Estate Planning

the Difference between Guardianship and Power of Attorney

What is the Difference between Guardianship and Power of Attorney?

Protecting yourself or a loved one can take many different forms, since aging takes a toll on the ability to handle financial and medical decisions. In most situations, guardianship or a power of attorney does the trick, says the article “Guardianships vs. Powers of Attorney” from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  How to know which is the best one to use?

A guardianship is a court-authorized assignment of surrogate decision-making power for the benefit of a person who has lost the ability to make informed decisions on their own, often described as a person who has become incapacitated. The decisions that another person can make on their behalf can be very broad, or they can be very specific.

If a person becomes incapacitated, either through a slowly progressing illness like dementia or quickly, as the result of an accident, a judge will appoint a person or sometimes an organization to handle health care and financial decisions. The court-appointed guardian or organization could be a person or agency you have never heard of and would not know your family or anything about you.

Yes, that is scary. However, guardianship takes place when families do not plan in advance to appoint a surrogate decision maker, also known as an “agent.”

Here’s even more scary news: once the court has appointed a guardian, that relationship may continue for the rest of the incapacitated person’s life. That means annual accountings and involvement with the court, legal fees and other professional fees the guardian or court deems necessary.

There are some guardians who have made headlines for stealing money and making care decisions that the individual and their families did not want.

Meeting with an estate planning attorney to prepare for incapacity as part of an overall estate plan is a far better way. Why don’t more people do it?

  • They aren’t aware of the importance of power of attorney.
  • They don’t want to spend the money.
  • They don’t know who to choose as their power of attorney
  • They don’t want to think about incapacity or death.

In contrast to a court-supervised lifetime guardianship, a properly drafted power of attorney can provide for an agent to make a variety of financial and medical decisions. The person named as a power of attorney (the agent) can serve for the person’s lifetime, just like a guardian.

This is the most fundamental estate planning document, after the last will and testament. Once it’s prepared, you can always change your mind and you or your agent never need to go to court.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Feb. 24, 2020) “Guardianships vs. Powers of Attorney”

We are ready to help walk you through these decisions, understand the ramifications of your choices, and memorialize your plans in binding legal documents. We are currently offering no-contact initial conferences remotely if you prefer. Book a call now and let us help you make the right choices for yourself and your loved ones.

https://www.kornfeldlawfirm.com/contact-us/

after a Loved One Dies

How Can I Move On after a Loved One Passes?

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Moving Forward Financially After the Loss of a Loved One” says that there really are no rules about how you should feel or how long it will take you to regain your energy and ability to move forward. Grief is difficult to avoid, but there are many financial and legal tasks that will require your immediate attention. Here are some of the actions that can ease this process and help you to get back on track financially.

Here’s a breakdown of what you will need to address in the near future:

  • Gather important information, such as the deceased’s Social Security number, birth certificate, marriage certificate and military discharge papers.
  • Obtain at least 10 copies of the death certificates, because each claim will need to have an original copy of the death certificate attached.
  • Inform the Social Security office about the death and file a Social Security benefits claim form to qualify for the death benefit.
  • Find the title to any automobiles
  • Print out up-to-date statements for bank, brokerage and retirement accounts.
  • The executor should file the deceased’s will (if there is one) with the Probate Court.
  • The executor should obtain letters testamentary from the court.
  • File a death claim with the deceased’s life insurance company, if applicable.
  • Contact the Employer’s Benefits department about survivorship pension, health insurance, unpaid salary and life insurance benefits, if applicable.
  • Prepare a preliminary monthly budget and income summary.

You should seek the advice of an experienced estate planning or probate attorney. You should also retitle any joint accounts into your name and transfer any inherited IRA into your name and take out a required minimum distribution (RMD), if applicable. New beneficiaries should also be named and deeds for any real estate jointly held with rights of survivorship updated.

You need to file a federal estate tax return within nine months.

Don’t face these challenges alone. Contact an experienced estate planning lawyer for help.

We are ready to help walk you through these decisions, understand the ramifications of your choices, and memorialize your plans in binding legal documents. We are currently offering no-contact initial conferences remotely if you prefer. Book a call now and let us help you make the right choices for yourself and your loved ones.

https://www.kornfeldlawfirm.com/contact-us/

Reference: Kiplinger (Jan. 8, 2020) “Moving Forward Financially After the Loss of a Loved One”

 

Protecting the Financial Future of all Children with Special Needs

Protecting the Financial Future of all Children with Special Needs

Experts say that learning about the special needs of a child early allows parents to have the chance to begin planning immediately, which can give parents peace of mind. while Protecting the Financial Future of there child with Special Needs

Fox 25 in Oklahoma City’s recent article entitled “How a document could protect the financial future of a child with special needs” recommends that you become knowledgeable about your health insurance coverage.

Note that your child will probably need to apply for government assistance at some point, because at age 26 he will age out of his parent’s insurance.

Securing the future of a child with special needs all the way to adulthood can be very difficult.

Leaving a child with special needs money you’ve saved could be helpful— but it could place their benefits at risk. Instead, a supplemental trust, called a special needs trust, is the way to plan, so they have everything they need.

With a trust in place, the child would need to pay for expenses in the areas not covered by the government programs.

With a special needs trust, the child has no way to access the income or these assets unless they have a need.

A special needs trust is usually drafted by an estate planning attorney or elder law attorney. This type of trust allows you to leave money or property to a loved one with a disability. These assets are placed in the trust. If you gift them outright, you could risk your loved one’s ability to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits. By creating a special needs trust, you can avoid some of these problems.

Naming a guardian for your child with special needs is also very important. A guardian could help make life decisions, if the parent passes away. Therefore, make certain that it’s someone you trust. This may include a legal professional.

Reference: Fox 25 (Oklahoma City) (Jan. 27, 2020) “How a document could protect the financial future of a child with special needs”

We are ready to help walk you through these decisions, understand the ramifications of your choices, and memorialize your plans in binding legal documents. We are currently offering no-contact initial conferences remotely if you prefer. Book a call now and let us help you make the right choices for yourself and your loved ones.

https://www.kornfeldlawfirm.com/contact-us/

What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need?

New Blood Test Alzheimer’s Patients

New Blood Test May Make Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Patients Easier Than Ever

researchers at the University of California – UC San Francisco have analyzed the blood test in more than 300 patients and believe that they will see such a test available in doctor’s offices within five years, according to a press release from The University of California- San Francisco’s entitled “New Blood Test Could Make Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Easier Than Ever.”

“This test could eventually be deployed in a primary care setting for people with memory concerns to identify who should be referred to specialized centers to participate in clinical trials or to be treated with new Alzheimer’s therapies, once they are approved,” said Adam Boxer, MD, PhD, neurologist at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and senior author of the study published in Nature Medicine. Boxer also is affiliated with the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

There is currently no blood test for either condition. Alzheimer’s diagnoses can only be confirmed by a PET scan of the brain, which can be expensive or an invasive lumbar puncture to test cerebrospinal fluid.

If approved, the new blood test could make screening easier and help increase the number of patients eligible for clinical trials—vital to the search for drugs to stop or slow dementia. Patients who know whether they have Alzheimer’s or FTD are also better able to manage their symptoms.

In the new study, scientists collected blood samples from 362 people aged 58 to 70, including 56 individuals who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, 190 diagnosed with FTD, 47 with mild cognitive impairment, plus 69 healthy controls.

Researchers checked the blood samples for proteins that could serve as signs of dementia. One protein, called pTau181, is known to aggregate in tangles in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s. Blood levels of pTau181 were about 3½ times higher in people with Alzheimer’s as opposed to their healthy peers. People with FTD had normal levels of pTau181, and those with mild cognitive impairment due to underlying Alzheimer’s had an intermediate increase.

When researchers followed the patients for two years, they saw that higher levels of pTau181 predicted more rapid cognitive decline in those with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers note the new blood test has the same degree of accuracy as current PET scans and lumbar punctures in distinguishing Alzheimer’s from FTD. It would be less expensive and easier.

Alzheimer’s impacts nearly 6 million Americans and comprises two-thirds of dementia cases. FTD includes a broad group of brain disorders often linked with degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Reference: UCSF (March 2, 2020) “New Blood Test Could Make Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Easier Than Ever”

https://www.kornfeldlawfirm.com/contact-us/

mobility problems

What to do when you see mobility problems in elderly?

Falls are something emergency room staff ask about and want to prevent, because mobility problems in elderly patients is critical to independent living.

AARP’s recent article entitled “Mobility Problems: What to Do When a Loved One Has Trouble Getting Around” says that if you start seeing your parent or spouse is having trouble standing up and walking around, here are some steps you can take to help.

Once you begin the conversation, making a medical appointment is the next big step. A physician can perform a strength, gait, and balance evaluation, or order a bone-density scan. The doctor also looks at blood pressure and heart rate after standing, and underlying conditions. Hearing and vision should also be examined. The doctor may suggest ways to improve function. She may write a prescription for physical therapy (which Medicare often covers). She may also talk about surgery options or medicines that might help.

Pharmacy review. The doctor also can review the patient’s prescribed and over-the-counter medications to see if anything may have the side effects of dizziness or sleepiness that could cause falls.

Eye exam. The right prescription glasses help people see where they’re going. Researchers have also found that procedures, like cataract surgery, can help older people reduce falls. It’s a common fix since one in five adults older than 65 has a cataract.

Diet. Dehydration is common among the elderly and can lead to weakness. Make sure that your love one stays hydrated and limits alcohol use. You should also check their vitamin D level. If it is low, the doctor might suggest they take vitamin D every day and to improve bone density, eating calcium-rich foods, like milk and yogurt.

Exercise. Research shows that even upping your physical activity a small amount every day can have a significant impact on older people’s physical function and also prevent them from becoming disabled. For example, just walking 10 to 15 minutes at a comfortable pace, every day, seems to help prevent mobility decline. You can also add strength training or tai chi. Classes can help to build up muscle and maintain balance.

Mobility devices. If a loved one has mobility problems, and function is unable to be restored, think about using a cane or walker. Medicare will cover basic walkers.

Safety. In the home, you can make things safer, by eliminating clutter and taking other precautions. Here are a few tips:

  • Remove trip hazards from stairs;
  • Repair loose railings;
  • Remove or secure loose rugs;
  • Install task lighting;
  • Install a nightlight in the bathroom; and
  • Watch for wet floors.

Medical Alert Device. You can also get a medical alert device to wear on your wrist or around your neck. The devices can be extremely reassuring.

Reference: AARP (Nov. 6, 2019) “Mobility Problems: What to Do When a Loved One Has Trouble Getting Around”

https://www.kornfeldlawfirm.com/contact-us/

Covid-19 IRS Updates

C19 UPDATE: Bookmark this Page from the IRS for Ongoing Coronavirus Updates

The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated as new information is available. https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus

For health information about the COVID-19 virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.coronavirus.gov

Other information about actions being taken by the U.S. government visit https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus and in Spanish at https://gobierno.usa.gov/coronavirus.

The Department of Treasury also has information available at Coronavirus: Resources, Updates, and What You Should Know https://home.treasury.gov/coronavirus

Due to the Virus, We are currently offering no-contact initial conferences remotely if you prefer. Book a call now and let us help you make the right choices for yourself and your loved ones.

https://www.kornfeldlawfirm.com/contact-us/

 

COVID-19 estate planning concerns

Covid-19 Emergency Estate Planning Concerns

Though it may be hard not to panic and think about COVID-19 emergency estate planning concerns when the grocery store shelves are empty, the number of confirmed cases keeps rising, and we see sobering statistics across the globe … we will not overcome this challenge with a panicked response.

Nonetheless, there are certain things we all need to be doing right now – and your public health officials are the best resource on how to stay personally safe and help prevent the virus from spreading.

When it comes to the seriousness of this outbreak, however, there also are some critical estate planning decisions you should make – or review – right now.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who will make medical decisions for me should I become severely ill and unable to make these decisions myself?
  2. Who will make my financial decisions in that same situation — for example, who will be authorized to sign my income tax return, write checks or pay my bills online?
  3. Who is authorized to take care of my minor children in the event of my severe illness? What decisions are they authorized to make? How will they absorb the financial burden?
  4. If the unthinkable happens – what arrangements have I made for the care of my minor children, any family members with special needs, my pets or other vulnerable loved ones?
  5. How will my business continue if I were to become seriously ill and unable to work, even remotely … or in the event of my death?

These are the most personal of the COVID-19 related estate planning concerns to be addressed right now to protect yourself and your loved ones during this emergency. Now is also a good time to ask yourself if you have plans in place for the smooth transfer of your assets and preservation of your legacy.

We are ready to help walk you through these decisions, understand the ramifications of your choices, and memorialize your plans in binding legal documents. We are currently offering no-contact initial conferences remotely if you prefer. Book a call now and let us help you make the right choices for yourself and your loved ones. https://www.kornfeldlawfirm.com/contact-us/

What Is Probate, and How Does It Work?”

Probate is the legal process that happens after a person dies. The court accepts the deceased’s last will, and then the executor can carry out the instructions for the deceased’s estate. However, first he or she must pay any debts and sell assets before distributing any remaining property to the heirs.

If the deceased doesn’t have a will, the probate court will appoint an administrator to manage the probate process, and the court will supervise the process.

When the will is proven to be legal, the probate judge will grant the executor legal rights to carry out the instructions in the will.

When there’s no will, the probate process can be complicated, because there’s no paper trail that shows what assets belong to what heirs. Tracking down heirs can also be challenging, especially if there’s no surviving spouse and the next of kin is located in a different state or outside the U.S.

Many executors will partner with a probate attorney to help them through the probate process, as well as to assist in filing the required paperwork, notifying creditors, filing taxes and distributing assets. The deceased’s assets must first be located and then formally appraised to determine their value.  Creditors must also be notified after death within a specified period of time.

After the creditors, taxes and fees have been paid on behalf of the estate, any leftover money or assets are distributed to the heirs.

The probate process can be lengthy. Things that can lengthen the process include the state when the deceased was a resident, whether there is a will and whether it is contested by the heirs. The more detailed the will, the simpler the probate process.

The probate process can be expensive, because of court filing fees, creditor notice fees, appraisal fees, tax preparation and filing fees and attorney fees. All of these fees are subtracted from the proceeds of the estate.

Estate planning with a qualified estate planning or elder law attorney involves taking the proper actions to avoid probate. This can reduce the burden for the surviving heir(s) and reduce costs, fees and taxes. Ask your attorney about some of the steps you can take before death to avoid probate.

What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need?

 

Estate Planning

What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need?

Wouldn’t your children be relieved to learn that you’ve done all the necessary advance planning so that if you should become incapacitated, someone has been properly appointed to help with health care and financial decisions? The Tennessean suggests that you “Give your loved ones peace of mind with legal documents” so that your spouse and your family will be able to take the necessary steps to give you the care and dignity you (and they) deserve.

Here’s a checklist of the documents that everyone should have in place:

Power of Attorney for Health Care. When you have mental capacity, you can make your own decisions. When you do not, you need someone to be appointed who knows your beliefs and wishes and has the ability to advocate for you. Ideally, you should name one person to be your agent to minimize arguments. Talk with your family to explain who has been named your power of attorney for health care, and if need be, explain why that person was chosen.

Power of Attorney for Finances. There are different kinds of POA for finances. The goal of the POA for finances is so they can make decisions on your behalf, when you become incapacitated. Some states use “springing” POA—but that may mean your family has to go through a process to prove you are incapacitated. Check with an estate planning elder law attorney in your state to see what the laws are.

Advance Directive. This describes what kind of life sustaining treatment you do or do not want if you are in a coma, are terminally ill or have dementia. You can direct whether you want CPR, tube feeding, and other life-sustaining procedures to be withheld, if your quality of life is diminished and there is no hope of improvement. This will help your family to know what you want in a time when emotions are running high.

Last Will and Testament. Have a will created, if you don’t already have one. This directs distribution of your assets to your wishes and does not leave them to the laws of your state. Not having a will means your family will have to go through many more court proceedings and people you may not want to receive your worldly possessions may get them.

Trusts. Talk with your estate planning attorney about placing assets in trust, so they are not subject to the public process of probate. Your wishes will be followed, and they will remain private.

Reference: Tennessean (Nov. 16, 2019) “Give your loved ones peace of mind with legal documents”

Chairs overlooking lake

Here’s Why You Need an Estate Plan

It’s always the right time to do your estate planning, but it’s most critical when you have beneficiaries who are minors or with special needs, says the Capital Press in the recent article, “Ag Finance: Why you need to do estate planning.”

While it’s likely that most adult children can work things out, even if it’s costly and time-consuming in probate, minor young children must have protections in place. Wills are frequently written, so the estate goes to the child when he reaches age 18. However, few teens can manage big property at that age. A trust can help, by directing that the property will be held for him by a trustee or executor until a set age, like 25 or 30.

Probate is the default process to administer an estate after someone’s death, when a will or other documents are presented in court and an executor is appointed to manage it. It also gives creditors a chance to present claims for money owed to them. Distribution of assets will occur only after all proper notices have been issued, and all outstanding bills have been paid.

Probate can be expensive. However, wise estate planning can help most families avoid this and ensure the transition of wealth and property in a smooth manner. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about establishing a trust. Farmers can name themselves as the beneficiaries during their lifetime, and instruct to whom it will pass after their death. A living trust can be amended or revoked at any time, if circumstances change.

The title of the farm is transferred to the trust with the farm’s former owner as trustee. With a trust, it makes it easier to avoid probate because nothing’s in his name, and the property can transition to the beneficiaries without having to go to court. Living trusts also help in the event of incapacity or a disease, like Alzheimer’s, to avoid conservatorship (guardianship of an adult who loses capacity). It can also help to decrease capital gains taxes, since the property transfers before their death.

If you have several children, but only two work with you on the farm, an attorney can help you with how to divide an estate that is land rich and cash poor.

Reference: Capital Press (December 20, 2018) “Ag Finance: Why you need to do estate planning”

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