Nicaud & Sunseri Law Firm, LLC
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Making The Complex Understandable

Louisiana Legal Blog

Concerning elder law issues in Louisiana and beyond

There are many nursing homes and assisted living centers in Louisiana, as well as in most other states across the country. While an adult child of an elderly patient would no doubt hope he or she would never have need of an elder law attorney, it pays to know where to find help should a problem ever arise. In a perfect world, every nursing home and assisted living facility would function consistent with the highest safety standards. In reality, it does not always happen that way.

Numerous factors place elders at risk for abuse or nursing negligence. Those who suffer with dementia are particularly at risk because they might not be able to recognize signs of abuse or realize they are being mistreated. The abuse or neglect is not always physical -- it can occur on an emotional, mental or financial level as well.

Special needs trusts can secure the future of a child

When Louisiana parents have a child with special needs, they may be able to provide that child with the services and medical care necessary only with the assistance of certain government programs. However, to qualify for these programs the child can only own assets with a total value under $2,000. A child may become ineligible for that critical assistance if his or her financial worth exceeds that amount, such as if the child receives an inheritance. This is why many parents create special needs trusts for their children who depend on such programs.

A special needs trust becomes the owner of any assets funded to it, so parents and others can leave inheritances that will not jeopardize the child's eligibility for beneficial programs. The trust can be set up to provide for housing costs, clothing, entertainment and other expenses. The child can continue to receive the government benefits, and the income from the trust can supplement that amount.

Unmarried couples are legally individuals

You and your partner have lived together for the last decade. You never got married. Your partner brought it up a few times, but you didn't want to go forward with it. Your own parents got divorced, after all. You saw how the marriage ended. It soured you on the idea and, though you loved your partner, you just did not want to put yourself in that position.

The issue is that now your relationship is ending. You've decided to break up. But this isn't like a college breakup. You're adults with full-time jobs. You've spent 10 years together buying assets and investing in a future. You want to make sure you get back what you legally own. Do you have any rights?

Tips for Louisiana residents for a less tense divorce experience

There is never an outright easy way to end a marriage. However, Louisiana couples who have decided that divorce is their only option may find it less stressful and daunting knowing that there are some ways to make the process more tolerable -- for their own sakes and for the benefit of any children they share. The first word of advice from experts is not to go through things alone -- to make sure a support system of family and friends is in place.

Talking to a therapist about what's happening may also be a good idea since he or she can listen without bias or judgment. Sitting at home wallowing in self-pity doesn't help matters either. Experts say getting out and creating new memories may help to ease the pain of divorce as does getting off the sofa and getting some exercise.

Domestic violence impacts child custody rulings in Louisiana

Divorce is particularly hard on children. It is particularly so when allegations of domestic abuse have been levied by one parent against the other. When it comes to child custody issues in Louisiana, family court judges will always do what is in the best interests of any children involved. As such, they take domestic violence allegations very seriously when deciding who should get custody of the children.

About three million children in the United States are witnesses to domestic abuse every year. The issues has become epidemic in its proportions. Family court judges must decide what is best for a child's well-being and safety when making any decisions about custody, particularly when the child has been in a household where violence has taken place. A judge will ask to see evidence of violence and whether that violence was directed at the child or if the child was adversely affected; whether the child was in danger; the severity and frequency of the violence and whether criminal charges were filed.

Too many estate plans do not have a health care directive

Many people have an estate plan that contains a will and other documentation for handling finances. They often think that this is enough, since those documents generally dictate how to handle a person's estate. However, experts say that far too many estate plans, here in Louisiana and around the country, are missing a key component. About two thirds of estate plans do not have a health care directive. What exactly is a health care directive and why is it so important?

Simply put, a health care directive is a legal document that contains instructions on how to handle certain health care questions for a person. It can outline what to do if the person becomes too ill to make his or her own health care choices or if the person develops dementia. The health care directive can also guide a family or others about what to do with a person's body once he or she has died. Health care directives haven't been used as long as wills or other estate planning documents, which may account for why they are often overlooked.

Finding hidden assets during the divorce process

Often when couples divorce, one spouse is responsible for paying the other. Divorce can bring out the worst in people and in some instances causes the payor of spousal support to be less than honest when it comes to his or her financial picture. Hidden assets have become one of the top issues when it comes to Louisiana couples who have decided to end their marriages.

For a spouse who suspects his or her spouse is hiding assets, looking at tax returns from the last five years may be a good starting point since most people are honest when it comes to reporting to the IRS. Looking at cancelled checks and checking account statements -- and savings accounts -- may also provide some insight. In any case, both spouses have the right to ask to see the financial records of the other during the divorce process.  

How does Medicaid reduce the cost of nursing home care?

When you're growing older, one thing you realize is that nursing home and assisted-living care are all fairly expensive. Someone who is 65 years old in 2019 has close to a 70% chance of needing at least some kind of long-term care, while around 20% of people will need it for five years or longer.

There is no question that nursing home care has the potential to destroy a family's financial security. The costs can range into the thousands each month. One way to offset those costs is through proper Medicare and Medicaid planning.

Banks beef up training to allay financial abuse of seniors

Increased incidents of people taking advantage of seniors has prompted financial institutions to beef up employee training to thwart these incidents. Louisiana seniors and their families might take comfort knowing that more frontline staff in banks across the state and indeed, in the country, are getting additional training to stop the financial abuse of elders. About 90% of all banks train their staff, compared for just more than 70% two years ago.

Some institutions have even designated one or two employees to seniors in particular. These clients -- who may be having problems -- will now have someone to whom they can address questions. Now when banks believe seniors may be victims of fraud, they will make phone calls and meet with people in person. Banks are also offering seminars for seniors and community outreach programs since financial scams are harder to pull off when seniors are educated.

Divorce: What it is and what it is not

There are a number of reasons a couple decides to end a marriage. Although some Louisiana couples may share some of the reasons when making the decision to divorce, it's helpful to know what divorce actually means and what it does not mean. Divorce isn't an end-all for the problems a couple may have faced, so it's important to have realistic expectations about what divorce can accomplish.

Divorce can provide a new start by putting an end to a marriage that wasn't working. Divorce is often looked upon as a last resort when all other avenues have come to a dead end to repair a relationship. It may make things more difficult in the short term, but will help each individual to start fresh and perhaps provide a better living circumstance for any children involved.

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