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So far Nadler Biernath has created 20 blog entries.

How to Apply for Benefits as a Grandparent

How to Apply for Benefits as a Grandparent

If you’re a grandparent raising a child, it can be challenging to handle the extra expense. Even if you’re still working or are financially comfortable, the costs of education, medical care, food, clothing and college savings can be a lot to absorb. And if you’re on a fixed income, it may seem difficult to continue to meet your own needs and provide for the child, or children, you love.

In Georgia, more than 100,000 grandparents are the heads of households raising grandkids. Of these, more than 57 percent work, nearly 24 percent live in poverty and almost 27 percent have a disability. Fortunately, there are numerous benefits available for grandfamilies, depending on work history and financial need.

SSDI Benefits for Grandkids
For individuals with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, grandchildren may be eligible for auxiliary benefits. To receive auxiliary benefits:

  • Kids must be under 18 and living with a grandparent before turning 18
  • Their parents must be deceased or disabled
  • The children must have received at least half of their financial support from their grandparent in the year before the grandparent became eligible for SSDI (or have been living with the grandparent from birth if they are under a year old)

If the grandparent has legally adopted the grandchild, then the child must be unmarried and under the age of 18.

For grandparents with special needs grandkids, auxiliary SSDI benefits may continue past age 18 if the child is considered disabled as became so before age 22.

Social Security survivor’s benefits may also be an option to grandchildren whose parents have passed away.

Public Benefits Available to Grandparents
In addition to SSDI auxiliary benefits, grandparents may qualify for other public benefits based on need. These include:

  • Medicaid for kids
  • State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Child Care and Parent Services (CAPS)

Many grandfamilies also use Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to help cover some of the costs of raising a child. Assistance may come monthly or provide short-term help (allowing a grandparent to buy a new car seat or pay a bill).

Child-only TANF grants take the child’s income into account (usually child support payments or SSI payments. The national average for child-only TANF grants is about $8 per day. Family grants require the grandparents meeting Georgia income requirements and are only available for a limited period.

With so many potential programs available, all with their own requirements, it can be a challenge to determine what resources are available. It’s especially challenging when the grandchild has special needs and has his or her own benefits eligibility requirements and options. Some organizations focus specifically on this need: Project GRANDD (Grandparents Raising and Nurturing Dependents with Disabilities) helps with referrals, case management and support groups.

Speak With an Atlanta Elder Law Attorney

At Nadler Biernath, we know it can be tricky to work out benefits eligibility. We have experience handling all aspects of elder law and special needs law, positioning us to help you support your grandchildren. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-09-15T17:32:51+00:00 September 15th, 2020|Estate Plan, Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

How to Utilize your Special Needs Trust and Maximize Retirement Benefits Under the SECURE Act

You’ve probably heard of the new Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, signed into law late last year. The act created some major changes for anyone with long-term retirement savings, including those who may wish to leave their accounts to beneficiaries with special needs.

Until the act became law Jan. 1, 2020, most beneficiaries of retirement accounts could “stretch” the distributions over their lifetimes. This, of course, led to a lower tax liability year to year, allowing the beneficiary to avoid big withdrawals and grow the inheritance in the tax-deferred account.

The SECURE Act eliminated this stretch provision for most beneficiaries, requiring them to withdraw the assets within 10 years. Fortunately, however, beneficiaries who are disabled or chronically ill are still allowed to stretch distributions over their lifetimes, making this an important consideration for anyone planning for a loved one with special needs.

Using Your Trust to Maximize Retirement Accounts under the SECURE Act
In response to these changes, considering how to designate beneficiaries of retirement accounts is more important than ever. A properly drafted special needs trust can be designated as a beneficiary of a retirement account. Having a special needs trust designated as a beneficiary of a retirement account helps to ensure beneficiaries receive the maximum benefits allowed under the law.

With a properly drafted special needs trust, beneficiaries who meet the conditions for exemption may:

  • Stretch retirement account distributions over their lifetime
  • Still be eligible for public benefits, including Medicaid and Supplemental
  • Security income
  • See any potential issues handled by a care manager or advocate
  • Have bequeathed assets protected from creditors

What next steps should you take?
If you have a special needs beneficiary and a tax-deferred retirement account, you should review your beneficiary designations and it may be time to set up a consult with a special needs attorney to revisit your plans. The new SECURE Act substantially changes the way retirement accounts are distributed, and utilizing a special needs trust can help ensure your beneficiary receives the greatest value from your retirement funds, while also helping to maintain benefits eligibility. In some cases, existing trusts and estate plans may need to be modified to reflect the new law’s changes.

Speak With an Atlanta Special Needs Lawyer

If you’re the parent or loved one of an individual with special needs, you’ll want help protecting his or her financial future. At Nadler Biernath, we have experience creating and funding trusts. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-08-26T19:23:09+00:00 August 26th, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Is a Guardian Legally Responsible for the Acts of a Ward?

Is a Guardian Legally Responsible for the Acts of a Ward?

When parents or other loved ones decide to seek guardianship and conservatorship, they do so because their family member cannot make critical decisions alone. Guardianship and conservatorship, which may both be held by the same person, allow the loved one to manage the ward’s health and safety and the ward’s finances, respectively. 

But guardianship is also about facilitating as much independence as possible—allowing the special needs individual to fully participate in decision-making within a safe, protected framework. 

Sometimes, of course, a ward leaves the boundaries of that framework, making decisions independently or under the influence of others that are not healthy, wise or legal. If the ward commits a crime or has an accident is the guardian liable? 

Guardianship and Liability

When choosing to seek guardianship, some families worry about their own legal or financial liability. Perhaps the potential ward has a history of violence or reckless behavior. The truth is, some guardians have great difficulty in effectively managing their ward. 

Because of this, guardians are not legally or financially liable for their wards’ actions in most cases. Provided the guardians are fulfilling their role in good faith, the structures of guardianship protect them. 

Conservators must also act in good faith when managing their ward’s assets and property. A conservator may be held responsible for a ward’s financial losses only if the conservator directly violates his or her fiduciary duty. While most families will combine the two roles into one, designating a single person as guardian/conservator, this doesn’t have to be the case. If finances are a source of conflict, or if the guardian does not feel comfortable handling them, a third party may be selected as conservator. 

Considering whether to file for guardianship and/or conservatorship is a big decision with many factors. In most cases, concern for personal liability doesn’t need to be a significant consideration. 

Speak With an Atlanta Guardianship Lawyer

At Nadler Biernath, we know the decision to seek guardianship can be a challenging one. We have experience handling all aspects of estate planning, special needs law and elder care law. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-07-21T19:48:50+00:00 July 21st, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

Does Georgia Have Assisted Decision-Making?

Does Georgia Have Assisted Decision-Making?

We often hear from clients who are curious about assisted decision-making, sometimes also called supported decision-making. In fact, one of our most frequently asked questions is whether Georgia has a supported decision-making policy on the books. Families want to learn more about this newer development in special needs law, find out what sets it apart from guardianship and determine if it could be a fit for their loved one.

What is supported decision-making?

The idea of supported decision-making began garnering U.S. interest in the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2015 that a state passed a supported decision-making bill. Today, Texas, Indiana, North Dakota, Nevada, Rhode Island, Delaware, Alaska, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have supported decision-making laws in place. Georgia, however, does not have a supported decision-making law. 

Supported decision-making is meant to offer some legal structure to the more informal arrangements people with special needs often make in order to manage finances, medical decisions and other areas of life. It is more flexible than guardianship, and it assumes that the individual with special needs has the capacity to make decisions with assistance. 

With supported decision-making, the individual with special needs chooses supporters from family members, friends or professionals. These supporters then help the individual process decisions and communicate them accurately. Supportive tasks might include taking notes during a medical appointment, talking over key decisions or helping handle financial matters. Where it’s law, supported decision-making allows financial and medical professionals to discuss or share information where appropriate. 

How is it different from guardianship?

Of course, there are some criticisms of supported decision-making. The main concern is that supporters could potentially take advantage of the special needs individual. Another is that it has the potential to create an overly burdensome system in place of a more informal arrangement.

Supported decision-making is quite different from guardianship. With guardianship, a court-appointment guardian manages the ward’s healthcare and medical decisions, housing and food. (A conservator, often the same person as the guardian, manages finances, earnings and property.) While the guardian is expected to respect the ward’s rights and wishes, he or she makes the final decision on the ward’s behalf.  

Supported decision-making presumes that the special needs individual is able to make decisions with help. The individual is also able to select multiple supporters to cover different areas (say, medical questions and financial issues). New supporters can be added. A monitor can also be put in place to supervise the process and pick up on any potential mismanagement or abuse. 

Because these laws are still relatively new, we’ll likely continue to learn more about the ways in which supported decision-making helps special needs individuals or potentially leaves them vulnerable. 

It’s important to remember that Georgia does not have a legal structure for supported decision making and take that into account as you are planning for the future. We’re always happy to discuss the options Georgia has in place to find the fit that’s right for your loved one. 

Speak With an Atlanta Special Needs Lawyer

If you’re the parent or loved one of an individual with special needs, you’ll want help protecting his or her interests. At Nadler Biernath, we have experience seeking guardianship when it’s necessary. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help.

By | 2020-07-21T19:53:10+00:00 July 20th, 2020|Special Needs Trusts|0 Comments

What To Expect In Our Consultations

What To Expect In Our Consultations

For most folks, the idea of estate planning can be a little uncomfortable. But, the truth is, the hardest part is often working up the will (pun intended!) to make the first call. At Nadler Biernath, we do our best to make the process painless, taking care of our clients and helping solve their problems. We’re here to give you peace of mind. We’ve seen how difficult things can be when people don’t have estate plans in place. When guardianship is needed or a special needs child isn’t protected, families can struggle—emotionally and financially—sorting everything out. 

If you’re still feeling nervous about the process, or intimidated by the potential time commitment, we wanted to share what a typical consultation might look like. Of course, every family is different, and every family’s needs are different. We don’t like one-size-fits-all solutions. But, for our new clients, we can still give you a good idea of what to expect, what to bring and what to think about beforehand. 

What our process looks like

After you contact us to schedule, we send you straightforward intake forms to email, fax or mail back to our office before we meet. With a special needs planning consult, for example, we’d ask for family details, like names and ages of spouses or children, and financial information, like account types and approximate amounts in each account.

Having the forms ready to go at our first chat lets us start off with a substantive conversation. It gives us a broad picture of your needs so we can begin to ask the right questions. 

Once we meet (which may be over the phone due to the COVID-19 pandemic—more on that below), our attorneys will ask about what you’re looking for from our office. We’ll also want to hear about family dynamics, like stepchildren, the relationship between adult kids or an ex-spouse. 

After that, we can make recommendations based on your needs, helping weigh in on whether to seek guardianship or set up a certain type of trust. Most of our clients leave that first meeting visibly relieved. In fact, we’re pretty proud of how often people tell us it wasn’t nearly as hard as they’d thought it would be. 

How to get ready for your consult

Before your consult, you don’t need to research every estate planning option or start learning Georgia statutes. Instead, think about the big questions—the things we can’t answer for you:

  • Who do you trust to involve in your estate plan? You’ll want to consider family members and friends who you trust financially, or who you’d want to care for your minor or incapacitated children.
  • Who do you want to leave your assets to? What if your children are still minors? 
  • What assets do you have? We need to know what types of assets you hold (property, retirement accounts, investments), how much they hold and how they’re titled—not the account numbers or exact amounts. 

How we’re operating during the COVID-19 pandemic

For now, we’re continuing to see clients virtually, but that hasn’t changed the way we do our consults. We miss seeing folks face-to-face, but we also respect that our client population and their families are often at higher risk for serious coronavirus complications. Most people prefer phone calls, though we can also set up secure, password-protected Zoom calls. We’re hoping to begin slowly reopening our office to clients in the near future, though we’ll always make client and staff safety our priority. 

Speak With an Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer

At Nadler Biernath, we know estate planning isn’t the easiest thing to think about. However, we work hard to make the process simple for our clients. We have experience handling all aspects of estate planning, special needs law and elder care law. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.

By | 2020-06-18T17:12:54+00:00 June 17th, 2020|Estate Plan|0 Comments

Advanced Directive for Health Care

Advanced Directive for Health Care

What is an advance directive?

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has made distant end-of-life scenarios suddenly feel less remote. Being faced with a known, widespread illness—one that often leaves people hospitalized apart from loved ones—makes expressing one’s wishes in writing feel more urgent than ever. 

Advance directives are one legal tool used to express those wishes now, taking the pressure off of family members. And while healthcare decisions related to the coronavirus are top of mind for many, an advance directive is really for anyone at any point in life.

What is an advance directive in Georgia?  

An advance directive is a state-specific document that appoints an agent to make health care decisions if you are unable to make them yourself and stating your preferences on the type of care you would like to receive at the end stages of your life. When these end of life care preferences are not dictated, doctors have a range of emergency treatments they draw on to keep patients alive, including the use of:

  • Ventilators
  • CPR
  • Tube feeding or intravenous fluids

How do you draft an advance directive? 

If you don’t already have an advance directive, begin by thinking about what’s most important to you in life and what type of care you’d want to receive. What are your priorities in regard to personal care? Does your faith dictate a certain type of end of life process? You may want to set up a virtual consultation with your family doctor in order to talk about any existing health risks you have. Think about health history and the end-of-life care relatives received. You may also wish to learn more about palliative care or comfort care.

Once you’ve thought through your choices, you should memorialize your wishes in an advance directive for healthcare. A lawyer is not required to execute an advance directive, but consulting with a lawyer will ensure that your advance directive reflects your wishes. After your documents are complete, you may wish to share a copy with your doctor to keep in your file. You’ll also want to speak with family members about your plans. 

Whatever you decide now, your document can be revisited as your values shift, your perspective on life changes or as you face a known disease or condition instead of a theoretical emergency. 

This is a difficult time for everyone right now, filled with stress and anxiety. But it’s also causing many people to think about what matters most to them. End-of-life care is deeply personal. We understand that, and we’re here to help. 

Speak With an Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer

At Nadler Biernath, we’re happy to be able to support families as they navigate this ongoing crisis. We have experience handling all aspects of estate planning, special needs law and elder law. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation (conducted virtually) to discuss how we can help your loved ones. Stay safe and healthy!

By | 2020-06-04T18:18:04+00:00 June 3rd, 2020|Estate Plan|0 Comments

How You Can Help Nursing and Assisted Living Homes During COVID-19

How You Can Help Nursing and Assisted Living Homes During COVID-19

With COVID-19 seriously affecting the country’s nursing home population, many facilities are locked down to visitors, leaving residents without in-person connections to family members and friends. Many residences have also had to cut their schedule of in-house social events—think bridge groups or movie nights—and move meals to room service only. 

Residents who may be feeling worried, lonely or bored need your help, and their hardworking caretakers need your appreciation. Whether you’d like to show support for your loved one’s nursing team or simply remind your community’s elders that they’re not forgotten, we have a few ideas to get you started. 

Send some love

Break out your notecards, stationary and fun markers and start writing. Organizations like Letters of Love accept handwritten notes—one-way, anonymous words of encouragement and love. Their volunteers sort and package the letters before sending them to senior facilities. They also accept donations to help manage the cost of postage. 

Some nursing homes have put out the call for pen pals for residents, aiming to establish longer-term correspondences. Others, like Atlanta’s A.G. Rhodes, feeling overwhelmed by the processing and distribution of letters and cards, are requesting drawings, notes and pictures sent via email. If you’re hoping to send more than a note—like new games, puzzles or unused personal items—check with the facility beforehand to be sure they’re accepting such donations. 

You can also share a video message through organizations like #CareNotCOVID to let residents know you’re thinking of them.

Cater a meal

If you’d like to say thank you to the healthcare heroes caring for Atlanta’s elders, consider catering a staff lunch or dinner. If you have a facility in mind, contact them to find out what their policy is regarding food deliveries. Your thoughtfulness will also do double-duty, helping our hurting restaurant industry stay afloat as well. Also, if you order Girl Scout Cookies, you can donate a box to frontline healthcare workers without paying shipping charges. 

Practice social distancing

While some businesses are beginning to reopen, consider how much you really need to shop, dine out or visit with groups. Residents in nursing homes are at risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, and once a home has a confirmed case, it often spreads rapidly among close-quartered residents. Additionally, nursing home staff members often don’t have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to truly keep them safe. By reducing your own circulation in the community, you help limit the spread.

Most importantly, follow all nursing home restrictions on visitors, mail and donations. While it’s hard to be apart from those we love, it’s helping protect their safety and the staff who care for them.

Speak With an Atlanta Elder Law Lawyer

Planning is more important than ever right now. At Nadler Biernath, we have experience handling all aspects of elder law. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation (conducted virtually) to discuss how we can help your loved ones. 

By | 2020-05-19T15:00:06+00:00 May 18th, 2020|Latest News and Events|0 Comments

Thank You to Budd Terrace’s Healthcare Heroes

Thank You to Budd Terrace’s Healthcare Heroes

Here at Nadler Biernath, we’re saddened by the toll COVID-19 has taken on our seniors. We know that many elders, especially those living in nursing centers, are bearing the brunt of this disease. But we’re also grateful for the skilled staff, including the doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, techs, cooks and environmental services professionals, who are caring for our older loved ones—often putting their own health at risk.

That’s why we wanted to say “thank you” to some of the healthcare heroes working at Budd Terrace at Wesley Woods near Emory. Together with Chris’ Pizza, we catered a meal for 100 staff members on May 8. We hope that it brought them a little break and a chance to recharge during a stressful time. To all of the caregivers, thank you for doing your best to care for Atlanta’s most vulnerable. 

By | 2020-05-18T15:04:42+00:00 May 14th, 2020|Latest News and Events|0 Comments