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Burlington, VT office 802.540.0529
Hanover, NH office 603.643.6072
Rutland, VT office 802.773.3822
Woodstock, VT office 802.457.9492

December 29, 2009 Newsletter Archive


Firm Notes

Mark is pleased to inform you that he has recently been elected as a trustee serving on the governing boards for the Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and the Alice Peck Day Health Systems Corp., which oversees the hospital's operation , as well as the Harvest Hill and Woodlands at Harvest Hill residential retirement community facilities. Mark is honored to be involved with such long standing and important institutions in the Upper Valley, and sees the current health care discussion in Congress as assuring that these governing boards will have some very challenging and interesting decisions in the future.

 

Season's Greetings and may the light of the season, peace and joy, remain with you throughout the year.

We would like to take this opportunity to share with you end of the year musings and a short round up of what is to come in 2010.

On top of our minds is the repeal of the federal estate tax, and the Health Care Bills passed by the Senate, and prior to that, the House. The landscape for 2010 remains murky but below we shed light on some of the measures that impact us.

 

Estate Tax 2010

As most of you have probably heard Congress has failed to act to avoid a full repeal of the federal estate tax effective January 1, 2010. In a further oddity, under the current estate tax law, in 2011 the federal estate tax returns with a $1 million exemption amount, which represents a substantial reduction from the 2009 exemption amount.

Will the 2010 estate tax repeal remain the law throughout 2010? Not likely. House Ways and Means Committee Member Early Pomeroy (D-ND) has introduced a bill known as the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers and Small Businesses Act of 2009 that makes permanent the estate, gift and generation skipping transfer tax laws in effect for 2009. This bill would exempt from estate tax the first $3.5 million of assets passed at death ($7 million for couples) and would impose a 45 percent tax on estates above $3.5 million. The gift tax free amount would continue to be $1 million. The Senate, otherwise distracted with the health care bill discussed below, did not take action in its final days of the 2009 legislative session. However, there is a lot of discussion that action will be taken early in 2010 along the lines of the Pomeroy bill and will make the new law effective January 1, 2010.

While Congress has not resolved the federal estate tax system, Vermont took action this year and capped the estate tax-free amount at $2 million. Accordingly, Vermont residents need to worry about the Vermont estate tax if they hold over $2 million in assets. Additionally, because of the way the Vermont estate tax is calculated, it remains a concern for out of state residents who own Vermont real estate, even if that real estate has a value below $2 million.

Finally, the value of assets which can be gifted without any gift tax concern (called the annual exclusion) remains at $13,000 for 2010. Notably, not subject to the $13,000 limit, are payments made directly to health care providers for health care costs or to education institutions for educational costs.

If you have questions about your 2010 tax planning please contact us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492.

 

Health Care Reform

Long-Term Care Insurance

At the time of this writing the Senate and House versions of the bill are in Conference Committee. Meantime, some of the concepts on the horizon may include a national long-term care insurance program offering basic help for the elderly and disabled. Individuals would contribute a modest monthly premium for five years and would then be eligible to receive benefits averaging about $50 per day. The benefit would cover a number of long-term care services that would help individuals remain in their homes. Whether this new program makes it into the final cut of the bill is unknown at this time.

Medicaid

The Senate included initiatives regarding Medicaid dollars, particularly eliminating the institutional bias which forces elderly and disabled individuals into nursing homes. The Senate version of the bill includes addressing long-term services and supports in a comprehensive way and gives the Senate an opportunity to focus on long-term services and supports outside ofÊnursing homes.

While both Vermont and New Hampshire are Medicaid "waiver" states which allows them to develop programs beyond institutional care in which individuals are allowed to apply and receive Medicaid (if they are eligible) for home care, not all states have waiver programs. Accordingly, the Senate is seeking to broaden Medicaid so that more people can remain in their own homes. There may be money aimed at helping states establish community services and supports for Medicaid recipients who would otherwise need nursing home care.

There may also be funding to allow states to divert Medicaid monies to community based care and to individuals at home encouraging the money to follow the person. The Senate proposal would give spouses of Medicaid recipients who are receiving services outside of a nursing home the same financial protections that spouses of nursing home residents receive.

Nursing Home Protections

In both House and Senate versions of the health care reform bill, recipients of long-term care and nursing homes would be afforded protections from nursing home abuses, and would give families more information about the institutions in which their loved ones are currently living or are considering moving to.

In the next months we will keep you apprised of what the conference committee crafts, particularly as it impacts Medicare, Medicaid and long-term care insurance.

 

The Age of Aging: Are You Prepared?

We each have our own experiences with aging elders, our parents, grandparents and ourselves. Due to healthier lifestyles, overall prevention, and medical and technological advances, we are living longer than ever. It is wonderful when we are active and feel great, but what happens when our bodies slow down? What happens if we or our loved ones develop a degenerative disease to which there is no cure, only a slow deterioration of our minds and/or our bodies? What then? Have we planned for this? If so, how well?

In a nation that is struggling with funding the institutions currently in place to assist seniors, namely Medicare and Medicaid, our estimation is that more families will care for their aging relatives at home. It is imperative that planning for that must take place now. Waiting will not result in a better outcome for your family, and may place more tension on an already stressful situation.

We encourage families to have collective planning sessions, and the sooner the better. In the next several newsletter articles we will address care management, aging at home, downsizing, wellness, moving to an assisted living facility, nursing care, long term care insurance and other matters of life care planning.

We encourage your feedback regarding these issues and encourage you to share your own experiences on aging with us via email at mark or daphne. If we get feedback and you are willing, we may add a feedback gallery to our website.


Melendy Moritz PLLC is a client centered boutique firm. We focus on your unique needs by providing the individualized legal counseling and advising tailored to your specific situation.

We concentrate on the planning that matters to you.
Call us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492

 

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