What’s New

Check Back Periodically For New Topics

Estate & Gift Tax

Estate Tax Exemption increases to $5,250,000!  The tax rate for estates over that amount is now at 40 %(which is up from 35%).  The portability fo the Estate Tax Exemption between spouses was preserved.  

Gift Tax Exemption increases to $14,000 per person per year (which is up from $13,000 per year).

Up to $1,070,000 of farm or business realty can receive discount estate tax valuation.

Income Tax

Tax increases for high income earners:

  • 39.6 % tax rate for Singles earning over $400,000.
  • 39.6% tax rate for Head of household over $425,000.
  • 39.6% tax rate for married couples over $450,000.

Capital gains tax rate increases to 20%, but only for high income earners over $400,000.  The 15% tax rate continues for all others.  Taxpayers in the 10% to 15% tax bracket can still qualify for the 0% tax rate. 

The payroll tax reduction expired 12/31/12.  This will cause a 2% increase in employees’ share of Social Security tax and will make paychecks a bit leaner.   

Other Changes

There are many other changes effecting primarily high income earners – a few for those making over $250,000 and most for those making over $400,000:

  • 0.9% Medicare surtax on earned income;
  • 3.8% Medicare surtax on investment income;
  • Itemized deductions, standard deductions, and personal exemptions phase out;
  • Medicare B and D premiums higher.

There are more, of course, but we felt these should be highlighted for you.

Transfer on Death for Assets

Transfer on death beneficiaries can now be designated for bank accounts, stocks, motor vehicles and real estate. This makes the asset avoid probate.

Health Care Decisions

Anatomical Gifts Added to the Living Will and Health Care Power Of Attorney

Office News

Sandra was re-certified by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) as a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). This is the only American Bar Association and Ohio State Bar Association approved elder law certification program.

The purpose of the certification program is to identify those lawyers who have the enhanced knowledge, skills, experience, and proficiency to be properly identified to the public as Certified Elder Law Attorneys.



There are letters being sent out by a company nationwide offering to provide people 
with a copy of their deed for a charge of $60. This is an outrageous scam. Please do
 not pay $60 to obtain a copy of your deed. In many counties, your deed is available 
online for free. If it is not shown online, you can go to the recorder’s office and obtain a copy for a very minimal copying fee. There is no magic to having an original 
deed or even a copy of the deed since it is a matter of public record.  What is important is the type of deed that you have and whether it is set up in a way that it would avoid probate. You need to consult your lawyer concerning the appropriate structure of your deed.

OTHER SCAMS – Check this link – http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors

News-Worthy Stories

Veterans Benefits

Who can assist a Veteran or a Veteran’s family with a VA claim for benefits?

Many companies and individuals throughout the country are breaking the law by assisting with claims or charging for assisting Veterans with claims. The law is very specific regarding who may assist a veteran in filing for benefits. This is to protect the Veterans from excessive fees or predatory solicitations. You will receive your best advice and assistance from your VA regional office representative who is there to help you and is paid by the government to do so.

The Veteran’s benefit for assisted living and in-home care has helped many people maintain a higher level of independence and is a great alternative to nursing home placement in many instances. It is always important for you to be aware of benefits that are available to you and that information is yours for free through the VA.

Elder Law Attorneys Specialize in Helping the Elderly/ Disabled

Many elderly persons rely entirely on their children, family members or other trusted individuals to help them. This dependence upon caregivers or family members makes an older person more vulnerable to abuse and financial exploitation. Legal arrangements and protective actions by family may be necessary to shield loved ones from making bad decisions or from being taken advantage of.

Though you wouldn’t think a child could take advantage of his or her mother or father, there is no way to know what someone will do who is desperate for money or who feels entitled to an inheritance. For example:

David’s parents’ health was failing and living alone in their home was becoming a concern. His sister Jill wanted to look into assisted living for them. David immediately became upset at Jill for wanting to spend their money. He packed up his parents and brought them to his home. Being single and working, he was not available to them during the day, but left food and water on the table to sustain them until he returned home in the evening. Jill lived over 300 miles from David and when she could get to his house to visit; she found her parents’ care was not acceptable. They could not remember if they took their medications or if they had even eaten a meal that day. David was also draining their savings account and when confronted about it, became angry and complained that he needed their money to pay expenses for their care. Clearly Jill felt her brother’s care of their parents was abusive, but David’s defense was he provided a home for his parents in which he could care for them. This family needs a professional advisor to help them understand and clarify the issues concerning their parents’ care.

Making legal decisions about property, finances, power of attorney, and final wishes are important tasks to complete for the final years of life. Having legal documentation for a will, for medical treatment and for the person designated to be responsible for parents’ welfare can avoid family disputes and financial abuse, and help to conserve assets that are needed for care.

Elder law attorneys specialize in legal issues affecting the elderly. They are knowledgeable about Medicare and Medicaid programs. They work with the elderly in assisting them and their families with all aspects of estate planning and implementing necessary legal documents for the final years of life. In addition, they help individuals to apply for and possibly accelerate coverage from Medicaid. An elder law attorney can also help with disputes with Medicaid. Below is a partial list of what an elder law attorney might do:

  • Preservation or transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home
  • Medicaid qualification and application and Medicaid planning strategies
  • Medicare claims and appeals
  • Veterans Benefits claims
  • Social security and disability claims and appeals
  • Disability planning, including use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts and living wills
  • Help with financial management and health care decisions; and other means of delegating management and decision-making to another in case of incompetence or incapacity Probate
  • Administration and management of trusts and estates
  • Long term care placements in nursing homes and assisted living
  • Nursing home issues with patients’ rights and nursing home quality
  • Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases

A Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) is an elder law attorney who is highly proficient in meeting the legal needs of elders and in understanding and applying the rules of Medicaid. A CELA has successfully handled a requisite number of pertinent cases in order to receive that designation. This experience will make an attorney with this designation more competent with elder planning issues than other attorneys lacking this designation.

Most elder law attorneys do not specialize in all of the areas iterated above. When considering an attorney you will want to find one who has experience in the area you need help.

According to The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys — http://www.naela.org/:

“Ask lots of questions before selecting an elder law attorney. You don’t want to end up in the office of an attorney who can’t help you. Start with the initial phone call. It is not unusual to speak only to a secretary, receptionist or office manager during an initial call or before actually meeting with the attorney. If so, ask this person your questions.

  • How long has the attorney been in practice?
  • Does his/her practice emphasize a particular area of law?
  • How long has he/she been in this field?
  • What percentage of his/her practice is devoted to elder law?
  • Is there a fee for the first consultation and if so, how much is it?
  • Given the nature of your problem, what information should you bring with you to the initial consultation?

A good way to choose an attorney is by referral from friends, family, clergy or other associations. Before you meet for your initial consultation, prepare the items you want discussed and taken care of. Bring pertinent documents and questions. Be sure you get clear answers and that you understand what your attorney is proposing.

Two-way communication is the best way your attorney can understand your needs and concerns. Does the attorney listen to what you say, appear to really care about your concerns or return your phone calls? If not find another attorney. Most Elder law Attorneys sincerely want to help make you or your parent’s elder years a well planned for, peaceful experience for all involved.

There are a number of ways attorneys charge for their services. They may charge a flat hourly rate. Or they may charge hourly for some services and add on additional expense for out-of-pocket costs such as paperwork, stamps, phone calls, etc. Or they may charge a single fee for a mutually agreed-upon course of action or plan. Some attorneys who specialize in appeals for veterans benefits or Social Security may work on a contingency basis. It is important to understand how you will be billed so there will be no surprises in the end.

To find an elder law attorney in your area to to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at www.naela.org.


Medication Problems and the Elderly

At 83 years old, Martha still lived in her own home, and enjoyed working in her garden and canning peaches. It was becoming harder to motivate herself, to get up in the mornings and accomplish the day’s tasks. She confided to her daughter that she felt anxious and tired. Her daughter, who was taking medication for her anxiety, took Martha to her own doctor, not Martha’s and got her a prescription for Valium. In doing so, the daughter’s doctor, who had never seen Martha and who did not have her medical history, was only aware of a few medications they told him she was taking.

Martha, in fact, was taking 9 different medications as well as herbal supplements.

The addition of Valium to her existing list of prescribed drugs sent her to the emergency room with respiratory distress. If she had gone to her own doctor, he would have found that a dosage adjustment of her current medications would have solved her anxiety.

Medication errors are common in the elderly. Many seniors take on average 6- 8 different prescriptions as well as over the counter drugs. Many times the elderly will not go back to their doctor to have their dosage evaluated and changed if necessary. Family members should be aware, that elderly parents may tend to take the family’s advice over going to their own doctor. Even though children want to help increase the health and stamina of their parents, they may in fact be causing damage by misdirecting their loved ones.

Where a younger person can benefit from herbal supplements like Ginkgo Biloba, Saw Palmetto and others, in older people, these herbals may cause adverse reactions with their prescription medications.

In 2003, a panel of experts put together a list of potential medications that would not be appropriate to give to seniors. This is called the “ Beers List ” after one of the research professionals.

Dr. Donna M Fick, R.N. one of the panel members for updating the “Beers List,” states in her article on Seniorjournal.com:

“Just as our bodies physically slow down as we age, changes occur in the way that older bodies handle pharmaceuticals, and this has motivated experts to develop a list of drugs that may be harmful to elderly patients.

“With age, drugs tend to build up in the body, and the distribution and elimination of drugs from the body changes as well,” says Dr. Donna M. Fick, R.N., associate professor of nursing at Penn State. “Many drugs, like diazepam (Valium) and other anti-anxiety drugs build up fast.”

And on-line article on HealthSquare.com, Titled “Drugs and the Elderly,” talks about physical symptoms and medications.  

“ Among the first signs that a drug may not be working properly in an older person is a change in mood, energy, attitude, or memory. Too often, these alterations are overlooked, ignored, or chalked off to “old age” or senility. Older people may themselves feel that their blue mood is caused by something external such as the death of a friend or simply by boredom. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Virtually every heart medication, blood pressure drug, sleeping pill, and tranquilizer has been known to trigger depressive symptoms.

When a psychological symptom appears in an older person, examine his or her medication or drug use first. Consider, too, factors like alcohol intake, poor nutrition, and hormone imbalance. And never dismiss the possibility that a real psychological problem has developed and may itself require medication.”

There are many things family members can do to help monitor medications for their elderly parents.

  • Make a list of medicines prescribed and all supplements being taken.
  • Give this list to the doctor and pharmacist and have one on hand for emergencies.
  • Use the same Pharmacy to fill all prescriptions. Pharmacies keep a record of your prescribed drugs and will verify your doctor’s instructions. They will also tell you if foods or over the counter supplements will interact with a prescription.
  • Dispense pills in a daily pill organizer box.
  • Have a family member be responsible to call or physically monitor the taking of medication
  • Family members who live long distances from their elders have available to them new technology in medication monitoring.
  • Alarms for pill boxes, watch alarms, medical alarm bands and necklaces that ring a reminder.
  • Computerized pill box dispensers that ring a designated number if the pills have not been taken.
  • Home Care Agencies – Home care companies offer a variety of service options in helping families care for and properly dispense medication to their elder parents.

Find a home care agency in your area:



Other useful information can be found at:

National Academy of Elder Law AttorneysNAELA

Area Agency on Aging

Alzheimer’s Association

Social Security Administration

The National Council on the Aging

Stark County Family of Care Network

Ohio Hospice & Palliative Care