What is Estate Planning?
An estate plan is more than just a will. In fact, it isn’t only about your death. Most people think of themselves as either alive and well and taking care of business, or dead. Many of our clients experience a short or long term period somewhere in between those two conditions when they become seriously ill, suffer a loss of mobility, or are diagnosed with dementia. In those cases, no one will be able to act on your behalf without legal authority. Therefore, we advise that everyone aged 18 and over have a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney. Many people also sign a Living Will to make their intentions known about artificial means of life support, etc. an additional tool available to you when creating an estate plan is to create a trust to avoid the need for probate. The privacy and efficiency of a trust appeals to many of our clients.
What exactly is Probate?
Probate is the court process used to administer a deceased person’s estate. This process is governed by state law. The decedent’s property and assets are gathered and accounted for, debts and taxes (if any) are paid, and the remaining property, assets and cash are distributed to the heirs specified in the Will (or according to the law of intestate succession if there is no valid Will). The probate court authorizes an executor or administrator to carry out this process under the supervision of the court.
With proper planning, your estate can avoid probate. If probate is necessary, we can assist you with the process.
What Is Elder Law?
Elder law includes a variety of legal issues that affect people as they age. Our laws and regulations continue to become more complex. As we work with seniors and their families, we address the laws that may have an impact on a given situation to avoid future problems. Elder law encompasses many different fields of law, including:
- Preservation/transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when one spouse enters a nursing home
- Medicare claims and appeals
- Social Security and disability claims and appeals
- Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues
- Tax planning
- Disability planning, including use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts, “living wills” for financial management and health care decisions, and other means of delegating management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity
- Access to health care in a managed care environment
- Conservatorships and guardianships
- Estate planning, including planning for the management of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death through the use of trusts, wills, and other planning documents
- Probate and administration of estates
- Administration and management of trusts
- Long-term care placements in nursing home and life-care communities
- Nursing home issues, including questions of patients’ rights and nursing home quality
- Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases
- Housing issues, including discrimination and home equity conversions
- Age discrimination in employment
- Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits, and pension benefits
- Health law
- Mental health law
Although we do not specialize in every one of these areas, we are happy to provide you with referrals to assist you with these issues.