A Family Affair


Bruce the Blog







By Bruce Apar



As families gather to renew acquaintances for the holiday season this Thanksgiving and beyond, conversations typically will turn to celebratory milestones like engagements and births, as well as catching up on the relative health of close relatives, especially the most senior family members.

Family gatherings are an especially opportune time to gently broach sensitive topics like advance care planning. It’s to be wholly expected these days that people take to the internet to seek answers for all kinds of matters, health not least among them. The problem with that is the abundance of inaccurate information disseminated online that can lead you astray.

Take Medicaid benefits as they apply to nursing homes and to in-home care — the very different sets of rules that govern each are written in a way that it is best interpreted and explained to you by an elder-law attorney.

Another example: the differences between a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust, which are extremely important to understand before making a decision on which to choose. For starters, a revocable trust means the trustee has access to all of the assets of the trust.

Family caregivers also need to fully understand what Power of Attorney (POA) means and what the designated person is authorized to approve and to do.

A less-familiar designation is Statutory Gifts Rider (SGR). According to elder-law attorney Salvatore M. Di Costanzo — who practices throughout the lower Hudson Valley under the banner of “Plan Today for Tomorrow”, — “Many clients are unaware than an SGR exists,” adding that the person charged with that authority can “enter into transactions that are considered ‘changes in beneficial interest,’ such as the power to make gifts in excess of $500, the power to transfer assets to trusts, and the power to change beneficiary designations.”

Mr. Di Costanzo, who also is a certified public accountant, cites Spousal Refusal as another area that easily can confound people who try to figure it out on their own or by going online. It’s a protective measure that is triggered, he says, when a healthy spouse refuses to contribute his or her income and assets to the cost of caring for an ill spouse. By doing so, that income cannot be used as a disqualifying factor in Medicaid eligibility for the sick spouse. Spousal Refusal, he says, “has the greatest impact when a spouse requires nursing home care.”

For those who want to learn more about how elder-law attorneys can help with money-saving techniques for advance care planning, Mr. Di Costanzo will host a free “Fireside Chat” at his northern Westchester office on December 6, from 6:00 pm -7:30 pm. Space is limited and reservations can be made on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call (914) 245-2440 or email:


Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at or (914) 275-6887.






November 23, 2016 |

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