give away tax free in 2018

After staying the same for five years, the amount you can give away to any one individual in a particular year without reporting the gift will increase in 2018. The annual gift tax exclusion for 2018 is rising from $14,000 to $15,000. This means that any person who gives away $15,000 or less to any one individual…

Medicare Launches Hospice Compare Website

Patients looking for hospice care can now get help from Medicare’s website. The agency’s new Hospice Compare site allows patients to evaluate hospice providers according to several criteria. The site is a good start, but there is room for improvement, experts say. Medicare’s comprehensive hospice benefit covers any care that is reasonable and necessary for easing…

You may be afraid of losing your home if you have to enter a nursing home and apply for Medicaid. While this fear is well-founded, transferring the home to your children is usually not the best way to protect it. Although you generally do not have to sell your home in order to qualify for…

The announcement of the 2018 Medicare premium is good news for some beneficiaries and bad news for many others. The good news is that the standard monthly Part B premium, which about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries pay, will again be $134 next year, unchanged from 2017. But most Medicare recipients pay a lower premium because they have been protected from any increase in premiums when Social Security benefits remain stagnant, as has been the case for the last several years. This year, that premium has averaged $109 a month, but due to the 2 percent Social Security increase for 2018, the premiums of these formerly protected beneficiaries could rise significantly. An estimated 42 percent of these beneficiaries will pay the full monthly premium of $134 due to the increase in their Social Security benefit. The rest will pay less than $134 because the increase in their Social Security benefit will not be large enough to cover the full Part B premium increase. The average premium for these beneficiaries will jump from $109 to $130 a month, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). So, in other words, Medicare beneficiaries who have been protected from a premium increase in past years will see their premiums go up, while those who have been unprotected in recent years will pay the same. Beneficiaries who have been unprotected from premium rises in the past few years include those enrolled in Medicare but who are not yet receiving Social Security, new Medicare beneficiaries, seniors earning more than $85,000 a year, and “dual eligibles” who receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Philip Moeller, author of Get What’s Yours for Medicare, offers a handy way to figure out what your Part B change will be: “Subtract your current Part B premium from $134. Then multiply your current monthly Social Security benefit by 2 percent. Your 2018 Part B premium change should be the smaller of these two numbers.” The Part B deductible will remain at $183 in 2018, although the Part A deductible will go up by $24, to $1,340. For beneficiaries receiving skilled care in a nursing home, Medicare's coinsurance for days 21-100 will inch up from $164.50 to $167.50. Medicare coverage ends after day 100. Here are all the new Medicare payment figures: Part B premium for protected beneficiaries: Average of $130/month Part B premium for those not protected: $134 (unchanged) Part B deductible: $183 (unchanged) Part A deductible: $1,340 (was $1,316) Co-payment for hospital stay days 61-90: $335/day (was $329) Co-payment for hospital stay days 91 and beyond: $670/day (was $658) Skilled nursing facility co-payment, days 21-100: $167.50/day (was $164) So-called "Medigap" policies can cover some of these costs. Premiums for higher-income beneficiaries will remain the same in 2018 as they were in 2017: Individuals with annual incomes between $85,000 and $107,000 and married couples with annual incomes between $170,000 and $214,000 will pay a monthly premium of $187.50 (unchanged). Individuals with annual incomes between $107,000 and $160,000 and married couples with annual incomes between $214,000 and $320,000 will pay a monthly premium of $267.90 (unchanged). Individuals with annual incomes between $160,000 and $214,000 and married couples with annual incomes between $320,000 and $428,000 will pay a monthly premium of $348.30 (unchanged). Individuals with annual incomes of $214,000 or more and married couples with annual incomes of $428,000 or more will pay a monthly premium of $428.60 (unchanged). Rates differ for beneficiaries who are married but file a separate tax return from their spouse. Those with incomes greater than $85,000 will pay a monthly premium of $428.60. The Social Security Administration uses the income reported two years ago to determine a Part B beneficiary's premiums. So the income reported on a beneficiary's 2016 tax return is used to determine whether the beneficiary must pay a higher monthly Part B premium in 2018. Income is calculated by taking a beneficiary's adjusted gross income and adding back in some normally excluded income, such as tax-exempt interest, U.S. savings bond interest used to pay tuition, and certain income from foreign sources. This is called modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). If a beneficiary's MAGI decreased significantly in the past two years, she may request that information from more recent years be used to calculate the premium. You can also request to reverse a surcharge if your income changes. Those who enroll in Medicare Advantage plans may have different cost-sharing arrangements. CMS estimates that the Medicare Advantage average monthly premium will decrease by $1.91 (about 6 percent) in 2018, from an average of $31.91 in 2017 to $30 in 2018. For Medicare’s press release announcing the new premium and deductible amounts, click here. For Medicare's "Medicare costs at a glance," click here.

The announcement of the 2018 Medicare premium is good news for some beneficiaries and bad news for many others.  The good news is that the standard monthly Part B premium, which about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries pay, will again be $134 next year, unchanged from 2017. But most Medicare recipients pay a lower premium because they…

Loved One Passes Away

Whether your spouse has just passed away or you have lost your mom or dad, the emotional trauma of losing a loved one often comes with a bewildering array of financial and legal issues demanding attention. It can be difficult enough for family members to handle the emotional trauma of a death, let alone taking the steps…

Abuses in the Guardianship System

Serious problems with the public guardianship system in the United States can lead to elder abuse, according to an in-depth article in The New Yorker titled “How the Elderly Lose their Rights.” Court-appointed guardians can take control of an elderly person’s finances and life and become wealthy while doing so. One expert interviewed describes the guardianship system as “a morass,…

Pay Your Debts

The main purpose of a will is to direct where your assets will go after you die, but it can also be used to instruct your heirs how to pay your debts. While generally heirs cannot inherit debt, debt can reduce what they receive. Spelling out how debt should be paid can help your heirs….

Social Security Beneficiaries

In 2018, Social Security recipients will get their largest cost of living increase in benefits since 2012, but the additional income will likely be largely eaten up by higher Medicare Part B premiums. Cost of living increases are tied to the consumer price index, and an upturn in inflation rates and gas prices means recipients…

Nursing Home Savings

The recent tragedy in which 12 Florida nursing home residents died when the facility lost power during Hurricane Irma is causing government officials to rethink disaster planning. In response to the deaths, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced a new emergency rule, requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state to have generators capable of maintaining comfortable…

social security savings

What happens if you are a high-income Medicare beneficiary who is paying a surcharge on your premiums and then your income changes? If your circumstances change, you can reverse those surcharges. Higher-income Medicare beneficiaries (individuals who earn more than $85,000) pay higher Part B and prescription drug benefit premiums than lower-income Medicare beneficiaries. The extra amount the…

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