Elder law estate planning addresses your care when you become disabled as you age, as well as who will be in charge of such care, and the transfer of your assets on death to whom you want, when you want, and in the manner, you want, with the least amount of taxes and legal fees possible. These are the five steps to developing such a strategy.
Step 1: Family Dynamics. Clients frequently miss the immeasurable value of becoming acquainted with the family dynamic. We believe that the social comes first, and that the legal should serve the social. Once we know who is who and what everyone’s interpersonal relationships are, we can create a plan that will function both socially and legally. Failure to handle the social aspects has resulted in numerous plans that have torn the family apart.
Step 2: Examine the Client’s Assets. On death or disability, IRAs and other “qualified” assets (i.e., tax-deferred) are treated very differently than “non-qualified” assets. The amount and value of all assets, who owns them, and whether they have identified beneficiaries are critical in properly planning, including reducing legal fees and taxes.
Step 3: it is to go over any existing estate planning documents. Clients’ documents rarely include appropriate provisions to take advantage of the various benefits the law affords for our aging population if they were not drafted by an elder law practitioner. Wills have frequently been prepared instead of trusts, either because the client was significantly younger and a trust was not required, or because a trust was required but the general practice lawyer was inexperienced with the complexities of forming a trust.
Step 4: Create an Elder Law Estate Plan. We are now in a position to assess which individuals are best equipped to handle your legal, financial, and medical affairs in the incident of disability or death, what type of plan should be employed, and how the estate should be dispersed — all while keeping family unity in mind.
Step 5: it is to carry out and maintain the plan. In accordance with the planning objectives, legal documents are explained and completed, assets are retitled, and beneficiaries on assets are altered. Every three years, the client is brought in to the law firm to confirm that the plan reflects the client’s current wishes and is in accordance with any legal changes. Ask about their approach to Medicaid planning and tactics for protecting your assets and guaranteeing Medicaid eligibility at the initial meeting. A good sign is an attorney who can clearly explain their processes and customize their approach to your specific situation.
We believe in not only reviewing the plan every three years, but also in developing the Elder Law attorney-client relationship. To that aim, we give our clients a weekly essay on a relevant or intriguing estate planning or elder law issue. This way, the elder law estate plan is significantly more likely to handle their circumstances in the future if they need to use it. Indeed, by providing continuing information and assessing the client’s situation on a triennial basis, the elder law estate plan is intended to operate when the client needs it, not when they made it, possibly decades ago.
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