Helping Families Navigate the Financial Challenges of Age Transitions

Month: February 2020

5 Reasons I Regret Filing A Will Contest

When a family member has died, it can add insult to injury to learn that you were cut out of the will. Contesting the will is likely an initial thought. We talked to people who have filed will contests, and came up with the top 5 reasons I regret filing a will contest.  The reasons are:

  1. I was not honest about my relationship with the decedent.
  2. A will contest is more stressful than I realized.
  3. I was not realistic about decedent’s mental and physical condition.
  4. I did not have a clear idea of what I was fighting over.
  5. I did not realize how much a will contest would cost.

For a breakdown of each of these five reasons, follow the source below.

Source: 5 Reasons I Regret Filing A Will Contest | Probate Stars

Deciding which sibling deals with “nursing home stuff.”

Very few of us want to intrude in our parents’ lives. It is only when we begin to notice certain “things” about Mom and Dad that we begin to consider stepping in. Problems such as memory loss, dementia, diminished sight or hearing, or irrational investment or spending decisions, are signs it’s time to intervene.  Plus, none of us is immortal. As your parents reach their 80’s, it is time to make sure their financial house is in order.  My observation is that loved ones who are quick to provide care and support for their aging parents are often hesitant to get involved with Mom and Dad’s financial affairs. You just don’t stick your nose into other people’s business, especially your parents’ business. The aging parent often contributes to this reluctance. Opening up this part of their life is difficult; an admission that maybe they aren’t as sharp as they used to be.

Once you’ve made the decision to get more involved, several questions must be answered:

  1. What needs to be done? What is the appropriate level of care and/or type of living arrangement? The answer depends on both medical and financial considerations. Often this decision is made after consultation with your parent’s physician or a geriatric care manager.
  2. Who will be in charge? Unless you are an only child, in which case the answer is you, this task frequently falls to the sibling who lives closest to the area where your parent resides. Sometimes, you and your siblings will decide to share the responsibilities. In other instances, the sibling with special skills or aptitudes may be chosen. Sometimes, the job goes to the sibling who feels the most obligated. It’s a tough, emotionally draining job, so whoever is in charge will need lots of support.

For one Lansing, Michigan family, the adult children of local couple Ron and Lydia Barnes stated Monday that it was pretty clear which sibling would be handling all the nursing home stuff. “When the day comes, Sarah is obviously the one who will explain to Mom and Dad that it’s time for them to pack up and move into a retirement facility,” said Andy Barnes, 35, referring to his older sister, whom he identified as the one who calls the most often and has “even driven them to the rheumatologist once or twice.”

“It’s a Sarah thing, for sure. She can handle those things easily enough: finding the right place, signing them up, dropping them off, stopping by regularly, making sure the bill gets paid on time. I actually think she’d kind of like doing it.” Sources confirmed that Ron and Lydia are hoping for Sarah as well, since the prospect of depending on one of their other children for care “absolutely terrifies [them].”

Source: Pretty Obvious Which Sibling Going To Have To Deal With All The Nursing Home Stuff

Not So Green Acres

In this episode of The Case Files, I profile a 2010 Texas case involving a daughter’s misappropriation of her deceased father’s trust funds as well as her aging mother’s personal assets. The characters from the 1960s sitcom Green Acres provide a little humor to an otherwise serious situation. Enjoy and learn!

Sweethearts Forever. Then came Alzheimer’s and a tragic ending to their love story.

It’s a suitable Valentine story that is as saccharine sweet as it is painfully tragic. Richard and Alma Shaver were childhood friends and high school sweethearts who eloped at eighteen. They were described as soulmates who were madly in love with one another. Richard became an engineer, they raised three daughters, Alma led Girl Scout troops and became the go-to person in the neighborhood for emergency contact.

The symbol for Alzheimer’s

A few years back, Alma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and the silent thief lay siege to Alma’s mind. She went from forgetting recently completed tasks to not recognizing her children, and ultimately not recognizing Richard. It was more than he could take.

On a warm day last June, while Alma was sleeping, Richard went upstairs to their bedroom and shot his beloved wife dead. Then he lay down beside her and shot himself.

It was not the ending that his family had hoped for, but they console themselves that they are not having to endure a murder trial. They held a memorial service and celebrated the happier lives that they had known with their parents. Perhaps this family’s tragedy and other less-tragic but equally painful deaths caused by this disease will lead to more open discussions on death with dignity laws.

On this day for lovers, embrace your partner, and tell him or her that you will be there for them if they are visited by the silent thief, but that you will not participate in a tragic end to their life or yours. It only perpetuates the pain for those we may leave behind.

Source (2020). Sweethearts Forever. Then Came Alzheimer’s, Murder and Suicide.. [online] Available at:

Free Booklet on Understanding Annuities

Annuities were once simpler financial instruments than they are today. Issued by insurance companies, annuities offered savers a guaranteed interest that compounded tax free until the funds were needed at a later date. Now, they are highly complex financial instruments with a variety of features, interest options, charges, and penalties.

Many financial caregivers will discover that their parents own one or several annuity contracts and it will be incumbent on them to understand these complex financial contracts in order to best serve their parents in a fiduciary capacity. The flip-booklet below, Understanding Annuities, is one of several publications free to Wealth and Honor subscribers. It is written to help financial caregivers understand how annuities are structured, how they work, how they grow, and how they are taxed. Hopefully it will also foster a more constructive conversation with other professionals who are part of your team.

  • Immediate annuities
  • Deferred annuities
  • Index annuities
  • Variable annuities
  • How annuities are taxed and more.

Agency Care vs Private Employment

According to research from the AARP[1], a clear majority of people would like to stay in their own home as they age – even if they require day-to-day assistance with activities of daily living. With a rapidly increasing senior population, demand for quality in-home care is beginning to skyrocket.

Most at home care has traditionally been provided by care agencies that provide basic custodial care to individuals needing assistance with activities of daily living (ADL) or who have cognitive impairment. However, recent regulations are changing the cost structure for home care agencies, especially for certain types of cases where care is needed full-time such as with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions involving cognitive decline.

It is not unusual for care to be provided 24/7 to people with these conditions and the expenses can quickly become unmanageable, especially due to new regulations that can trigger overtime pay requirements for home care agencies who employ the same caregiver for more than 40 hours a week. At the end of 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) repealed two Wage & Hour Law exemptions that had been in place since 1974 – the Companion Care exemption and the Live-In exemption. The repeals impacted only third-party employers of direct care workers (i.e. staffing agencies), no longer allowing them to pay workers less than minimum wage and forcing them to adhere to overtime standards.

As a result, many home care agencies now handle high-hour cases differently. They either get the family to accept a rotation of many different caregivers or pay for the associated overtime with a major increase in their hourly rate. In most states, families are exempt from overtime requirements if the caregiver is a live-in employee or qualifies as a companion. This allows care recipients to get the care continuity they need without the additional cost. For 24/7 type care, this overtime exemption can reduce the cost by as much as 50%, or tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Household Employment Basics

Hiring a senior caregiver privately means the worker is now a household employee. And just like any other employment situation, payroll, tax and labor laws must be followed. There are three primary wage reporting responsibilities families have for their caregiver:

  1. Withhold payroll taxes from the caregiver each pay period. Normally, this includes Social Security & Medicare (FICA) taxes, as well as federal and state income taxes. Some states are different and you can consult this state-by-state guide for more information.
  2. Remit household employment taxes. These generally consist of FICA taxes as well as federal and state unemployment insurance taxes. Again, some states have additional taxes, so it’s important to consult the state-by-state guide beforehand.
  3. File federal and state employment tax returns. These are due throughout the year – rather than just at tax time – and go to the IRS and state tax agencies.

In addition, there are several employment law matters that need to be considered at the time of hire. Depending on the state, a family may be responsible for providing things like a written employment agreement/contract, detailed pay stubs, paid time off/paid sick leave, workers’ comp insurance, etc. Be sure to consult with an employment law attorney in your state to learn what your state requires.

Even after adding in payroll taxes, insurance and all other employer-related expenses, the savings can be staggering. The figure below compares the cost of Agency Care vs Private Employment. Hourly agency costs start at $20/hour for less than full time but increase to $22/hour for full-time and $25/hour for high-hour care (80 hours or more per week) due to the pass-through of overtime wage costs.

privately employment vs staffing agency cost comparison[2]

The good news is there are household employment specialists that take full accountability for all or most of the employer responsibilities so families are free of paperwork and risk – enabling them to focus on caring for their loved one. If funds for the care of a loved one are held in a trust, Argent can serve as trustee and handle these requirements as part of its role as trustee.

There is no one size fits all solution to caring for our older adult population. Home care agencies, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities and skilled nursing facilities all have a role to play. And, now with the recent regulatory changes, so does privately-employed in-home care – especially for those patients suffering from cognitive conditions who need many hours of consistent care.


Thanks to Tom Breedlove, Director of HomePay for this information. Tom brings more than 30 years of business experience, including more than a decade as Director at Breedlove & Associates – now known as HomePay – the nation’s leading household employment specialist. Co-author of The Household Employer’s Financial, Legal & HR Guide, Tom has led the firm’s education and outreach efforts on this complex topic. His work has helped HomePay become the featured expert on dozens of TV and radio shows as well as countless business, consumer and trade publications. Learn more at

[1]The United States of Aging Survey” 2012, AARP.

[2] Source: “Cost of Care Survey 2016”

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