If you went to a doctor’s office and did not tell the doctor what your symptoms were, it would be hard to get a good diagnosis and treatment. The same goes for a visit to the elder law estate planning attorney. Without all the necessary facts, advises the Times Herald-Record in the article “What you need to tell the elder law estate planning attorney,” the estate plan may not be very effective. It may need to be revised or created all over again, the inheritance may be given to people other than those you intended, and there could be family conflicts.
Understanding the intersection of elder law and estate planning can help you know and understand what your attorney will need to find out from you. Elder law is all about planning for disability and incapacity. This includes identifying the people who would make decisions for you if you become incapacitated as well as protecting your hard-earned assets from the cost of nursing home care. Estate planning is focused on transferring assets to the desired people, the way you want, when you want, with minimal court costs, taxes, or unnecessary legal fees and avoiding disputes over an inheritance.
Here are some of the things you should be ready to discuss with your attorney to create the most effective plan:
Family dynamics. If you have a child you haven’t seen in years, you need to discuss the child. They may have a legal claim to your estate, and that must be planned for. Perhaps you want to include the child in the estate, perhaps you don’t. If you disinherit a child in a will and you die without a plan, that child becomes a necessary party to probate proceedings and has the right to contest your will.
Health issues. If you don’t have long-term care insurance, you need five years to protect assets in a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT). Therefore, now may be the time to start a plan. If you have a child who is disabled and receives government benefits, you can leave them money in a Special Needs Trust (SNT).
Assets listing. Full disclosure of all your assets, income, how assets are titled, who the beneficiaries are on your IRAs, 401(k)s and life insurance policies, are all the kinds of information needed to create a comprehensive estate plan. Keeping secrets during this process could lead to a wide variety of problems for your family. Your entire estate could be consumed by taxes or by the cost of nursing home care.
There’s no doubt these are extremely serious topics to broach. You or your spouse may experience some strong emotions while discussing them with your attorney. However, creating a proper estate plan, preparing for incapacity and loved ones with special challenges will provide you with peace of mind that will make it worth it.
One last point: an estate plan is like your home, requiring maintenance and updates. Once it is done, make a note in your schedule to review it every time there is a major life event or on a consistent timely basis, such as every three or four years. Laws change and lives change. Your estate plan may also need to change.
Reference: Times Herald-Record (May 25, 2019) “What you need to tell the elder law estate planning attorney”