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Friday, January 29, 2016

Estate Planning: Not Something You Should Put Off

What are the risks of waiting to create an estate plan?

It is a common belief that estate planning is only for the elderly, terminally ill and very wealthy.  However, everyone can benefit from a well-drafted estate plan, regardless of his or her age, health or socioeconomic status. Failing to have an estate plan can expose an individual to a number of risks. While nobody wants to think about death, or the possibility of becoming disabled or incapacitated. Unfortunately, incapacity happens more frequently than people realize.  With people living longer the chances of becoming incapacitated have increased significantly.  Therefore, a well designed estate plan will take this into account.  Without the appropriate estate planning documents, such as a durable power of attorney and advanced medical directives such as a  living will for example an individual’s wishes will not be followed or worse, will be totally unknown. 

Another problem with waiting to create, or totally foregoing, an estate plan, is that it will make it much less likely that the wishes you have relating to after your death will be followed.  Whether you want your assets distributed in a certain way, you want a particular send off or you desire a particular guardian for your children, without an estate plan it is unlikely that these wishes will be fulfilled.  This is because without a will the law of your state will dictate how these matters will be handled.  These laws do not take into account the deceased’s desires.

If you have particular wishes about how your matters relating to the end of your life or the time after your death are handled, it is best to have an estate plan so that your wishes are carried out.  An experienced trusts, estates and elder law attorney can help you put together a comprehensive plan.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Planning for Long-Term Care: An Often Ignored Imperative

What do most Americans need that few have? A sound plan for long-term care.

The majority of Americans will, at some point, find themselves temporarily bed-ridden or disabled because of illness or injury. Some may be unable to care for themselves for an extended period of time. Even the healthiest could find themselves in need of long-term care, particularly in old age.

Unfortunately, a recent survey shows that most people—73% of those questioned—have no awareness of the true cost of long-term care. Even worse, only 22% think they will ever need it. In reality, as many as 70% of today's 65-year olds will need long-term care in the future.

Because they do not appreciate the risk and expense involved, few Americans have made adequate plans, nor have they discussed the issues with a legal or financial advisor. And yet, while conversations about illness and disability are unpleasant, they are essential. It is critical to consider risks well in advance and find a strategy that will work, if and when the time comes.

Some of the options available include:

  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • "Hybrid" products combining a long-term-care insurance with a life insurance policy or annuity
  • Medicaid
  • Self-funding

Long-term care insurance can be costly, and not everyone is eligible to purchase it. Plans may contain exceptions and waiting periods and usually do not cover all expenses. Still, they provide a financial cushion. Hybrid plans may offer more flexibility and accomplish other financial objectives. Either could be a valuable part of a long-term contingency plan.

Medicaid is a way to fund long-term care, but with major disadvantages. Recipients must spend down all assets before Medicaid benefits become available and must give up control over their care. The location and quality of care may not be to their liking.

"Self-funding" is an option many choose—or wind up with for lack of planning. To pay for your care out of your savings, you will need a substantial amount of wealth on tap. You will most likely also need a family member to help with caregiving and coordination of your nursing and medical treatment, unless you hire a professional care manager, whose services can be costly. A family member who assists will have to make large sacrifices of time, potentially jeopardizing his or her own career and financial stability.

The first stage of planning for long-term care is to have a serious discussion with your professional advisors. You can discuss your level of risk, your possible funding solutions, and the steps you need to take now and down the road. A skilled elder law attorney can help you find an approach that ensures your future well-being and protects your assets.

 


Monday, December 21, 2015

Estate Planning With Your Family In Mind

Are there any specific estate planning techniques that will make it easier to keep my money in the family?

The purpose of estate planning is to ensure that your assets go to the people of your choice after you die. It is not surprising that many people want to leave their money to family members.  It is so common that intestacy statutes across the country make this presumption. If you are seeking to keep your money in the family, the best thing you can do is create a comprehensive estate plan.

Components of a Well-Drafted Plan.

Although intestacy laws (the laws that would govern your estate should you die without a will) presume that most people want to leave their assets to members of their family, these laws are not always specific enough to accomplish a person’s goals. These laws designate beneficiaries based on their degree of relation to you and this might not be how you would like your estate to be distributed. Therefore, it is imperative to create a Will. This allows you to be as specific as you would like in your bequests.

A Will is a great way to make arrangements as to how your assets will be distributed, but, beneficiary designations and certain retirement and other financial accounts also make it easy to name who you would like the money in these accounts to go to. In such cases, the money is passed to the intended recipient without the need for probate (the process of validating a Will), which will save your heirs time and money. You should check your designations and keep them up to date. Most attorneys recommend reviewing them after each major life event, such as marriage, death or childbirth.

If you are striving to keep as much money as you can in the family, you should strongly consider establishing a trust. By transferring assets into a trust you can shield them from certain taxes.  This allows you to leave more to your family in the long run. These estate planning tools also offer a great deal of flexibility in how assets will be managed during your lifetime and how your assets will be distributed after your death.

Another technique that allows you to ensure that your family members get your money is simply to gift it to them while you are alive. You are legally allowed to give any one person up to $14,000 a year ($28,000 if your spouse joins in the gift).  This can allow you to spend down your estate so you do not pay taxes and also allows you to see how your money is being spent.

If you are considering estate planning, you need an experienced estate planning attorney by your side.  



Monday, December 21, 2015

Aid and Attendance Benefits for Veterans

Are Veterans and their survivors ever eligible for benefits over and above their VA pension?

Many veterans and their families are unaware that they may be eligible for payments in addition to their monthly pension if they are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person in order to perform everyday tasks. These additional benefits, ranging from $1,100 to $2,800 a month, are only payable to those eligible for military pensions, that is, those who have made the military their career choice.

How does a veteran qualify for A & A Benefits

In order for a veteran to qualify for VA Aid & Attendance (A& A) benefits, the individual's household assets cannot exceed $40,000; if the veteran is married, the couple's assets cannot exceed $80,000. A home and its property, and a personal use automobile, are excluded from these asset amounts.

Many veterans never apply for Aid & Attendance benefits because they feel they will not qualify. An astute estate planning attorney, however, can help them to navigate the bureaucratic waters by assisting them in establishing an irrevocable trust.  Such a trust allows the veteran or spouse to transfer assets so that the asset limit for benefits is maintained.

An irrevocable trust, so named because it can't be amended or revoked, is a very helpful estate planning tool. Such a trust removes property from the estate, providing protection for spouses and other beneficiaries. One great advantage of the irrevocable trust is that, unlike Medicaid, it does not have a long "look back" period. This means that while Medicaid examines 5 years worth of financial transactions to evaluate assets, VA Aid & Attendance only looks back for a very short time.

Nonetheless, the trust document has to be carefully worded so that the beneficiary is not denied A & A just because they are also the beneficiary of a trust.  If a veteran is receiving A & A benefits that cover several hours of home care, for example, but not enough to entirely serve the individual's needs, there has to be special language in the trust allowing the veteran to withdraw sufficient funds to pay for the additional needed hours of care. In situations like these, and in many others associated with Aid & Attendance Benefits, the services of a qualified estate planning attorney are invaluable.


Monday, December 7, 2015

6 Events Which May Require a Change in Your Estate Plan

Creating a Will is not a one-time event. You should review your will periodically, to ensure it is up to date, and make necessary changes if your personal situation, or that of your executor or beneficiaries, has changed. There are a number of life-changing events that require your Will to be revised, including:

Change in Marital Status: If you have gotten married or divorced, it is imperative that you review and modify your Will. With a new marriage, you must determine which assets you want to pass to your new spouse or step-children, and how that may relate to the beneficiary interest of your own children. Following a divorce it is a good practice to revise your Will, to formally remove the ex-spouse as a beneficiary. While you’re at it, you should also change your beneficiary on any life insurance policies, pensions, or retirement accounts. Estate planning is complicated when there are children from multiple marriages, and an attorney can help you ensure everyone is protected, which may include establishing a trust in addition to the revised Will.

Depending on jurisdiction, this may also apply to couples who have established or revoked a registered domestic partnership.

If one of your Will’s beneficiaries experiences a change in marital status, that may also trigger a need to revise your Will.

Births: Upon the birth of a new child, the parents should amend their Wills immediately, to include the names of the guardians who will care for the child if both parents die. Also, parents or grandparents may wish to modify the distribution of assets provided in their Wills, to include the new addition to the family.

Deaths or Incapacitation: If any of the named executors or beneficiaries of a Will, or the named guardians for your children, pass away or become incapacitated, your Will should be revised accordingly.

Change in Assets: Your Will may need to be changed if the value of your assets has significantly increased or decreased, or if you dispose of an asset. You may want to modify the distribution of other assets in your estate, to account for the changed value or disposition of the asset.

Change in Employment: A change in the amount and/or source of income means your Will should be examined to see if any changes must be made to that document. Retirement or changing jobs could entail moving to another state, thus subjecting your estate to the laws of that state when you die. If the change in income modifies your investing, saving or spending habits, it may be time to review your Will and make sure the distribution to your beneficiaries will be as you intended.

Changes in Probate or Tax Laws: Wills should be drafted to maximize tax benefits, and to ensure the decedent’s wishes are carried out. If the laws regarding taxation of the estate, distribution of assets, or provisions for minor children have changed, you should have your Will reviewed by an estate planning attorney to ensure your family is fully protected and your wishes will be fully carried out.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beware of “Simple” Estate Plans

“I just need a simple will.”  It’s a phrase estate planning attorneys hear practically every other day.   From the client’s perspective, there’s no reason to do anything complicated, especially if it might lead to higher legal fees.  Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “simple” estate is all too often rife with complications that, if not addressed during the planning process, can create a nightmare for you and your heirs at some point in the future.  


Read more . . .


Friday, November 20, 2015

Welcome to Our Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog

Welcome to our new website. We will be posting here with new articles and updates on the latest estate planning and elder law information and tips.

 


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575 Lynnhaven Parkway, Suite 301 , Virginia Beach, VA 23452 | Phone: 757-215-4051
5425 Discovery Park Blvd., Suite 101, Williamsburg, VA 23188 | Phone: 757-215-4051