Comprehensive Planning. Lifelong Solutions.

The 65-Day Rule: What Every Trustee Should Know about Taxes

By Jessica A. Hayes

Happy New Year! We hope you and yours had an enjoyable holiday season and that 2017 brings you happiness and good health.  With the close of the calendar year behind us, tax season is just beginning for individuals and many entities.  If you are serving as the trustee of a complex trust, however, it’s not too late to take action that may reduce total taxes paid overall.

First, a couple of definitions: A “complex trust” is a trust that either retains current income in the trust, distributes trust principal, or has a charitable organization as a beneficiary. A “simple trust” is a trust that is required to distribute all of its annual income to the beneficiaries, but no principal may be distributed.  Income of the trust is taxable to the recipient.

Trusts pay the highest federal income tax rate of 39.6% at a much lower threshold than individuals (at $12,400 as opposed to $415,050 for a single individual in 2016). Most trust beneficiaries have a lower tax rate than the trust; therefore, income that is distributed to the beneficiaries (which is then taxed to the beneficiaries instead of to the trust) ultimately results in a tax savings between the trust and the beneficiaries.

To manage the tax burden of a complex trust, trustees can use the “65-Day Rule” (also called a 663(b) election) to make distributions to trust beneficiaries for the first 65 days of a calendar year. The 65-Day Rule applies only to complex trusts, because by definition, a simple trust’s income is already taxed to the beneficiary at the beneficiary’s presumably lower tax rate.

If after the beginning of the New Year, the trustee realizes that there is excess income remaining after accounting for distributions made in the preceding year, the 65-Day Rule allows the trustee to treat distributions made within the first 65 days of the New Year as if the distributions were made in the preceding year.  This means that trust distributions made through Monday, March 6, 2017 may be treated as having been made in 2016.

In order to use the 65-Day Rule, the trustee must make the 663(b) election on page two of IRS Form 1041, the trust’s income tax return. If the trustee makes this election, he should keep careful records to ensure that the tax return for the following year does not errantly treat those distributions as distributions made in the following tax year, as well.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Canine Cancer Research

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about how dogs are used in cancer research, and how this benefits humans.

Kit Kat:  Well, this is very interesting and inspiring. Veterinary scientists did not start out treating dogs for cancer to only benefit humans. In fact, most cancer treatments for dogs were first developed for humans. However, what was discovered was that dogs’ and humans’ biological systems were more alike than previously thought. So, it really didn’t make sense to restrict trials for new medications to mice, who usually don’t get cancer. To conduct cancer trials on mice, the cancer has to be induced, while both dogs and humans get similar cancers without such effort.

So some veterinary schools are leading the way in research with dogs, that just so happens to benefit humans. Take, for example, the case of Flyer, 70-pound golden retriever who had osteosarcoma in one her legs. The leg was amputated, and she underwent chemotherapy. Now she is being followed via chest x-rays at the University of Pennsylvania’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital to see if the cancer has reappeared in her lungs, a frequent complication. As a precaution, because many dogs with osteosarcoma die within a year of cancer reappearing in their lungs, Flyer was given an experimental vaccine to ward off cancer’s return. Flyer has to frequently return for x-rays to monitor her progress. The course of treatment was 3 intravenous doses, and it has worked thus far—she remains cancer-free. Researchers are hoping to adapt the vaccines used for dogs to humans, especially children, who develop osteosarcoma at a higher rate than adults. It looks promising. According to Nicola Mason, a veterinarian and immunologist at Penn’s Veterinary School, ‘Where dogs really stand out is in the way they generate tumors and react to treatments, which is a lot like people.’

Across the country, medical and veterinary school are collaborating on research and treatment for this and other cancers such as lymphoma, melanoma, brain and bladder cancer. Pharmaceutical companies, in some cases, like to start studying a new treatment on a dog. If the results are promising, they then move on to adapting it for humans. Everyone should be grateful to these patient canines who are better suited overall to being research subjects than we cats. Cats tend to become stressed in research settings. However, there is one bright spot for cats—cats are used in studies about oral cancer and breast cancer. In these 2 particular types of cancer, cats’ cancer is very similar to the human version.

In short, we dogs and cats are are doing our best to help our human caretakers stay healthy. We all want to live as long as possible! (Laurie McGinley, “New tricks in canine cancer research may improve treatments for humans, too,” The Washington Post, Health & Science, November 26, 2016)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Friday, December 30th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

ABLE Accounts Open in Virginia

By Elizabeth Boehmcke

For those of you who have been waiting for Virginia529 to open the enrollment process for ABLE accounts, your wait is over. The Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law in December, 2014 and Virginia passed legislation in March, 2015 to direct Virginia529 to develop, implement and administer the new tax-advantaged savings accounts for eligible persons with disabilities. Virginia529 just opened the enrollment process this month and accounts are ready to be created and funded.

As a reminder, ABLE accounts are for blind or disabled individuals whose blindness or disability occurred before the individual’s 26th birthday and i) who are entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act (SSI or SSDI); or ii) who self-certify that they have a condition listed on the Social Security Administration’s list of compassionate allowances conditions and have a signed qualifying disability diagnosis from a qualified physician; or iii) who self-certify that they have an eligible disability and have a signed qualifying disability diagnosis from a qualified physician. ABLE accounts may be opened by the disabled individual in his/her own capacity if he or she is 18 years of age and competent to make financial decisions for him or herself. If the disabled individual cannot open the account independently, a guardian or attorney in fact acting under a valid durable power of attorney may open the account on the individual’s behalf. Parents can open such accounts on behalf of minors. All accounts can be opened online at able-now.com.

ABLE accounts, similar to the 529 education accounts they are modeled on, allow for contributions to grow free of federal and state income tax and for distributions for “qualified disability expenses” to be made free of federal and state income tax. A “qualified disability expense” is one which is incurred at a time when the individual is eligible (as described above), which relates to the person’s blindness or disability and which helps maintain or improve the person’s health, independence and quality of life. This standard is quite broad and can include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, health, financial management, legal fees, funeral and burial expenses etc. It will be important to track and account for these expenses, because the total distributions from the account will be reported to the IRS annually. Maintaining detailed records and receipts will be an important part of administering an ABLE account. Failure to use the money in the ABLE account for a qualified disability expense (or to be able to prove such expense) will subject the withdrawal to a 10% penalty and the individual will include the amount of the withdrawal in his or her income. It is also possible that such non-qualified funds could be counted as income or as a resource for means-tested benefit programs. An important side-benefit of contributing to an ABLE account is that Virginia allows an income tax deduction of up to $2,000 per contributor.

ABLE accounts are limited in some very important ways. Contributions to an ABLE account are limited to the amount of the annual gift tax exclusion, currently $14,000/year. This limit applies to contributions from all sources, so the account cannot be used to shelter large sums of money. Furthermore, upon the death of the disabled individual, any balance in the ABLE account is subject to payback to Medicaid for funds paid by Medicaid on behalf of the disabled individual after the creation of the account. Finally, for disabled individuals collecting SSI, balances in an ABLE account in excess of $100,000 are counted as an asset for determining eligibility for SSI (but not for Medicaid eligibility). Although Virginia currently has a ceiling of $500,000 on the assets that can be in an ABLE account, ABLE accounts are not a substitute for Third-Party Special Needs Trusts or for First-Party Special Needs Trusts because of the limitations on annual contributions and the Medicaid payback requirement. However, they can function very well as an adjunct to a well-conceived plan to care for individuals with disabilities. An ABLE account can be a way to provide independence for some individuals who are able to manage their own financial affairs and may be an excellent repository for unexpected inheritances or for extra savings.

If you would like to discuss how to utilize an ABLE account in your planning for a person with disabilities, contact one of the experienced attorneys at the Hook Law Center so we can help you make sense of possibilities.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Sea Turtles in Danger

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about sea turtles in the Outer Banks and how they are faring during this cold patch of weather?

Kit Kat:  Well, the sea turtles who overstayed their normal residency in the Outer Banks are having quite a time this winter. Temperatures have been unusually cold. Even though, the cold snaps don’t last for days on end, they are still a danger to these warm-water, loving creatures. According to Jeff Hampton of The Virginian-Pilot, “turtles cannot move when water temperatures fall below 50 degrees.” Most have left the area by now, but a few get fooled by a warm fall, and forget to  leave to go south for the winter. Fortunately, for them, they got delayed in the right place to get expert treatment!

8 green sea turtles, one loggerhead, and one Kemp’s ridley turtle were rescued from the beaches of Pimlico Sound over the weekend of December 10-11, 2016. They were rescued by staff from the North Carolina Aquarium-Roanoke Island, volunteers from the Hatteras Network for Endangered Sea Turtles, and rangers from the National Park Service. The turtles were then treated at the aquarium’s rehabilitation center. It’s a slow process. They are gradually warmed by a rate of 5 degrees per day, until reaching their normal body temperature. The treatment involves administering fluids and analyzing their blood. Some even require antibiotics if they happen to also catch pneumonia. Once they are stabilized, they are released to a beach further south, but they must first be able to swim and eat normally.

This current rescue effort was quite small compared to last year. At that time, the rescue teams were overwhelmed with the number of  turtles needing care when caught in a prolonged cold snap. Rosemary Lucas, coordinator of the rehabilitation center, said they had tubs of warming water all over the center—even in hallways and bathrooms. Contributions from the community help in these efforts. If you would like to donate to this cause, you may do so online at ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island with the code SEATURTLE2016.  Contributions by check may be sent to NC Aquarium, 374 Airport Rd., P.O.Box 967, Manteo, NC 27954 with the notation of STAR or SEA TURTLE in the subject line. (Jeff Hampton, “Stunned by the cold,” The Virginian-Pilot, December 14, 2016, p. 4)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Tuesday, December 27th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Passes Congress

By Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

On December 7, 2016, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act passed Congress as part of the 21st Century Cures Act and is expected to be signed by President Obama very soon. This is a momentous victory for persons with disabilities since it corrects the erroneous assumption under prior law that persons with disabilities lack the capacity to handle their own affairs.

In 1993, Congress amended the Medicaid statute via the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) to recognize the use of special needs trusts. The purpose was to ensure that the funds allocated to a person with a disability is not subject to exploitation or waste while preserving the person’s eligibility for means-tested public benefits. The problem; however, is that OBRA limited the establishment of such trusts to a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian of the person with a disability, or a court of competent jurisdiction. The statute failed to recognize the ability of a person with a disability to establish their own trust, and also lead to the implementation of various rules from the public benefits offices that led to the implementation of various rules that further complicated the establishment of the trusts and detrimentally impacted an individual’s benefits. Various agencies started evaluating things such as where the initial funding of the trust came from and whether a parent acted under that authority of a power of attorney, and thus on behalf of the individual, instead of acting as a parent, in establishing the trust.

While it may take some time for states to implement the new law under the state code and for public benefit administrators to incorporate the change in policy manuals, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Hook Law Center, P.C. would like to thank advocates, in particular the Special Needs Alliance (SNA) and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), for their hard work over the years in helping bring this issue to the attention of lawmakers and in working so diligently to get the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act passed.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – PetSmart Charities

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about PetSmart Charities and their gifts to the Norfolk SPCA?

Kit Kat:  Well, this is a terrific story! On November 28, 2016, the Norfolk SPCA completed the terms of a grant paying for the spaying/neutering of 1,390 cats in Norfolk. The grant was awarded nearly two years ago. It paid mostly for the trapping, neutering, and releasing of stray cats back to the place in which they were found. As part of this process, the cats were placed under anesthesia, and at the time of the spaying/neutering, they were also given an eartip (slight trimming) on the left ear to indicate that they have been fixed.

This was the second PetSmart Charities grant awarded to the Norfolk SPCA. The first grant which lasted from 2012-2014 paid for the sterilization of 1,200 cats who had no discernible owners. Sterilization prevents homeless cats from constant birthing of kittens, who themselves in turn, will become homeless with no source of food and shelter. Though the grants have expired, the Norfolk SPCA is pleased to offer this same service at the nominal price of $40 per feline to cats found in Norfolk or any other jurisdiction brought to their doors. Thanks to all who contribute to the Norfolk SPCA! This is where some of your monetary gifts are directed. Feral and homeless cats are a tremendous problem nationwide. In the prime breeding season of April-November, thousands across the United States are born every year. Anything that can be done to put a dent in this homeless population is a wonderful gift to these homeless felines, who must search for shelter and scavenge to feed themselves under difficult conditions.

If you would like to learn more about the Norfolk SPCA’s outreach to feral cats, visit their website at www.NorfolkSPCA.org under the “Outdoor Cats” tab. Their clinic which handles the majority of feral cats is called the Sabre Road clinic, 757-383-6620. (info@norfolkspca.com, December 1, 2016)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

Problematic Proposed Regulations May Harm Family Businesses If Left Unaddressed

By Stephan A. Lipskis

This newsletter recently addressed proposed treasury regulations that, if enacted, will drastically impact transfers of family businesses. The hearings on the proposed regulations (the “2704 Regulations”) were held this month, and those participating were extremely critical of the proposed regulations. According to a Forbes.com report, only 1 of the 36 people who testified at the hearing on the proposed 2704 Regulations testified favorably to the proposed regulations. The poor drafting of the proposed 2704 Regulations clearly sparked a negative reaction, but what will that reaction change, and how will family-owned businesses be impacted?

Problems with the Proposed Regulations

The proposed regulations were meant to curb the heavily scrutinized practice of funding assets into an entity and claiming a valuation discount for the interest held in that entity by members of the same family. Allowing aggressive discounting of passive entities creates an opportunity for wealthy individuals to pass on relatively liquid assets (e.g. stock portfolios) at steeply discounted values to avoid estate and gift tax. Obviously, such treatment should be limited to prevent loss of tax revenue where the structure of the entity has no legitimate purpose other than tax avoidance. This goal is accomplished but not reasonably tailored to prevent harsh treatment against legitimate businesses. Treasury drafted the proposed regulations extremely broadly covering both operating and passive businesses. Furthermore, the proposed 2704 Regulations cover more diverse ownership groups than what most would consider a “family business”. However, the current proposed regulations do not except legitimate businesses that have true economic purpose other than tax avoidance. Additionally, the proposed regulations redefine the concept of “Fair Market Value” that has been a fundamental concept of tax law for decades. Because of the broad nature of the regulations, they are akin to amputating a foot because of a wart on a toe. These issues caused significant pushback from commentators and will warrant revision, or wholesale abandonment, of the proposed regulations.

The current transition of presidential administrations places this battle in an interesting political context. Like all other departments, the Treasury will cede control to a new administration next year.  Let’s explore the possible fate of the proposed regulations.

The treasury can move forward and implement a final rule with little or no modification. At that point, the rule can be challenged by litigation, overturned by Congress, or revised by later action of the treasury department. Actions against the rule can be pursued pre-emptively in Congress, and there are currently efforts underway to “vote down” the regulations legislatively. If the regulation is passed, both houses of Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval which, upon signature by the president, voids the rule. This congressional process is rarely used and would be unnecessary if a pre-emptive measure were successful. The new president would have the final say on a congressional vote to void the regulations due to the timeframe given for congressional review. A litigation challenge would be undertaken after the rule, which would subject the rule to judicial scrutiny, but could only be brought after the rule becomes final. Finally, the Treasury (under the new administration) has the ability to implement regulations of its own, which would likely walk back any rule that is implemented.

Impact on Family Businesses

Given the above opportunities for challenge, the proposed rule is likely short-lived in its current form. At a minimum, the drafting concerns voiced at the hearing need to be addressed. This presents a planning opportunity. In the near term, the hearing gave some clarification on the currently proposed regulations. In the long term, it looks like there may be a more favorable environment for transitioning ownership in family businesses. Discussing how the proposed rules and the potential changes of the next administration are critical to determining intermediate and long-range succession plans for family businesses. Contact our office to make an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys to discuss how the current environment impacts your business.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Pet Sitters

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about dogs and how they respond to speech and tone of voice?

Kit Kat:  Well, it looks like dogs are amazingly perceptive when it comes to interpreting speech and tone of voice. Researchers at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary have done some pioneering work on this subject. Like people, dogs use the left hemisphere of their brain to interpret meaning, They use the right hemisphere to interpret sound and its emotional content. The study was led by Dr. Attila Andics, and the techniques used were by themselves quite pioneering. The dogs in the study had to be trained to lie perfectly still while a picture of their brain was taken by a MRI machine. This is very remarkable, because other primates like apes cannot be similarly trained. The MRI requires complete stillness, and they cannot manage that.

This is what the researchers discovered. Dogs reacted most strongly when words of praise like ‘good boy’ or ‘well done’ were used. These positive words elicited a lot of activity in their brain’s reward center. When the researchers used less defined language like conjunctions and some adverbs (‘however’ or ‘nevertheless,’ for example), the dogs’ reward center in their brains registered much less brain activity. With the words of praise, it was almost like they were given a delicious treat to eat; it was that reinforcing. So what does this mean? It means humans are not the only creatures who have the ability to understand and react to language. What’s more, other scientists like Dr. Brian Hare of Duke University believe the canine’s ability to do this developed long before humans started to use language. Did this ability aide dogs in the domestication process, as dogs moved from the wild to living with humans? More research will be needed to answer that question.

I suspect many dog owners intuitively have known how smart their dogs are. Now we have confirmation. They really are man’s best friend. (James Gorman, “With Dogs, It’s what You Say—and How You Say It,” The New York Times, Science section, August 29, 2016) (http://nyti.ms/2c40znU)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

Decanting an Irrevocable Trust to Protect Public Benefit Eligibility

By Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

Unintended consequences can occur when people fail to consider the effect of a plan on persons with special needs. Estate planners who are unfamiliar with public benefits may unintentionally create plans that can wreck a beneficiary’s eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other means-tested public benefits, resulting in a loss of income, healthcare coverage, housing, etc. Most often, this is the result of just failing to plan around a disability, for whatever reason, or attempting to plan around that disability. However, by creating a trust that by its terms provides “support and maintenance” or some other mandatory distribution scheme that makes the trust, in whole or in part, an available resource to the beneficiary, public benefit eligibility can become at risk.

Consider this example. Your mother created a Revocable Living Trust which divides one share of the trust among her then-living grandchildren, to be held in further trust for their benefit until they reach age 30, when they are entitled to an outright distribution of the remaining assets of their separate trust, and distributions are purely discretionary until age 30. When this trust was created, your daughter, who has Down Syndrome, was not yet born and like most people, your mother didn’t think to update her trust as a result of your daughter’s disability. When your mother dies, your daughter is 28 years old, is receiving SSI, lives in her own apartment that is subsidized by Section 8, and receives in-home support which is provided by a Medicaid waiver – she is happy and you know that your daughter’s current benefits and living arrangements provide a plan for her continued independence upon your death, and the loss of those benefits would jeopardize that plan. Your gut tells you that your daughter’s inheritance could be detrimental so you call Hook Law Center, and we inform you that a distribution of the assets at age 30 would cause your daughter to go over the $2,000 asset limit which would result in your daughter’s ineligibility for public benefits. We also explain that since your daughter is not yet 30, that pursuant to Virginia law, the trustee of the trust may exercise a decanting power by assigning trust principal or income to the trustee of a second trust (without the approval of the court of the beneficiaries) and that this second trust may be a special needs trust to protect your daughter’s public benefit eligibility.

While we have had to decant an old irrevocable trust into a special needs trust on a number of occasions, the question has often been whether this new second trust would be considered by the Social Security Administration and Medicaid offices to be a first-party special needs trust subject to a Medicaid payback, or whether this new trust would be considered a third-party supplemental needs trust. The first notable case pertaining to this issue was In the Matter of the Application of Alan D. Kross (N.Y.Surr.Ct. (Nassau Cty.), No. 2012-369907, Sept. 30, 2013). In that case, Daniel Schreiber was the beneficiary of his grandfather’s trust. Pursuant to the terms of the trust, Daniel was entitled to discretionary distributions of income and principal until age 21. Upon the age of 21, Daniel was entitled to mandatory income distributions paid at least quarterly, half of the principal at age 25, half of the remaining principal at age 30, and the balance of the trust assets at age 35. These mandatory distributions would have disrupted Daniel’s eligibility for SSI and Medicaid, so the trustees filed a petition requesting the court to approve the decanting of trust assets into a new third party supplemental needs trust prior to Daniel’s 21st birthday. The court determined, in addition to other things, that because the old trust was a third party trust, the decanting of the trust assets occurred prior to Daniel’s right to receive the mandatory distributions. Therefore, decanting into the third-party supplemental needs trust was proper, and that no Medicaid payback would be required for the new trust. The New York State Department of Heath appealed the decision, which was upheld by Supreme Court of New York, in Matter of Kroll v. New York State Department of Heath.

The breadth of this case’s impact is not yet known. It may be that this case, only sets a precedent in New York when a beneficiary has not yet obtained the age to receive the outright distribution, or it may extend to all states and in cases where the distribution standards of the trust cause the trust to be an available resource. Regardless of the impact, those of us that focus on helping persons with special needs now have something we can turn to in considering how the decanting of a trust into a special needs trust may be treated in the future.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Pet Sitters

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what should someone look for in the ideal pet sitter?

Kit Kat:  Well, there are several things you can consider when deciding to hire a pet sitter. Some need a sitter while they are away at work, and others only require them while they are away on vacation. My parents use a local pet sitting service called Critter Care. They’ve used it for many years going back to the early 1990s. Over the years, we’ve had several caregivers, but all have been excellent. Critter Care screens its employees; they are bonded, so the hard work is done for you. During each caretaking session, the caregiver keeps a daily log of when they arrive and leave your house. They also write observations about how your pet(s) behaved while they were tending to them. As a bonus, they will take in the mail and trash and even water plants that might be in flower pots. Fees are based on the number of pets and number of visits needed. Since we are an all-cat family, once a day is sufficient, but they will come as often as you like. We really like this, because we get to stay in our own house, and do not have to go to the vet and hear dogs barking at all hours of the day and night. We cats find that very off-putting!

Other possible sources for finding pet sitters are through national associations such as the National Association of Pet Sitters (NAPPS) and Pet Sitters International. Or your vet may have some recommendations. Sitters through associations usually have the advantage of being able to read reviews of the possible candidates. Make sure before hiring someone, you actually interview them and see how they interact with your pet. Sometimes your instincts are the best guide. Wendy Pridgen of Boyds, Maryland says, ‘Sometimes you just have to trust your gut and go with what feels right to you.’ And if Ms. Pridgen’s experience is any guide, there will be ups and downs in the process. At first, she hired a college student, and things worked out for a year. Then, the college student became erratic. She used her to take care of her 2 large dogs who needed to be walked during Ms. Pridgen’s long work days. There were signs the student wasn’t coming, so Ms. Pridgen left a broom by the door the student would enter. Ms. Pridgen exited by another door. When she found the broom hadn’t been disturbed, she knew the student wasn’t taking care of her dogs. The student was fired, and she eventually found a new one through a listing on a bulletin board of a local convenience store.

So, be aware that when you hire a pet sitter, it’s like anything else. Sometimes your first efforts will not be successful, but you keep on trying until you find a good fit for both you and your pet. (Ruthanne Johnson, “Someone to watch over them,” All Animals, November/December 2016, p.34-37)

Upcoming Seminars

Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

‘Tis the Season…for hospital admissions and long-term care planning!

By Hook Law Center

Author: Stephanie Washington

Co-Author: Letha Sgritta-McDowell

During the holidays, it is not uncommon for emergency rooms to see an increase in visits by the elderly population. As we know, the elderly are more susceptible to catching pneumonia due to their waning immune systems, falling due to lower body weakness and poor balance, combined with vision problems or home hazards like throw rugs and/or clutter that can be tripped over, and even medication mismanagement caused by having too many prescriptions to take or being prescribed a combination of medications by several different doctors that do not work together but against each other.  With the rise of hospital admissions this time of year, come families who are thrust into a situation they have never experienced before; they are often worried, scared, and confused.

We often receive calls from family members trying to understand the processes for hospital admissions, rehabilitation services, and long-term care for their loved one. There are several points at which families can become easily confused.  The first is upon discharge from the hospital.  Hospitals are acute care facilities; meaning that a person’s stay is only temporary.  For longer term rehabilitation and care while a person is recovering from an acute illness, this type of care is provided either at home or in an outside facility.  Any number of terms are used at this juncture.  Families may hear “rehab,” “skilled nursing,” “nursing home,” or simply “therapy.”  The discharge planner at the hospital will offer you and your loved one options for this continuing care.  For individuals who are recovering from an acute illness, this possible discharge to a nursing home is not permanent.  This is merely a suggestion that the elderly person move to a facility where he or she can receive nursing services as well as all available therapy with the goal that they can recover enough to safely return home.  For many seniors who live alone, a short rehabilitation stay is the safest way to receive the care they need.  Understandably, many people would prefer to go home.  The same therapy may be offered on an outpatient basis.

When evaluating outpatient rehabilitation instead of going to a nursing home, the individual and their family need to consider who will be able to take their loved one to any and all doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions as well as who will cook, clean, do laundry and assist the loved one with bathing, dressing and other essential daily activities. It requires a strong support system and/or the ability to hire private duty care providers to ensure a successful rehabilitation in the home.  Therefore, when faced with this decision, it is important that the family consider all options.  If a discharge to a facility is chosen but rehabilitation in the home later becomes feasible, that certainly can happen.

If an individual is discharged to a nursing facility but does not fully recover or if they have needs which will continue long after rehabilitation is finished, then they often face another stressful and confusing crossroads. If the individual was admitted to the hospital for three nights or more prior to their discharge to the nursing facility, then Medicare can pay for up to 100 days, so long as the patient responds to the therapy being prescribed by his or her doctor, or if the stay in the facility is necessary to maintain the individual’s current level of health and functionality.  However, once the patient stops responding to therapy, refuses to participate, or if the care is not necessary to maintain his or her current level of health, representatives from the facility will discuss “discharge.”  Unfortunately, the context of discharge at this stage is often not explained fully, and many family members assume that this discussion means their loved one is being sent home.  As discussed earlier, for many the transition home is complicated and can be potentially dangerous for the senior.  Understandably, the sense that an elderly person is being sent home when provisions are not available to assist them can cause family members to panic.

However, the discussion of discharge at this juncture simply means that the patient is no longer eligible for Medicare-covered rehabilitation services. If, after rehabilitation, the individual still needs assistance with bathing, dressing, walking, eating and other activities of daily living, then the family can (and should) request that their loved one transition to long-term care within the facility.

Many times we hear that family members were not provided options and were simply told that their loved one was being discharged. This often leads to family members scrambling to find care for their loved one. In other situations, when the family asks about staying longer, a facility representative may explain to the family that no beds are available or they cannot accommodate the care needs of the patient.  There are laws in place which require the nursing facility to assist with a safe and appropriate discharge plan for the patient.  If no beds are available at that facility and services and supports are not sufficient in the community, then the facility representative must find another facility which has an available bed and which can accommodate the person’s care needs.  While looking for a suitable bed, the patient is allowed to stay at the same facility in their current bed.

The rules and regulations surrounding hospital discharge planning and discharge from Medicaid covered rehabilitation can be mysterious and, without proper understanding, can cause additional stress in an already emotional and stressful time. If you or your loved one find yourself in this position, you should immediately seek someone experienced with resident rights who can help navigate this process and develop a long-term care plan focused on developing a solution to the problem.  The attorneys and staff of Hook Law Center are experienced and prepared to assist you or your loved one through this process.  Please call us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your rights and options.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Mickey, Our Own Star

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, I hear that Hook Law Center has many employees who love pets. One in particular—Mickey—the beloved cat of Cynthia is making medical history. What can you tell us about her cat?

Kit Kat:  Mickey is an 18-pound male cat who has just been diagnosed with gigantism or its scientific name of acromegaly. His length from head to tail is more than 3 feet! He is a beautiful brown tabby with white feet who is 10 years old. On January 11, 2017, he will turn 11. Anyway, he was gaining weight, and at one point he weighed in at 21 pounds, even though he was  on a diet. Such a large figure caused him difficulty in jumping onto chairs, etc. When Cynthia took him to the vet, they treated him for arthritis and an underactive thyroid. Still the vet thought there might be something else affecting his condition. It was suggested that Cynthia collect a blood sample, and send it to a lab at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Cynthia recently got the results. The suspected condition of gigantism was confirmed. This is an extremely rare condition in cats, caused by over production of the growth hormone (GH). It usually affects males around the median age of 11, so it looks unfortunately like Mickey falls into a classic case. He also displays some other common signs of the disease with his enlarged lower jaw and head.

Treatment can include radiation therapy. However, at this stage in his life and because of the severity of his case, the vet has not recommended anything other than to continue to address his arthritis and thyroid. Mickey is lucky he is in the home he is in. Cynthia and husband, Carl, have even built him a stand to hold his food and water bowls, so he doesn’t have to bend over so far. Eventually, he will undoubtedly succumb to heart disease or renal failure, though the latter is very common in cats as a whole, even those without gigantism. Cynthia and Carl will do their best to keep him comfortable and extend his life as long as possible. (http://www.cat-world.com/au/acromegaly-in-cats)

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Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

Life-Saving Tech Tip for Cell Phone Users

By Jessica A. Hayes

Your cell phone may have a life-saving feature that you should be aware of. For iPhone users, the feature is called “Medical ID.”  Medical ID lets others access important medical information about you without unlocking your phone.  From the “unlock” screen, a first responder can tap the “Emergency” option in the bottom left corner, then “Medical ID,” and view your name, date of birth, a photo of you, emergency contacts, blood type, height, weight, allergies, medications, and medical conditions – or any other information you wish to include.

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To set up your Medical ID, locate and open the “Health” app that is installed by default onto your iPhone, then press “Create Medical ID.” Enter the information that you would like displayed in the event of an emergency, and be sure to turn on “Show When Locked,” then click “Done.”

For other types of cell phones, a similar feature may be available either as a phone setting or in the form of an “ICE: In Case of Emergency” app. Check for an emergency contact feature in your phone’s settings or consider editing your lock screen or wallpaper to include important information.

In addition to including personal information, you may want to use these cell phone features to indicate that your advance medical directive is a part of the U.S. Living Will Registry, so that medical professionals can access that document if needed.

Don’t have an advance medical directive, or want to participate in the U.S. Living Will Registry? Give the Hook Law Center a call today.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Falling Cats

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the phenomenon of cats always landing on their feet?

Kit Kat:  Well, the answer is not as simple as it may appear, but it is extremely interesting. Actually, it’s not a definitive answer, because scientists are not really sure how it occurs or if it occurs in only one way. They do agree, however, that cats will right themselves after falling from most distances, even from as little as a height of 2 feet. The only exception is a height of less than 2 feet. From distances less than 2 feet, there is not enough room or time to perform their acrobatics.

Here’s what we know now. Falling cats have been a fascination of the scientific community since the 19th century. George Gabriel Stokes and James Clerk Maxwell were 19th century scientists who were intrigued by the falling cat phenomenon. They experimented and dropped many cats; in all cases, they righted themselves. Yet, later scientists were not satisfied. How could cats accomplish this feat which defied the law of conservation of angular momentum? That law involves the person or object to push off from something, but cats were not pushing off from anything, and they were still able to right themselves. Now enters Etienne Jules Marey, a French scientist and engineer, who used high-speed photography in 1894 to capture 32 shots of cats in midair. His photos revealed what was happening – “…the cat first tucked in its forelegs while stretching out its back legs, then switched them, which allow it to use the inertia of its own mass to flip.” Marey called this ‘the tuck and turn’ method. It is what modern gymnasts do when they accomplish their amazing flips and turns.

20th century scientists have since quantified the process. In 1935, Dutch physiologists GGJ Rademaker and JWG Ter Braak created a mathematical drawing of a falling feline which further refined the theory. By bending at the waist, their drawing showed the cat’s body as 2 can-like cylinders rotating on 2 axes in different directions. The net energy expended created an equilibrium of 0. A 21st century scientist, Greg Gbur of UNC-Charlotte calls this the ‘bend and twist’ method. The research continues. Scientists would like to find one definitive answer, but the crafty feline is not bound to comply. Gbur laments, ‘Probably the cat uses multiple different strategies to turn over. Physics prefers and tends to look for the simplest explanation for a phenomenon, whereas evolution—if I anthropomorphize it—is always looking for the most efficient. Living creatures are doing whatever works best, which may not be the simplest option.’

(Karen Bruillard, “Scientists just can’t stop studying falling cats,” The Washington Post, Animalia section, November 4, 2016)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Friday, November 18th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

What President-Elect Trump and the Republican Party have in Store for You: Estate, Gift and Generation Skipping Transfer Taxes

By Elizabeth Boehmcke

Well, one of the more painful election cycles I have ever experienced is, thankfully, over. Now that the American people have finally cast their votes and elected Donald Trump to the White House and a Republican-controlled Congress, it is natural to wonder what changes, if any, you can expect. Certainly, a lot of promises have been made. And, of course, until the actual change in power takes place in January, it is impossible to predict what the ultimate results will be. However, we thought you might like a preview of what we might expect from our newly elected leaders.

In June, 2016, the House Republicans released “A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America”. In it, they reiterated their oft-repeated promise of repealing the federal estate tax and the generation-skipping transfer tax. However, there is no mention of a repeal of the gift tax. This is consistent with the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015” introduced in the House and Senate in the spring of 2015. The “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015” provided for the repeal of estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes; however, it retained the current law with respect to the annual gift tax exclusion amount and the current lifetime exemption ($5.45 million for 2016). The maximum rate for the gift tax would be 35%. All transfers into trust would be treated as taxable gifts unless the trust was a “grantor trust”. Finally our current carryover basis rules and stepped up basis at death rules would continue to apply.

Donald Trump’s Tax Plan as related on his website (www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/tax-plan) states that he intends to repeal the estate tax with a catch. Capital gains on appreciated assets in excess of $10 million is subject to tax. (No tax rate is stated but the current highest capital gains tax rate is 20%. It seems likely that this rate would be applicable.) However, appreciation on small businesses and family farms are to be exempt from this capital gains death tax. In addition, contributions of appreciated assets to private charities established by the decedent or the decedent’s relatives would be disallowed. There is no mention of the gift tax or the generation-skipping transfer tax (this is a tax on transfers to persons more than one generation below that of the transferor and the law on it is very complex).

These plans are not entirely reconcilable. Under President-elect Trump’s plan, a 20% capital gains tax would be imposed on appreciated assets owned at death if the appreciation was in excess of $10 million and the assets in question are not family farms or small businesses. Because it would be very simple to avoid this tax by giving assets away shortly before death (and frankly, this would not be a problem for most Americans), it seems to me that his tax plan would have to address the issue of the gift tax in some fashion.

However, I would anticipate that the desire in Congress to fully repeal the estate tax and the generation skipping transfer tax (again) would likely pressure Mr. Trump to alter his plan to accommodate his fellow Republicans. After all, his plan as stated is not actually workable. The Republican vision as set forth in the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015” may well get worked over some more when the lawmakers actually think they have a chance to pass tax reform. The current proposal has “planning opportunities” that would make avoidance of the gift tax possible.

So, what does this mean for you? Unfortunately it means that we are likely walking into a period of uncertainty for how long these taxes may remain on the books and how they may be transformed by Congress. Given that a Republican led Congress also wants to balance the budget, it is possible that these changes may phase in over time. Should you delay making annual exclusion gifts in 2016? Absolutely not. The changes, if they come about, will not be effective before Mr. Trump takes office. Should you stay in touch with the attorneys at the Hook Law Center? Absolutely. We will analyze the changes and inform you of how they will affect you and your existing plan and whether you need to make any changes. However, since the last round of estate and gift tax reform increased the lifetime exemptions in excess of $5 million, most of you will not need to alter your current estate plans to accommodate the tax law changes. Your plans already reflect that you are not subject to the various taxes and are structured to protect your families and your non-tax related goals. For those of you who have been facing an estate or gift tax issue currently, stay tuned.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Learning From Bees

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about bees in northern Alaska which are helping scientists gather information about climate change?

Kit Kat:  Well, I think this is fascinating. Scientists from the University of California, Riverside traveled to Prudhoe Bay, north of Fairbanks, along the Dalton Highway, made famous by the TV show “Ice Road Truckers.” They were looking for the Polaris bumblebee, known scientifically as the Bombus polaris. Increasingly as the earth’s climate warms, this particular bumblebee has migrated north into the Arctic, where climate change is happening at a fast pace. Climate change in the Arctic is evident by the fact that areas once covered only in low plants and lichens are now able to support willow trees. The expedition is being financed by a grant to foster collaboration among scientists. Six scientists participated. Their job—collect specimens and bring them back to the lab for further testing.

One of the scientists, Dr. S. Hollis Woodard, calls the bumblebee ‘…the pandas of the insect world.’ They are the largest of bees, and like the panda, they are big and move slowly. In contrast to the honeybee which tend to live in large colonies of 100,000 bees or more, the bumblebee lives in small clusters, ranging from 50 to a couple of hundred. Most bumblebee colonies live for one season, Most die as the weather turns cold. However, a few hearty females that have already mated, seek refuge under the tundra, and in essence hibernate until spring. They are the only bees which manage to survive in the Arctic, where temperatures go as low as 60 below zero. They do this by shivering their muscles. This can raise their body temperature to a toasty 95 degrees, even though the outside temperature may be at the freezing point.

There is some urgency to the scientists’ work. Just this past September of 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the rusty patched bumblebee, previously very common, be considered endangered. There are 250 bumblebee species, but scientists become alarmed when even one shows signs of decline.  Each bee that is captured is placed in a plastic tube, which is then given a shot of ordinary compressed air from a can available at the average grocery store. This immobilizes the bees. Then bodies and inside organs are separated and placed in a solution to preserve them. Back at the lab in California, they will conduct the examinations which will tell us more about the bees, how they survive in such adverse conditions, and possibly the implications about changing climate. (James Gorman, “Six Scientists, 1,000 Miles, One Prize: The Arctic Bumblebee,” The New York Times, Oct. 7, 2016) (http://nyti.ms/2dFqzYi)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

State Tax Credit Can Help With Home Improvement Costs

By Stephan A. Lipskis

A recent article in our newsletter discussed Universal Home Design and the advantages it has for individuals of all ages. Fortunately, Virginia has a tax incentive that may help with the cost of retrofitting your home, the Livable Homes Tax Credit (LHTC).  The tax credit can be as much as $5,000, which is a huge consideration when considering the high costs of most renovations.

WHAT HOMES ARE ELIGIBLE?

Fortunately, the LHTC can be used on new purchases as well as existing homes. New construction must meet Universal Visitability guidelines, but renovations need only to increase accessibility using certain eligible means.

WHAT TYPE OF IMPROVEMENTS ARE NEEDED?

The renovation must include several “Universal Visitability” features, such as: zero-step entrances, doors with a width of at least 32 inches, accessible switches, accessible bathrooms, accessible kitchens, among others. These requirements work nicely with the Universal Design concepts discussed in the previous article.

HOW DOES THE CREDIT WORK?

The credit is available for 50% of the cost of applicable features, up to $5,000, which means that $10,000 in costs for applicable renovations can yield a full credit. The simplicity of the design elements required to qualify for the credit (built-in appliances, width of halls and doorways, etc.) means that a little forethought in design may go a long way in saving funds.

After the work is completed, the credit is applied for using a simple form and submitted to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development in Richmond. They even allow for electronic submissions! A certificate of approval is provided with the amount of your credit by April 1, and can be relied upon for your tax return. If you do not have enough tax liability to fully use your credit, the balance can be carried forward for seven years.

CONCLUSION

If you are considering updating your home or specifically need to retrofit your home for accessibility, using the LHTC can be an excellent way to defray some of those costs.  If you need help planning for disability, healthcare costs, or retirement generally, please contact our office to arrange a meeting with one of our Elder Law attorneys to review your needs and implement a plan. The author thanks Richard Harrison, Jr., CPA of Richard J. Harrison, Jr., P.C. for providing information related to the Virginia Livable Homes Tax Credit used in this article.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – At Rest with Pets

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the new New York State law which allows pets to be buried alongside their owner(s)?

Kit Kat:  Yes, this is a wonderful option which was recently enacted for the state of New York. There are some stipulations—the pet must be cremated; religious cemeteries are exempt, and all cemeteries are not required to accept pet cremains. It is, however, a step in the right direction. The change has been in the works for about five years says David Fleming, director of government affairs for the New York State Association of Cemeteries. ‘Times have changed; people have a much different view of their pets in the family,’ he said. Currently, the law limits the option to domestic animals, but authorities have been quite flexible and have allowed reptiles and invertebrates. Mr. Fleming further comments, ‘I don’t think the average person is paying to have their tarantula cremated, but maybe they are.’

Heretofore, people who wanted to be buried with their pets had to do so in a pet cemetery. Some actually have chosen this option. At Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, a pet cemetery which originated in the 19th century, 5-7 people are buried each year, says Edward C. Martin, Jr., the cemetery’s director, along with their beloved pets. Mr. Martin is not worried about the impact of the new law. Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has a tranquil and lovely location which is attractive to many, whether human or animal.

The new law will be helpful to those whose preferred companion is a turtle. Turtles live for decades says Barbara Daddario, education director of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society. It is not unusual for a turtle or a tortoise to outlive its original owner and be passed to a younger family member. With the new law, ‘…it may be a while before the turtle goes in there,’ she said.

This is a terrific plan. You may want to check with your state and determine whether such an option is permitted in the state in which you reside. According to Mr. Fleming of the NY Association of Cemeteries, few others allow it, but he is uncertain as to which other states do/do not permit the practice. (Sarah Maslin Nir, “New York Burial Plots Will Now Allow Four-Legged Companions,” The New York Times (New York Region section), October 6, 2016)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

Establishing Retroactive Survivor Benefit Plan Payments (SBP) for a Dependent Child

By Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

In December 2014, Congress passed the Disabled Military Child Protection Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. This important piece of legislation amended 10 U.S.C. 1450 by permitting monthly Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity payments to be assigned to a special needs trust for the sole benefit of a dependent child. Since this time, one of the major concerns has been whether benefits could be established by a parent with a dependent child when an election was not made previously.

Absent another valid election, a retiree of the United States Armed Forces begins to receive retirement income and, is enrolled in the Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP). With a full election of the SBP, upon the death of the retiree, up to 55% of the retiree’s retirement pay will be paid to a spouse or dependent child. Under the SBP, a “dependent child” includes an adult child that is incapable of self-support as a result of a physical or mental disability, provided such disability occurred prior to the age of 22. By making an election to provide the SBP to a dependent child, the retiree ensures a continuation of income to support the dependent child when the retiree and any surviving spouse have passed. Absent such an election, upon the death of the retiree, military retirement pay will cease.

You can revoke an election at any time; however, there are very few scenarios for which you can retroactively establish benefits. After receiving my first approval of retroactive establishment of SBP coverage for a dependent child, I now know that under certain circumstances, establishment of retroactive coverage of the SBP is possible in light of the new change in legislation. While Hook Law Center has been successful on this one occasion, we cannot guarantee approval and I anticipate approval of retroactive coverage will be limited in duration. As a result, if you are interested in making changes to your election, you should act sooner, rather than later. Furthermore, you should be prepared to pay the government a rather  check to cover the monthly payment for the benefit since date of retirement.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Faithful Friend

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the faithful dog in Spokane, Washington who stayed with a toddler in a house fire?

Kit Kat:  Well, this is one story that doesn’t have a happy ending. However, it does reveal the faithfulness of a wonderful canine, a terrier mix, who stayed with the toddler during the fire. Unfortunately, both perished. It happened like this—a fire broke out around 11:30 PM in the Hillyard neighborhood of Spokane on Friday, October 21, 2016. A neighbor noticed the fire and heard screaming. He called 911, and immediately ran outside to fight the fire with his garden hose. Three other children and two adults escaped, but one child, a young toddler, did not make it out. His dog and a teddy bear were found with him in a 2nd story bedroom. Firefighters believe the dog stayed behind to protect him. What more can one ask than that? The dog was more than heroic!

The fire is under investigation, as the battery in the house’s smoke detector had been removed. That is all the information that the newspaper article provided. Perhaps, however, we can learn some tips for preventive action—always know where the occupants of one’s house are. If you leave your children with others, make sure they are aware of escape routes and are familiar with the property’s layout. Also, keep all smoke detectors functional. Hopefully, we can learn from this tragedy, so that it never happens again. (Martha Bellisle, “Toddler dies in fire, his dog at his side,” The Virginian-Pilot, October 23, 2016, p. 14)

Upcoming Seminars

Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at mail@hooklawcenter.com or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.
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