Michigan Elder Law Attorney Answers Family’s Question

Question:  What is the difference between an Elder Law Attorney and an Estate Planning Attorney?

Answer:  The difference between an Elder Law Attorney and an Estate Planning Attorney can be quite substantial. An Estate Planning Attorney traditionally focuses on dealing with what happens to a client after the client passes away. They would often deal with avoiding probate, minimizing estate taxes and distributing assets to the client’s loved ones exactly as the client wanted them to be distributed – to name a few. However, Elder Law Attorneys not only focus on estate planning issues (a very important part of elder law) but they also deal with issues that face clients during their lives. An Elder Law Attorney will help protect assets for a client if there is ever an incapacity issue. Elder Law Attorneys will often deal with Medicaid issues, Veterans’ Benefits, Special needs counseling and Long Term Care Issues – to name a few. 

You can find some of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys who can help you with your family’s Elder Care Matters on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Elder Law Attorney Jim Thomas
Law Office of Carol Thomas
Saginaw, Michigan
An ElderCare Matters Partner


Connecticut Elder Law Attorney Answers Question about a Living Trust

Question:  What is a Living Trust, and is this something that my elderly parents should consider setting up?

A Living Trust is often “sold” as a device to avoid Probate. It seems that every week there is an ad in the local newspapers encouraging seniors to attend a lunch or dinner seminar where they will learn to avoid Probate. While this may be of benefit to some, there are, in my opinion, better reasons for couples and individuals to have Revocable Living Trusts. But, not only elderly parents should consider Living Trusts. This form of Estate Planning is beneficial for many age groups; from the young couple with the minor children, to the middle aged who may have grown the size of their estate to the taxable level, to the retired person who wants to assure a smooth transition of their assets to the next generation. There is no age group that is immune to incapacity, taxes, family issues, or death.

A Will, which most people have or are familiar with, only provides instructions to others when you die. Wills do not contemplate you becoming incapacitated, where as a Living Trust provides people that you, not the Court, want to help you manage your affairs should you become incapacitated. Why would you want to take a chance that this situation will arise and you will have a Judge, who does not know you, appoint another individual, who may not be a relative or even someone you know, to manage your financial as well as personal affairs. You can name that person now in your Living Trust, and also an alternate in case your first choice is unable to serve.

Another benefit of a Living Trust, also sometimes referred to as a Revocable Living Trust, or an AB Trust, for married people is the ability to increase the amount of assets that you are allowed to pass without paying Estate Tax.

Some clients are concerned about the privacy of their estate plan. While a Will is a public document which is available to anyone, a Living Trust is not. If you do not want your neighbor to find out that you gave your jewelry to your niece or that you disinherited your wayward son, then a Revocable Trust is for you.

Many of our clients own property in multiple States. They may own their home here in Connecticut and have a “winter home” in Florida or the Carolinas. Normally when they die there is Probate in both jurisdictions. A Revocable Living Trust will often eliminate that probate process for both.

And finally why would anyone want to have their estate go though Probate. It is a government process full of forms to be completed and hearings to attend.   It is a long process, usually nine months to one year and is a public process, as described above, where anyone can go and observe what most people believe is a private matter. Oh, and it is not inexpensive either.

You can find some of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys who can help you with your family’s Elder Care Matters on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Attorney George P. Guertin
Guertin and Guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner


South Carolina Elder Law Attorney Answers Family’s Question about Elder Law

Question:  What is Elder Law?

Answer:  Among lawyers, there really is no clear definition for the term Elder Law. Why? Because it encompasses so many areas. Such as, Estate Planning, Medicaid eligibility, Medicare law, Social Security law, wills, trusts, probate, retirement planning, health care planning, disability, incapacity, dementia, Alzheimer’s; and the list goes on. Perhaps the best definition I have seen is “Elder Law is an area of law which applies a holistic approach to addressing the unique legal needs of senior citizens, including retirement benefits, estate planning, health care, and other issues.”

You can find some of America’s TOP Elder Law Attorneys who can help you with your family’s Elder Care Matters on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

South Carolina Elder Law Attorney
Attorney Mitchell C. Payne
Warner, Payne & Black
Rock Hill, South Carolina
An ElderCare Matters Partner


Trust Administration – What You Need to Know BEFORE You Agree to Administer a Trust

Question:  What are some of the things I should know BEFORE I agree to be the Administrator of someone’s Trust?

Answer:  If you are considering taking on the responsibility of administering someone’s trust, there are a few things you should know about your obligations. Trust administration is an important job, and it can be frustrating or even overwhelming. Keeping various family members and beneficiaries happy, tracking down all of the assets, and complying with Michigan law is no easy juggling act!

Can an Attorney Help You Administer a Trust?

While you might not think that you need an attorney to handle some of the tasks of administration, working with a seasoned estate planning professional is useful to properly carry out the provisions of the trust and give you the knowledge of how to do your job the right way. Not every trust needs to be administered with a Michigan attorney, but many do.

Even trustees managing the simplest trusts should at least consult with an experienced attorney before starting estate and trust administration. Some trusts can be very complex to sort through. Even basic and straightforward trusts will lead to questions about what you should do, when and how.

Professional advice can give you a great deal of confidence with the tasks of administering a trust, such as filing tax returns and other pertinent documents, making wise investment decisions, transferring real estate ownership, communicating with beneficiaries, and funding any sub-trusts.

The Importance of Good Organization and Record Keeping

An important aspect of administering trusts comes down to your own organizational ability. You’ll need to keep records for all the beneficiaries of the trust and be able to contact them with updates and any changes.

If you are carrying out a living trust after someone has passed away, you’ll be required to take on even more responsibility for managing several critical tasks like identifying beneficiaries, dealing with creditors, obtaining death certificates, alerting the Social Security Administration of the death, providing an inventory of trust assets, and establishing a record-keeping system to track every dollar that comes in our out of the trust.

The Right Team of Professionals Can Help Make Your Job Easier

The right team of professionals – an attorney, accountant, and financial planner – can help you set up the right system from the start. It’s much easier to spend the time at the outset of administration getting a clear and efficient system running rather than trying to backtrack and piece together information later on down the road.

Additionally, you will need to make sure that you are compliant with the IRS regarding any trust administration. You will need a federal tax identification number so that the gains and losses from the trust are reported appropriately. Your legal and financial professionals can help. You may also have to interact with other professionals, like realtors or appraisers, in order to verify the value of various assets. Taking the time to put a good team around you will be well worth it in the long run.

If you need help with this or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Don L. Rosenberg, Attorney and Counselor
The Center for Elder Law
Troy, Michigan
An ElderCare Matters Partner


ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources

Question:  How does ElderCareMatters.com help families across America who are wrestling with elder care / senior care issues?

Answer:  ElderCareMatters.com is America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.  This national Elder Care / Senior Care Directory includes thousands of up-to-date, useful Elder Care / Senior Care Q&As, and articles as well as some of America’s TOP professionals who can help you and your family with a wide range of Elder Care / Senior Care Services.

ElderCareMatters.com is now receiving almost 1 million page views every month (and this # continues to increase) from families who are looking for help with 89 different Elder Care / Senior Care Services, which are shown on ElderCareMatters.com/Alliance.

ElderCareMatters.com invites ALL Professionals who help families plan for and/or deal with elder care matters to be listed on this national Elder Care / Senior Care Directory.  Professionals are provided with the following 4 options to be listed on ElderCareMatters.com:

  1. Basic Membership
  2. Premium Membership
  3. Partner Membership
  4. A Free Listing on ElderCareMatters.com

I personally want to thank the tens of thousands of families across America who rely on ElderCareMatters.com to help them plan for and/or deal with their elder care matters.  I and the thousands of professionals who are listed on ElderCareMatters.com sincerely appreciate your confidence in us.

With my best regards,

psanders
Phillip G. Sanders, MBA, MSHA, CPA
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
ElderCareMatters.com
America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources


Financial Requirements for Medicaid’s Long Term Care Benefits

Question:  What are the financial requirements for being approved for Medicaid’s Long Term Care Benefits?

Answer:  Although Medicaid, also known Title 19, is a Federal benefit program, it is administered by the States, and as such it is very state-specific. This answer is only applicable to residents of Connecticut.

In Connecticut there are two different sets of requirements for Medicaid Long Term Care benefits; one for married people, and one for single people. We will first look at a married couple.          

In this scenario we have one spouse who is in a long term skilled facility (convalescent home, nursing home). Except for very limited pilot programs, Medicaid does not cover Assisted Living Facilities. We will call her the Institutionalized spouse. The other spouse is called the Community spouse.

The first issue most people need to deal with is that regardless of the name on the account, between married couples, any money that is in either name, or both names is in one pot for either to use. This means that one spouse can’t give all of her/his assets to the other spouse and say that they are destitute.

That being said, for an institutional spouse to receive benefits, that individual can have no more than $1,600 in assets in their own name, no vehicles, life insurance with a cash value not to exceed $1,500, and a pre-paid irrevocable funeral contract not to exceed $5,400. They can also have a small pre-paid revocable funeral contract. In addition, generally all of the “applied income” of the institutional spouse, which would include Social Security, Railroad retirement, any pensions, royalties, etc. goes to the facility. The institutional spouse is allowed to keep $60. from the applied income for personal items such as haircuts, etc.

The Community Spouse is allowed to keep one home with equity of no more than $814,000., one car, pre-paid funeral contracts as above, and one-half of the remaining assets not to exceed $117,240. What does this mean? It means if a couple has 1 Million dollars in either or both names, the Community spouse can keep $117,240. and if the couple has $100,000 in either or both names, the Community spouse can keep $50,000. There is also a minimum amount that the Community spouse can keep of $23,499 regardless of the total.

For a single individual who is in, or going into, a long term skilled facility he or she can keep the same $1,600, the same pre-paid funeral contracts, and the same amount in cash value of life insurance ($1,500.). They can’t have a car, a home of any value, or any other assets including cash. As before, all of their income, less $60. goes to the long term care facility.

If you need help with this or other elder care / senior care legal matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals from across America on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families.

You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
George P. Guertin, Esq.
Senior Partner, Guertin and Guertin, LLC
North Haven, Connecticut
An ElderCare Matters Partner


Medicaid Look Back Period

Question:  What is the Medicaid “Look Back Period”?

Answer:  The Medicaid “Look Back Period” is a period of time before the date you are seeking benefits to begin during which the Medicaid agency will review financial records to determine if transfers of money or property were made that may disqualify you from receiving Medicaid benefits.  The Medicaid “Look Back Period”  in most states is 5 years before the date you are seeking to have Medicaid benefits paid.

If you need help with this or other legal elder care matters, you can find Elder Law Attorneys near you on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families. You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Attorney Robert M. Slutsky

Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania
An ElderCare Matters Partner


Answer to Reverse Mortgage Question is Provided by our Connecticut State Coordinator, Attorney Henry C. Weatherby

Question:  What are the qualifications for getting a Reverse Mortgage, what happens to my home after my death, and will my 3 children have any rights to my home after I die?

Answer:  The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is FHA’s reverse mortgage program. To be eligible for a reverse mortgage you must be 62 or older and own your home outright or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off at closing with proceeds from the reverse loan. Your home must be a single family home, a one-unit to four-unit dwelling, or a condominium. Cooperative houses and trailer homes are excluded. You must live in your home. You are also required to talk to a reverse mortgage counselor and receive consumer information prior to obtaining the loan.  When the home is sold or no longer used as a primary residence, the cash, interest, and other HECM finance charges must be repaid. All proceeds beyond the amount owed will belong to your spouse or estate, so your three children can inherit any remaining equity. No debt will be passed along to the estate or heirs.

If you need help with this or other elder care matters, you can find thousands of Elder Care Professionals on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families. You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

Connecticut State Coordinator, ElderCareMatters.com
Henry C. Weatherby, Esq., CLU, ChFC, CEBS

Weatherby & Associates, PC
Bloomfield, Connecticut
Connecticut State Coordinator of ElderCareMatters.com


Should my elderly parents consider setting up a Living Trust?

Question:  What exactly is a Living Trust, and is this something that my elderly parents should consider setting up?

Answer:  A living trust is simply a trust that is created during your lifetime as opposed to a testamentary trust that is created after your death. And trusts, living or testamentary, can be as different as the various models of automobiles available to your parents today. Whether your elderly parents should set up a living trust depends entirely on what they are trying to accomplish because different kinds of trusts can achieve different results.

Think of the decision like this – your parents can walk, ride a bus, take a train, or perhaps even fly to their destination but they can also drive themselves. If they decide they want to drive themselves then which automobile best suits them? Will they need a van to haul a lot of people? Do they want to travel in luxury such as a Lexus would provide? Do they want reliable and cheap transportation like a Toyota Prius, or will they be carrying tools and supplies to work with them and need a pickup truck?

Just like automobiles, trusts come in many different models. A trust is simply an agreement between a trust creator and a trustee (i.e. trust manager) where the trust creator transfers assets to a trustee to hold and manage under the terms dictated in the trust agreement for the benefit of someone identified by the trust creator. Trusts have gained a lot of popularity in recent decades among the middle class who recognize that trusts can solve many everyday routine challenges even if we don’t have millions or billions of dollars to manage.

Revocable Living Trust

Revocable living trusts, typically, are established by a trust creator who may also serve as the trustee to manage the assets for themselves during their lifetime. They are revocable and changeable by the creator at any time during the creator’s lifetime.

In order to understand the advantage of this type of trust it is necessary to think about the three stages of life that most of us will progress through. First, we are fully capable and competent to mange everything our self and the management of assets in a living trust are not really much different from owning the assets outright and managing them ourselves.

The first important advantage of a revocable living trust arises when we become unable to handle our affairs. Traditionally, management of our assets in this situation either required a conservator or an agent under a power of attorney, neither of which is ideal. A conservatorship requires probate court intervention that means we turn over control to a probate judge who may never have even met us and almost certainly will not have any intimate knowledge of us or our families. Because of the loss of control and costs of conservatorship proceedings, many middle class families appoint an agent under a power of attorney instead. This is also not an optimum solution, however, for a couple of reasons:

  •  Financial institutions are reluctant to accept a powers of attorney and many states’ laws do not require them to accept a power of attorney so they many times don’t; and
  • A power of attorney is nothing but a super blank check, it typically says whatever I can do with my stuff my agent may do also. The grant of authority does not contain any limitations, conditions, restrictions, or instructions because these provisions would insure that gun-shy financial institutions would not accept the agent for fear that they could be implicated if the agent violated any restriction or limitation.

A revocable living trust, however, is the owner of the financial account and when the trustee becomes incapacitated a successor trustee simply assumes the management responsibilities for the trust just as a new president of a corporation would when the old president retires. Banks are comfortable with this transition in management responsibilities because trusts have existed for hundreds of years and the body of law surrounding them is extensive so their perceived liability is much less than following the directions of an agent.

When we eventually depart this earth, a revocable living trust becomes irrevocable (i.e. unchangeable) and serves as a will substitute by outlining the same wishes that we would put into a will. But, a trust, unlike a will, does not have to be probated. Many people consider this an advantage and, indeed, in states such as California the probate system is so expensive and time consuming that it should be avoided but in many states probate is not very onerous. Even in these states, however, having a revocable living trust serve as a substitute will is desirable when:

  •  Minor heirs exist. In probate each minor must have a separate guardian ad litem (i.e. attorney other than the one who represents the estate) appointed to protect their interests whether they are receiving any inheritance or not. As you can imagine, with multiple attorneys working, costs can mushroom; or
  • You anticipate trouble from disgruntled heirs. A probate court is a convenient forum for a disgruntled heir to cause problems. They do not have to hire an attorney or file suit in order to have their claims heard because the estate is already in court. Additionally, it is much easier to claim that you were unduly influenced or incompetent when you made your will because it may have been executed years ago and placed on a shelf to gather dust. The creator of a living trust who also serves as trustee, however, has many witnesses who can testify to capacity and influence issues because they interacted with the trustee during their lifetime.

Irrevocable Living Trust 

An irrevocable living trust can also be used advantageously but many people forego their advantages because (1) they don’t really understand how trusts operate and (2) irrevocable sounds an awful lot like cast in concrete (i.e. non-changeable) and they are afraid they will be trapped if their wishes or laws change.

Traditionally, irrevocable living trusts have been used to minimize estate taxes and had to, therefore, conform to very strict IRS rules that if not cast in concrete at least created a bog of quicksand that would be hard to slosh through to change course. But here is the good news today, an individual must have more than $5.34 million net worth and a couple $10.68 million net worth before estate taxes are relevant so most of us do not have to concern ourselves with the overly burdensome IRS rules. We can, therefore, have an irrevocable trust that is changeable and flexible.

So if we can have a flexible and amendable irrevocable trust how can we use it for middle class folks? The uses are only limited by our imaginations and some of the more popular uses include:

  • Protecting our assets from nursing homes while retaining the income from and access to the assets;
  • Qualifying for a non-taxable Veterans Administration pension of up to $25,020, indexed for inflation and guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the United State government; and
  • Protecting assets from divorce, lawsuits, and other predators.

So, should your parents consider a living trust? Yes, if they are concerned about any of the following: 

  • Management of their resources during incapacity;
  • Disgruntled or minor heirs;
  • Privacy;
  • Protecting what they have spent a lifetime scrimping and saving to accumulate form a nursing home;
  • Qualifying for as much as $25,000/year tax-free pension; or
  • Protecting what they have spent a lifetime scrimping and saving to accumulate form other creditors and predators.

If you need help with this or other legal elder care matters, you can find Elder Law Attorneys near you on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families. You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Attorney Stephen J. Bailey
Birmingham, Alabama
An ElderCare Matters Partner


What are the major financial requirements for being approved for Medicaid long term care benefits?

Question:  What are the major financial requirements for being approved for Medicaid long term care benefits?

Answer:  Generally, there are asset requirements such as some states called “SSI” states say that the Medicaid applicant can keep up to $2,000 and exempt property such  as the home and a car, wedding rings, funeral trusts, burial plots, and a small burial expense fund to cover incidentals such as Thank you cards, postage and things of that nature.  Other states called “209(b) states” only let the Medicaid applicant keep up to $1,500 plus exempt property.  There are also limits for what the spouse not in a nursing home can have.  Sometimes it becomes necessary to convert non-exempt property into exempt property.  Such an example would be taking cash and buying things for fair market value such as fixing up a house (new roof, new carpet, new cabinets for the home that is usually exempt  You might spend cash to fix up the Medicaid applicant’s car, even though, they may never drive it again. 

There are also income rules that vary from state to state.  Some states don’t care how much you make because all of the Medicaid Applicant’s cash (Social Security, VA Pension, other pensions and income from stock, bonds, royalties) goes to the nursing home.  In those states, the Medicaid rules have the state pay the difference between the actual cost of the nursing home less what already has been paid by the Medicaid Applicant.  Of course, if your income is so great you may not need Medicaid at all.    There are other states that are called “income gap states”.  Those states say that if you are receiving more income than the state allows that you have to set up a Miller Trust otherwise known as a Qualified Income Trust the money that goes through a Miller Trust is considered “unavailable” to the Medicaid Applicant and it will then say that that income going through the trust is “unavailable” to the Medicaid Applicant.  The now “unavailable” income goes to the nursing home (some may be diverted to the spouse, if the spouse does receive enough income on their own) and Medicaid again pays the difference between the actual cost of the nursing home less what the Medicaid Applicant has already paid each month.  The more money each month that the Medicaid Applicant receives, then the less that Medicaid has to pay.  And conversely, the less money that the Medicaid Applicant pays, then the more that Medicaid pays each month to the nursing home.

If you need help with this or other legal elder care matters, you can find Elder Law Attorneys near you on ElderCareMatters.comAmerica’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources for Families. You can also find Elder Law Attorneys on ElderLawAttorneys.us and Estate Planning Attorneys on EstatePlanningAttorneys.us – 2 additional websites
sponsored exclusively by the national ElderCare Matters Alliance.

An ElderCare Matters Partner
Attorney I. Michael Tucker
Altamonte Springs, Florida

An ElderCare Matters Partner


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