Trusts and Estates Blog

Understanding Special Needs Trusts

Disabled Child with Cerebral PalsySpecial Needs Trusts are trusts designed specifically for people with disabilities. The disability could be from birth, an accident or from addiction. One of the benefits of designating a special needs trust is that the assets of the trust are not directly accessible by the beneficiary, and therefore not counted when accessing financial ability for public benefits. Special needs trusts can be created with the disabled person’s own money, or they can be created with other people’s money, such as parents leaving money to disabled children upon the parents’ passing.

The special needs trust can be used for a myriad of things, including purchasing a home for the beneficiary under the right circumstances, special medical services not covered by medical insurance (therapy, wheelchairs, handicap accessible vans, and medical beds), recreational trips, and any services or items that would enhance the beneficiary’s life.

A few requirements must be met before establishing a Special Needs Trust:

–The trustee must have absolute control. The beneficiary (or the parents who are passing down in inheritance) must give control of the assets and distribution of the assets to the trustee, and no beneficiary or someone acting on the beneficiary’s behalf can demand the assets.

–The beneficiary cannot revoke or amend the trust. The beneficiary can have no say in the trust so as to keep the distance between the assets and the beneficiary. If the beneficiary has control over any part of the assets it will be counted as part of his available resources and his public benefits could be revoked.

–The trustee cannot give cash to the beneficiary. If the beneficiary is receiving Social Security insurance, the trustee cannot pay the beneficiary in cash. If so, the beneficiary would either lose his public benefits completely or lose part of it based on how much cash was received.

A special needs trust can be a sound way to supplement a reduced income during time of disability, but be sure to meet the requirements of the trust or else your public benefits can be cut or even eliminated. Seek the counsel of a law professional when determining whether or not to establish such a trust.

If you would like more information concerning special needs trusts, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their website at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com. EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Are You Beginning to Care for an Elderly Loved One? Part 3 of 3

Eldery mother with doctor - rXSmallIn the last article in our series on how to make the transition into caring for your elderly loved ones, let’s look at how to involve others in the process. First, you need to be realistic. You can’t care for your loved one alone without giving up parts of your life. But truth is, you don’t have to make as many sacrifices as you probably believe. Here are a few steps to take in assuring the best for both you and your loved one.

–Get support from family and friends. Perhaps the most important aspect of beginning elder care is setting up a support network for both you and your loved one. Be inquisitive with doctors, communicate with pharmacists, and consult others who’ve made the transition. You’re not the first person to make this transition, so allow others to guide you. Look to others for help rather than feeling the pressure of doing everything on your own.

–Talk to your elderly loved one. Granted, not all seniors are of the mental capacity to make sound decisions about their future, but if your senior is able, involve them in the process of elder care. Give them a voice, heed their advice, and listen to their preferences. By involving them, you will gain their trust and cooperation, and will better know how to care for them.

–Create a caregiving team. Tying in with the idea that you don’t have to be the only one providing care for your loved one, create a team of loved ones, friends, or medical professionals who will be involved in the caregiving process. Assign tasks to them if they are able to contribute (financial recording, transportation to medical appointments, pharmacy runs, monthly outings, etc.). Also make sure all members of the caregiving team are provided with as much information about the loved one that is available. Perhaps plan monthly meetings or weekly email updates to keep the line of communication open.

–Keep updated notes. Whenever meeting with a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, care professional, insurance agent, government office, or advocacy office, write down the date of the meeting and document all advice or instructions given by the professional. Make special note of the person you spoke to, contact information, and the topic of the conversation. Maintain separate files for separate note topics—financial, legal, medical, and so on.

–Never assume. Although it sounds pessimistic, never assume the professional you speak to will make good on his/her promises. Too often busyness overcomes them and details get overlooked. Set a time to follow-up on action items, and keep track of who is doing what for your loved one. The more you become involved in the affairs of your loved one, the more you’ll be able to assure they receive the best care possible.

–Don’t overlook yourself. We end this series of articles with the same suggestion we began with—take time for yourself. Amidst the new responsibilities, pressures, and duties you’ll encounter as a caregiver, you’ll be tempted to put your own needs and desires aside. Don’t work yourself so much that you neglect yourself. You still deserve time alone, doing what you love, being with others, and enjoying a hobby or vacation. Think of it this way: your loved one will receive better care as you care for yourself. Don’t overlook yourself, but create weekly and monthly times of rejuvenation away for yourself. Failing to heed this advice can result in two people needing care – your loved one and yourself. Don’t fall into this trap of thinking you can’t take a break – you must if you want to be the best caregiver you can be.

If you would like more information concerning caring for the elderly, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their website at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com. EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for Elder Law solutions through wills and revocable trusts. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Are You Beginning to Care for an Elderly Loved One? Part 2 of 3

Eldery mother with grown daughter pushing wheelchairMany family members find themselves transitioning from child to parent as they take on the responsibility of caring for parents or elderly loved ones. While the transition is made out of love, fear and apprehension can surround the decision. Rather than worrying about the move, take time to fully prepare yourself for the journey ahead by following the few steps outlined in this article.

In part 1 of this article, we listed some basic steps for starting out in the elder care world, including what materials to gather, how to keep them classified, and who to involve. In part 2, let’s look at the more detailed matters of insurance, declining health, and community outreach.

–Review your loved one’s health insurance. If you will be caring for your loved one, be sure to know the status of their health insurance. What plan do they have? What is covered? Are they eligible for Medicare benefits? Do they have any coverage through a private pension package or retirement plan?

–Explore financial resources. What does your loved one have set aside for long-term financial planning? Many elders have a retirement plan or pension that includes planning for medical care. Also, explore the possibility of a legal document that provides a percent of their estate for medical needs. Look for any real estate, savings accounts, IRAs, stocks and bonds, Social Security income, government income, CDs, annuities, and investments. Talk to your loved one about financial support for their care.

–Check into community resources. Many communities offer classes, adult day care services, and senior centers where older loved ones can interact. Utilizing these centers will not only allow your loved one some interaction with others, but will allow you some time to yourself. Also, look into meal delivery, transportation support, and health agencies. Look to community programs to support the care you are giving your loved one.

–Collect information on long-term care. Even if you plan to care for your loved one until the time of their passing, begin collecting information on assisted living and long-term care. Circumstances may change and you might need that information years down the road, and gathering material now will help you make the best decision possible for your loved one.

–Watch for signs of degradation. While loved ones growing older brings many changes in their lives, watch for tell-tale signs of problems. Loss of sight, hearing loss, memory loss, confusion, incontinence, and depression are not normal and should be treated medically. Don’t allow these symptoms to be written off as normalcy.

–Consider a care manager. Care managers are professionals trained to assist in the care of elderly loved ones. They can asses the condition of your loved one, make care recommendations, and share invaluable guidance on how you can better care for your loved one. To find one, consult the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

If you would like more information concerning caring for the elderly, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their website at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com. EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for Elder Law solutions through wills and revocable trusts. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Are You Beginning to Care for an Elderly Loved One? Part 1 of 3

Eldery mother with grown daughter sitting XSmallYour loved one is growing older, and more you are realizing the need for extra care for your elder. What do you do? Can you afford to care for them yourself or to hire a professional? Many questions surround the transition of caring for an elderly loved one. If you decide to take on the responsibility of caring for them yourself, you will face many questions on what to do. To help you make that transition easier, here is a checklist of things to do:

–Take a breath. While you care for your loved one through the rest of their life, you’ll be devoting most of your time and energy to them. Take time to focus on you, starting at the beginning of the transition. Take some time away, pamper yourself, and make sure you’re ready for such a transition.

–Collection information about the elder. Take on the role of investigator and find out all you can about the elder, including date of birth, Social Security number, recent medical visits, prescriptions being taken, primary care physician, and health insurance information. Gather as much information as you can. You’ll need it at some time during your care of them.

–Make a list of vital information. The information you collected in step 2 can easily be lost. To prevent that, create either a physical file or a virtual file on your computer of all important information. Password protect it, lock it in a filing cabinet, and do whatever necessary to keep it private. Include the following in the file:
–Names, phone numbers, and addresses of all doctors, dentists, pharmacies, and hospitals the elder visits.
–Copies of health insurance policies, insurance cards, and medicare cards.
–A list of all medication (prescription or over the counter—even vitamins) that the elder takes, dosage amounts, and dosage instructions. Take this list with you to all medical appointments to avoid dangerous medicine mixtures.
–Date of recent medical visits and exams (procedures done, tests conducted, etc.)
–Complete health history of the elder, including major health concerns of immediate family members of the elder.

–Make use of online resources. You don’t have to go through this transition alone. Look up some elder care advice from others online and use programs designed to help you transition into elder care more smoothly. One resource is LifeLedger that guides you through the elder care process.

–Research, research, research. If your loved one is suffering from a certain medical condition, research it. Learn all you can about the condition like warning signs to watch for, irritants of the condition, prescription drugs that help, research being done on the condition, and medicines that cannot be taken. Be thorough in your research and keep a close watch on how the condition affects the elder.

–Speak to your loved one’s lawyer. Find out what legal preparations your loved on has made. Ask if they’ve set up a loving will, a trust, or some sort of legal document. See if they’ve made arrangements for medical care (financial allowances) and who is legally responsible for their future.

–Call a family meeting. The more family members you involve, the better (granted they are honest and trust-worthy). Let other family members have input on decisions and ask for their help in care. If possible, delegate tasks to other members (handling of finances, doctors’ appointments, outings with the loved one, etc.) The more people you have involved, the easier it will be for you and the more your family members will feel part of the transition.

If you would like more information concerning caring for the elderly, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their website at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com. EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for Elder Law solutions through wills and revocable trusts. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Five Steps to Estate Planning

Young family walking on a beachEstate planning is a very beneficial step for all of us to take in our lives. In order to begin your planning for the future, think of these five steps to get you started.

1. Understand Your Family. Before you can begin allocating assets and dividing your estate, you need to sit down and plan who you will leave items to. Think of children, living parents, a spouse, former spouse, children from previous marriages, extended family members, close friends, or business associates. Who will be receiving a piece of your estate, even if it is only one or two items? Have you promised Uncle Bill your collection of baseball cards? Does your first child have dibs on your antique car?

Also consider who will assume control of your estate should you become impaired. Think long and hard about who you can trust in your family, and also who is smart enough to make the correct decisions when you cannot. Your brother might be trustworthy, but is he wise in decision-making? Keep these things in mind when considering who to give power over your estate.

2. Review Existing Documents. Have you already created a will, trust, or estate planning document? Review the document and consider what needs to be updated. Have you since been slated for an inheritance? Make sure to review and update what sections need updating of any existing documents you have.

3. Compile a List of Assets. This step may take some time. First list all tangible items you possess—home(s), car(s), furniture, antique items, and collectibles you may have. Next think of any intangible items you may have—time shares, 401(k), retirement plans, coming inheritances, stocks and bonds, and financial investments. Last, list your monetary possessions—bank accounts and amount of money in them. Make sure your list is complete and detailed.

4. Develop a Plan. With help from an estate lawyer, plan who will take control of your estate, whether to develop a will or living trust, who will execute the will, who will make financial and medical decisions for you, how and when your assets will be distributed, and so on. Your estate lawyer knows what questions need to be answered and can guide you through this step of the process.

5. Plan for the possibility of Medi-Cal Benefits. Again, your estate lawyer can help answer any questions you have about applying for Medi-Cal, but the benefits of this service is something you should consider. In the event that you require professional medical assistance or are moved into a nursing home, Medi-Cal can help offset the cost of treatments.

Preparing for your future doesn’t have to be complicated. Rather than fearing a long process of planning, follow the above steps and employ the help of an experienced, qualified estate lawyer to guide you.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their website at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com. EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for estate planning solutions through wills and revocable trusts. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Special Power of Attorney vs. a General Financial Power of Attorney

male in white shirt completing a blank formPower of attorney is a term used often in the world of elder law and financial planning. Although a power of attorney isn’t something everyone will utilize, it is important to understand the difference between and benefits of special power of attorney compared to a general financial power of attorney.

Dictionary.com defines a financial power of attorney as “a legal document giving one person (called an ‘agent’ or ‘attorney-in-fact’) the power to act for another person (the principal). The agent can have broad legal authority or limited authority to make legal decisions about the principal’s property and finance. The power of attorney is frequently used in the event of a principal’s illness or disability, or when the principal can’t be present to sign necessary legal documents for financial transactions.”

On the other hand, a special power of attorney is defined as “a power of attorney authorizing the agent to carry out a particular business transaction for the principal.”

A general financial power of attorney gives all power of your estate and financial decisions to a trusted individual. It is wise to create a power of attorney along with your will or trust, even if you never use it. A special power of attorney, though, only takes authority in specific cases, such as a business transaction.

For example, let’s say you are in the process of purchasing a home but can’t sign all the real estate papers because you purchased a non-refundable European vacation a year ago. Assigning a special power of attorney would allow the agent to sign the papers for you.

Providing for a special power of attorney can be very beneficial and a wise financial tool to utilize, but you must set clear parameters of the duties of the agent. Clearly define who the agent is, what they are to do, and when their duties cease.

If you would like more information concerning powers of attorney, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their website at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com. EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Planning for the Worst (Why does your car have air bags?)

familywithdogNo one wants to think of the “what-ifs” in life. Worrying about the future never helped anyone, but planning for the future is something every person should think about. Especially as an elderly person, planning becomes a vital preface to assure you and your loved ones will be taken care of in the case of any medical emergency.

Consider this situation: Betty, a 70-year-old lady was stuck with the task of caring for her family’s finances when her husband, the long-time financier, suffered a stroke that left him impaired. She was confused, frustrated, and fearful. She had never been taught how to care for their finances and suddenly found herself in uncharted waters.

Those circumstances happen all too often. Rather than waiting for a medical emergency to begin preparations, take time now to make arrangements for the day when you can’t handle your own financial or legal matters. Here are a few ways to plan for that time of your life:

Gather important documents. While it’s nearly impossible to prepare for every emergency situation, gathering vital documents and keeping them in a secure location will help you point people to them if you are impaired. Documents like your birth certificate, Social Security card, bank statements, tax records, and a document of passwords and account numbers. Here are some other documents you should consider gathering:

• birthplace and birth date
• education and military records
• names of employers and dates of employment
• full legal name
• legal residence
• location of living will
• location(s) of birth, death, marriage, divorce, and citizenship, and adoption certificates
• prescribed medications and other regularly taken vitamins, medications, and supplements
• group memberships and awards received
• names and phone numbers of close friends, spouse, children, relatives, attorney, financial advisor, doctors, and religious contacts
• Social Security number
• Financial Records
• copy of most recent tax return
• credit and debit card names and numbers
• insurance information (life, health, long-term care, home, car) with policy numbers and agents’ names and phone numbers
• investment income (stocks, bonds, property) and stockbrokers’ names and phone numbers
• liabilities, including property tax (what is owed, to whom, when payments are due)
• location of most recently updated will with an original signature
• location of original deed of trust for home and car title and registration
• location of safe deposit box and key
• mortgages and debts (when and how they’re paid)
• names of your bank(s) and account number(s) (checking, savings, credit union)
• Social Security and Medicare information; sources of income and assets (retirement funds, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest, etc.)

Keep these items in a home safe, bank deposit box, or let your lawyer store them for you.

Keep a trusted person involved. Having the documents gathered and in one place is step one, but it does not good if no one knows where the items are. Find a trustworthy friend, family member, or even your lawyer to tell of the location of the items should anything happen. You don’t have to divulge your private information to them; simply let them know the location and how to retrieve the documents.

Make legal preparations. Certain legal documents can help you allocate power of your estate, medical decisions, and legal issues to a trusted person before you lose the ability to make such decisions yourself. Talk to your lawyer about setting up a living will (make arrangements for yourself ahead of time) or a durable power of attorney (appoint someone to make the decisions for you).

While medical emergencies can be a fearful time, make sure that your loved ones aren’t burdened with caring for your estate without direction. Begin planning for such a situation today.

If you would like more information concerning Veterans Benefits, Medi-Cal, or estate planning, visit www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com today. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for VA benefits, elder law, estate planning and related issues. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Helping Veterans Pay for Long Term Care

Fed Benefits for Veterans bookThere are currently over 25 million veterans alive in the United States. There are over 9 million surviving spouses of veterans currently living in the United States. Many of these veterans and surviving spouses are receiving long term care or will need some type of long term care in the near future, and there are funds available from the Veterans Administration (”VA”) to help pay for that care. Unfortunately, many of those who are eligible have no idea that any type of benefits exist for them or that an attorney can help them become eligible.

Benefits Available. There are three types of benefits available that provide a monthly cash payment to veterans who have long term health care needs. This article discusses aid and attendance.

Pension with Aid and Attendance. The highest monthly benefit is available when a wartime veteran or surviving spouse requires the assistance of another person to perform activities of daily living, is blind or nearly so, or is a patient in a nursing home. This benefit, often referred to simply as “Aid and Attendance” is the most widely known and talked-about benefit as it offers the highest possible monthly payment. An unmarried veteran can receive up to $1644 per month, a married veteran can receive up to $1949 per month, and a surviving spouse can receive up to $1056 per month (with additional payments available if dependent children are present in the home).

Prerequisites to Benefits

Wartime Service. As noted above, a veteran must first meet certain service and discharge requirements before being considered for any type of pension benefit. A veteran must have served 90 days of active duty with at least one day beginning or ending during a period of war. After September 1, 1980, the active duty requirement increases to 180 days. In addition, the veteran must have been discharged under circumstances other than dishonorable.

Disability. To qualify for any type of pension benefit, a claimant must also be 65 or older or be permanently and totally disabled. A claimant is the individual filing for benefits –

    either a veteran or surviving spouse.

Permanent and total disability includes a claimant who is:
• In a nursing home;
• Determined disabled by the Social Security Administration;
• Unemployable and reasonably certain to continue so throughout life; or
• Suffering from a disability that makes it impossible for the average person to stay gainfully employed.

Asset and Income Requirements. The financial eligibility requirements of any pension benefit address a claimant’s net worth and income. A married veteran and spouse should have no more than $80,000 in countable assets (less for a single veteran or surviving spouse), which includes retirement assets but excludes a home and vehicle. However, the $80,000 limit is a guideline only – it is not a rule set by the VA. The VA looks at a claimant’s total net worth, life expectancy, income and medical expenses to determine whether the veteran or surviving spouse is entitled to special monthly pension benefits.

A veteran or surviving spouse must have Income for VA Purposes (”IVAP”) that is less than the benefit for which he or she is applying. IVAP is calculated by taking a claimant’s gross income from all sources less countable medical expenses. Countable medical expenses are recurring out-of-pocket medical expenses that can be expected to continue throughout a claimant’s lifetime. If a claimant’s IVAP is equal to or greater than the annual benefit amount, the veteran or surviving spouse is not eligible for benefits.

Does the Claimant Require the Aid and Attendance of Another? If a claimant can show, through medical evidence provided by a primary care physician or facility, that the claimant requires the aid and attendance of another person to perform activities of daily living, that veteran or surviving spouse may qualify for an additional special monthly pension commonly referred to as aid and attendance pension benefits.

The VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:
• Requiring the aid of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing or undressing;
• Being blind or nearly blind; or
• Being a patient in a nursing home.

Qualification. The VA looks at a claimant’s total net worth, life expectancy, and income and expenses to determine whether the claimant should qualify for special monthly pension benefits. Unlike Medi-Cal, there is no look-back period and no penalty for giving assets away. However, one must use caution when considering a gifting strategy to qualify a veteran or surviving spouse for special monthly pension benefits as this will cause a period of ineligibility for Medi-Cal which could be as long as five years. Other Medi-Cal planning strategies may apply when trying to qualify a veteran or surviving spouse for special pension with aid and attendance.

For more information visit the website of the Estate Planning Specialists of Thompson|Von Tungeln, P.C., at
www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com

Dad Has a New Friend and He Just Changed his Will

old man marrying young womanOne of the biggest fears family members have surrounding their aging elders is that of a new “friend” convincing them to get a new will or trust – especially after their spouse is gone. A new caregiver, new friend, or recent love interest sadly poses the risk of a change in a loved one’s will. How can you be sure your loved one is not pressured into changing will beneficiaries? If they have changed their will recently, how can you keep them from making a pressured decision?

As people age, many times their mental abilities age as well. They may not have the wisdom and discernment in making decision that they once had, and they may be more willing to trust strangers. Sadly, some people take advantage of such elderly people, causing them to sign over estates and benefits to people they hardly know. As a loved one, you want to do all you can to make sure your family member isn’t pressured into changing their will. That’s where a conservatorship can come into play.

Dictionary.com defines conservatorship as “a circumstance in which the court declares an individual unable to take care of legal matters and appoints another individual, known as a conservator, to do so.” If your loved one is unable to make sound decisions, taking control of their will or appointing a trustworthy person to do so prevents scam and fraud.

Many courts do all they can to keep the wills true to the original intentions of the estate-holder. If you believe your loved one has been pressured into changing their will, gathering a few items of evidence will help you present your case before a judge.

Witnesses. Find people who have interacted with your loved one that can testify of their state of mind. Nurses, doctors, friends, bank tellers, salon staffers, or whoever interacts with your family member on a regular basis. Have them testify of the elder’s state of mind at the time the original will was written.

Medical Records. Perhaps the most convincing of evidences comes from your loved one’s medical records. Did doctors notice a decline in mental abilities? Are there notes of a decline in reasoning skills? Were they on any medication whose side effect was decreased mental awareness? Search the elder’s medical file at the time of the amended will for any signs of mental instability.

Evidence of Relationship. Another influence on the court’s decision in a conservatorship case is the evidence of the relationships between the former beneficiary and the new beneficiary. If the new beneficiary is someone your loved one has known for only a short period of time, judges are more likely to trust the original will that benefits a family member or long-time friend.

You don’t have to be stuck with a pressured change in your loved one’s will. Make sure that any changes or amendments come from a true desire to change the will and not a pressured idea during a weakened state of mind.

Cautionary Note: Think long and hard before seeking a conservatorship for a loved one. A conservatorship is a drastic step that should always be a last resort. Courts are hesitant to grant conservatorships absent solid proof of a person’s inability to care for themselves. And if your request for a conservatorship is denied, you can count on being removed from the life of the proposed conservatee.

If you would like more information concerning Veterans Benefits, Medi-Cal, or estate planning, visit www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com today. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for VA benefits, elder law, estate planning and related issues. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Estate Planning and Elder Law

Grandmother reading a book to her children and parents in living-roomPerhaps one of the most rewarding careers in the legal fields comes in assisting elderly people plan for the latter years of their lives. Those working in elder law are able to assist people as they transition their lives and plan for the future of their lives, estates, and possessions.

Although many times accomplished by the same lawyer, notice the difference between estate planning and elder law.

Estate planning—The overall planning of a person’s wealth, including the preparation of a will and the planning of taxes after the individual’s death. (dictionary.com)

Elder law—Planning for disability to get the persons you want to handle your affairs and to protect your assets from being depleted for long-term care. (Michael Ettinger, Esq.)

Everyone needs to plan for their future by preparing a will to allocate the assets of an estate, and also by preparing for the possibility of mental and physical impairment. Yet in our world, elders face several challenges in planning for the future.

Avoiding court dealings. Those who fail to prepare for their future will either face court hearings to designate assets or their loved ones will have to endure legal hearings. Preparing a trust or will before an emergency happens will help elders avoid court dealings.

Designating a caretaker. Who can you trust enough to carry out the directions of your will? Or who will take care of you in the event you are incapacitated? Since a revocable living trust takes effect during your lifetime, you can designate who will care for you and your estate while you are still alive.

Reducing high taxes. The ever-changing tax rates the government has placed on estates has many elderly people worried their estate will go to nothing more than paying government taxes. Proper planning, though, can reduce the number of taxes on your estate through methods such as two-trust plans for couples, revocable living wills, and other legal measures.

Too many people put off estate planning and elder law, but a wise person plans for their future before circumstances happen that take the power out of their hands. If you wish to talk to one of our lawyers about planning for your future, contact our offices today.

If you would like more information concerning Elder Law and estate planning, visit www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com today. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for elder law, estate planning and related issues. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

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