Estate Planning Secrets for a Blissful Retirement Under the Older Americans Act
Old age is a daunting prospect for most, as leaving work and living a retired lifestyle simply is not compatible with most people’s lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. Old age, however, should not be seen simply as a transition to the end of one’s life, but rather the opportunity for fulfillment and expansion of one’s horizons. In 1965, the Congress passed the Older Americans Act to provide community social services for older people. This act, which has been renewed through the 2024 fiscal year, provides for, among other things, nutrition and social services to the aged and their caregivers, organizes opportunities for civic engagement, and community service employment for lower-income aged Americans. As life expectancy has increased, so has the commitment of the United States to provide for its elderly communities. The reality of estate planning when entering later life should also be as smooth a process as possible, and consulting with an experienced elder planning lawyer will help you to understand the potential benefits retirees and older citizens can receive and the programs they can partake in, such as those provided by the Older Americans Act.
The Older Americans Act
The Administration for Community Living, an organization dedicated to the health and independence of older Americans, is currently seeking recommendations for proposed updates to the regulations of most of its Older Americans Act programs, the most significant set of updates in nearly 30 years. The government of the United States has long sought ways to improve the lives of older Americans, and one of the most significant pieces of legislation it has passed is the Older Americans Act. First passed by Congress in 1965, the act was initially targeted at a lack of community-based social services for aging Americans. The original legislation established grant authority to states for community planning and social projects, research and development projects focused on older Americans, and training for personnel in the field of aging. The act also established the “Administration on Aging” to administer grants and serve as a nucleus for matters concerning older Americans.
Since 1965, technological and medical advances have increased the life expectancy in the United States, which means that more people are able to enjoy their retirements in later years. In response, the Older Americans Act has undergone several reauthorizations and amendments. The most recent reauthorizations, in 2016 and 2020, which will last through the 2024 fiscal year, have provided for a year-long extension for the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, more autonomy for state and local governments regarding the allocation of National Family Caregiver Services to keep older people in their homes, and required the assistant secretary for aging to issues guidance to states on serving Holocaust survivors. These reauthorizations also have provisions for strengthening elder abuse prevention, screening efforts, fall-prevention, and chronic disease self-management programs.
Estate Planning for Older Age
Although old age and retired life have been made easier since the introduction of the Older Americans Act and the expansion of benefits programs, estate planning and asset protection must be a priority for your golden years. An important aspect to consider in planning for later life is Medicaid. As most older adults in the United States are at least partially insured by Medicaid, it is important to understand that eligibility is dependent on, among other things, one’s income and assets. Although estate planning might have the stigma of making one seem old or aging, it is responsible financial practice to plan ahead and ensure that you receive the health coverage you need. To this end, an experienced Medicaid planning lawyer will help you to create the best estate plan that protects your hard-earned assets while also ensuring that you receive the coverage you deserve.
It is important to understand that there are no entitlements with the Older Americans Act because Title III of the act does not create a legal requirement to finance services for individuals. Older Americans eligible for Medicaid benefits and over the age of 60 may receive services under the Older Americans Act, however, Medicaid-funded services often take precedence. Services that cannot be rendered by the Older Americans Act may still be available for Medicaid eligible persons. The intricacy of the social services provided under the Older Americans Act and other federal welfare programs such as Medicaid make having an elder planning attorney ever more important. An experienced attorney will help to determine which benefits and services one can receive and assist one in qualifying for the programs they need.
Old age and retirement should not be seen as an anxiety-inducing or burdensome time, but rather as an opportunity for enjoyment. The older years of Americans have been made easier with the Older Americans Act and Medicaid coverage, but this should not prevent you from engaging in financial planning as soon as possible. Creating a comprehensive estate plan and planning for Medicaid will give you flexibility in planning your finances for your later years and give you the peace of mind to enjoy your retirement and the opportunities for engagement it provides. To speak with New York’s most experienced elder planning attorney, call the Trust and Estate Planning Law Office at (718) 333-2395.