Changes for Better or Worse – New Laws Hit Seniors Hard

New laws, rules and court opinions are coming out faster than Washington gossip, and there’s no end in sight.

The new Fiduciary Rule has been phased in for brokers and insurance agents, who now must give advice based on their client’s interests and not on the agents’ own financial interests. The effective date was June 9, 2017, although the full rule (including the enforcement provision) didn’t take effect until January 1, 2018. Expect this one to be modified or kicked out entirely – the Labor Department is still reviewing it and there are new bills pending in both the House and the Senate.

The IRS has graciously extended the deadline for estates to file for a crucial tax benefit – portability. This involves the federal estate tax exemption, which is now a whopping $5.49 million per individual. The election allows the surviving spouse to receive the unused portion of the partner’s exemption. The old rule provided that the estate had to file a return to request the exemption just months after the death date. The new rule allows a catch up period for estates of people who died from 2011 to January 2, 2016 – the executor has until January 2, 2018 to file the return and elect portability. Going forward, estates of people who die after January 2, 2016 have 2 years from the date of death to file.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has thrown out a Kentucky law that forbid arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. Arbitration, it appears, is such a fundamental concept that it cannot be the subject of discrimination by a state. CMS had already placed its own nursing home arbitration ban on hold, and has released a new proposed rule that would prevent it from ever going into effect.

On the Texas front, as of June 12th the Governor had signed 601 bills into law and allowed another 46 bills to become law without signature. While the fallout won’t be complete until the Special Session is history, there are a few new laws that are noteworthy for seniors. A hospital must allow a patient to designate a caregiver to receive after-care instruction and must furnish both with a discharge plan. Financial institutions have to report suspected financial exploitation of elders and are allowed to put a temporary hold on transactions. There is a 7- year statute of limitations on felony indictments for exploitation of an elderly individual. The Statutory Durable Power of Attorney form was changed and a procedure for removing the agent established. A beneficiary designation is allowed for motor vehicles. Assisted Living facilities have new safety requirements. Texas adopted a revised uniform act for digital assets. Health benefit plans have to disclose their prescription drug coverage. Texas has tasked a commission with developing rules for on-line notarization of documents.

And the most controversial new Texas law? It’s no contest: The Texas Veterans Commission is required to transfer the painting “The Spirit of the Alamo Lives On” to the General Land Office.

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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.