care benefits to their employees and Medicare will provide a $250 rebate to seniors who reach the Part D coverage gap. A better and more effective health care system is necessary because a) nearly 50% of all adults have a chronic health conditions (AARP, 1-2010), and b) health care expenses are currently projected to consume 20% of the economy by 2019. Medical News Today reported in 2005 that obesity at midlife increases the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. The Veteran’s Administration is easing rules regarding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to the New York Times (7-7-2010). As always, I remind you that if I have done a trust...

CLIENT UPDATE – NOVEMBER, 2009

Swine flu (also known as the H1N1 virus), can be serious. Speak to your doctor about whether or not you should be vaccinated when the vaccine is available. The NAELA Bulletin reports that state and local governments throughout the country are underfunded by $1trillion (with a “t”). This may someday affect you, your children or grandchildren through higher taxes or lower benefits. There is no increase in social security benefits this year because overall inflation is zero. But don’t forget, last year the increase was 5.8%. Elder abuse should still be reported but there is a danger that due to budget cuts elder abuse reports will not be acted upon. Some red flags of elder abuse: unexplained bruises and cuts; untreated bedsores; lack of adequate food, hygiene and clothing; gifts the senior cannot afford to make; elderly person supporting “caregiver”; transfers of property by an elderly person; and isolation of the senior from friends and family. As I write this year’s update Health Care Reform has passed the House of Representatives and awaits action in the Senate. Whether it is this reform act or something else, something must be done to provide for the uninsured and rein in the high cost of health care inflation, which is often over 15% a year. The House bill also provides that Medicare can negotiate drug prices. Any bill which passes both houses will likely serve to protect those with preexisting conditions from being denied coverage. The hot button issues that could prevent passage are whether there should be a “public option” (through which the government provides insurance), and/or whether any plan approved...