Estate planning is typically aimed at the most efficient way to transfer wealth to the next generation. Most people think of estate planning as a one-time, 'set it and forget it' process, where the goal is solely to give instructions about how they want their assets to pass to their heirs. While this can be appropriate, at Lamson & Cutner, we often combine Elder Law and estate planning strategies. These can work hand in hand to build a financial fortress around you while you are living, and create a secure economic future for your loved ones, once you have passed on.Download our Estate Planning Handout
How Effective Estate Planning Protects Your Finances Right Now
It's especially important for married couples who are initiating Elder Law strategies to have a well-designed estate plan. That's because when one spouse is ill or disabled and needs home or nursing facility care, money and assets will often be transferred to the well spouse. This can create difficulties because Medicaid can enforce the well spouse's legal obligation of support, and because the well spouse may eventually need health care assistance as well. So it's vital to take all possibilities into account from the start. When Elder Law and estate planning are combined, problems can be anticipated and solved in advance.
For single persons and unmarried couples, Lamson & Cutner's Elder Law planning can also address estate planning goals. Preservation of the assets of someone who needs home or nursing home care increases that person's ability to leave an estate for his or her partner or heirs.
The Advantage Estate Planning Can Give You Today
Elder Law and estate planning use some of the same legal structures (typically wills and trusts) to achieve their goals. Estate planners create trusts to avoid or reduce taxes, to protect against claims of future creditors, and to provide for the orderly distribution of the income and assets to the beneficiaries. Elder Law attorneys create special protective trusts to shield your money, income, home and other assets against Medicaid's "spend down" rules. Without asset protection, these rules will force you to pay for your own care, until all your monetary reserves are exhausted. Only then will Medicaid cover your health care costs.
If your assets are held in properly structured trusts, Elder Law and estate planning objectives can be combined. Your income and assets can be used for your benefit without prejudicing your right to receive Medicaid. That allows you to maintain your lifestyle if you're receiving care at home, or to be a lot more comfortable if you're residing at a nursing facility. There's also a significant benefit for your family: since Medicaid will pay for your care, it's much more likely that something will be left for loved ones when you pass on. In these uncertain economic times, they'll be grateful for your legacy.
Three Vital Benefits Estate Planning Provides For Your Family And Other Heirs
If you don't plan for the distribution of your money and property after you die, there will be a risk of painful bickering among your family members. Disputes are common in the absence of clear instructions. However, when you’ve got a clear, organized, and carefully thought out estate plan, things can be settled smoothly and without hard feelings. Here's why...
-First, planning can avoid probate of your estate. Probate can be a complicated legal process of compiling, documenting and distributing an individual's money and assets after death. It can take months and even years before your spouse, children, family members and friends get anything. A judge will be making decisions about your estate, rather than you. But when your cash and property are placed in a trust that has been properly drafted, distributions can be made quickly and efficiently.
-Second, your heirs get superior protection against lawsuits that may be filed by unhappy relatives who disagree with the way you want your assets distributed. Trusts are a far better shield against litigation, and that means your wishes will be carried out as you intended, without a family war.
-Third, your family gets privacy. Unlike wills, in most cases trust documents are not required to be filed with the courts. Your intentions are kept secret from prying eyes, and that affords greater peace and protection for your heirs.
Why Lamson & Cutner's Professional Estates Counsel Safeguards Your Planning
As you can see, they are many considerations that come into play when you need to coordinate Elder Law techniques with estate planning. That’s Lamson & Cutner makes tax planning and estate planning a part of its Elder Law services. Clients get sophisticated planning advice from experienced attorneys who focus on these issues. It's an advantage not every Elder Law firm offers.
Here's an actual example of how Elder Law strategies and estate planning work together to achieve an optimal financial result:
An elderly couple had financial reserves and real estate totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. The husband, almost 90 years of age, was to enter a nursing home. Lamson & Cutner lawyers arranged for the transfer of property and other liquid assets to his wife. The firm then prepared a Medicaid application for nursing facility services, which was approved. Now, this man's long-term care costs are fully covered and his wife's financial future is secured. The cash and holdings they built up over a lifetime are protected. They won't be lost to ruinous health care expenses, and his wife has the money to make his residency at the nursing home as pleasant as possible.
In addition, L & C developed an estate plan for the wife, so that if she eventually needs health care assistance, it won't entail a sacrifice of all her economic resources. Also, she is not exposed to the risk that Medicaid will demand that she use her "excess" assets to pay for her husband's care. Whatever is left after both individuals pass on will be distributed to family members, without the difficulty of these significant assets being subject to probate.
Lamson & Cutner maintains a tradition of working hard to achieve the best attainable financial protection for clients and their families. The firm's attorneys are committed to making sure that each client's savings and assets are available to the fullest extent possible to provide the best quality-of-life when health care is needed. At the same time, L & C considers estate planning goals so that, upon the client's passing, his or her remaining assets can be distributed to the heirs in the most efficient way, saving taxes and avoiding other problems.