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Asset Protection

About Asset Protection Plans

About Asset Protection Plans


With the economy slowly plugging along and credit remaining tight, asset protection is still a hot topic. So what is asset protection, and how can you make an asset protection plan that will work for you and your family?


Asset Protection

Asset protection means keeping your property safe from being taken by someone who wins a lawsuit against you. It can range from a lawsuit related to a negligent act that you performed, such as causing a car accident, to a lawsuit related to the foreclosure of property for which you have stopped paying the mortgage.

How can you protect your assets from lawsuits? It is achieved through the process of asset protection planning, which means taking assets that are subject to creditors’ claims, called nonexempt assets, and repositioning them as assets that are out of the reach of creditors’ claims, called exempt assets.

Asset protection planning cannot begin when a judgment creditor is already on the horizon. Why? Because each state has laws that protect a judgment creditor against people who transfer their assets out of their names with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud a creditor. In these situations, a court will see right through these “fraudulent” transfers and simply order that the transfers are reversed, and the assets turned over to pay the creditor.1 Instead, asset protection planning must begin long before there is any sign of a lawsuit. Aside from this, to put together a comprehensive asset protection plan you will need to integrate two important goals:

  • Your short term and long term financial goals
  • Your estate planning goals.


Financial Goals

In examining your short term and long term financial goals, you will learn about your current and future sources of income, how much money you will need to retire, and how much will be left over to pass on to your heirs through your estate plan after you die. It will then lead you to a detailed financial plan. Once your financial goals have been examined, and your financial plan is in place, you can review your current assets to determine if they are exempt from creditors and, if they are not, then reposition them to become exempt. A financial plan will also allow you to plan for positioning assets that you intend to acquire in the future to be protected from potential creditors.

Once you have your financial plan in place, you will know your current net worth and an estimate of how much wealth you can expect to accumulate in the future. From this information, you will be able to create a comprehensive estate plan. This plan will address issues such as who will take care of you and your assets if you become mentally incapacitated, who will take care of your minor children if you die unexpectedly, and who will manage your assets and take care of your spouse or other family members after you die. Your estate plan can also encompass asset protection planning through the use of advanced estate-planning techniques such as family limited liability companies and irrevocable trusts for you, your spouse, and your children or other beneficiaries.

Financial and Estate Planning Results

Once you have integrated your financial goals with your estate planning goals and positioned or repositioned your assets to be protected from creditors, you will have a comprehensive asset protection plan in place. Then, if a creditor holding a judgment against you does show up at your front door, you will be in a better position to negotiate a quick settlement for pennies on the dollar instead of having all of your hard-earned money on the table.

Most Common Mistake

As I warned above, if you try to start asset protection planning after a lawsuit has been filed against you, or even if before the lawsuit is filed you anticipate it being filed, then you will be exposing any asset protection planning that you attempt to do to attacks and reversal by a judge or jury. Unfortunately, too many people are learning far too late that asset protection planning is also long-term planning not something that can be done as a quick or temporary fix. Thus, the time to put your asset protection plan together is long before a lawsuit is on the horizon.

Read more related articles at:

The Basics of Asset Protection Planning – The Rules You Need To Know

How Does an Asset Protection Trust Work?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Can I Protect Assets from Creditors?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Dying without a will

What Happens If You Die Without a Last Will and Testament?

What Happens If You Die Without a Last Will and Testament?


What Happens If You Die Without a Last Will and Testament? It is never too early to create a last will and testament as many difficulties can arise if you die without this document in place. Your will gives directions about your wishes for the distribution of your estate after your death. When you create this document you will name an executor who will be in charge of paying off your remaining debts and distributing property to your beneficiaries and heirs.

If you fail to make a last will and testament before you die, then your estate will be divided up among your intestate heirs based on the intestacy laws of the state where you live at the time of your death. Your property may also be subject to the intestacy laws of any other state where you own real estate or tangible personal property. Aside from this, if you have minor children and you and your spouse die before the children become adults, then a probate judge will decide who will get custody of your children and who will manage their inheritance until they reach the age of 18. In many cases, your state’s intestacy laws will give different results from what you would have wanted had you taken the time to make a last will and testament. Aside from this, if you do own real estate and/or tangible personal property outside of your home state, then you could end up having two different sets of beneficiaries of your estate.

If You Don’t Own Property Outside of Your Home State

If you only own real estate and tangible personal property in your home state or you don’t own any real estate at all, then who will inherit your entire estate will be determined by the intestacy laws of your state of residence. If this situation applies to you, then you need to understand the intestacy laws of your state because these laws vary dramatically from state to state. Read below to see an illustration of the differences between the intestacy laws of Florida and Virginia.

You Do Own Property in More Than One State


If you live in one state and own real estate and/or tangible personal property in a different state, then who will inherit your property will be determined by the intestacy laws of two different states, and the end result may well be two different sets of beneficiaries. And what about property owned in three different states? Three different intestacy laws will apply and you’ll possibly end up with three different sets of beneficiaries.

Minor Children and Their Inheritance

Aside from what will happen to your property, what will happen to your minor children and their inheritance? If your spouse (or ex-spouse) is living, then they, as the natural parent of the children, will be the “natural” choice to take care of the children and manage their inheritance. But what if the other parent of your children is also deceased? Then a judge, who has never met you, your children, the other parent of your children, or either of your families, will decide who will take care of the children and their inheritance.

Examples of Intestacy Laws

In Florida, if you are survived by a spouse and children who are all children from the marriage, then your spouse will inherit 100% of your estate and your children will receive nothing. The result will be exactly the same in Virginia under these same facts. However, use the same facts above except that one or more of your children are from a different spouse. In Florida, your current spouse will inherit 1/2 of your estate and your children will share equally in the remaining 1/2 of your estate, while in Virginia your current spouse will only inherit 1/3 of your estate and your children will share equally in the remaining 2/3 of your estate. What will happen if your children are minors and your spouse (or ex-spouse) is also deceased? Then a probate judge will have to decide what is in the “best interest” of your children, which will mean that the judge will have to choose between someone from your side of the family and someone from the other parent’s side of the family as the “best” person to take care of your children and their inheritance. Scary thought, isn’t it?

What Should You Do?

The examples above illustrate what a big difference state laws can make. The only way to ensure that your property will go to the beneficiaries of your choice after your death when you want them to receive your property, and in the way that you want them to receive it, and who will take care of your minor children and their inheritance, is to make an estate plan.

Read more related articles at:

Should I have a will?

10 Reasons Why You Should Have A Last Will And Testament

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

Not Having a Will Should Scare You

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Special Needs Trusts

Special Needs Trust Options

Special Needs Trust Options


Special Needs Trust Options. A special needs trust (sometimes called a supplemental needs trust), is a trust designed to hold assets for the benefit of a person with disabilities or special needs. The trust is designed so that the beneficiary can retain eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid and SSI, while still allowing the trust assets to be used for the beneficiary’s supplemental needs.

There are two different types of special needs trusts: the self-settled trust and the third party trust:

Self-Settled Special Needs Trust

The first type of trust, a self-settled special needs trust, is often used when damages are to be paid to an injured person. This trust is created and funded with assets belonging to the beneficiary. Sometimes the personal injury settlement or verdict arose out of the incident that created the disability, but not necessarily. Holding the settlement or judgment in a special needs trust permits the beneficiary to live with more dignity and comfort. The funds in the trust can be used to supplement benefits received from various governmental assistance programs including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. The beneficiary does not have direct control or access to funds in the trust. It is managed by a trustee who has broad discretion to make distributions on behalf of the beneficiary to provide for superior care options, opportunities for treatment and rehabilitation, housing, electronic equipment, computers, job training, vacations, and so on. In order for a self-settled special needs trust to be exempt as an asset for benefits qualification, it must pay back the government for services provided if there is anything left in the trust when the beneficiary with a disability or special needs dies.

Third-Party Special Needs Trust

The second type of special needs trust is one that is created for the beneficiary by others. This trust is created by someone else (or a third party) for the benefit of the child or disabled person, usually by a parent or grandparent. If you are a parent of a child with special needs, how you leave your child’s inheritance to him/her can greatly affect the child’s quality of life after your death. An outright inheritance will immediately cause all government benefits to stop. Your child will have to pay 100% of medical expenses, medicines, personal care attendants, therapy, doctor visits, and room and board wherever they are living. This will continue until the entire inheritance is exhausted. Then your disabled child will re-qualify for benefits. If the inheritance is exhausted because it had to be spent down to re-qualify for benefits, there will no longer be additional funds to pay for education, over-the-counter medicines, trips to see family members, reading materials, basic supplies, or other expenses. Government benefits do not cover these types of expenses. Rather than giving the inheritance outright (or even worse, disinheriting the child with special needs), these parents should include special needs trusts in their estate plans. The special needs trust does not provide funding for basic food, clothing, or shelter. However, a wide variety of supplemental needs can be paid for. The trust might be able to buy a house for your disabled child to live in or could pay for an advocate that will make sure that your child receives the services they need. Grandparents and other relatives can add to the trust. When the child with special needs dies, the balance remaining in the trust can be distributed to other family members. It is important to note that this type of trust requires advance planning. It is important to talk to your estate attorney now to include it in your estate plan.

Read more related articles at:

What Is a Special Needs Trust?

5 Reasons to Consider a Special Needs Trust

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

What is a Special Needs Trust?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.


Advanced Estate Planning

Benefits of Advanced Estate Planning

Benefits of Advanced Estate Planning

Minimize taxes and protect your assets



Advanced estate planning—something more than a simple will or basic living trust—can be critical for people with valuable, taxable estates. It goes above and beyond a basic foundation and provides options for minimizing or even eliminating estate taxes. Advanced estate planning can be used to perpetuate family values and protect assets for the benefit of future generations.


Advanced Estate Planning can reduce Estate Taxes

You can reduce or even eliminate estate taxes by gifting assets into an irrevocable trust or eventual transfer to your beneficiaries or even to charities. But the trust must be irrevocable. A simple revocable trust will allow your estate to avoid probate, but the Internal Revenue Service takes the position that you still own the assets you place into such a trust. You can revoke the revocable trust entity and take the assets back at any time. You remain in control of them. Not so with a more advanced irrevocable trust. Placing assets in an irrevocable trust is a permanent decision. You’re relinquishing ownership. Someone else—not you—must act as trustee. But if you can’t control them and you don’t legally own them at the time of your death, they don’t contribute to your taxable estate. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing deal. If you own some significantly valuable assets that you know you want to transfer to a certain beneficiary, you can place them alone into an irrevocable trust and maintain control over your other property.

Different types of trusts can be established to create an ongoing legacy for future generations as well. Many states allow trusts to continue for hundreds of years or even into perpetuity so you can establish dynasty trusts for their current and future family members. You can also create a legacy in your community by setting up charitable trusts or a private foundation that will provide a self-perpetuating endowment for years to come.

Advanced Estate Planning Can Keep Assets Safe

For those who have accumulated even minimal wealth, the fear of losing it all in a lawsuit can be a great concern. Some professions are more prone to lawsuits than others and, of course, accidents can happen. Many advanced trusts such as spousal lifetime access trusts (SLATs) not only help to minimize or eliminate estate taxes but offer the added bonus of protecting the assets owned by the trust against lawsuits and in the event of divorce. Again, the trust must be irrevocable. What you no longer legally own is not accessible. Domestic asset protection trusts and certain offshore trusts are specifically designed to keep assets away from creditors and ex-spouses. Other advanced techniques, such as gifting through a family limited liability company, add an additional layer of asset protection for the property owned by the company.

These aren’t DIY Plans

You’ll most likely need the help of an attorney to formulate any estate plan that goes beyond a last will and testament or basic revocable living trust. Remember that irrevocable trusts cannot be undone if you change your mind after significant life changes. An attorney can help you plan for all eventualities and make sure your estate plan achieves exactly what you want it to achieve.

Read more related articles at:

Ten Advanced Estate Planning Techniques

9 Advanced Estate Planning Strategies

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Ancillary Probate

What Is Ancillary Probate?

What Is Ancillary Probate?

Ancillary probate is an additional, simultaneous probate process that’s required when a decedent owned real estate or tangible personal property in another state or states. The laws of a state where property is physically located typically govern what happens to that property when the owner dies—not the laws of the state where the decedent lived at the time of death. An entire additional probate process becomes necessary. This type of situation presents a unique challenge when you’re planning your estate, and for the person who will eventually serve as the executor or personal representative of your estate.

Ancillary probate refers to a probate proceeding that’s required in addition to the primary probate proceeding that takes place in your home state. This secondary probate is necessary because the probate court in the decedent’s home state has no legal jurisdiction over property that’s situated elsewhere.  You might live in Pennsylvania, but you own a piece of real estate that’s located at the New Jersey shore. That property can’t be probated in Pennsylvania. Ancillary probate can also apply to tangible personal property such as cars, boats, or airplanes that are registered and titled out of state.  Ancillary probate can become necessary if you own livestock or oil, gas, or mineral rights that are attached to real estate located in another state.


How Does Ancillary Probate Work?

The executor of a “domiciliary” probate proceeding—that which takes place in the decedent’s state of residence and where their will has been admitted for probate—will initiate an ancillary probate proceeding when it becomes clear that the estate includes assets that are registered or titled out of state. One of an executor’s first duties is to identify and gather all assets owned by the decedent. Out-of-state property would be discovered at this time. State courts often work cooperatively when ancillary probate becomes necessary. Other state courts will likely accept the “foreign” will more or less automatically when the domiciliary court has done so. Ancillary courts sometimes accept authorizations provided to the executor by the domiciliary court so the executor doesn’t have to go through the dual process of applying for authorization there. Cooperation between states can shorten the ancillary probate proceeding.


Drawbacks of Ancillary Probate

One of the biggest drawbacks of ancillary probate is the added cost of having to administer more than one probate estate, including multiple court fees, accounting fees, and attorneys’ fees. This can happen even if the process is abbreviated somewhat by cooperation between the state courts, and it can deplete the financial reserves of the estate. Your beneficiaries will receive more if you can figure out a way to avoid ancillary probate of your out-of-state property. Another drawback can occur when an estate is intestate—the deceased died without a valid Will and Last Testament. Intestacy laws determine who receives the decedent’s property when there is no will, and the laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia are somewhat, if slightly, different. It’s possible that the rightful heirs of an intestate estate could be different in the domiciliary state than they are in the state of the ancillary probate proceeding. This would be a major complication.


Can I Avoid Ancillary Probate?

Probate isn’t necessary for any property that’s placed in a living trust, regardless of where that property is located. You can allow property located in your state to pass to your beneficiaries through the probate of your will, then simply title your out-of-state proceeds in the name of your trust. No ancillary probate would be required for these assets. You might also consider retitling property that’s located in other states so you and your desired beneficiary jointly hold ownership with rights of survivorship. For example, you can have a new deed created in which you hold title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship if you own a vacation home in Florida that you’d like to leave to your son or daughter. They would automatically inherit the property at your death without the necessity of probate. Additionally, 28 states recognize special beneficiary deeds that allow real property to be transferred at your death without a probate proceeding. Beneficiaries named on the deeds can take title by recording an affidavit with the county clerk.

Key Takeaways

  • Two or more simultaneous probate proceedings must take place when a decedent leaves property that’s located or registered in a state other than their home state.
  • The “domiciliary” state where the decedent passed would have no legal jurisdiction or right to transfer property located elsewhere to beneficiaries, so an additional ancillary probate proceeding must be opened.
  • State courts often cooperate with each other to make this dual process as easy as possible, but ancillary probate can nonetheless increase the costs of settling the estate and leave less for beneficiaries.
  • Ancillary probate can be avoided by titling out-of-state property in such a way that it can pass directly to beneficiaries without necessity of probate.

Read more related articles here:

How to Avoid Ancillary Probate in Florida

Ancillary administration

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

How Does Probate affect Real Estate Transactions?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Lady bird deed

What Is a ‘Lady Bird Deed’?

What Is a ‘Lady Bird Deed’?

I heard about something called a “Lady Bird deed” that could be useful if I need to apply for Medicaid. What exactly is it and why is it named that?

A “Lady Bird deed” (also known as an enhanced life estate deed) is a way to transfer property to someone else outside of probate while retaining a life estate in the property. But unlike a regular life estate, a Lady Bird deed gives you the power to retain control of the property during your life, including the right to use the property for profit or to sell the property.

Lady Bird deeds can be very beneficial if you want to pass your home to someone else but may need to apply for Medicaid soon thereafter. In order to qualify for Medicaid, an applicant cannot have transferred property within five years of the application. Because the deed allows you to retain control of the property, depending on the state it may not count as a transfer of assets for Medicaid eligibility purposes. In addition, these deeds can help avoid estate recovery.  After a Medicaid recipient dies, the state can make a claim for repayment of benefits from the recipient’s estate. Because property under a Lady Bird deed passes outside of probate, it won’t be subject to a claim for reimbursement in states that make claims only against probate property.

These deeds are not legal in most states, so you need to talk to an attorney to find out if you can use one in your state.

What about the deed’s name? According to Texas Tech professor Gerry W. Beyer,  the Florida lawyer who created this form of deed in the 1980s explained the concept by using the names of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s family, and the name stuck.

Read more related articles at:

How Lady Bird Deeds Protect a Medicaid Recipient’s Home for Their Loved Ones

What Is an Enhanced Life Estate Deed?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Does a Life Estate Work?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning

5 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning 

5 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning 



Here are 5 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning. Death and taxes are two subjects that are both emotionally charged. Nobody wants to talk about either one of them — together they are, well, taxing and deadly. Do you break out in a cold sweat when discussing your will? Can you bear to think about whether there will be enough money to live on if your husband dies? Can you even think about which kid will run the business when you die; let alone talk about it in a family meeting?

The “D ” Word

The first hurdle to be overcome is facing your own mortality. Find your own euphemism for death, then use that expression for the rest of the conference. There’s a wide selection of substitutions for the “D” word – “pass on,” “kick the bucket,” “meet my maker,” “when something happens to me,” “get hit by a truck,” “pushing up daisies,” “six feet under” – just to name a few. People will say anything rather than “when I die.” ​​Some folks hold to the superstition that making a will brings on death. Superstitious, yes, but nevertheless, it is a real impediment to many people.

Giving Up Control

The next hurdle is the fear of giving up control. Estate planning doesn’t mean giving your assets away. Many people know they must do something to reduce taxes, but fear giving control of their assets to their children. They have heard too many horror stories about ungrateful children who spend the family savings and turn their backs on their parents. Most people want it both ways – they want to retain complete unfettered control over all their assets and also pay no estate taxes. There are techniques that permit transfers while retaining significant control, and there are ways to protect funds. Learning about these approaches is part of the estate planning process.

Dealing With a Lawyer

Fear of dealing with an attorney is another big hurdle. (Fun fact: Dikigorosophobia is the fear of lawyers.) You might be afraid the lawyer will think you are uninformed, unsophisticated. Do you feel uninformed because you have to call the repairman to fix the air conditioner? Of course not! In the same way that you don’t know how to fix an air conditioner, you don’t know how to complete a thorough estate plan. This is no reflection on your intelligence or character.

You might be afraid of being gouged by attorney fees, or be afraid the attorney isn’t going to listen to you and will just forge ahead with a standard plan that you don’t want. The key to overcoming these fears is finding the right lawyer. Like anything else, a referral from a satisfied client is often the best approach. [Ask your friends who they use for an estate lawyer. Like any other important decision, it is good to do research and talk to a few lawyers, or firms, before making the hiring decision.

The Cost

What does it cost? Fear of the expense is another thing that keeps people from estate planning. Let’s face it. Estate planning is not for you – it’s for those you leave behind. You aren’t going to be hurt by estate taxes. You will be “long gone.” You aren’t going to have to negotiate who gets the grandfather clock – the kids are going to have to slug that out. So how much money (not to mention time and emotional energy) are you willing to spend on an estate plan for your family? Estate planning is truly a gift to your family.

Recognize it for what it is – caring for others. Leaving a well-designed plan behind is the best gift you can give your family. Arrange your affairs to do the most good for your family, friends, and charities.

Don’t be afraid to ask how the attorney charges. Most attorneys will charge an hourly rate, and you can expect to pay a high rate for a specialist (for example heart surgeons charge more than nurse practitioners). Some estate planning is done on a flat fee basis, but an estimate can’t be given until the attorney knows what will be involved. Almost no one gets a “simple will.” More is involved in estate plan than just a will, and every family situation is different.

Family Ties

Tough family decisions are another emotional stumbling block. Is there a divorce looming for one of your children? Does one of the grandchildren have special needs? Will you or your spouse remarry? Who is going to control the family business after the parents are dead? Facing these issues can be so painful that they are avoided indefinitely. Then, a real mess is left behind. Avoiding the problem doesn’t make it go away.

What if one of the children is in and out of drug rehab, or one of the kids is a successful professional, and the other is a struggling single parent with small kids and a minimum wage job. Do these children get treated equally in the estate plan or do you disinherit a child?

What about blended families – the children are yours, mine and ours. Do all of them share equally in both Mom’s and Dad’s estates? Facing tough decisions like these is hard. An estate planning attorney can help you by giving you options and choices. Do you want to have someone else make these decisions for you after you are dead? Worse, do you want your family to be torn apart with the fighting over your estate?

Read more related articles here:

 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning

5 Common Emotional Roadblocks that Could Halt a Successful Estate Plan

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

Do We Need Estate Planning?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.



How Do You Handle Probate?

How Do You Handle Probate?

While you are living, you have the right to give anyone any property of your choosing. If you give your power to gift your property to another person, typically through a Power of Attorney, then that person is your agent and may give away your property, according to an article “Explaining the basic aspects probate” from The News-Enterprise. When you die, the Power of Attorney you gave to an agent ends, and they are no longer in control of your estate. Your “estate” is not a big fancy house, but a legal term used to define the total of everything you own.

Property that you owned while living, unless it was owned jointly with another person, or had a beneficiary designation giving the property to another person upon your death, is distributed through a court order. However, the court order requires a series of steps.

First, you need to have had created a will while you were living. Unlike most legal documents (including the Power of Attorney mentioned above), a will is valid when it is properly signed. However, it can’t be used until a probate case is opened at the local District Court. If the Court deems the will to be valid, the probate proceeding is called “testate” and the executor named in the will may go forward with settling the estate (paying legitimate debts, taxes and expenses), before distributing assets upon court permission.

If you did not have a will, or if the will was not prepared correctly and is deemed invalid by the court, the probate is called “intestate” and the court appoints an administrator to follow the state’s laws concerning how property is to be distributed. You may not agree with how the state law directs property distribution. Your spouse or your family may not like it either, but the law itself decides who gets what.

After opening a probate case, the court will appoint a fiduciary (executor or administrator) and may have a legal notice published in the local newspaper, so any creditors can file a claim against the estate.

The executor or administrator will create a list of all of the property and the claims submitted by any creditors. It is their job to ensure that claims are valid and have been submitted within the correct timeframe. They will also be in charge of cleaning out your home, securing your home and other possessions, then selling the house and distributing your personal furnishings.

Depending on the size of the estate, the executor or administrator’s job may be time consuming and complex. If you left good documentation and lists of assets, a clean file system or, best of all, an estate binder with all your documents and information in one place, it can alleviate a lot of stress for your executor. Estate fiduciaries who are left with little information or a disorganized mess must undertake an expensive and burdensome scavenger hunt.

The executor or administrator is entitled to a fiduciary fee for their work, which is usually a percentage of the estate.

Probate ends when all of the property has been gathered, creditors have been paid and beneficiaries have received their distributions.

With a properly prepared estate plan, your property will be distributed according to your wishes, versus hoping the state’s laws will serve your family. You can also use the estate planning process to create the necessary documents to protect you during life, including a Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directive and Healthcare proxy.

Reference: The News-Enterprise (Feb. 2, 2021) “Explaining the basic aspects probate”

Read more related articles at:

What Happens During the Probate Process?

Six Steps of the Probate Process

Also read one of our previous Blogs at:

What’s Involved in the Probate Process?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.


financial house

Is Your Financial Information in Order?

Is Your Financial Information in Order?

Preparing and organizing your financial information for when you are no longer capable will bring peace of mind to you today and relieve your loved ones’ burden in the future. It will ensure proper management of your financial situation and afford control over your end of life and legacy. The goal is to make and maintain an accurate list of accounts and passwords and relevant contact names at financial institutions. Planners and books (“My Life Directory,” “I’m Dead. Now What?”) are available to help you understand the scope of the project and start the process of organizing all records and personal information. Whether you are a parent, near retirement, or both, informational instructions will spare your family a lot of work and heartache.

The assumption is that you already have an estate plan with necessary documents such as a will, living will, durable power of attorney and medical attorney, etc. If this is not the case, retain an attorney to create these most important legal documents. You can then focus your attention on the written steps your family should take if something happens to you. These steps should include a list of all salient information; names (think bankers, lawyers, insurance agents) and their contact information, digital and hard assets, accounts, bills, debts, credit cards, insurance policies, annuities, pensions, PINs, and passwords. Include a list of all companies and invoice types (monthly, quarterly, annually) that automatically debit money from your checking account. This list is about anyone and anything that is part of your financial life.

The numerous books, planners, and online free worksheets can help you identify those things that need inclusion in your financial information; this can be your starting point. Online websites or apps can store your data and instructions for a one time or recurring fee. These sites are typically referred to as estate-planning organizers, end-of-life planners, document storage, even “death apps.” While these options may sound intriguing, a self-directed approach is generally best. Turning over consolidated personal financial data opens you to the possibility of identity theft, hacking, misuse of your records, erasure, and loss using these services.

Digitize your information in a word editor or spreadsheet and store it on a flash drive.  Print hard copies of your instructions and information and leave them with other important documents like your will or the deed to your home. Are you low-tech? There is no shame in a binder or spiral notebook containing this information. It is a bit more cumbersome to update, but many people choose to leave instructions to family members in handwritten letters, notes, and notebooks. Be certain your handwritten instructions do not vary with multiple papers scattered and undated. Stick to a standard methodology and throw out old documents.

Keep these records accurate with annual updates or any fundamental shift in how your finances are managed and by whom. Be sure your executor and other relevant family members know the location of this information. If you want your wishes to remain private until you are incapacitated or die, seal flash drives and hard copies in envelopes.

Preparing your financial records for your family can be time-consuming, but it is not complicated. The true goal of this task is organization and consolidation. And it is one of the most important financial tasks you will undertake during your life. When you feel your project is near completion (other than annual updates), ensure nothing is being overlooked by consulting an estate planning attorney, who will make sure you have all of the necessary legal documents in place. We provide these services and would be happy to talk with you about your planning needs.

Read more related articles here:

The Shocking Reason Why Siblings Squabble Over Inheritance And How To Prevent It

How to stop a family fight over inheritance

Also, Read one of our previous Blogs at:

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Geriatric Care

The Growing Need for Geriatric Care Managers

The Growing Need for Geriatric Care Managers

The name can be misleading as professional geriatric care managers tend to a senior’s unique health care situation needs rather than being responsive to a particular age. The truth is aging is a complex, highly individualized process, and a geriatric care manager (GCM) may be appropriate at age 65 or 105 and any age in between. A geriatric care manager is a highly-skilled advocate for older adults and is specially trained to help identify resources to make managing your loved one’s daily life easier. A GCM is sometimes referred to as “aging life care professional” or “senior care manager,” as some find the term geriatric to be outdated. When is it appropriate to employ a care manager for your aging parent or loved one?

You live far away

Even if you leverage in-home technology and the internet of things to monitor and assess your loved ones well being, it isn’t easy to manage your older adult’s care if you do not live near to them. If you cannot frequently visit, a geriatric care manager can supervise care, alert you to potential or real problems, and work with you to arrive at the best decision for any issues that may prevent themselves.

Your loved one refuses to discuss their health with you

Many seniors, especially parents, do not want to burden their adult children with worries or problems. If you get the feeling your loved one is not telling you the full story about things affecting their health and well-being, hiring a geriatric care manager to check on them is a prudent strategy. Often, a senior is more willing to share their concerns with an expert outside of the family system.

There is a complex behavioral issue to address

Serious behavioral issues can manifest themselves in many ways, such as constant verbal abuse or being physically combative. These issues typically present themselves during the onset of dementia, and the root cause of the problem can be difficult to pinpoint. A geriatric care manager can connect you to an appropriate specialist to diagnose the problem.

You need to solve a problem in the senior living community

You might sense your parent needs more individualized care in their assisted living community, but the community’s administrator will not permit you to hire a private aide. A geriatric care manager understands how these communities work, the relevant state laws that may apply to the situation, and can negotiate on your behalf.  Because a GCM is an industry insider, they are more likely to find a solution in your loved ones’ best interest.

You do not know how best to help your loved one

There comes a time in your older family member’s care where you might feel utterly lost and unsure about what to do. A GCM can help you get unstuck by providing available options, tradeoffs, and costs. An initial assessment by a GCM can help navigate complex funding care options or uncover unknown resources for funding care.

Geriatric care managers can provide many services, including:

  • Evaluating, arranging for, and monitoring in-home care needs and the personnel that provide it
  • Coordinating medical appointments and arranging transportation to them
  • Identifying available programs and social services that can help your loved one
  • Making referrals to medical, legal, or financial professionals and suggesting ways to avert problems
  • Explaining difficult or complex topics to family members or care recipients
  • Creating short and long-term care plans that may include changes in living arrangements
  • Acting as a liaison to families who live far away from their loved one
  • Addressing and answering questions and emotional concerns of caregivers and their loved ones
  • Arranging for respite care providing relief to stressed-out caregivers

Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for a geriatric care manager’s services, so count on paying out of pocket. The initial assessment cost may range from 300 dollars in more rural settings to 800 dollars or more in larger urban areas based on a survey from 2017. After an initial assessment, a GCM bills by the hour and sometimes on a case-by-case basis. A reputable, certified GCM will have required degrees in one or more health care fields as well as several years of hands-on experience caring for the elderly. They will help assess, plan, coordinate and monitor your loved one’s insurance and entitlements, financial and legal matters, medical issues, involvement in activities, and family communication.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), through the US Department of Health & Human Services, provides links on its webpage to locate geriatric care managers, as do many other organizations specializing in senior care like AgingLifeCare, and caring.com. You can also learn what to ask a potential GCM at caregiversamerica.com and other websites that provide senior information.

There is much to consider about your aging family member’s health and welfare, whether aging in place or an assisted living community. An experienced geriatric care manager, along with trusted legal counsel, can provide the best overall planning for a loved one. If you have questions or would like to discuss further how a GCM may help you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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