Medicare to Now Cover End-of-Life Care Sessions

end-of-life care sessions, end-of-life care, DuPage County Estate Planning AttorneyOn January 1, 2016, Medicare will begin covering the medical costs for patients who wish to participate in end-of-life counseling sessions. Many medical personnel already discuss these subjects with patients, however, they do not receive any reimbursement.

Under the new coverage, physicians and nurse practitioners, as well as other health care providers, will now receive payment for the time they spend discussing end-of-life options with patients.

A report issued in 2014 by the Institute of Medicine, "Dying in America," touted the importance of providing patients with the opportunity to discuss what life saving measures they do or do not want taken in the event that decision has to be made, as well as other end-of-life care options. The report found that many patients suffer through invasive treatments instead of receiving more comfort care, mainly because they never have end-of-life care discussions with their physicians, or even their families.

Medicare came up with the proposal, which was supported by Congress, as well as more than 50 organizations, including AARP and the American Medical Association (AMA).

A patient can have a counseling session either during his or her regular wellness checkup or during a separate appointment. Patients are encouraged to have these discussions with their doctors when they are healthy, as well as if they are struggling with a life-threatening illness.

The Institute's report also concluded that people may have different decisions depending on where they are in life. For example, a healthy person may choose extraordinary measures to be taken if he or she is in an accident, but do not feel the same way if he or she is facing a terminal illness such as cancer.

Once a person has decided what end-of-life care he or she wants, it is also important to decide who should legally oversee any medical or financial decisions that need to be made if the individual become too ill or incapacitated to make those decisions. A health care power of attorney and a property power of attorney will ensure that the person or people you wish to handle those decisions will be the one(s) making them.

If you need help in drafting powers of attorney, contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney to assist you. Contact the law firm of Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC, at 630-665-2500 today.


The Benefits of 529 Savings Plan for Estate Planning

In light of the cost of college tuition and other associated expenses, it is never too early to start your children's or grandchildren’s college fund. In fact, one option for savings—529 college savings plans—can actually offer estate planning benefits, as well.

The 529 savings plan debuted in 1996 as a way to set up an educational savings plan without having to pay federal taxes on any interest that is earned by the account. The plan gets its name from Section 529 of the IRS tax code.

There are two different types of plans. The first is the college savings plan. Like other types of financial savings plans, the funds that are deposited in this type of account are typically invested in bond mutual funds, stock mutual funds, money market funds, and other portfolio investments. These funds can later be used at any college or university. It is important to note that these funds are not federally insured or guaranteed by the state.

In the majority of states, you do not have to be a resident of the plan you invest in, nor does your child have to attend school in that state either. For example, a person can live in California, invest in New Hampshire's plan, but their child ultimately decides to attend school in Virginia.

The second type of plan is pre-paid tuition. With this type of plan, a person can pay future tuition costs, and some plans even allow upfront payments for room and board costs. These plans typically have a state residency requirement to participate and are usually guaranteed by the state.

Illinois currently has three 529 savings plans. The state also has a prepaid tuition program available. However, that program is only open to residents of Illinois.

When it comes to estate planning benefits, grandparents can set up 529 savings plans in their grandchild's name. These funds are then removed from taxable estate funds, yet the grandparents still maintain full control of the funds, as well as withdraw the funds at any time. There is a 10 percent penalty for an early withdrawal.

If you would like more information regarding 529 savings plans, or have any other estate planning needs, please contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today. Contact the law firm of Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC, at 630-665-2500.


Recent Changes for Estate Tax Returns Announced

estate tax returns, DuPage County Estate Planning AttorneyA recent statute passed by Congress and signed by the President, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, contains a provision concerning estates which are required to file estate tax returns and imposes new reporting requirements. The law went into effect on July 1 and it only applies to estate tax returns due on or after July 31.

According to the new law, the estate tax return must report, separately, to the IRS, and to each individual beneficiary of the estate, the estate tax value of any property the beneficiary is to receive. These statements must be provided to the IRS and any estate beneficiaries within 30 days of the estate tax return due date. For example, if an estate has a return due on December 1, the reporting must be provided by December 31.

The responsibility for this reporting falls to the executor of the estate. Information which should be provided in the statement includes the value of each property which is being reported, as well as any other information the IRS may require because of the new law.

Beneficiaries are also affected by the new law. Any tax reporting they are required, in regard to the inherited property, must be consistent with prior reporting provided by the estate tax returns.

The purpose of the new requirements is to make sure there is consistent estate and income tax reporting in an effort to ensure government loss of revenue. If there is an underpayment of any tax paid by the estate or the beneficiary because of underreporting, the party will be subject to a 20 percent penalty.

In other changes recently announced by the IRS, the agency will no longer issue estate tax closing letters unless specifically requested. In the past, a closing letter would be issued to an estate within four to six months of the return being filed. However, for returns filed on or after June 1, a request from the executor will need to be made. Still, the IRS asks the request not be made for at least four months after the return has been filed.

Estate planning and tax questions can be complicated and confusing. Contact a qualified DuPage County estate planning attorney to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding your estate plans.