Reporting Back From PAELA and the 2019 Elder Law Institute

Elder Law

Suppose you had the opportunity to sit around a huge table along with about 70 or 80 of the brightest people in your field and ask and answer questions regarding issues that have you all scratching your heads as to the best way to go. At the same conference you can also listen to  people who are in the forefront of making and implementing the laws and regulations you  will be working with for the next year or years.

Follow this experience then with two more days of intensive explanation and review of new developments in your field – not just one choice each hour but up to four and move from one to another covering just about every area of practice.  After three days of listening, talking, absorbing, discussing, you return to your office energized to  start over with newly found ways to assist your clients.  If you get the picture, this is what attendance at the Pennsylvania Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA) Semi-Annual Conference followed by two days of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute Elder Law Institute is like. It is exhausting, energizing, stimulating and a great opportunity to reconnect with people in your field.  This is what I did last week from Wednesday, July 17 through Friday, July 19, 2019.  If you tried to reach me at the office during those days, I was in Harrisburg attending at these events.

So what do we talk about? Contrary to some popular belief, elder law is not limited to Medicaid or individuals who qualify for benefits although that is included.  Subjects discussed at PAELA included whether and how to handle IRA’s and other tax qualified accounts, limits on powers of attorney, applications for at-home care and results, and Pennsylvania’s move to managed care for seniors, among others.

The Elder Law Institute began with an annual review both of changes in Pennsylvania’s administrative practices and procedures for changeover to managed care and case law decisions followed by breakout sessions on many other subjects.  Here are some of them.

CCRC’s and Admission Contracts.  CCRC’s are what we commonly refer to simply as retirement communities.  They have different levels of care – independent, personal care and skilled.  Maris Grove, Tel Hai and Ware Presbyterian Village would be examples in Chester County.

Update on Guardianships.  Pennsylvania’s Court rules on Guardianships have changed dramatically and many of the changes just took effect in June, 2019.

Special Needs Trusts Tax Issues.  Special Needs Trusts have complicated IRS tax rules related to them.  The session was intended to highlight some of these. 

Dealing with IRA’s and Pensions:  The Choices, Tax Consequences and Timing.  This session along with another titled Use of Trusts in Retirement Planning covered distribution rules but also potential changes that have passed the House in Congress.  Possible changes under the SECURE Act were discussed by me in the Daily Local News in a prior column and include allowing those over age 70 ½ to contribute to traditional IRA’s but also limiting “stretch” IRA’s for beneficiaries.

VA Pension and Aid and Attendance: Planning After the October, 2018 Final Regulations.  I had previously thought planning for VA benefits was all but a thing in the past following the new VA regulations.  Based on current information it seems the Aid & Attendance benefit for seniors who served during wartime is more viable than I expected.

Practical Issues and Solutions for Enrolling in Home and Community Based Services.  We discussed, among other things, Pennsylvania’s new program, Community Health Choices.

Top 9 Pitfalls to Avoid When Drafting a Trust.  The session was what it held itself out to be – a summary of things that could go wrong along with case law to support the conclusions.

Disabled Adults – Advanced Issues.  One focus among others in this session was on how to assist disabled adults to return to work.  There are some alternatives and programs that can assist.  Believe it or not it can be difficult for adults to return to work partially because they could lose the safety net of health insurance either through Medicare or Medicaid or both.

Special Needs Trust Administration.  It is one thing to write a Trust and another to be able to administer it properly.  This session went into the details.


About the Author Janet Colliton

Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.

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