Support Guiding Lights Caregiver Support Center While Shopping!

Guiding Lights Caregiver Support Center has been accepted in the Macy’s Shop for a Cause Event!  This is a very simple fundraiser that will help Guiding Lights continue their work supporting caregivers!

You can use your exclusive shopping pass at ANY Macy’s store.  Perfect for back to school and fall clothing shopping.

Guiding Lights hopes to sell 400 passes.  Each pass is $5.00.  Once payment is received you will receive a shopping pass via email during the 2nd week in August from Guiding Lights.

The Shop For a Cause offer is an all-day shopping pass for 25% off regular, sale and clearance merchandise throughout the store as well as 10% off furniture, mattresses and area rugs.  The pass is valid in all Macy’s stores on Saturday August 24, 2013.

Register here!

Wiggen Law Group PLLC
3500 Westgate Drive, Suite 701 DurhamNC27707 USA 
 • 919-680-0000

Choosing an Investment Advisor for a Special Needs Trust

Trustees of special needs trusts have a duty to properly manage the funds in their care. However, most trustees, especially non-professional ones, are not sophisticated investors and they should not be directly managing the investment of large sums of money. This does not mean that the trustee of a special needs trust should simply toss the trust funds into a savings account and be done with it. On the contrary, a trustee needs to grow the trust principal as best he can, keeping in mind the current and future needs of the trust’s beneficiary. In many cases, this means that the trustee should hire a professional investment adviser.
There are countless investment professionals out there to choose from — so many, in fact, that the choice of an investment adviser can quickly become overwhelming. The Web site of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) offers several tips for beginning investors who are seeking to hire an investment professional. According to the SEC, investors should know exactly what services they are looking for prior to interviewing advisers, and they should find out what services their potential investment adviser provides, how much those services cost, and how and when the adviser gets paid.
These threshold questions are important, but the SEC also recommends asking each potential adviser a battery of specific questions, including questions about their experience, education and employment history, whether the adviser is limited to recommending a certain set of products and whether the adviser is registered with the SEC or with a state licensing agency. Trustees should also understand the various types of fee structures utilized by investment advisers, including a percentage fee based on the total assets under management, an hourly system, a fixed fee or a commission based on the products sold.
Trustees of special needs trusts have slightly different needs than typical investors, and, if possible, they should work with advisers who are flexible and who already have experience investing the funds of special needs trusts. Trustees should also be aware that hiring a poor financial adviser could lead to a breach-of-fiduciary duty claim against the trustee, so more detailed background checks and due diligence are required than if the trustee were an individual investor.
Asking friends, relatives and other professionals — including especially estate planning attorneys — to recommend an adviser is always a good idea.

Nurse in Orange County Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter

A nurse at Britthaven of Chapel Hill plead guilty to drugging Alzheimer’s patients to keep them quiet during her shift.  Several patients had respiratory problems and one patient died as a result of the morphine.  What a truly sad story and hard to believe it happened so close to home.  Click here to see the full story.

Should You Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

Prenuptial agreements are often misrepresented as negatives.  There is a perception that spouses use these “unfair” agreements in a bitter divorce, to the detriment of one spouse.As a result, many people strongly object to any discussion related to a prenuptial agreement. However, prenuptial agreements can be a prudent planning device for any marriage.


Some of the most common objections to a prenuptial agreement include the following:

 Prenuptial Agreements are Unfair

In order to be upheld by the court, prenuptial agreements must be fair and equitable in the eyes of the law. Prenups can assign a monetary worth to non-monetary activities (for stay-at-home spouses, for example). This protects spouses who may have sacrificed a career to raise families.

Prenuptial Agreements Means Spouses Don’t Trust Each Other

A prenuptial agreement can only be created in a trusting atmosphere where both parties disclose all their assets and debts. This is one of the most intimate discussions a couple can have and it requires that the couple decide how to manage finances after marriage.  Having an honest financial discussion prior to marriage can often avoid future arguments and can help you have a long and happy marriage.

If We Divorce, We Will Be Reasonable
Even the most loving marriages can end poorly. A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can help avoid prolonged and expensive court room battles.

We Are Not Going to Get Divorced

Sadly, statistics show that this idea is not true for many couples.  No one can see the future.  It is wise to plan for the “worst-case scenario.” You can also mention that prenuptial agreements define what happens to martial assets in the event of death, as well as divorce.

A Prenuptial Agreement Will Always Be on My Mind

More likely than not, the opposite is true. A prenuptial agreement can  provide peace of mind for both parties in a marriage. With decisions about assets and support made in advance, everyone can relax knowing that your rights (and assets) are protected.

Social Security Benefits to Increase for First Time in Three Years

After receiving no cost-of-living increase (COLA) for two years running, the nation’s Social Security recipients, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries, will get a 3.6 percent increase in payments in 2012.

Starting in January 2012, the average monthly Social Security payment for a worker with disabilities will rise from $1,072 to $1,111 a month. The federal SSI payment standard will increase to $698 a month for an individual and $1,048 a month for a couple. The SSI student exclusion limit (the amount of earned income that an SSI beneficiary who regularly attends school may exclude from her SSI benefit calculation) will remain the same at $1,700 a month, with a yearly cap of $6,840.

Although the SSI resource allowance also remains the same at $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple, the amount of money that a person can earn without engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (which triggers a process that can result in the loss of SSDI or SSI benefits) is going to increase to $1,010 a month for a person who is not blind and $1,690 for a person who is blind. The Trial Work Period limit of $720 a month stays the same.

For a complete list of the 2012 Social Security changes, go to:

Veterans’ Compensation Gets a Boost!

The Senate recently passed bill S. 864: Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2011, effective December 1, 2011, for benefits payable in January of 2012.

The Act provides for a 3.6% COLA increase in compensation for veterans with service connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans.

You can read the text of this bill here.

Considering Care Management for Your Child With Special Needs

When establishing a special needs trust (SNT) for your child, it’s important to consider how much care the child may need in the future and who will oversee any arrangements related to that care. In many cases, either a family member or the SNT trustee can assume responsibility for care management. But when care needs are significant or family members cannot be available, parents may wish to include instructions in the SNT documentation for the trustee to retain a professional care manager. This can help ensure that care decisions will be handled professionally and consistently throughout the beneficiary’s life while allowing the trustee to focus on other responsibilities.

What Is a Care Manager?

A care manager is a professional with the expertise necessary to develop, implement and monitor a plan for all aspects of an individual’s care. Often trained in nursing or social work, care managers are available primarily through private care management companies, many of which also deliver services to the elderly. Generally, a care manager will be knowledgeable about everything from health care and rehabilitation options to residential alternatives. Care managers also should be familiar with the alternatives for funding an individual’s care — both private resources and public benefits.

What Does a Care Manager Do?

A care manager coordinates, monitors and advocates for services to help ensure that an individual with special needs can maintain the greatest possible degree of independence, safety and comfort at the most reasonable cost. Working closely with family members as well as financial advisors, attorneys, health care providers, the SNT trustee and others involved in the individuals care, the care manager may:

  • Assess the individual’s needs based on a visit to the home and one-on-one interviews.
  • Develop, or help the family develop, a care plan covering living arrangements, medical and therapeutic needs, social preferences, educational opportunities and other relevant issues.
  • Implement the plan. This may include coordinating physical therapy, medical care, social services and equipment needs; improving the home’s safety and comfort through repairs or modifications; and hiring home health aides or training family caregivers.
  • Work with the SNT trustee to ensure that private and public resources are used appropriately, helping to preserve trust assets and avoid improper distributions that could jeopardize the beneficiary’s eligibility for benefits.
  • Consider housing alternatives and oversee placement, handling such details as admissions paperwork and moving arrangements.
  • Monitor care in the home or at residential facilities and recommend changes as necessary.

The services offered by care managers may vary, as will their credentials and certifications. For example, some care managers are certified by sources such as the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (

Food Drive Friday, September 9th for Low-Income Seniors

Durham AARP celebrates Community Service Day with a food drive for low-income seniors on Friday, September 9.

Friday, September 9 is Community Service Day in every city in the US.  The goal of each chapter is to collect food for low-income seniors.

In Durham, there are approximately 2,356 seniors age 60 and above whose monthly income is $906 or less.  Often these seniors are forced to skip meals or subsist on inexpensive, poor quality food with little nutritional value.

The Durham Center for Senior Life already has a food pantry for low-income seniors, but it is in need of restocking.  AARP Chapter 189 members will be at Kroger Foods Store, 3825 S. Roxboro / MLK Pkway on Friday, September 9. Customers shopping at the store will be asked to purchase an additional food item for seniors.  Suggested items are: canned vegetables and fruits, soups, tuna, peanut butter, canned meats, pasta, brown rice, spaghetti sauce, dried beans, cereals, and juices  All items will be given to the Durham Center for Senior Life.

AARP is also encouraging individuals, groups, non-profits, churches, synagogues, civic and social groups to collect food for this event.  Items may be brought to the Durham Center for Senior Life, 406 Rigsbee Avenue , 8:30 am until 5 pm weekdays.

For more information about the food drive, please contact Helen Featherson, AARP President at (919) 598-1551 or at


Pet Therapy Benefits Seniors

Did you know that seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less often than those who don’t? In a study of 100 Medicare patients, even the most highly stressed dog owners had a 21 percent lower level of physician contact than non-owners.

Medication costs dropped from an average of $3.80 per patient per day to $1.18 per patient per day when nursing homes allowed for pets to be introduced into patient’s environments. Nursing homes in New York, Missouri and Texas were all used in the study.

I was first introduced to pet therapy in college.  I volunteered with an organization that took dogs from the local shelter and brought them to a nearby assisted living facility.  It was so much fun to sit with the seniors and listen to them tell me their life stories while we played with the dogs.  It was also a great way to get the dogs out of the shelter for the day.  It was what you call a win-win!  

Today I took our dog Kaya to the Adult Day Health Center at the Durham Center for Senior Life.  I was a little nervous at first because Kaya can be a barker, but she was a perfect angel!  The seniors took turns holding her in their lap and petting her.  My only regret was that it was just me and Kaya.  I wish we had more dogs with us so all of the seniors would have the opportunity to pet a dog.  I’ll be recruiting my friends with dogs to join me next time!  

Please enjoy these pictures of Kaya with the seniors and if you’d like to learn more about the Adult Day Health program at the Durham Center For Senior Life, please click here.  It is a wonderful program that helps seniors and their families!


Medicaid Update 2011

Dori Wiggen will be one of the presenters at the Medicaid Update 2011 Continuing Education Seminar on June 14th at the Double Tree Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Topics include:

  1. State and Federal Medicaid Laws Update

  2. Qualifying Clients for Medicaid and Medicare Benefits

  3. Planning Tips and Traps Post DRA

  4. Understanding Medicare Parts A Through D, VA Veteran’s Benefits and the Impact on Medicaid Benefits

  5. Limitations on Medicare, Long-Term Insurance and HMO Coverage

  6. The Medicaid Application

  7. Medicaid Estate Recovery

If you would like more information on this seminar or would like to attend, please click here.