Estate Planning Articles
Some of these articles have been written by our law firm and other articles are written by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and compliments of our law firm. Any feedback or questions about the articles can be addressed by contacting our office.
Compliments of The Augulis Law Firm,
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Every year, about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States. Over their lifetimes, many of these children will contend with serious medical conditions including heart defects, gastrointestinal problems, visual or hearing impairment, dementia, and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, the costs associated with Down syndrome can be astronomical and many of those with the condition receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
All parents want their children to be happy and to enjoy long-term financial stability, and parents whose children have Down syndrome often believe the best way to accomplish this is to leave money to their children using a Will, a life insurance policy, or a retirement account. However, leaving money directly to the child can disqualify him or her from receiving much-needed benefits. For example, under SSI rules, a recipient is limited to $2,000 in assets. If a recipient has property valued more than this amount, his or her benefits are suspended until those assets are “spent down” below the $2,000 threshold.
This means that the unintended consequence of an inheritance or even a big gift from grandma could result in a loss of valuable benefits.
What is the best way to plan for long-term financial security for your child? One solution is to establish a Special Needs Trust.
Under the terms of a Special Needs Trust, a Trustee manages trust property to ensure that it will remain a long-term source of funds for the child. The Trustee has discretion to distribute trust assets to (or on behalf of) the child, as long as he or she follows strict rules that forbid the use of Special Needs Trusts for any of the services covered by government benefits. In a nutshell, Medicaid and SSI benefits continue to cover the basics, while trust assets can be used to provide a child with the “extras” that enhance quality of life.
Often, parents opt for a Special Needs Trust that goes into effect when they die, but this isn’t the only choice. You can also establish a trust that takes effect during your lifetime. There are a number of advantages to establishing such a trust. For instance:
- Substantial gifts to your child from grandparents and other family members can be paid into the trust without fear that they’ll interrupt your child’s benefits.
- Funds you have earmarked for your child’s care can be transferred to the trust. After the transfer, they’ll be treated as separate assets – not yours and not your child’s. This way, the funds will be out of reach of your creditors and safe in the event of divorce. The Trustee you’ve selected will manage them on behalf of your child, so you can rest assured the funds will be put to their best possible use.
For more information about Special Needs Trusts, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she can help you sort through all your options and establish a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of your child and your entire family.
Most people won’t be familiar with legal terminology if it’s their first time considering a visit to an estate planning attorney. Before a consultation, review this short list of common estate planning terms to help you prepare and feel more comfortable as you begin to create your plan.
Not long ago, women rarely took much interest in estate planning for several reasons. Today, however, the need for estate planning is even greater if you are a woman. Debunking some of the common myths surrounding the concept of women and estate planning is a good place to start.
Most estate plans can benefit from the addition of a Medicaid planning component that helps ensure eligibility for Medicaid to help cover the high cost of long-term care (LTC) in the future. One of the many tools in the Medicaid planning arsenal is compensation paid as part of a personal services contract.
Owning assets outside the United States raises a number of estate planning questions: Who gets your property when you pass away? What taxes are due? And how should your estate plan in the U.S. be tailored to ensure that all your property – here and abroad – is transferred as efficiently and effectively as possible?
Your home is likely your family’s most valuable asset, not only emotionally, but also financially. Read this article to learn how you can take advantage of the tax, estate planning, and asset protection benefits available to you as a homeowner.
Joint tenancy is a popular form of property ownership, primarily because when one owner dies, title to the property automatically re-vests in the surviving joint tenants. But using joint tenancy to avoid probate can create more problems than it solves.
Terri Schiavo spent over ten years in a persistent vegetative state following a heart attack. During that time, her husband and parents waged an emotionally and financially draining legal battle that made it all the way to the President’s desk. It all could have been avoided had Terri executed an advance directive prior to her collapse back in 1990.
Protecting the family fortune requires more than just a basic estate plan. Contemplating the need to qualify for Medicaid to help cover the high cost of long-term care should be an integral part of any comprehensive estate plan. One frequently used Medicaid planning tool that can protect your assets from the Medicaid spend-down requirement is an Irrevocable Income Only Trust.
If they had the funds, most people would not think twice about gifting assets to an adult child or loved one. But, that gift could jeopardize Medicaid eligibility. Moreover, you may need that eligibility to help pay for the high price of long-term care for you or a spouse.