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Lawmakers consider legislation for guardianships

Some people, whether it is due to age or disability, do not have the means to properly care for themselves. Sometimes, their families may decide that the best choice is to establish a guardianship for that person, to ensure that his or her best interests are protected. Though this is often the right decision for many people, professional guardianships here in Florida have recently come under fire. After one professional guardian was accused of misconduct, a state lawmaker decided to support legislation that would protect senior citizens.

Representative Colleen Burton says that she knew she had to act after the death of a man under professional guardianship. His guardian allegedly filed a "do not resuscitate" order and had his feeding tube removed without the proper permission from his family or authorities. The new law would require a guardian to obtain court approval to conduct this type of action in the future.

Trusts are an effective part of Medicaid planning

Planning for the possibility of needing long-term medical care is something few do in Florida or across the country. Some postpone this planning because they simply don't want to deal with the task and its implications. Other do not believe they will need long-term care. Unfortunately, those who reach the age of 65 have a 70% chance of requiring some kind of extensive health care or related support for the rest of their lives. Those who have not done any Medicaid planning may be in a desperate situation.

Saving enough to afford the kind of prolonged care one might need is next to impossible, especially if one is already nearing retirement age. Those who expect to rely on Medicaid to cover their costs may find themselves in a financial dilemma. To qualify for Medicaid, an applicant may not have more assets than Florida law allows. However, to spend down or give away those assets to qualify may result in a delay in eligibility.

As retired member of the military, is your estate plan in order?

When you were serving in the military, you probably prepared a will and may have taken out a life insurance policy to provide for your family in case of your death.

How long ago were those documents created? With your recent retirement, you may need to consider updates as well as more in-depth estate planning.

Estate planning can include family traditions

When people here in Florida think about preparing for the end of their lives, they may first think of how to handle their estate. While that is certainly of vital importance, one thing many people may not consider is how to manage more personal matters and possessions that an estate plan wouldn't normally cover. Experts say that while every person needs to be sure to have a will and other provisions as part of estate planning, it makes sense to also think of how to ensure that family traditions or heirlooms are passed on to the next generation.

For some people, an old family recipe is just as precious as jewelry, though they may not be sure exactly how to pass it on. Experts say that the best thing to do is for the person to have an open dialogue with family members about each item and who the person wants to give it to. These might be difficult conversations to have, since most people don't enjoy thinking about passing away, but it may be the best way to ensure that their wishes are honored.

How pets fit into estate planning

Many people realize how important it is to ensure that they have a plan in place for the end of their lives. They know to designate who will own their house, inherit their finances or other property. One thing many Florida families neglect to consider is what will happen to their pets when they pass away. Experts say there are several ways for people to ensure that their furry loved ones will receive proper care if they should unexpectedly pass away and include them as part of estate planning.

The first thing to understand is that pets are legally considered property, even if their owners consider them family members. Owners should consider how long the pet might live and the expenses that may be needed to care for it. The owner may want to designate a specific caregiver in his or her will, but also have a verbal agreement with the person, since wills can take time to go through probate, and the pet will certainly need care and attention before that process is completed.

Nursing home abuse rampant in low-ranking facilities

It is not uncommon for older people in Florida to live in a nursing home when that becomes the best option for their health care. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse happens all too often to elderly residents who may not have the ability to communicate what is happening to them. Yet, there are ways that a family can reduce the likelihood of abuse happening to their loved one. This is evident after a report from out of state concluded that nursing home facilities with low ratings from Medicare also had the highest number of health-related citations.

The report was generated by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. It compiled data after conducting inspections of nursing home facilities. The report revealed that two nursing homes had a high number of fines for patient injuries with 74 citations apiece. USCMM ranked both facilities as being "much below average." Other facilities with a high number of citations also fell into that same category.

Paralyzed soldier denied claim for veterans' benefits

Those who serve in the armed forces here in Florida and elsewhere deserve the gratitude of every citizen. When they are unable to care for themselves, veterans' benefits can ease the financial burden of having to pay for their own care. These benefits have to be handled carefully, however, as they can impact a person's estate plan and what they leave behind for their loved ones. One retired soldier is grappling with that exact issue after her claim for veterans' benefits was denied.

The woman was serving in another state when she started experiencing symptoms such as headaches and blurred vision. An MRI revealed she had a deformity that caused her skull to push down on her cerebellum and, in turn, her spinal column. Her family says that the surgery to fix it resulted in dislocation of her neck, a stroke and partial paralysis. Because she was treated at military hospital, she cannot file a medical malpractice claim, which is what she could have done if she was a civilian.

What you need to know about DNRs and hospice care

If you have an aging mother or father, you have probably thought a considerable amount about end-of-life care. When helping your loved one with estate planning, it is a good idea to think about drafting a living will

A medical power of attorney is an important part of any advance directive. With one, your loved one designates someone to make medical decisions on his or her behalf in certain circumstances. Also, you likely want to encourage your loved one to think about resuscitation if the lungs or heart stop working. You should know, though, how a do-not-resuscitate order affects hospice care. 

Where is the best place to keep documents for estate planning?

Thinking about planning for one's estate can be difficult for some people. They may not want to consider the end of their lives or other unpleasant thoughts such as them becoming incapacitated. However, it is important to have a will and other end-of-life documentation created so that a person can ensure that his or her wishes are carried out. For those here in Florida who have taken the necessary estate planning measures, they might wonder where the best place is to keep their documents safe. Experts have some recommendations.

First, most attorneys will keep original estate plan documents safe in a vault or locked file cabinet belonging to their firm. Some even use offsite storage that is easily accessible. However, some firms have to turn these documents over to their owners for safe keeping, either because the owner requests it or because the firm doesn't have a place to store them. The owner can purchase his or her own fireproof safe or file cabinet to keep the documents safe until they are needed.

Elder abuse: Should families put web cams in nursing homes?

It is a sad truth that older people here in Florida and around the country can be particularly vulnerable to abuse. They often don't have the same mental and cognitive abilities as they did when they were younger, so they may have difficulty communicating mistreatment or understanding that abuse is occurring. Some families have decided to take matters into their own hands and have installed web cams in the nursing home rooms of their older relatives to monitor their treatment. Some worry that this could be an invasion of privacy, but others say they only want to protect their loved ones from elder abuse.

Several states have laws that expressly allow families to install cameras in nursing home rooms, but Florida is not one of them. Some experts say that beyond protecting older people, the cameras can also serve as an invasion of privacy, since many residents may need to change clothes, use the bathroom or conduct other private activities in front of the camera. Many elderly people may not be able to properly consent to being recorded, due to dementia or other cognitive disorders. Some reports suggest that children of older parents may not ask for the parent's consent even if he or she is capable of giving it.

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