Elderly Home Safety Checklist

Elderly Home Safety Checklist

Use this checklist to determine whether or not a senior citizen is safe living home alone given the current state of the home. Any NO response indicates an area of concern. NO responses do not necessarily mean that the person can no longer remain home, but indicates areas in which the home may require modifications, or assistance may need to be brought in to ensure safety.

If the senior is unable to perform the task independently mark NO; if a caregiver is available to assist with the task mark CAREGIVER. This will help determine whether the care recipient is safe without a caregiver present.

Home Interior Yes No
Stairs inside home are safe
End of stairs is clearly marked (top and bottom)
Handrails on both sides of stairs
Hallways and doorways wide and obstruction free
Fire extinguisher available
Smoke detectors present
Adequate lighting
Throw rugs absent
Area rugs secure and safe
Adequate heat
Adequate cooling
Space heaters safe
Hazardous materials stored safely
Adequate plumbing
Absence of rodents/insects
Adequate trash pickup
Space free of clutter/debris
Electrical cords safe
Safe use of electrical circuits/extension cords
Furniture arranged to facilitate mobility
Furniture appears sturdy and in good repair
Non-carpeted floors are not slippery
Door thresholds safe
Safe water temperature
Safe Storage of Chemicals Yes No Caregiver
Able to distinguish between products
Chemicals stored away from food
Outdated products safely disposed
Flammables kept away from heat
Exterior Yes No Caregiver
Able to get in/out of front door safely
Able to get in/out rear door
Able to retrieve mail/newspapers
Ramp available, if needed
Stairs safe and in good repair
Railing on stairs
Proper lighting
Snow/ice removal, when needed
Bathroom Yes No Caregiver
Able to get into bathroom
Able to turn on light
Able to get on/off commode
Able to safely transfer in/out of tub or shower
Able to use faucets
Soap available
Safe use of transfer bench
Night light, if needed
Grab bars available and secure
Raised toilet seat, if needed
Non-slip mat or strips in tub or shower
Proper disposal of soiled incontinence pads
Adequate cleaning/sanitizing
Kitchen Yes No Caregiver
Adequate food storage
Able to recognize if stove/oven is on
Able to feel heat
Fire extinguisher available
Smoke detectors present
Able to prepare meal
Able to operate microwave
Able to get groceries
Frequently used items within reach
Pet Care Yes No Caregiver
Pets safe underfoot
Able to feed pets
Able to let pet outside
Able to change litter box
Able to provide pet adequate exercise
Bedroom Yes No Caregiver
Able to get in and out of bed
Room for hospital bed, if needed
Light accessible
Phone accessible from bed
Emergency alert system accessible from bed
Adequate heat
Bedside commode
Flashlight available
Night light, if needed
Mobility Yes No Caregiver
Absence of falls
Balance stable
Able to maneuver assistive device
Activity tolerance
Shoes are safe and comfortable
Communication Yes No Caregiver
Able to utilize telephone
Emergency response system available
Able to use system
Can call for help in emergency
Able to exit in emergency
Able to clearly communicate needs
Able to hear alarms
Personal Safety Yes No Caregiver
Safe clothing for ambulation and circulation
Wears shoes or non-skid socks inside
Able to self-manage medications
Safe storage of medications
Able to manage thermostat
Able to verbalize and enact emergency plan
Oxygen Care Yes No Caregiver
No smoking around oxygen
Able to safely change/refill tanks, as needed
Tubing does not obstruct safe ambulation
 Reprinted from A Place for Mom

7 Ways to Prevent Seniors from Fraud

We hear about new scams every day. They are very hard to recognize, and it is nearly impossible to stay current on the “scam of the week.” Unfortunately, our senior population is the prime target for fraudsters and scammers. Their diminished capacity simply makes them more vulnerable to undue influence, and the professional scammers capitalize on this—literally.
I postulate that every senior in our country will be solicited by a scammer, and it is almost impossible to stop. There are some steps you can take, however, to protect yourself and minimize the widespread damage caused by identity fraud:
1. File a Tax Return Whether You Need To or Not
In my elder law practice, countless clients have told me that they don’t file tax returns because they are under the income limits. And they are! However, notwithstanding the IRS rules and regulations, every person should now file a tax return even if not required.
If a social security number is unlawfully obtained (which is quite easy these days) and used to file tax returns seeking a refund, the senior may never know that the fraudulent return was filed. Refunds are mailed quickly after returns are filed, and the IRS estimates that it sent nearly three million fraudulent refunds out to con-artists in 2013, which cost taxpayers $5.2 billion that year alone. Refunds can be paid out to prepaid debit cards that do not need to be registered, and so the criminal is almost impossible to catch.
Unwinding this mess is a time-consuming process of standing in line for hours.
2. Protect Confidential Information
Seniors can lose their ability to appreciate the gravity of exposing personal and confidential information. If they are in an assisted living community, there are many people that can enter and exit their apartment, including cleaning and caregiving staff. The vast majority of them are honest and hardworking people, but some are not. Having unsecured sensitive information in the apartment can be the seed that grows into a full blown identity theft issue.
3. Track Purchases and Payments
Seniors are a “protected class” in California (and perhaps in other states) for good reason. They are often the targets of choice for crooks. Their diminished capacity can also affect good decision making even if no fraud is involved. Monitoring a parent’s purchases and payments can clue you into purchases and/or payment requests that just don’t seem right. In my practice, I have seen seniors paying hundreds of dollars a month for magazine subscriptions, memberships, newspapers that they don’t even read, and more.
4. Subscribe to Identity Theft Websites
I had my folks each subscribe to one of the nationally recognized identity protection services. It is a small monthly cost for the protection they offer. The service tracks use of social security numbers and more. The quicker you are alerted to a fraudulent credit application, the better your chances of stopping it—and in time to avoid serious financial consequences.
This is also a good way to see if your folks are obtaining credit and whether or not it is in good judgment.
5. Alert Seniors to Online Scams
The older population is getting more Internet savvy. However, the scammers are even better! Seniors need to be educated as to what to look for online and how to recognize a possible scam. They need to opt for security rather than satisfying their intrigue of the offer presented to them. Simple instructions as to what to look for in a scam (possibly written out for them) will minimize their exposure.
We all have seen the emails from foreign countries saying that they need you to help by contributing a large sum of money. They ask for critical information such as account numbers and you social security number. Why do we all still get these? Because they still work!
6. Alert Seniors to Telephone Scams
Criminals are very creative. Some scammers call seniors pretending to be affiliated with the government and accuse them of not showing up for jury duty. They then tell the senior that there is a warrant out for their arrest, and, out of fear, the senior may give the caller their social security number and other vital contact information.
You need to talk with your aging loved ones REGULARLY and repeat how these scams work and how they should be handled. They may forget and wind up falling victim to one of these ploys.
7. Elder Abuse by Professionals
Unfortunately, elder abuse is on the rise and often occurs outside the family setting. An area fraught with temptation is caregiving. There are countless highly dedicated and sensitive caregivers that I applaud and respect for their challenging work. But there are also those few who take advantage of their patients. A caregiver often becomes a trusted friend to the people they care for. If the bond becomes too strong, a caregiver with bad intentions can easily influence a senior in negative ways.
There are countless lawsuits where caregivers had their client execute new estate planning documents or had themselves added as signers on the client’s accounts, systematically draining the patient of their resources. I often suggest that when the senior becomes too friendly, it is time to rotate other caregivers into the care setting, even to the extent of changing care companies.
It is important not to put the senior into the position of being subject to possible undue influence. A private setting in the senior’s home cannot be adequately monitored, so you need to judge the relationship carefully and possibly take action if the bond has become too strong, or you suspect ulterior motives.
Technology advances at lightning speed. Each time you encounter new scam opportunities, remember that your folks are probably being confronted with them as well. Help them protect themselves and stay vigilant. Defending our elders from identity theft and fraud is just one of the many responsibilities we take on as we help care for them. Planning ahead, staying organized, and being aware is the best way to prevent elder abuse of any kind. Don’t fear the eldercare journey, just prepare for it.

Stuart Furman, Esq., is an elder law attorney with over 34 years of experience. He is President of the Southern California Legal Center, Inc. and author of “The ElderCare Ready Book” (2015) and “The ElderCare Ready Pack” (2015).
Reprinted from Agingcare.com

How to use a Life Insurance Policy to pay for Long-term Care

An active life insurance policy is a no-no for individuals who are seeking to spend-down their assets to qualify for Medicaid.

Considered an, “unqualified asset,” any life insurance policy with more than $2,000 in value must be dealt with properly before an elder can receive financial assistance from Medicaid. (Learn more about Medicaid and long term care expenses)

Some seniors end up abandoning their policies, or letting them lapse, by ceasing to pay their monthly premiums. Others surrender their plans in order to receive a pre-determined, “cash surrender value,” a lump sum of money that varies in value based on how many payments the policy holder has made and what the overall worth of their policy is.

There is, however, a third option that most people fail to consider when facing a Medicaid spend down: converting a life insurance policy into a Long-Term Care Benefit Plan.


Need Help Paying for Care?
A Life Insurance Policy can be converted into a Long Term Care Benefit Account to pay for the cost of Senior Care directly each month. No fees or obligations to apply. Click here to see if you qualify.

What is a long-term care benefit plan?

Anyone in possession of an in-force life insurance policy has the ability to transform that policy into a pre-funded financial account that will disburse a monthly benefit stipend to help pay for that individual’s long term care needs. Unlike life insurance, a long-term care benefit plan account is a Medicaid qualified asset. (Learn how life insurance can affect Medicaid eligibility)

The conversion process transfers ownership of a life insurance policy from the original holder, to an entity that acts as the benefits administrator. Because the original owner no longer holds the policy, it won’t count against them in the Medicaid spend down process.

The benefits administrator assumes all responsibility for paying the monthly premiums on the policy to the insurance company, and agrees to pay the previous policy holder a series of monthly payments based on the value of their policy. These payments can then be used to pay for a person’s home care, nursing home, hospice care and assisted living costs.

If this process sounds unfamiliar, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most people don’t know that the long-term care benefit conversion option exists.

“For the last 100 years, anyone who’s owned a life insurance policy has had the right to do this,” says Chris Orestis, co-founder and CEO of Life Care Funding, a company specializing in life insurance policy conversions. “The problem is that most people are unaware that this option exists.”

Examples of paying for care by converting life insurance

To give you a better idea of how life insurance policy conversion works, consider the following examples:

Allowing a loved one to age in place

Mary (names have been changed) has been taking care of her husband, Bill, who has dementia, in their home. Lately, Bill’s condition has deteriorated to the point where Mary can no longer look after him by herself. Together, Mary and Bill own a life insurance policy worth $20,500. Mary cannot continue to make the payments on this policy and considers letting it lapse. Instead, she ends up converting it into a long-term care benefit plan that pays $350 every month, for 15 months, enough money to hire a home caregiver to help her take care of Bill. She as also able to retain $1,028 in the account for future funeral expenses.

Extending an assisted living stay

The Williams family wants to continue to pay for their mother to live in an assisted living community. However, they keep coming up just shy of being able to cover her monthly expenses. Ms. Williams has a life insurance policy worth $27,000, and her children look in to how much money their mother would receive if she surrendered the policy. They were disappointed to find that the plan would only translate into a few thousand dollars. After hearing about the long-term care benefit plan option, the Williams siblings decided to put their mother’s policy through the conversion process. Doing so resulted in a monthly benefit of $975 a month for 12 months—enough to make up the shortfall in their mother’s assisted living costs. Ms. William’s also got to keep a funeral benefit of $1,357.

The pros and cons of conversion

On the surface, it seems like life insurance policy conversion is a no-brainer, but the method has its advantages and disadvantages.


  • There are no monthly premium payments
  • You can convert any type of life insurance plan: whole, term or universal
  • Monthly payout amounts are adjustable based on how many months a person wants to receive payments. (For instance, a person whose life insurance policy converts into $12,000 in total benefits could choose to receive 12 monthly payments of $1,000, or 24 monthly payments of $500)
  • Monthly payouts do not count against an individual seeking to qualify for Medicaid coverage sometime in the near future. A long-term care benefit plan is recognized by Medicaid as an acceptable spend-down during the five year look-back period.
  • A long-term care benefit plan is comprised of “private pay” dollars, which means that it can be used to pay for any kind of care—home care, nursing home, assisted living and hospice.
  • A special fund is set aside for future funeral expenses


  • Anyone wishing to apply for a long-term benefit plan must have an immediate need for some form of acceptable long-term care (see examples above). This is because monthly payments are made directly to a long-term care provider, not the previous holder of the life insurance policy.
  • It’s not ideal for everyone. Orestis says that individuals with smaller policies ($10,000 or less) are probably better off holding on to their plan, or giving it up it in exchange for the cash surrender value. Also, people who have a life insurance policy with a large cash value built into it (i.e. a $100,000 policy with a $90,000 cash value) are better off taking that cash value than converting it.

It is also important to note that a long-term care benefit plan is not the same as a long-term care insurance plan.

According to Orestis, the biggest benefit of transforming a life insurance policy into a long-term care benefit plan is that it allows a person to remain private pay for a longer period of time. “The process can actually help aging individuals maintain some financial independence and dignity. It helps them exert more control over the type of care they receive,” he says.

If you’re interested in learning more about this process and exploring other options to help pay for long-term care, try seeking out the services of an independent financial advisor who specializes in the finances of older adults.

reprinted from Agingcare.com


Create a Living Will

Ways to Create a Living Will

Posted On 16 Jul 2015

By : Jeff Anderson


Most Americans understand the basics of living wills. We understand that they are binding documents to specify our medical wishes if we can’t communicate because of illness or injury. We also realize that they address such questions as whether we want life extending treatment while terminally ill or in a permanent coma.

Though, many of us need assistance creating a living will. Learn more about how to create your own.

Create a Living Will

According to a recent poll, 42% of American adults have living wills, which is a vast improvement over the mere 17% of American adults who had living wills in 1991. But, 42% is not good enough. Healthcare experts say all adults ought to have a living will, including some prominent advocates we featured on our blog, such as Nathan Kottkamp, founder of National Health Care Decisions Day, and Paul Malley of Aging with Dignity.

If you have older parents, there’s a good chance they have already completed a living will. While for all adults, living will adoption is 42%, more than half of seniors have taken this step, according to an ABC News poll.

If you’re not sure whether your parent has a living will, simply ask. It’s among the most important questions to ask an older loved one when verifying she or he has made satisfactory plans for potential long-term care and end-of-life care needs. Older parents who don’t have a living will usually agree to create one when they are approached about it in a kind and sensitive manner. But some parents will resist for various reasons.

A great way to get your parent or loved one to complete a living will is to complete yours first, or even complete a living will with your parent. You could say something like:

“Mom, I’m making a living will now and I think you should too. It’s not because I think you won’t be around long. It’s just the right thing to do.”

This approach shows parents we aren’t necessarily asking them to create a living because we’re worried about their health. It could be seen as hypocritical to ask your parent to complete living will without being willing to take that same step yourself.

Ensuring Your Living Will is Legally Valid

Living wills involve more than merely writing your wishes on a notepad and putting them in a safe place.

Living wills are legal documents. To make sure your living will is honored, use the appropriate documents for your state, complete them properly, and file them with the right local authority.

To make sure you get the right documents, use the links below, which feature some of the best websites with free, downloadable and state-specific living wills.

State-Specific Living Will Downloads

Several excellent websites provide free, state-specific legal documents with clear instructions that can be downloaded and used to create a valid living will anywhere in the U.S:

Another great resource is the Five Wishes living will from Aging with Dignity, which is valid in 43 of 50 states.

Making Sense of Living Wills

Before completing any forms, you may want to familiarize yourself with the basic of living wills and associated documents like power of attorney for health care.

Unfortunately, the terminology of living wills can be a bit confusing. This is is largely a consequence of living in a nation with 50 semi-sovereign states  that have their own legal systems.

Some states simply call a living will a living will, but others have inexplicably wordy and idiosyncratic terms. For example, depending on your state, the  living will document may have various official names including:

  • Declaration
  • Health Care Directive
  • Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates
  • Instructional Directive

Living Will Requirements and Terminology in Your State

To help you quickly understand the requirements and terminology in your state, read these simple definitions of the most standard terms for the three main documents related to your healthcare wishes.

You can then refer to the alphabetical list of states below to see what this document is officially called in your state:

  1. Living Will: A document that expresses your healthcare and end-of-life care wishes.
  2. Power of Attorney for Health Care: A document naming a person to help assure your healthcare issues are honored and with authority to make medical decisions for you in areas where your wishes are unspecified or unclear. This person is called a “health care proxy,” “agent,” or “surrogate.”
  3. Advance Directive: A document that combines the powers of a living will and power of attorney for health care.

Some states require two documents: both a living will and a power of attorney for health care, which complement one another. Other states have simplified the process by using an advance directive, whichcombines the living will and power of attorney for health care. In other words, some states use a one-document system and others use a two-document system:

  • One-document system: A single document specifies your wishes and also empowers a health care proxy
  • Two-document system: Separate documents specify healthcare wishes and empower a health care proxy

A few states accommodate both methods. In these states, it is probably simpler to use the one-document options, but there may be circumstances in which a two-document approach is preferable.

Finding the Number of Documents Required in Your State

Using the definitions above as a starting point to assure mutual understanding, the list of states below provides each state’s particular (and sometimes peculiar) living will terms. The number of terms defined also indicates the number of documents required:

  • In states that use the one-document system, one term is defined
  • In states with the two-document system have two terms defined
  • In the states where both methods are accommodated, we provide the state’s official term for advance directive in addition to the state’s terms for living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare

Living Will Related Terms in the 50 States and D.C.

  • Alabama: Living Will =  Advance Directive for Health Care
  • Alaska: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive
  • Arizona: Living Will = Living Will | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care =  Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Arkansas: Living Will = Living Will | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • California: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive
  • Colorado: Living Will = Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care =  Medical Durable Power of Attorney
  • Connecticut: Living Will = Document Concerning Health Care and With­holding or Withdrawal of Life Support Systems | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Appointment of Health Care Representative | Advance Directive (one-document alternative) =  Health Care Instructions and Appointment of Health Care Representative
  • Delaware: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive
  • District of Columbia: Living Will = Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Florida: Living Will = Living Will | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Designation of Health Care Surrogate
  • Georgia: Living Will =  Advance Directive for Health Care
  • Hawaii: Living Will =  Advance Health Care Directive
  • Idaho: Living Will: Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Illinois Living Will = Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (Healthcare instructions can be made on the form designating a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare document, which provides a one-document option)
  • Indiana Living Will = Living Will Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Appointment of Health Care Representative
  • Iowa: Living Will = Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Kansas: Living Will = Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions
  • Kentucky: Living Will = Advance Directive
  • Louisiana: Living Will = Living Will Declaration
  • Maine: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive
  • Maryland: Living Will = Advance Directive
  • Massachusetts: Living Will = Document Directing Health Care| Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care =Health Care Proxy
  • Michigan: Living Will = Document Directing Health Care | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care =Patient Advocate Designation
  • Minnesota: Living Will = Health Care Directive
  • Mississippi: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive
  • Missouri: Living Will: Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Montana: Living Will: Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Nebraska: Living Will: Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Nevada: Living Will: Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions
  • New Hampshire: Living Will = Advance Directive
  • New Jersey: Living Will= Instruction Directive | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Proxy Directive| Advance Directive (one-document alternative) = Combined Advance Directive for Health Care
  • New Mexico: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive
  • New York: Living Will = Document Directing Health Care | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care =Health Care Proxy
  • North Carolina: Living Will = Advance Directive| Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Health Care Power of Attorney
  • North Dakota: Living Will = Health Care Directive
  • Ohio: Living Will = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Oklahoma: Living Will = Advance Directive for Health Care
  • Oregon: Living Will = Advance Directive
  • Pennsylvania: Living Will: Living Will | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: Health Care Power of Attorney|
  • Rhode Island: Living Will: Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • South Carolina: Living Will: Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: Health Care Power of Attorney (Healthcare instructions can be included with Health Care Power of Attorney document, which provides a one-document option)
  • South Dakota: Living Will = Living Will Declaration | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Tennessee: Living Will= Advance Health Care Directive
  • Texas: Living Will = Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care= Medical Power of Attorney
  • Utah: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive
  • Vermont: Living Will= Advance Directive
  • Virginia: Living Will = Advance Medical Directive
  • Washington: Living Will = Health Care Directive| Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • West Virginia: Living Will = Living Will | Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Medical Power of Attorney
  • Wisconsin:Living Will = Declaration to Physicians| Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care = Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Wyoming: Living Will = Advance Health Care Directive

(The state terminology is sourced from attorney Betsy Simmons Hannibal.)

Additional Living Will Resources

  • Aging With Dignity –  Website of organization that created Five Wishes, which includes information, resources and support to help people make their wishes known and assure they are respected
  • National Health Care Decisions Day – The website of the annual daily health observance contains valuable information and references for living wills and advance directives
  • Go Wish Cards – “A card game that is a simple way to think and talk about what’s important to individuals and their family members if someone becomes seriously ill”

Reprinted from A Place for Mom


Sample Letter of Instruction

Letter of Instruction

in the Estate of

Name: __________________________________

  1. List of Gifts not listed on the will:


______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

  1. Credit Cards:

Company         Card No.         Exp. Date




Credit card insurance?___________Amount__________________________

Name of insurance company____________________Policy #____________

III. Bank Accounts and Savings Deposits

Name and Address of Bank Type Account Account Number



Bonds are located at_____________________________________________

  1. U.S. Bonds

Denomination   Number            In Name Of


Bonds are located at_____________________________________________


  1. Stocks, Mutual Funds, and Other Securities

Company Date Purchased Purchase Price Certificate # _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Carried in account number_____________maintained with____________


Name and address of broker: _____________________________________


  1. Insurance
  2. I (do)(do not) have government life insurance.

This insurance is (U.S. government life insurance)

(National Service life insurance)

(Servicemen’s group life insurance)

The policy number is____________________________________

Type of insurance _____________________________________

Amount of government insurance___________________________

The policy is located at_________________________________

  1. I have in effect the following commercial life insurance:

Company Address Policy Number Amount





These policies are located at____________________________

The following loans are outstanding against these policies:________________________________________________



  1. Primary beneficiary______________________________________

Contingent beneficiaries_________________________________

  1. Life insurance in effect upon the lives of my wife and children:

Name and relationship Company Policy # Amt Premium Due




  1. The property and casualty insurance policies presently in effect are:

Company City, State Policy # Amount

Personal liability __________ _____________ __________________



and health __________ _____________ ___________________


VII. Moneys Owed to Me

Amount            Debtor’s Name and Address





VIII. Liabilities (Loans, notes not previously listed)

Amount Lender’s name and address Date Made Date Due

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________

  1. Safe Deposit Box

Location of box_________________________________________________

Safe deposit box key located at_________________________________

  1. Valuables not listed above:

Item     Location





  1. Other Pertinent Information and Instructions:




XII. This record was last checked on: _________________________

Letter of Instruction: The Most Important Letter You Will Ever Write


“Where is Mom’s Social Security card?” It’s a common refrain when someone can’t help with their own affairs. Confusion and uncertainty compound the difficulties of dealing with a family emergency. There is a way to help those who will have to act in a family emergency. It’s called a “letter of instruction.”

How an Hour Now May Eliminate Uncertainty in Times of Family Emergencies

The letter of instruction is NOT a legal document. It does NOT replace a will or trust, a Health Care Power of Attorney or Living Will, or a Durable Financial Power of Attorney. On the other hand, the letter of instruction offers practical guidance usually not contained in any legal document. It’s a good way to let to those trusted to take care of your affairs know what you would want them to know.

letter of instructionSince the letter of instruction is not a legal document, it does not need to be notarized or signed in the presence of witnesses or with any other special formality.

It is also different than the “Separate Writing” that lawyers sometimes recommend accompany a Will or Revocable Living Trust. That document directs the distribution of your personal property after your death. [For example, Aunt Sally’s watch goes to my daughter Amanda; and Grandpa’s shotgun to Billy.]

Who should write the Letter of Instruction?

A husband and wife should prepare one together. The person who handles the family financial affairs should write one for the person who will have to take over in case of death or incapacity.

When is it used?

A Will is usually not read until some time after the person’s death. The letter of instruction should be readily available and in a place where a family member or other friend can find it in the event of emergency. For example, my family knows ours is in the top left-hand desk drawer in my study.

What’s in the letter?

The letter should give the contact information for the people to be notified in the event of a family emergency, and should also tell the location of all important papers . . . and passwords! It could even spell out personal preference in how various matters are to be handled, including funeral arrangements.

It should contain the specific locations of items mentioned in the letter, such as: “My insurance papers are in my safe deposit box,” or “My Social Security file is in the bottom left-hand drawer of the living room desk.”

Who should have the letter?

You should consider making the letter available to someone outside the household. If you choose to provide a copy to the person who would most likely take over if something happened, you need to remember to send them updates when you change the letter. Mostly, however, it is important that someone be able to find the Letter in the event of an emergency.

Reprinted with permission from Maine Senior Guide.

Protecting Parent’s Home from Medicaid with Life Estate

If a person qualifies to receive Medicaid assistance while in a nursing home, the patient need only contribute their Social Security and other income, then the Medicaid program will pick up the balance of the bill. However, upon the death of the Medicaid patient, the state will want to be reimbursed for every dime it paid to the nursing home on behalf of the patient. In effect, the government has made an interest-free loan and now wants to be repaid!

But how can the estate of the deceased patient repay the state? In order to qualify for Medicaid a person can only have $2,000 of countable assets. So upon their death, they won’t have very much of anything to pay back the state, will they?

The key word above is “countable” assets. Since a home is an exempt (non-countable) asset, a person can indeed own a home (even possibly one that’s worth more than $500,000) and still qualify for Medicaid. However, following the death of the Medicaid recipient, the state will want to be repaid out of the proceeds of a sale of that home.

However, many states only make a claim against the deceased’s “probate” estate. That excludes property that passes to a named survivor automatically by law, such as certain real estate in joint names, joint bank accounts, life insurance policies, etc. So if the house passes outside of probate, then the state is out of luck in these states.

One popular method for avoiding probate of a house is simply to give it to the children outright. But then the parent no longer owns the home. Should a child be sued, divorced or go bankrupt, the house could be lost.

A better solution is to give just a “remainder interest” to the child or children. In other words, the parent continues to own the house so long as they live, and only on the death of the parent will the child come into possession of the house. Meanwhile, because ownership passes automatically to the child, it does not pass under the parent’s will—it is not probated—so the state cannot make a claim against the house (in those states that limit their right to recoup Medicaid payments to probate assets).

This is accomplished by having the parent sign a deed transferring the house to one or more children, while retaining a “life estate.” As owner of the life estate, the parent continues to have full control over and access to the house (although it cannot be sold without the child(ren) joining in on the deed). Importantly, it will continue to be classified as an exempt asset for Medicaid eligibility purposes.

Avoiding the look-back

The signing of such a deed will result in the parent making a gift to the child of the “remainder interest” in the house. The attorney who prepares the deed can calculate the value of the gift (it depends on the age of the parent making the gift). Because of this, it is important that the parent not apply for Medicaid for a period of at least five years to avoid the imposition of a very long penalty period.

Example: Parent, age 80, signs house over to child, retaining a life estate. For a person age 80, a gift of the remainder interest is valued at .56341. Thus, if the house is worth $300,000, the value of the gift will be $300,000 x .56341 = $169,023.

As you can see, this is not something that normally can be done when the parent is already in the nursing home and running out of funds. In order to avoid the imposition of the penalty as a result of the parent signing the life estate deed, they normally will need to wait at least five years to apply for Medicaid. Thus, they should have funds sufficient to cover nursing home expenses for at least that long. However, as an advance-planning technique it offers a great advantage of protecting the most important asset owned by the parent, the family home.

Reprinted from Agingcare.com.

Use caution when making charitable donations

The recent revelations about four cancer charities that have collectively scammed more than $187 from consumers has called for more caution when donating to charities.

Maine Attorney Janet Mills urges Maine consumers to make informed decisions about donations and not succumb to pressures from charities.  Consumers can call the Maine Office of Professional and Occupational Registration at 207-624-8603 or go online at www.pfr.maine.gov/almsonline/almsquery/SearchCompany.aspx to see if the charity and its professional fundraiser are registered.

Mills suggested always examining the organization’s purpose, how it uses its donations and what percentage of every dollar donated will actually go to the charity. ” The law cannot limit the percentage that a professional fundraiser can receive from money raised, but you can choose to give to a charity that  receives and uses more of the donations raised on its charitable mission,” the release stated.

One source of that information can be found at www.guidestar.org.


Evaluate Your Driving Ability

With years of experience behind the wheel, senior drivers likely are among the safest on the road. However, skills and abilities required for safe driving do deteriorate with age. The good news is that a few simple actions often can provide older drivers with years of safe driving.

To learn more about your driving abilities to drive safely, check out the resources below. They range from self-screening exercises to professionally administered assessments and feature a variety of tools that rate everything from driving skills to physical limitations and medical conditions of senior drivers.

Do you know the rules of the road? Test your driving knowledge by taking this brief interactive quiz.

Self-Rating Tool

Learn about your driving skills and habits by answering 15 short questions in a printable online brochure, and receive quick tips for senior drivers. Learn More »

Click on the links from SeniorDriving.AAA.com to take the self rating test for drivers 65 plus.

Discussing Driving with Senior Parents

Maybe it was the last time your parents picked you up at the train station when you came for a holiday visit, and you were alarmed by a change in their driving skills. Or perhaps you’re worried because your parents’ eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Whatever the reason, you know that it might be time to bring up the topic of their driving – but it’s not an easy conversation to have. In fact, a survey from the National Safety Council and Caring.com found that adult children ranked talking to elderly parents about their driving more difficult than talking to them about selling their house or even funeral wishes.

“Many family members and even medical professionals are reluctant to bring up this topic,” said Elizabeth Dugan, Ph.D., associate professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and author of The Driving Dilemma: The Complete Resource Guide for Older Drivers and their Families. “Driving is so closely tied to a sense of freedom and autonomy.” 

But having this conversation, difficult though it may be, is vitally important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase notably after age 80. Alarmingly, an average of 500 elderly adults are injured in the U.S. in car crashes every day. 

How can you know for sure when senior parents should stop driving and that it’s time to broach this sensitive topic? It’s not simply a matter of age; some elderly people can continue driving well into their 80s and others may have their driving compromised much earlier by illness, medication, or factors of aging. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has a helpful list of signs that indicate it may be time to limit or stop driving. The list includes things like frequent “close calls,” getting lost, issues with eyesight, and easily becoming distracted. Once you’ve decided to have the talk, here are some tips for making it comfortable and effective:

    • Take a ride to assess your parent’s driving skills yourself. It’s a great conversation starter. “It can be helpful to take a ride with your parent, and then debrief them afterwards,” recommends Dugan. “You can say, ‘I know this is difficult, but you seem to have trouble making left hand turns.'” Be especially observant about how your parent handles situations involving right-of-way. Studies of crashes involving seniors have found that failure to yield the right-of-way is one of the most common driving errors.


    • Keep your tone respectful and sympathetic. Driving represents autonomy, mobility, and social life. You’re not bringing up this topic to be cruel and take away your parent’s independence. You’re having the discussion because you love your parents and are worried about their health and safety. “You’re not saying, ‘Give me the keys,'” says Dugan, “but ‘I care for you and I want you to be as healthy, mobile and independent as possible. If you can’t drive, then we’ll work together to figure out something else.’ The tone you take can make a big difference.”


    • Provide alternative options. Follow up and help your parents find ways to continue their current activities even if they can’t drive. Perhaps friends and family members can pitch in. In many areas there are public transportation options specifically for seniors. Often church and community groups provide local senior transport too.


    • Get experts involved, if necessary. If your parent seems unreceptive to your message, schedule a medical appointment to see if illness or medication is affecting their driving. Make sure your parent has an annual eye exam. A doctor can also refer your parent to a driving clinic to have his/her skills assessed by a professional.


  • Keep an open, ongoing dialogue. Finally, don’t stop talking after just one conversation. Return to the topic periodically, and continually reassess your parent’s driving. A change in skills behind the wheel doesn’t necessarily mean going from driving anywhere to driving nowhere. A senior driver may be fine with familiar local driving, or driving only during daytime hours. “It’s not one conversation that you have to get right,” says Dugan. “Think about it as a process,” a process with the goal of keeping your parents as active as possible AND as safe as possible.

Reprinted from Liberty Mutual at https://www.libertymutual.com/safe-and-smart-living/blog-posts/talking-to-seniors-about-driving