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Estate Planning:

People often mistakenly believe that if they are not wealthy or do not have
significant assets, they do not need to engage in any “estate planning.” Estate 
Planning is actually essential for each and every person.
The basics of estate planning include a Last Will and Testament, Health Care
Proxy/ Living Will, Power of Attorney, and sometimes a Trust.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT:

Contrary to popular belief, a Last Will and Testament provides you with the ability to direct various different things that may concern you for when after you pass away. For example: Directing how to dispose of your assets. Every person has different wishes on how to distribute their estate. Some people want everything split equally and some wish to give specific personal items or amount of money to different people or organizations.
In your Will you will also decide who should be in charge of your estate- who will you appoint as Executor. If you pass away without Will, you family members will have to decide for themselves who should be appointed by the Court in an Administration proceeding {link to administration}. Unfortunately, this lack of direction is often a recipe for infighting among family members.
Appoint a Trustee/Custodian for your child’s money. If you pass away without a Will and leave a minor child who will inherit, the Court will often appoint a stranger to manage the money for your child. When drafting a Will you can direct who should serve as Trustee/ Custodian of your child’s money should the situation arise.
Appoint a Guardian for minor children. Should you pass way without a Will and leave behind minor children, unless the child has another parent, the custody of the child will be in question. By directing who should care for your child in the event your child’s parents pass away, you are serving your child well.
Save your loved one from having to post bond. If you pass away without a Will and your loved ones are left to file an Administration proceeding the Court will often make him or her file a bond, adding to the level of complication and stress your loved one will already be enduring.

HEALTH CARE PROXY/ LIVING WILL

A Healthcare Proxy is document where you give authority to a trusted individual to make medical decisions for you. People often think being a spouse or a child is enough, but the reality is, doctors will not take significant direction from anyone without a properly executed Healthcare Proxy. An Agent under a Healthcare Proxy is authorized to tell the Doctors what your wishes are regarding various issues and to be your mouthpiece directing your care. 

A Living Will is often described as the direction your agent under a Healthcare Proxy will take. Without a Living Will the agent will use his or her best judgment or follow the direction you have provided to him or her. With a Living Will, you can direct your wishes regarding specifics such as artificial hydration or intubation.

POWER OF ATTORNEY

A Power of Attorney is you giving the authority to an agent to make financial and other non medical decision for you. Powers of Attorney can be limited in scope to provide authority for a specific item or can be broader and provide authority to do anything you need to get done. 

The importance of a Power of Attorney cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, as people age, they may become forgetful or otherwise incapacitated. During that time bills go unpaid, insurance policies lapse and other important matters are neglected. It is therefore important to have a Power of Attorney, to ensure that your financial matters can be continued in the event of your incapacity.

MEDICAID PLANNING

Medicaid eligibility is another area were sadly people are misinformed. The first step toward understanding that you may be eligible is getting informed. Medicaid is in short, government healthcare for those individuals who meet certain income and resource guidelines. There are two general types of Medicaid, Institutional (for nursing home care) and community (for in house homecare services). The eligibility requirements are different for each and each requires a different lens through your particular situation must be examined.

The area our office identifies as the most misinformed is the income eligibility standard. In order to be eligible for Community Medicaid, your monthly income must be about $825 or below. If you were to apply for Community Medicaid and you have a $1000 in income per month, Medicaid would require you to pay the “surplus” to help defray the costs of your care. 

Unfortunately, upon hearing the income eligibility requirements, many people go ahead and say “I’m ineligible, forget it.” Consider something called a Pooled Income Trust. A Pooled Income Trust is a fully Medicaid sanctioned method to protect your monthly income. A Pooled Income Trust is a trust operated by a Not-For-Profit organization that acts like your bank account. Consider your $1000 income means you have $175 in surplus -which you would have to pay to Medicaid - instead, you would deposit it into the Pooled Income Trust and the trust will use that money to pay your bills.
Just as with a Will or a Trust, people often mistakenly believe that because their assets are limited or managing their finances are fairly simple, they do not require these documents. Another one of the services our firm provides is Guardianships (read about Guardianships here){link to guardianships}. Guardianship proceedings become necessary in the event an individual does not have a valid Power of Attorney. For example, in the event an individual does not have a Power of Attorney and they are the victim of a malpractice claim or developed bedsores, or they fall and hurt themselves, they are often entitled to sue to recover money for their injuries. Unfortunately, often times the individual that has been wronged, is unable to or does not have capacity to initial a lawsuit. If the person has a Power of Attorney, the agent appointed may have the power to sue on behalf of the injured. However without an agent appointed under a Power of Attorney, a costly Guardianship proceeding may be necessary.

Let us take on the stress of Estate Administration.

Contact us to see how we can help 
you through this tough time.

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