Areas of Practice
Estate and Disability Planning
The goal of personalized and comprehensive estate and disability planning services is to educate you about the full range of planning options which are available to address what will happen if you or a family member experiences disability or incapacity, and how your estate will be settled after your death, then to provide you with documents that express your wishes under each of these circumstances.
Disability planning includes the following documents:
- Durable General Power of Attorney (Financial)
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Directive (also known as a Living Will)
These documents allow you to name the substitute decision makers you choose, called Attorneys-in-Fact or Agents, to make financial and healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to make such decisions for yourself. In these documents you may describe the manner and circumstances under which you would choose to live and conduct your affairs if competent, and request that your Agent carry out your wishes to the extent that is reasonably possible upon your incapacity.
Estate planning may include the following documents:
- Living or Testamentary Trust
- Community Property Agreement
A Will allows you to express who you wish to settle your affairs after your death, called a Personal Representative or Executor, and how and to whom you wish to pass on your estate. It is appropriate for many clients to execute a Will to carry out their wishes, but we will also discuss with you if, under your particular circumstances, a Living or Testamentary Trust and/or a Community Property Agreement is an appropriate tool to manage your estate while you are alive and to settle your estate after your death.
Elder law addresses the unique legal issues facing people as they age and their families. The goal of elder law is to assist in maintaining personal choice, quality of life, and dignity, and to provide protection from potential abuse or undue influence, as a person ages, and in particular when individuals are declining in the ability to handle their own personal affairs from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, or physical disabilities.
In addition to basic estate and disability planning, Elder Law incorporates planning for long term care, including Medicare and Medicaid eligibility, Guardianship, and real property transactions, when appropriate under your unique circumstances.
Special Needs Trusts
Today baby boomers, those people born between 1946 and 1964, are living longer, and as a result sometimes experiencing diminished physical or cognitive abilities as they age from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, or physical disabilities, and for the first time in history, many adults with developmental disabilities or physical disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, autism, or cerebral palsy, are outliving their parents or other family members, who have often been their primary caregivers and advocates.
If you have a family member or loved one with disabilities or diminishing capacity it is essential to have a well-defined estate and disability plan to protect and provide for your loved one, which may need to include a Special Needs Trust.
A Special Needs Trust is a specialized type of trust that can be used to improve the quality of life of a person with a disability by providing a source of funds to pay for extra and supplemental needs during that person’s lifetime, while protecting his or her means-tested public benefits, such as Medicaid. If you do not include a Special Needs Trust for a person with a disability in your overall estate and disability plan, a gift or bequest from you may trigger a temporary or permanent loss of such governmental support.
Special Needs Trusts may be used to benefit a disabled adult child or other loved one while you are alive or after your death, or an elderly person who requires long term care assistance from the government.
I will advise you if an SNT is appropriate in your situation and if appropriate assist you in creating a Special Needs Trust for your family member with a disability. I am also available to advise and represent a person acting as a Trustee for a Special Needs Trust.
Probate and Trust Settlement
A number of factors may affect the settlement of an individual’s estate after his or her death, including the value of the estate at death, whether the person died testate (with a legally valid Will) or intestate (without a legally valid Will), whether the person’s assets are characterized as probate (passing under the provisions of a Will) or non-probate (passing under a beneficiary or other designation), and whether the client’s assets are held in a Trust.
I work with clients in all forms of estate and trust settlement, including probate of the Will of a deceased loved one or the proper settlement of a living trust. I seek to identify the most efficient and cost-effective means of properly and completely dealing with all the issues which arise in the estate or trust settlement.
I also represent clients in contested estate issues, such as petitioning the court to remove a Personal Representative for failing to fulfill his or her fiduciary duty, or challenging the validity of a will where the person who executed the will may have been incapacitated or acting under undue influence at the time of signing the will.
Medicaid and Long Term Care Planning
In 2009, approximately 9 million Americans over the age of 65 needed long term care services, and by 2020 this number is expected to exceed 12 million.
When you are planning ahead for the possible need for long term care services in the future, I will review and evaluate the plans you have made, or assist you in in creating new estate and disability plans which address the financial and personal challenges of the need for such care. I will educate you about Medicare benefits, long term care insurance, and the process and limitations of qualifying for Medicaid assistance.
When you are facing an immediate need for long term care services, I will assist you in evaluating your unique circumstances and determining the best course of action, including considering whether home care, an adult family home, assisted living, or a nursing home is the best place to receive such care, and how such care can be financed while considering ways to preserve some of your assets for a spouse or loved one. If appropriate, I will assist you in applying for Medicaid benefits.
When an individual becomes incapable of handling his or her own personal or financial affairs a guardianship may become necessary to protect him or her.
Guardianship is a court proceeding where the court determines whether an individual has become incapable of handling his or her own personal or financial affairs. If the court makes a determination that an individual is incapacitated, the court will appoint an individual or professional guardian to manage that person’s affairs. The court carefully analyzes the needs and abilities of the person, in light of the rights that are being taken away, and can tailor the guardianship by appointing a guardian of the person and/or the estate and limit the powers of such guardian. Once a guardian is appointed, the court oversees the guardianship and requires regular reports on the financial and personal status of the person.
I will assist you in evaluating the appropriateness of petitioning the court for guardianship in your particular circumstances, discuss possible alternatives to guardianship, and, if appropriate, assist you in establishing the guardianship and assist you in maintaining the guardianship if you are appointed guardian.