Don’t Risk your Estate by using ONLINE forms
Estate planning and Elder Law are complicated – all the rules and regulations could make your head spin!
What’s more, I often have people come into my office who believe their quick-and-easy documents created by an uncle who practices a different type of law, or that they downloaded online, will protect them if they need long term care or pass away suddenly.
Unless you have powerful documents, your documents do not necessarily offer all the protections you need to have in place.
For example, most attorneys who can write up a will, trust, or other estate planning document simply take the same generic form they used for their last client and filled in your name and information.
Even worse, those who use online legal forms they’ve purchased often have disastrous consequences when the documents aren’t as powerful as they originally thought.
Unfortunately, things just aren’t that easy. If they were, it would make my job much easier!
But the truth is twofold:
~ The “rules” change all the time.
~ Every family’s situation is different, so there is simply no one-size-fits-all fix for your estate plan!
In my office, your initial phone consultation is free. That means that we’ll talk about what items you might need to have in place to be fully protected from losing everything to healthcare costs. And if there’s nothing you need to do right now, we’ll tell you that, too!
My main mission is to help and to protect seniors like you, and to give you the best return on investment possible. In fact, if I don’t think that I can give you a substantially better result than you would have by doing nothing, I will tell you so!
Give my office a call at (954) 921-4489 to find out more about what you need to have in place to protect yourself and your loved ones from unnecessary penalties.
I can help with all matters of Estate Planning, Elder Issues, Guardianship, Probate, Wills and Trusts.
Whether you were never married, divorced or your spouse died, a single retiree faces some unique estate planning issues that married couples do not always have to worry about. This is especially true if you live alone and come to rely on others for assistance. If you have recently retired or are thinking about retiring, you’ll need to spend some time thinking about your future and how you can develop an estate plan that fits your needs.
If you never had children, your inheritance plan will likely focus on family members, charities or close friends. Your state has laws that predetermine who will inherit your property, but you can make your own choices if you create a last will and testament or other estate planning device. Without a plan you may inadvertently leave an inheritance to someone who you would not want to receive it.
Many elderly Americans receive long-term care assistance from friends and families, especially from their spouses, children or even grandchildren. If you are single and do not have children, you have fewer options available to you if you should ever need such care. Developing a plan that incorporates Medicaid planning, long-term care insurance, or other strategies could be very important. Even if you don’t require such services now, having a plan in place that you can use when needed is essential.
I’m here to help… let’s discuss your options. Call for a FREE 30 minute in-office consultation at 954-921-4489
Source: Deborah Sexton 2013
Veterans Can Qualify For Caregiver Financial Assistance
A recent article in the NY Times New Old Age Blog (a great read) seemed significant enough to pass along. We’d also encourage you to pass this knowledge on to friends and family members. The article was titled “A Little-Known Benefit for Aging Veterans“ by Susan Seliger and it discusses a veteran benefit few know anything about . Did you know that qualifying veterans can receive financial assistance from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to help with caregiver costs? Apparently not many do…
Note the list of qualifying criteria and definitely read through all the comments as well (there are many helpful hints, and also a lot of frustration with the bureaucratic process). According to the article, only 38,076 veterans were granted this benefit in 2011. To put that in perspective, see the illustration from a department of veterans affairs fact sheet and note how few veterans actually took advantage (no doubt it’s because so few are aware, and countless others give up as a result of the arduous application process). Given the scrutiny of deficit spending these days, you may want to take advantage of this program (if you qualify AND if you need it) before it goes away.
For other elder issues including Probate, Guardianship, Estate Planning, please contact me at (954)921-4489.
IS IT TIME TO TAKE THE KEYS AWAY?
One of the last vestiges of independence for an older person is the ability to go places on their own… In their car. But, what if you believe it is time to take the keys away. Think carefully about that decision because it will affect the rest of their life, and maybe yours as well. How can you make it acceptable to both you and your loved one?
If you have a relationship with their doctor, discuss your concerns with him or her. If the doctor has seen some of the same issues, ask them to write a prescription to suspend their patient’s driver’s license. Then send this document to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. They will send a letter to your loved one informing them that their license has been suspended and they may no longer drive.
This bad news is coming from a governmental agency and not from you or their doctor, so their resentment will be directed towards others. Keep in mind, though, that if you decide to take this step, you also need to be sure that there are other means of transportation available to them. It is unfair to limit their mobility without making alternative arrangements.
If you need assistance with Guardianship, Trust or Probate issues, call me for a FREE 30 minute in-office appointment and get all of your questions answered. I can be reached at (954)921-4489. Terry
Power of Attorney
7 Facts you should know
If something happens while you are alive, that makes it impossible for you to handle your financial affairs, sign legal documents or communicate your wishes to others, you could have trouble in many ways. Without a properly executed Power of Attorney, your family may need to get a court order just to handle your affairs. These can cost plenty and waste months of time.
Even though a power of attorney is a relatively simple document and is readily available from many sources, I am still amazed at how many families and individuals do not have one in force. Follow these simple guidelines and make sure that you are protected should anything ever happen that would cause you to need one.
Seven Factors To Consider
1. Your Agents: One of the most important decisions with a power of attorney is your selection of agents. Will you use a single agent or appoint co-agents? Who will be your successor agent(s) if someone is unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties? These are the questions you need to answer before you are ready. Your agent(s) should be organized, good with numbers and possess great common sense.
2. Access Medical Records: Will you allow your agents to have access to your medical records? They may need this information to keep track of, or to dispute medical bills. But if you want or do not want them to have access to this information, you will need to specify inside your power of attorney.
3. General or Specific Powers: Will your power of attorney provide your agent with broad general powers or very specific powers? You can decide on either, but the more specific you get, the more limited the powers your agent will be allowed. Most people will choose to provide a general power that will include handling most financial, business and personal matters.
4. Beneficiary Changes: You can empower your agents with the ability to change your beneficiaries if you would like, but this can be a risky proposition. In most instances, you will not allow for this provision. You can also provide for the power to refuse potential inheritances. I think this can be helpful in situations where, if someone passes and is leaving you an inheritance, but you refuse it (or are deceased), it would go directly to your children instead.
5. Effective Dates: When will your power of attorney take effect? When will it terminate? You can have it take effect immediately upon execution, you can have it take effect upon the certification of some medical condition or you can specify a certain time period. You might use this if you were going to be out of the country for 3 months or in a rehabilitation program for certain length of time. All powers of attorney terminate immediately upon the death of the individual, but you can set other dates or events as previously outlined.
6. Hire Professionals: Will your agent have the power to hire professionals such as accountants, financial advisers, lawyers, etc? If you want them to be able to handle these on your behalf, you have to specifically allow them by including this power within your document. If not, you may want to specify who you are already working with and require their services if needed.
7. Receive Compensation: Will your agent be allowed to receive reasonable compensation for time and efforts spent acting as your agent? Will they also be allowed to receive reimbursement for any expenses that they incur while acting on your behalf? In most cases you should allow both of these. Taking care of someone’s affairs can be time-consuming and there should be reasonable remuneration for these services. While you can specify either way, your agents may be unwilling to participate without it and this could cause bigger problem down the road.
Summary: Having a power of attorney drafted is a fairly simple and inexpensive process. It is very important to follow the execution and filing recommendations for your state and county. Having proper witnesses and notarization of all signatures is a great safeguard for any legal documents, so make sure to get them done right.
For ”Power of Attorney”, or information on estate planning, probate and guardianship issues please call us for a FREE in-house 30 minute consultation. (954)921-4489.
What to do if you are UNHAPPY with an EXECUTOR
Executors named in a Will have a wide range of tasks to complete when someone dies and for some this can be very daunting.
As part of their duties an executor has to value the assets and debts of the deceased’s estate, pay any taxes and distribute the contents of the estate to the beneficiaries.
In order to do this, the executor may have to apply for a “Grant of Probate”, so that they have the authority to manage the estate and get access to the deceased’s bank accounts and property.
In this article we discuss what happens if an executor refuses to apply for the Grant of Probate and what a beneficiary can do if an executor is performing the role badly.
What can be done if the named executor refuses to apply for the Grant of Probate?
In many cases beneficiaries like to have the deceased’s estate administered quite quickly after the person has died.
If the executor refuses to apply for the Grant of Probate, then a beneficiary (or next of kin) can write to the executor to give notice that they are applying to court for someone else to administer the estate.
If the executor is in possession of the original copy of the Will, a subpoena must be served on them telling them to hand it over within eight days. If the executor doesn’t provide the Will within this timeframe, the next of kin can then lodge a citation at court, which forces the executor to either accept or refuse the Grant of Probate.
A citation allows the court to direct that the Grant of Probate be given to the next of kin, if the executor fails to refuse or accept the Grant of Probate. The next of kin can then administer the estate.
But if the executor has already intermeddled in the deceased’s estate, then a citation cannot be served. This is because an executor who has been involved in the estate cannot renounce their role or refuse to take the Grant.
If the executor refuses to apply for the Grant, the next of kin can apply for a court order which directs the executor to take probate within a specified timeframe or, alternatively, that they, as next of kin (or another specified person), can be issued with the Grant.
The next of kin can apply for the Grant once they have obtained a court order.
What can a beneficiary do if the executor is not performing their duties correctly?
If a beneficiary is unsure of an executor’s actions, they can initially write to the executor asking them for an account of the administration of the estate.
If the beneficiary is still dissatisfied with the executor’s explanation, they can apply to the court to remove and substitute the executor.
However, this is not an easy thing to do, as the beneficiaries must prove to the court that the executor has seriously misbehaved. The courts, generally, will only remove an executor if they have done the following:
The executor has become disqualified since they were appointed by the deceased, i.e. they have been convicted of a crime and sent to jail.
They are incapable of performing their executor duties. For example, if they have a physical or mental disability (albeit permanent or temporary), which is preventing them from performing their duties.
They are unsuitable for the position due to either a conflict of interest or serious misconduct. The misconduct would have to be so serious that it affects badly the estate (e.g. stealing from the estate, not keeping proper accounting records, not obeying a court order, or mismanaging the estate).
Misconduct can be difficult to prove. If the beneficiaries feel that the executor has been rude to them or does not provide them with sufficient information, then this is not enough for a court to remove an executor.
How to remove or substitute an executor by court order
Beneficiaries can apply for a court order to remove an executor by making a Part 8 Claim, under the Civil Procedure Rules 57.13.
The following documentation must be provided to support the application:
- A certified sealed copy of the Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration).
- A Witness Statement outlining why the executor should be removed, along with details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, names of the beneficiaries and the proposed name of the substitute executor.
- The proposed executor’s signed consent to act.
- A Witness Statement of the proposed executor’s fitness to do the role.
If proceedings regarding an inheritance dispute have already started, then the application to remove an executor must be made by an application notice and not by a Part 8 claim.
SOURCE: LAWPACK September 12, 2012
This was a great article I found in the Wall Street Journal back in August written by Tom Lauricella. Hope you find it interesting.. Terry
SPEAK FOR YOURSELF, WHILE YOU CAN
Parents, it’s time to be an adult when it comes to talking to your kids about your late-in-life planning.
Many times the burden of managing a parent’s deteriorating health or financial situation means an adult child has to step into their parent’s shoes.
But parents often can accomplish more by stepping into their former role and taking the lead. Doing so can head off divisive—and costly—family feuds.
The primary task is providing guidance for the possibly difficult times ahead: communicating your wishes about health care and a funeral, information about things like finances, your will and what to do with the family home.
“I’ve seen situations where the closest of families were torn apart by fights over items, that if sold, would cost a fraction of the legal fees,” says Philip Bouklas, a New York City attorney who specializes in estate planning.
“Part of it is the culture of the family,” says Anthony Serra, an attorney in Pennington, N.J., whose practice includes serving as a mediator for family disputes over elder care. “If that parent hasn’t discussed their problems with their children all along…it’s going to require a change in the nature of the relationship,” he says.
Some parents don’t like to talk about money. If their finances are fragile, they may be embarrassed. Conversely, if they have a big nest egg, they may be concerned that a child would misuse it.
But such reticence can backfire, says Elizabeth Forgotson Goldberg, an elder-law attorney in Bethesda, Md. She has served as a court-appointed conservator, assigned to manage elderly persons’ finances, and has seen cases where the person had assets that their families didn’t know about.
“People will say, ‘My mom gets $1,300 in Social Security, and that’s it,’ ” says Ms. Goldberg. “But it turns out there are other assets nobody knew about that could have been used to take care of the person at home” instead of a nursing home. “As much as they don’t want to tell their children about assets they have, it won’t be used for their own care if nobody knows about it,” she adds.
Hard-earned savings also shouldn’t end up claimed by the state as abandoned.
The biggest financial asset at stake is often the parents’ home. A parent may transfer the title to a child to help with long-term care planning.
But after the parents die, a home can become a source of friction among children, says Mr. Bouklas. There are endless variations: a child may be living in the house; one child wants to sell, while the others do not; there may be a fight over the purchase price.
To help avoid these problems, Mr. Bouklas has parents and children sit down, agree on how the home will be handled, then enter a family agreement before the deed is signed over.
The nightmare situation for many families is a court fight over a will. As unappealing as it sounds, parents should spell out to their kids their reasoning for how they are dividing their assets, along with their thinking for who will be the executor or have power of attorney.
“By having a dialogue, at least you have explained yourself, and [family members] aren’t going to speculate, ‘You didn’t love me’ or, ‘You didn’t trust me,’ ” Mr. Serra says.
Of course, that could involve breaking some bad news. “But the best you can do is at least attempt to have the discussion,” Mr. Serra adds.
Often a parent wants to favor a child in a will who has acted as a caregiver. That can be addressed in a document called a caregiver agreement, which Mr. Serra says can also serve as a centerpiece for a family discussion on these tough issues.
Arline Kardasis, founder of Norwood, Mass.-based Elder Decisions, which specializes in family conflict resolution, says it’s helpful for parents to have these talks with all the children at once, rather than one-on-one.
“Sometimes if they have individual conversations, they think they heard something different than a sibling did—and sometimes they did!” she says.
With everybody in the same room, Ms. Kardasis says, parents have a chance to say: “These are my intentions, these are the reasons…I have the absolute right to make these decisions, and I’m hoping it won’t cause discord among you after I’m gone.”
The ideal response from the children, Ms. Kardasis says: “We will honor that.”
If I can assist you in Estate Planning for yourself or your elder parents don’t hesitate to call my office for a FREE in-office consultation. (954)921-4489
WHAT IS PROBATE? The simple answer…
If you’re named as an executor of someone’s Will, you’ll need a legal document called a “grant of probate” that gives you the right to sort out their affairs. Proof of probate is essential for dealing with banks and other financial institutions, local authorities, tax and pensions, estate agents, insurance and utility companies.
In most cases, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the grant before transferring control of the assets but may release funds to pay for funeral, mortgage or rent and home insurance directly. Probate can be lengthy, depending on the size, value and complexity of someone’s Estate but it is much easier if that person has made a “Will”
Time Change and Seniors
How the “Fall Back” Time Change Might Affect Caregivers
By Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor
The “fall back” time change on Sunday morning (November 4, 2012) at 2 a.m. is mostly good news for sleep-deprived caregivers — an extra hour of much-needed sleep. Here, a few more possible effects of the change:
- With darkness falling earlier, be mindful of a possible a temporary worsening of sundown sydrome, confusion and agitation that strikes around sunset in some people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.What helps: During the transition, try to your loved one some good exposure to daylight and minimize napping. See other tactics that can ease the burden of sundowning any time of year.
- Even in those without sundowning, sleep patterns can be disrupted by the longer nights of winter — for caregivers and care receivers alike. This can worsen some existing sleep problems.What helps: Again, limit naps to under 30 minutes and resist going to bed too early. Try a pleasant but engaging activity — not too stressful so you get wound up (leave the insurance forms alone!) but not too dull so that you nod off early. Try cards or reading aloud together.
- After the time change, don’t overlook checking automated systems that run on timers, such as medication dispensers and automatic lights.
- While you’re setting your clocks back an hour before you go to bed on Saturday night, remember the new slogan: Change your clocks — change your batteries. Checking or replacing batteries in fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors is especially important as we head into winter in the homes of frail older adults, who may not keep up with this.
Standing up for an Elder In Need
Reporting elder abuse can bring up a lot of difficult emotions and uncertainty. You may ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing, or how you can be sure an older adult is getting the help they need. You may also question whether you’re doing enough to help the person. As difficult as reporting elder abuse can be, it’s important for you to stand up for an older adult in need. Here are some tips for communicating effectively in different situations.
Reporting elder abuse
Tip 1: Try to be specific as you can in your description
You don’t need “hard evidence” to report abuse. In many situations, abuse can be subtle or happen gradually. However, the more specific details you can provide, the clearer the picture of abuse can become. For example, if you’re worried that your neighbor is not taking care of himself, instead of reporting, “My neighbor is having a hard time taking care of himself”, try “I’ve noticed that my neighbor wears the same outfit over and over again and it is looking very dirty. When I come to the door, I smell urine and even feces. The house also smells like there is trash accumulating inside.”
Tip 2: Understand the elder does have the right to refuse services
As painful as it may be, unless the older adult no longer has the mental capacity to make their own decisions, he or she does have the right to refuse help. A senior may refuse to admit they’re being abused because they’re afraid the caregiver will retaliate, or because they’re worried about who will take care of them if their abusive caregiver is removed. Sadly, an elder adult may view having an abusive caretaker as better than having no caretaker and being forced to move out of their own home. In these situations, if it is safe for you to do so, continue to stay in contact and encourage the elder to consider alternatives to home care. For example:
- Taking tours of assisted living or other facilities, without any immediate pressure to move, may help dispel myths or eradicate the older person’s fears about moving
- Offering services on a trial basis can help the elder see the positive changes they can have on his or her life, and make them more open to change. For example, if self-neglect is an issue, encourage them to try housekeeping help for a month, or a meal delivery service for a few weeks.
- Keeping the older adult and caregiver connected to support services can help reduce feelings of isolation and depression, two major risk factors for elder abuse. Also, the more support there is for the elder and the caregiver, the more eyes there will be to watch for any warning signs of abuse.
- If a family caregiver is suspected of abuse, other family members may have the best chance of convincing the older adult to consider alternative care. Some families may feel that care should stay in the family no matter what, but if the caregiver is abusive, it is safer for everyone to consider other options.
Tip 3: Keep your eyes and ears open
If you see future incidences of abuse, continue to call and report them. Each elder abuse report is a snapshot of what is going on. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance the elder has to get the level of care he or she needs. Older adults can be increasingly isolated from society and with no school or work to attend, it can be easy for elder abuse cases to go unnoticed for long periods.
Connecting a senior to services
- Eldercare Locator provides a database of services for seniors in your area, either online or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
- Senior centers or senior service organizations can also provide tips and resources for services in your area.
- The elder’s healthcare team may have suggestions for services. Social workers, both outpatient and in the hospitals, can also be a good resource.
- Religious organizations often have services to help seniors stay connected such as transportation, meals, or friendly visitors.
- Legal aid groups in your community can provide affordable legal help. The Center for Elder Rights Advocacy has a state by state directory of legal hotlines.
Source: Dementia Today at www.Demeniatoday.com